Thursday, December 04, 2008


The Yin and the Yang on Terrorism

Two very different people have written about the larger implications of the Mumbai massacre, lefty law professor Rosa Brooks and center right historian Victor Davis Hanson. Which one do you think would influence our President Elect more?

Here is criticism and praise.

Brooks writes:

... the Mumbai attack should also remind you of Timothy McVeigh and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168, and the 2002 D.C.-area sniper attacks, in which two men killed 10 people and caused so much fear that for weeks people were reluctant to go to shopping centers or gas stations, and the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, in which one man killed 32 people.

The perpetrators of those attacks weren't Islamic extremists.

Well, kind of. The DC snipers were Muslims. McVeigh comitted a sui generis crime at worst and the VT killer was a crazy guy killing at random. These last two are nothing like Mumbai while the DC snipers were just like the 10 Muslims shooting people in Mumbai.

She goes on:

Mumbai should remind us -- again -- of the folly of the Bush administration's "war on terror." Terror is an emotion, and terrorism is a tactic. You can't make "war" against it. Even if meant as mere metaphor, "the war on terror" foolishly enhanced the terrorist's status as prime boogeyman, arguably increasing the psychological effectiveness of terrorist tactics.

OK, normally I'd be with her on the war on a thing misnomer--the war on drugs, war on poverty, etc. are giant wastes--but here it is a metaphor, just as she suggests; WOT is a better acronym than WAIE (War Against Islamicist Extremists) or even WAME (War Against Muslim Extremists). We are doing just what she suggests in not naming the enemy, Muslim extremists, in order not to enhance their status. It is amazing to me that she can't see that. And what is the alternative she suggests: Leaving them alone? Treating them like mere criminals? Yeah, that worked out so well during the last administration.

Here is her big close:

Like crime, terrorism will always be with us, and terrorist attacks will increase as long as we succumb to the panic they're intended to inspire. But if we resist the temptation to lash out indiscriminately, we can take sober steps to reduce terrorism through improved intelligence, carefully targeted disruptions of specific terrorist organizations and efforts to address specific grievances (such as disputes over Kashmir). With a new U.S. administration about to take office, isn't it finally time to say goodbye to the "war on terror"? After all, we already have two real wars to worry about.

The lack of internal logic here is stunning. Terrorism will increase if we succumb to panic? What drivel. Terrorism will increase, and did, as long as we take no warlike steps to prevent attacks, not merely hold the guilty accountable after innocents are killed. Not the best method for preventing suicide bombers. I have to point to the scoreboard--during Clinton's treating it like a crime, several attacks against our people here and abroad. Since George Bush began treating it like the war it is, none. Draw your own conclusions from that fact.

Lash out indiscriminately? Against Afghanistan terrorist supporting Taliban? Against the terrorist supporting dictator Hussein? Those campaigns were not indiscriminate, but part of a sound global strategy to strike where the terrorists are rather than hope to detect them before they do things to us. That is, our sound strategy is to take the fight to the enemy, put him on defense, rather than cover up and let the terrorist choose where he wants to attack, while we attempt a difficult and largely ineffective defense.

And what does Ms. Brooks suggest we do? What sober steps does she suggest? ...improved intelligence, carefully targeted disruptions of specific terrorist organizations and efforts to address specific grievances...

Of course no sober commander in chief is trying to adopt worse intelligence methods; it's just that nearly every effort President Bush made in order to improve intelligence (PATRIOT USA act, FISA accords, Swift program, enhanced interrogation techniques) is met with the vapors by Miss Brooks and her ilk of 4th Amendment absolutists (or actively sabotaged by the NYT). But now she's in favor of improving intelligence. I have no idea what she is thinking here, if indeed she has a concrete thought in her head about improved intelligence.

Carefully targeted disruptions of specific terrorists organizations? Is that instead of the carpet bombing with nukes we have engaged in in the past 7 years? I don't know if you've been keeping up on the current events, Rosa, but that's exactly what we've been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan and we hope our 'ally' Pakistan is doing the same in the ungovernable border provinces. There is none so blind...

And the last, negotiations and the Festivus like airing of grievances. Do you mean like between Israel and the steadfastly intransigent Palestinians, like that roaring success? The lefties love to talk all right. Talking to the Muslim extremists, like talking to Hitler, is a complete waste of time.
And then the tell tale of Ms. Brooks' fundamental ignorance. We have "real wars" to fight. Hon, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are part of the war against Muslim extremists being waged against us and our allies. They are the carefully targeted reactions you advocate and the grand strategy to which you seem willingly blind.

As an armchair general, Ms. Brooks sucks.

Hanson, on the other hand is just as bleak in his view into the future, but what a more sober treatment.

There are a number of things to take away from the Mumbai atrocities.

First was the welcome re-emergence of concerned discussion of the dangers of global Islamist violence. George Bush apparently was not fabricating a global terrorist bogeyman -- as was sometimes alleged over the last years of calm -- when he sought support for his war in Iraq and domestic security measures.

In fact, caricatured efforts like the Patriot Act, the FISA accords, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the fostering of Middle East constitutional government, and the killing of violent insurgents abroad in Afghanistan and Iraq might seem once again understandable in the context of preventing another major violent terrorist attack of the sort we just saw at Mumbai.

Just so.

After pointing out the problems with an alliance with Pakistan, the source of much of the problem (particularly in Mumbai), Hanson makes this final point:

Fourth, the problem of Pakistan and the Islamist terrorism that so frequently emanates from its soil will now be President-elect Obama's to deal with. He will have to decide whether George Bush's anti-terrorism architecture shredded the Constitution and should be repealed, or helped to keep us safe from attack for seven years, and thus should be maintained, if not strengthened.

Obama once advocated open intrusions into Pakistan in hot pursuit of terrorists, and will have to adjudicate whether such actions will more likely enrage nuclear Pakistan or finally eliminate the followers of Osama bin Laden. At the same time, Obama also must ponder whether he should continue our subsidized "alliance" with Pakistan.

It is easy to imagine that the left will cease to bitch and moan about the proper steps, described above, now that Barack Obama seems perfectly willing to continue them. Apparently, there are no mistakes on the left. But the past years of strife are no bad dream, from which we can awake now with a return to the Democratic strategy of ignoring the problem, the war waged against us was, and is, really happening.

The right generally sees this sober fact; I'm not sure the left, with a few exceptions (very few, unfortunately) does.

UPDATE: Cliff May has a well reasoned take on the subject as well. It's bleak in its own way. He takes apart Rosa Brook's 'appeasement of grievances' argument.

But, one might argue, if such issues as Kashmir and Palestine could be resolved, surely that would remove fuel from the fire. Then, Lashkar-e-Taiba (the group apparently behind the carnage in Mumbai) and al-Qaeda and the Taliban and Hezbollah and Hamas and Iran’s mullahs would find fewer angry young Muslim men susceptible to being radicalized and recruited for terrorist missions.

Maybe. But if terrorist acts prompt Indians, Israelis, Americans and others to move
such issues to the top of the pile — above, say, the genocide of Black Muslims (by Arab Muslims) in Darfur — and to make significant concessions to resolve them, that will lead to the conclusion that terrorism succeeds. And successful movements never have difficulty attracting adherents.

What’s more, there still would be millions of impoverished and frustrated young Muslim men from Casablanca to Cairo to Gaza to Karachi who would be susceptible to an ideology that tells them they deserve to rule, and that whatever they lack has been taken from them by infidels whom they are permitted — indeed encouraged — to kill.

UPDATE 2: I'm apparently not the only one troubled by Rosa Brooks' lack of rigorous analysis. A guest blogger at the best North Dakota blog has similar criticisms,



Driving from Denver to Colorado Springs in th esnow--it wasn't that bad--I listened to several interesting pieces on NPR, one of which described how terrorists use the same methods as does organized crime. Obviouly, there is a distinct difference in their ends.

Nevertheless, to contain terrorism it will be necessary to improve economic conditions in those countries--particularlty Arab ones--where terrorism breeds.

If a young man has a choice between having a job, therefore being able to get married and have sex and children, or going to blow up someone else, that choice is a no brainer.

Another point made during onbe of the interviews is that working for some terrorists organzations pays better than the open job market b/c the terrorists, either through criminal activities or otherwise, are better funded.

Terrorism--another activity that is recession proff.

I see some of your points. I do feel sorry for the Muslim youths. The need secular prosperity to marry and have sex but, except for the oil rich areas, there is little prosperity in most of the Muslim world, so there are a lot of young frustrated men. But you and I differ about the cure. There was no gain in the crime rate during the War on Poverty. Indeed we went backwards--crime went way up. Only when we started putting the criminals in jail for a long time did the rate go down. We won't get a good result vis a vis terrorism with aid and welfare, we'll get a good result when we kill those who join the movement and train for or do terrorist acts. It's sad but true. The near total lack of criticism by Muslims of the barbaric acts in the former Bombay tell you all you need to know about the magnitude of the problem.
Indeed...the only protests in the Muslim world over the Mumbai terror attacks were actually over India's reaction to them.

I was not suggesting aid and welfare but economic development. Even b/f the current economic downturn, however, no one wanted to build factories or invest in the Arab world b/c those populations by and large are the least productive on earth. See the first 200 pp of Kenneth Pollack"s "A Path Out of the Desert."

He documnets the divers foibles of Arab culture to the extent that I it depressed me profoundly.

Actually, only when the demographics shifted did the crime rate start going down. Longer jail terms coincided with that event.
I've heard that argument, Mike, and since most crimes are committed by young men, it is axiomatic that when there are less young men demographically there is less crime. But, if you lock up the criminals for a long time, they cannot commit crimes on the street during that time and crime goes down as well. I believe the downturn we have seen since the 70s is a result of both things. Demographics is pretty much beyond our control, putting criminals in prison is in our control and I used to be a part (a tiny part) of that effort. Of course I'm going to emphasize it.
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