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08/24/2004

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Oscar

Interesting post. As to al-Sadr, I think you may be missing a third possiblity: his group is a coalition of folks whose different agendas mesh well enough for them to get along sort of (there are reports of massive desertions from his Army, just as there are of new recruits.) We will probably get a better handle on them when al-Sistani shows up (as he shortly will.)

One reason I think that the US govt's goals are unclear, is because they want the Iraqi govt to make the decisions, and THEIR goals are mixed.

On the theory side, I wonder if either camp makes much sense. I think there is enough non-linear behaviour going on that castrophy theory a la Thom might be a better guide, such as it is.

Craig Hubley

There's not much choice in asking "should it try somehow to address the “root causes” of terrorism, the reasons why young men and women are willing to volunteer to become suicide bombers? Or should we focus on the leadership of al Qaeda, assuming that once we kill the brains of al Qaeda, the rest of the body will follow?" Nor is it correct to say that one must do both "of course". It's not a "body", it's a group of people, and it's not "brains", it's only a group of people in a somewhat more elite position. If you kill the ones who started the thing, aren't you just ensuring the next generation will get their promotions a bit early? And you don't know their names or faces. Did beheading Hamas work out well for Israel? Guess we'll see about that one soon.

Personally I don't believe killing bad people is even on the short list of useful things to do. It's only on the short list of popular things to do.

Something like 95% of so-called "terrorism" (even narrowly defined) has its roots in some national conflict or well-defined factional struggle. Young people have historically always been willing to volunteer for quite dangerous missions, though not always in all cultures for suicide missions. If you think this is somehow a new thing or confined to some unfamiliar society, though, that's just being stupid. Go do a little "popcorn research": watch the films Glory (American Civil War) or Midway or Tora! Tora! Tora! (WWII Japanese and Americans), or Braveheart or Henry V, you'll see quite a few people, including high status people like officers and nobles, making the choice to get themselves killed to "defend" what they see as their people's vital interests. Most of military culture is about preparing people to make a choice like this in a certain way. It's never been possible to recruit such people without some cultural and national base. Before Bloody Sunday there were no car bombers in Northern Ireland's six counties. Before "the West" gave up seriously trying to pressure Israel out of Gaza and the West Bank, there were no suicide bombers. It's a last-ditch tactic of people who have no other choice, or who feel they've got to prove themselves as a people, that they exist as a people, and they prove this by putting soldiers in the field willing to die for the people as a people. Even "the leadership of al Qaeda," composed of mostly Arabs in a non-Arab land (Afghanistan), was convinced it was unifying Muslims into one people by this method.

By "assuming that once we kill the brains of al Qaeda, the rest of the body will follow" is just denying that there is any such pan-Muslim-world and that anyone else will rise up to push to unify it. I think this is quite at odds with the diplomatic and linguistic and religous and cultural reality. There is clearly some common thread in the Muslim world in the late 20th century, seeking to do some things that are recognizably similar from state to state. Also many things that are not similar.

Taking a complex cultural question and saying that it can even partially be addressed by just finding some people to kill, is a very old solution that has had no great success in the past at solving the problems. It has however been very successful in distracting the public from the problems themselves, their root causes, and sapping their will to try anything else.

Once it's "us or them", the power concentrated in the Commander-In-Chief's office will increase, almost by definition. Will to address root causes will reduce and maybe die entirely, at least, until the bad people are all dead - then "we'll see". But why would we? At least half of the message we've heard is that there were no root causes, the bad people made it all up, and it will die when they die. Hah.

Go tell it to Ho Chi Minh. Who, as detailed in the marvellous book Paris 1919, took his meager earnings as a chef to buy the right clothes to go to the peace conference to ask for recognition and independence for his little French colony of Viet Nam. He didn't get it. Also at that conference and again in 1921, the man who'd been promised a free and unified Arab state in the lands they'd kicked the Turks out from, offered free and open integration of Zionist Jews in a secular, non-religious, state, in Palestine. He didn't get it either. Thirty years later the land was given to people with a quite different plan, and we all know how that turned out. It's quite rare for these conflicts to occur with no signals in advance.

I guess we'll all get a reminder of that when Castro dies, and a whole lot of people are surprised by the results.

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I just want to say that it doesn't matter if is against woman or animals, violence make us less humans.

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