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August 11, 2006

We should never have come this way

Posted by Phil on August 11, 2006 7:33 AM

The One Percent Doctrine author Ron Suskind, Salon interview, 8/11/06:

[T]he thinking is that al-Qaida has the ability to attack us at any time or place of their choosing, that we should not view the passage of time as a kind of proxy for victory and view it in any kind of self-satisfied way, that we're doing something that's stopping them from this next destructive moment. What we know about al-Qaida is that they think very long-term. We think in news cycles; they think in decades.

They have spent a good deal of energy thinking about what is appropriate to follow 9/11. It could take years for them to come up with something that is a sufficiently destructive next act in this drama that they are driving. If the next attack is bigger than 9/11, what it does is create an upward arc of terror and anticipation between that second act and whatever follows, however many years later.


The fact of the matter is, it may mean absolutely nothing that they haven't attacked us in the past five years. As I point out in the book, they may not have been trying to attack us. They are probably waiting for a time and place significant and dramatic beyond 9/11. If we start feeling this sort of self-aggrandizing regard for our abilities and capabilities, we will fall prey to exactly what they are hoping we will: We will be less rigorous.

One of the things that I think is clear about the moment we're in now is that in a way this is a new kind of war, a new kind of conflict we're fighting now, with a kind of global insurgency. We know insurgencies, we've seen many of them through history, and very often it's the case where gleaming armies come down from on high with banners waving and march in to some homeland or other to fight insurgents. It almost never works. Whatever moral claim that the army has made as the trumpets blare soon sinks into the ugliness of destruction, especially amongst civilian populations. In Iraq, in the Israel-Lebanon situation, and in other parts of the globe--in Afghanistan, to a certain degree--we are seeing precisely this model.

If we're not thinking with, let's just say, next-era clarity about the nature of these enemies and what best to do about them--where we are not involved solely in tactics, which is mostly what has been driving us, tactics where we're often running around like a chicken with no head, and instead thinking about strategy, where actions fall into a larger good, a larger model that essentially bespeaks progress--we are going to create more and more people around the world who are angry at the United States. The fact is, by virtue of our power, our authority, that's always going to be the case. But if that group, that angry mass of people, grows and grows--and some percentage of them, in this era, are apt to turn to violence--we could be facing a very difficult situation.

If one out of 1,000 people who are angry turn to violence, maybe that's a manageable number. If it's 10 out of 1,000, well, that's a lot of people. If it's 100 out of 1,000, we're facing an army beyond anything we can challenge in terms of even our vast capabilities, especially in an era when individuals, based on the extraordinary power of the information age, can carry the destructive power that was once reserved for nations. That's a very troubling combination, and it becomes a troubling combination if we are creating armies of people who are bent on destruction and violently angry at the United States. If our tactics are metastasizing, creating a growth of that number, then our tactics are not working, plain and simple.

You believe that's happening?

I think it is.

Lieberman, Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the Republicans have seized on Lieberman's loss and the latest UK terror plot to insist that Democrats who oppose the Iraq war don't care about Islamic terrorists or protecting America. This is both illogical and a lie. Moreover, it is a lie that smears a growing majority of Americans, because, contrary to the claim that Lieberman was beaten by the radical, peacenik fringe of a radical, peacenik party, polls show that opposition to the Iraq war is a mainstream American belief. Which means the claim is nothing but a desperate Hail Mary pass, and Bush and Lieberman are dearly hoping someone is open.

The terror plot foiled this week in Britain does not prove that we need to support Joe Lieberman, or Bush's failed policy in Iraq. It proves that their strategy against terrorism has been wrong all along. We invaded Iraq, yet there are terrorists in England. Iraq had nothing, or negligibly little, to do with terrorism in 2001 or 2003, yet in 2006 the very real prospect of a total collapse of Iraq as a nation will have grave ramifications. The fact that Bush and Lieberman made it so means they are not the ones to be trusted with doing whatever is to be done about it now.

But it's not the existence of terrorists and plots that proves the Bush strategy against terrorism is wrong. Terrorists and plots are going to exist, and attacks are going to take place. Either way, people will die. But not only does war have guaranteed costs, war is guaranteed to make the situation worse, as it has done. War means collateral damage and generations of rage and bitterness. No sweeping military offensive could have or will ever bring us "victory" in Iraq or security from terrorists.

War is not the answer, not in Iraq, not in Lebanon, and not in the fight against terror. I put several links to this up there on the right: The way to stop terrorists is intelligence and law enforcement. The way to stop terrorism is justice and diplomacy. Ordinary Americans who want real security from terrorism need to understand this, and polls show they are beginning to.

This week the British showed us how to stop terrorists. I wonder who will show us how to get out of Iraq?

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