« Terrorists on the Ballot | Main | Ach, the blogging mood's gone anyway. »

March 19, 2004

Comments

If his lips were moving he was lying. How can a man who gave Al Qaeda the last year + off to reorganize and go further underground while convincing Congress that Iraq was the real threat, be serious about fighting Terrorism?

See you at the Worldwide March tomorrow.

Von wrote:

Second, Bush's "war . . . is not just a figure of speech" meme is, well, wrong. A war requires someone to war against -- a state, a militia, a gang of thugs. Something to defeat in battle. One doesn't think of investigating the members of a terrorist cell as a war. Nor would one (wisely) ask a soldier to attempt the task -- his or her skills lie elsewhere. Yet, that's the primary work to be done in this conflct.

I think that Von is confusing “war” with being limited to the part of the conflict on the battlefield. War encompasses a lot of things besides that including intelligence, counter-intelligence, dealing with spies and saboteurs (e.g. terrorists), tracking down the enemy in order to find and neutralize them, depriving the enemy of resources (e.g. financing, access to weapons, funding, supplies), diplomacy, etc. A lot of these functions which are carried out in war may be identical to those we see in law enforcement but are clearly not exclusive to the realm of law enforcement. In which case referring to the ongoing conflict as a “war” is a more inclusive term.

And refuting a hateful ideology, giving folks another option, also isn't fighting a "war," save in the most figurative sense.

I disagree. Propaganda (not always a negative term) has long been a time-honored and essential part of a successful war in order to boost your side’s morale, demoralize the enemy, and convince others why they should join your side or law down their arms. In which case “refuting a hateful ideology” would seem to be an essential part of this as well as “winning the peace” afterwards as it was in post-WWII Japan and Germany.

I also noted that he does *not* want to fight all forms of terrorism, but only the kind that wants to control the Middle East.

"law down their arms" should be "lay down their arms"

I think that Von is confusing “war” with being limited to the part of the conflict on the battlefield. War encompasses a lot of things besides that including intelligence, counter-intelligence, dealing with spies and saboteurs (e.g. terrorists), tracking down the enemy in order to find and neutralize them, depriving the enemy of resources (e.g. financing, access to weapons, funding, supplies), diplomacy, etc.

Thorley, let me see if I understand this: because "[w]ar encompasses a lot of things besides . . . " war, this must be a war? Is that your argument? 'Cause it don't make sense.

True, policing, economic pressure, not selling the enemy weapons, banking reform, and diplomacy all occur during a war. They also, however, all occur when there is no war. Accordingly, they are indicative of neither a war nor a lack of a war.

You're attempting the logical equivalent of attempting to prove the existence of the UFOs based on the existence of cats. But one does not establish the other.

(Your discussion of propoganda falls on the same grounds.)

If you read the piece, you'll see that I argue the term "war of terror" is misdescriptive because the WoT doesn't have many attributes of a traditional war. The front-line warriors are, in fact, usually not warriors. They're intelligence agents, analysts, police, first responders, diplomats, etc. (But neither is it purely law enforcement.)

Now, I agree that the term "war on terror" is figuratively descriptive. It easily falls into the colloquial usage of the term "war." But that's the basis for my criticism of Bush, innit?

Nothing that any Republican might say or do will convince me that they value *my* life.

Von wrote:

Thorley, let me see if I understand this: because "[w]ar encompasses a lot of things besides . . . " war, this must be a war? Is that your argument? 'Cause it don't make sense.

It also is not my argument.

Let me illustrate it. In arguing as to whether this should be called a “war” (A) or “law enforcement activity” (B) we are arguing whether the activities and qualities of this are the same as in A or B. There are certain things which are unique to A but not found in B (deploying troops, invading other nations, the types of weaponry used, etc. and scope) but the activities we see in B (intelligence investigations, infiltrating the enemy, tracking them down, etc.) are also found in A.

In which case it would be more accurate to refer to this as A rather than B or both because pretty much everything found in B which pertains to this is found in A.

If you read the piece, you'll see that I argue the term "war of terror" is misdescriptive because the WoT doesn't have many attributes of a traditional war. The front-line warriors are, in fact, usually not warriors. They're intelligence agents, analysts, police, first responders, diplomats, etc. (But neither is it purely law enforcement.)

How are you gauging that? Besides 9/11, police and first responders have (thankfully) not really had the much of a role in the conflict – certainly not more than the troops we have deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Intelligence and analysts have also had a role as do diplomats during a traditional war or even the Cold War. If intelligence is playing a larger role, it is because the nature of war and our capabilities for gathering and being able to utilize information more quickly has changed. If police and first responders do end up taking a more active role, it is because we are no longer protected by two oceans and are facing the possibility of another attack on our own soil. Based on what we've seen in Iraq and Afghanistan though, the front line (now that we've chosen to go on the offensive) warriors are warriors and thank G-d for that. I would rather have American soldiers fighting the enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq than on our own soil.

Now, I agree that the term "war on terror" is figuratively descriptive. It easily falls into the colloquial usage of the term "war." But that's the basis for my criticism of Bush, innit?

I don’t think that you have made an accurate criticism though. How wars are fought tends to change with things like advances in technology. When we improved our ability to gather and use information, intelligence became more important. When an enemy developed the ability to strike on our soil across two oceans, being able to respond defensively also increased in importance. But the nature of war – http://www.hyperdictionary.com/dictionary/war>the waging of armed conflict against an enemy – is still the same and given the scope of the conflict and the use of military force in waging it, this would seem to qualify as a “War.”

Bush is great at making speeches, when well-rehearsed. (He probably spent a lot more time rehearsing this one than he's offered to give the 9/11 Commission.)

But, as we all should know by this time, Bush's speeches are never anything but hot air. The first paragraph:

We believe in the values that uphold the dignity of life, tolerance and freedom, and the right of conscience.

Yeah, right. Upholding the values of freedom? Tell that to the prisoners held illegally in Guantanamo Bay for two years and rising. Upholiding the values of life? Tell that to the dead and maimed Iraqi and Afghan civilians killed or crippled by US cluster bombs dropped on their streets. Upholding the values of tolerance? Tell that to the gay Americans who watched Bush endorse a Constitutional amendment to make them permanent second-class citizens because Bush wants the bigot vote.

It's all hot air: there's never anything solid to ground those ideals Bush professes to follow.

"Nothing that any Republican might say or do will convince me that they value *my* life."

We seem to be having a problem lately with people either not reading, or not taking seriously the Posting">http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2003/12/the_longawaited.html">Posting Rules. That's your one warning, Frank Wilhoit.

Moe, this is a genuine query: I honestly do not see how Frank Wilhoit's comment violates the Posting Rules. (Reposted the link because the HTML in your link was flawed.) I don't agree with it, but then I'm not Frank - he's not asserting anything near as sweeping as Thorley's assertion in an earlier thread that all socialists are evil because all socialists are thieves. (Which, as a socialist, I suppose I might have taken exception to, but I just considered it to be too sweeping and too silly to worry about.)

Thorley asserted something manifestly untrue and insulting about a large group of people. I assume that this did not violate the posting rules, since you made no objection to it.

Frank asserted that he reacts in a certain way to what a rather smaller group of people say. I believe it to be a statement so sweeping that it's silly, but I can't see how it can be considered a violation of the posting rules - particularly if Thorley's assertion about all socialists was not considered to be a violation of the posting rules.

Link to Thorley's comments about socialists: please explain why those did not violate the Posting Rules while Frank's comment did.

I should add (and I mean this sincerely): Moe, it's your blog, it's your rules. If you answer "Because I say so" this is adequate explanation and justification.

" I would rather have American soldiers fighting the enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq than on our own soil."

As would I. However, this is a false dichotomy. The question is, who would you rather have dealing with the terrorist threat in Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and London?

I submit that if you only focus on regions you can identify as clear battlegrounds, you've already lost.

"Moe, this is a genuine query: I honestly do not see how Frank Wilhoit's comment violates the Posting Rules."

You're not a registered Republican. Yes, yes, I'm sure that you're happy not to be, but the point is that you weren't the one being insulted.

As to your other question, which is indeed a fair one, I have been considerably more hard-nosed about this in the past few days, as you may have guessed*. As a practical matter, running through the archives and dinging every person who violated them before that would probably mean that there'd be nobody left to read the site, including me. The regulars (which include Thorley) seem to have gotten the new vibe ... which would be a wonderful state of affairs to have continue, might I add.

I will also note that the one person actually banned this week was that guy with the profane and hateful commentary about Spain's voters. I am keeping an eye on my own side of the spectrum, IOW.

Did that clear things up for you? I am trying to address your questions, here, but I have a six hour drive in the morning and I'm not in a very good mood at the moment.

Moe

*BTW, apology accepted and you've been taken off the One False Move list; a simple scolding would have been a more calibrated response to one of our regular posters here. My apologies.

You're not a registered Republican. Yes, yes, I'm sure that you're happy not to be, but the point is that you weren't the one being insulted.

Fair point.

As to your other question, which is indeed a fair one, I have been considerably more hard-nosed about this in the past few days

Fair enough.

As a practical matter, running through the archives and dinging every person who violated them before that would probably mean that there'd be nobody left to read the site, including me.

Good heavens, no: if you have decided to apply a stricter rule now, which is why Thorley got away with it earlier ;-), it would be manifestly unfair to grandfather your new stricter rule to posts made in the earlier era.

*BTW, apology accepted and you've been taken off the One False Move list; a simple scolding would have been a more calibrated response to one of our regular posters here. My apologies.

There is no need for an apology - but it's accepted anyway. ;-) I accepted, once I'd thought it over for a few hours, that I had stepped over a line. But am relieved to know I'm no longer on the OFM list.

Upholiding the values of life? Tell that to the dead and maimed Iraqi and Afghan civilians killed or crippled by US cluster bombs dropped on their streets.

This is like saying that we don't uphold those values because we killed some German and Japanese civilians in WWII. Which is to say, it's a lot of sound and fury, but it signifies nothing. Civilians die in wars, and it's tragic, but in the great majority of wars, one side is right, and one is wrong. I know which side I think my country is on -- whatever my feelings about its current leadership and execution -- and I know which side I prefer to be on.

This is like saying that we don't uphold those values because we killed some German and Japanese civilians in WWII.

No, it's like saying that when the UK firebombed Berlin and Dresden, or the US dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US and the UK were not upholding the values of life. Because, in those instances, the US and the UK were engaging in deliberate mass murder of civilians for terror purposes.

In exactly the same way, when the US drops cluster bombs on urban areas, (and I believe the UK did this too in the attack on Iraq) the US is deliberately murdering and maiming large numbers of civilians. This is not "upholding the values of life" - no deliberate murder can be claimed to be this.

but in the great majority of wars, one side is right, and one is wrong. I know which side I think my country is on

Do you? Because in the invasion of Iraq, no side was "right". The US and the UK, in aggressively attacking a country which represented no threat to either state, were committing a crime under international law. This wasn't right. (You note I'm not saying Saddam Hussein was right, either, though the Iraqi soldiers whose motivations were to defend their country against an invading foreign army were.)

I believe that I best take my country's side by pointing out when I believe my country is acting wrongly. The invasion of Iraq was a vilely wrong act.

This is like saying that we don't uphold those values because we killed some German and Japanese civilians in WWII.

No, it's like saying that when the UK firebombed Berlin and Dresden, or the US dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US and the UK were not upholding the values of life. Because, in those instances, the US and the UK were engaging in deliberate mass murder of civilians for terror purposes.

In exactly the same way, when the US drops cluster bombs on urban areas, (and I believe the UK did this too in the attack on Iraq) the US is deliberately murdering and maiming large numbers of civilians. This is not "upholding the values of life" - no deliberate murder can be claimed to be this.

but in the great majority of wars, one side is right, and one is wrong. I know which side I think my country is on

Do you? Because in the invasion of Iraq, no side was "right". The US and the UK, in aggressively attacking a country which represented no threat to either state, were committing a crime under international law. This wasn't right. (You note I'm not saying Saddam Hussein was right, either, though the Iraqi soldiers whose motivations were to defend their country against an invading foreign army were.)

I believe that I best take my country's side by pointing out when I believe my country is acting wrongly. The invasion of Iraq was a vilely wrong act: dropping cluster bombs in urban areas is a vilely wrong act: and Bush's complete failure to make plans for the post-conquest of Iraq was blind stupidity, leading to many more vilely wrong acts.

Vilely...now that's a word you don't hear every day.

Bush's binary view of the world is great when you're making stump speeches (just ask John Edwards -- oh, wait), but it's just as unsuited as chronic waffling for running the country. Let's hope voters have picked up on that.

Slightly OT, I also read the best gotcha line of the campaign so far:

"Kerry doesn't need to be in the White House, he needs to be in the Waffle House."

That was said by Rick Keller, congressman from Florida, in today's rally. Kerry's going to need to find some great way to respond to this stuff, and fast.

Double-posted, too... the shame! *hides head*

No, it's like saying that when the UK firebombed Berlin and Dresden, or the US dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US and the UK were not upholding the values of life. Because, in those instances, the US and the UK were engaging in deliberate mass murder of civilians for terror purposes.

I suppose that's one interpretation. Another is that we were doing what needed to be done to win a war that the world needed us to win. Detached, academic moral hindsight is terrific for what it is, but the future of the world literally required the Allies to win the war, and if that included some horrific things like Dresden and the two nukes, I'm willing to accept that particular stain on my country's moral standing. In fact, I welcome it -- the alternative is literally unthinkable.

Let us not forget that the civilian populations of those countries supported those wars. The Japenese especially, but the Germans nearly as much, despite their modern protestations that "We were all good Germans! Hitler fooled us!" Perhaps instead of rallying their leaders to war, they should have been engaging in self-reflective, flagellating, "Why does America hate us?" examination.

Do you? Because in the invasion of Iraq, no side was "right".

You'll forgive me for not considering you the final arbiter on these matters, I hope.

Thorley:

You're missing the point of my criticism. I am not arguing that the assault on terrorism is a law enforcement action.

You wrote:

Let me illustrate it. In arguing as to whether this should be called a “war” (A) or “law enforcement activity” (B) we are arguing whether the activities and qualities of this are the same as in A or B. There are certain things which are unique to A but not found in B (deploying troops, invading other nations, the types of weaponry used, etc. and scope) but the activities we see in B (intelligence investigations, infiltrating the enemy, tracking them down, etc.) are also found in A.

You then argue that, because the fight against terrorism includes "war," the fight against terrorism is a "war."

But here's what I wrote:

If you must have a binary choice, though, here's one to ponder: our _____ against terror is really either (a) a war that, on many occasions, is functionally identical to a law enforcement action, or (b) a law enforcement action that, on many occasions, is functionally identical to a war. Take your pick. But don't say that it's either a "war" or a "law enforcement" action. Quite clearly, it's both -- and neither.

What I'm suggesting is that we need a new vocabulary to define the struggle ("jihad," if you're feeling ironic) against Islamic terrorism. Just as we coined the term "cold war" to describe our "kinda-a-war-kinda-not-a-war" with the Soviet Union, we need to stop thinking about terrorism in a way that divides the world into "war" v. "not war" camps. There are countries -- countries that we need to win this struggle, like, yes, France (and maybe now Spain) -- that we needlessly divide ourselves from with such rhetoric. We need to become more sophisticated in our thinking. We need to become more inclusive in our approach. Bush's "war on terror isn't a figure of speech" line is not a step in the either direction.

(But, again, it was otherwise a very strong speech -- which is what made this lapse all the more prominent.)

von

Your basic point about "war" v. "law enforcement" is taken, Thorley, but you've got a logical (well, semantic, really) flaw:

Let me illustrate it. In arguing as to whether this should be called a “war” (A) or “law enforcement activity” (B) we are arguing whether the activities and qualities of this are the same as in A or B. There are certain things which are unique to A but not found in B (deploying troops, invading other nations, the types of weaponry used, etc. and scope) but the activities we see in B (intelligence investigations, infiltrating the enemy, tracking them down, etc.) are also found in A.

This seems to me to be correct vis a vis "war" v. "law enforcement".

In which case it would be more accurate to refer to this as A rather than B or both because pretty much everything found in B which pertains to this is found in A.

This, however, is incorrect, or at least it rests upon an as-yet-unproven hypothesis. Call the present state of affairs C; using pseudomathematical notation, we have something akin to:

B \subsetneq C \subsetneq A -- and -- B \subsetneq A

The conclusion that you've stated, that C should be considered an instance A rather than B, only makes sense if there are no defining characteristics of A that are not present in C.

This is one of the two fundamental problems in reconciling the "war" v. "law enforcement" dilemma: "war" in the literal sense has many characteristics, often taken as defining, that the ... on Terror simply does not possess. For example:

  • "War" is typically conducted between polities or, in the case of guerilla activities, coherent political movements that claim to represent (often be the "true") currently-unrepresented polities.

    [The FBI's efforts to apprehend a single lunatic aiming to bring down the US government, for example, do not constitute a war.]

  • It is the "continuation of politics by other means", to quote Bismarck: there are clearly defined political objectives for all participants in the conflict that could be realized via, say, a treaty.

    [More precisely, we recognize as "wars" conflicts for goods and property, acquisition of territory and the elimination of a group of people. I don't think we recognize as "war" the attempt to convince, to persuade, or to win hearts and minds.]

  • Participants in a "war" usually have clearly defined armed forces as distinct from civilians, though the nature of the definition need not be overt.

    [This one's a little blurry, but the main idea is that being a member of the Armed Forces is a binary proposition, albeit one which can be heavily obscured to enemy eyes.]

  • Combat in a "war" is confined to clashes between the involved polities; polities uninvolved in the conflict are not combatants.

    [This one needs work, alas, but I'm out of time.]

  • "Wars" have a definite end, determined by a joint political process of the participating polities. [ooooh... alliteration!]

[Note that a) this list is an off-the-cuff espousal of defining qualities of a war and is offered only as a first refinement towards a better definition, so a') should not taken to be either complete or definite; b) there is no common sociolinguistic definition of "war" of which I'm aware, which means that everyone is going to have a slightly different assessment; c) many conflicts best described as wars fail in a few of these items, so they are really only partially defining qualities. IOW, take this with a hefty grain of salt for now.]

To my eye, we could probably say that we're at war with Al Qaeda, although one would still have to answer some questions. [Is Al Qaeda a polity? What are their political aims? Is there anything short of extermination that could count as an end to the conflict?] There's simply no meaningful way to say we're at "war" with Terror or Terrorism, however, as there's simply no there there; Terrorism isn't a polity, there's no coherent political movement or agenda, terrorists en masse don't represent much of anyone, success in the War is ill-defined and not amenable to a political resolution (i.e. treaty) and so forth. Even though the nature of the conflict exceeds the typical definition of "law enforcement", it fails to satisfy enough of the requirements of "war" to fall into the latter category.

[The other problem is that the waters are further muddied by the somewhat loose way "war" is thrown around, e.g. Phony War, Cold War, War on Poverty, &c, but von's already covered that.]

The way out is, as von suggested above, to coin a new phrase (or co-opt an old) to describe this new phenomenon. I'm particularly fond of "struggle" but I haven't suggested it because I shudder to think of the headlines in the German newspapers. The best I can offer is that, as things currently stand, the important thing is to stop casting the modern conflict into the paradigms of old so that we can start seeing the ... on Terror for what it is and not what we'd like it to be.

I'm not sure if I should be frightened or thrilled, Anarch, to find central portions of my argument distilled to cold mathematics.

von, if you think math is cold, you don't know enough math.

von, does it help that I'm a logician?

[The truly frightening thing is that I'm getting far enough into my research that I frequently have to translate my arguments back from math into natural language...]

von, if you think math is cold, you don't know enough math.

Well, that's undoubtedly true, Rilkefan.

Good luck in your studies, Anarch.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad