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September 04, 2004

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» Great taste, less comments from Signifying Nothing
As Brock mentioned below, Matthew Yglesias has closed down his comment section (at least for now); Will Baude has predictably approved of this decision. Some of our commenters suspect that Matt’s recent spat with Glenn Reynolds (in which Matt cas... [Read More]

» Yglesias, Reynolds, and Chechnya from The 80/20 Club
Update: Oops! I checked my hunch with a lawyer friend who said first that a good cross-examining lawyer probably wouldn't count on getting away with a "did you or did you not say... No further questions your honor" on a conditional statement ... [Read More]

» What is to be done? from The Glittering Eye
The seizing of the school in Beslan, Northern Ossetia, in Russia and the subsequent tragedy there has, I am sure, touched all feeling people. Where can we send words of consolation? How can we help? What can be done? As... [Read More]

» Yglesias, Reynolds, and Chechnya from The 80/20 Club
Update: Oops! I checked my hunch with a lawyer friend who said first that a good cross-examining lawyer probably wouldn't count on getting away with a "did you or did you not say... No further questions your honor" on a conditional statement ... [Read More]

Comments

von, you want Glenn to read the comments when he can't be bothered to read past the third sentence in the post?

And I really don't think he wants to push his analogy, which ends up comparing our actions and Russia's.

And I really don't think he wants to push his analogy, which ends up comparing our actions and Russia's.

I'm giving Glenn a bit of the benefit of the doubt on this -- I've been the victim of more than one unfortunate metaphor in my various blog postings and comments, after all. It goes without saying that Glenn probably should have given the same benefit to Matt. Debate works better when you presume that the other side is not stark raving mad. (Unless they've demonstrated to the contrary, which Matt decidedly has not.)

von, I have a long list of quibbles with your update, starting with the suggestion that Matt would take offense at your reasonable post sticking up for him and more importantly fair debate. But mostly with

The "underlying problem" is that of terrorism directed at civilians.

I think the problem here is much bigger than terrorism, though it includes it - I'm thinking of nationalism, expansive authoritarianism, bad governance, militant religion, tribalism, ...

I have a long list of quibbles with your update, ...

I'm shocked, absolutely shocked, Rilkefan, that you would have a quibble with one of my posts. Prior to this day, you and I have moved in political lockstep. Smelling salts, please!

I think the problem here is much bigger than terrorism, though it includes it - I'm thinking of nationalism, expansive authoritarianism, bad governance, militant religion, tribalism,

Those are all contributing problems, I agree. ("Militant religion" is inseparable from (and redundant of) the term "terrorism," as the term is understood in the Chechnan dispute -- but that's a quibble. ;-) But terrorism does not necessarily emerge from such a mixture.

Terrorism directed at civilians is the underlying problem? Seems to be the most directly observable part to me. Is there some even more obvious layer I'm forgetting here?

The "underlying problem" is that of terrorism directed at civilians, and it can only be solved by making terrorism an unacceptable method of political action.

Correct me if I'm wrong but this sounds perilously close to the 'war on civilizations' advocacy espoused by the more bellicose fringes of the blogosphere.

At least, I hope I'm wrong.

"I'm shocked, absolutely shocked, Rilkefan, that you would have a quibble with one of my posts."

To be precise, I said I had "a long list of", not "a". My point was that I don't think your update was as tightly constructed as I would have liked it to have been - a tightness which I've seen you achieve, and which would be all the more gratifying in the context of Matt's somewhat sloppy post and Glenn's characteristically lazy, partisan, and ill-considered reaction. Nothing about our political differences (I think).

"("Militant religion" is inseparable from (and redundant of) the term "terrorism," as the term is understood in the Chechnan dispute -- but that's a quibble. ;-)"

"Redundant of"? Anyway, I think some of Russia's actions in the conflict would be called "areligious terrorism" if we didn't except state actors from the usual meaning.

Terrorism directed at civilians is the underlying problem?

Yes: the underlying problem is that the Chechnans believe that it is acceptable for them to resort to terrorism. As I wrote:

"The eager (even happy) killing of civilians should not be conflated with raising grievances with the state, civil disobedience, or armed rebellion. The method does indeed matter."

Good comments all; unfortunately, no more responses (from me) until tomorrow. I've got a full day planned.

One last post:

Correct me if I'm wrong but this sounds perilously close to the 'war on civilizations' advocacy espoused by the more bellicose fringes of the blogosphere.

You're reading too much into the post, JadeGold.

But terrorism does not necessarily emerge from such a mixture.

I've maintained for years that as:

  1. Governments increase in their ability to project power and control lives;
  2. Easily-accessible weapons (from AK-47s to homemade fertilizer bombs) increase in their destructive power;
  3. Populations (and, more pointedly, population densities) increase;

old enmities will violently resurface (and new enmities may be formed) through the medium of terrorism. In that sense, I disagree with you: I think terrorism is an inevitable result of such a mixture, albeit one with no set timetable.

Well, actually, Matt didn't tell Reynolds to go fuck himself. He just said "fuck you" which isn't necessarily anatomically impossible.

By the way, Reynolds posted an update in which he insists that he never misrepresented Matt's point at all. Von, I think you need to start taking into account the possibility that Reynolds isn't just error-prone, but rather, is a consistently and intentionally dishonest debater.

I think what happened here is that Glenn, in taking Matt's comment out of context, set a rather vitriolic stream of trolls his way that really went over the top, advocating genocide and so forth. Glenn has a lot of power within the confines of the blogosphere, and it's alarming when a rather casual misrepresentation leads to such a freakshow.

Now Matt has shut down his comments altogether.

I read Matthew quite a bit, and unless he changed his postitions dramatically, he would not have MEANT that the proper response to terrorism is to capitulate. But von, I think you believe Glenn is misrepresenting that post only because you have read Matthew for quite some time. The post says, in pertinent whole:

... busy as I've been with the convention, I haven't been following the story of the Russian kids held hostage that's now reached its awful conclusion. Worse, even, than the reality of the crime is the knowledge that things will get worse. The situation, clearly, can only be resolved by Russian concessions on the underlying political issue in Chechnya. At the same time, in the wake of this sort of outrage there will not only be no mood for concessions, but an amply justified fear that such concessions would only encourage further attacks and a further escalation of demands. I don't see any way out for Russian policymakers nor any particularly good options for US policymakers. Partisanship and complaints about Bush's handling of counterterrorism aside, this business is a reminder not only of the horrors out there, but also that terrorism is a genuinely difficult problem -- I think we've been doing many of the wrong things lately, but no one should claim it's obvious what the right way to proceed is.

In this post Matthew says:
1. Things are bad.
2. They are likely to get worse
3. The only way for them to get better is for Russia to make concessions. (BTW he doesn't say what concessions. Let the Muslim terrorists take over a splinter country?)
4. They won't make concessions both because of outrage and fear that concessions will lead to escalation. (Subtext--but the only way to fix things is to make concessions to the terrorists.)
5. I don't see any way out because the ONLY way to fix things is concessions to the terrorists but the Russians won't do it (Matthew is then wishy-washy again on whether they ought to even though he has said it is the only way to fix the problem).
6. Terrorism is a bitch of a problem.

Because we know Matthew and have read him extensively, we know that is thesis is really that terrorism is a bitch of a problem, and here is why.

But Glenn did not misquote Matthew, nor did he misrepresent the argument of that particular post. That argument was structured with the apparent thesis that the only way to fix the terrorism problem in Russia is for the targets of the terrorism to make concessions to the terrorists.

Matthew is pissed because he knows he didn't mean that, and von is pissed because he knows Matthew didn't mean that, but Matthew did say that. He structured his post to say that the only way for things to get better was to make concessions. He then showed why the Russians will not in fact do that, but he implies that they ought to. In the light of two or three years of reading Matthew I know he either doesn't mean much by concessions, or inartfully phrased it. But Glenn did not misrepresent that post.

Matt has also linked to this:

http://www.instapundit.com/archives/015663.php

from this:

http://americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=83795

Saying: "Indeed, if his campaign to incite the defacement of New York Times distribution boxes goes well, that might be the next logical step." This, in spite of the statement in Glenn's post "That hadn't crossed my mind [that it would encourage people to make graffiti]. Don't do that! I'm only interested in found graffiti, not made graffiti."

Somehow it is a campaign when such action is addressed with "Don't do that!" Really??

It seems that Matt has a tendency to misrepresent Glenn, but then Glenn is somehow not allowed to ever misrepresent Matt, even if it is not altogether clear what the heck Matt meant to say.

Hmm.

Now, I think we all can agree that the terrorism problem in Great Britain/Northern Ireland was solved in part by concessions. Can we?

I'm not sure there ever was a terrorism problem in South Africa, but the South Africans and their supporters including Dick Cheney sure insisted there was. That problem, to the degree it existed, was solved entirely by concessions.

I'm not sure getting tough as in Chechnya has ever worked better than making concessions.

Would nuking Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan end or reduce terrorism?

But the thing about concessions is that you have to concede enough that most people on the other side no longer believe there is still a cause worth terrorizing for.

Concessions short of that do just make terrorism worse.

This is not a problem as difficult as Matt makes it out. The Chechnyans have a cause worth terrorizing for obviously. Ending that cause would end the terrorism.

You excluded an important point, Sebastian: Yglesias explicitly says that the fear that concessions will lead to escalation is "amply justified". And the belief that concessions will lead to more attacks seems to be the foundation of Reynolds' objection.

This is equivalent to selectively quoting Reynolds as addressing the school hostage crisis by saying "Chechnya, of course, is a mess, and there's lots of blame to go around." He said that. It is not a misquote. But it is a misrepresentation, in that it does not sum up his expressed views on the matter. Omitting the following "But..." dramatically changes one's view of what he is saying. This sort of thing can be done to any of us, and I think it serves everyone's interests that it be discouraged.

Question for the comments section:

Is there anyone here who would, under any circumstances, advocate terrorism?

What if say, Mexicans militarily conquered and transformed the group you identify with most closely into a class of mostly unemployed laborers? (Change the question if the group you identify with closely already is a class of mostly unemployed laborers)

Assuming your nonviolent protests are pretty certain not to work and you do not have a way of effectively defeating the Mexican soldiers (or else they never would have conquered you).

The question for the comments section is: Why would you, or why would you not attempt to attack the weakest and most vulnerable Mexicans you can find?

Regardless of what you might or might not think about MY's statement, shutting down the comments and *then and only then* issuing a "Fuck You" to Renynolds cannot be seen as anything other than a stupid kid move. Not the first or the last from the young Mr. Y.

Gromit, Matthew backs a little bit a way from his 'only' formulation in "At the same time, in the wake of this sort of outrage there will not only be no mood for concessions, but an amply justified fear that such concessions would only encourage further attacks and a further escalation of demands."

But look at that sentence. What is the main reason why there will be no concessions according to that sentence? It is because the Russians will not be in the mood for concessions. And then what next? It isn't 'and everyone knows that such concessions would only encourage further attacks', it wasn't 'this could cause problems by encouraging further attacks' it was "an amply justified fear" that those could happen. In other words he isn't in this post backing away very far from the concessions focus because he is using the word 'fear' in a pseudo-dismissive way.

I've been reading him for years so I understand that he is internally conflicted on the issue. But Glenn did not misrepresent the thrust of that post, AS WRITTEN.

If you consider the whole of Matthew's blog, with this post as a chapter, I would interpret things as follows:

2002: we have to get really tough on terrorism
Early 2003: people like Dean are not willing to be tough enough on terrorism
Post-War 2003: Iraq was a horrible mistake
Early 2004: Military might is mostly useless in getting rid of terrorism. We need to take other routes.
This Post: I'm see both sides of the violence causes more violence, violence is needed to end violence thing. I may have gone too far in my Early 2004 assessment in an overreaction to going too far in my early 2003 assessment. Terrorism is a tough problem.

But if you just see the one post, or a very few posts, Matthew looks like he is arguing for appeasement but is scared to come out and say it.

JP--In fact, when someone utters "F--- you" they're not telling you to do anything at all! See the classic paper ENGLISH SENTENCES WITHOUT OVERT GRAMMATICAL SUBJECTS by Quang Phuc Dong of the South Hanoi Institute of Technology (widely agreed to be a pseudonym for the late James D. McCawley).

DRB--My analysis (and others') of the Times-box defacement can be found in this Crooked Timber thread. Since Reynolds offered to put up pictures of defaced Times boxes, and didn't retract that offer even after it was pointed out to him that this could encourage found graffiti, I think it's fair to say that he encouraged graffiti--though probably not that he incited it.

On the substance, I think Reynolds' idea that we can solve the situation in Chechnya by going after the sources of Islamist terror is utterly wrong. Even if we were able to wipe out Islamic terror, there would remain the problems that Chechen's won't be happy to remain part of a country that has been extraordinarily brutal to them--see the comments by (a different) Matt here about Russia shelling the university in Grozny during final exams. I think that's what Matt Y. meant when he said that the situation in Chechnya couldn't be resolved without Russian concessions, and given Reynolds' record I'm not inclined to cut him a break on his misrepresentation.

Sebastian said that Yglesias
is using the word 'fear' in a pseudo-dismissive way.

I disagree. When he says "amply justified" he means that it has a basis in fact--in short, he is saying that 'this could cause problems by encouraging further attacks.' Sebastian, I think you boldfaced the wrong word in that sentence.

And by the way--Reynolds was not debating Matthew Yglesias. He was mocking him, tying him explcitly to this post. There is a debate to be had, but Reynolds is not participating.

Sorry to post three times in a row, but I just noted that Yglesias has a comment in his own thread in which he says that he's not advocating any policy, and emphasizes the whole noun phrase beginning with "amply justified fear." The ensuing Instalanched thread is obviously the one that lead him to shut down comments.

If you think that the there shouldn't be concessions it is best to not start your argument with the idea that the only way to fix a problem is concessions. If you believe that concessions ought not be made, starting the sentence in which you explain that with "...in the wake of this sort of outrage there will not only be no mood for concessions" and then following it up by using the label 'fear' to describe thoughts about concessions causing more problems is an abysmal way of communicating your belief.

He uses 'outrage' and 'mood' in clauses which suggest dismissiveness of the thought process. To suggest that he uses 'fear' in the very next clause to mean "serious thinkers would agree" doesn't make sense.

As I said before, in the context of all of Matthew's writings, you can see that he does not MEAN what he does SAY in the post.

Glenn's didn't misread the post. The post was miswritten.

I agree, Mr Van der Leun. Y should have issued the "Fuck you" first and then shut down the comments. I kind of like "F--- you " as the last words in a conversation, especially when the other party has so maturely misrepresented (nice word, that), lied.

Julio Sharman: Well, let's see. I suspect everyone would resort to violence against just about anyone, given the circumstance. Henry V murdered his French prisoners. I notice on another web site today someone misnamed JTemperance exhorting the renowned humanist Vladimir Putin to "kill them all", meaning all the Chechens, as a military response to atrocities at the school. I notice, too, that while those children are properly mourned on that same website, a few years ago, given the circumstance, the same mourners (not all, O.K.) would have countenanced incinerating those same children in a pre-emptive nuclear war. Yeah, I know, civilization has come up with lots of ways to parse all this, but at the end of the day, in both cases, we end up with piles of precious dead children.

What about me?: I guess that if Al Qaeda occupied the U.S., and as prelude to various horrible actions, they were to forge a pact with Grover Norquist (a crumb to someone who might be helpful to them later) to defund Medicare and Medicaid on the grounds that such taxation is socialist income redistribution and why should they be forced to care for others who can't afford medical care, let them suffer and die, it's none of their responsibility, then yeah, I would engage in what some might term violent revolt. But if that failed because
of superior firepower and viciously brutal tactics by the occupying force, then yeah, I would probably, against my moral and ethical instincts and all the rules, go after their families. I would of course thank Grover Norquist for supplying me with all the cool automatic weapons to let me carry out my battle for freedom, including taxpayer funded medical care.

Hey, you have your thought experiments. I've got mine.

A tangential question. Why do folks of a certain political persuasion, who believe the U.S. Government, the New York Times, and the Washington Post lie, and who question every news release from say, the E.P.A., believe every word uttered by the Russian government run by KGB Putin regarding the subject of Chechnya and various terrorist attacks and their alleged sponsers?

Bottom line: The people at the school were murdered, and those who murdered them should pay according to the law. Those who didn't murder them should be left in peace.

Yes, Matt Yglesias, can be maddeningly unclear as he thinks through his positions out loud at the philosophy seminar table. He does obscure his opinions in the smoke of ambiguity.

I'm not interested in the Instahack/Yglesias debate. But, to think callously for a moment about what this tragedy could mean--and callousness is sometimes a requirement in the national interest--I think the spiraling out of control of events in Russia represents a very nice diplomatic opportunity for the U.S.

We should present a plan to Russia. The plan involves U.S. technical, diplomatic, political and whatever other sort of assistance is required against the Chechnyans, while the Russians provide technical, military, diplomatic, and political assistance, including pressure on Arab states, in Iraq. We don't present it as a quid pro quo--just as a package of actions that need to work together to compliment each other.

We can offer to explicitly, publicly, and consistently say that Russia's joining of the effort in Iraq is not an endorsement of the original invasion, but rather a recognition that all peaceful and law-abiding powers must work together to combat the possibility that Iraq could become a breeding ground for terrorism.

Russia is over a barrel--they are in big trouble and need all the help they can get. Meanwhile, we need some help, too, some help that they can provide. Let's start up ap mutual back-scratching society.

I just wanted to say that Von is absolutely right. When one considers the aims of terrorist organizations, one gives terorism itself an unnecessary legitimacy. We must first consider terrorism to be the sole problem in this sort of war, and only when that is contained should other issues be taken into account. It may not be the moist efficient way to solve the problem, but it is the most responsible.

Mario: why, exactly? By analogy, suppose I am trying to foil a bank robber. It will be immensely useful to me to know what he is after (the money the cashiers have? The contents of safe deposit boxes?), since then I am much more likely to be able to anticipate his moves and thwart them. In this case, am I somehow dignifying bank robbery by ascribing a purpose to it? If so, how? If not, how do you think the terrorism case differs?

Mario, that just doesn't make sense to me. In dealing with any problem, you gather all possible data. If you make certain subjects off-limits for consideration, you just might miss the key to solving the problem.

That's theory; so let's move from the general consideration of how one deals with any problem to the specific consideration of how one deals with terrorism. The problem with "defeating terrorism" is that it takes a very small number of persons to create and execute an effective terrorist plot, e.g., Tim McVeigh and his 1-3 buddies, or Eric Klebold and Dylan Harris (who weren't terrorists--but terrorist could do the exact same thing), or the 19 guys who executed 9/11 and who apparently only had a few other guys helping them out.

Of course there is such a thing as human beings who come out warped, evil. But as a general matter, people aren't that, and groups don't usually band together for terroristic purposes unless they have some reason (or at least they have managed to propagandize themselves into believing they have some reason) to do so.

Kill or capture those who are doing it, sure; no need to cogitate over that. But if you kill the 20 guys who slaughtered the kids in the school but do it in a way that pissess off 40 other guys enough to do it twice more . . . well? Or if you managed to wipe out one group, but because you didn't pay attention to what you did to piss them off, carry out some other unrelated policy in other part of the world that creates new terrorist groups . . . well?

To return to generalities and theory, human history is not the story of how groups triumphed over adversity by putting blinders on. It's much more a study of how humans learned by observing their environment to take effective actions to influence and control the environment to human benefit.

[[
I suspect everyone would resort to violence against just about anyone, given the circumstance.
]]

I suspect not. Most French people do not believe that ending English oppression is a cause for which dying should be considered. Most Iraqis in some regions seem to believe that ending the US occupation is such a cause.

I don't have a theory as to exactly which causes are worth it and which aren't but someone smart could come up with one.

Either way, its clear that the Chechens and the French are in entirely different situations and that the closer Chechen circumstances come to resemble French circumstances, the more Chechen behavior will resemble French behavior.

[[
But if that failed because of superior firepower and viciously brutal tactics by the occupying force, then yeah, I would probably, against my moral and ethical instincts and all the rules, go after their families.
]]

I guess that's that. Do it a couple of times and I'm sure your moral and ethical "instincts", (which you were not born with) would change.

[[
The people at the school were murdered, and those who murdered them should pay according to the law. Those who didn't murder them should be left in peace.
]]

It's a little more complicated than that but not much. The first problem is that "according to the law" means, at most, killing someone happy to die for his cause. Kind of like you'd be to defeat your Al-Qaeda oppressors.

Second problem is that "left in peace" means left with the same provocations that inspired a group to commit the first act. Which means that leaving everyone else "in peace" is the same thing as "wait until it happens again".

But its not that complicated. Remove whatever they are willing to die for and they won't be willing to die.

Sebastian, I think you're wrong about the semantic of "amply justified fear." And I think that to say "The only way to solve the underlying problem is to do X, but doing X has huge disadvantages" is not advocating doing X.

But having just glanced at Glenn Reynolds' front page, I'm in no mood to discuss whether he deserves the benefit of the doubt on anything. He is, quite simply, not interested in serious debate. Yglesias has several posts up explaining his position on Chechnya (and praising a discussion on Tacitus while explaining his problems with those views); Glenn Reynolds has a bunch of trash.

The conversation has passed me by, but two notes:

(1) I hate to disagree with Sebastian, but I thought (and still think) MY's point clear from the post. It wasn't based on the fact that I've been reading MY for quite some time (I think -- removing one's own bias is a difficult task). As I suggested in my post, however, I can understand why GR may have misunderstood MY -- which is why I suggested that he do a clarifying update. Honest mistakes happen, and deserve correction. (I've sent an e-mail to GR on the point.)

I stand by the post, which disagrees with MY on the ultimate issue (as I understand MY -- again, he's been a bit too Dephonic Oracle-y for me). Rilkefan's point about my own imprecision is well taken and, for the record, even when Rilkefan is dead wrong (IMHO), his points are worth considering.

Regarding whether GR's arguing in bad faith: I don't believe so. This strikes me of a mistake resulting from a quick read, and, though others will surely vociferously disagree with me on the point, Glenn's not a hack.

Finally, unless and until Moe indicates otherwise, the posting rules do not prohibit direct quotes that are relevant to the matter being discussed. I.e., you may quote MY's ill-tempered reaction to GR without fear of repercussion.

First, Trickster is right. The U. S. needs to seize the opportunity that's before it. I'd put odds against it but it's a great idea. Second, why are we discussing root causes and underlying issues? While interesting there's probably exactly nothing that can be done about any of them. What we need to talk about are critical success factors as in what were the critical success factors that enabled 9/11 or 3/11 or the hostage situation in Beslan possible? I would submit that unless we are able to interdict one of more of those critical success factors horrific terrorist incidents will continue to take place regardless of our attention to root causes or underlying factors.

[[
unless they have some reason (or at least they have managed to propagandize themselves into believing they have some reason)
]]

Managed to propagandize themselves.

To propagandize one's self.

I have a hard time believing that happens. I can't see any reason for that to ever happen. Why would one manipulate oneself into believing what one does not already believe?

Why would one manipulate oneself into believing what one does not already believe?

There are a virtually infinite number of reasons and it happens every day. Because it's fun. To make onesself feel better or more important. To avoid taking responsibility.

Examples include believing your lover is faithful, or your candidate a hero, or your leader unfailingly virtuous when prudence tells you it ain't necessarily so.

Julio, you've pinpointed a hole in my grammatical construction; to be more precise I'm talking about how members of groups (Confederates, Nazis, Wahabbists) share and reinforce ideas that are passed around the group internally. If you consider the group as an individual, you could call it "self-propagandization;" admittedly, I don't use that language and can see how you were wondering what the heck I was talking about.

[[
I would submit that unless we are able to interdict one of more of those critical success factors horrific terrorist incidents will continue to take place regardless of our attention to root causes or underlying factors.
]]

Those factors could easily still exist in Ireland and South African. They don't anymore because the "root cause" is the "critical success factor". A population that believes it is so aggrieved that attacks on the weakest enemies is a reasonable response. Where the population is large, resourceful and radicalized enough that simple policing will not prevent almost all of the attempted attacks.

It seems that there are about 10 of those populations left on earth.

Make the Chechens believe they are not aggrieved (through concessions) and the Chechens will not have the critical success factor. The only thing is that that concessions have to be such that most Chechens stop believing that they are aggrieved.

Although what Dave says also makes sense. (your lover is faithful . . . ouch!)

julio, I'm curious. Doesn't your argument work equally well for, say, thieves. If the root cause of robbery is that the thieves want your possessions, isn't the your correct solution to take the locks from your doors and pile your belongs on your outdoor stoop?

I just want to take this opportunity to express my apprecation for Obsidian Wings' existence.

This comment thread is a model of what online discussion can be.

I like where Trickster is going here. I think the U.S. can have a positive impact on Russia -- we can help them develop better counterterrorism tactics that are far less grotesque and also more effective. Additionally, we may be able to serve as a broker between those Chenens with legitimate grievances and the Russian government and use our influence with the Saudis and whoever else may be funding the spread of Wahhabism in the region. Russian can help us by cooperating on Iran, we can cut them into the reconstruction of Iraq, and they may be willing to commit forces for border control or something similar.

In the midst of tragedy, I see a lot of opportunity.

There are some causes that one wacko out of every 100 members of the general public is willing to die for.

Those causes can be ignored or dealt with in the general scheme of things.

There are some causes that 60% of a substantial population believe are worth dying for right now. There are approximately 10 or so of those causes worldwide.

Enough concessions can and should be made to each of these populations that the proportion drops to managable levels.

"Going to war" will only make more causes. And for what?

Dave, I think what julio means is that you create an economy that can find jobs for everybody so that thievery is less prevalant. Arrest the thiefs you can identify, prevent robberies through intelligence work, and work to put potential bank robbers in good jobs where they can support nice wives and kids.

Sebastian badly mischaracterizes Y's post. Specifically:

3. The only way for them to get better is for Russia to make concessions. (BTW he doesn't say what concessions. Let the Muslim terrorists take over a splinter country?)

This is actually what Y wrote:

The situation, clearly, can only be resolved by Russian concessions on the underlying political issue in Chechnya.

Hilzoy and Trickster, in their comments to Mario, neatly recognize what Y wrote.

Essentially, in the case of Chechnya, you have two paths available: 1. engage in a total war, scorched earth, genocidal scenario with Chechnya; or 2. understand the root causes of Chechen terror and work to mitigate the poisoned fruit of their efforts.

I also think Sebastian needs to take a hard look at the history of the recent struggle in Chechnya and to understand it always hasn't been about Wahabiism. One might also look to why Chechnya is of such interest to Putin.

[[
Doesn't your argument work equally well for, say, thieves.
]]

Yes. Find a substantial population where 60% or more of the general public supports thieves and/or thievery and there is a "root cause" problem that is not best served by trying to put and keep 60% of the general population in prison.

Even less by "going to war" with that population.

Schuler, characteristically, has the good word. I'm out for the rest of the night; play nice, please.

Seems to me that targeted concessions and targeted annihilation are not necessarily mutually exclusive, provided the objects are different. Sensible concessions to the passive supproters of the rebels, annihilation of those who've committed atrocities (directly or through proxy).

The only way to "win" is to convince the ordinary Chechen on the street that he/she has more to gain from working with Russia. Not as satisfying as "kill 'em all" and, since it will require some concessions, not the ideal result for Russia. Nonetheless, even scorched earth seems ineffective in this context.

Hilzoy: "suppose I am trying to foil a bank robber. It will be immensely useful to me to know what he is after (the money the cashiers have? The contents of safe deposit boxes?), since then I am much more likely to be able to anticipate his moves and thwart them. In this case, am I somehow dignifying bank robbery by ascribing a purpose to it? If so, how? If not, how do you think the terrorism case differs?"

In terrorism the action itself has a political motive. They are trying to change a government's action through violence. They are not the same because the bank robber's goal is to get money, which directly results from the action. With terrorism, the action and the intended result are completely separate. No matter how many people they kill, their aim is not accomplished until the government responds.

Also, I only meant that we should not publicly consider the terrorist's motives. Privately we should do so because, as you said, it is the only way to know what we should be protecting.

Trickster: "Or if you managed to wipe out one group, but because you didn't pay attention to what you did to piss them off, carry out some other unrelated policy in other part of the world that creates new terrorist groups . . . well?"

If terrorism is never successful, if the terrorists' goals are never given consideration, no additional publicity is given to their cause, and no government ever capitulates, I feel it is highly unlikely that terrorism itself will be considered as a potential tool by future aggreived parties. In fact, if terror against the US, for example, is always met with forceful retaliation, the terrorists lose ground in every case, and no additional attention is given to their cause, by the US or anyone else, I believe that terrorism as a tactic to be used against the US will lose support universally. For instance, a few years ago, on (the now-defunct) Politically Incorrect, a man walked up to the stage during a show a gave Bill Maher a letter. The audience never found out what the letter said, because doing so would have given the man what he wanted, and would have given future loons the idea that that would be a great way to spread their message. It remains a bad tactic, because it doesn't work.

Conversely, if the Palestinians, for example, feel that they only receive international attention as a result of terrorism, they will continue it, even if the short-term result is increasing Israeli retaliation.

Terrorists don't use terrorism out of anger, they use it because they believe that it works. We cannot, ever, afford to give them anything that confirms that belief.

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Terrorists don't use terrorism out of anger, they use it because they believe that it works.
]]

Terrorists believe terrorism works better than the alternatives.

If they could accomplish their means by voting or peacefully protesting, why should they die?

If the last ditch effort, terrorism, doesn't work do you think they will just do nothing or try more spectacular terrorism?

We are not talking in these cases about 1% of the populations. We're talking about the handful of situations on earth where reasonable people believe terrorism is both called for and acceptable.

One last thing.

You don't have to placate the wackos. Police can handle wackos. You have to placate the most reasonable 70-80% of the population.

Normally that is easy. That should always be doable. To be serious about ending terrorism is to do that 10 or so times over the whole world. To do that means listening real seriously to the complaints of a representative part of the population.

To refuse to do it is to pay the price of being all macho, no brains.

julio sharman:

That 60% (or more) of Chechens support terrorism and believe it is justified is a strong assertion and calls for some proof. Do you have proof of this assertion?

My own experience of life is that 60% (or more) of all people everywhere mostly just want to be left alone and go about their business. 1% (or less) are what you've characterized as wackos and are, in fact, the terrorists. 1% of Muslims is, what, 15 million people? 1% of Arabs is 4 million people? Still think police can handle it?

I also have to admit to an avid dislike of discussions of root causes. As I understand it the root cause of all things may be characterized as dharma, or inshallah, or the will of God, or the nature of things. Are we planning on changing any of those?

Further if, for example, poverty is asserted as a root cause of something or other then the assertion may be disproved by observing that the practitioners were not poor. Or if oppression is asserted then pointing out other similar cases of oppression which do not, in fact, have the same result is a by definition disproof.

"You have to placate the most reasonable 70-80% of the population. Normally that is easy. That should always be doable. To be serious about ending terrorism is to do that 10 or so times over the whole world. To do that means listening real seriously to the complaints of a representative part of the population."

Sometimes, it isn't possible or desireable to placate that portion. Also, if one were to solve a single crisis that led to terrorism, all that would prove is that terrorism works. This would make future groups more likely to use that tactic first, instead of as the last option.

I would agree that we should be looking for problems and complaints now, and solve them when and if we can if only to keep terrorist groups from arising, but once they do, there should no longer be a consideration of their arguements. Perhaps their cause should be discredited until such time that they can prove they are able to protest civily.

There will always be groups that have disagreements with one government or another, and we will not always be able to placate that group before they resort to terrorism. If we were to give in to any such group now, that would only increase the potential problem we face in the future. Decades from now, long after the current "ten" problems have been solved, there will be ten more, and ten more after that. Government will never become so responsive to the will of the people that all groups can be pleased at the same time. We need to do what we can now to keep those groups from considering terrorism to be a useful tactic, and appeasement will make that impossible.

Or if oppression is asserted then pointing out other similar cases of oppression which do not, in fact, have the same result is a by definition disproof.

Only of the claim that X immediately causes Y. It need not be a disproof of the weaker (and altogether more realistic) claims that the one tends to imply the other, or that there's a time-lag, or any of a myriad related claims.

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If we were to give in to any such group now, that would only increase the potential problem we face in the future.
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"Giving in" seems to have worked with the IRA. "Going to war" has not worked so far with Chechnya.

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We need to do what we can now to keep those groups from considering terrorism to be a useful tactic, and appeasement will make that impossible.
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A tactic that requires the death of its practitioners will only be considered "useful" in the absence of easier effective tactics.

If the choice you're trying to offer is between terrorism and doing nothing, you will get terrorism. At that point when you do not "appease" terrorism, you will get more terrorism.

[[
That 60% (or more) of Chechens support terrorism and believe it is justified is a strong assertion and calls for some proof. Do you have proof of this assertion?
]]

Nope. I don't have numbers. I contend that the proportion of Chechens who support terrorism is way higher than, say, the proportion of Quebecers who support terrorism against Canada.

What is it about one cause and not another that makes terrorism seem reasonable in one case? I don't know. I've come across theories but I don't know.

If for whatever reason the people of Quebec begin supporting terrorism on a wide scale tomorrow then something is there that can be fixed. I just made 60% up. I'm not sure what number makes "wide scale". If terrorism in Chechnya is supported by the same proportion of the population as terrorism in Quebec, my little theory has officially been disproven.

Protests are fun and you get to yell and meet the opposite sex. Terrorism means dying. No population supports terrorism when there is any perceived possibility that protests could help.

When there is widespread support for terrorism in a population there is a solveable problem and there is a group of bad-guys who do not want it to happen.

[[
Or if oppression is asserted then pointing out other similar cases of oppression which do not, in fact, have the same result is a by definition disproof.
]]

Everything is similar to everything else depending on how you define similar. On the other hand, maybe nothing is similar to anything else.

[[
Sometimes, it isn't possible or desireable to placate that portion.
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To tell the truth, the side that feels this way is the bad-guys, the side that deserves to lose.

Human beings on Earth are reasonable and do not want to be killed by far better armed governments.

Anyway, the point is that you have to do more than show that terrorism is not a useful tactic by not "appeasing". There has to be a better alternative to both terrorism and to doing nothing.

This is not mostly a moral argument. This is mostly practical. When you finish proving to yourself that you are a tough guy you'll solve the problem through concessions to the reasonable majority.

An important element is an effective way to change the aggrieving situation where you get to stay alive.

But, Anarch, that's my point precisely. That's not what people seem to mean when they say "root cause" cf. here.

"Finally, unless and until Moe indicates otherwise, the posting rules do not prohibit direct quotes that are relevant to the matter being discussed"

(Coming up for air while on break from combining The Manchurian Candidate - original, thankyouverymuch - with vodka sours)

What? Ah, erm, whatever von said.

(Back to Cold War paranoia!)

When you finish proving to yourself that you are a tough guy you'll solve the problem through concessions to the reasonable majority.

But, Julio, that's the point I'm making. You've claimed (by picking 60%) that the reasonable majority in Chechnya support terrorism. I don't believe that's so. And I don't believe that the reasonable majority in the Arab world or the Muslim world support terrorism if by "support terrorism" we mean provide material support or actively engage in it.

But even if the numbers of actual terrorists and actual material supporters of terrorism are only 1% we're talking about a very, very large number of people possibly spread over a very, very large part of the world. Way, way beyond the capability of contemporary police activity to cope with. And beyond any power I'd like to see the police power exercise.

(off topic) Hey, Moe, have I mentioned that I've been promoting your blograzing when possible?

You are, Dave? Excellent. I am tipsily pleased...

Julio: "'Giving in' seems to have worked with the IRA."

The threat isn't always from the organization that you appease. It comes from other organizations that use that example to set their policy.

"A tactic that requires the death of its practitioners will only be considered 'useful' in the absence of easier effective tactics."

Terrorism does not require the death of the terrorists. McVeigh, for example, only died because he was caught (and convicted). Even in the case of suicide bombings, the real threat comes from the people at the top, not the ones carrying the actions out.

On "giving in" vs "standing tough:" Presuming any nation fighting terrorists wisely examines and reflects on its own actions, and determines that it has done something unjust, taking actions in an attempt to rectify that situation doesn't have to be categorized as "giving in."

What if taking some action that might correct for a past action that has caused terrorism is, without taking the terrorism into account, the right thing to do? Does that mean, once you take the terrorism into account, that you should refuse to correct for that past action? In short, have the terrorists forced us to do the wrong thing, or do we still have the free will to choose a right action on our own?

I await the slamming of Masha Gessen's piece in Slate on the roots of the Russian-Chechen conflict by Serious Political Thinker Glenn Reynolds and the rest of the loony right who believe that addressing any legitimate grievance associated with terrorism is an appeal to appeasement.

I await the slamming of Masha Gessen's piece

Link?

Does that mean, once you take the terrorism into account, that you should refuse to correct for that past action? In short, have the terrorists forced us to do the wrong thing, or do we still have the free will to choose a right action on our own?

My own non-realpolitik answer is that we should do the right thing.

I wonder if, in the particular case of Chechnya, the right thing is a matter for serious debate. Would an autonomous state dominated by the thugs who sponsored the atrocity in Beslan be an improvement?

Does that mean, once you take the terrorism into account, that you should refuse to correct for that past action?

My own non-realpolitik answer is that we should do the right thing.

But, in the particular case of Chechnya, the right thing is a question for serious debate. Would an autonomous state dominated by the thugs who sponsored the atrocity in Beslan be an improvement?

There seems to be two distinct groups 1)people who want an independent or less subjugated Chechnya 2)Muslim terrorists involved in a global jihad. Group 2 also supports the goals of Group 1 so at the moment they are allies. Concessions may prevent group 1 people from transforming into group 2 people. If you can cleave the two groups and you can then attack terrorists instead of Chechnyans.
Every time the security forces of N. Ireland cracked down on the Catholic neighborhoods the IRA's positioned was strenghted. When Catholics enjoyed a modicum of normality they would realize once again that the IRA didn't represent their views. (obvious spurred on by the beatings and other knee cappings the IRA gave "dissident" Catholics)
On the feud - It appears MY was pissed because InstaP posted 2/3 of his thought instead of the whole paragraph. Hence the hey it was only a paragraph. The problem with InstaP is that he is just a link page with a wry or snide comment. It also seems unfair to direct your readers to comment on someone else site when you yourself have very little original material and don't have a comments section.

Trickster: "What if taking some action that might correct for a past action that has caused terrorism is, without taking the terrorism into account, the right thing to do? Does that mean, once you take the terrorism into account, that you should refuse to correct for that past action? In short, have the terrorists forced us to do the wrong thing, or do we still have the free will to choose a right action on our own?"

There are always difficulties in these types of situations. It would definitely be better if we could rectify past mistakes (if, indeed, we [the victims] did something wrong, which is not always the case) before terrorism is used. After that, we should still be able to do so, but we have to be more careful. If there is any way our positive actions could be seen as being a reaction to the crime, we should not do so.

To go back to the bank robber, perhaps he robbed that bank because he needed money. It would have been nice if we had held a collection for him before he robbed the bank, but I would not suggest we do so after.

The Gessen article is here. I won't "slam" it, as it is very likely correct in everything is states. However, before you read it, consider whether you would have been interested, or whether it would have been written, if a few hundred children had not just been murdered. Now, try to tell potential future terrorists that terrorism doesn't work.

But, Anarch, that's my point precisely.

I could be missing something but that doesn't appear to be correct. A root cause need not immediately take effect to remain a root cause, either in the sense that I use it or in any of those definitions you cited; it is simply something which inevitably -- but not immediately -- produces a result.

Thus, the existence of a "X but not Y" situation (e.g. an oppression which hasn't resulted in the oppressed turning to terrorism) is not, a priori, a disproof of the contention that "X is a root cause for Y" because the (dis)proof implicitly assumes that X has had enough time to mature into Y. Absent a restriction on the timeframe, you'll need to marshal the usual reams of evidence to prove or disprove the contention.

In the particular instance of oppression resulting in terrorism, for example, no-one in their right mind is suggesting that the moment an oppression is begun, a switch is flipped and terrorists begin to swarm out of the rafters. [Though in my darker moments, I suspect that will become the case.] More confusingly yet, terrorism as an effective tactic, from a purely bloodless, callous cost/benefit ratio has only existed for a fairly short period of time (thirty years at most), so many of the historical counterexamples simply don't apply. Factor in the increasing viability of terrorism -- again, from a cost/benefit ratio -- and your counterarguments are going to have to hit a rapidly moving target; not an a priori situation at all.

I suspect, at this point, the "oppression -> terrorism" would-be-syllogism is undergoing such a rapid mutation due to various international pressures that its truth will remain a matter of faith for the duration. I'll go out on a limb, however, and predict a global rise in terrorism that will outlast even our present struggle for precisely those reasons I outlined above, and that that rise will be predicated upon would-be resisters taking the quicker, easier path that will forever dominate their destiny... regardless of their original ideology.

Dave, re Chechnya. I'm not as informed on the whole situation as I would like to be. I hate the idea of thinking that a hard line may be the only line. It may be.

But what does that mean: "hard line?" I don't think the current situation is as if the Russians have set up a new rail line to import tea and crumpets to Chechnya. Does "hard line" mean WWII style terror bombing air raids in population centers? What if it does, and the Chechn response is to get angrier and commit even more outrageous acts?

How long does that cycle continue before "hard line" means "genocide Chechns?"

A friend of mine were talking last night about what might happen if Islamic terrorists should detonate one or more nukes in American cities, and then promise to keep doing it. At some point would we decide to kill all Muslims?

We talked about the idea that it might become possible one day, and then started talking about practical matters.

It's obvious we can't afford to use nukes in the Mid East. That's where the oil is, as a beginning point; we can't irradiate that area. We just can't. So we would probably use lethal gas and fuel-air explosives, and then send in boots on the ground to "secure the area."

Of course, "secure the area" means that young Americans in uniform would have to go in to exterminate the last survivors. We talked of industrial-age death camps, perhaps mobile; of the development of expertise and of an extermination doctrine; of field manuals. We noted that Islam, unlike Christianity, is a religion with a distinct geographic element, the holiness of Mecca. We talked of the reaction of non-Arab Muslims to the barbarian desecration of their religion, and concluded that the genocide of Middle East Arabs would set off a wave of terrorism that has not yet been seen. And we talked of Muslim Americans; of the close to a billion Muslims in Indonesia, only a few of whom are terrorists.

We asked whether a country, or a world, that had extermination doctrines, that genocided 1/3 of all human life, could ever be the same, could ever regain its soul. We asked what would happen to those doctrines and techniques that, once developed, would be so easy to use again.

Can a people--a people joined by religion--be cracked down on so hard that they stop rebelling against the crackdown? What is the evidence for that? If they won't, does "hard line" stop before we print out those field manuals?

But still. Is there another answer for the Chechnyans, beyond "hard line?" What is it?

I feel I should add that the right action itself is sometimes counter to the terrorists' goals. In such an case, there would be no need to refrain from doing the right thing, as it could in no way be seen as appeasement. I believe the Iraq War, as far as it is a reaction to September 11th, is such a case.

In this instance, our past mistake is, I think, rightly seen as supporting dictators in the middle east because it was expedient at the time. We can correct that problem today by supporting democracy and pushing leaders toward reform. I don't think this could be construed as appeasement by anyone.

[I recognize that many would disagree with the Iraq War as being a good example of this, but I believe that it still illustrates my basic point as well as anything can. So, if there is disagreement, I would prefer it come from my point rather than my example, as the latter would fail to advance the conversation in any meaningful way.]

We're dancing around the subject, but the quintessential example of Terrorists Who Been Done Wrong is the Palestinians. I think Islamic terrorism mostly springs from that situation, and I just wish we had taken the money, focus, and muscle that we put into Iraq and instead put it into creating a just and mutually acceptable peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

But we're kind of tied down now.

Let me get this straight.

(1) Matthew Yglesias writes an absurdly self-contradictory post asserting both that "clearly" the "only" solution requires concessions, and simultaneously that no one should claim to know the solution. (2) Glenn Reynolds quotes part of it verbatim. (Not paraphrases like I just did; QUOTES.) (3) Matthew throws a hissy fit like a teenager (sorry if Matthew actually is a teenager (? it's not clear at this point) and this was a spurious simile), f-word and everything. (4) This all proves that Glenn Reynolds is wrong and stuff.

Um, have I missed some a priori axiom y'all are working from, like "Matthew is cool"?

Sorry, but if Matthew Yglesias can't express the thoughts he thinks he is having properly and self-consistently, that is not Glenn Reynolds's fault. It's still not even clear what the heck precisely Matthew was trying to say and I say that having read about ten dozen bloggers' and commenters' valiant attempts to ride to his rescue. Many of you insist that (you have divined) in Matthew's head was a perfectly reasonable point. Perhaps so; I defer to your mind-reading. However, it is still incumbent upon him, not Glenn Reynolds, to actually translate those swell thoughts into the written word accurately and coherently. If he cannot (and say what you like, but in this case, he *did not*), to blame Glenn Reynolds is asinine.

To react the way Matthew did is downright infantile.

Mario: I'm very, very interested in everything that happens with Russia, and have been all my adult life. It seems to have been deemed beneath the American public's notice - or ability to care - that one of the world's nuclear giants is is slipping steadily back into authoritarianism, but it disturbs me to no end - almost as much as the fact that the mainstream media seems to have written off what goes on in other countries as largely irrelevent. The Chechen conflict - for the long and bloody decade it's dragged on - has been yet another indicator that the apparatus of the foul old communist dictatorship is being warmed up as a foul new capitalist dictatorship, still ready to dance on thousands of innocent dead. And I read pieces on Chechnya at the time, and I remember my cousin telling me about how the Russian military left corpses - their own and of the enemy's - out to be eaten by wild dogs in Grozny to keep the official body counts down.

As to why the article is being read now, and why we're talking about Chechnya in this post - yes, of course terrorism works; just ask Shinn Fein. But for anyone paying attention to to act as if this were some Madrid-esque outcropping of the terror war in Russia - a sort of spontaneous bloom of Islamism - is deeply disingenuous at best. Russian policy toward Chechnya - specifically their invasion and demolition of that country - kick-started this monstrosity. This week's massacre has been just the latest in a long string of horrors over the last ten years.

I would also note that I don't recall Russia's other terror incursions over the last several years - some of which have yielded higher body counts than this one - getting this much attention. Would we be paying this much attention to a corner of the world many Americans decided to write off after 1991 if it weren't for a suspected al Qaeda connection?

Mario: I'm very, very interested in everything that happens with Russia, and have been all my adult life. It seems to have been deemed beneath the American public's notice - or ability to care - that one of the world's nuclear giants is is slipping steadily back into authoritarianism, but it disturbs me to no end - almost as much as the fact that the mainstream media seems to have written off what goes on in other countries as largely irrelevent. The Chechen conflict - for the long and bloody decade it's dragged on - has been yet another indicator that the apparatus of the foul old communist dictatorship is being warmed up as a foul new capitalist dictatorship, still ready to dance on thousands of innocent dead. And I read pieces on Chechnya at the time, and I remember my cousin telling me about how the Russian military left corpses - their own and of the enemy's - out to be eaten by wild dogs in Grozny to keep the official body counts down.

As to why the article is being read now, and why we're talking about Chechnya in this post - yes, of course terrorism works; just ask Shinn Fein. But for anyone paying attention to to act as if this were some Madrid-esque outcropping of the terror war in Russia - a sort of spontaneous bloom of Islamism - is deeply disingenuous at best. Russian policy toward Chechnya - specifically their invasion and demolition of that country - kick-started this monstrosity. This week's massacre has been just the latest in a long string of horrors over the last ten years.

I would also note that I don't recall Russia's other terror incursions over the last several years - some of which have yielded higher body counts than this one - getting this much attention. Would we be paying this much attention to a corner of the world many Americans decided to write off after 1991 if it weren't for a suspected al Qaeda connection?

Apologies for the double post.

Trickster -- I think that before we start musing on the details of genocide, we should think very seriously about what on earth we can do to prevent ourselves from getting anywhere remotely near the situation we describe. We can secure all current stocks of WMD -- something we have apparently not done even in Iraq, appallingly enough. We might consider formulating something resembling an actual policy on North Korea, to try to prevent it from turning into Nuclear Weapons R Us, and likewise trying to figure out what to do about Pakistan. We might consider changing our opposition to having verification procedures in the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. And then we could start work on some of the root causes.

About root causes: it seems to me wildly unlikely that there is a single root cause of terror working in isolation. Most events don't have just one cause; when we think they do, we are generally just isolating the cause that seems salient to us, leaving others in the background. (My typing is what we'd normally call the cause of these words appearing on my screen, but there are any number of background conditions without which it wouldn't produce this effect, which we normally just don't bother to enumerate.) That being the case, the fact that not all poor people resort to terrorism would not necessarily show that poverty is not a root cause of terrorism, since there might be other causes that need to be present as well, and/or background conditions that are absent in some cases. In this particular case, the causes are likely to be so complex that the experimental method doesn't seem likely to tell us what we need to know, since there are probably vast numbers of factors, including e.g. features of cultures, institutions, and individual psychology, which need to interact in very complicated ways, and many of which do not yet have descriptions that are clear and consistently applicable in the ways they'd need to be to allow us to formulate experimental hypotheses and check them.

Hilzoy, I certainly don't dispute the idea that preventing that from happening is our primary concern. But I found that conversation very moving and powerful, and thought it was worth sharing. To kind of echo something I've said earlier in this thread, I don't like the idea of declaring certain subjects verboten for thought or discussion.

As far as N. Korea goes, we are really not in a position of power vis a vis the N. Koreans. It seems to me almost inevitable that we are eventually pretty much going to give them what they've been asking for all along, i.e., a non-agression pact and some economic assistance, perhaps something similar to the deal Clinton was working on, in return for verifiable disarmament. The question is how much they produce--and export--before then. I can only hope that the answer to how much they export is zero, but I'm not sure how we can assure that.

Pakistan is a tougher question. I'm really not sure how much ability we have to force matters in Pakistan, and I'm not sure how firm Musharraf's control is over the situation. He has a tough road ahead of him to contain terror and avoid civil war or a coup, but it sure looks like he's our nag in the race, at least for now.

To introduce a separate, more self-interested line of questioning: how did Chechen separatism become intertwined with Al Qaeda?

I am totally ignorant about Chechnya. But for a while I thought of it as a mainly nationalist struggle, which the Chechen separatists probably shouldn't have started and they never should have killed civilians, but the ends seemed--not legitimate, but not manifestly and clearly illegitimate, and the means seemed--not justified, but limited. And the worst atrocities seemed to have been committed against the Chechens. (Before this, the image I best remember is a front page of the NY Times week in review section that had satellite photos of Grozny before and after Russian shells, and my sister remarking how Putin could just make war on and disappear a city from his own country and
no one did anything or said much.)

I had learned in a class that Al Qaeda had infiltrated the Chechen separatist movement, and both the details and the horror of this atrocity seem to confirm that. And I know that Bin Laden has been trying to do this in almost every violent struggle between Muslims and non-Muslims, and has had some success.

(He sometimes seems to realize the importance of allies and world public opinion better than the U.S. leadership. Fortunately there's a natural disadvantage in being a fanatical serial killer instead of the world's greatest power and democracy, but while we're still ahead overall I think he polls better than he did before 9/11, and we poll worse.)

So. How does Al Qaeda do it, and why did the Chechens consent? Is it just a question of resources? A Marshall Plan for the devil, or a military assistance package, where they will take whatever help they can get from whatever source? Or was the Islamist ideology already part of it? To what extent did Russia's actions help or impede this process? etc. etc.

"Every time the security forces of N. Ireland cracked down on the Catholic neighborhoods the IRA's positioned was strenghted. When Catholics enjoyed a modicum of normality they would realize once again that the IRA didn't represent their views. (obvious spurred on by the beatings and other knee cappings the IRA gave "dissident" Catholics)"

It was even worse than that, actually. Catholics in Northern Ireland initially welcomed. The "Official" IRA at the time, after a diastrous failed bombing campaign in the early 1960s, was moving away from armed conflict and towards civil-right style political action.

Unfortunately, a splinter group from the IRA (called the Provisional IRA, which posters here would know as the IRA) was opposed to the British intervention. The Provisional's attempts to escalate the situation were aided by the stupidity of the Stormont government; the pig-headedness of the British military, who thought to use the same methods they had used in putting down an uprising in Malaysia;the imposition of internment (where most Catholic Civil rights activists were rounded up and if not tortured, severely mistreated); and incidents like the so-called "Rape of the Falls", where British soldiers carried out a search of the Falls Road in a particularly brutal & insensitive way. Pretty soon the Provisional IRA went from less than a dozen active members to several hundreds; and the British had a much larger problem.

It's also worth noting that in 1979-1981 the IRA were at their lowest ebb - the British had most of their key figures in prison, and had, with good intelligence, severely comprised the IRA's effectiveness. The IRA were on the ropes. Then Thatcher decided that the IRA were "common criminals" and tried to take away certain privileges that paramilitary prisoners had. Then came the hunder strikes, the rise of Sinn Fein, and the British government had an even bigger problem than before.

Doubtless in Sebastian's or Glenn's view if Thatcher had backed down it would be seen as "appeasement". I'l also note that Sebastian's misreading of Matt's post is to be expected from the myopia induced from knee-jerk reactive posturing, rather than thinking about the underlying political pressures, causes and inter- and intra-group dynamics. Those of us who've grown up with the consequences of idiotic imposition of "strong leader" neo-colonialist positions know the damage that a iron fist can do where a velvet glove was best. And you can bet I am disappointed and concerned that the US Government and Military is making the same damn mistakes on a much larger scale. Marx was wrong; history doesn't repeat itself as farce, but as a deeper tragedy for its avoidability.

That Slate piece alludes to an allegation, unconfirmed but with some evidence supporting it, that there was some Russian involvement in the 1999 bombings, invasion of Dagestan, etc. etc. She seems to believe that Russia may have helped create or fund the Chechen extremists.

What do people make of that? Is it a serious possibility or just a rumor? Is there any good evidence for it or against it?

Not many absolute rules in counter terrorism, because there are huge potential pitfalls in both a hard line and concessions. One absolute rule: never, never, never, never create a terrorist group as a counterweight to another terrorist group. It will come back to bite you, and they will often wind up being much worse than your original enemy.

(Not saying this happened in Chechnya. It would be so ludicrously wrong and stupid and cynical that I have a very hard time believing it.)

CJM: "I'm very, very interested in everything that happens with Russia, and have been all my adult life. It seems to have been deemed beneath the American public's notice - or ability to care - that one of the world's nuclear giants is is slipping steadily back into authoritarianism, but it disturbs me to no end"

I was going to put in a line in an earlier post about how I am no fan of Putin's Russia, but I left it out. For what it's worth, I agree that Russia as a democracy is collapsing, and I wish the US had gotten involved in working out a peace in Chechnya before they resorted to terrorism.

marguerite |,

that there was some Russian involvement in the 1999 bombings, invasion of Dagestan, etc. etc. She seems to believe that Russia may have helped create or fund the Chechen extremists.

There were some rumours that FSB was involved in the apt bombings, I don't know what the conclusion was... But you'ld be crazy to suggest that Russia involved in Basayev's invasion of Dagestan. Are you suggesting that Basayev is really a Russian agent? As for funding, its all Arabs. Wahhabis became to appear in Chechnya (with Arab $) in the early 90's.
Also, a good read.

Meanwhile, I think the body count will hit 600 dead.

"I think Islamic terrorism mostly springs from that situation, and I just wish we had taken the money, focus, and muscle that we put into Iraq and instead put it into creating a just and mutually acceptable peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians."

You should realize that your statement can be fairly read as suggesting that we should have actually done would have been to pull our troops out of Saudi Arabia and put them in the West Bank - which would, among other things, also have ended the no-fly zones keeping various Iraqi groups safe from genocide (muscle) - and moved our attention away from Saddam Hussein (focus). I sincerely doubt that we could have trusted Hussein... shoot, I can end that sentence right there.

Mind you, I realize that you almost certainly weren't advocating that, but the truth of the matter is that for as long as the troops in SA had to stay in SA as a counterweight to the Hussein regime, our ability to act in the region was degraded. And, yes, our ability to act now is degraded, as well - but check the Magic Moe-Ball again in three years and ask me the same question. :)

(1) Matthew Yglesias writes an absurdly self-contradictory post asserting both that "clearly" the "only" solution requires concessions, and simultaneously that no one should claim to know the solution. (2) Glenn Reynolds quotes part of it verbatim. (Not paraphrases like I just did; QUOTES.) (3) Matthew throws a hissy fit like a teenager (sorry if Matthew actually is a teenager (? it's not clear at this point) and this was a spurious simile), f-word and everything. (4) This all proves that Glenn Reynolds is wrong and stuff.

Blixa -- I'm going address the subject briefly, but, really, I don't wanna make a career outta reporting on others' blog debates.

(1) The post was not self-contradictory (at least, not in the manner you suppose).

(2) A selected quote that omits required context can be misleading. That's what happened here.

(3) Well, yes, it was a bit of a hissy fit.

(4) I actually favor Reynolds's side of the debate (to the extent there is a debate).

von

Blixa, I think the problem is not that Reynolds quoted Yglesias when the latter's original post was not quite clear; but that, despite the fact that Yglesias's post was not quite clear, Reynolds cut-and-pasted one sentence -- the least palatabale one, and not by accident, I'm certain -- as if it were the entire point of the post*, and used it as a stalking horse to insinuate that the left -- and by implication Democrats -- are not serious about fighting terrorists, but just want to capitulate to them.

As evidence, note:

a) The last sentence of his un-updated post, referring to "people who have forgotten what we're fighting." As soon as you find those people, you let me know. I know who Reynolds thinks they are.

b) That he follows his cut-and-paste from Yglesias with "David Kaspar's advice is already taking hold!" Kaspar, of course, being the link above that ascribes all sorts of positions to "liberals" in order to show how misguided they are.

c) When Oliver Willis takes exception to Reynolds's aforementioned snarky comment about "those who have forgotten," Reynolds resorts to a weaselly, "Hey, if the shoe doesn't fit . . ." If Reynolds has a particular group of people in mind who have forgotten about 9/11 and terrorism, maybe he should specificy who they are, huh?


*"He linked to the original post" is hardly a defense here, as I know from long experience that people more often than not don't click through, especially when they're ideologically predisposed to trust the blogger's characterization of what the link says.

d) If you read to the bottom, Reynolds says, "I wasn't trying to misrepresent his view -- I just thought that the concessions bit was the key point because, well, it looked that way to me." Of course it looked that way to him. Of course. It gave him an opportunity to imply that the Democrats are soft on terror.

My word; there are some incredibly good comments in this thread. If I didn't have a throbbing headache -- I spent last night drinking beer with passionate partisans, some pro-Miller Lite, some pro-Coors Lite (beer snobs they were not) -- I'd try to join in.

Tom and Phil make some excellent points above.

What I see happening on the part of Reynolds and his adherents is a kind of triangulation to demonize anything short of total war against Islam as 'appeasement.' Reynolds often uses this tactic; e.g., his infamous "objectively pro-Saddam" smear of those opposing the invasion of Iraq.

The advocacy of overwhelming brute force in the face of terrorism is as Matthew Y. points out: it tends to create more terrorism, while doing little to address the problems that lead to terrorism.

There is a greater danger also. Certain world leaders, specifically Bush, Putin, and Sharon (not to mention the terrorist leaders), derive not insignificant amounts of political capital from the base manipulation of terrorist incidents. Undeniably, this manipulation led to the 'miscalculation' that is Iraq.

Italics must die.

Thank you, JC. My apologies--I plead only one cuppa.

I recommend this column by William Pfaff.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia is in grave difficulty because he has refused to acknowledge the real nature of the challenge to his government in Chechnya. The terrible hostage crisis in North Ossetia and the bombings of recent days are the result of his unwillingness to recognize the implications of defying nationalism - not mere "terrorism" - in the Caucasus.

Putin is making the same mistake that President George W. Bush and the U.S. government made after the Sept. 11 attacks. Like Putin, they insisted they were merely dealing with terrorists or criminals.

They were actually dealing with terrorism and crime in the service of nationalism and religion, which is entirely different. In the political circumstances of today, nationalism and radical religion have come to compete and overlap in Chechnya, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.


If I didn't have a throbbing headache -- I spent last night drinking beer with passionate partisans, some pro-Miller Lite, some pro-Coors Lite (beer snobs they were not)...

Y'know, von, the errors of your political ways are acceptable, for it is not given to any one person to be flawless in that arena and who am I to say what is wrong or right? The errors of your bibulous ways, however, are a character flaw so deep and profound that they are a chasm into the very depths of your soul that would make even Nietzsche blanch.

Repent, von! Repent, and start drinking real beer! Repent, for the Day of Hangover is at hand!

von,

You seem to have been the one who started the subject of others' blog debates.

Anyway, again, I still don't quite understand Matthew's post and I do respect your tireless efforts to vindicate it for some reason. So, you may be right that it was not self-contradictory. It appears to be self-contradictory - to me - but heck, I'm just a guy who tried to read the English words it contained, and understand them. I didn't appeal to the underlying "Matthew is a-ok even if his words make no sense" razor some of y'all appear to be working from.

To be slightly more substantive here, Matthew is now on the record saying that (1) "the situation can only be resolved by Russia doing X" and (2) hey, I'm not saying Russia should do X as a solution and don't claim I am! There is also the original post itself which contains (1) an assertion of a necessary condition for resolution and (2) no one should claim to know the right way to proceed. Now, come ON. You could be perfectly right that Matthew didn't mean what Reynolds quoted due to some nuanced resolution of these pairs of notions. I'm just saying that if that's true, Matthew has only himself to blame for that. He doesn't get a free pass to say "F you" to everyone who fails to understand his incoherent spewings. Isn't Matthew supposed to be, like, a writer?

Phil,

the problem is not that Reynolds quoted Yglesias when the latter's original post was not quite clear; but that, despite the fact that Yglesias's post was not quite clear, Reynolds cut-and-pasted one sentence

LOL Ok so you admit Matthew wrote an unclear post. Glenn Reynolds read the post thinking it meant thing A. He took a quote verbatim from the post illustrating thing A. And thus, shame on... Glenn? Give me a break. What is this? Is there no responsibility whatsoever on Matthew Yglesias to write comprehensible things?

used it as a stalking horse to insinuate that the left -- and by implication Democrats -- are not serious about fighting terrorists, but just want to capitulate to them.

Talk about defensive. Tell me where Glenn mentions "the left" or "Democrats". This seems to have occurred in your head not in Glenn's post. You give a lettered list of "evidence" which is mostly irrelevant.

I am perhaps starting to understand the source of the urge to valiantly defend Matthew against any responsibility for the comprehensibility and coherence of the things he writes, however.

Yeah, I get it now. Thanks for helping me understand,

Well, Blixa, that's just the point, isn't it? Glenn doesn't say who these people are who have "forgotten" what we're fighting, does he? He seems to indicate that it's the people who David Kaspar is talking about -- "liberals" -- and then floats the idea that Matthew and Oliver Willis -- who, let me say, I have little use for generally -- are two of those people.

Who do you think Reynolds meant?

And further to the point, if neither you nor Reynolds can point to some generally-recognizable group of people who have "forgotten what we're fighting," then his final un-updated sentence was either dumb, empty rhetoric, or a jack-assed attempt to poke a finger in the eye of people who don't particularly need an eye-poking.

Blixa:

Anyway, again, I still don't quite understand Matthew's post and I do respect your tireless efforts to vindicate it for some reason.

Re-read my post, please. I'm not trying to "vindicate" Matthew's post. I actually disagree with Matthew. I do believe, and continue to believe, that Reynolds's one-line quote of the post was (unintentionally) misleading. I've always said that MY's post was not "a model of clarity" (which should be clear to you if you re-read my original post); however, it has only one reasonable interpretation, and that interpretation is not reflected in Reynolds's summary.

One larger point: We will all do better in this debate if we do not immediately presume the worst in our political opponents, and, where possible, give them the benefit of the doubt. (I could, for example, take a line or two out of Reynolds's post and construct an argument that Reynolds endorses all of Putin's methods -- past and present -- in Chechnya. I don't, because I'm sure that Reynolds did not intend such an endorsement -- and, indeed, that's the only reasonable way to read a slightly unclear post.)

Stan--thanks. The Washington Post article is alarming. Bin Laden, and Islamists in general, are carrying out a Marshall plan for the devil, and how are we responding?

As I said, I found it difficult to believe, and as you say it sounds totally ridiculous as applied to Dagestan but I also found the author of the Slate piece pretty credible and it sounds like she might believe it. But she may not, and even if she does, it's always dangerous to latch on to one person for your opinion about a subject you're not an expert on, no matter how much of an expert they are.

(Even if the worst rumors were true, I certainly wouldn't believe Basayev is a Russian agent any more than I believe that Hamas is an Israeli agent.)

That WaPo article is excellent.

Here's my still-uninformed-but-better-informed-than-I-was take: there are real Al Qaeda ties and the Chechen conflict is probably now inextricably entwined with the war on terror. But that wasn't always true, and Putin helped make it true and I don't trust him at all to solve the problem now.

I don't think Russian crimes against the Chechens drove any of the terrorists to this atrocity. Even if there's one guy whose little brother was killed during final exams, that wouldn't begin to excuse this and it wouldn't even really go very far in explaining it. I mean, the people who lost family members on 9/11 did not go to the Middle East and start murdering children. And even if there was one such terrorist, there would probably be a majority of terrorists who did not suffer anything like that. In that sense, Putin can't be blamed at all.

But he can be blamed for ordinary Chechens who were not willing to risk their own safety to turn the terrorists in, or Chechens who even now trust their horrendous leaders more than they trust Russia, or Chechens who would never kill an innocent child but will fight against Russia if it goes back into the province.

Final question: is there a chance that this atrocity could change public opinion in Chechnya and turn it against the men responsible?

As for Reynolds, he's trying to act like this is a debate over whether or not to kill the terrorists responsible. It's dishonest and I am starting to believe it's deliberately dishonest.

The real disagreement is over to what extent you risk killing innocent people in order to kill the terrorists responsible, and who to kill besides the people directly involved in atrocities like 9/11 and the one in the school, and whether you should start killing those other people before you finish killing Al Qaeda or preventing Al Qaeda from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Note that I am NOT trying to do a reverse Reynolds; these are serious questions and the hawks and neocons have some good arguments. But in the end their arguments fail; they will lose an honest debate. And so many of them have come to rely on lying about what their opponents think. And Reynolds does this more and more.

(Obviously, this is an overgeneralization. I don't think it applies to all hawks or neocons, and it applies particularly badly to the hawks or neocons who post here--I think almost of y'all misunderstand the liberal position but I think it's a good faith misunderstanding in almost every case.

I do think it applies to Reynolds, and to the Bush administration.)

"If terrorism is never successful, if the terrorists' goals are never given consideration, no additional publicity is given to their cause, and no government ever capitulates, I feel it is highly unlikely that terrorism itself will be considered as a potential tool by future aggreived parties. "

It's too late for that. Terrorism worked for Michael Collins in the Irish War of Independence, and it worked for Irgun & the Stern Gang to get Britain out of Israel/Palestine (Yitzak Shamir used the codename Mihail in Collin's honor). The ANC's military wing was a terrorist movement. The Nicaraguan contras were a terrorist movement. John Brown the abolitionist was a terrorist. You'll notice that their cause was eventually victorious.

What *does* seem to work against terrorists, though, is divide-and-rule; giving sufficient ground that the movement behind them splits, and radicals are set against moderates, c.f. the negotiations for the Irish Free State, where afterwards the IRA split into the pro- and anti-Treaty factions, and the British were able to keep six out of 32 counties (when Churchill and Lloyd George would have settled for much less).

I cannot express my frustration with the historical and geographic myopia that seems to infect my fellow Americans, that causes reactive mental gestures like "no concessions to terrorists" to become elevated to a grand strategy, despite the dismal historical record of a military-only strategy in defeating nationalistically-motivated terrorists (although law enforcement-type strategies can work well against purely ideological, non-nationalist terrorists, like Baader-Meinhof, the Red Army, and the Weathermen).

"I don't think Russian crimes against the Chechens drove any of the terrorists to this atrocity. Even if there's one guy whose little brother was killed during final exams, that wouldn't begin to excuse this and it wouldn't even really go very far in explaining it."

A guy on PBS' newshour said that 44 out of 1000 Chechen males had "disappeared" in the two Chechen wars. That'd be the equivalent of the population of Oregon disappearing. Plus you also have what Stalin did to the Chechen (deported them all to Central Asia). So there are profound reasons for them to resent Russians.

I know that there are profound reasons for Chechens to resent Russians, but I don't think any of Russia's crimes can explain what happened in that school unless they drove all of the terrorists to legal and clinical insanity where they had no real free will, and I doubt that.

But based on your numbers, I may have underestimated the possibility that the terrorists had had family members killed.

And there is a bigger flaw in that post of mine: the last sentence is very sloppily phrased. It implies that Chechen public opinion is not already against the men who committed against this atrocity. Of course, all evidence suggests that it is.

I'm really asking is whether that condemnation can lead to a willingness to cooperate even with the distrusted Russians toward the defeat of this terrorist groupand its supporters. If so, it's a good reason not to brutalize innocent Chechens even further.

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Whatnot


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