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Is it War Yet?

| 33 Comments | 2 TrackBacks
So here's the question for the day: Are we at war? It's important to me, since I'm spending a bunch of time digging into the Democratic field and trying to see if I can support one of them, and if so, who. Today, I had two 'blips' that made me pose this question. A column in the LA Times Opinion section, by one of their military correspondents, and something in our Technorati listing (note the new UI, and that it seems to work consistently now!). Phaedrus (cool pseudonym, BTW) writes:
Truth is, there isn't enough real risk to even be asking the question. Truth is, the Bushies are deliberately exaggerating the risk as a means of manipulating the people. They're psychological terrorists their own damn selves. If right wingers would stop acting like incredibly cowardly wimps, we could get back to trying to act like a democratic nation. I don't have much hope.
In the Times, William Arkin criticizes the Democrats from the left:
From none of the candidates have we heard anything approaching a strikingly new vision of how the United States should think about national security in a post-Cold War era marked by terrorism. And that's not because no such vision is conceivable. Rather, it's because the major Democrats ... like a herd of dairy cows trundling across a pasture ... have unthinkingly fallen in behind the tinkling bell of establishment assumptions about the world and how the United States should deal with it. ... With so little argument on the broad principles, it's no wonder Bush feels he owns the national security debate, especially at a time when America is "at war." And to me, that is precisely where the Democratic candidates for president, including Dean, have failed: They have not challenged the central premise of the Bush doctrine on national security — the endlessly repeated assertion that the United States is "at war." Initially, the "war on terrorism" was a figure of speech — like the "war on poverty" and the "war on drugs." To the extent that the "war on terrorism" has become more than that, it's because the Bush administration has elected to initiate military action in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines and other countries of Southeast Asia, the Horn of Africa, the Caucasus and elsewhere. If the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon can be likened to Pearl Harbor, there has been nothing to match the subsequent wholesale advances of Japanese forces across Asia. And there has been no mobilization of American society — except for how the Bush administration allowed Al Qaeda's puny army to keep the American public spooked and worried about the future.
Wow. Pretty strong words. The suggestion, as I understand it, is that the conflict we find ourselves in is a creature of our own making - that we're sending troops to battle the phantoms of our own fears. He's suggesting two theses with which I disagree pretty strongly: First, that 'Al Quieda's puny army' posed no real threat to us; and second, following from the first, that our military actions abroad are starting a war where there was none before.
But Americans need to seriously consider whether the long-term threat to our civil liberties is justified by the protections we may (or may not) be afforded against terrorist attacks. Reasonable people could argue for different strategies. There are alternatives that might be equally effective in reducing threats but less alarming to the public, less divisive among our allies, less go-it-alone, less in-your-face. Subtler strategies are possible. Borrowing a page from stealth technology, for instance, the United States could lower its profile as a target even as it strikes at the heart of specific terrorist groups. There's nothing soft or dovish about the punch of a Stealth B-2 bomber; it's just harder to strike back at.
Well, we probably agree that the Homeland security steps taken by this administration (and largely planned in the last Congress) do more to limit our civil liberties than they do to limit our exposure to centrally-planned, large scale terrorism. His last notion, that somehow America can "lower it's profile" in a world where its existence is seen as a triumph of mercantilist colonialism is kind of a challenge, and calls out for elaboration. I'll assume that we embrace Kyoto and push away Israel; hand over our troops to the ICC (which recently was offered a case that the British use of cluster munitions in Iraq was a war crime). But maybe he means something else...and I continue to fascinated by the left's support of covert action and assassination ('Subtler strategies...') in this conflict.
"As commander in chief of the U.S. military, I will never hesitate to send troops anywhere in the world to defend the U.S.," Dean says. He might as well be Bush if this is what he really thinks.
I'm inclined at this point to toss the author out as someone I should read with a serious eye. If the President of the United States isn't supposed to send troops anywhere else in the world to defend the U.S., what's the point of the job? To appeal to the U.N. for assistance, like the Rwandans, so that a decade later, they can hold hearings on what went wrong?
In the end, it comes down to the Democratic Party assertion that it could run the same war and execute many of the same policies more competently. "Me too" didn't work for Thomas E. Dewey in 1948. And Franklin D. Roosevelt argued successfully during World War II election campaigns that it was unwise "to change horses in midstream." Today, Democrats need to ask themselves: If we are in fact "at war" and facing such high stakes, why would the American public want to risk changing the White House leadership now? Seeking a penetrating answer to that question might be good politics. It would certainly be a public service.
Here's the $64,000 question, indeed. I strongly dislike most of Bush's domestic policies, and think that he's doing substantial damage to our economy and polity by implementing them. In a world where 9/11 had never happened, I wouldn't for a moment be considering supporting him. And I'd be looking at other issues in choosing someone in the Democratic field than "do they have a coherent response to this?" So here's my research and thinking project for this week, as I'm travelling: Is my perception that this is a serious war wrong? Obviously, I don't think so, but every so often it's good to check. UPDATES: * The Times gave a bio of Arkin: "William M. Arkin is a military affairs analyst who writes regularly for Opinion. E-mail: warkin@igc .org". I went over to the www.igc.org website, and you should too, to help put some perspective around his writings. I'm still going to chew on the question, however. * Calpundit responds.

2 TrackBacks

Tracked: January 26, 2004 2:11 AM
Bush at War from Calpundit
Excerpt: BUSH AT WAR....Armed Liberal asks today, Are we at war? Good question. So let me take this chance to follow up on my earlier post and toss off a few reasons that regardless of whether we actually are at war,...
Tracked: February 2, 2004 6:27 AM
Bile from Osama Bin Laden Is Winning
Excerpt: "It's exposed a huge problem in our intelligence gathering. But who wants to take that on in an election year? Or while you are fighting terrorists?" Let's break down that statement into its two constituent parts: Who wants to expose...

33 Comments

It's interesting that he brings up the example of WWII and the Japanese Imperial army. Especially in contrast to al qaeda's "puny army". The Japanese Imperial army was millions of men strong, had the backing of an industriaized nation with a population of tens of millions, and conquered many nations in Asia during and before WWII. In contrast, al qaeda's forces are much smaller, have much less backing, and have never conquered a single nation. For all of that the Japanese Imperial army never managed a substantive attack on the US mainland throughout the entirity of WWII. Yet al qaeda has done just that. Twice. Clearly this is a different kind of warfare with different rules than we are used to. If, as the author would have us do, we fail to change our viewpoint on just what warfare can be and how it can be conducted then we will be at an extreme disadvantage, perhaps a fatal one.

Look, deciding on whether this is a war is a very simple exercise. The basic questions are "are they at war with us" and "are they making war against us". Both are important, the second more so than the first. The first is a cinch, because the answer rings out from mosques around the Islamic world (thankfully not all of it) on a near daily basis. The proclamation of Jihad against the US. Yes, of course "they" are at war with us, they have said so, repeatedly. Perhaps we ought to believe their words for once? The second is similarly easy to answer. Have they attacked us? Have they killed our soldiers and our civilians? Have they engaged in ongoing activities which would amount to "making war" against us? Yes. Quite clearly yes. From the bombing of US military Barracks and embassies to the bombing and disabling of a US Navy ship to the destruction of the World Trade Center to the destruction of nearly an entire wing of the Pentagon. It's blindingly fucking obvious to everyone that they're at war with us. We don't have to be at war with them, necessarily, but it seems they've made up their minds, it's past time we made up ours (fortunately, I think we have).

Is my perception that this is a serious war wrong?

Yes. It's serious and it is -- just barely -- a war, but it's not a serious war.

It's just barely a war because the Afghan War was part of what needed to be done, and other wars might be needful in future (a renewed Afghan war being as likely a prospect as any). And there's certainly need for various "military operations other than war". But these are peripheral. The central -- most serious -- elements are policework, intelligence, and counter-proliferation (of which the Iraq invasion was not a shining example).

"But these are peripheral. The central -- most serious -- elements are policework, intelligence, and counter-proliferation (of which the Iraq invasion was not a shining example)."

It worked on Libya; not only that, but the Libyans were further along than we thought; so much for intelligence limitations being a reason not to act. Now if we can find a way to separate the mad Nork leader from his arsenal, and prevent Pakistan from having a revolution carry it into the enemy camp, we'll all be a hell of a lot safer.

In the months after 9/11, I had figured our best bet was to maximize the difference between the fates that befell people that conspired to attack us and the fates that befell people that didn't. It seemed that if we were going to attack bad guys that hadn't attacked us no matter what they did, they'd have no reason not to attack.

But I've since decided that's only a short-term solution. Unless we impose worldwide technological stagnation (which, among other things, would remove any hope of a reprieve from the scourge of old-age that will kill us all in less than a century), there's no way around the fact that high-yield weapons will get progressively easier to construct, until a single individual can kill everyone on the planet. As we progress through technological stages between now and then, groups that didn't consider it worthwhile to make a smaller attack and face the consequences will accept those same consequences if they can stage a larger attack. Like it or not, we'll eventually have to remove the will to attack the West throughout the Middle East and indeed, throughout the world.

And, of course, get significant populations off the planet...

Is Bush mounting a coherent response?

For instance, why isn't Bush doing more to control population growth in the Middle East?

Why is his energy policy tailor-made to make us more dependent on oil?

Why was there no mention of the Israel/Palestine conflict in the SOTU address?

If it's a war, why is Bush fighting with one hand tied behind his back, and the other hand flailing wildly at tangential threats like Iraq?

Praktike wrote:

Is Bush mounting a coherent response?

Actually, yes. If you proceed from the assumption, as I do, that the best way to get at Al Qaeda is to hit them in their part of the world, it is. To those who say Bush has no response, I simply point to the last two years: stay on the offensive, and attack at all times. Arkin is right in one respect: all that the Democrats are left with is "me too". Arkin's answer is to win an argument instead of a war by denying the war exists.

For instance, why isn't Bush doing more to control population growth in the Middle East?

Because he can't. No international aid program can do more than make a slight dent in population growth. It's not how many people there are; it's what they are taught. As such, Rumsfeld's famous "memo" was dead on.

Why is his energy policy tailor-made to make us more dependent on oil?

The push on the AWR and the Hydrogen Car project are designed to make us more dependent on foreign oil, or just on oil? I like renewables as much as the next guy, but just because we all drive around in hydrogen cars, let's say, does not mean that Al Qaeda will stop thinking that it's a neat idea to kill Americans.

Why was there no mention of the Israel/Palestine conflict in the SOTU address?

Because it doesn't matter. People say that it matters, but it doesn't matter. If it really mattered to the Arab states that the problem be solved, they would solve it. The Arabs talk a good game about Palestine. Sure, it would be better if the Palestinians had their own state, but in the end, they would move onto another reason (say, water rights, the Golan, or the Right of Return) as a reason for the Zionist Cancer to be excised.

No one gives a rat's ass about the Palestinians. Not even Arafat, who's too busy counting the coin that he embezzled from the Europeans.

If it's a war, why is Bush fighting with one hand tied behind his back, and the other hand flailing wildly at tangential threats like Iraq?

Leaving aside the fact that Saddam was not only overthrown, but also finally captured, how is a focused, targeted military campaign that was effectively over in three weeks an example of wild flailing? Given the fact that Stephen Hayes' article about the budding relationship between Al Qaeda and Mr. Congeniality were reviewed here on WOC and, for the most part, born out, why would a campaign to remove Saddam be not part of the larger war?

Not to pick on you, Praktike, but I thought your points deserved an answer.

As to Arkin, see above. He is merely trying to win the election for the Democrats by maintaining that there is no war. If Democrats can prove to the American people that there is no war, that it is a figment of the fevered imagination of Karl Rove, than Democrats can shift the terrain of argument to domestic issues, where conventional wisdom argues that they prosper.

Of course, one mass casualty attack would expose Arkin's argument to be as fatuous as the day is long, but I don't think Arkin really believes that the problem with this conflict is that Evil BushCo has been able to successfully peddle this as a "war". Rather, Arkin's problem is that his kind of people are not running the war.

No, the problem is not that the Democratic candidates have not formulated a position on the "war on terror" (it's no more a war on terror than WWII was a war on sneak-attacks). They have formulated a position but their position has no basis in the facts of the situation. We are at war. There are no conditions under which the French can be convinced to support us (and as long as this is the case U. N. support is beyond reach).

Is my perception that this is a serious war wrong?

Pondering this requires examination of Wahhabist war aims. My understanding of those aims is this:

1. Restoration of the caliphate.
2. Imposition of a strict Wahhabbi interpretaion of sharia upon the entire caliphate.
3. Extension of the caliphate to all areas not currently subservient.

Note that those aims are supported by the Wahabbi interpretation of the Koran and that very little (with regards to tactics) is proscribed as a means of implementation. Note also that there is no such thing as a "just war doctrine" within the Wahabbi interpretation. There are definitive statements concerning those who have been conquered (or those who submit) but very, very little concerning proscribed behavior in conducting war. (In the Iraq/Iran war of the 80's both sides used chemical weapons rather indiscriminately.) The continued existence of what we like to call Western Civilization is not a matter of any concern within terms of those war aims.

If the preceding is (in your view) an accurate assessment of enemy war aims then this is a "serious war". One can doubt that there will be any more WTC attacks with good reason but one would be completely lacking in imagination to think that a mass anthrax mailing would not have an impact much more devastating than the WTC.

Positing solutions that resort to international tribunals, international "policework" - the rule of law - is immaterial when those in opposition refuse to recognize the international laws and standards to be imposed and are willing to die in the struggle. Afghanistan and Iraq have served as very illustrative examples for regimes that continue to provide support and safe haven to those who pursue the stated war aims. Introducing an element of uncertainty concerning our resolve to eliminate this problem would only serve to encourage continued terrorism.

It is not a "serious war" only if you have no understanding of fourth generation warfare and how it works. There is a pretty decent case to be made that this war began in the US embassy in Teheran in 1979. Because of our superiority in manoeuvres and weaponry, and our focus on the Fulda Gap in Germany we simply missed what was going on.

Anyone who says we are not is a serious war is /still/ missing the point, conceptually stuck in 1968.

Fourth generation warfare consists of persistent low-grade attacks aimed at an destroying enemy's total economy, infrastructure, culture, and general will to fight.

Manoeuvre warfare (third generation) was largely developed by the Germans and used to great effect in the early years of WWII.

Firepower warfare (second generation) used massed firepower to overcome an enemy's numerical superiorty. Think gatling guns in late 19th century America.

First generation warfare is/was simply a numbers game. Show up with more men than the othr guy and you're more likely to win. Think Braveheart.
.

Did we ever have massive tax cuts in any of our (other?) serious wars? Fight it with no meaningful expansion of the armed services?

Cuts both ways.

Having said that, I'd like the Democratic candidates to lay out their security ideas, I just expect them to differ from "Start sideshow wars to show our military might, preferably based on falsehoods."

Many of our smaller wars have been fought with regular troops, and without significant tax burden or mobilization.

The nature of 4th Generation warfare is such that we will never be given a target that can be fought with mass armies. So the fact that this war doesn't look like WWII or Vietnam is irrelevant.

What makes this war serious is that it is but one more phase in what I believe will come to be called the Second Hundred Years War of 1914 to 2025 (circa)-- the war of democracy against absolutism.

Monarchist absolutism -- 1914 to 1918
Fascist absolutism -- 1939 to 1945
Socialist absolutism -- 1948 to 1991
Islamist absolutism -- 1979 to 2025

It is interesting that between these various democracy vs absolutism phases, assorted absolutists duked it out with each other. Some examples. Russia 1919-23; Manchuria 1931, Ethiopia 1935; Kuomintang/Mao 1934-49; Spain 1936-39; Vietnam/China 1979; Afghanistan 1979-83; Iran/Iraq 1980-88; and Serbia/Bosnia/Kosovo 1992-98.

Note that the shift of absolutists fighting each other broadly parallels the changes in democracy's most active enemy in the same general era.

Also note, too, that the two longest periods of relative "peace" in the last 90 years were the 8 years from 1923-31 and (if you really push it) the 10 years from 1991 to 2001. Both of these periods were times of booming stock markets and naive transnational optimism.

I don't think war gets more serious than the struggle between absolutism and democracy.

Excellent post, AL! Thanks for keeping us all honest.

Check Arkin closely, that name sets off major league alarm bells.

Whether or not this is war is more controversial than you think. We have built a towering edifice on top of certain principles first applied at the end of the 30 years war in 1648. States war against states. You control your people and I'll control mine and if your people get out of line I declare war on the sovereign.

Al Queda doesn't play by these rules. It has not been restrained by these rules. GWB has declared war and the Congress has supported him in a manner that has not existed since 1648. A lot of things have changed if we accept that this is real, formal war. We haven't even begun to analyze what's changed in the world.

Just a for instance: under the Bush doctrine, it would be acceptable for Israel to declare war against Hezbollah but not the Palestinian authority. The laws of war would come into formal effect and those who give orders to commit war crimes would face a war crimes tribunal.

John W., OK, we're in a small war. But when we had our small wars in Central America and places like that, we didn't tie them to grandiose doctrine. (We didn't have the President prancing on an aircraft carrier, either; kudos to Clark for that one.) I see a mismatch between our level of commitment at any level (with the possible exception of the curtailment of domestic civil liberties) and the agenda.

If you proceed from the assumption, as I do, that the best way to get at Al Qaeda is to hit them in their part of the world, it is.

OK, why aren't we hitting them harder in their part of the world--which is not Iraq--then?

The push on the AWR and the Hydrogen Car project are designed to make us more dependent on foreign oil, or just on oil? I like renewables as much as the next guy, but just because we all drive around in hydrogen cars, let's say, does not mean that Al Qaeda will stop thinking that it's a neat idea to kill Americans.

Because if we reduce the oil intensity of the US economy, we will be free to take out the Saudis without fear that an oil shock will destroy the global economy. And hydrogen has to come from somewhere--most likely the Middle East. As for ANWR, that's a longstanding oil industry fetish. A serious president would deal w/ SUV loopholes, slap on a gas tax commensurate w/ the external costs of MidEast instability, etc.

No international aid program can do more than make a slight dent in population growth. It's not how many people there are; it's what they are taught. As such, Rumsfeld's famous "memo" was dead on.

Nope. The problem is that GDP per capita is shrinking in many Middle Eastern countries as their populations rise faster than economic growth can absorb them. It's not the only reason, but it's a key underlying backbone of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. And yes, there's plenty of research to show that population control measures can be effective.

As for the Palestinians, who knows if this latest feint from the Saudis will be worth a damn.

"Because he can't. No international aid program can do more than make a slight dent in population growth. It's not how many people there are; it's what they are taught."

The factors that correlate most closely with reduction in population growth are: education/empowerment of women, and availability of cheap effective birth control. This has been shown in country after country. When women have choices in their lives, they choose to limit their families to 2-3 children.

In the Middle East, Islamism certainly has something to do with the powerlessness of women, but GDP doesn't. Actually, rising GDP correlates with women becoming educated, participating in the workforce (even if only via a microloan to be a sole entrepreneur taking in laundry), and controlling their fertility.

"OK, why aren't we hitting them harder in their part of the world--which is not Iraq--then?"

Why do you think their part of the world is not Iraq? They are all over the world. All these terrorist groups interact with each other and use each other.

"if we reduce the oil intensity of the US economy, we will be free to take out the Saudis without fear that an oil shock will destroy the global economy."

The US only gets 12% of our oil from the Gulf. The rest of the world gets far greater percentage. We can become relatively independent of SA oil but the rest of the world will still be vulnerable for awhile. Speaking of which, what's the latest on that thermo-whatsit waste machine I read about here? That would solve the world's energy problems in about 5 years and leave the Arabs high and dry.

Ken:

worked on Libya

Nope. The Libyans weren't on the invasion short-list, and they knew it. What was driving them was the US economic sanctions, which had been burning them for years, and which they at last saw some hope of getting lifted. Some comments from someone who worked on this: ". . . Libyan officials approached the United States and Britain last spring to discuss dismantling Libya's weapons program. The Iraq war, which had not yet started, was not the driving force behind Libya's move. Rather, Libya was willing to deal because of credible diplomatic representations by the United States over the years, which convinced the Libyans that doing so was critical to achieving their strategic and domestic goals." (New York Times, 2004-01-23)

. . . the Libyans were further along than we thought; so much for intelligence limitations being a reason not to act.

The Libyans had managed to buy a surprising range of stuff; most of it was still in crates and boxes. Doesn't change the fact that actual working enrichment plants are detectable.

AJ Lazarus --

"But when we had our small wars in Central America and places like that, we didn't tie them to grandiose doctrine."

See Monroe, John (1823)

See also numerous statements by Presidents TRoosevelt (re Cuba), Wilson (re Haiti), FRoosevelt (re Nicaragua, Dominican Republic), Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan --- all quoting the above.

People who make statements as ignorant (or misleading) as yours cannot/should not be taken seriously in anything else they say.

Yehudit, I think I agree with your points about population control, but I'm a little confused. Do you or do you not agree that economic development (which is often measured via GDP) is an important factor in birth rate reduction? Do you or do you not agree that rising GDP should lead to a decrease in Islamism, which also affects female empowerment and therefore birthrates?

The US only gets 12% of our oil from the Gulf. The rest of the world gets far greater percentage. We can become relatively independent of SA oil but the rest of the world will still be vulnerable for awhile.

Nope. What matters is the power of an exogenous shock created by a sudden reduction in the world's oil supply, which, since oil is a commodity, will quickly result in a price spike worldwide. It doesn't matter where we get our oil so much as that the amount of oil we consume as a percentage of GDP is small enough to insulate us from economic catastrophe in the event that the Saudi spigot suddenly gets shut off.

Remember: the Saudis can single-handedly control the world price of oil because only they have the surplus capacity that allows them to quickly ramp production up and down. Moreover, they have higher quality oil, lower extraction costs, and the world's largest proven reserves.

That's why we have to kiss their punk asses all the time.

The trick is to help the Saudis develop the non-extractive parts of their economy while encouraging the developed world to reduce oil intensity.

Drilling in ANWR and allowing all these SUV and monster pickup truck loopholes merely increases the oil intensity of the US economy, which is the exact wrong policy.

The trick is to help the Saudis develop the non-extractive parts of their economy while encouraging the developed world to reduce oil intensity.


Read "The Kingdom of Silence" by Lawrence Wright. You will get a tiny idea of how much of a trick that would be. If you think Mexico is corrupt, check out Saudi Arabia.

praktike - You’re right - allowing all these SUV and monster pickup truck loopholes is the wrong policy. Encouraging the development of alternative energy sources is the best solution. Fortunately, it’s not 1972 anymore, and we don’t have to rely only on conservation.

On September 11th, a group of wealthy Muslims (mostly Saudis), members of a paramilitary group, funded by members of the Saudi royal family & other wealthy Sauds, slaughtered thousands of Americans in an unprovoked act of war.

These casualties are a small part of the millions who have died as a result of the worldwide jihad, a culture of hate whose philosophies have been spread by billions of dollars of Saudi cash. Despite terror attacks aimed at foreigners living in the Kingdom, Saudis have continued to generously fund terror paramilitaries as part of their war against the west. They have reduced their billion-dollar contributions to terrorism by 4% since 9/11.

Most non-Wahhabi muslims regard the Saudi Royalty as ‘userpers to the throne’. – cash is the only thing that funds Saudi legitimacy in the Muslim world. The Kingdom is just a cult with cash.

The average Saudi home is 5,000 sq. feet and their birthrate is soaring. Helping the Saudi economy and encouraging them to have fewer children does not sound like it would be an effective response to their general warmongering and their unprovoked act of war against us.

Our fear that the Saudis will ‘turn off the spigot’ has caused us and the world horrific amount of damage. We give this cult with cash legitimacy, we can take it away. Conservation & alternative energy sources are only a small part of the solution.

Saudi oil is an important part of the world’s oil supply. This important source shouldn’t be left in the hands of the current rulers. The kingdom should be directly confronted, either by economic, diplomatic or military means. Kevin Drum suggested that, before Iraq, we should have "agreed beforehand to allow the UN to control all oil contracts and civil rebuilding contracts." Before we tackle the Saudi problem, similar arrangements should be made

The Libyans weren't on the invasion short-list, and they knew it...

The notion that the "neocon" plan is or ever was, to have a series of invasions is a lie, a canard. Now this lie is being used as if it were accepted common wisdom, to discredit some strong evidence that the real plan is working as planned.

What a nasty thicket of deception...

Also, if there really is an invasion short-list in Rumsfeld's pocket, and he's checking them off one by one, how the hell could the Lybians be sure they aren't on it?

If I were running things, I'd make sure that guys like Quadaffy got a hint that their turn is coming up soon...

Conservation & alternative energy sources are only a small part of the solution.

Of course.

The point of my thread-hijacking was that a comprehensive approach to terrorism would include conservation and alternative energy sources.

Since Bush is on balance not pursuing conservation and alternative energy, his approach to terrorism is not comprehensive.

"The factors that correlate most closely with reduction in population growth are: education/empowerment of women, and availability of cheap effective birth control. This has been shown in country after country. When women have choices in their lives, they choose to limit their families to 2-3 children."

So is this an argument for or against changing Arab culture in such a way as to reduce the secular influence of Islam?

Hi.

Is it war yet? I would answer with a question: for who?

War need not be symmetrical. For example: America was fighting a limited war in Vietnam while the Communist North was fighting all out. Asymmetry is very common when a raiding strategy is in use. For example: the monks in the monastery hope they are at peace, the Viking raiders in the approaching longship know they are at war.

Raiding is the underlying strategy of terrorism, and the 11 September, 2001 terrorists understood themselves to be making a raid, like early Muslims. There was and is no necessity for them that we also be at war, in fact it's more convenient for them if we aren't.

If something terrible happened tomorrow, would anyone really excuse the government, saying how could they expect that in a time of peace, who could have guessed that our Muslim friends would do that? Of course not.

Everyone reasonable understands it's war from the point of view of the enemy, war from the point of us being hit. The disagreement is only on whether it's also war from the point of view of it being legitimate for us to hit them.

John Weidner:

The notion that the "neocon" plan is or ever was, to have a series of invasions is a lie, a canard.

Or an absurdity. Foreign policy, even for so powerful a state as the US, is more a matter of responding to events than of executing a fixed program. And the neocons (and other hawks) guiding current policy, while they may have some common aspirations, aren't such a monolith that any shared long-range plan could be ascribed to them. But yes, beyond Iraq, they do see other states as worthy targets for intervention, as need dictates or occasion offers, and especially Syria and Iran; and this is no secret; and why should it be, if willingness to use force is praiseworthy and the threat of force (as with Libya) salutory?

. . . if there really is an invasion short-list in Rumsfeld's pocket, and he's checking them off one by one, how the hell could the Lybians be sure they aren't on it?

Indeed they can't be sure. But they can reckon it unlikely that they're near the top, for various reasons, but most of all because the Maghrib is just less important strategically than West Asia.

OK, why aren't we hitting them harder in their part of the world--which is not Iraq--then?

Sure, prak-uhh-whatever, that would explain the absence of the whole Fedeyeen Saddam and, of course, the fact that stuff like this obviously didn't happen. Because, you know, Iraq isn't where it's "at". Then again, considering where al qaeda attacks have been occuring recently (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, uhhh, Iraq) maybe, just maybe, it just might could be in that general vicinity.

So we are in a war, a 4th generation war on the side of Al Qaida, and a 1st-3rd generation war on our side. Are we fighting to win a 4th generation war? Or rather demonstrating our ability to win 1-3rd generation wars and hoping this 4G war will just go away?

I'd say that yes, sure we're in a 4G war, but it looks like we're doing speculative 3G warfare.

"Yehudit, I think I agree with your points about population control, but I'm a little confused. Do you or do you not agree that economic development (which is often measured via GDP) is an important factor in birth rate reduction? Do you or do you not agree that rising GDP should lead to a decrease in Islamism, which also affects female empowerment and therefore birthrates?"

I'm not an economist and I was quoting a study whose URL I can't find. :-)
But I think you have it backwards. An important factor in economic development is birthrate reduction, which increases family health and productivity, at least for nonfarm families, which is more and more of them as they leave the country and come to the cities.

You might need to decrease Islamism to get the birth control and support in using it to the women in question, but then rising GDP (economic development) would result partly from the decreasing birthrate and increasing productivity of women. I don't see how you could create rising GDP first. That's the end result, not the precondition.

"So is this an argument for or against changing Arab culture in such a way as to reduce the secular influence of Islam?"

Secular influence of Islam? Say what?

I would say that we are at war, and that Bush is taking full advantage of that fact where convenient and ignoring aspects inconvenient to the people who fund his campaign.

The Cold War was fought on several fronts. Not only was it fought on the military front, but also on the social and economic fronts. Billions of dollars went to Europe and Asia to shore up our friends. At home, we went through the superior jihad of the Civil Rights movement so the Soviets could not point at Jim Crow.

We are at war, yet Bush still passed a second round of tax cuts giving us less revenue to fight the war. There has not even been a well-publicized issue of war bonds! First-responders get little from the Administration except yellow and orange alerts. No effort has been made to make it more difficult for Americans to salt away funds in countries that do not ask nor answer questions. If the US is funding schools and hospitals to compete with Saudi "charity" they are a well-kept secret.

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