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June 14, 2005

Comments

I would think my answer would be clear from my June 14, 2005 01:51 AM post on this story here, and what I wrote at the linked post.

It would be interesting to contrast Rumsfeld's remarks here with those he made when he was supporting Saddam Hussein back in the '80s.

Freedom is on the march. A veritable tsunami of it. But it's apparently messy, or difficult, or somesuch; and if you have to, to coin a phrase, "break a few eggs," or turn a blind eye to your allies' omlette-making, well, that's the cost of freedom.

I think the post Gary's referring to is this one.

It's the cold war all over again, make friends with someone you would normally never make friends with in order to combat your enemies, then wait for the shit to come back an hit you later.

More freedom marching here.

Hilzoy: but would spare us the possible long-term consequences of being thought, by people in the region, to support a dictator who boils people alive and massacres civilians

Don't you mean: the possible long-term consequences of supporting a dictator who boils people alive and massacres civilians?

The US is supporting President Islam Karimov, who is a dictator who boils people alive and massacres civilians. You want pictures of Bush warmly greeting Karimov? The Memory Hole's got them. And of course we've seen this all before, and will see it all again.

But it really sticks in my throat to see you suggesting that the problem is only that the people in the region might perceive the US to be supporting Karimov. The problem is that Bush doesn't perceive a problem with supporting Karimov. No more than his father saw a problem with supporting Saddam Hussein.

Oh, crap. Has Musharraf gone completely insane?

Jes: sorry; I didn't mean to suggest that we are not, in fact, supporting him. You're right.

Jes: I mean: I'm glancing over here at odd moments between various things, so precision will not be my long suit just now.

Slart: in re what?

Slart: never mind. Got it. See what I mean about precision?

Hilzoy: sorry; I didn't mean to suggest that we are not, in fact, supporting him. You're right.

Thanks, Hilzoy. Sorry I was snappish.

I'm glancing over here at odd moments between various things, so precision will not be my long suit just now.

Understandable! :-)

Another item for the Book of Hinderaker.

And indeed, there is probably NO ONE left who (1) supported Bush because he will "bring freedom to the world" but (2) will acknowledge that Bush couldn't care less, based on this news.

Oh, crap. Has Musharraf gone completely insane?

Slart, Pakistan is not really our ally. Musharraf may be trying to keep a lid on it but there is huge anti-American sentiment in that country, they are sheltering the remnants of the Taliban and playing a game with us in Afghanistan.

If you want some first-hand analysis, listen to Sarah Chayes' recent interview on Leonard Lopate's show on WNYC. She has been in Kandahar for most of the last 3 years, trying to help rebuild Afghanistan.

"Oh, crap. Has Musharraf gone completely insane?"

Nonsense. I am assured by the Highest Authority that Musharraf is giving bold leadership:

WASHINGTON, June 10 (APP)- President George Bush received Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri at the Oval office Thursday, and described the U.S.-Pakistan relationship as "unique". Kasuri briefed Bush on the latest developments in Pakistan-India relations including the visit of the Kashmiri leaders’ APHC delegation to Pakistan and the start of the Kashmir bus service. President Bush praised the bold leadership of President Pervez Musharraf and expressed the hope that the issue would be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. Senior U.S. officials Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca, Advisor to the President on National Security Affairs Stephen Hadley, and others were also present in the meeting. (Posted @ 12:45 PST)
Praise President Musharraf for his boldness! Praise our own President for his outstanding leadership towards freedom!

President George Bush ... described the U.S.-Pakistan relationship as "unique".

An apt description.

Well, you know setting up a base in Afghanistan or Kyrgyzstan would be expensive and all that. Better to let a few hundred murders go.

Anyway, my suspicions are even darker. I bet we pay Karimov plenty for the base and he wouldn't kick us out. More likely this is an effort to help him hold power.

Ugh's 11:06 comment is on target.

If an Iraqi government is elected which immediately demands that the United States leave, George Bush, our alleged fan of democracy, will not comply.

Sometimes, you need to put up with evil folks, but the United States, of all countries, doesn't actually have to make nice to them. No matter what this administration says, it is doing more harm than good for democracy in the Islamic world. If our president publicly condemns the behavior of the authoritarian leaders in Arabia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and others that he's been sleeping with, then, and only then will I believe that he cares about democracy. Right now, the evidence tells us that he has no use for it, except as a marketing gimmick.

Slart, Pakistan is not really our ally.

Yes, I know. Still, we're selling weapons to the, so in a sense, they are.

W/r/t Pakistan, has anyone here read Steve Coll's Ghost Wars? It includes an account of our relations with Pakistan from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan up to 2001, and boy is it depressing.

"...Ghost Wars?"

Just excerpts, but it seemed quite excellent.

"It's the cold war all over again, make friends with someone you would normally never make friends with in order to combat your enemies, then wait for the shit to come back an hit you later. "

Posted by: Ugh

Ugh, you forgot the true, crystal beauty of it - when blowback happens, or the 'our SOB' turns out to be 'his own SOB', you get to make money and gain power from the crisis, and accuse others of lack of patriotism.

It's sweet, and all it costs is one's soul. For many, that's not much of a price.

I almost forgot. The name of our Karshi-Kanabad (K2) Airbase? "Camp Stronghold Freedom."

You can't make this sh--, stuff, up.

W/r/t Pakistan, has anyone here read Steve Coll's Ghost Wars? It includes an account of our relations with Pakistan from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan up to 2001, and boy is it depressing.

I read it and agree. About nine million missed opportunities, mainly through just plain neglect.

I read Ghost Wars. It's very good, and very depressing.

Long-time lurker, first-time poster. And here's hoping you really meant what you said about wanting more conservative posters. :)

The question of supporting dictators against something worse (or perceived to be worse) is a serious issue, and it's not always cut-and-dried. It's easy to point to the disastrous results of our support of the Shah, or the horrific abuses committed by US-supported governments in places like Guatemala, etc.

But what if our support for the Algerian military coup in 1993 prevented that country from becoming another Taliban-style black hole? What if our continued support for unpleasant dicators like Karimov (or Mubarak, or Musharraf, or the Saudi monarchy for that matter) really is preventing someone worse from taking over? For that matter, photo ops aside, do you really believe Reagan, Rumsfeld, Cheney et al thought Saddam Hussein was a good guy back in the 80s? Or did they support him because they feared an Iranian-dominated Gulf?

I'm not suggesting we should go to a Kissinger-style realpolitik and completely remove the ethical questions from our foreign policy. I am suggesting that a totally ethics-driven (or human rights-driven) foreign policy is just as likely to produce blowback as our current policy. There aren't any easy answers.

As to the specific question of why we still need bases in Uzbekistan now that we have an established presence in Afghanistan, I don't know for sure. I suspect the administration may want them as a long-term counterweight to Chinese influence in Central Asia, rather than just for their short-term utility in the WOT. The truth or wisdom of that policy is another subject entirely.

Long-time lurker, first-time poster. And here's hoping you really meant what you said about wanting more conservative posters. :)

The question of supporting dictators against something worse (or perceived to be worse) is a serious issue, and it's not always cut-and-dried. It's easy to point to the disastrous results of our support of the Shah, or the horrific abuses committed by US-supported governments in places like Guatemala, etc.

But what if our support for the Algerian military coup in 1993 prevented that country from becoming another Taliban-style black hole? What if our continued support for unpleasant dicators like Karimov (or Mubarak, or Musharraf, or the Saudi monarchy for that matter) really is preventing someone worse from taking over? For that matter, photo ops aside, do you really believe Reagan, Rumsfeld, Cheney et al thought Saddam Hussein was a good guy back in the 80s? Or did they support him because they feared an Iranian-dominated Gulf?

I'm not suggesting we should go to a Kissinger-style realpolitik and completely remove the ethical questions from our foreign policy. I am suggesting that a totally ethics-driven (or human rights-driven) foreign policy is just as likely to produce blowback as our current policy. There aren't any easy answers.

As to the specific question of why we still need bases in Uzbekistan now that we have an established presence in Afghanistan, I don't know for sure. I suspect the administration may want them as a long-term counterweight to Chinese influence in Central Asia, rather than just for their short-term utility in the WOT. The truth or wisdom of that policy is another subject entirely.

Long-time lurker, first-time poster. And here's hoping you really meant what you said about wanting more conservative posters. :)

The question of supporting dictators against something worse (or perceived to be worse) is a serious issue, and it's not always cut-and-dried. It's easy to point to the disastrous results of our support of the Shah, or the horrific abuses committed by US-supported governments in places like Guatemala, etc.

But what if our support for the Algerian military coup in 1993 prevented that country from becoming another Taliban-style black hole? What if our continued support for unpleasant dicators like Karimov (or Mubarak, or Musharraf, or the Saudi monarchy for that matter) really is preventing someone worse from taking over? For that matter, photo ops aside, do you really believe Reagan, Rumsfeld, Cheney et al thought Saddam Hussein was a good guy back in the 80s? Or did they support him because they feared an Iranian-dominated Gulf?

I'm not suggesting we should go to a Kissinger-style realpolitik and completely remove the ethical questions from our foreign policy. I am suggesting that a totally ethics-driven (or human rights-driven) foreign policy is just as likely to produce blowback as our current policy. There aren't any easy answers.

As to the specific question of why we still need bases in Uzbekistan now that we have an established presence in Afghanistan, I don't know for sure. I suspect the administration may want them as a long-term counterweight to Chinese influence in Central Asia, rather than just for their short-term utility in the WOT. The truth or wisdom of that policy is another subject entirely.

ThirdGorchBro, you can only be a "first-time poster" once, sorry :-)

Dang it. Sorry about that, not sure how it happened. Is there a way for me to remove excess posts?

"Is there a way for me to remove excess posts?"

No, but I liked your brothers' work on Buffy, as well as Lyle and Tector's work when directed by Sam Peckinpah.

But what if our support for the Algerian military coup in 1993 prevented that country from becoming another Taliban-style black hole? What if our continued support for unpleasant dicators like Karimov (or Mubarak, or Musharraf, or the Saudi monarchy for that matter) really is preventing someone worse from taking over?

But this argument, as your example suggested, proves too much.

We should've left Saddam in power, because, hey, someone worse could've taken over.

We should quit looking for Osama, because if he's not the head of al-Qaeda, someone worse could take over.

Etc.

If the Uzbek regime is boiling its opponents alive and gunning people down in the street, then what form of "worse" are we supposed to be worried about?

Realpolitik answer: it doesn't matter how bad things get for the Uzbeks; at least the Uzbek gov't isn't allied with terrorists, so its evil deeds stay in Uzbekistan.

But the repression creates inroads for Terror, Inc., as the opponents of the regime decide that (1) Osama & his pals are their best hope and (2) the U.S. is the Great Satan keeping their enemy going.

So I just can't believe that any long-term policy is served by tolerating such wicked allies. Sometimes, in the short run, you have to deal with the devil, as perhaps during the Afghan War we may've needed the Uzbek bases. (All-time example: allying with Stalin to defeat Hitler.) But you have to be counting the days until you can dispense with the devil & call him out for what he is. And there seems to be no interest in doing so at the White House.

Gorch

While I have some sympathy for your arguement (lesser of two evils and all that), isn't it at least necessary that the cartoonish slogans about "freedom being on the march" be dropped.

ThirdGorchBro: we do want conservative posters, and because of that fact, plus the fact that you wrote a good post, you can be a first-time poster three times ;)

In general, I agree with your point: that sometimes it's better to support a bad government or dictator than to risk something worse. This is, more or less, what I think about our relationship with Pakistan, although I really wish we had been more aggressive about that scientist, whose name eludes me just now, who was selling plans for nuclear weapons.

That said, the question is: is there such a reason in this case? As I said, it's not clear to me why we need the bases in Uzbekistan, though obviously there could be some classified information that explains this. I am also not really clear how things might get worse there -- Karimov is pretty dreadful.

Moreover, I think we often tend to underestimate the long-term costs of policies like this. Iran is an obvious example: I really don't see that it would have been that dreadful to leave Mossadegh in power, rather than replacing him with the Shah, but because we didn't, we were hated for decades. (As well we might be: I would certainly have been furious at Iran had they replaced our government with a repressive cleric who deployed a brutal secret police.) We seem, at times, to act as though we were just playing a game of international chess, not actually messing with other people's countries. (I am not arguing here that we should never mess with other people's countries; only that we should be very clear about what we're doing when we do.)

When we mess with other people's countries, they remember for a long time, while we tend to forget, which makes perfect sense to me. That being the case, we should have really good reasons for doing so. I am not at all sure that we do here.

Welcome!

I should have known if anyone would catch that reference it would be Gary.

But this argument, as your example suggested, proves too much.

We should've left Saddam in power, because, hey, someone worse could've taken over.

But we are actively involved in deciding who will rule after Saddam. Although like many I question the competence of this administration, so that's no guarantee of a better result. Speaking of Ghost Wars, one lesson I took away from that book is that it was a mistake for the US not to remain involved in Afghanistan after the Soviets pulled out. If we had not abdicated responsibility for that country to the Saudis and the Pakistanis, the Taliban might never have risen to power.

I should also point out that I think there is much less justification for supporting dicators now than during the Cold War, and my preferred long-term solution would be for the US to become energy independent, so we could stop supporting Middle Eastern dictators without fear of any geo-strategic consequences.

Boy, "geo-strategic" sure sounds pompous when you read it out loud.

Thanks for the welcome, hilzoy! While I agree that Karimov is pretty dreadful, unfortunately, there's always someone worse. Take his fellow dictator Niyazov in Turkmenistan, for example. I think Gary Farber has posted about the North Korean-style cult of personality state he's constructing. IMO, an Islamist regime in Uzbekistan would probably be worse than Karimov, though not by much.

I do agree that we should be very careful about how we intervene in other countries, and the fallout from Mossadegh is a good example. And I do wish that we didn't have to choose between the lesser of evils so often.

Absolutely right, Bro, that we should've remained involved in Afghanistan, and been more skeptical of Pakistan's motives.

I will agree with your comment & Hilzoy's response thereto that it's hard to know sometimes whether one's doing good or not. But "not by inaction does one abstain from action," as the Gita puts it. Given what a tangle the world is, we may as well act at least quasi-morally, and hope that God turns out to be a Kantian.

It would be very low-key, I think, for us to agree to an investigation of the Uzbek gov't's deeds, and in general to remind those gentlemen that if they can't rule with at least some degree of respect for human rights, someone else can.

ThirdGorchBro, are you sure you're really a conservative poster, or were you just calling yourself one so you could get a special dispensation from hilzoy for three "first-time" posts? So far you haven't said anything I could even disagree with, much less want to consign you to hell for.

"This is, more or less, what I think about our relationship with Pakistan, although I really wish we had been more aggressive about that scientist, whose name eludes me just now, who was selling plans for nuclear weapons."

A. Q. Khan.

"I really don't see that it would have been that dreadful to leave Mossadegh in power, rather than replacing him with the Shah...."

Putting on my persnickety hat, that's not precisely what happened. Reza Shah Pahavi was Shah, the hereditary ruler of Iran, although his dynasty only began in 1925, when he was installed, after Reza Khan Mirpanj, who took the name of "Pahlavi" when he became Shah, having first been appointed Prime Minister in 1923, and then having removed Ahmad Shah Qajar, the reigning Shah, in a sort-of-coup in 1925. Reza Shah Pahlavi was then pushed out by the British in 1944, and his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was installed on the throne.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Mossadeq held various positions, from regional Governor to Finance Minister to Foreign Minister from 1914-23. He resigned from Parliament in 1923, after Reza Khan became Shah, but ran again and was elected again in 1944. He was elected Prime Minister by the Majlis (Parliament) after his predecessor, something of an Islamic fundamentalist, was assasinated; all this ongoing in the middle of the fight over Iran nationalizing the oil and seizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

To just quote from Wikipedia for a bit, at this point:

Aware of Mossadegh's rising popularity and political power, the young Shah was left with no other option but to give assent to the Parliament's vote. Shortly after coming to office, Mossadegh enforced the Oil Nationalization Act, which involved the expropriation of the AIOC's assets.

Responding to the latter, the British government announced it would not allow Mossadegh's government to export any oil produced in the formerly British-controlled factories. A blockade of British ships was sent to the Persian Gulf to prevent any attempts by Iran to ship any oil out of the country. An economic stalemate thus ensued, with Mossadegh's government refusing to allow any British involvement in Iran's oil industry, and Britain refusing to allow any oil to leave Iran.

[...]

Despite the economic hardships of his nationalization plan, Mossadegh remained popular, and in 1952 was approved by parliament for a second term. Sensing the difficulties of a worsening political and economic climate, he announced that he would request the Shah grant him emergency powers. Thus, during the royal approval of his new cabinet, Mossadegh asked the Shah to grant him full control of the military, and Ministry of War. The Shah refused, and Mossadegh announced his resignation.

Ahmed Qavam was appointed as Iran's new prime minister. On the day of his appointment, he announced his intention to resume negotiations with the British to end the oil dispute. This blatant reversal of Mossadegh's plans sparked a massive public outrage. Protestors of all stripes filled the streets, including communists and radical Muslims led by Ayatollah Kashani. Frightened by the unrest, the Shah quickly dismissed Qavam, and re-appointed Mossadegh, granting him the full control of the military he had previously requested.

Taking advantage of his atmosphere of popularity, Mossadegh convinced the parliament to grant him increased powers and appointed Ayatollah Kashani as house speaker. Kashani's radical Muslims, as well as the Tudeh Party, proved to be two of Mossadegh's key political allies, although both relationships were often strained.

[...]

Using his new power, Mossadegh turned on the high command of the armed forces, firing many that had been loyal to the Shah. Unwilling to accept this, the former officers began to conspire against Mossadegh, and they approached the British and Americans for aid in this venture.

[...]

In October of 1952, Mossadegh declared that Britain was "an enemy," and cut all diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom. In November and December 1952, British intelligence officials suggested to American intelligence that the prime minister should be ousted. The new US administration under Dwight Eisenhower and the British government under Winston Churchill agreed to work together toward Mossadegh's removal.

And indeed, a complex, and shakey, but ultimately effective, set of events co-ordinated to what extent they could by the CIA, eventually destabilized Mossadegh's government, after Mossadegh did his best to remove the Shah from power, and indeed had succeeded in forcing Pahlavi to first flee to Baghdad and then Rome, for a time.

Bottom line is that, a) although the final events that led to Mossadegh's removal were far more run by the CIA than the British, the British bear most of the credit for the prior level of foreign influence in Iran, not the U.S., and that Mossedgh wasn't "replaced by the Shah," since they never were in competition for the same office, although they were competing for power and control. As I said, a persnickity point, but apparently I felt like talking about it. :-) It's something I know a bit about.

Oh, incidentally, one of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi's titles was Aryamehr, "Light of the Aryans."

There's one you don't hear much these days.

"I think Gary Farber has posted about the North Korean-style cult of personality state he's constructing."

Most recently, here with far more insane details.

Saparmurat Atajevich Niyazov, Turkmenbashi the Great, President-For-Life of Turkmenistan, seems to actually beat Kim Jong Il on the Loony Scale by a considerable margin, actually, which is an amazing feat. Check it out, it's eye-popping stuff.

It's easy to say that we should have stayed more involved in Afghanistan, but basically, they weren't interested in what we were selling anyway. The sad truth wrt Pakistan is that it's about as good as it gets right now -- any more tilt in our direction, and our allies there are at even greater risk.

We won the Cold War, by the way.

We still don't know what comes after Saddam. We can be certain that it will be much friendlier to Iran than any regime since the 1960s. That could be good or bad depending on how the chips fall. Mubarak was on Charlie Rose a while back, and said he kept telling GWB et al. before the war that Saddam didn't make Iraq, but that Iraq made Saddam. OK, it's a tyrant's excuse, but unfortunately these things are largely true. I have begun to expect that 5 years from now, Iraqi democracy will be quite similar to Pakistani. (Of course, this all depends on how things fall out in Iran.)

As for Uzbekistan, of course it could be worse. I don't know how many people have actually been boiled, but a new regime could double it. Or become a state sponsor of AQ. Or start trying to develop nuclear weapons. The list is endless. That said, I would think that if we don't really need them we ought to quietly move our operations closer to the action (Afghanistan) and try to use leverage with Karimov to advance human rights there. Then again, there's a bit of great gaming that goes on -- Putin let us go into Uz because of 9/11, and I can imagine some folks not excited to give up a bit of ground we'd never get back.

kenB, you have found me out. I am embarrased to admit that I am not a full member in good standing of the VRWC (and I didn't get one of those cool hats, either). I am, in fact, one of those limp-wristed, milquetoast conservatives who occasionally disagrees with Bush.

ThirdGorchBro: Dang it. Sorry about that, not sure how it happened.

Regrettably, it is far too easy to post twice at ObWing. For some reason it frequently (well, more than once in a blue moon) happens that the web page crashes mid-post, leaving the poster thinking that they have failed to post. Usually what happens is a double-post. Once in a while, it's half a dozen.

The only sure solution I've found is to take a copy of the post, paste it into a notepad file, close down the browser window, re-open it, and check to see if your initial post has in fact appeared. If it has, discard notepad file: if it hasn't, paste it in again. Okay, it's not quite a sure solution, but it works for me most of the time.

Then again, I may be a little obsessive. ;-)

ThirdGorchBro: I only gaze on the right side of the spectrum from a considerable distance, but my impression is that it takes some courage to disagree with Bush from time to time, and face the wrath of PowerLine and (what seem to me to be) their many imitators. So I'm inclined to think that your self-description is contradictory, since consistent agreement with Bush is the path of least resistance, and thus the one I'd imagine milquetoasts would take.

But this might just be my biassed impression ;)

I, for one, welcome the new comment-hiccuping non-ideology-spouting Gorchist-fraternity overlord :)

I like the way he talks, and posts, and thinks out loud. Very balanced, judicious stuff so far.

And I don't know who's had a better debut, with the deadpan hilarity of a "first-time" poster posting three times.

I hope you'll stick around, 3GB.

Home from work now. Thank you all for the warm welcome! And since I never tire of talking about myself, I'll mention that I think I've only been to PowerLine once or twice, after the Blog of the Year thing. It wasn't really my cuppa joe. The conservative-type blogs I frequent tend to be the ones like Tacitus, Dan Drezner, John Cole, and Greg Djeri- Dzjere- Belgravia Dispatch.

CharleyCarp makes some good points, especially about the Great Game-style shenanigans that may be a major motive for Bush not to give up the Uzbek bases. I would point out that I think a Democratic administration would also have jumped at the chance to get in on the Central Asian action. It's just what governments do.

I'm not suggesting we should go to a Kissinger-style realpolitik and completely remove the ethical questions from our foreign policy. I am suggesting that a totally ethics-driven (or human rights-driven) foreign policy is just as likely to produce blowback as our current policy. There aren't any easy answers.

These are, as you have said, hard questions. Where I have to come down, though, is that in the all too frequent case where we really can't tell what the long term results are going to be, why not take the moral/ethical/human rights driven option? Obviously, when the situation is clear cut enough (as in allying with Stalin to defeat Hitler) we should do be willing to do wrong things to prevent worse outcomes.

On the other hand, where the question is something more like "Supporting this guy who boils people alive serves our interests in the immmediate term. Long-term, who can tell? Supporting him might lead to blowback, failing to support him might be worse -- we really don't know," I think there's an excellent case to be made for letting policy be driven by human rights. Mostly, we just don't know how the long-term will play out: as long as we're shooting in the dark, why not do the right thing where possible? There just isn't all that much evidence that even considering only our narrow national interests, that the results will be significantly worse for us.

"ThirdGorchBro: we do want conservative posters, and because of that fact, plus the fact that you wrote a good post, you can be a first-time poster three times ;)"

Posted by: hilzoy

hilzoy, I'm shocked! Will Obsidian Wings remain a work-friendly website, or will having posted there be used for blackmail in the future?

"There is a house, in New Orleans, they call Obsidian Wings...".

But we are actively involved in deciding who will rule after Saddam.

Heh. Don't tell the purple-fingered twits in the Senate and House that. They think the Iraqis are choosing all on their own.

Only the more foolish ones.

The rest know better.

LizardBreath asks, Mostly, we just don't know how the long-term will play out: as long as we're shooting in the dark, why not do the right thing where possible?

I don't know anyone who would disagree with that sentiment. The obvious answer is that governments usually do the thing that's most convenient in the short term.

It's not an easy position to be in, defending US support for an odious dictator like Karimov. :( I will say that as far as the Middle East in general goes, I believe that in the short run, we would be well-advised to ride out the current wave of Islamism, and oppose it where we can, before pressing hard for democracy. Otherwise we run the risk of the old "One man, one vote, one time" chestnut coming true.

In the long run, we ought to do everything in our power to assist the liberalizing elements in the ME. And (as I think I stated above) we ought to take every reasonable measure to end our dependence on Persian Gulf oil, so that we don't have any economic reasons to support Middle Eastern tyrants.

I know that doesn't do anything for the people Karimov is boiling alive right now, and I think it's important for people like me not to forget that.

Re Lizardbreath's point, I believe that this point was brought up at WoC, and that is while Carter's (and often Democratic emphasis) is on human rights, Reagan (and therefore Republican) were concerned with democratization. While I agree with Lizardbreath that a policy driven by human rights is the best, it is far too easy to, when the inevitable realpolitik concerns emerge, to cry hypocrisy. On the other hand, a policy centered around democratization that doesn't concern itself with human rights is relatively impervious to such claims, especially when any sort of American exceptionalism is invoked. At least that is how things seem to have played out so far.

I think an interesting example of this is the shah and the hostage crisis, which highlights the problems Carter, or anyone moving from a realpolitik to a human rights based policy faced. We certainly knew why the Shah was overthrown, and Carter (I think admirably) refused to prop up his regime. However, after the overthrow, with the Shah in exile, he requested treatment in the US, and Carter was persuaded by a number of people who were firmly based in the realpolitik school that to turn our back on a former ally would make our current allies who may be holding power despite a lack of committment to human rights wobbly, as it were.

Particularly intense were National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, banking magnate David Rockefeller, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and the esteemed elder statesman John J. McCloy, a coterie which Brzezinski labeled "influential friends of the shah." In their collective opinion, the admission of the shah, whenever it was to occur, was "a matter of both principle and tactics." Brzezinski personally "felt strongly that at stake were [America’s] traditional commitment to asylum and our loyalty to a friend. To compromise those principles would be to pay an extraordinarily high price not only in terms of self-esteem but also in our standing among our allies…." (emph mine)

link

To me, what is striking is that the argument of principle was drawn on by the supporters of realpolitik, but the inverse (for those against accepting the Shah) where one invoked realipolitik principles is a much more difficult row to hoe.

To draw a connection to Karimov, if karma does exist, the US will have to pay a price for supporting him. Perhaps we can keep a lid on it, but we might have to pay that price with interest due. This is not to suggest that it is easy to reverse course (which is what a policy based on human rights would be), but just to note that we may be underestimating the costs.

ThirdGorchBro, are you really sure you're a conservative? I'm one of the self-identified liberals around these parts and like kenB I find myself agreeing with you so far.

Welcome, and I think you'll find there are a few more Buffy fans around here as well.

"...Reagan (and therefore Republican) were concerned with democratization..."

I would argue that Reagan's instincts were towards placing anti-Communism considerably before democratization, and only moved towards the latter when the former was in the neighborhood when pushed both by his advisors and events, and not always then. I would suggest that his reluctance to let go of Ferdinand Marcos until strongy pushed, and his Latin American policy in general, as well as his Afghan policy, support this view.

Another thing that's interesting about Iran and the hostage crisis is to reflect on just how strongly American public opinion toward Iran is still affected by their mistreatment of a relative handful of our embassy personnel 25 years ago, and then think for a moment about how many U.S. government actions have had far greater impacts on other countries. Which leads me to basically agree with LB: we can seldom predict how our actions are going to play out over anything beyond the very short term (and sometimes not even that), and we know that bad acts will be remembered far longer than good ones, so the prudent course will very often be to act ethically even if it appears that not doing so would be less trouble in the short run.

Related point, or question: it currently seems like the U.S. government pays almost no attention to most countries most of the time and scrambles to re-invent the wheel each time a previously forgotten country comes to its attention for some reason. In the interim, U.S. policy, to the extent there is any, is driven by commercial interests and maybe sometimes ideologues with axes to grind. It seems like it wouldn't be that difficult for the U.S. government to have groups of people who were assigned to keep up with what's going on in each country of the world, who would maintain some kind of continuity, try to ensure that U.S. policy was based on the interests of the United States as opposed to a few U.S. corporations, and be ready to step up when and if that country became more central to U.S. policy. We could call the organization of such people, I dunno, maybe the "State Department." But it doesn't seem to happen that way. How come?

Reagan's instincts were towards placing anti-Communism
I think Reagan's legacy is rather difficult to disambiguate anti-Communism and democratization (not least of all in his mind) In fact, his ability to shift the focus of anti-communism from a realpolitik struggle to a notion of allowing democratic governments to flower (remember the contras as the equivalent of the Founding Fathers?) probably accounts for his electoral success. Or possibly fuse the two.

his reluctance to let go of Ferdinand Marcos until strongy pushed

I think this presents a perfect illustration of how this all works, in that Wolfowitz was one of the prime movers in arguing for a withdrawal of support of Marcos.

In short, it's much more palatable to have a plate of realpolitik garnished with human rights as opposed to a heaping serving of human rights that is suffused with realpolitik. Which I find disappointing, but perhaps unavoidable.

It seems like it wouldn't be that difficult for the U.S. government to have groups of people who were assigned to keep up with what's going on in each country of the world, who would maintain some kind of continuity, try to ensure that U.S. policy was based on the interests of the United States as opposed to a few U.S. corporations, and be ready to step up when and if that country became more central to U.S. policy. We could call the organization of such people, I dunno, maybe the "State Department." But it doesn't seem to happen that way. How come?

Heh, we used to have two organizations with that job. The other was called a "Central Intelligence Agency," whatever that is. A couple of screw-ups and a few lost political fights later, and Porter Goss doesn't even have a seat on the NSC any more.

DaveL, you and lj raise some interesting points, and I hope this thread sees some more discussion tomorrow. But right now I have to go grab some food, then watch Michael Chiklis hand out a beating or two, then go to bed. I'll check back here tomorrow.

Related point, or question: it currently seems like the U.S. government pays almost no attention to most countries most of the time and scrambles to re-invent the wheel each time a previously forgotten country comes to its attention for some reason.

Well, there is a professional corps of diplomats working for the State Department. John Brady Kiesling springs to mind. He's the one who resigned and published his letter of resignation prior to the invasion of Iraq.

Of course, whether the advice from those people is correct, and whether the political leadership listens to it, is always questionable.

lj, thanks for the link. I remembered Henry Kissinger as pushing to allow the Shah in but not that Brzezinski did too, although I guess it's no surprise in retrospect.

I believe that stressing human rights is in the long run the right policy, but I'd love to be able to point to more foreign policy successes rather than just the failures we've had when we ignore human rights. It would better support the argument.

The factors determining whether, when and how to support "liberalization" versus "democratization" have changed considerably since the Cold War ended. Cold War politics were basically an international protection racket, with the US and USSR shoring up allies and undermining non-allies, regardless of their human rights records. Carter was unusual in giving human rights records a high priority before it was fashionable, in realpolitik circles, to do so.

All of Bush's foreign policy advisors are not only Cold Warriors; they're Cold Warriors who can't conceive of any other framework than bipolarity. Rice made her reputation as a Soviet scholar (and a dubious rep it was at that; she consistently came under fire for faulty research and analysis) and at the start of the Bush Admin she turned a lot of heads, not in a good way, by talking as if Russia and China were still the Big Bads. She told Clarke that international terrorism wasn't a priority because it wasn't state-driven; that's a Cold War attitude. This is important, because Rice was and still is Bush's foreign policy mentor.

The "WoT" has given the Bush Admin a rationale for another Cold War/bipolar model, this time against "Islamic terrorism." And it's already perfectly clear that - just like the Cold War against the Soviets - human rights will take a back seat to political expediency. Once again, we'll fuzzy up to crazy, brutal dictators - as long as they're useful in the short term.

Which means, once again, there's little care or attention for how that works out in the long run. We're in for more cycles of propping up dictators against their own people, then once again being in the awkward position of opposing the reformists and liberationists who defy those dictators, which means - like in Asia and Latin America - the reformers and liberationists will look for other sponsors, and the sponsors they find won't be people who wish us well. And we're bound to make more of the same mistakes we made in Afghanistan during the '80s: funding and equipping guerilla groups who turn out to be worse than the regimes we aimed them at. We're in for more blowback, in other words.

I think the "WoT," as the Bush Admin defines and fights it, is a huge mistake. It imposes a bipolar model on what is not a bipolar issue. It concentrates on symptoms, not causes. Terrorist leaders like OBL may be nihilist nutcases, but most people - most Muslims - are not: terrorists are made, not born. Bush's policy of military action, alliances of convenience, and ignorance/scorn for the cultures he says he wants to "liberate" will not do anything to defuse the wellsprings of rage and despair that make people into terrorists; will, in fact, only exacerbate them.

Bush, and many conservatives, mock the idea of treating international terrorism as a criminal enterprise. They'd rather see it as a mighty clash of civilizations, theologies, ideologies. But that grants terrorism an importance terrorists want it to have; it romanticizes terrorism; it creates the very bipolarity that we should be trying to avoid. We really would be better off treating terrorism as a criminal enterprise, not elevating it as the sin qua none of "Anti-Americanism." Because, when Americanism means we'll keep dictators in power against the wishes and aspirations of the populations they're oppressing, Anti-Americanism looks pretty good to those oppressed people. Just as it did during the Cold War.

CaseyL, that is a really, really, really good post.

From ral's previous post:

I believe that stressing human rights is in the long run the right policy, but I'd love to be able to point to more foreign policy successes rather than just the failures we've had when we ignore human rights. It would better support the argument.

It might be a good start just to be on record that the United States is supportive of human rights, that we expect that other countries' governments will change from time to time just as ours does, and that while we may deal with less than completely savory governments, we will not attempt to prop them up against their domestic opposition. I think there's lots of room for argument about when it's appropriate to actively intervene in another country's domestic politics in support of democracy and human rights--the law of unintended consequences sometimes rears its ugly head with well-intentioned interventions as well as ill-intentioned interventions--but at least we ought not be actively supporting odious regimes against their domestic opposition in any but the most extreme circumstances.

"...at least we ought not be actively supporting odious regimes against their domestic opposition in any but the most extreme circumstances."

Or to go back to the original point here, not preventing simple inquiries into human rights violations. Even if it turns out that the true villain s behind the U.S.'s objecting to the inquiry while European members of NATO push for it somehow turns out to be Europeans, and, of course, Kofi Anan.

CaseyL, I second that that was a good post.


People, come now, be reasonable.

The expression was "freedom is on the march".

Nobody ever said it wasn't goose-stepping!

That was a very good post, CaseyL, and I'd like to respond to it without really disagreeing (milquetoast, I tells ya, I'm nothing but a milquetoast).

Although the American people are not necessarily isolationist by nature, they are impatient and mostly focused on domestic concerns. When entering into any long-term global contest, I think it's important for the US government to provde a narrative that we can all agree on and rally around, to sustain us when things look dark. This narrative is necessarily simple and does not present a complete picture - "aggressor nations" did not highlight the differences between Germany, Italy and Japan, and it forced us to treat Stalin as "Uncle Joe." Similarly, opposing Communism did not distinguish between the USSR and China and East Germany. And yes, it is important that government leaders remember that the narrative is not the whole truth (our failure to reach an accomodation with Ho Chi Minh after WWII being one of the most tragic examples).

Anyway, my point is that since we are engaged in a long-term struggle against Islamic radicalism, it may be necessary to have a bipolar narrative. It's a fine line to walk to avoid demonizing Islam itself or the peoples of the Middle East, though, as CaseyL points out. As an aside, if a bipolar worldview gives NATO another reason to hang together, I'm all for it. I realize that's cold reasoning, but NATO has been the most successful alliance in history and has prevented the US and Western Europe from drifting apart. I'd like to see it continue.

Finally, as to treating terrorism like a criminal enterprise, I'd like to point out that we tried that in the 90s, and it didn't work. Not every terrorist problem should be resolved by military action, but it should be an option on the table. And I would suggest that the "triumph" OBL achieved on 9/11 is what romanticized him, not our response.

ThirdGorchBro: Finally, as to treating terrorism like a criminal enterprise, I'd like to point out that we tried that in the 90s, and it didn't work.

Hm. You wouldn't care to expand on that, would you?

That is, I disagree (I think) but I find it impossible to pick such a short and sweeping statement apart*. What anti-crime strategies were, in your view, attempted against some terrorists in the 1990s, and which of them didn't work?

*Therefore, I would like you to write me a longer and more detailed statement of your position which I may be able to better pick apart. Feel free to ignore my request. ;-)

It's early, and I have to post fast so I can leave for work, so I'll probably wind up eliding some of my points.

TGB, the problem with bipolarity is that it forces entire countries into two categories: those who are "with" us and those who are not.

The problem with treating a WoT as a primarily military struggle is that it takes that bipolar categorization and turns it into a military strategy, where "with us" means "anyone willing to give us soldiers, staging areas, airbases, and intel" - regardless of whether that allies' other policies are despotic and brutal; that is, policies that encourage terrorism and which undermine our claims to support liberalization and democratization.

Militarized bipolarity also regards those who are "not with us" (either countries who don't support our policies, or disaffected people in the ones that do) as impediments at best, foes at worst - regardless of their reasons, or their other virtues. In other words, the expedients of bipolar strategy wind up driving (and distorting) political policy.

There's more I want to say, but I'll have to say it later, 'coz I really have to get to work.

Jes, I live to serve. As background, my views on this particular issue have been very much influenced by Ghost Wars, and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it yet.

Basically, al Qaeda in the 90s developed into a new kind of terrorist organization - global, well-educated, and ready to take advantage of the soft points in Western society to get in close and do real damage. Most terrorist groups prior to this were focused on a particular region or nation, and most of them never contemplated an attack on American soil.

Thus the 90s saw a gradual increase in the number and intensity of attacks focused specifically against Americans, from the first WTC bombing in 93 to the Khobar Towers to the African embassy bombings to the USS Cole. We knew who was behind it, too, OBL issued his fatwas and was even interviewed by an American network (off the top of my head I can't remember which one and I'm too lazy to look it up).

Before I go any further, I should point out that I'm not placing any extra blame on Clinton. I think a Republican president probably would have done the same things Clinton did, and even if Clinton had tried to do more, Congress would not have let him. It was just the (pretentious word alert) zeitgeist of the 90s.

Having said that, the fact remains that we continued to treat this as a law enforcement and/or deterrence issue. It's true we lobbed a few cruise missiles at OBL, but we should have been seeking close ties with the Northern Alliance and utilizing them as covert operatives against OBL/al Qaeda. I do realize that an invasion of Afghanistan would have received no support from the American people or the world community prior to 9/11. But we still had a number of options that we didn't pursue, because we just didn't take it seriously enough. Whatever else he may be, OBL was never just a common criminal.

Oh, I completely forgot to address your question, "What anti-crime strategies were attempted?"

Mostly trying to get Pakistan's ISI to cooperate and attempting to negotiate with the Taliban. We indicted OBL after (I think) the African embassy bombings. Nobody seemed interested in handing him over.

I'm not sure why we have to conclude that we are in a long-term struggle against Islamic radicalism, if the struggle is conceptualized as a war. Terrorists exist for a reason. The best "cure" is to address the reasons for their existance. Can anyone think of a successful surpression of terrorism through military actions? The Irish fought the English for a thousand years. The ALgerians fought the French for decades ( I think). The Chuchens won't give up until they are all dead. I know we can get into a tangle of disagreement here over the definition of terrorist and the definition of military action, but, in general, hasn't military action against terrorism tended to create more terrorists to replace the ones killed? I ran into a great quote about this but now, of course, I can't remember the quote or the name of the quoted person. It was something to the effect that wars aren't won by the side that is willing to kill the most, but by the side that is willing to die the most. Military action against terrorism is a futile exercise in Whack-a-Mole.
There is something city-on-a-hillish about the idea of the US ending Islamic extremism by going to a literal (not figurative)war, especially when it is not at all clear who to fight or where. Many countries have suffered attacks as bad as or worse than 911 without responding with a military campaign against targets that aren't related to the attack except by cultural similarity. Chile lost three thousand civilians in a weekend, but they didn't respond by going to war against capitalists by invading Canada. I don't think the French responded to persistant Algerian terrorism by generalizing their outrage into a war on Libya or Tunisia.
Of course we want to protect ourselves, and, in the long run, work to reduce or even end Islamic terrorism. But it seems like self-aggrandizement to inflate what is a political and security matter into a military campaign.
by the way, the invasion of Afganistan dd make sense to me because Al Quaida was clearly there. I think we screwed up royally though, by not staying committed there, and by transfering our attention and resources to a war that is not related to fighting terrorism except in a sort of guilt by association way.

"Can anyone think of a successful surpression of terrorism through military actions?"

One might ask where precisely to draw the line between guerilla war and terrorism, but, sure, endless examples, of course, as one could find in any number of thousands of military histories or textbooks or studies. The Baader-Meinhof gang doesn't particularly bother anyone these days, the Malaya war, the Phillipine insurrection at the beginning of the 20th Century (quite horribly, over decades, to be sure, as is often the case in how long it takes to put down guerilla war when it can be done), the Castro's put-down of "counter-revolutionaries," Mao's elimination of KMT resistance, Lenin's and Stalin's successes against simply hundreds of different ethnic resistances, particularly the success against Baltic resistance, Algeria's suppression of Islamic resistance, British elimination of Scottish resistance, the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion, the success of the pro-treaty side in the Irish Civil War in 1923, the Basque ETA really aren't a signifcant threat any more, no one is really terribly worried about the Greek Marxist Revolutionary Organization any more, there's no significant fighting in El Salvador any more, nor in Nicaragua, the Romans put down endless revolts and guerilla wars (and lost a number), the knocking off (effectively) of Shining Path in Peru, the crushing of the Hukbalahaps, Tito's elimination of the Chetnik threat, the British elimination of the Mau-Mau threat, the end of the war against UNITA in Angola in 2002, the general elimination of significant KKK terrorism in America, as well as the minor examples of the SLA, Weathermen, the elimination of the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood in the 60's, the defeat of the Front de Libération du Québec, nobody seems greatly worried any more about the Boricua Popular Army, nor the National Front for the Liberation of Corsica, nor the Japanese Red Army, nor the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia, nor the Movimiento Peronista Montonero, nor the Red Brigades, and, really, the list is just endless, Lily. What was the last military history on the topic you read that gave you the idea that terrorism or irregular warfare has never been put down?

Now, if we want to talk about the costs of doing so, that's a whole different question.

I don't think some of the things you mentioned fall into the catagory of military force used to put down terrorism, but I knew definitions would be a problem. The Weathermen were terrorists, for example, but they were dealt with by the police. There is a fine line between terrorism and insurrection, perhaps based on point of view, or maybe it's a question of porportion, terrorists being smaller in number, while insurrection implies the possibility of enough support for a revolution. I think most of your examples, the ones I know something about anyway, are more in the nature of what I would call an insurrection. But, as I said, definitions are fuzzy.
I'm more famiiar with the history the Bristish Isles, Central America, and Estern Europe from about WWI on than other places and times.
And, you are right, the costs are are a whle other (important) issue.

1) Did you manage to rattle that list off from memory, Gary? If so, color me very impressed. If not, well, it's still an impressive list anyway.

2) This speaks more to the difficulty of drawing lines, but I'm not particularly convinced that many of the examples on that list exemplify what I took lily's claim to be. I have to run, but I think the crux is that many of those victories were either a) not of terrorist organizations (the Roman victories, for example, weren't against threats that would meet a meaningful [relativized] definition of "terrorism", for example) or b) not military victories (e.g. Baader-Meinhof, the KKK). I think you could make the somewhat weaker claim that many of those victories were won with non-negligible amounts of military support, but the way you've phrased the claim seems overbroad to me. YMMV.

Yes, well, whether terrorism or guerilla war, it's all much easier to put down if one is simply indifferent to whether it takes, say, wiping out half the population, or perhaps a slightly lesser effort. But this also doesn't support the view that terrorism or rebellion has never, ever, been been defeated with violence, or that use of violence simply creates more violence which cannot be defeated.

Mind, I would certainly never argue that the only viable approach to fighting terrorism or rebellion is a violent one, or that approaches that consist solely of violence are a preferable means. I was just answering your question (in a completely, as should be obvious, off-the-top-of-my-head and loose fashion) as to whether anyone can "think of a successful surpression of terrorism through military actions?" Yes, I can think of quite a few, and so can pretty much any book or monograph on the topic. I'd be harder put to think of a comparable number of examples of successful suppresion of terrorism that involved no military action whatsoever, although there are arguably a few (it's vastly easier to find those where political means simply deserve primary credit, at least towards the end, rather then cases where there has been no military action or violent response, though).

"Did you manage to rattle that list off from memory, Gary?"

It would have been endlessly more coherent or ordered otherwise. I was simply free associating. However, I did check the spelling of three or four or so after I'd written them. "Hukbalahaps" is something I tend to need to double-check spelling on, if it's been a while, despite my having read a moderate amount on the topic, as is "Movimiento Peronista Montonero," and I'd never get accent marks right otherwise. Darned if I know why "Boricua Popular Army" has ever stuck in my head, other than that I've read a lot of lists and such.

"But this also doesn't support the view that terrorism or rebellion has never, ever, been been defeated with violence, or that use of violence simply creates more violence which cannot be defeated."

For what it's worth, I took the question from lily that you were responding to, "Can anyone think of a successful surpression of terrorism through military actions?", to be referring to the use of military action as contrasted to law enforcement action, not the use of violence as contrasted to non-violence. Law enforcement methods may sometimes include the use of violence, but they typically have a host of other differences from military action. Under most (not necessarily all) situations, I would find the law enforcement approach to be far superior in combatting terrorism.

I am reminded of the scene in Die Hard where the villian, Alan Rickman, is on the phone to police and at the end demands that some political prisoners be released. His number 2 looks at him quizzically and he covers the telephone mouthpiece and says by way of answer 'I read about them in Time'.

"Law enforcement methods may sometimes include the use of violence, but they typically have a host of other differences from military action."

They also can be very difficult to distinguish, particularly in countries that have national police forces and other ambiguous entities. Which category do the Carabiniere belong in?

Ah, Alan Rickman...

...chews the scenery very nicely as an over-the-top villain.

He was pretty wonderful in Truly, Madly, Deeply too. And Rasputin. And the unknown and otherwise lousy Close My Eyes. Not to mention the BBC adaptation of the Barchester Chronicles.

And he was the best thing in the otherwise pedestrian Robin Hood, and he absolutely shined as the easily-perturbed, sexless, tequila-swilling (yet unable to become drunk) Metatron in Dogma.

I Heart Alan Rickman.

Ah, yes, I quite liked Truly, Madly, Deeply. Haven't seen the others, I'm afraid. (The English Patient didn't do much for me, but I digress, and perhaps I wasn't in the right mood when I saw it; perhaps.)

Smiley's People was okay, as I vaguely recall. Michael Collins was adequate, but I don't recall him being compelling. I liked Dogma rather more, but generally as an ensemble. Galaxy Quest: mildly amusing, but I didn't take it to heart the way many seem to have. I liked Bob Roberts, but don't recall him in it. On the other hand, Quigly Down Under was relatively forgettable, but he slightly less so. I expect to get around to Love Actually sooner or later. I remind myself here, of course.

I don't think it's quite so much the means, as the ends which distinguish them. 3dGorch (who I didn't join in the chorus of greeting yesterday, and should have. Hi! Thoughtful comments, I like that.) made a point that I've seen made fairly often before, that the problem with pre-9/11 terrorism policy was that it dealt with terrorism as a law-enforcement problem.

In this context, I think the contrast being drawn is between the following two things. The first option, law enforcement, is defined as an effort to track down and stop individual malfactors or networks thereof, mostly through conventional policing, but I think including some military action. That is, I get the impression that people who consider law-enforcement an insufficient means of dealing with terrorism include Clinton's missile strikes on Al Quaeda training camps in Afghanistan in the law-enforcement approach, because they were tightly focused on a particular group of wrongdoers. For another example, while I don't have a real-world example to point at, I have the impression that a Tom Clancy-movie like Special Forces strike intended to arrest or kill bin Laden would also fall into the law-enforcement category. The second option is a little unclearer to me, but it's characterized by statements like 'being at war with Islamism': a belief that we have to take action against the societies that produce terrorists, and change them so that they don't produce terrorists anymore, probably through large-scale military action. That's one of the ideas that led people to support the war with Iraq -- the idea that we would conquer Iraq, turn it into a democracy, democracy would spread across the Middle East and there wouldn't be any Middle Eastern terrorism.

I may have been unfair in describing this dichotomy, because I generally either disagree with or don't understand well people who reject law enforcement as a sufficient approach to violently combating terrorism -- someone like 3dGorch who does so should straighten me out if I've got it wrong. I do think that people who take that position, though, mean by law-enforcement not simply conventional policing, but any action solely directed at pre-identified wrongdoers.

I liked Bob Roberts, but don't recall him in it.

Roberts' campaign manager/spokesman.

LizardBreath got it in one. You might not remember Rickman in Bob Roberts because he spoke with an American accent. If memory serves, at one point he was being questioned by the press about a scandal and said: "Excuse me. I've got to go pray." It was delightful.

"Law enforcement" also connotes action coordinated to identify co-conspirators, locate them, track them, turn them, infiltrate them, or otherwise "take them down" (to mean whatever is appropriate for the realization of security goals in the context of international terrorism). See the Sopranos, the work of Michael Mann. Movie glamour aside, it has always been my impression that what we are talking about when we lament "intelligence failures" is the lack of more of these type of "law enforcement" efforts.

Mostly it's probably just that I only saw Bob Roberts not long after it came out, and haven't had a particular opportunity to see it since (casual video rentals aren't in my budget, as a rule, alas, nor do I have cable), and thus don't recall many details, period. (On the other hand, I do have large stacks of videotapes, and a few DVDs, some of which I've not yet gotten to after months, since I'm more than a little compulsive about reading things online, and that severely gets in the way of a lot of movie/tv watching, despite my interest.)

Gary: Compulsive about reading things online? Vous? I would have guessed...

I would never have guessed, that read, except that I screwed up one bit of one of the italics tag. Who knew it would make the whole word disappear?

They also can be very difficult to distinguish, particularly in countries that have national police forces and other ambiguous entities. Which category do the Carabiniere belong in?

That's an interesting point. I think one of the main differences is that national police entities are not authorized to work outside their borders. Of course, if you have people screaming that the international organizations, such as the UN, are part of a vast conspiracy to remove our sovereignty, it automatically puts a dent in the ability of police agencies from dealing with terror. It is interesting to note that a good bit of information concerning the problems of Gitmo comes from FBI files, I think.

Speaking of terrorists and Alan Rickman, one needs to mention Michael Collins.

I've had the lightest of brushes with the Guardia Civil and the Police Nationale, and it convinced me to stay on the straight and narrow.

Ultimately, I guess what I'm trying to say is that prior to 9/11 we weren't taking the whole thing seriously enough, and we were deliberately leaving certain options off the table. Obviously cruise missile strikes would not be considered a conventional law enforcement technique. :)

In the post-9/11 world, we are able to pursue a number of more effective strategies against terrorism. Sometimes, this means getting our hands a little dirty, though. I do not excuse torture, but I do excuse a certain level of cooperation with unpleasant regimes, and I do excuse covert and even overt assassination strikes against known terrorists (like that guy we in Yemen we took out with a Predator a few years ago). These are all things that were not possible in the political climate of the 90s (and like I said before, I don't necessarily blame any one person - it was a failure of imagination at all levels of the US government).

We are in for a long, twilight struggle (to steal a phrase), and we should use all necessary measures to win. I agree with hilzoy, LizardBreath, etc. is that we must not lose our soul or compromise our integrity beyond repair. Where we disagree (perhaps only slightly) is where that line should be drawn.

And Alan Rickman rules.

"Obviously cruise missile strikes would not be considered a conventional law enforcement technique. :)"

Well, in my old neighborhood....

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