Some discussion about Middle Eastern attitudes, Islamic fundamentalism, and guerrilla warfare.–Ed
To Explain Is Not To Justify
This article is out to explain some of the perspectives from the other side.
If you think this somehow unAmerican, then the Pentagon and the White House are unAmerican, too, because these are some of
the things I know they’re thinking about in deciding what to do, factors that are going to influence their decisions.
They’re going to be the people responsible for what happens and its aftermath.
I don’t and shouldn’t know exactly what they’re going to do, but I’m as certain as I can be under the circumstances that it’s not
going to be the all-out massive war some think has to happen, and this will try to explain why that’s not going to happen.
I am afraid that people have built up completely unrealistic expectations of what the United States will do, and are going to be greatly disappointed
by what the U.S. is most likely to end up doing.
The United States is out to punish those who did this, and keep it from happening again. To do that does not mean massive bloodletting. As you’ll see,
we’d be doing Mr. Bin Laden a great favor by doing just that, and our military and executive branch both know that.
Please Do Me A Favor And Kill A Lot Of My People, America
Has it dawned on those of you who would like to turn a few countries into parking lots that this is probably what Mr. Bin Laden wants the United States to do?
No, that’s not insane at all. For what he’s out to do, it’s an obvious move.
Should I Go Out Partying Or Suicide Bombing Tonight?
People don’t get to the point where they’re willing to commit suicide in some attack on a whim. Sane people (and most of these people are certainly sane by criminal standards, they know what they’re doing) have to go through two mental steps before doing such a thing:
This is not something too many people can do, even under extreme conditions. That is why suicide attacks don’t happen every day; it is very difficult to get people to go through these two necessary mental steps.
The more extreme the conditions, though, the more likely it becomes more people will be willing to take those two steps.
Disliking America For What It Is As Opposed To What It Does
The Bin Laden group is an extreme of an extreme.
The Arab world is not monolithic. Most Arabs are not Islamic fundamentalists. We’ll get to the nonfundamentalists in a moment, but even the fundamentalists have differing viewpoints on America.
It’s probably safe to say most Islamic fundamentalists don’t like America and the West because it lacks proper moral values. Then again, Jerry Falwell and many Christian fundamentalists (not that that word means the same thing) right here in the U.S.A. feel the same way.
It’s probably not too likely the United States will ever become a solidly fundamentalist Christian country and make Mr. Falwell and Company happy. It’s extraordinarily unlikely
the U.S. will ever become an Islamic fundamentalist country and make the Taliban happy.
On the other hand, it’s a lot more likely people in Islamic countries will pickup American culture and lifestyle; they already are. That’s why these Islamic fundamentalist folks have a problem with us.
Now if we can stand Jerry Falwell stating his opinions right here, we can certainly stand people living six or eight thousand miles away from us we have nothing to do with not liking our moral values (or lack thereof) either.
If Mr. Falwell or friends ever started bombing places that didn’t agree with him and his (not that that would happen), our tolerance would end instantly, but even then, we wouldn’t punish anybody who just agreed or sympathized with Mr. Falwell, we would punish the bombers.
Recently, we executed Timothy McVeigh. We executed him because he did something very bad. We did not execute every- or even anybody who agreed or sympathized with him.
We should view Islamic fundamentalism the same way. If they want to dislike us, and even make noises about it, so what? We do it to them. If they want to do something about it to us, that’s another story.
I Spit On Your Flag, Then I’m Going To Disneyworld!
The reason why most Arabs have something of a dislike for the U.S. has nothing to do with our values, on the whole, they rather like how America is. What they don’t like is America not showing them proper respect in general, and showing favoritism to Israel in particular.
However, most of the time in most cases, this is not exactly an all-consuming concern.
Something you should keep in mind is that if you see some Arab doing something anti-American on TV, you may be taking it a lot more seriously than he is. Especially if he’s wearing a Mickey Mouse or Michael Jordan T-shirt while doing it.
In one of his books, P.J. O’Rourke saw such an event, and decided to talk to one of the participants. Far from bellowing anti-American hatred, the fellow said he had been to America once and liked it and had relatives over there. He certainly didn’t like U.S. Middle Eastern policy, but he obviously was no suicide bomber.
I’m not trying to make light of this, and obviously this isn’t the brightest thing in the world to do for better Arab-American relations, but making half the bad guys Arabic-looking in movies isn’t either. However, don’t assume even the people you see on TV are just waiting their turn to kill themselves and you. Never mind those who aren’t on the tube.
Not liking America for an aspect of its foreign policy is a whole lot different than disliking America for even existing.
If we followed what Arabs would consider a more even-handed Middle Eastern policy, it would make no difference to a Mr. Bin Laden, but a big difference to many Middle Eastern Arab.
(True, for some Arabs, an even-handed Middle Eastern policy would require using that hand to sweep Israel away, but again, that’s not all.)
Yes, there are some fundamentalist groups fighting against Israel like Hezbollah, but it’s pretty clear that Israel is their problem, not America and the West in general.
I’m not advocating that we should, but changing our foreign policy to at least some degree is a lot more realistic and reasonable than changing into an American Taliban.
Now you may not see much a difference between the two positions, but Mr. Bin Laden surely does, and he certainly needs to turn as many of those Mickey Mouse T-shirt wearers into people who’ll work and die for him as he can.
This Is Guerrilla Warfare
Terrorism is just an insulting term for the initial stages of guerrilla war. You want to call this terrorism, fine, but understand that the rules of guerrilla warfare apply here, too.
Rule Number #1 in guerrilla warfare is: Provoke your enemy into excesses.
What that does is polarize the situation and recruits those who would have otherwise stayed neutral into your corner.
So all an indiscriminate attack ends up doing is recruit more folks for Mr. Bin Laden and/or his cause. A lot more. The extremists call us evil, and then provoke us into proving them right to the neutrals.
Believe it or not, there’s very little serious support for this guy in the Middle East. Sure, people flap their mouths, but that doesn’t mean they want to be just like him, or even do what he says.
Many Arabs in the Middle East have the rather self-defeating habit of shooting their mouths off whenever somebody stands up
against what they consider to be the unfair powers-that-be that give them no respect, thinks them as somehow subhuman, and never will give them an even break.
That’s why you’ve seen Arab verbal support for Saddam Hussein. It’s not like they think he’s a great guy; they know he’s a bloody dictator. But to them, what’s more important is that he at least has the cojones to stand up and fight when nobody else in the Arab world will.
You likely find that self-defeating and foolish, hell, even the ones doing it sometimes think so, but when people feel powerless and frustrated, those are the kinds of things they do. Keep in mind, though, that’s all they end up doing.
However, if you start ripping up countries left and right, you’re inevitably going to increase the number of people who are going to believe that desperate action is the only reasonable course of action.
A Human Reaction
There’s nothing subhuman or inhuman about this. This is typical guerilla war behavior; the only things new is the how, not the what or why.
Under the right circumstances, some of you would be doing exactly the same thing.
Let’s say the Borg invaded and conquered the United States tomorrow. At least some of you wouldn’t like that idea and would want to do something about it. Obviously the Borg do things in a way that are repellent to your values.
In all likelihood, being typical human beings, most Americans would probably make the best of the situation, at least initially. Some would even collaborate with the aliens.
Let’s assume you’re a member of some guerilla group. You sure wouldn’t like that state of affairs. You would want to punish the collaborators. You would want to get more of those neutral Americans on your side.
Just going out and shooting some aliens and collaborators under most circumstances would end up with you being dead with not too much to show for it.
But if you could take out hundreds or thousands of people with a suicide attack on some alien installation with a bomb-laden truck or plane, that’s certainly a much better deal for your life than just taking a few shots.
On top of that, if the aliens respond by slicing and dicing some sections of the city, you’ll be easily replaced by those formerly neutral people who aren’t so neutral anymore.
Does that sound insane to you? Actually makes a lot more sense than getting a few shots off if you think getting rid of the aliens is humanity’s top priority, isn’t it?
You’ll likely say, “but the United States isn’t an invading bunch of aliens!!”
Might I suggest a relative few in the Middle East look upon it just that way, and a lot more who don’t think that way now will if you become just that.
Now just because this is a human reaction doesn’t make it OK. Killing thousands of people is not OK. Killing those who did the killing is not unreasonable. Killing anybody and everybody in sight because they might not happen to like you is not reasonable, nor too bright.
All that does is give everybody left excellent reason not to like you, and provoke many more into doing what we were trying to stop in the first place.
A Smart Response
All this doesn’t mean we should do nothing, not at all. But the options aren’t just Nothing or Genocide. We certainly aren’t going to do nothing, and we couldn’t kill them all even if we wanted to.
The U.S. military knows this and acts accordingly. Look at the Gulf War. Look at how they chose targets. They didn’t shoot up anything and everything. They shot up what was important to the Iraqi war machine.
Did they end up killing some relatively innocent civilians? Sure, but they kept it to a minimum. They didn’t do it because they loved Iraqis; they did that precisely for that reasons I stated above.
Expect the United States to take the same approach to this. When it comes to actual terrorists and training camps, this is going to be war, and they’re going to conduct it that way.
However, this is going to be a much smaller operation. There just aren’t that many terrorists as opposed to, say, the Iraqi army. Maybe a few hundred, a few thousand, at most, at each of any place we decide to attack.
We don’t need or want tons of troops for that. What we will need is a lot of air transport to get to where they are and airborne/special ops troops; that’s probably what some of our NATO allies will end up providing.
In all likelihood, we’ll probably take a good enough whack at the country harboring the terrorists. We’ve done this before to Libya, and it worked pretty well. Expect to see that kind of attack on harboring countries, and not massively more than that.
In the long-run, it’s very likely we’ll put a lot more money and effort into intelligence, launch preemptive strikes a lot more willingly, and not care as much about possible casualties.
In the near term, I suspect the U.S. will end up hitting a number of terrorist groups, but if it turns out that we only go after Mr. Bin Laden, there’s the distinct possibility that even if we killed every single last one of them, the body count will be considerably less than what they inflicted this week.
Should that be the case, I hope the American people can accept that.
A number of years ago, the federal government essentially did a number of the Branch Davidians in Waco. Many people now consider that an excessive, unnecessary use of force, and I would bet most who believe that today do not have the slightest sympathy towards David Koresh or the Branch Davidians.
What we have here is a sort of Islamic Waco. Obviously different in that there’s a lot more people who did a lot worse than Mr. Koresh and company ever did, but that difference doesn’t justify wasting the equivalent of Texas or the entire Southwest.
It’s easy to say “Kill them all.” It’s simple. It’s also as stupid as the bull running into the matador’s sword.
Think about it.
P.S.: Something Worth Really Worrying About Down the Road
Where did Mr. Bin Laden come from? Saudi Arabia.
Who were at least two of the suicide pilots? Former Saudi Arabian pilots.
What kind of Muslims are Saudi Arabians? Wahabis. Wahabi was an Islamic fundamentalist preacher from about two centuries ago. Not as strict as the Taliban, but certainly not “anything goes” sort of folks.
You may say, “But Saudi Arabia is our biggest Arab ally!” Correction. The Saudi royal family is our biggest Arab ally. One of these days, they might not be the royal family anymore, and somebody not too dissimilar to Mr. Bin Laden might be in charge of all that oil revenue.