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July 23, 2005

On Nuking Mecca.

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Ed Minchau of Robot Guy, posed the question below in a comment to this post:

John, I am curious. What would be your suggested response to the hypothetical posed to Tancredo: the nuclear attack on 6 or 7 American cities. What would you consider appropriate?


Ed's answer, rather, Ed's response to Hugh Hewitt's, Glenn Reynold's, Ed Morrisey's, Betsy Newmark's, (and I would add Don Sensing's) responses to Tancredo, is contained in his post here.

Ed, along with other co-worker's of mine whose informed opinions I respect, are of a like mind. Kill Mecca = Kill Islam. If you'd like a list of bloggers who agree/disagree with that premise, go check Ed's trackbacks.

Put me in the I don't agree camp. Any more than Kill Jerusalem = Kill Judaism, or Kill the Vatican = Kill the Catholic Church. Yes, I *do* understand the importance of the Hajj, as much as any non-Muslim-who-does-not-care-to-be-Muslim can. Part of the logic of that position being: "Allah would not allow such a thing!' So, if it happened, it must mean either Mohammed got it wrong, or Allah has turned his back on the Faithful, fill-in-the-blank, etc.

[Full disclosure, and a question - based on The Chickenhawk Meme, since I've handled Nukes, am a certified Nuke Targeteer, etc, but am no longer serving, nor likely to be called to serve... does that make my opinion valid, or invalid? I can't keep that straight...]

Would it demoralize a good chunk of Islam? Possibly. But the tougher elements among them would simply flex and adapt, just as the Catholic Church flexed and adapted to the Reformation, for example. The Holocaust didn't cause Judaism to disappear - it resulted instead in Israel. I haven't seen Fidel Castro or the government of the PRC collapse because the Soviet Union imploded... they've simply flexed and adapted. So too would the bulk of Muslims. Some would flex and adapt as we might like - become less annoying to us. Others... I think others would become much more annoying. But I find it interesting in reading around the blogs that people who consider themselves unshakable in their personal faith seem to think that destruction of the Kaaba would simply cause Islam to crumble into dust.

I think the "Nuke Mecca" analysis doesn't account for the great savior of irresponsible and incompetent leaders in Muslim nations - the responsibility-relieving aspect of Inshallah, "It was God's Will that this happen - to punish us for a lack of faith."

Most often used in my personal experience by Arab military officers to excuse failure, and essentially transfer responsibility for the failure to God - I suspect a perversion of the original intent of the concept - but used in the listed instance to essentially say, "Bummer, I've been insufficiently pious, I will pray more often/better, think pure thoughts, etc, and take the test again next week. But you can't fire me/fail me because, well, God has already punished me and who are you to trump God?"

And, of course, in response to nuking Mecca, killing infidels wherever you find them would be a Good Thing. I'm pretty sure it would be Very Bad to be a non-Muslim of any nationality in a Muslim nation when word went out that The Crusaders Nuked Mecca. I'm willing to entertain the notion that tens of thousands might die in the ensuing riots. I just don't believe that the Muslim world would just sit there in stunned, reflective silence, unless they were hung-over from celebrating the Nuking of the Infidels...

And, I suspect, the Imams would be all over that. Heck, we might even find more than a few Imams in *front*. I stand by my original response that I don't think nuking Mecca would kill the beast, any more than I think nuking Washington will kill the Infidel Crusader Myrmidon Nation of the Great Satan, or whatever we're being called in the mosques today.

Now, the question was, what response would I think was appropriate? Of course, the problem is I always want more information... 8^D

Let's make some assumptions.

7-8 nukes, pretty much, given the current estimates of what's out there, we're talking suitcase nukes or dirty bombs. Point is - small. And probably their whole bolt, at least for a while.

1. *Most* of what we have deliverable by the Air Force or Navy... isn't small. You might run into some proportionality of response issues under Just War doctrine and International Law. Those aren't trumps, but they *are* legitimate considerations. We do have some smaller warheads, but, if you are going to do it, I would recommend conventional munitions, very specifically targeted, vice nukes. (I still don't think it's a good idea, but if asked for a professional opinion at a meeting of the Targeting Board, that's what I'd recommend).

2. Obviously, having the big nukes is intended as a deterrent to nation-states with as much at physical stake as we have. That doesn't apply to this group of bombers - so you are expanding the scope of the war, just to keep that in mind, without really getting at the Center of Gravity of your enemy in my mind. You really aren't attacking who attacked you. If you think the Saudis are behind it, the proper target is Riyadh. If you *do* nuke Mecca, I'm guessing that the Islamists will shortly control Saudi Arabia anyway, as the House of Saud would have singularly failed in it's principle justification for being in power. Which, I suppose, is an argument *for*... at least it gives us a nation-state target.

3. You can't contain the down-wind and down-stream effects of the blasts... so nuking Mecca is going to have an effect outside Saudi Arabia, at a minimum in the region, and depending on winds aloft... the world. That gets a little hard to justify.

4. You cross a very significant threshold when the US uses nukes. It will cause significant changes in world power alignments, I think - and not necessarily good ones. And it will lower the threshold for use that currently keeps governments in check.

5. I think restraint in initial response will be both tremendously difficult and long-term useful. We will have the moral high ground for not responding in kind, and I think we will be able to build a significant world-wide governmental consensus for dealing with the Islamofascist problem. One that will allow for significant targeted military responses. Because I think governments will be so farking scared we *will* start tossing nukes around, or that someone might use little nukes in *their* nations, that the whole dynamic will change, and in our general favor. The law of unintended consequences hovers mightily over all of this.

So no, I don't think nuking Mecca will work in the way the proponents suggest. And I think that *not* nuking Mecca will give us the moral high ground, and bargaining power to muscle a significant number of bystander nations into the "Let's deal with this, and deal with it now" camp. And that dealing with it will *still* take years. But I think that the amount of intelligence effort across the spectrum would yield surprising results, and we'll have the cooperation to send the right kinds of killers into the right kinds of places to do some serious thinning of the Islamofascist herd.

Of course, I could be completely wrong. But I think that nuking Mecca has more potential to backfire than it does to succeed. And I think the Most Powerful Nation on Earth having a nuclear hissy-fit, striking back in pure blind fury, would actually *not* be helpful to our long-term interests.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it - unless all y'all change my mind. Good luck with that.

UPDATE: Ed isn't happy with my response (see comments). I think we're mostly talking past each other.

Here's an elaboration.

Sorry to be such a wuss, I guess.

I don't think you really understand what I'm after.

I didn't say I wouldn't do anything.

Afghanistan, which took 30 days or so to put toghther, was a "targeted military response".

So too, was Iraq.

I'm prefecttly wiling to put that together, and do it again. And I'll use the positioning from having been bombed to get some other people on the team.

But I'm not just going to lash out. That's irresponsible. Aside from the pin-prick against Tokyo, and naval combat as part of 'preparing the battlespace' we didn't get a big time response to Japan going until mid-42. Germany... 43, via Africa.

But if you think the proper, or needful response is "toss bombs willy-nilly at people and places we don't like" I won't sign up for that. That ends up being empty camps and pharmaceutical factories and other silly stuff - except you are arguing for doing that to cities.

If the Saudis were to take credit, or are obviously behind it - they would pay. But nuking 'em just doesn't get you there usefully.

But if this is your characterization of my response:

"Halt! or we shall say Halt again!"

You have *no* f+cking idea of who you are dealing with, and "What we have here, is a failure to communicate." Obviously my fault.

I deal in the realm of the doable, and usefully doable. I've made an adult life wandering around in this forest, examining the trees and mapping it's expanse.

And, I've made my bones, dude. Literally.


John | Permalink | Comments (55) | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
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