Thursday, July 07, 2005

The technology of death vs. life

I was watching a feature on CNN today that mentioned that terrorist bombers make a special effort to have their explosives go off in an enclosed space because it maximizes the carnage. Thus, today's London subway bombers may have timed their bombs to detonate not only on the subway, but also while the trains were in a tunnel.

The report described some studies from Israel, a country which has experienced more of these terrorist events than anyone else (with Iraq no doubt taking a close second). Apparently, the Israelis have found that one of the advantages of having security guards posted at the entrance to nearly every public place is that bombers who are spotted by guards are often forced to set off their explosives prematurely, in an open rather than a closed area. In this way the guards often sacrifice their own lives to prevent more people from dying.

That's certainly heroic under any definition of the word. I am amazed at how many people are willing to take on such a task. As much as the existence of suicide bombers depresses me and makes me wonder about the future of humanity, the presence of guards--as well as those volunteering for police duty in Iraq--reassures me.

In the first few months after 9/11, and during the later escalation of bombings in Israel as the intifada heated up, as well as the Madrid bombings, I often wondered what a nation can do to deal with such awful possibilities. In this country, we've been remiss about the need to have more checkpoints and guards, because we are loathe to surrender our freedom. In addition, over the nearly four years since 9/11, we've been lulled into what may be a false sense of security by the relative calm here.

I've heard the argument that security guards won't do much anyway, because then the bombers will just seek out different targets and use other methods, such as blowing themselves up on a city street. And while that is no doubt true, today's CNN piece reminded me that the presence of guards would still be likely to make it more difficult for bombers to kill the maximum number of people possible.

War and violence have historically been limited by technology, and as technology advances, the opportunities to kill advance. This has always been true, and defenses against weapons have always lagged behind the invention of the weaponry itself. For example, suicide bombings on a subway would not have been possible but for the invention of lightweight explosives--in the olden days, the sheer volume of explosives necessary would have made it impossible to carry enough on one's person to do widespread damage.

We are still scrambling to figure out the proper response. I doubt it will be a single technology, and it won't happen overnight. History tells us that human ingenuity coupled with human rage dictates that new technologies of destruction will be developed and used, and that we will always be scrambling to defend ourselves against them. So far, the forces of humanity and preservation have prevailed, but it hasn't been easy, and the death toll has been high, particularly in the 20th century. So far, the 21st seems to be continuing the trend.

33 Comments:

At 4:03 PM, July 07, 2005, Blogger Ho Chi Minh said...

I have a novel way to stop terrorism:

Treat people fairly and with dignity, like you would like to be treated, and they will never harm you.

Unfortunately that wasn't part of the Eisenhower Doctrine, or European colonialism.

Perhaps it's time to write it in.

 
At 4:11 PM, July 07, 2005, Anonymous neo-neocon said...

Ho, as Jake Barnes said in The Sun Also Rises, "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

 
At 4:25 PM, July 07, 2005, Anonymous debewley said...

Unfortunately we cannot be an open society and perfectly safe concurrently.

After 9/11 I spent a week looking at the small city I live in. I tried to look at it as a terrorist might. What target might I strike that would inflict maximum damage at minimal cost. Very scary stuff! There is an almost unlimited number of available targets. And there is no real way of protecting many of them without destroying our freedoms and/or crippling our economy.

 
At 4:51 PM, July 07, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

Ho hum, Ho hum, I'm glad I can see the author of posts so I don't have to read them - I hope Ho extends me the same courtesy.

Until the civilized world goes from a remedial to an eradication mode, I personally don't think much is going to change. We insist on trying to drag these terrorists into the fold of civilization. They insist on living in the stone age of sharia law and dragging us along with them. Why don't we just sort of drop them and all that goes along with 'carrying' such folks? It is sort of like having Typhoid Mary in the house and asking her to sit on the end of the couch rather than in the middle of the couch, wisffully thinking that no one will be contaminated then. Well, it is time to shoot typhoid Mary in the head and drag her carcass out of the house.

 
At 5:43 PM, July 07, 2005, Blogger Ho Chi Minh said...

To Neo-con:

I am well aware it is beyond the comprehension of most American's or their political leaders, nonetheless if anyone is truly interested in stopping the cycle of violence, is truly sickened by the carnage as you say you are, it is the only way.

What are we going to do, break their will? Forget it. We have to get out.
Or are we going to spend the rest of our days thinking of security measures, instead of the root, underlying causes to terrorism.

When the French got out of Algeria bombs stopped going off in Paris.

When apartheid ended the ANC stopped terrorising and bomning white South African's.

When the Jews kicked out the Brit's they stopped terrorising and bombing them.

When we kicked out the Brit's we stopped killing them.

And if people like Goesh think for a minute their wouldn't be some radical Christian leading the charge against an Islamic military-political hegemony over America ..he's just an idiot.

 
At 8:19 PM, July 07, 2005, Blogger Dreamer said...

Man, is there any way to block reading certain users? I'm with Goesh, but I can't help reading Hochi, it's like trying not to look at a train wreck.

I think I will just say this (and then try my best to avert my eyes): You are so overwhelmingly wrong that it hurts. Your philosophy mirrors that of the French, or the majority of Europe in the years prior to WWII. You would prefer to appease evil instead of confront it. You are comfortable blaming the brave and championing the cowardly (and, yes, blowing up civilians on busses and subways is a cowardly act.

Also consider this before you invite Osama to your birthday party: The Americans are fighting islamofascism and trying to protect civilians from harm. The terrorists are fighting democracy/democracies and deliberately murdering civilians. How can it be any more plain which side is working for peace and which is working for fear?

...
Mike

 
At 8:46 PM, July 07, 2005, Anonymous Larry said...

Ho Chi Minh: What are we going to do, break their will? Forget it. We have to get out.

It's not likely this person, whoever he/she is, ever had much of a will in the first place, and the childish reference to a golden rule-ed world -- as though there never were such things as nazis, fascists, or just plain murderous thugs -- indicates a degree of twee silliness in the face of horror that verges on a kind of psychosis. Sorry, neo-neo, but in this case, and in this context, I just don't find it even pretty to think so.

Much more significant, though, is how well it encapsulates the detachment from the real world of significant portions of the left these days -- their response to those who murder random civilians in order precisely to break the will of their enemy is a quick and craven tacit admission that their own will is broken and "We have to get out".

 
At 9:12 PM, July 07, 2005, Blogger Joe Schmoe said...

Ho-

Break their will is exactly what we are going to do.

We lock horns with them and kick them in the balls until they stop fighting.

If they don't stop, we kill them.

It's that simple.

Why do you fear them so?

They cut off people's heads on videotape while chanting "Allahu Akhbar."

Why don't you hate them?

They are savages. We need to fight.

 
At 9:58 PM, July 07, 2005, Blogger Pancho said...

Ho Chi, for all his principled talk, somehow doesn't realize that the these people would just as soon kill him too. Maybe first.

 
At 10:12 PM, July 07, 2005, Blogger TmjUtah said...

My comment on the thread before this applies here, too.

Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. It gets all the ideas into the arena, and then the bad ones end up on the sand.

Keep burning the old flag there, Ho. Let people know exactly where you stand.

 
At 10:14 PM, July 07, 2005, Blogger Dr. Sanity said...

Perhaps Ho can comment on our "invasion" of Bosnia and all the muslims the US targeted there. That was of course not too long before 9/11. Perhaps if we had let the genocide there take place?

Oh, and Ho--I am eagerly awaiting the end to world hunger now that we've had that concert. How long do you think it will take?

 
At 10:46 PM, July 07, 2005, Blogger neuroconservative said...

From the archives of the Belmont Club:

The Left will wake up one day, on the morning it is led down a dark corridor to a cell floored with rubber mats, sloping curiously down to a corner where a single drain waits to carry fluid away. The walls will be bare but for a banner with the words 'Allah is Great' opposite a video camera whose tripod legs are protected with a drop cloth. On a table will be a single knife. And then they will know. Then they will see.

 
At 12:23 AM, July 08, 2005, Blogger WichitaBoy said...

There's something very frightening in thinking that America might not be in control of the world after all. As long as we can convince ourselves that it's all our fault, then the evil is under control, it won't jump out from a subway car at rancom and murder us in cold blood. All that is required is to boot out the President! Yes, and then it will be a nice smiling world once again. To sleep once more, perchance to dream...

 
At 1:01 AM, July 08, 2005, Blogger gatorbait said...

The technique iscalled "tamping" it is nothing at all new. Explosions look for the path of least resistance, so, when tamped, the explosion goes in search of the path. It tends to cause frightful damage or remove the tree stump, depending on why the device is set off.

Ho Chi Minh, no new idea, same tired slogans and excuses. A waste of DNA.

 
At 6:12 AM, July 08, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

I came across an interesting article from an obscure medical journal. It purports that the ILA crowd, I Loathe America, suffers from more flatulence and sexual impotence than other folks. I'm digging around now trying to find it so you all can reference it.

 
At 6:58 AM, July 08, 2005, Blogger Ho Chi Minh said...

My God what a cesspool of feebleness I stumbled upon here:

Firstly, strange how on Neo-neocon's site, where 9/11 "high-jacked" her to the twisted world of American conservatism, where a hit against us changed the way she thought, few if any of you here can even consider that our hits against the Middle East the past half a century would not tilt Arabs to a conservative, more violent stance against us.

What's the matter with you idiots?

To Goesch:
"Until the civilized world goes from a remedial to an eradication mode..."

Excuse me, considering the 100's of millions that died in wars the past 100 years, how many times we already came to the brink of extinction, and the way things are looking now, I'd say we've been on extermination mode for a long time already. Or how many hundreds of millions of people have to die to satisfy your criteria? What's the matter, aren't we killing fast enough for you?

"They insist on living in the stone age of sharia law and dragging us along with them."

Bull shit. Iran was a Republic after independence, Dr. Mossagdeh their first democratically elected president. We had him shot because we didn't like his oil policy. Iran was radicalised as they sought to get rid of the fascist Shah, WHO WE SHOVED DOWN THEIR THROATS. Maybe we should have stayed out of their business?

Afghanistan was a socialist country, friendly with Russia, only turned into a hot bed of Islamic fundamentalism because it was in our interest to destabilise it as we lost Iran after our lovely Shah got booted out, elevating the Mujhadeen with weapons, cash and political capital, and turning the country over to them when our objectives were won. Good work America!

Iraq, under our on- again-off-again ally Saddam Hussein (once a CIA agent), was a secular country, which now has been radicalised BY OUR INVASION. Super. A work of genius.

Not to get sidetracked, it should be pointed out that the Russians invaded Afghanistan, a long time ally, for the same God damn reason we did, to stop (the establishment of) a radical Islamic State and base of terrorism. At least the Russians didn't arm and fund the bastards, more then I can say for the idiots running US foreign policy.

"Well, it is time to shoot typhoid Mary in the head and drag her carcass out of the house."

You're a fucking idiot too.

To M. Marden:

I'm obviously not here for reinforcement like some of you.

"You would prefer to appease evil instead of confront it."

I presume you're referring to W.W.II. Your conventional interpretation of events leading up to that war are blurred. First is the false assumption there was no strong western anti-communist influence projected over European politics prior to 1946, or that there was no communist threat to Germany before W.W.II either. This of course is absolute rubbish, the only puropose of even suggesting it to conveniently provide a way out for those western, anti-communist elements that supported Hitler and his adventures in the first place, to distance themselves from his crimes and the war.

Or no, Germany only became a bulwark against communism after W.W.II. Before then no one was interested.
Absolute rubbish.

Secondly, besides Hitler's dubious beginnings and curious path to power, the west later permitting him to re-arm, have a Navy, gobble up Europe, hand him Chechoslovakia and (the worlds largest arms exporter) and their gold, a country he couldn't have taken anyway, ignoring Russian or even secret German diplomatic and military efforts to corral him when they could have, it never occured to anyone that maybe, just maybe, some very powerful elements of western society might have wanted Hitler to attack Russia, to destroy bolschevism at its source?

Was Hitler our "Pinochet", or "Saddam"!? Beyond the limits of comprehension to the American mental miget.

"You are comfortable blaming the brave and championing the cowardly (and, yes, blowing up civilians on busses and subways is a cowardly act."

I am not comfortable with it, and to be honest, have other things I'd rather be doing. I thought though one should talk about it before my train gets blown up.

Blowing people up on busses is cowardly (or the only thing they can muster), as is dropping bombs on poor people from 40,000 feet. I'm only saying if we stayed out these people's business and stopped abusing and trying to control them they wouldn't want to bomb us.

To Larry:

"It's not likely this person, whoever he/she is, ever had much of a will in the first place."

You want to test my will Larry? Come near my house, kill my family or pay others to do it, like the US government does in the Middle East, and you'll see what I'm made off mother-fucker.

"..and the childish reference to a golden rule-ed world -- as though there never were such things as nazis, fascists, or just plain murderous thugs".

I do recognise the existence of Nazi's, fascists, and murderous thugs, I only question the wisdom of our government lying in bed with them, funding them, fostering them, helping them to power, elevating otherwise ineffectual people to the international level where they can do real harm, like the Taliban and Saddam, and others...

.."indicates a degree of twee silliness in the face of horror that verges on a kind of psychosis."

I only say people terrorise for a reason. If you're unwilling to look or even consider the underlying causes of terroism and remedy them, other then the fanciful Disney good-versus-evil, you're just a(nother)simple fool.

To Joe Shmoe:

"Why don't you hate them? They are savages. We need to fight."

It's not a matter of liking or hating, right or wrong, it's a matter of human nature. We fuck with them they're going to fuck with us. I say we started it, with the assasination of Mossagdeh in 1953, triggering a long chain of events, ending with what we saw yesterday in London. I never heard of Islamic terrorism against the US before that.

You might think we need to fight, I say we should try making friends for once, and start by staying out of other peoples fucking business, oh, and stop killing them.

To Dr. Sanity:

Regarding Yugoslavia, if people had taken notice they might have seen that it was the last socialist-communist country left on the western European chess board. Or that maybe, just maybe, it was in our interest to destabilise it, splinter it, destroy it, especially as containing or destroying communism was THE CORNERSTONE OF US FOREIGN POLICY SINCE 1946.

It is no coincidence that in the very first meeting of the National Security Council in 1948, the Albanians were singled out as an ally to help us destabilise Yugoslavia.

"..perhaps if we had let the (Bosnian)genocide there take place?"

We did let it take place. Eventually it was stopped before everyone was wiped out, but it was clearly not in our interest to have a viable Muslim state in Europe, as the splintered territory of Bosnia on the map would suggest. Muslim
Albanians aspirations for an independent Kosovo have gone
no where either.

To Gatorbait:

"Ho Chi Minh, no new idea, same tired slogans and excuses. A waste of DNA."?

It is? Perhaps you can inform me then who on the American political scene today is suggesting what I am, that we should stay out of other peoples business and treat them fairly and with dignity, then maybe they WONT'T WANT TO FUCKING BOMB US?! I'd like to know who that person or party is, I'll vote for him (them).

Obviously you are unaware of what we've done in the Middle East the last fifty years. But that's not suprising considering where you come from.

 
At 7:37 AM, July 08, 2005, Blogger Joe Schmoe said...

Ho-

The Middle East has been a barbarous place for hundreds of years, long before Westerners came into contact with it. You cannot blame the savagery of the region on US foreign policy.

Even during the full flower of Muslim civilization the leaders were chopping off heads, stoning women who showed too much ankle, and invading and conquring neighboriung peoples. (See, e.g., Spain, Morocco, Egypt, etc., etc.) During the invasion of Spain in 711, Tariq ibn-Ziyad had a group of POW's cut into pieces and and boiled after defeating the Goths, just to make the point that there was a new ruler in town.

This took place 1,065 years before the American Revolution, over 300 years before the Crusades, etc., etc. And it's been happening ever since. That is how barbarians do things.

There has never been an election in the Muslim world. The Taliban never held one. Sadaam never held one. The Iranians hold only fake ones, becuase they'd be voted out in an instant if the elections were real. The US isn't stopping the Iranian government from holding a free and fair election. We'd be thrilled if they did so. But they won't.

It is simply foolish to pretend that the Middle East was a land of milk and honey before the western imperialists and their evil corporations arrived.

Dick Cheney is not forcing the women to wear burquas. Standard Oil isn't encouraging clictorodectomies. The people of the region are themselves to blame for this savagery.

Also, with respect to the Cold War, I don't want to get into a protracted debate, but suffice it to say that the Russians played a role, too, and you seem to be forgetting that.

If we'd have left the Middle East alone, the USSR would not, repeat not, have done likewise. They would have showed up with guns, money, and KGB assassination squads and created the People's Republic of Iran, the Saudi Socialist Union, etc., etc.

It would have been great if there had been a Jeffersonian democrat in Iran with a wide base of popular support that we could have backed. But there wasn't.

Look at Saudi Arabia today. Is there a large westernized middle class who supports democracy, women's sufferage, and human rights? Is there an Abraham Lincoln-like figure who is beloved by the people but oppressed by the ruling monarchy? No. Many Saudis are religious fanatics who seem to crave an even more repressive dictatorship. If the Saudis were toppled that is likely what would be take their place. Osama, not Lincoln.

The Middle East was in play and we had to pick a side. We had to make the best of a bad situtation. That meant supporting people like Mubarak and the Shah. Sometimes there is no perfect answer, only two bad choices, one less awful than the other. And with respect to Sadaam, really, our "support" for him was very insignificant in the great scheme of things. He was mostly a Soviet client.

Honestly, don't you realize any of this?

 
At 7:51 AM, July 08, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

I remain steadfast in my vow not to read Ho hum's ILA (I Loathe America) commentary! It is fast becoming a sacred mission. I have not had a sacred mission recently, not since I swore off buttermilk. If someone would be so kind as to tell Ho hum that I regard ILA blather as not only free speech but tacit endorsement of the jihadis, I would be most appreciative. If he has any civility about him, he is not reading me either. Any intermediary so kind may well find a gift certificate to the nearest ice cream parlor in their mailbox.
Please remind Ho hum that we all know that ILA folk, like the jihadis, desperately require an audience. The worse thing that can be done to a masochist is to not whip him/her. You get my drift here I'm sure.

 
At 8:37 AM, July 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ho

Have you ever considered Islamic totaliarian rule to be the cause of radical Islamic Jihadism?

Or is this idea far beyond Chomsky's comprenhension.

That said, do you really expect me to be fair to those who can bury a women in a hole in the ground up to her neck then stone her to death for having humiliated Allah by being raped? Please explain why you consider such acts as dignified or fair. And no, as a women I would not like to be treated in that way at all!

I do not believe that Islamic women wished to be treated as such either but everytime an Islamic female speaks on behalf of human rights, dignity and fair treatment in her own Islamic male-dominated society she is executed.

Executing you for practicing free speech is a law you have the luxury of never having to abide by because of those who are willing to fight and stand against totalitarian rule, like the all-volunteer US Military, to preserve your right to be treated fairly and with dignity.

 
At 8:39 AM, July 08, 2005, Anonymous Paul said...

I suppose that"Uncle Ho" would have the Israelies get out of Israel too. Ho sounds like an elitist to me -The typical Left/Liberal know it all. By the way a lot of those Algerians are living in France now . Ever ask yourself why? Why are Muslims leaving the Islamic paradise in droves? Naziism and Communism collapsed and Islamofascism will too in the end despite syncophants and apologists like Ho.

 
At 10:34 AM, July 08, 2005, Anonymous notherbob2 said...

Ho presents an alternate point of view. If a majority of Americans adopted Ho's current point of view - Ho would present an alternate point of view. The internet has a term for it: troll.

 
At 11:48 AM, July 08, 2005, Anonymous Larry said...

Ho: Come near my house, kill my family or pay others to do it, like the US government does in the Middle East, and you'll see what I'm made off mother-fucker.

Sorry, Ho, but I think we can see what you're made of already -- the Islamo-fascists have killed many people's families, and your response is to urge more "understanding". Two things:
1. Understanding is a good thing, and no doubt we should have more of it -- but those who invoke "understanding" as an alternative to forceful action in the face of murderous violence are usually just trying to find a cover for their own fear and terror;
2. The US, and the West in general -- like all states and all societies on earth and throughout history -- have made mistakes. But there are disputes over what constitutes such mistakes. There are various ways of arguing the point, and various actions that can be taken in response -- but killing as many men, women and children as you possibly can is not one of them. Some people, it's true, find such an "argument" compelling -- you may be one, and a number of voters in Spain a while back were others. Fortunately, more people find it repulsive enough that it simply obliterates any initiating issue -- and they resolve to defeat the killers, as the civilized world resolved to defeat fascism two generations ago. (By the way, OBL, I believe, would differ with you over what "started" this dispute -- for him it was the "loss" of Andalusia some five centuries ago.)

 
At 12:02 PM, July 08, 2005, Blogger Michael B said...

Via Barcepundit, Gerard Baker in the London Times:

"The fight in Iraq is not, as the opponents claim, a self-inflicted wound, suddenly giving rise to new threats on our homeland from people we should have left well alone. We are, steadily, beating the terrorists in Iraq. Not only in the military operations, but also by demonstrating who and what the enemy really is. and thereby creating the only real long-term conditions for safety from Islamo-fascism — free states that do not deny the most basic human rights to their peoples. The people who murdered innocent Londoners yesterday are the same people who are murdering innocent Iraqis."

And a couple of concluding graphs:

"But, my goodness, through the sorrow, the pride welled up in me yesterday. Pride at the selflessness of emergency workers, blood donors, plain ordinary people eager to help. Pride at the matter-of-fact, dignified calm with which Londoners faced unexpected horror. And I’ll even admit to a little bit of pride for the first time ever in Ken Livingstone, whose remarks in Singapore managed to hit precisely the right tone.

"But above all, I felt a surge of pride at the resilience and defiance of Londoners. They showed once again that fierce solidarity we have seen so many times when they have been tested; a determination to face down nihilistic terror and intimidation. What poured through the television screens yesterday was their will to elevate life over death, freedom over tyranny, love over hate. Nothing could better illustrate why our cause is right than what happened yesterday in Bloomsbury, the West End and the City."

Also, some grim empiricism and arithmetic, from normblog (who profiles Dymphna today, btw):

1. They attack Red Cross personnel.
2. They murder people working for the UN.
3. They kidnap and kill care workers.
4. They bomb holiday-makers, in nightclubs.
5. They blow up people travelling on trains - civilians.
6. They target people on buses - civilians.
7. They take civilian hostages.
8. They decapitate them.
9. They murder trade unionists.
10. They kidnap diplomats.
11. They kill people for being... barbers.
12. They fly aircraft full of civilians into skyscrapers where people are at work.
13. They take schoolchildren hostage and murder them.
14. They bomb synagogues.
15. They kill people shopping in a market.
16. They kill people queuing at a medical clinic.
17. They murder children in Baghdad.
18. They murder people on their way to work in London.

 
At 12:26 PM, July 08, 2005, Blogger the Ol' Sheepdog said...

I have to agree with a small fraction of the "appeasement" argument, to wit: past US foreign policy certainly has sharpened the resentment of Islamic radicals against America.

As the lead article in today's Economist points out, that's neither here nor there.

Did we make enemies by picking sides in the past? Sure; that's the nature of conflict. Should we base our policy on appeasement of thugs? Hardly.

Every time we try the "let's make nice" approach, we get burned. We are currently, I believe, showing ourselves to be strong and loyal towards friends--strong and fearsome towards enemies--much as we did sixty years ago.

It worked then.

 
At 12:32 PM, July 08, 2005, Blogger the Ol' Sheepdog said...

re: previous comment

Sorry, I said the Economist, but I was referring to the Spectator. This is the lede of the piece I was referring to:

Yesterday's disgusting attack on London will naturally be seized upon by politicians of all hues to advance their various agendas. Opponents of the war in Iraq have lost no time in blaming Tony Blair and British engagement for the bombs that hit London and killed dozen and injured many hundreds. They have a point. As the Butler report revealed, the Government was explicitly warned before the Iraq war that our involvement would exacerbate the risk of terrorism in this country. But that does not for one moment mean that if Britain had not been involved in Iraq, then London would have been safe. It bears repeating that more British people died in the attacks on the World Trade Centre than in yesterday's brutal outrages, and it must never be forgotten that 9/11 preceded the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, as did the series of vicious Islamicist bombings in Paris in the 1990s...

 
At 12:49 PM, July 08, 2005, Blogger Michael B said...

snedwords,

Yes, and you very much place the right emphasis upon that aspect of the discussion. WTC '93 is another pivotal point, as "the tragedy of Andalusia" is a critical juncture for OBL's overview of history. No one - excepting the strawman and simpleton arguments forwarded by the Left - is seriously suggesting a blindered approach to analyzing the current situation or to planning and executing strategies relevant to the conflict.

 
At 2:33 PM, July 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Fathoming who suicide bombers are, what motivates them, and what can stop them has become particularly urgent now that such attacks in Iraq have reached unprecedented levels, with more than 200 this year. That has prompted concern that a generation of terrorists is learning skills it can bring to the U.S. and Europe. Science and experience show that last-minute defense is the wrong way to play this lethal game."

More left-wing appeasement drivel? Maybe, but it's from today's Wall Street Journal, the Science Journal column "Why Just Detecting Hidden Explosives May Not Cut Deaths", page B1. You might want to look it up, it says that detonating bombs in open areas might actually do more damage than an enclosed area.

"New research suggests that even perfect detection may not substantially lower the death toll from bombs set off in urban areas. And in some cases, terrorism experts now recognize a counterintuitive possibility: Warnings may lead to more fatalities."

 
At 5:53 PM, July 08, 2005, Blogger Ho Chi Minh said...

Joe Schmoe:

"The Middle East has been a barbarous place for hundreds of years, long before Westerners came into contact with it. You cannot blame the savagery of the region on US foreign policy."

Excuse me, everywhere has been a barbarous place, not just the Middle East. Still, under the Ottoman Empire, roughly 1300-1920, the Middle East was fairly stabile and peaceful, even for the Jews living there.

I'm not going to go through US interventions in every country there, you can look that up yourself, and perhaps imagine how American's would respond to a similar Arab intervention in the U.S.

"There has never been an election in the Muslim world."

That's not true, I already mentioned Iran in 1952, their first president shot by us. The Palistinians had two now, and seemed pretty fair. And say what you want about the two Iranian candidates, they represented a differing view, a choice anyway.
We only have two, and the difference between them is perhaps less significant.

As we (and primarily the British) only backed autocratic regimes, it's hard to say how many democracies there would now be if we had ever actually promoted any. Support dictatorships, you get dictatorships. Funny that.

"The Taliban never held one."

Why then did we give them Stinger missiles and hand the country over to them? The Soviets would have been infinitely better.

"Sadaam never held one."

Didn't stop us from helping his mob to power, being our ally, training his security service, arming or financing him.

"It is simply foolish to pretend that the Middle East was a land of milk and honey before the western imperialists and their evil corporations arrived."

I never did. There's good and bad people every where. How about our good people working with there's for once? We can try now, but that's going to be a hard sell, considering who we are and what we've done to them the last fifty years. Bomb 'em, inavde 'em, shove our way down their throats, exactly the wrong approach.

"If we'd have left the Middle East alone, the USSR would not, repeat not, have done likewise. They would have showed up with guns, money, and KGB assassination squads and created the People's Republic of Iran, the Saudi Socialist Union, etc., etc."

They did, particularly in Egypt under Nasser, and Kassem in Iraq, one reason we worked with Saddam back in '57. Still I'll ask you, ..why did people ever become communist in the first place? Because they too were inherently evil beings that needed to be stamped out?

"It would have been great if there had been a Jeffersonian democrat in Iran with a wide base of popular support that we could have backed. But there wasn't."

There was, his name was Dr. Mossagdeh, their first elected President. We had him killed back in '53. And while you're mentioning it, when was the US ever looking for a democratic foreign leader? Most countries would never freely vote for "our" guy, the reason we backed so many dictatorships. Democratic leaders were normally the one's we had shot. Ever hear of Patrice Lumumba?

"The Middle East was in play and we had to pick a side. We had to make the best of a bad situtation. That meant supporting people like Mubarak and the Shah."

Why was the Shah better then Mossagdeh? As far as Mubarak, or any other leader, if the US backs a guy none of his subjects support, they will hate us for it. And they do.

I say we haven't made the best of a bad situation, we've made it worse.

"And with respect to Sadaam, really, our "support" for him was very insignificant in the great scheme of things. He was mostly a Soviet client."

In the scheme of things? The CIA only brought his Baath gang to power twice, the second time for 30 years. Not liking our exclusively pro-Israel policy he did play us off against the Russians. It was certainly a love hate relationship.
What ever was in our interest, and when. Yet the financial-military aspect, when it was happening, was quite significant.

 
At 9:58 PM, July 08, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

Will my intermediary please apprise Ho hum that I have received 857 emails promising not to read his ILA (I loathe america) tirades? I wonder if my sacred vow not to read Ho hum is affecting people in a mystical, new-age sort of way? Is there such a thing as a conservative swami of sorts? OOOMM! I may well be exaggerating my self importance again, but I believe if I persist with my sacred vow, I may be able to start doing some exorcisms to drive demons from suffering Liberals like Ho hum. Probably some laxatives might do these folks more good than any of my incantations and chanting. Remember the theatre of the absurd? We need to start employing that with some of the ILA folks and placators of terrorists. We could do a skit on human shields rushing into the ranks of American troops once saddams thugs abadoned them and oppressed Iraqis began to close in on them......?? Ohhh, that would be fun to portray. We could develop a human shield manual: 1.) When Iraqis are being put through a plastic shredder by saddam hussein's thugs, stay at your post to demonstrate your resolve. It will be necessary to yell to grieving family members that you are doing this for them - their high pitched screams of grief will be piercing, but it is imperative that they hear you are there to protect them. If we do a skit on this, I get to portray Ho hum - I must insist on this!

 
At 10:48 PM, July 08, 2005, Blogger Dreamer said...

And I swore I wouldn’t look.

Here's what I perceive as the core of Ho's argument: America deserves what it is getting because of misdeeds committed in the past. Ho's solution is to withdraw our participation in that region. Ho's logic goes: if we just leave them alone they will leave us alone and Americans are free to live in peace.

First, an admittal: The United States has not behaved with perfect moral clarity over the last 60 years. In an effort to stop the spread of communism (and in so doing, protect American citizens) we took positions of foreign policy that undoubtedly supported the brutal reign of dictators and helped to destabilize southwest asia. As Condi said recently at the American University in Cairo: these positions were wrong.

That being said, this is why I can't buy your solution:

1) Women deserve the right of representation. They deserve protection from gang rape. They deserve to receive equal treatment under law. Radical Islam is the result of your exit strategy and the leaders that would fill the resulting power vacuum would rather die than see this suffrage extended.

2) If we leave the ME to its own devices then the leaders that emerge (such as Hussein) will continue to repress, imprison, gas, and mass-execute minority groups. This includes Kurds. This includes Christians. This includes Women. In Iraq this included Shi'ites. A multicultural democracy with equal protection under law for minorities is the solution. While not perfect, in contains the seeds for something better.

3) Ultimately, I don't want my freedom at the expense of others. I don’t think that leaving this region alone is the most moral solution to our problem. On a very personal level, if I see injustice done to my neighbor I do not turn a blind eye for "their sake." I think this would apply even if I had acted to their detriment in the past. (In fact, the impulse would be greater for my guilt)

Look, we aren’t perfect, but the Iraqis are better-off with the disposal of Saddam Hussein. Afhanis are better off without the oppressive Taliban. Egyptians will be better off with the end of their perpetual state of emergency and the existence of free elections. Africans (in fact, everyone) is better off without Khadafi in possession of WMD’s . Saudis would be better off with corrupt monarchy, I could go on…

Ultimately, I think this is a question of morality. It is a question of justice. I think it is in our national character to promote the freedom and dignity of the world's people and I think we are on the right path.

 
At 7:44 AM, July 09, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How well said, Michael Marden. Thanks.

 
At 4:48 AM, July 11, 2005, Blogger Ho Chi Minh said...

To Goesch:

Don't look.

To Mike Marden:

"Here's what I perceive as the core of Ho's argument: America deserves what it is getting because of misdeeds committed in the past."

You can add the present too, but you generally got the picture. Cause and effect, push-comes-to shove.

"Ho's solution is to withdraw our participation in that region. Ho's logic goes: if we just leave them alone they will leave us alone and Americans are free to live in peace."

There is ample proof that disengagement works:

A settlement with the IRA terrorists in Ireland has brough peace.

I've already mentioned that bombs stopped going of in Paris when they pulled out of Algeria years ago.

Jews stopped killing Brit's when they pulled out of Israel.

American's stopped killing Brit's when they pulled out of America.

The ANC, once claimed to be communist, stopped killing white people and setting off bombs when apartheid was dismantled.

When we stopped killing Vietnamese they too stopped killing us. Now you can go there and have a very nice vacation or open a business with a local. Anyone who's been there will tell you how friendly the people are, even to Americans. Unless of course you try to overthrow their government (which I should mention applies anywhere).

Iran, radicalised under the fascist, US backed Shah, has mellowed conseiderably since those heady days, and I imagine will continue to do so, as long as we stay out of their business and treat them fairly.

Perhaps you can offer an example where disengagement didn't work, that is, the "enemy", when left alone, fulfilled our ghastly expectations to terrorise and destroy "our freedom"?

"First, an admittal: The United States has not behaved with perfect moral clarity over the last 60 years."

Morality was never a consideration, only our geo-political economic interests, the reason so many dislike us.

"In an effort to stop the spread of communism (and in so doing, protect American citizens) we took positions of foreign policy that undoubtedly supported the brutal reign of dictators and helped to destabilize southwest asia."

If anything good came out of 9/11 it is the awareness or admission that past US foreign policy might have anything to do with anything in the world we live in.

Having said that I disagree we backed dictators to stop the spread of communism, over decades a loosely defined term to brand anyone not entirely malable to US foreign policy.

Please be more specific? Where exactly were the Soviets looking to pick a fight with the west? Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Lumumba, Mossagdeh, Ortega, and a slew of others were more then willing to ally themselves with the west. The fact is we wanted it our way, all or nothing, chasing many leaders into the arms of the Soviet's, who in many cases cared very little about them or their regions.

True that is the way we percieved it, but I say if you look at it case by case, state by state, much of it is nonsense or sheer fabrication.

This is an important point. Since I presume you agree with Ms. Rice, that past US foreign policy was mistaken (defined as lacking understanding), I would ask you for a moment to step back and make sure that we don't make the same mistake again, that is RADICALISE ISLAM THE SAME WAY WE DID THE COMMUNISTS!

"This is why I can't buy your solution (disengagement):
1) Women deserve the right of representation. They deserve protection from gang rape. They deserve to receive equal treatment under law."

I agree 100%. The question is how do we get there? What would have happened in the US if the Soviets invaded us to give women the right to vote or to stop the lynching of black people? At the turn of last century it was exactly the socialists and communists who were promoting such provacative notions. If they had invaded I say it would have altered considerably the political dynamic, and if anything retarded social progress.

War has a way of swallowing everything up.

"Radical Islam is the result of your exit strategy and the leaders that would fill the resulting power vacuum would rather die than see this suffrage extended."

Radical Islam is not the result of my exit strategy, rather the result of OUR ENTRANCE STRATEGY, the people we handed countries over to (Saudi, Taliban), backed and funded, or since radicalised by our foreign policy and out right agression.

Having said that clearly the question is what to do with the radical elemnts now. As this is something Arabs should decide themselves, an internal Arab dialogue between moderates and radicals should be fostered. We should get out. Violence will only radicalise them more.

2) If we leave the ME to its own devices then the leaders that emerge (such as Hussein) will continue to repress, imprison, gas, and mass-execute minority groups.

Nonsense. The most oppresive regimes
are the one's we backed and continue to back. The one's left to their own devices, like Iran, Syria and Lybia, practice a much more moderate form of Islam, affording woman far more liberties, then our allies Pakistan Saudi Arabia or (the old) Afghanistan.

"This includes Kurds."

We never cared about the Kurds and sold them out a number of times. If we had to we would again.

"This includes Christians."

Christians and Jews live across the Muslim world, and as long as they don't involve themselves in espionage or the like are left alone.

"On a very personal level, if I see injustice done to my neighbor I do not turn a blind eye for "their sake."

No one's asking anybody to "turn a blind eye", only to consider a constructive course of action, taking into account who we are and how we are percieved by those we now (after 50 years) are finally seeking
(pretending?) to help. Agression is exactly wrong. Dialogue is the right course, diplomacy, but highly unlikely to come from the US corner.
Of course this is not suprising, after 60 years of "mistakes", why would we get it right now?

"Ultimately, I think this is a question of morality. It is a question of justice. I think it is in our national character to promote the freedom and dignity of the world's people and I think we are on the right path."

It is a question of morality and justice, unchartered waters for US foreign policy. But ultimately it will not be what we think, it will be what the people of the Middle East think as our military runs rampant through Iraqi cities and villages, threating neighbouring countries, and playing our tireless role as bully. It will ultimately be how they percieve us.

Freedom and dignity are a worthy message, but unfortunately, considering our image and all we've represented in the past, we, the U.S. messenger, stink. Diplomacy, an effort to bring all parties to the table, not violence, is the only way out of this. The U.N. or the Europeans might have a chance at success.

And don't forget, if it doesn't work we can always bomb them again.

 
At 2:21 PM, July 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A not so minor point: explosives suitable for suicide bombings have existed since the invention of dynamite (mid 1800s). Modern military explosives are engineered for better handling properties (safety, storability), not for more explosive yield.

 

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