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July 26, 2005

On Nuking Mecca, part II.

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Something I noticed today. I'm never going to score that OP-Ed gig, and will continue to have to self-publish in order to satisfy the my jonesing on the subject.

Tod Lindberg articulated my general position far better than I did in my overly-wordy screed. You should read the whole thing - but here are the money grafs for me:

But that does not exhaust the interest of Mr. Tancredo's statements, for two reasons. First, a not-inconsequential number of Americans probably agree with him, and who knows what polls would show following the nuclear destruction of an American city or two? Second, Mr. Tancredo, in his Op-Ed if not in his initial comments, couches his threat to Mecca in the name of deterrence: He wants to promise something so terrible to a would-be terrorist that the terrorist gives up his plans. This raises a slightly different question: Is it wrong to threaten to do something horrible in order to obtain a benefit from the threat? On the first point, many if not most Americans nowadays probably do harbor a post-tribal moral sensibility, according to which the deaths of non-Americans register as a loss that matters. This is classical liberalism overlain upon nationalist or tribalist sentiment, which it attenuates. For purposes of contrast, think of the proposition that "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" or the moral calculation that justified the firebombing of Dresden. American soldiers are dying in Iraq because of our liberality, our commitment to a decent government for Iraqis: Otherwise we could have flattened the place, turned the keys over to the toughest local goon, warned him to stay away from WMD, and left.

But the hold of this liberality over more primordial sentiments has not been tested by anything nearly as extreme as the death of scores of thousands of Americans in a nuclear terror attack. I hope it never is. But if it is, the authorities had better figure out a response that does justice to Americans' righteous anger. Otherwise they will likely be voted out in favor of someone promising more decisive action.

I would note the last two lines of that quote capture a primary objection many people had to what I said, and those were valid criticisms of my bloviation on the subject. You should read Lindberg's whole piece here.

Representative Tom Tancredo defends himself in an OP-Ed in the Denver Post this last Sunday.

Without question, my comments have prompted strong reactions from many quarters, but they have also served to start a national dialogue about what options we have to deter al-Qaeda and other would-be Islamic terrorists.

Indeed - we had that discussion here, a multi-national one, at that!

Here, he makes a point many of you, including Emperor Misha I, Grand Master of the Anti-Idiotarian Universe, made:

But should we take any option or target off the table, regardless of the circumstances? Absolutely not, particularly if the mere discussion of an option or target may dissuade a fundamentalist Muslim extremist from strapping on a bomb-filled backpack, or if it might encourage "moderate" Muslims to do a better job cracking down on extremism in their ranks.

Many of you are from the John Derbyshire school of Foreign Affairs. I'm not the greatest of Derbyshire fans, but he does do William of Ockham's toiletries well in his bit (you need to read the whole thing) from which I have lifted this:

Outside the pale of civilization -- a phrase that, I believe, fairly describes the Muslim Middle East -- things are much more difficult. Sending in 130,000 troops to occupy country X is not a bad idea, I suppose; but then, what do you do about country Y and country Z? See the difficulty?

I believe, and hope, that there are ways to kill satisfactory numbers of jihadis without either (a) having a dependable local government to do it for us, or (b) placing 130,000 Americans in the offending nation.

Your idea -- the administration's idea -- is that we convert Iraq (and then, I suppose, country Y and country Z) into Anglosphere-type nations, whom we can depend on to take care of matters themselves, using their own police and army. I believe -- and I am sorry to be blunt about it -- that this is a preposterous fantasy. I should be sufficiently astounded if we could turn Iraq into a Greece, or a Mexico. We might, with luck, turn it into a Saudi Arabia, but... Surely you see the problem?

So... let's recap. I concede I didn't express myself well, especially in the initial bit, which was thinking-while-typing. Some of that derives from trying to not get work involved, which can be a challenge.

Tancredo, Lindberg, and I agree, let's not nuke Muslim Holy Sites reflexively. But let's leave 'em on the target lists.

I'm with Derbyshire, too, as I've said before - nation-building is fine, but to create what we think of as anglo-style democracy (and you can include India in this) is really a decades-long process, and you have to have some basic societal and economic pre-requisites met... many of which are arguably not present in many ME countries. The Brits tried it, but the world changed before they could make it work... and I'm not sure that we can, or should, try to do that in a slightly different mold.

But we *do* have to find some way to take the war to the terrs. And given the sanctuarys provided some of them, there are going to be some sensitivies offended in the doing.

Okay, start whacking at me again. It feels good when you stop.

John | Permalink | Comments (22)
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