Friday, June 23, 2006

War in Haste, Terror at Leisure

This is a long-delayed follow-up to my previous post regarding conservative blogger Jay Tea’s absurd argument suggesting that America’s gravest threat would prefer to directly attack America’s military rather than American civilians.  Before I finished that post, I received a rebuttal to a comment I had made at Jay Tea’s; which effectively served as a proper rebuttal to the post I was just finishing.

I introduce you to Mac Lorry, the Wizbang commenter who attempted to school me regarding military strategy and the importance of decoy armies.  Just to give Mr. Lorry enough rope to hang himself, I’ll quote his entire first paragraph.  Please save your laughter for the end:

You missed or ignored one of the most fundamental principles of military strategy. That is, to win a war you attack the enemy's strategically important infrastructure or territory. By doing so you pull the enemy into a battle for that infrastructure or territory. Yes, terrorists would rather attack U.S. citizens, but they can't afford to lose in Iraq, so their strategy is to defeat the U.S. in Iraq and then they'll be able to attack U.S. citizens at their leisure. The decision to attack Iraq and then publicly challenge the terrorists with the "bring it on" statement is one of the factors that has kept the U.S. safe from attack since 9/11.
Got that?  It was just like I said.  Sure, these terrorists could be attacking us civilians directly, as is their Modus Operandi and the reason we hate them so much.  But no.  They’re so worried about losing Iraq as a base of operations that they’re streaming in to attack our military at any cost, rather than attacking us directly; thus betraying one of the basic strategies of terrorism, ie, to terrorize civilians.

Sure, most terrorists prefer to attack civilians instead of armies.  But not our guys.  Heck no.  These guys would rather fight a fairly conventional guerrilla campaign in their own backyard, and leave the terror attacks for their “leisure.”  That’s why Americans created Hawaii; for a better leisure-time activity.

Undermining Will

Of course, Mac would seem to contradict himself with this later statement:
The terrorist know they cannot defeat the U.S. military, so they have to undermine the political will of U.S. citizens to continue to fight in Iraq.

Say what?  They know they can’t defeat our military??  They’re trying to undermine our will??  Then why the hell are they attacking our military at all?  Wouldn’t it undermine our will even more if they attacked us directly?  Like say if they kept attacking American cities on a regular schedule until we withdrew?  That’s the way a James Bond villain would do it, and that was during the pussy-assed Cold War.  Surely our new-age terrorists would have to know a better terrorizing strategy than to directly attack the most powerful military in the world.  Mac and the rest of these conservatives already insist that the terrorists could attack us here in America, so why would they prefer to attack our military instead?

Ahh, but Mac seems to have an explanation for that too: If they attacked us directly, we’d be more likely to support the war in Iraq.  As he says:
With the help of U.S. fools and liberals, the terrorists are making good progress in achieving that goal, but they know that an attack on the U.S. would greatly boost support for the war in Iraq.

But wait a minute.  Conservatives tell us that the terrorists attack because they think we’re wusses and will quickly surrender.  Again, that is the basic gist of all terrorism: That you attack civilians to force them to negotiate or capitulate.  But suddenly, that whole argument flies out the window.  Now, the terrorists are afraid of attacking us directly because they know that it will strengthen our will.  Suddenly, the terrorists know that terrorism will “greatly boost support for war in Iraq.”   So in Mac’s world, the terrorists have wisely decided to forgo terrorizing us until after they win in Iraq; after which, they will forget this wisdom and begin to foolishly attack us.

As I’ve said before, terrorists are as smart as we need them to be scary, and as dumb as we need them to be foiled.  How else can we prevail?

And sure, it’s easier to argue the exact opposite of all this: That the war in Iraq has made even more terrorists, and thus made it more likely that we’ll be attacked.  But whatever.  Guys like Mac are able to string together enough rationalizations and contradictory factoids that they can’t even remember the point they started with; thus negating any need to prove anything to me.  And if I don’t get it, I’m the fool.

Why Iraq?

And this brings us to the next obvious question: What’s so damn special about Iraq that American-hating Muslims who are able to attack us within our borders have decided instead to attack our military in Iraq?

Mac’s got an answer for that too:
The reason why Iraq is so important to terrorists is that there are very few places in the would where they can base their operations from, and without a base, they can't mount effective attacks.

In a word: No.  

First off, terrorists do not need a base of operations.  They don’t even need to know any terrorist leader directly or indirectly.  In fact, a properly run terror cell should not have a big base of operations or any contact with any terrorist outside of the cell.  And if they do, they need to keep that contact to a minimum.  I could be wrong, but I believe that the Spanish and London bombers were like this.  They didn’t need a base in Iraq or Afghanistan.  They were independent contractors who have terrorized Westerners far more directly than anything Bin Laden’s been able to muster since 9/11.  That’s what makes terrorism so scary; that they can be anywhere.

What conservatives are really thinking of are paramilitary, guerrilla, or rebel types.  They’re the ones who need bases to keep and train their people.  But it only takes one guy to train bomb-makers, and he can do that almost anywhere.  And you don’t need a base to be given a suitcase nuke or biological weapons.   You just need lots of cash.  While they may have used bases in the past, it’s clearly outdated now and is unlikely to be used in the future.  In fact, the very reason why conservatives insist on believing in terrorist training camps is the same reason why terrorists shouldn’t use them.  They make good targets and increase our ability to capture their agents and uncover their plans.  Nothing says “terrorist” like hanging out at a terrorist training camp.

I started this post last weekend, but as I’m finishing it, I see that current events have helped demonstrate my case.  Exhibit A: the seven pre-terrorists whose closest Al Qaeda contact was an FBI informant.  Five Americans and two immigrants operating out of a warehouse in Miami.  And the reason they got caught was because they were looking for Al Qaeda leadership rather than going alone.  

And no, it probably wouldn’t have helped them had they announced their plans by traveling to Iraq for terrorist training; though I’m sure the Iraq war wasn’t low on their stupid list of grievances.  Fortunately for us, the only Americans so far who want to join the losing side happen to be idiots.  But I guess that just makes sense.

Mounting from Iraq

And how on earth would Iraq be an effective base to mount attacks against the U.S. and Europe?  They’re in the middle of the god damned middle-east.  They’re surrounded by non-western nations.  So how does it make sense that they could mount effective attacks on Westerners from there?  No, a much better base to mount an attack from would be like Canada or within the US border; preferably someplace they can blend in to.  Basing operations in Iraq might be safer, but not in terms of mounting an effective attack.  It’s a sure way to get every phonecall tapped and every email read.  And the only people who don’t know that are the mythical terrorists that the conservatives insist we’re fighting.

Not like I’m trying to give the terrorists any ideas, but I really do think this is commonly understood.  Only in the conservative mind is it best to stage personal attacks from the other side of the globe.  But then again, we are talking about people who think they best serve their country from their bedrooms and basements.  So at least they’re being consistent.

And yet that’s the crux of their whole argument: That terrorists so desperately need to win in Iraq that they’re willing to forgo all plans to attack us in America.  They can’t even spare four or five or nineteen guys to attack us here.  No.  They’d rather continue to send every single man they’ve got into the U.S. military’s killing machine than risk using a handful of guys to fulfill their original plans.  Right.  And we’re supposed to be afraid of these guys?  They’ve got thousands and thousands of guys dying in Iraq, but can’t spare twenty to attack us here.  Woooo!  Scary.

History Repeating

And this is the part of the argument where we remind our conservative that Iraq wasn’t a terrorist base of operations until after George W. Bush decided to invade.  And that these terrorists aren’t trying to hold on to their territory; they’re in a scramble to win the new territory that we’ve opened up for them.  Except, of course, for the Iraqi insurgents who really are fighting for control of their homeland; but conservatives don’t really believe in them.

And sure enough, Mac’s already got the pre-fabricated answer for that one too.  Why isn’t it a problem that George Bush’s decision might be causing Iraqi’s to fight against us?  Because that’s not what happened in the past.  As he says: “If that were the case, we would still be seeing terrorist attacks because of WW2, Korea and Vietnam.”

In other words: Because something didn’t happen before, it can’t be happening now…even if all evidence indicates that is indeed happening.  But not only is that idiotic and beyond the need for refutation, he’s also wrong about the significance of that factoid.  Because if anything, it would suggest that the victims on the enemy side won’t seek revenge once the war is over.  

And not only is that exactly what us liberals have been saying the whole time, but it’s also been the basic understanding of human nature since time immemorial.  If you attack a people, they will want to attack you in return.  And the more of their people you kill and the more mayhem you create, the more they’ll want to kill you.  And if the war ends decisively, most or all of them will stop trying to kill you.  But if the war ends indecisively, they are likely to continue to want to kill you until a more decisive ending arises.  

That’s how it’s worked for thousands of years and liberals believe that this trend will continue into the near future.  That’s why war should be avoided; because it can make more enemies than it removes.  Duh!

Remember the…

Besides, he’s comparing what happened after the war with what he thinks Iraqi’s are doing during this war.  Or could he really believe that no Germans, Japanese, Koreans, or Vietnamese joined the war effort to fight Americans because of our actions against them?  Sure, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 motivated Americans to rise up against their attackers; but there’s no way that Iraqi’s would do that.  

How is that possible?  Because of the conservative belief that other people are more cowardly and stupid than conservatives are.  Only conservatives are smart enough to want to attack their enemy’s weaknesses or brave enough to defend their country and allies.  Everyone else attacks their enemy’s strengths and cowers from aggression.  And so that must be what the evil terrorists are doing; despite all evidence to the contrary.

And sure, we’ll always have the Bin Laden whackjobs; but that doesn’t mean that we should lump them all together.  Perhaps conservatives really like having more enemies than fewer; but I’m just one of those crazy people who disagree.  I’d prefer to have as few enemies as possible, and if ending the invasion and upheaval we’re causing in Iraq would lead to us having fewer enemies, that’s what I’m all about.  

But I suspect that conservatives don’t really want more enemies.  They’re just trapped on the wrong side of a losing argument, and are forced to say ridiculous things or risk admitting defeat.

The Case for Originality

Besides, it’s possible that the Iraq war is different from all those other wars.  It’s possible that we are creating lifetime enemies by aggressively conquering one of their best countries.  After all, in all our previous wars, we at least had a modicum of pretext for attacking.  WWII was obvious, but both Korea and Vietnam had the civil-war evil-commie storyline to help float things along.  But in 2003, Bush was forced to revel in the dreaded “pre-emptive” war that all previous presidents had successfully avoided.  And so perhaps history isn’t such a good guide on what happens next.

And let’s not forget that it is the conservatives themselves who swear that the Islamofascist terrorist aggression is the most dreaded threat of all time; all because their religion is more fanatical and irrational than anything our previous enemies had.  That’s another key tenet of the conservative belief system and is all the more reason why we shouldn’t believe that the Iraqi’s will behave as chivalrously as our prior enemies.  And that’s not to even mention the old mainstay rightwing belief that the Vietnamese tortured American POW’s years after the war ended (that link written by the real Chuck Norris, I believe).  This too would be a bad sign of longtime grudges; were it not for the sheer absurdity of it.

But I’m not such a blackguard as to begrudge a desperate man a rhetorical rope to save himself with; so I’ll allow Mac to keep his point regarding the tendency of wartime enemies to quit fighting after the war ends.  Maybe Iraqi insurgents are as rational as our previous foes had been.  Sure, many people in Mac’s own party would like to refight our little civil war; but maybe our current enemies don’t have such long memories.  Out of this whole mess, it’s about the only thing Mac said that made any sense; even if he was wrong about its implications.  So maybe the Iraqi’s will forgive us after this is all over.

And so we’re back at our original point: That all evidence suggests that our war in Iraq has created more terrorists while doing nothing to stop the original terrorism problem we started with.  We’ve run through a whole gauntlet of contradictory positions regarding the rationality of terrorists, and ended back where I started my original idea: That the Iraq war has only hurt our fight against terror.  To which conservatives are forced to drag-out absurdities like the Magnet Theory of Warfare; while commonsense rests on the sidelines, checking its watch and shaking its head.


josh narins said...

Certainly, dear patriot, directly responding to a WizPiffle commenter is demeaning to yourself, and elevates them beyond all proper bounds? Of course, of course.

That said, I was amused by the idea that "the terrorists" had some infrastructure in Iraq which we were forcing them to defend.

The "Magnet/Flypaper" is a major reason we should probably lose, logically speaking. To win we need the Iraqis behind us. They aren't now. So, apparently, our strategy is to draw terrorists from around the world to their country, because Americans don't really want this type of mess on their own doorsteps. If even 5% of Iraqis believe that this is an endearing little plan, full of pluck and likely to suceed, I'll, I'll...

josh narins said...

Oh, and Puerto Ricans were engaging in terrorist attacks against America for about 75 years after we got in/started the Spanish-American War.

A couple broke into the White House, shot and killed one Secret Service, wounded others, and could have potentially shot Truman.

They blew up the Fraunces Tavern restaurant in Manhattan in the 1970s, killing Americans.

Of course, as the world's second smartest person, Dr. Biobrain, you've undoubtedly read Stephen Grover Cleveland's last State of the Union, American Interests in the Cuban Revolution, but even so, perhaps it deserves review.

His logic for staying out of Cuba was impeccable, even as he was cognizant of the toleration America must have for those Cubans in America taking the sides of the revolutionaries in Cuba.

By the way, I strongly suspect Hearst was behind the bombing of the Maine.