Arnold Williams (notebuyer) wrote,
Arnold Williams
notebuyer

Perspective: Revenge, Reason, Results

As pointed out by Orrin Judd, the key to the war on Terror is not only to figure out what they look like to us, but what we look like to them:

That is to say, we need to strip away the pejorative connotations and consider the history of American warfare as a particularly consistent and successful use of terrorism to achieve our own liberal ends. Even setting aside the obvious revenge for 9-11 in our destruction of al Qaeda, look at the way we removed both the Taliban and Saddam from power in reaction to that event. Likewise revealing is to consider the dozen points (or at least those that aren't truisms) as if the terrorists under consideration were us:

(2) No, terrorism by radicals isn't much of a threat to us, while we are a lethal threat to them. America absorbed 9-11 fairly easily. For OBL, the Taliban, and Saddam it was the end of the line. And whether by bombing, sanctions, or more traditional warfare we've been perfectly happy to terrorize Middle Eastern populations and leaders into behaving as we require them to, which is why Libya gave up its nuclear program, the Palestinians held real elections and are now moving towards peace with Israel, and the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc. are so rapidly evolving into mere political parties.

(3) Their prospective WMD isn't a threat. Our very real WMD means that no terrorist can ever take control of a state so long as we're willing to use it or they have cause to fear that we will. We can literally terrorize them out of ascension to power.

(6) Our use of terrorism--as in fire-bombings, use of nuclear weapons, remote cruise missile and Predator attacks, irrespective of collateral damage--is likewise rational. While there's a perfectly sound argument against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was nothing irrational about targeting Japanese civilians in order to make their nation surrender. And while it would have been better to take the Cold War hot and use those same terrifying weapons on the USSR, we ultimately settled instead into a balance of terror that was backed up by volumes of study in things like game theory and rational choice doctrine. Our repeated successes in war are testimony to the rationality of using terror as a weapon of state.

(7-12) It doesn't matter what the terrorists want in any particular case, the simple reality of America's existence is that we have inexorably forced liberalization and democratization on unwilling parties for a couple centuries. And we've been willing to use far more lethal and terrifying means of coercion than any piddling terrorists have. Asking folks who perpetrated Sherman's march to the sea on their own countrymen to back off and allow totalitarian regimes to do whatever they want is an exercise in futility.


Also recommended: This review and its underlying book The Shield of Achilles are also recommended. Though the book is long, it will help you to understand what is going on now in a much better, and broader, context.
Tags: terror
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