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December 28, 2006

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How was I not the first? Curse these fat fingers!

Let me be the first

Check the timestamps, bub. I got my comment in a full minute before you did! (Well, okay, maybe not a full minute. At least 2 or 3 seconds, though.)

I got my comment in a full minute before you did!

Yes, but I was the first to point out that I was not the first, which ought to at least qualify me for some lovely parting gifts.

Canadians are human?

Recent studies have confirmed this, yes.

I hear they're also humane.

the likely result of such a combination will not be hugs and puppydogs.

If the last, say, whole of human history has taught us anything, it's that hugs and puppydogs is an unlikely result, period.

The circumstance that you so charmingly refer to as "hugs and puppydogs" is transient, von. It's terribly fragile and rare. And in order to arise it requires a near-universal sociopolitical consensus about the legitimacy of the state. What is it about a proxy invasion of Somalia right now that makes it worth reducing the chances of a consensus later? Or do you feel that invading Somalia now makes the evolution of such a consensus more likely in the next generation or so rather than less?

And why do I feel like I'm listening to a four year old solemnly insisting that they need a pet wolf because the family beagle isn't fierce enough to keep burglars away? And then refusing to accept any other present, as though that would somehow resolve the matter.

BTW, I highly recommend this post from Non-Arab Arab, which is linked to by Edelstein. Pithy pull quotes in case you don't click through:

But the point is, this is receiving big coverage in the Middle East, most folks in the Arab world are convinced the west is out to get Muslims, and the actions of the US and Ethiopia mean this is yet another story that will play right into that belief regardless of any attempts by US-allied media in the region to say otherwise (i.e., actions still matter more than words).

and...

The actions of the US and its allies in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, etc. all are massive examples of which give credence to this ["clash of civilations"] worldview [which is favored by Al Qaeda]. US support for secular dictators throughout the Islamic world is another. Now it looks like Somalia will be added to the list (and once again, the US public will be sleeping as it happens and left ignorantly pondering "why do they hate us" the next time something nasty happens as a result).

Anybody remember the "hearts and minds" strategy?

Folks, the point is simple: the Bush doctrine creates conflict and war everywhere it goes that convinces people in the Muslim world that Americans are out to get them. That in turn fuels conflict (for you Americans: that means it makes you less safe, not more safe) and makes the world a worse place. Somalia is about to become the next totally unnecessary-but-tragic example of this.

Are you honestly suggesting that that means he's supporting the ICU?

Having gotten their butts kicked in the election, Republicans are apparently back to rejecting nuance. Still, I suppose we can excuse von his Manicheanism, what with being a lawyer and all.

On the other hand, it makes me kinda ill to see someone characterize cynical warmongering as "belonging to the reality-based community." Being reality-based means considering second- and third-order effects far beyond "OMFG TEH JIHADZ! STOP THEM!"

1m in ur Hrn f Africa, eatin ur national interests.

A few stray thoughts:

A. We don't have to wonder whether the new overlords of Mogadishu will bring puppies and hugs -- they were in charge not that long ago.

B. It appears that much of the success of the transitional government is the result of (a) Islamists melting away and (b) clan leaders withdrawing support. Hardly the stuff of which enduring victory is made.

C. I've followed Ethipoian politics kind of loosely for about 15 years. (Since I did a pro bono project helping draft some laws). It's a very complicated country, and no one, especially not the geniuses currently in charge of US foreign policy, should be trusted to play it cleverly. ( See, e.g., http://www.oromoliberationfront.org/News/2006/Reckless_Proxi_War.htm>this from the OLF site). The chances of this going wrong far outweigh any good that can come of support, unless that good is seized quickly.

D. To step back, the best thing for the worldwide jihad movement, such as it is, is conflict involving the West. The worst thing would be peace -- with Islamists having to bring home bacon. We're doing to movement a far bigger favor by being seen to have intervened -- even just by acquiescence -- even if some individual jihadis get killed. If indeed any do, rather than child warriors from some allied clans.

More from http://www.ogaden.com/olf02Dec06.htm>OLF. Obviously an interested party. I don't link because I agree with them, but only because it ought to be clear even to people like von that cartoon characterizations of who's right and who's wrong, and what policies make sense for the US, ought to be thought through a little more.

If von values American lives so much, why is he so eager to send them to their deaths in Iraq?

All that blood and soil libertarianism and anti-state (wink-wink) nationalism has certainly messed with his moral compass.

3GB,
It isn't simply the argument that US lives are worth more than non-American lives. It is that the process of using proxies that von seems to advocate is going to bite the US on the ass. Again. The smaller point of PR is inextricably linked with the larger point that we would be a lot safer if we didn't get involved in places where we don't have a clear mandate, especially in an age where a small cell of people can cause immense damage. Even the threat of action can serve to gum up the wheels of commerce in a way that impacts us all.

btw, nice to see you back.

I think all countries do value their own citizens' lives the highest, but our power to translate this universal human feeling into "facts on the ground" changes things, and gives us additional obligations...We're not playing a game of Scruples, pondering some hypothetical here about whether we'd save one of our kids or two dozen of the neighbors' in a fire.

To step back, the best thing for the worldwide jihad movement, such as it is, is conflict involving the West. The worst thing would be peace -- with Islamists having to bring home bacon.

Which is one reason why, even when in power, they have a tendency to seek conflict with the West.

I am not well-read on issues in the Horn of Africa, and I don't know if our present policy is the wisest course of action we could take. Although I am a conservative, like most of you I can no longer give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt and I generally tend to assume that whatever Bush does is likely to be the stupidest among whatever set of options he was given.

However, I doubt very much that the ICU would have been receptive to US diplomatic initiatives. Especially in the first flush of power, as they sought to prove their Islamist bona fides. We really don't have any good options.

And while I was writing this post, CNN confirmed that Saddam Hussein has been executed. Well, he earned it.

Did it have to be bacon?

We really don't have any good options

Why do we need an option at all?
Why are we involved on one side or other in the first place?

What is our interest in the Horn of Africa, and how is it served by backing Ethiopia?

Thanks -

Our interest is in preventing al'Qaeda from establishing another safe haven like pre-9/11 Afghanistan. The ICU's rhetoric has not been reassuring in that respect, to the best of my knowledge (once again, I will point out that I am no expert on the region and maybe Gary can rebut that).

Ever explained to a Canadian, von, that you don't value their lives the same as real people's lives? That when one of their soldiers dies in Afghanistan, well, you just downright don't really care as much as you do about a real American's death

Speaking from experience, most Americans - present company excluded - don't know there are Canadians in Afghanistan. Or even that Afghanistan is still going on.

If I recieved a dollar... no make that an euro... for every time they tell me that 'the europeans'(*) don't do enough, I had to pay even more taxes than I allready do. And we were in Iraq *and* are in Afghanistan.

(*)I forgive Americans for not counting the Brits as Europeans, since most Brits think Europe is another word for 'the continent' too.

Our interest is in preventing al'Qaeda from establishing another safe haven like pre-9/11 Afghanistan.

[cough]Pakistan[/cough]

I had to pay even more taxes than I allready do. And we were in Iraq *and* are in Afghanistan.

Posted by: dutchmarbel | December 30, 2006 at 05:43 PM

Are you kidding me!

The American elite got tax breaks for the whole "saving Western society" war.

Our interest is in preventing al'Qaeda from establishing another safe haven like pre-9/11 Afghanistan. The ICU's rhetoric has not been reassuring in that respect, to the best of my knowledge

3GB, thanks for this reply.

I'd say the goal of preventing pre-9/11 Afghanistan style safe havens for Al Qaeda is one we can all support.

In all of the citations offered by von, trevino, or anyone else I've read, I have yet to read a single statement by a member of ICU offering support or safe haven for Al Qaeda. Nor for any other terrorist individual or organization, for that matter.

In all of that material, I've read nothing from the ICU that calls for jihad against anyone but Ethiopia or the nominal government of Somalia. The most expansive ambition of the ICU appears to be to unite predominantly Somali areas of the Horn under their governance.

I've not read a thing from any member of the ICU calling for attacks against the US or other Western nations. The only mention of the US or the West that I've seen coming from them, at all, is a call for us to not support Ethiopia.

I don't see any particularly good guys in this fight. I see a long-standing regional conflict between rival groups divided by national, ethnic, and religious loyalties boiling over into yet another nasty regional war.

We have, apparently, decided to make the ICU our enemy here, and Ethiopia our friend. I don't see any strong reason to do either. I can think of many, many, many reasons to *not* do either. Reason one would be that on every occasion that we've taken sides in similar conflicts in the past, we have, sooner or later, ended up holding an unwelcome tiger by the tail.

It seems, frankly, foolish to me. The arguments for choosing to make an enemy of the ICU seem weak and shallow, based on conjecture about things that may or may not happen someday, and for no better reason that I can see than that the ICU seek to establish a government based on a conservative reading of sharia, and the others do not.

If we want to radicalize the ICU into supporting violent, organized anti-western and anti-American jihadi militants, I can think of *no better thing to do* than to support Ethiopia in this conflict.

I'm not afraid of the ICU, I feel no need to pander to them, or to give them any particular support. Nor do I see the point in deliberately making them our enemy by choosing sides in this situation.

I can't see how this will end well for us, or further our goals in the Horn or anywhere else. IMO we're picking a fight, and a stupid one, where there is no need to do so.

Thanks -

After reading the thread, I have only one question: Why is it that "realists" are so resolutely delusional?

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