"Any further strikes against Americans will thus be a painful reminder that the war has not been won.
September 1, 2002 7:38 PM   Subscribe

"Any further strikes against Americans will thus be a painful reminder that the war has not been won. Sadly, a main reason will be America's reluctance to focus on the political roots of the terrorist atrocity of Sept. 11." opinions on this piece from the original sponsor of the Mujahideen? username: metafilter46 password: metafilter
posted by specialk420 (23 comments total)
It's funny--I'm currently registered but when I clicked on the link, I went straight to the login page.
posted by y2karl at 7:50 PM on September 1, 2002

For America, the potential risk is that its nonpolitically defined war on terrorism may thus be hijacked and diverted to other ends.

More and more, this seems to be the goal of the "war on terror."
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 7:50 PM on September 1, 2002

But I'm glad I went to the effort: Interesting but
what is up with that often in semi-autonomous klaverns, anyway?
posted by y2karl at 7:58 PM on September 1, 2002

To win the war on terrorism, one must therefore set two goals: first to destroy the terrorists and, second, to begin a political effort that focuses on the conditions that brought about their emergence. That is what the British are doing in Ulster, the Spaniards are doing in Basque country and the Russians are being urged to do in Chechnya. To do so does not imply propitiation of the terrorists, but is a necessary component of a strategy designed to isolate and eliminate the terrorist underworld.
And just what do we do to focuse upon the conditions that brought about the emeregence of the terrorists when Mr. B earlier in this piece said we should not focus on lack of democracy etc etc? Ulster by the way : there as aan agreement between contending factions. If the terrorists are from the "evil axis"--how do we change their minds?

I may be off here but I don't think this adds much to what we don't already know and the "solution" is not very clear though part 1, bumbping off terrorists is what we are already trying to do.
posted by Postroad at 8:11 PM on September 1, 2002

ah... postroad. i think Mr. Brzezinski is talking about focusing on the root causes of terrorism - and perhaps reconsider our blind support of less than democratic governments.
posted by specialk420 at 8:38 PM on September 1, 2002

A relevant bit from Gore Vidal.
posted by plexi at 9:04 PM on September 1, 2002

To defeat terror, you do these two things:

1. Find the terrorists, kill them (or put them "on trial" if you must) - you can't rationalize with nutty religious fundamentalists (this goes for the Falwell's of the world too)

2. Wherever the terrorists were hiding (in this case, Afghanistan) must be assisted in becoming a stable democracy in a Marshall-plan type situation.

While I am very critical of BushCo, they are at least doing #1 in Afghanistan. The effort at #2 is half-hearted at best, and even with Bush's derision of "nation-building" during Campaign 2000 - you think he would realize that. But then I think he would realize a lot of thing he doesn't. He's got the dumb.
posted by owillis at 9:18 PM on September 1, 2002

from specialk420's second link:

... America still pays for its blind support of the Shah of Iran. The blank checks Washington wrote to Gen. Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan in the 1980's helped nurture what later became Al Qaeda. Decades of misguided American support for Gen. Suharto in Indonesia and Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire, now Congo, left both countries a legacy of debt, violent ethnic conflict and weak institutions. ...
The Bush administration seems to have learned little from these costly mistakes. Meeting America's short-term military and diplomatic needs should not require abandoning its democratic principles.

hmm, elections are every 4 years, how could they see further than next campaign !?
posted by MzB at 9:29 PM on September 1, 2002

You've got to do a hell of a lot more than #1 and #2, owillis. Otherwise it's a little like a swig of vodka in the morning to cure a hangover...temporary relief, but the root of the problem remains unaddressed.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:35 PM on September 1, 2002

stavros: exactly what do you think we should do? (I always imagine people who talk about "root causes" think America should collectively go to a shrink or non-molesting priest to confess past sins...)

I forgot #3, though it's specific to Mid-East terror: get off the oil drug ASAP.
posted by owillis at 9:57 PM on September 1, 2002

In my opinion, any action to attack, prosecute or isolate terrorists without simultaneous attacks on the causes of political discontent (often very justified, in the examples cited) will lead to a derailment of the process: it took from 1968 (the usually cited beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in Ulster) till 1994 - 26 years - for the political process to seem attractive enough to terrorists to ceasefire. The IRA still claim to be 'an army undefeated', but are confident enough that eventually, they will achieve their aims politically: catholic fecundity will lead to a united Ireland, and hopefully, recalcitrant Orange loyalists will be bought off and repatriated to the mainland (to an indifferent welcome, I suspect).
If America comes to be viewed by its key democratic allies in Europe and Asia as morally obtuse and politically naïve in failing to address terrorism in its broader and deeper dimensions — and if it is also seen by them as uncritically embracing intolerant suppression of ethnic or national aspirations — global support for America's policies will surely decline.
If? If? He's describing the present day here, wake up and smell the isolation tank, Z!

Zbigniew Brzezinski speaks plain & simple here, but does he advocate the type of real, face to face engagement, as was necessary in Ireland? [Admittedly, it was easier for the Brits: they were the sovereign power in the land. The US needs to realise precisely the opposite - that it's writ does not run where and when it wants, without creating long-term problems for itself.]

No, he falls short of that, undermining his own arguments.
I'd say, B-, Zbig ... a good start, but get real: you ain't gonna turn around 100 years of imperial military adventure, recent gung-ho unilateralism and a knack for supporting unpopular regimes quite so easily. This is gonna be painful even if you choose the peaceful route.

Which it ain't so clear that you will. Good luck with that.
posted by dash_slot- at 10:06 PM on September 1, 2002

In the case of oil-financed terrorism, #2 isn't feasible prior to #3. "Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers."
posted by homunculus at 10:44 PM on September 1, 2002

"Not to be outdone, the Chinese recently succeeded in persuading the Bush administration to list an obscure Uighur Muslim separatist group fighting in Xinjiang province as a terrorist organization with ties to Al Qaeda."

posted by homunculus at 11:24 PM on September 1, 2002

I'm shocked that it comes as a surprise to anyone that simply killing this crop of terrorists won't be enough, any more than incinerating a particular crop of marijuana wins the drug war for Nancy and the Gipper. I mean, Christ, even Rambo and Delta Force had sequels, so there's absolutely no excuse for this level of ignorance.

And again, I'm tired of the hearing people complain when someone calls for diplomatic efforts, saying "where's your plan to end it?" As though it is necessary for a columnist to map out a 50-year plan to stabilize the region in order to justify his sinking suspicion that all might not be going according to plan. That's what we pay actual strategists to do.

On September 12th, when people said, "we've got to use our military to remove the threat of terrorism," nobody complained that the statement was unaccompanied by a detailed battle plan, because, obviously, it was enough to recognize the necessary course of action; the specifics would be left up to experts.

Believe me, if we spent 1/10th the money on serious, mature attempts at diplomacy--at home and abroad--that we do on cluster bombing, we'd figure something out. Anyway, it's worth a shot, considering the logistical nightmare we've signed on for.
posted by Hildago at 11:32 PM on September 1, 2002

"That is what the British are doing in Ulster, the Spaniards are doing in Basque country and the Russians are being urged to do in Chechnya."

The IRA, ETA and Chechen rebels aren't in the same boat as al-Qaeda. The former use terrorism as a means to a political end, and the end they're hoping for is independence of some kind. Al-Qaeda, however, is not struggling for better representation, recognition, or its own "al-Qaeda land." (They pretty much had it in Afghanistan already.) They want Israel off the map, with America thrown in for good measure. Terrorism is the point. The only way to "address their grievances" would be to drink a cup of drain-o and call it a life.
posted by Ljubljana at 12:04 AM on September 2, 2002

I don't think I have ever heard the amount of concentrated nonsense that I'm hearing on this thread.

stavros: that's a colorful metaphor, and goes well with the James Bond thread, but what does it mean?

MzB: that's 20-20 hindsight, and the loaded language of political rhetoric. Who should we have supported in those countries? Who would have been better? And don't tell me a bunch of USSR-leaning Marxists or Islamic fundamentalists.

dot_slash-: of course you can successfully fight terrorists without acknowledging their 'root causes'. The US fought the Anarchists a century ago, and more recently the Weathermen, the Unabomber, and Tim McVeigh very successfully, as the Germans did the Bader-Meinhof Gang, and Peru did the Shining Path. All of these were bad people with bad causes, which deserved to be ignored. As are the current crop of Islamist terrorists. Yes, of course, we should encourage democracy, market economies, human rights, religious toleration and political pluralism everywhere. But don't you understand if Saudi Arabia had these things, the Wahhabists would be even more enraged and prone to terror? That these are the very things they hate? That what they want, a universal Islam under Sharia law, is something we can't give?

Hildago: I find it perfectly proper to demand of people who find fault with a policy to propose something in its place. Anyone can carp. If you want to be more than a complainer, propose a different solution. You don't have to specify every single demand, but diplomacy is about give and take. What concessions would you be willing to give? What would you want in return? And how do you propose to negotiate with people like Al Qaeda, a distributed network of cells, with uncertain command structure, the whereabouts whose leaders we don't know? How do you negotiate with those who have proven not to keep bargains? Saddam Hussein, for example, no sooner signed the peace accord that ended the Gulf War, than he began to break it. How does diplomacy deal with that? Please be specific.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 12:17 AM on September 2, 2002

owillis: He's got the dumb.

That made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that.

Hidaldo: killing this crop of terrorists won't be enough, any more than incinerating a particular crop of marijuana wins the drug war

Glad someone mentioned the drug war. The war on terrorism might as well be called The War On Drugs II: We've Got Something Else For You To Be Scared Of That Only God And Guns Can Fight. European nations are finally refusing to knuckle under to US pressure about drugs, and they're not going to back us on the endless war on terror, either. And good for them, say I.
posted by RylandDotNet at 1:52 AM on September 2, 2002

The war on drugs is a great analogy. While there is demand there will always be supply, and like wise while there are obvious greivances the the fundamentalists will find a ready supply of volunteers.

Al Q'eeda is a far, far larger organization than anything we've seen before, and my concern is that we risk acting as its biggest recruitment drive.

To move on Iraq when no one in the Arab world wants it is an act of such arrogance it can only force moderates into a more extremist view. Timne and again we're told of the overwhelming evidence that Saddam has and intends to use weapons of mass destruction. So why not show this evidence? If someone can show me what makes Saddam worse and more of a threat than a number of other rulers then Bush will have my full support.

I'm not saying that we should neevr act in fear of driving people to extremist organizations, it's just that all this lone sabre rattling looks like a poster campaign for the extremist recruiters.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:34 AM on September 2, 2002

slithy: weather and McVeigh are very different stories. McVeigh was an isolated nut, weather an organization. It is also worth noting that weathers grievance was rooted in the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement. I'd say we did address their grievances by ending the war, etc. And I think ZB is correct in stating that if congress hadn't acted to address the grievances of the civil rights movement that there would have been growing support for violent resistance IN PARALLEL to an above ground non-violent (MLK) political movement. In terms of Israel, at the extremes are the stated desire to get rid of the country. That won't happen, but if we recognize the deplorable condition of the Palestinian people (regardless of their own role in determining their current condition) and act to address basic quality of life issues, the fanatics will become marginalized rather than being mainstream voices as they are today. Certainly there are still voices in the IRA who long for a complete military victory over the British, but by acting to address legitimate political beefs on the part of Irish Catholics, these voices no longer represent a populist movement.
posted by tellmenow at 6:23 AM on September 2, 2002


MzB: that's 20-20 hindsight, and the loaded language of political rhetoric. Who should we have supported in those countries? Who would have been better? And don't tell me a bunch of USSR-leaning Marxists or Islamic fundamentalists.

I agree that predicting the history, as it might seem from those examples, is 20/20 hindsight that cannot be practically achieved. And I also agree with you that the actions that US took at that time were appropriate for a certain time horizon.

Here is my detailed reasoning behind that one line comment. In economics there is this notion of a "discount factor" d, a constant with values between 0 and 1. A sum of money M this year will worth d*M < M next year, d*d*M < d*M a year after, and so on. The notion can be generalized (in this case) to the "discount factor" of actions and their consequences.

Obviously, the lower the d value, the faster the future value declines. Also, there is a certain number of years where the future value would be close to zero, 100 years seems a good value for most of the people's actions. I call that period the "time horizon" of a certain action.

If a person would *actually* live by the "Carpe Diem" motto, his/her d value would be close to zero. A high d value implies cooperation: "I believe that the future would be OK, and I trust other people to believe the same". If there were no different time horizons, then there would be no long term investment and no pension funds. A stock market crash can be seen as a point in time where the trust disappears and all the time horizons collapse to today. Moreover, a high d value needs *education*: revenge is a simple strategy with a low d value, but to resolve a conflict you need to nurture people and convince them to look for better strategies.

Back to politics: unfortunately, there are few strategies that involve long time horizons. A successful one that comes into my mind is the Marshall Plan (I hope that you could find other examples). But most of the political actions have shorter time horizons that you can correlate with the election calendar.

And, to finish, I think this is the main point of the article, to urge policy makers to look for the main causes of terrorism, and pick solutions that are *long term* viable.
posted by MzB at 8:02 AM on September 2, 2002

tellmenow: Admittedly, dealing with McVeigh and the Unabomber represented hunting down individuals, not fighting a mass movement. As for the Weathermen/Weather Underground, they sprang from the SDS, which was pro-civil rights, anti-Vietnam war. But by the time the most highly radicalized ones became the Weathermen they were well beyond that, into Marxism, Trotskyism, Maoism. That agenda could not be satisfied. The success of the civil rights movement, IMO, was due in part to its generally non-violent character. Whites were shamed into taking it seriously, without having to fear it and act defensively. Brzezinsky, BTW, mentions the KKK. They are a good example of a group whose 'root cause' was not addressed and should not have been addressed. When they broke the law, they were pursued by the FBI, but the Civil Rights Act was exactly the opposite of what the KKK wanted. I frankly don't know what the heck the US should do about I/P. It's a mess. Both sides have screwed up badly. They want incompatible things. I don't see what the US can do until I and P change their minds.

MzB: I think this is the main point of the article, to urge policy makers to look for the main causes of terrorism, and pick solutions that are *long term* viable.

Can't argue with that. It's just hard to do, when each day's atrocities are constantly flung in our faces, and the House of Representatives is up for election every two years, and the president every four. Long term thinking is one of the 'problems of democracy' that can be acknowledged, but to which there is probably no perfect general solution. Politicians on short-term election cycles respond to short-term pressures. If you put them on longer cycles, they become less responsive to their constituents, which is also not desirable. If you rely on unelected career bureaucrats (e.g., most of the State Department), you sometimes get individuals of character who aren't afraid to buck the popular trend, and sometimes you get loose cannons or eccentrics who are are difficult to control or get rid of.

Doesn't mean we shouldn't try to think long term, just means there are impediments in the way, by the nature of the task.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:12 AM on September 2, 2002

slithy: I don't think the mass of Israeli's or Palestinians want incompatible things. Ireland is still a good corollary here. People universally want to raise there families, eat, be safe, etc. When the bulk of a populace is massively oppressed there will be popular support for violent uprising because people have nothing to lose. Give them something to lose and people start reconsidering their choices. the I/P incompatibly seems more onerous because people don't see a clear path to peaceable coexistence. The Palestinian people have been used as pawns for decades by their leaders, and the surrounding countries. Israel hasn't done enough in the face of hostility to affect a dignified existence for these people, and as such the violence continues.

I would love to see a progressive policy on the US's part to rebuild what we eventually hope to be a palestinian state. If the PA is too corrupt to facilitate this, our energies should be exerted in bypassing them, not saying we won't help until they remove their leaders. At least their leaders have consistently been willing to lay down their lives for their people, and this engenders a level of loyalty that has to be surpassed by others providing a better alternative. America has the wherewithal to make a Palestinian homeland a place the palestinian people would want to occupy, and would change the dynamics of any negotiations for peace in the region. right now, who the hell would want the OT as a homeland, or the PA as a government?
posted by tellmenow at 10:08 AM on September 2, 2002


I find it perfectly proper to demand of people who find fault with a policy to propose something in its place. Anyone can carp. If you want to be more than a complainer, propose a different solution.

I think the point was that the different solution we ought to try is diplomacy. Beyond that, I admit my lack of a position in the State Department or Joint Chiefs of Staff. You're looking for me to say something like, "we ought to concede autonomy to the region in exchange for a good-faith effort to hold U.N.-monitored democratic elections," but that's just nonsense. Your set of five questions, cute (and, I know, rhetorical) though it is, doesn't begin to touch on the beginnings of an actual solution, and it shouldn't be confused with it. Saying that that level of specificity is more useful than just proposing we give diplomacy a shot is like me clinging to the absurd belief that switching from 2% to 1% milk is the blueprint of a really killer diet.

Let's not fool ourselves, the difference is negligible. What we really need is 500 billions dollars worth of guys in cardigans chomping pensively on Meerschaums for a year or so, then maybe we can get down to specifics. Til then, the best thing is to admit we don't know what to do, but we do know that we need to try something different. Armchair policy-making is fun and all, but let's just banish the illusion that three Google-researched paragraphs make up a considered, weighty thesis, but one sentence is just carping.
posted by Hildago at 11:56 AM on September 2, 2002

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