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May 03, 2006

Comments

So as I understand the Goldstein position there are three relevant levels of force:

The current level, which is inadequate,

A much more extreme level, including tactical nukes, carpet-bombing, etc., which would be wrong. (Thus he endorses the idea that there are moral limits to acceptable force)

A "just-right" level that would be successful but not cross moral boundaries.

This "just-right" level is known to Goldstein, who through some unknown means has become an expert in counter-insurgency tactics. While his refusal to endorse, say, tactical nukes, is grounded in sound principle, those who are dubious about the "just-rightness" of his preferred approach are motivated by silly PC notions of white man's guilt, etc.

Is that it? Is that really his point?

Bruce - I'd be interested in seeing those manuals when you get them scanned. And yeah, WWII (like all wars) did let loose some of our worst instincts, as well as our best. I've read some pretty terrifying things about the savagery of the fighting in the Pacific.

For that matter, the manuals for the Pacific theatre gloss over that a lot more, partly because, well, blending in would be harder for most downed pilots, but also as part of a higher overall level of really racist caricature.

I could probably find it in Wiki in 5 minutes or so, but I recall that the Japanese lynched or executed a fair number of downed bomber crewmen. The Germans did the same I think but not so many. Anyone got anything to correct these impressions?

"Particularly when the person that Mona was speculating about went through such a dance to avoid staking out any specific turf, and then did by staking out turf of collective guilt and the utter abolition of moral distinctions, and furthermore a kind of turf proven by half a century and more of history to not work."

This seems to be a recurrent theme in the charges against Slarti in this thread. It seems to me that the specific turf charged by Mona (nuclear anhiliation) was specifically not alluded to, which seems to be Slarti's point.

Third Gorch: Yeah, the history of the Pacific war is something that a lot more folks should know. It's so very relevant to some modern conflicts. Simply knowing that we've been up against people really serious about fighting to the death, and that we prevailed, matters.

Bruce,

IN respect to the not too leinent, not too violent level that you mention in your post, I don't think Goldstein is proclaming knowledge of that level, but simply suggests that it might be worth asking if our current level of engagement is at the "just right" now, or if the "just right" level might involve more violence than we currently use.

BRD

Bernard,

Why don't you go over to his site and ask him? I'm sure you'll be met with a measured and perfectly reasonable answer. Or you'll be swamped with childish insults and a mess of faux ironic and unfunny CAPITAL LETTER STRAWMAN ARGUMENTS.

Sebastian, a warning. Although, as noted above, I agree with you, you may not want to put yourself into the line of fire on this one.

Besides, also as noted above, Slarti could have defused the whole thing early on, and chose not to. (Not to put all the responsibility on Slarti.) The person who implied that Slarti, by not condemning Jeff was in effect approving of illegal and immoral tactics was definitely over the line.

See, I thought Mona covered that pretty well with this comment:

Yeah, emphasis on "not exactly clarifying what he is talking about." That's called wanting to make extreme and obscene statements without having to take responsibility for them: rejecting the strategic use of "smart" bombs in favor of more "thorough lethality," without having to be held responsible for the common options that constitute more "thorough lethality."

He rejects smart bombs as insufficient. He calls for more lethal means being employed and says we ought to be willing to accept greater civilian casualties and ugly pictures in the media. Well, just what does that mean? The ever-coy Jeff isn't saying, and if you raise the obvious methods of escalating to more thorough violence than rendered by the smart bombs he rejects, then you are oh-so-unfairly maligning Jeff.

The point being that if you make a broad claim and are unwilling to clarify, then your rejection of the logical conclusions of your claim seems a bit less sincere. A point I believe Mona addressed much more eloquently than I. In that case, I can see why she would include what she considers the natural extension, even while noting that there may be something else Goldstein has in mind that we can't know because he won't say.

An observation:

One thing to consider is that at Protein Wisdom there is a tendency to use the term “lethality” in something a bit more keeping with the way the term is used in the defense sector. Lethality through the entire sensor-shooter loop, let alone through the broader ROE, etc. factors, invovles a fairly specific set of concepts. When some folks run into the term, they get super reductionist and simply swap the term “lethality” for “murder”. I think this departure in understood meaning is what’s driving much of the hubub.

BRD

Anderson, yes, the level of Japanese violence against their POWs (and folks who weren't yet formally POWs but were seeking to be) was much higher than the German level. I think one can - and should - criticize the US legacy of racism with regard to the Japanese without ever losing sight of the fact that Imperial Japanese policy on war was really, really bad, unrestrained in evil in a way that the Nazis didn't match.

Imperial Japanese policy on war was really, really bad, unrestrained in evil in a way that the Nazis didn't match.

Except on the Eastern Front.

I'm a little disappointed that Jes or CharleyCarp or someone hasn't critiqued my war-mongering above. Although this thread is pretty much winding down, I guess.

Okay, i should have said "...that the Nazis didn't match against the Western allies". Good catch and correction.

TGB, I don't think you were war-mongering. Whether or not Jes or Charley did I can't address.

Basically you were talking about measured response based upon provocation.

Since you and Bruce brought up WWII, I am somewhat surprised that this thread has gone on as long as it has and no one has mentioned that the one thing Jeff did suggest, the razing of neighborhoods where insurgents may be operating out of, is not that different from the Germans lining up villagers in retaliation for resistance fighters acting against them.

That really worked well for them.

3rdGorchBro: I'm a little disappointed that Jes or CharleyCarp or someone hasn't critiqued my war-mongering above. Although this thread is pretty much winding down, I guess.

Indeed. I feel that we should shrug and move on: Slarti successfully Farbered the thread, let's acknowledge that, have a group hug, and move on.

"Yeah, emphasis on "not exactly clarifying what he is talking about." That's called wanting to make extreme and obscene statements without having to take responsibility for them: rejecting the strategic use of "smart" bombs in favor of more "thorough lethality," without having to be held responsible for the common options that constitute more "thorough lethality."

...[below this is socratic_me above was him quoting]

The point being that if you make a broad claim and are unwilling to clarify, then your rejection of the logical conclusions of your claim seems a bit less sincere. A point I believe Mona addressed much more eloquently than I. In that case, I can see why she would include what she considers the natural extension, even while noting that there may be something else Goldstein has in mind that we can't know because he won't say.

I'm not sure that he is 'unwilling to clarify'. That is rather different from 'did not clarify in the post'. And to the extent that he did clarify, he specifically took away the option (and option it surely is since we have the capability) of using nuclear weapons. Mona specifically alluded to nuclear weapons as if he had left that option open. He did not.

I fully agree with your idea that if you make a broad claim and refuse to clarify on the logical conclusions of your claim that you might seem insincere. See the exchange with Jesurgislac for instance here for instance with deliberate tap dancing around 'murder'. Interestingly the response here was not in line with the current chorus against Slarti.

Baggage. Let the liberals carry the baggage.

There is a job to do and no, not sloppy carpet bombing.

Time is pressing, or were you not aware of the drone flyovers from South Lebanon, marking Israeli targets.
www.MichaelTotten.com

Well that answers it then. Slart, Laura and I are the clear thinkers and absolutly correct.

Turning parts of Iran to glass, cutting out the cancer, so to speak, is the thing to do.

*Almondjeans* is busy marking targets in Israel with Hizbullah controlled drones from south Lebanon, so we should get to a decision promptly.

It saddens me to see decision cowerdice here, except for say the Big Bangin* Hunter. So cautious of a concrete commitment lest panties become moist due to fear of loss of *cool*.

Although, the glass option can come later. Only precision conventional would get the job done to start with.

A few days warning to the folks on the ground would keep them on side. Remember, they hate the Cleric mullusks as much as we do. Almondjeans hi-jacked the election, right? TG

Sure, Putin would offer some glow powder to Iran, but Putin would sell his mother*s dentures too.

Doing nothing is not an option. In the 14th century thinking mode, nothing equates to white flag with Islamofacists. TG

Baggage. Let the liberals carry the baggage.

There is a job to do and no, not sloppy carpet bombing.

Time is pressing, or were you not aware of the drone flyovers from South Lebanon, marking Israeli targets.
www.MichaelTotten.com

Well that answers it then. Slart, Laura and I are the clear thinkers and absolutly correct.

Turning parts of Iran to glass, cutting out the cancer, so to speak, is the thing to do.

*Almondjeans* is busy marking targets in Israel with Hizbullah controlled drones from south Lebanon, so we should get to a decision promptly.

It saddens me to see decision cowerdice here, except for say the Big Bangin* Hunter. So cautious of a concrete commitment lest panties become moist due to fear of loss of *cool*.

Although, the glass option can come later. Only precision conventional would get the job done to start with.

A few days warning to the folks on the ground would keep them on side. Remember, they hate the Cleric mullusks as much as we do. Almondjeans hi-jacked the election, right? TG

Sure, Putin would offer some glow powder to Iran, but Putin would sell his mother*s dentures too.

Doing nothing is not an option. In the 14th century thinking mode, nothing equates to white flag with Islamofacists. TG

Baggage. Let the liberals carry the baggage.

There is a job to do and no, not sloppy carpet bombing.

Time is pressing, or were you not aware of the drone flyovers from South Lebanon, marking Israeli targets.
www.MichaelTotten.com

Well that answers it then. Slart, Laura and I are the clear thinkers and absolutly correct.

Turning parts of Iran to glass, cutting out the cancer, so to speak, is the thing to do.

*Almondjeans* is busy marking targets in Israel with Hizbullah controlled drones from south Lebanon, so we should get to a decision promptly.

It saddens me to see decision cowerdice here, except for say the Big Bangin* Hunter. So cautious of a concrete commitment lest panties become moist due to fear of loss of *cool*.

Although, the glass option can come later. Only precision conventional would get the job done to start with.

A few days warning to the folks on the ground would keep them on side. Remember, they hate the Cleric mullusks as much as we do. Almondjeans hi-jacked the election, right? TG

Sure, Putin would offer some glow powder to Iran, but Putin would sell his mother*s dentures too.

Doing nothing is not an option. In the 14th century thinking mode, nothing equates to white flag with Islamofacists. TG

I don't think Goldstein is proclaming knowledge of that level, but simply suggests that it might be worth asking if our current level of engagement is at the "just right" now, or if the "just right" level might involve more violence than we currently use.

BRD,

I think you were responding to me, not Bruce.

Goldstein's post is somewhat opaque to me, I confess, but I think his position is a lot more aggressive than just "we need to evaluate." Whether he claims to know the right level or not is hard to figure out, but it is clear that he thinks the right level is more violence than at present but not an unlimited amount.

Sebastian, I read that whole thread. And while I agree that Jes was being evasive, I have a question for you.

If she had come right out and said that no, she was not accusing anyone of murder, would you have accepted that response?

Or would you have continued to argue the point with her?

I am really curious about that.

kids... the horse, she is dead.

TGB, I'm going to have to disappoint. I'm not seeing much in your 11:46 with which I disagree. I think Dresden was over the top, because I think by February 1945 war capacity and morale in places like that weren't in issue.

Actually, I'm going to do more than disappoint. I supported the bombing of Serbia in the 1990s, despite the complete lack of Serbian attack on the US. (Worse, I spent much of the mid-1990s arguing with my German brother-in-law that we were going to have to 'shoot some Serbs' to bring the situation in Bosnia under control -- he took what is sometimes called the Euroweenie position). Loss of innocent life is always regrettable, but sometimes these things happen. Serbia wasn't a war of anihilation, from our side, but then WWII very quickly went from total war to nearly a dead stop as each belligerent dropped out.

Sebastian,
It just came clear to me that there is a fundamental difference in how that "or" is being parsed by different parties here. I read it as a firmer separation that amounted to "this untenable position or whatever other position he holds, which I suspect would be equally untenable" where others read it as "this untenable position which he holds or whatever other delusional fantasy he might cook up". That makes a pretty huge difference in how overblown and out of touch we consider the hyperbole.

As for Goldstein, I think that you have to add "and was unwilling to positively clarify to any significant degree in his comments". When pressed he has denied things he doesn't like, but he hasn't offered much in the way of positive definitions, which makes his position less tenable.

For what it is worth, I agree with slart that hyperbole is generally unhelpful, which is why I chimed in at all. That and to welcome a visitor. Usually, I let the snark slide here until it gets too bad or causes a threadjack. While I wasn't really pleased with the hyperbole migrating here, I thought it was realtively mild and could be overlooked.

As best I can tell, there are two things that keep this place civil. One is a firm commitment to the posting rules. The other, which can't be enforced but should be encouraged, is a general willingness to allow some slippage and still stay non-aggressive. The latter didn't occur here, which is what lead to the thread-jack.

Well, dang, CC and john miller, I guess we'll just have to join in that group hug with Jes. I'll try to be more controversial next time. ;)

don't worry, TGB, I'm sure the opportunity will arise.

"Or would you have continued to argue the point with her?"

Knowing the basis of the argument, we could have then proceeded to talk about "accident", "manslaughter", "justifiable killing" or other similar topics. I was unwilling to fully engage those topics until I had a good sense of the parameters. I hate wasting time arguing for a day or two about (to use an example that is not as charged) the best ways to improve the US primary and secondary education systems only to find out at the end that I'm arguing with someone who doesn't believe there are any big problems in the US education system. I prefer to figure out what we are really talking about before wasting time talking about things that apparently aren't at issue. Furthermore I had been repeatedly burned by taking her words to obvious conclusions, so rather than do so I asked a question to ensure that I wasn't misreading. Evasion ensued.

In the case of Jeff, it seems that he specifically took off the table the idea of nuking Iraq. Mona argued as if he didn't do that. Now I'm not one to suggest that a simple denial completely absolves. If David Duke said "I'm not a racist", I would disagree. But in doing so, you have to marshall good evidence. When talking about tactics in war if someone says "I believe we need to use more brutal tactics than we currently use--but those tactics should still stop short of nuclear weapons or destroying cities outright." I don't see how you can easily translate that into "We ought to glass the place". First, "We ought to glass the place" is slang which tracks to nuking things. Second, nuking things is specifically a tactic he places out of bounds. So third, the person making such an argument either isn't paying attention (hey it happens) or just doesn't believe Jeff. If the second option, the person making the argument should offer some evidence that Jeff secretly wants to glass Iraq even though he specifically called that out as an unacceptable tactic. Or such a person could show that Jeff has previously advocated glassing as an acceptable tactic for fighting counter-insurgency. (I would probably use that tactic to fight David Duke if he claimed he were not racist.) Mona hasn't done either. In short, Jeff specifically drew the line at somewhere before nuking (a rather easy thing to do I would hope) and Mona doesn't seem to believe him. Slarti appears to want Mona to either retract or defend the accusation that Jeff thinks nuking is a good counter-insurgency tactic.

At this point, I'd be happy if just one other person that's a frequent commenter here could acknowledge what Sebastian has. I don't expect Mona to retract or acknowledge because she's still hooked into the whole carpet-bombing idea.

Thanks, Sebastian. You nailed it, and (best of all) without once accusing me of being an apologist for mass murderers or an advocate of the use of nuclear weapons.

"In the case of Jeff, it seems that he specifically took off the table the idea of nuking Iraq."

JFTR, where exactly? I've already spent more time on this than I would have wanted.

Slart, I'm already on record above disagreeing with some of Mona's argument as downplaying the significance of nukes. And others have as well, I think. (Don't make me reread the thread.)

Slarti, FWIW, from a comment of mine upthread: "However, slarti is correct that to directly state that(alluding to nuking) is what he (Jeff) meant, when he has not said so is somewhat presumptuous."

Don't know if you consider me a frequent commenter or not.

Mona argued as if [Goldstein] didn't [take nukes off the table].

She did? I must have missed that, and I thought I was reading the substantive posts pretty carefully.

Aside from the three inflammatory words on the left side of that "or" clause, where exactly did she argue in that way? Can you offer some quotes (two would be sufficient, though more would be preferable), Wherein Mona Makes an Argument Which Has As One of Its Premises (even an implicit premise) the Assertion That Goldstein Advocates the Use of Nukular Weapons?

Scratch that. Just one will be plenty.

Jeff's post consist largely of quoting Steele and registering approval. The part that takes using nukes off the table is:

"For one thing, it is now unimaginable that we would use anything approaching the full measure of our military power (the nuclear option aside) in the wars we fight. And this seems only reasonable given the relative weakness of our Third World enemies in Vietnam and in the Middle East. But the fact is that we lost in Vietnam, and today, despite our vast power, we are only slogging along—if admirably—in Iraq against a hit-and-run insurgency that cannot stop us even as we seem unable to stop it. Yet no one—including, very likely, the insurgents themselves—believes that America lacks the raw power to defeat this insurgency if it wants to. So clearly it is America that determines the scale of this war. It is America, in fact, that fights so as to make a little room for an insurgency."


Not that I don't appreciate it, john, but sometimes in the course of battling through a lot of unpleasantness, the ray of sunshine is missed. Maybe in another day or two I won't be quite so irked by some of what's been said here that I cannot see the rest.

Rilke, too: acknowledged, and thanks.

On the surface of the screen, I agree largely with what Sebastian said. However, I don't believe JG is arguing in good faith so have some sympathy for Mona's side of things, which put me into the awkward position of seeing Slart sticking up for a good faith interpretation of someone whom I don't think deserves it. Explaining why I don't think Goldstein deserves a good faith reading would require me to talk about his version of postmodernism, which makes me so angry I could spit and which I'm sure none of you could be interested in.

radish - if I say, "We need to reduce our gas consumption drastically", and you say, "What exactly should we do?", and I say, "I dunno", and you say, "Well, do you want to outlaw the use of cars or just SUVs or what?", haven't you gone overboard in a premise-like way?

Just to be clear, that doesn't mean that I will agree with you on anything else in the future, but I will defend your right to say it. :)

Slart, I'll have to disappoint you too: your comments, Mona's, and those responding one way or the other, treat topics that are among the subjects (who's being intellectually honest: not among public figures, but among bloggers and commenters) I try* not to follow closely enough to form an opinion. That is, I've been skipping them entirely, as soon as I figure out that a comment is about that. With the exception of yours of 1:59.

* I frequently fall short on this, and get embroiled. It's always a mistake.

JM: for some reason, I don't get the implicit conclusion of "JG is arguing in bad faith on this topic" as evidenced by "I disagree with JG on postmodernism". I encourage you to flay him as you will over on the IHCB site.

I'm going to say this once: If you cannot bother yourself to read JG's comments section of the post linked to by hilzoy, please don't bother yourself with commenting on it.

And now I'm completely done with this.

I don't see how I can be both a Bush Kultist and then be accused of thinking he is not KILLING ENOUGH BROWN PEOPLE.

All my post said was that certain contemporary philosophical assumptions have made us more circumspect and less likely to err on the side of the overwhelming force than on the side of political expediency - even in those situations where the payoff for political expediency is not as effective as the payoff for choosing overwhelming force.

And the problem with that is, in some situations, such timidity will end up costing more lives and prolonging the conflict -- which is something nobody should want.

In my moral calculus, that makes me less a wannabe Hitler than preening, unserious, public moralists like Mona (and now Hilzoy), who like to appear like they care about saving innocent lives, but who aren't willing even to consider that sometimes greater force in the short term actually saves lives in the long term. (And each situation differs, which is why I was careful to make any call for greater force conditional. I never called for a uniform use of greater force anywhere in my post, and in fact, I came out in support of the first Fallujah campaign, inasmuch as it allowed us to gauge just how ready Iraqi forces were to control and contain a bad situation, and have explained on a number of occasions to those who have wanted to fight a more uniformly aggressive campaign that there is a political balancing act that we simply must appreciate.)

To me, it is immoral, cowardly, and self-serving to shout down serious discussions about what our best strategy should be in Iraq and all other wars (my post was not about Iraq specifically). And it shows an unseriousness that people like Mona hope to obscure by lashing out at people like me, who think we should be behaving like adults who have an interest in the preservation of our country and our way of life, not like self-righteous windbags who only care about, well, looking like they care.

I have disabused her of the "turning Iraq into glass" thing a hundred times; and carpet-bombing, which you all borrow from Glenn Greenwald, is obsolete. Hell, we don't even have the equipment to carpet bomb -- not that we would, because it is inefficient and costly.

But to turn of the smart bombs does not mean we must necessarily turn on "dumb bombs" -- though they can be effective from a psychological perspective. Instead, it means that, instead of trying to drop a bomb down a chimney, we use close-quarter combat. It means that, rather than announcing that mosques are not to be touched, we announce, instead, that we reserve the right to raze any mosque from which our troops are engaged by enemy fire -- using, say, helicopter gunships.

After all, using mosques and civilians as cover is a war crime. And I know how you people hate those war crimes.

In short, you want to use my post as a strawman. Fine. Have at it.

But I'm sure that even among those reading here, there are those intellectually honest enough to understand my points without framing them in the ludicrous way Hilzoy and Mona and others have.

Of course, those people won't comment, for fear of being kicked out of the Care Bear Club.

But they are out there. I'm confident.

Sebastian,

If that's the best indication you have that Goldstein has taken nukes off the table, then I will have to disagree. He is bemoaning the fact that we do not use our full arsenal, and even the full arsenal less the nuclear component. However, it is not IMHO a clear statement that to him using nukes is anathema.

It wasn't a logical argument, Slart: just a placeholder to indicate my general and as-yet unsubstantiated position that he's a nihilistic nitwit. If I muster up a sustained wrath and this one wonderful article I want to quote from and seem to have misplaced, I may do so over at HoCB. Um, don't hold your breath.

My personal favorite is Tenderheart Bear.

SH quotes Goldstein:
"For one thing, it is now unimaginable that we would use anything approaching the full measure of our military power (the nuclear option aside) in the wars we fight. And this seems only reasonable given the relative weakness of our Third World enemies in Vietnam and in the Middle East. But [...] Yet [...]"

What does "the nuclear option aside" mean? Or "now unimaginable"? It's unimaginable that our political leaders would put my program into place, but I still advocate it. Aren't we considering using nuclear bunker busters on Iran's nuclear facilities? Does "full measure" include tac nukes?

If you had written your version of the above, I would know exactly what you think and why. When Goldstein writes the above murk, he either is blurring the issue or he ought to expect being asked for clarification.

To me, it is immoral, cowardly, and self-serving to shout down serious discussions about what our best strategy should be in Iraq and all other wars

it's also a little self-serving and silly to pretend that any discussion out here in the aether is relevant in any way to what will actually happen - it's not like Bush hangs out reading blogs for analysis and strategy. so, be as serious as you want, but don't pretend your "serious" discussions have any weight, in reality. it's pretense to think they do.

"cowardly" and "immoral" ? those are pretty big accusations to level, when the entire discussion carries the real-world weight of two guys at a bus stop griping about pro sports.

BTW, Jeff, I don't think anybody here has ever approved or condoned using civilians or mosques as cover.

And I don't want to start another long argument, but I think the argument with what you are saying is that razing a neighborhood or a mosque would make the situation far worse, rather than better, considering what our long term objective is.

Not to mention of questionable legal and moral value.

Sebastian was that quote from JG addressed to me? Because if so I'm at a loss to see how it supports your assertion. You said (paraphrased):

Mona argued as if [Goldstein] didn't [take nukes off the table].

Whereupon I requested an example of such an argument. Replying with an assertion that JG took nukes off the table is not only a non-sequitur but a distraction. There is no dispute about whether JG (ultimately) took nukes off the table.

What is in dispute is whether Mona misrepresented JG's having taken nukes off the table. I am still looking for an instance wherein she argued as though he had not done so.

I can see plenty of instances in which she argued as though the distinction between nukes and other (strictly hypothetical) forms of "more thorough lethality" was tangential and where she failed to address that distinction directly. But I cannot find any instance in which her argument relies on a misrepresentation of JG's position.

It's all well and good for you or Slart to claim that you (or Goldstein or Steele or whoever) are the aggrieved parties here, but if you are going to accuse Mona of underhanded argument I think it's only fair to expect either you or Slart to either

a) cite her own words as an example

b) withdraw your accusation

Thank you.

Jeff: any support for your claim that I am not "willing even to consider that sometimes greater force in the short term actually saves lives in the long term"? I would have thought that when I said "Both undue restraint and undue ruthlessness are serious mistakes in war", I was not just considering, but agreeing with, that very point.

Also, in what way is my framing of your views "ludicrous"?

Just asking.

rilkefan see above please. The scenario you describe does not seem (to me) to correspond what happened in this thread. Specifically, Mona's comment which corresponded "do you want to outlaw the use of cars or just SUVs or what?" was in no way used as a predicate for any other part of the argument. Mona's original position, was predicated on the JG having said something along the lines of "we must outlaw some things in order to save gas."

Jeff your "send more gunships" solution is fascinating, but I hope you'll forgive me if I express some septicism that you have any idea what will happen if "more thorough lethality" translates to razing mosques/schools/hospitals which have been involved in street battles. (sayyyy, what happens if we use a mosque for cover, mr. outside-the-box armchair tactician?)

Your solution is pretty much asking me to believe that the US Army and Marine Corps need people like you to suggest "more munitions and looser ROE" because (like the terrorists who forgot that their phones might be tapped) it has not yet occurred to them. Either you are suggesting collective punishment (in which case you are asking troops to break the law) or you are not (in which case what are you offering exactly, besides a Demand That Something, Anything Be Done?).

There is a lot of hot air and attempts to be cute in this thread, with little or no product of debate. Sorry. Blunt but true.

Let*s hope for more up grading or widening of scope in the future. TG

There is a lot of hot air and attempts to be cute in this thread, with little or no product of debate. Sorry. Blunt but true.

Let*s hope for more up-grading or widening of scope in the future. TG

There is a lot of hot air and attempts to be cute in this thread, with little or no product of debate. Sorry. Blunt but true.

Let*s hope for more up-grading or widening of scope in the future. TG

OK, that's a good chorus TonyGuitar. now how do the verses go ?

Radish, it was not a response to you.

Her words are quite clear:

"By all that is freakin' holy, how do you do that by turning vast parts of their nation into glass parking lots or whatever versions of "thorough lethality" Jeff has in mind?"

I'm not even slightly convinced that legitimate hypersemantic readings of that can turn it into "By all that is feakin' holy, how do you do that by turning vast parts of their nation into glass parking lots by which I mean that I don't understand what Jeff means by "thorough lethality" and I am not implying that glass parking lots have anything to do with it."

Basically to get your reading of the 'or' you must interpret it to mean rhetorically that "all words before this word contribute absolutely nothing to my argument, please ignore them, they are there for ornamental effect only". I don't buy that. Your mileage may vary.

In the comment thread at Jeff's, Mona writes: "But then, cinder block is fine by you?" The question mark functioning precisely like my question to Jesurgislac "Are you alleging murder?". In the question and in the context of the discussion I am stating that she is alleging murder subject to direct negation by the her. The accusation is that she thought it was murder. Mona's accusation is that glassing is ok, or turning Iraq into a cinder block is ok. The difference in the two cases is that Jeff said that wasn't included while Jesurgislac pointedly refused. Furthermore both Jeff's original post and further clarifications suggests that glassing wasn't an option while Jesurgislac's original comments suggested that she thought it was murder.

The quote here clearly implicates glassing as an accusation. The quote there reinforces that view.

radish, likely SH was responding to my request for a pointer to where Jeff G had taken (tac) nukes off the table, because I was sort of disputing it based on what had been presented here. Note that SH points to the post itself, which if correct makes the whole controversy silly, though not if the section in question is murk.

Re my gasoline example, it's not worth pursuing - maybe in another context.

Re this, it turns out I can.

Lord, people, this has to be the dumbest argument at Obi Wi I have ever witnessed. I tried to change the subject to something that was somewhat relevant and actually mattered and was never so proud of an attempted threadjack in all my life.

Anyway, if one didn't want to discuss how many civilians we're actually killing in Iraq (as opposed to parsing Slarti's accusations about Mona's alleged misrepresentations of Jeff G's bloodthirsty desires), then we could have discussed the question Jeff G raised --just how ruthless should we be? (My answer--not at all, not in Iraq anyway. And I'm not crazy about TGB and Charley's position on strategic bombing in WWII either. But this thread is a wasteland, so no use trying to talk about it here.)

I'll return the favor of your response on my site, Hilzoy:

You wrote:

Jeff: any support for your claim that I am not “willing even to consider that sometimes greater force in the short term actually saves lives in the long term”? I would have thought that when I said “Both undue restraint and undue ruthlessness are serious mistakes in war”, I was not just considering, but agreeing with, that very point.”
Excuse me, Hilzoy, but what do you mean by the "undue" in either "undue ruthlessness" or "undue restraint"? Your commenters seem to think that MY consideration -- which would include both undue contstraint and undue ruthlessness -- marked me as a Hitler wannabe who wishes to turn Iraq into glass.

You seemed to stroke their assumptions by using me as one the wingnut whipping boys engaging in such bloodthirsty fantasies, even though you, a trained professional, must certainly be aware I argued no such thing.

Therefore, because you seem to be setting yourself up at odds with my argument -- and I know what my argument says, why shouldn't I think that you've given the question no real consideration. Cursory and perfunctory, perhaps. After all, you must keep up appearances of being an open-minded champion of intellectual exchange. But your post belies your subsequent claim to have engaged in any kind of good faith argument.

Besides. "Undue"? Sounds kind of "airy" and evasive to me -- and avoids the real specifics that Mona and others long for. Tell me: how blood thirsty are you willing to get should it save lives? Give a list of specifics.

Otherwise I'll be forced to conclude from what you are now saying is your agreement with me that you, too, are all for carpet bombing and nuking brown children.

To me, it is immoral, cowardly, and self-serving to shout down serious discussions about what our best strategy should be in Iraq and all other wars (my post was not about Iraq specifically).

But that is exactly what Steele tries to do, and what you endorse. The whole point of Steele's article is to claim that there are nefarious influences that cause Bush to hold back unreasonably. It is not an argument that, as you put it, "timidity will end up costing more lives and prolonging the conflict ." That he takes as given. His article is an attempt to cast blame for that "timidity." In other words, he doesn't discuss strategy, as you would have it. He is simply trying to shift the responsibility for failure away from the people in charge of the project.

Jeff G said:

I don't see how I can be both a Bush Kultist and then be accused of thinking he is not KILLING ENOUGH BROWN PEOPLE.
....
Of course, those people won't comment, for fear of being kicked out of the Care Bear Club.

Hmmm... Looks like my comment upthread was most prescient.

heet,
most impressive :)

After all, using mosques and civilians as cover is a war crime. And I know how you people hate those war crimes.

Yes--including the ones you explicitly advocated. We'll get to that.

To me, it is immoral, cowardly, and self-serving to shout down serious discussions about what our best strategy should be in Iraq and all other wars (my post was not about Iraq specifically).

Let me know when you start up a serious discussion, then. From where I sit, you seem to be pounding the table really hard in favor of... what? You were asked, repeatedly, and danced around the issue as if you were afraid to give a real answer--and once you actually gave a real answer, it's easy to see why, because the kind of collective punishment you advocate is not only the kind of monstrous evil we went to war to exterminate in WWII, but is in every possible way an unproductive tactic for winning a conflict which is as much political and cultural as it is military. And now again you've backed away from that monstrous suggestion as if ashamed of writing it--as well you should be.

The main problem with what you've written on this subject, Jeff, is that you make the-way-things-ought-to-be declarations without any evidence that you've really thought through the logical consequences of your punditry. You say things like this--

All my post said was that certain contemporary philosophical assumptions have made us more circumspect and less likely to err on the side of the overwhelming force than on the side of political expediency - even in those situations where the payoff for political expediency is not as effective as the payoff for choosing overwhelming force.

--as if you think it /means/ anything. The words sounds prima facie eloquent and insightful, but they're empty chest-pounding without a smidgen of real thought on the subject, piggybacking on the "white guilt" thesis of someone who isn't half as clever as they think they are and attempting to use their laughable screed as a justification for your apparent desire for the good old days of pre-Geneva warfare. You don't stop to examine where this leads: what is an appropriate level of force to use? In what situations? At what point does our obligation to minimize collateral damage enter into the equation, and how much weight to we give it? What are the effects of collateral damage on counterinsurgency operations, and how do we weigh the possible negative effects against the possible gains from intimidating the population? If we eschew 60 years of viewing collective punishment of civilian populations as an unqualified war crime and, to use your example, raze a neighborhood to "send[...] a message to others who think it perfectly safe to allow insurgents to operate in their neighborhood", what effect do you imagine that might have on the political processes in Iraq and the attitudes of the Iraqi people towards us? (Hint: the Germans, not much noted at the time for suffering from white guilt, didn't have much luck with this one.)

When you say something like the above and refuse to clarify what level of violence you think is actually appropriate, you're not engaging in serious discourse, you're throwing chum in the water to see how many sharks you can attract. You will forgive some of us for reducing your position to "kill more people", when that's essentially all that you're saying after you strip it of prettified words and look for anything resembling substance.

And if your idea of a case in point is leveling a neighborhood to teach everyone who lives there a lesson, then you ought not to be let anywhere near a position of power. Your voice /ought/ to be shouted down--which is not to say that you don't have a right to say it, only that you should be condemned and shunned by moral, thinking people the same way that someone who mounts a cardboard box in Times Square to advocate nuking Mecca should be shunned. People who write the things that you do don't merit consideration as part of any serious or civil discussion on the matter, Jeff. The appropriate response to the kind of things you advocate is a mixture of revulsion and contempt.

If you don't like that, then I suggest you spend a great deal of time thinking through the logical conclusions of the things you advocate, and in what company they place you.

... you, a trained professional, must certainly be aware I argued no such thing.

well, now that you're here, Jeff, you can tell us exactly what you mean.

i'm fascinated to hear how it is that you know better than the professionals how to calibrate the use of force in an insurgency.

i'm also fascinated by the idea that causing more death and destruction will cow the insurgents and encourage the neutrals to come onto our side. Jeff, you must have a commanding knowledge of the Iraqi psyche.

After all, you must keep up appearances of being an open-minded champion of intellectual exchange. But your post belies your subsequent claim to have engaged in any kind of good faith argument.

Most of her posts are framed this way. It's her style.

JeffG: Tell me: how blood thirsty are you willing to get should it save lives? Give a list of specifics.

What, you mean like, say, reinstalling Saddam as President? It would probably help if you made explicit what spectrum of benevolent massacres you had in mind. I mean, there are infinite ways to kill lots of people, and infinite rationalizations for how those horrors might save more lives in the long run, so some parameters might be in order.

Jeff, when Hilzoy is agreeing with you embrace it. I would like to agree with Jeff however that Hilzoy's formulation "Both undue restraint and undue ruthlessness are serious mistakes in war" really should have stoked the ire of someone here since it doesn't explicitly say that nuclear bombing would be undue ruthlessness.

Now I would like to be clear. I think Steele's explanation for WHY we don't use what I think is the appropriate level of force is not particularly good, I actually do agree with him (and disagree with Hilzoy) about whether or not we actually are using the appropriate level of ruthlessness. It would have been better for everyone except the insurgents if Bush had been willing to commit a large number of soldiers to the kind of close combat which is necessary to fight an enemy that isn't dependent on trains and factories for their ability to make war. It would have been better to not let Sadr retreat to mosques and try to start civil war two separate times. We shouldn't just shell a mosque being used by insurgents, but that doesn't mean we should leave it. Putting US soldiers into enemy-held mosques to root them out would be more dangerous in the very short run, but much better in the medium run. And that is what I think caused a problem--Bush wasn't willing to have a short-term but large spike in probable US casualties by taking to the buildings. He was hoping that techno-war could win. The problem with techno-war is that if the enemy hides in 'sacred' places the only think you can do is blow them up.

This seems appropriate

It is a matter of the relative importance of three questions.

what are we fighting for?

How are we fighting?

Are we going to win?

To many on the right the third question is the only one that matters.
To liberals the first one matters the most because a just cause is a prerequisite for fighting at all. Then the second question matters because the just cause can be ruined by bad methods. Winning is only important if the fight is one that must be fought.

There is a certain logic to Jeff's point of view if one doesn't care what the war is for or whether or not the methods contradict the purpose.

Of course, as a liberal, I think that people who care more about winning than the reason for fighting have a prolem with moral blindness. War isn't a football game.

Sebastian,

I don't understand your formulation of ruthlessness, given the examples you provide. It seems that you feel we should have had more troops on the ground and been willing to commit them to more dangerous encounters. I agree. I think, from what I have read of her posts, hilzoy does as well. I do not see how this would be more or less ruthless, at least towards Iraqis, which seems to be the only relevant snes given that the context of this entire discussion is the "white guilt" angle from Steele.

I think that entering mosques and killing people in them would be somewhat more ruthless than we actually were (in fact so far as I know the Rule of Engagement still haven't been changed). I think killing Sadr when he was rallying an insurgency would have been more ruthless. (And I know for a fact he isn't dead).

On a completely different note, I am going to take a moment to point out that when I see comments like this:

After all, you must keep up appearances of being an open-minded champion of intellectual exchange. But your post belies your subsequent claim to have engaged in any kind of good faith argument.

followed by this:

Most of her posts are framed this way. It's her style.

it makes me cringe. There are many people on the great big intarweb that don't think very hard about their posts and are intentionally rude to those who disagree with them. They clearly have no interest in actual discussion or debate. One of hilzoy's trademarks is her openness to debate and her evenhandedness in dealing with all commenters, even those who haven't really warranted such. To suggest that is all just a ploy, and to do so in a comment that is loaded with vitriol, is both ballsy and obnoxious.

I see that it fits in your definition. I am not clear on why. It seems more invasive, but not necessarily more ruthless. I did a quick check just to make sure that I wasn't too turned about in my usage and dictionary.com is giving me "without mercy or pity".

So I see how that fits with things like bombing entire neighborhoods to make a point about harbouring terrorists. I see how that applies to shelling a mosque. I do not see how that applies to invasive infantry actions into a mosque. I also do not see how that applies to putting down a rebellion, unless you mean that we should have been more ruthless in how we did so. In that case, I may agree, though again, I think "ruthless" is a poor word choice. It just seems to suggest a general callousness about destruction that seems unhelpful in this situation.

that makes me less a wannabe Hitler than preening, unserious, public moralists like Mona (and now Hilzoy), who like to appear like they care about saving innocent lives, but who aren't willing even to consider that sometimes greater force in the short term actually saves lives in the long term.

This is the hilzoy who's been complaining for three years now that we didn't send a sufficient number of troops to effectively combat the insurgency, right? Is that the hilzoy we're talking about here? I just want to be clear, because if it is, well . . .

a higher number of troops does not necessarily mean higher level of "lethality". a guy with a gun is pretty persuasive without having to actually use the gun.

that makes me less a wannabe Hitler than preening, unserious, public moralists like Mona (and now Hilzoy)

Jeff Goldstein: Serious.

sorry Phil. i misunderstood your comment.

Sebastian: If other people hadn't beaten me to it, I would have said that more troops does not equal more ruthless. I've been for more troops since the invasion (or rather: for more troops if we had to invade at all; for zero if that was an option), for any number of reasons. One obvious one is that it would have allowed us to do a lot of things that I think we needed to do (secure the borders, keep order after the regime fell, etc.)

But another is this: I read somewhere (can't recall where) that people who have studied counterinsurgency favor more troops precisely because they allow those troops to be less ruthless. The idea is that if troops are scarce, then they are always much more vulnerable, and have to act accordingly, and that this translates in practice into a lot more kicking down doors, shooting people who might or might not turn out to be enemies, etc. Whereas if you have more troops, those troops are likely to control things more fully in the background sort of way in which, say, an extremely competent police force keeps down crime; and this, combined with the fact that individual patrols are less likely to be isolated and frightened, makes troops need to do ruthless things a lot less often.

In any case, it made sense to me. And since I think that when you're fighting a counterinsurgency it should go without saying that it's a good thing not to alienate the population needlessly -- and good by just about any standard one could come up with -- I thought this was one more reason to have more troops.

About going into mosques: in general, I would make policy on a point like this almost entirely based on the answer to the question: will this or will it not hasten the day when the country being occupied can revert to normal, non-occupied life? If it would inflame people and push that day back, don't do it; if it would hasten it, do. As far as I know, this is how such decisions were reached.

What really bothered me about Steele's piece, besides its total falsity, and the idea that anyone could write that "we" haven't conducted the war with sufficient ruthlessness because "we" are overcome by white guilt without noticing that the 'we' in question is Donald Rumsfeld, the least likely candidate for the Gulity White Guy award in the entire known universe, was that there are altogether too many people out there who treat questions like 'are we being ruthless enough?' as though there was an obvious, all-purpose answer that could be deduced from their personal story-lines about the world, and his essay seemed to me to place him squarely in their camp.

As best I can tell, the left used to do this more than the right ("all wars are wrong", etc.), but this has been false since 9/11, when the left dropped the tattered remnants of its storyline (which had been decaying and losing their hold over us for ages, and specifically over Rwanda), while the right, which had felt like cheering on any military action undertaken by Clinton, acquired a new one. I hate it whichever side does it, since I think that wars are much too serious to be treated as fantasy playgrounds.

Hmm, fairness and restraint.

I started writing this yesterday and hesitated to post it. But this thread keeps going so...

fairness and reasoned discourse

Perhaps it's unfair (as discussed at length above) to lump someone calling for increased ferocity in Iraq into the same category as Joe Klein insisting that tactical nuclear weapons should be on the table in response to Iran. I think, though, that these two positions may have some common basis and it's worth considering.

Two major possible explanations occur to me for people who are willing, to take the extreme example, to contemplate use of nuclear weapons against Iran. One is a lack of understanding of the effects of even the smallest "tactical" nuclear device. The other is a careless disregard for the consequences.

There may be other explanations, so perhaps if I engage with someone who thinks using tactical nukes is a good idea I may come to understand that position as not rooted in one of my two explanations. Or perhaps that person's opinion is rooted in ignorance I can help to dispel.

Above, Morat20 disdains discourse with people who are insane or pathologically criminal. There are, of course, some such people (only a few, I believe, and I doubt I've met any here on ObWi). There may be a greater number of fools, but I think greater still is the number who are ignorant or asleep.

Even when dealing with a small child, just shouting "NO!" is not usually an effective strategy. Reasoning may have to be simplified to be understandable but abandoning it for the brute force of authority should only be done when absolutely necessary -- say in the path of an oncoming car.

Ferocity vs. restraint

Hilzoy aptly expresses my own view of restraint, both its absence from our policy toward Iraq as well as its value as a true measure of strength. Sure, undue restraint can be a mistake but the idea that that is our problem in Iraq doesn't pass the laugh test. The logic behind a call to send more troops was to suppress violence, to disarm militias, to provide security that has been sorely lacking. It was not restraint that constrained our behavior in Iraq. Rather it was lack of resources.

A benefit of having obvious, overwhelming force available is that you seldom have to use it. Terrorists, on the other hand, try to make up in ferocity what they lack in strength.

One more point on ferocity: there's something in human nature that can take pleasure in witnessing or inflicting pain and suffering. The existence of this aspect is one reason for an absolute prohibition of torture -- it's dangerous to give free rein to hate and fury. It's also partly why we don't allow injured parties to sit in judgment of those accused of inflicting the injuries.

I'm sorry to say that some things I have read (mostly not here on ObWi) convince me that lust for revenge is behind some calls for increased ferocity. This is wrong in so many ways, not least because it won't even achieve the goal of enhancing our security.

Just to try -- well, it's not going to threadjack, why even pretend? -- just to make as tangential a remark as the one I'm responding to, save that I'm actually responding to something said on this thread, I'd like to -- having for some stupid reason wasted part of my life by reading this entire thread -- thank Jesurgislac for her impressive display of honor and admirable morality by bringing my name into this thread as an insult, a thread in which I have had no part, on a blog in which I've said nothing in days, and little to say in recent weeks.

Absolutely gratuitious attacks on someone for no reason whatever, with no provocation whatever are certainly quite a display of one's chosen morals and ethics.

She owes me an apology. But I don't expect her to give me one.

On-topic, such as it is: Slart, I strongly suggest you re-examine your Proportionality Meter; I think it's badly out of adjustment, and needs a good whack. Your behavior here has been, I'm afraid, not one that does you credit. Sheer stubbornness and clinging to trivial points over anything else are not admirable traits, and I know thereof of what I speak.

And when you're deciding that Everyone Must Be Against You And Wrong, it's time to back up and reconsider.

Jeff Goldstein, you say "And it shows an unseriousness that people like Mona hope to obscure...."

This is mind-reading, and you lose 5 points for it.

On tactics, you say "But to turn of the smart bombs does not mean we must necessarily turn on 'dumb bombs' -- though they can be effective from a psychological perspective."

I suggest doing some reading on the differences between a counter-insurgency campaign, and a total war, and then come back and give us some cites on the effectiveness of the psychological effects of bombing in counter-insurgency. Apt to help win the hearts and minds of the people who form the sea necessary for insurgents to succeed, or not?

Jeff Goldstein: "Tell me: how blood thirsty are you willing to get should it save lives? Give a list of specifics."

My impression is that many people are first waiting for you to "give a list of specifics" as to what, exactly, you are calling for, other than razing mosques and neighborhoods. But perhaps you consider that specific enough. I'd again suggest that whole examination of "distinctions between counter-insurgency and total war" thing, and ask if it's possible that the reason the military -- and I do believe our President has many times proclaimed that he believes in "giving the generals what they ask for" (do I have that wrong?) -- has not engaged in your suggested tactics might be because in fighting a counter-insurgency, such tactics would be grossly counter-productive, rather than that somehow President Bush, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and the professional U.S. military, are -- somehow (could you explain the mechanism, please?) -- making strategic and tactical decisions based on "liberalism" and "white guilt."

Pentultimately, I'd like to commend to your attention the articles I link to in this post, and ask how it is you -- apparently -- feel that your knowledge of counter-insurgency, and the situation on the ground in Iraq, is apparently greater than Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, who if you are correct, must be doing things all wrong, that Kalev Sepp has it all wrong, that the training at Ft. Irwin is all wrong, and that we should instead simply engage in more ruthlessness.

Lastly, when Professor Steele says "...the fact that whites in America, and even elsewhere in the West, have achieved a truly remarkable moral transformation. One is forbidden to speak thus, but it is simply true" -- may I ask if you, or he, or anyone, has a cite to as to how Professor Steel is being punished for his Bravely Speaking this Forbidden Truth?

I ask this only because I frequently read on the blogs of many of your compatriots how foolish it is when "liberals" and "leftists" make claims about how their speech is being chilled and is endangered when they are, in fact, not being locked up and punished -- and indeed, there are plenty of foolish leftists who engage in absurd hyperbole in this and many matters -- but surely if criticisms of that sort of thing, and mockery of it, are spot-on, you wouldn't want to be hypocritical when someone you agree with engages in the same rhetoric, I'm sure?

There's a reason I quote on my sidebar: "Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Because, you know, in that is danger, Will! Danger!

(Incidentally, I linked to a case of someone criticizing the Administration actually being accused of sedition and punished for it, here; her crime? Writing a letter to a newspaper.)

Looking forward to your response.

Over at Winds Of Change, a post quotes Hirsi Ali making the point that you all failed to understand when Jeff and Shelby tried to explain:

"My criticism of the West, especially of liberals, is that they do take freedom for granted," Ms. Ali responded. She noted that Western Europeans born after World War II are unused to conflict. "They have lost the instinct to recognize that there can be such a thing as an enemy or a threat to freedom, and that's what I'm witnessing in Europe now," she stated. "[There is] a pacifist ideology that violence should never be used in any circumstances, and so we should talk and talk and talk. Even when your opponent tells you,"I don't want to talk to you, I want to destroy you," the reaction is, "Please, let's talk about the fact that you want to destroy me!""

So, do we need to shout down Hirsi Ali as well, because it's as if Person A (Hirsi Ali) were to say "I'd really like to see bodies stacked like cordwood and don't care if they're individually guilty or not, because I hate the whole damn area and death would make me feel better", right?

And now: it's time for me to leave. Hilzoy, I'll leave the keys to the blog under the mat. Thanks for giving me the opportunity, but it's now clear to me that I'm temperamentally not well suited to this sort of thing. I'd have left this in a post, but I removed myself from the author list before that occurred.

Likely I'll be back here, but not for a while, and not nearly as much.

-Slart

Well, she's got such a megaphone it'd be hard to shout her down if we wanted to. The more important difference is what she has to say - some of which I find quite unfortunate, but I don't see any calls for razing neighborhoods pour encourager les autres [as an example for the others] in your quote or elsewhere in what I've seen from her.

So, do we need to shout down Hirsi Ali as well, because it's as if Person A (Hirsi Ali) were to say "I'd really like to see bodies stacked like cordwood and don't care if they're individually guilty or not, because I hate the whole damn area and death would make me feel better", right?

Ummm... no?

I'm not really sure what more there is to say about that.

"Likely I'll be back here, but not for a while, and not nearly as much."

Dang.

Dang.

Double-dang.

Oh,and Gary, my comment was not directed at you, it was a general observation, that much of what is being discussed here was about Jeff in partcular, and trying to say he wants such and such number of deaths, rather than the "Will we defend ourselves, even if it means using violence" question that Hirsi posed.

Your comment was excellent, although I disagree with your notion that suppression of dissent comes mainly from the right. I might cite the suppression of the Muhammed cartoons etc, as a counterpoint but this is the bitter end of a long thread.

Triple dang.

Dang, dang, dang.

Dang.

DaveC: I suppose there are people like those Ms. Ali describes. If they had power, it'd be worth being concerned about them. But I don't see that any part of the decision-making classes is much infected by such views, and in particular no sign that any part of the Bush administration or its key sources of support are. So it's not that she's wrong so much as (in this particular quote) looking at something irrelevant, in much the way that flying saucer cults exist but are irrelevant to a discussion of trends in American Christian belief and practice.

Slarti: Best wishes in finding the mode of expression that does work for you, as your good stuff is really good. (Possibly a simple no-comments when-I-post-something weblog would do it.)

Best wishes Slart. Whenever you miss the nail and hit your thumb with the hammer, I know just think of ObWi, and think "Now that was aggravating, but at least I didn't have to soak my hand in ice afterwards."

Ah. Those Europeans, all so peace loving. Like the French, who wouldn't blow up a Greenpeace vessel in a friendly harbour. And the British, who weren't prepared to blow Argentinan conscripts up. And, who can forget the Germans. No, they weren't living on the front line of the apocalypse, with their country's unity a sacrifice to Cold War realpolitik.

Europeans have been prepared to fight wars since WWII. They have been, in the case of the Germans, willing to give up half their country to the `Evil Empire' for 40 years, just to win a war. Don't lecture them about needing to understand evil.

By the way, three of the last five French Presidents served in the military. De Gaulle fought in both the Great War and the Second World War; Mitterrand was a member of the Resistance; and Chirac, the current President, fought, and was wounded, in the Algerian War of Independence.

So, as far as I can see, it is a nonsense to say that Western Europeans don't understand evil, or war, for that matter.

Why does Steele have any legitimacy to say that I, as a member of the white West, suffer from `White guilt'? I don't have anything to feel guilty about, and therefore, I don't. Nor, for the record, do most Western nations. I mean, Monaco. What white guilt do they have? Or, say, Italy?

I don't know, but I have a suspicion that when he says the `west', he really means the Anglophone/Atlantic sphere.

Because that is the only way I can make his statements fit the data available.

Slart, I'd very much hate to see you go, and hope you'll think about it and come back soon.

DaveC, as usual these days, I have little idea how to reply to you. Since pretty much everyone here has described the various forms of force they favor, and stated places they think it should be used, such as in Afghanistan (a battle -- against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, no less! -- that last I looked you seemed to feel was unimportant, or done, or something, though perhaps I completely misunderstood you, so feel free to clarify that), well, what can I say? Are you saying that Hilzoy, myself, and everyone else are liars when we say we favor more troops in Afghanistan, and otherwise specify our desires for use of force against al Qaeda and other people who threaten the United States in various cases? Or what?

And I wouldn't "shout down" Hirsi Ali, let alone be capable of doing so, any more than your disagreeing with me is "shouting me down," but obviously what she says applies only to a very limited number of people. I've many times otherwise objected to Vast Generalizations about both "conservatives" and "liberals," and continue to fail to understand what the use of such vast accusations, when you're talking to is , you know, actual people, who have opinions which flatly contradict the generalizations.

Also, the Appeal To Authority is a classically bad argument in most cases. Particularly since, last I looked, Ms. Ali isn't an expert in contemporary liberalism.

Her argument has to stand or fall on its merits, and since it's clearly false about most liberals, there you are. Now, you can cling to your bogeymen of fringe "liberals" who hold no power in this country, or you can deal with the actual beliefs of the actual people you're conversing with. Your choice.

That's what I mean when I refer to your bringing up non-sequiturs, among other things. You swing at some sort of ghosts of your imagination, but you're talking to actual people, not bogeymen "liberals" who, you know, aren't here.

And Hirsi Ali says many things I agree with. So what? [waves hands helplessly, completely not understanding the point]

"Oh,and Gary, my comment was not directed at you, it was a general observation, that much of what is being discussed here was about Jeff in partcular, and trying to say he wants such and such number of deaths, rather than the "Will we defend ourselves, even if it means using violence" question that Hirsi posed."

Well, you know, I'm responsible for what I say, not what someone else says.

"I might cite the suppression of the Muhammed cartoons etc, as a counterpoint but this is the bitter end of a long thread."

Editorial decisions, I can assure you, DaveC, as a former editor, are not "suppression."

If a law were passed in the U.S. preventing the publication of the cartoons, that would be suppression. The fact that I, or anyone else, didn't choose to print them, is blatantly not "suppression." Sorry.

This is an old old old straw man and piece of illogic.

And I really do very much hope Slarti returns when he feels like doing so, which I hope is as soon as possible.

Slarti,

I am truly sorry you are choosing to leave, although I am less than surprised. We will miss you.

I hope Slarti comes back soon. As far as this thread goes, I have to say it's much more enjoyable to read you guys debating the issues than debating about other bloggers. I am far less interested in Ben Domenech, Jeff Goldstein, Juan Cole, etc., than I am in the price of tea in China.

Add me to the list of those who will miss Slarti.

Much as I may disagree with him frequently, he is always able to say things in a way that makes me think, rather than just react.

DaveC is another of those, as is Sebastian, and even, occassionaly CB.

Leonidas, not so much.

Gary, those were some excellent comments. And my response to DaveC is similar. I have not seen anyone on this site disavowing the use of violence to defend ourselves. Rather the distinction seems to be more what level of violence and when it is approrpiate to use it.

For example, I don't think going into Iraq was in any way, shape or form, a case of defending ourselves from either present or future threats.

Afghanistan was a different story, and perhaps a perfect example of undue restraint, or more probably, poor strategy.

Slarti, sad to see you go though not surprised.

I also don't think anyone is arguing that we should not defend ourselves now that we're in Iraq. IE, I'm not seeing anyone saying that our soldiers and Marines should be shooting back at people who shoot at them.

Count me strongly in the "sad to see slarti go" camp, and add to that a heavy dose of confusion. This debate got heated yes, but not particularly more so than many others I have seen here. The level of inanity got pretty high, but I don't understand the anger over it. I guess I will just have to assume it was a straw and camel thing and hope I wasn't one of the straws.

Come back, Slart! Even when things got testy it was still about a million times better here than anywhere else on the Internets. I mean, where else has left and right coexisted so successfully for so long?

Woah! Way late to the shindig. Slarti, hope you're back soon.

Jeff G: But to turn of the smart bombs does not mean we must necessarily turn on "dumb bombs" -- though they can be effective from a psychological perspective. Instead, it means that, instead of trying to drop a bomb down a chimney, we use close-quarter combat. It means that, rather than announcing that mosques are not to be touched, we announce, instead, that we reserve the right to raze any mosque from which our troops are engaged by enemy fire -- using, say, helicopter gunships.

Early in the war, British commanders were complaining of a US policy that was causing some difficulties. Iraqi insurgents would use mortars to lob explosives into US bases or positions. US radar would track the trajectory, and immediately return fire, usually destroying a family home or two and the innocent inhabitants, and not touching insurgents who had either triggered the mortar remotely, or who had fled knowing there would be a response.

The British commanders privately expressed disgust at this approach, and publicly requested a change in policy, indicating that the insurgents were using the US response as a tactic to erode support among the Iraqi populace.

I find commentary like Steele's to be a sign of desperation, which may be a good thing, in that many more minds are beginning to realize the futility of this adventure, and thrash a little while attempting to find a fix.

Commentary like Goldstein's reminds me more of the mindstate one gets into on re-reading Heinlein's Stormship Troopers. The giveaway is the mental gymnastics that provide a moral excuse of civilian casualties as punishment for "allowing" armed insurgents into their neighborhoods. One could imagine the insurgents excusing casualties in a similar way.

Well, the entire strategy of an insurgency is to provoke indiscriminate strikes from the ruling power against the civilian populace, thus gaining more support and recruits for the insurgency.

That's exactly why counter-insurgency strategy calls for not giving the insurgents that, which is they want.

It's why to fight a successful counter-insurgency, you have to convince the populace that you're on their side, and that the insurgency isn't, so as to get them to join with you, and not the other side. Again, see the articles I linked to here.

And here.

And here.

I could give endless numbers of other links, beyond stuff that I've linked to, of course. It's almost as if there's an entire literature on counter-insurgency, written over a century or so.

Basically, Jeff's goal here is -- entirely unwitting as he is, of course -- to do what al Qaeda in Iraq and the various other insurgents desire, so as to see us lose. Only someone with no familiarity with the history of insurgencies and with counter-insurgency strategy could possibly talk such nonsense.

That's setting aside the moral aspects of calling for us to be more like the SS.

If Jeff were actually going to bother to engage in dialogue on this, I'd also ask him if he imagine such tactics would work against us, in a hypothetical alternative universe where, say, the East and West Coasts were wiped out by tidal waves, and the U.S. is reduced to central and mountainous areas in disorganized confusion, and, say, the Chinese came and occupied us, and we were fighting a guerilla war (work with me here): if they started bombing us indiscriminately and slaughtered civilians with abandon, would this cow us, and incline us to surrender in shock and awe, and submit to superior force?

Or would it enrage us, and make endless numbers of us swear to kill as many occupying Chinese as it takes, and make us feel that our lives are worth dying for in this cause, after our mother, son, sister, cousin, dad, were ruthlessly wiped out by our neighborhood being razed?

And if Jeff agrees that we'd (many of us -- not everyone, of course) go for the second option, I'd ask him if he thinks Iraqis are any different, and if so, why?

But what Starship Troopers has to do with any of this, I dunno.

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