Iraq’s Legacy

This issue has, I think, been obvious for some time now.

A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda’s early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat.

The assessment, completed last month and circulated among government agencies, was described in recent days by several Congressional and intelligence officials. The officials said it made clear that the war was likely to produce a dangerous legacy by dispersing to other countries Iraqi and foreign combatants more adept and better organized than they were before the conflict.

Which makes the problems raised in this post all the more preoccupying.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

43 thoughts on “Iraq’s Legacy

  1. It is a vicious cycle–Europe does not want to act much beyond its own borders but someone has to (bad Europe), the US feels forced to act but is resentful because it doesn’t get much help, that resentment makes the US uninterested in listening to advice from those that aren’t going to help much and which advice often leads toward dangerous inaction because of lack of military ability, the US then takes action often in inappropriate ways with improper planning because it is acting unilaterally (bad US), this causes it to be dramatically less effective when it takes action (bad US), this causes Europe to either become more insular to avoid being connected with looming disaster (repeating the cycle in a withdrawal mode) or diplomatically antagonistic (doing nothing but distracting from dealing with underlying problems like Al Qaeda). I don’t know which step ultimately came first, but the cycle isn’t good for the international community.

  2. Fully agree with Sebs description, though I would say some of the stuff he describes on the US side is particular to the current administration.
    That said, the main culprit IMO is the EU’s failure to get its act together. We (except the French and Brits) haven’t got the proper military for the role we’d like to play internationaly. If we were further along in the reform of our social systems we might have the cash to spare and I believe most politicians by now realize that greater defense spending is necessary, so there’s hope once the economcy comes around.

  3. “Europe does not want to act much beyond its own borders but someone has to”

    This I agree with, but I would draw a distinction between Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan etc and Iraq.

    I think the evidence is mounting that Iraq has been a disaster. And I think in this sense more military spending isn’t the answer.

    There is obvioulsy a need for a rapid deployment force, and the need for this in Africa in the future should be evident: we cannot stand by and watch another Ruanda. But I think here the issue is political will, not money.

    Yesterday Phan Van Khai was in the White House, trying to further the case for Vienam’s admission to the WTO. I can’t help having a feeling of sadness about all this. So many lives were lost, couldn’t this situation have been handled differently earlier?

    Make business not war seems to be a better pragmatic solution. Maybe the answer for Iraq wasn’t to invade, but to accelerate WTO membership, and facilitate a lot of FDI.

    I hope once the dust settles we will have a serious relfection about what we can learn from what has happened.

    Maybe there are more subtle ways of handling nasty dictators than punching them on the nose, and telling those who don’t think a brawl is the best solution that they are secret symaphisers of the dictator.

    So the first lesson is going to be about the limitation of military force. The second has to be about how to actually fight ‘international terrorism’. Obviously you need some sort of two pronged approach, on the one hand investing significant sums in ‘targeted security’, and on the other trying to dry up the arrival of new recruits by addressing the issues which lead people to sympathise with terrorism.

    On the ‘targeted security’end, the Spanish don’t seem to be doing too badly, after years of fighting Eta ‘a la European’, they have impressive detection and arrest skills. The flaw in the March 11 tragedy was that political ideology tied one of their hands behind their back.

  4. It’s truly worrying exactly the sort of thing they’re getting up to: last week they exploded a humvee, killing five Marines – but it was one of the humvees that *did* get the extra armour, so they must have invented something new. Monday’s LA Times had a detailed story about the big company-sized assault they ran on Abu Ghraibh prison. It was deeply scary: they staged diversionary raids all round the area to hinder relief and confuse the issue, then assaulted the position from three directions at once, having laid down a bombardment with mortars and RPGs used as mortars to drive everyone’s heads down.

    Then, they sent in three suicide cars, one of which was apparently meant to crash the prison wall and explode, aiming for the base of the guard tower nearest the cell blocks (clearly detailed reconnaissance had been carried out). The only reason they failed to storm the place or spring the prisoners seems to have been that this particular car went off prematurely.

    While all this was going on, the prisoners were rioting. The riot began at the same moment the assault did, which argues coordination. Personally I suspect the aim was to stage a jailbreak – it would have given them immense prestige to be the liberators of Abu Ghraibh, and no doubt there were people in there they wanted out.

    But the really bad bit is this: after half an hour, the battle suddenly stopped…just like that. No doubt, after the attempt to breach the wall failed, some commander decided to break off the action and make an orderly retreat before the QRF arrived with the heavy metal. And that’s just what they did – they even carried off their dead, as they only found two corpses outside the wire. An enemy that can do suicide car bombing as well as break-contact drills is truly formidable; it’s like the alpha and omega of war. The Americans have been talking about two kinds of enemy in Iraq, the calculated ex-Ba’athist roadside-bomber types who care deeply about living to fight another day, and the crazy-arsed jihadis who just want to die gloriously and couldn’t care less about breaking contact in an orderly fashion. Looks like they’re on their way to finding a Hegelian synthesis.

  5. “It’s truly worrying exactly the sort of thing they’re getting up to:”

    Yes, and the NYT also has a piece on this:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/22/international/middleeast/22bomb.html

    “American casualties from bomb attacks in Iraq have reached new heights in the last two months as insurgents have begun to deploy devices that leave armored vehicles increasingly vulnerable, according to military records…..

    The surge in attacks, the officials say, has coincided with the appearance of significant advancements in bomb design, including the use of “shaped” charges that concentrate the blast and give it a better chance of penetrating armored vehicles, causing higher casualties.

    Another change, a senior military officer said, has been the detonation of explosives by infrared lasers, an innovation aimed at bypassing electronic jammers used to block radio-wave detonators.”

    But we may be dealing with two different groups of people here Zaquarwi’s Al Qaeda, and professional military from the Baath era. The two are not the same. The latter need to be ‘negotiated out’ and the others rounded up and put out of action.

    “I suspect the aim was to stage a jailbreak”

    This is something which has been exercising my mind of late: Saddam. If the US leave before his trial is complete (and this could take years, especially if they want a death penalty), who will be looking after him? I mean imagine the ‘coup’ in publicity terms for someone who ‘sprung’ him from captivity, yet if the US aren’t there to guard him, who can guarantee that this won’t happen. Worrying.

  6. This is something which has been exercising my mind of late: Saddam. If the US leave before his trial is complete (and this could take years, especially if they want a death penalty), who will be looking after him? I mean imagine the ‘coup’ in publicity terms for someone who ‘sprung’ him from captivity, yet if the US aren’t there to guard him, who can guarantee that this won’t happen. Worrying.

    Why? Rather Saddam than Al Qaida. The world doesn’t need another Afghanistan as yet another nest of terrorists. If it takes the most ruthless man available to prevent that, so be it.

  7. Edward

    “–how to actually fight international terrorism.”

    The typical European response these days is “we should try to understand them better–“, and “what can we do to reduce their need to behave agressively–“. While this wistful thinking may be in vogue, the answer is and has been apparent for a long time. Kill them.

    Get rid of your wishful thinking (it’s called avoidance mentality), get out your checkbook and your guns, and start defending yourself. When a famous bank robber (Willy Sutton) was once asked why he robbed banks, he replied, “cause thats where they keep the money”. Iraq is where the battle is. Thank America and your lucky stars that it is not in your backyard. If you don’t start defending your civilization, it will be in your backyard.

    At your friendly bar tonight, laugh with your friends about the “silly war on terror”. While you are doing that, try to maintain the thought that you are pissing away your grandchildren’s existance.

  8. Trust an “American” to not caring the killing of people, no matter how innocents.
    DSW

  9. What grandchildren? With current European birthrates, there will not be any grandchildren to worry about. I completely understand. Children are such a bother, a little like terrorism.

  10. Ray: Shouldn’t you be fighting or something? Rather than wasting your time on the internet? What – you haven’t volunteered yet?

    More seriously, we’ve experienced terrorism before, we’ve done rather well dealing with it, and we think this state of affairs should continue. The anti-terrorist measures that have worked in the past do not include invading random countries for the hell of it. I very much doubt it will work in the future, and it’s blindingly obvious it isn’t working in the present.

    Claiming that people who disagree with you are psychologically ill is a pathetic tactic, much favoured by Leonid Brezhnev among others. I disagree with you because I think you are wrong.

  11. “Thank America and your lucky stars that it is not in your backyard.”

    The problem is Ray that I think it is about to arrive in my back yard, almost literally. Spain is becoming a part of the chain.

    The point of the post is that far from reducing the number of terrorists (in fact they are killing themselves, unfortunately taking a lot of innocent people with them: as distinct from Willy Sutton these people don’t want money, they want to commit suicide) what is happening in Iraq according to this CIA report is that it is becoming a training ground, and some of those trained will eventually work there way back to Europe so they can get killed here, probably passing through Spain.

    I’m not laughing at the war on terror, I’m crying about it, since it seems to be so bloody inefficient.

    I don’t know where you get your impressions of Europeans from, but we are a little different from the way you see us, what we want to understand is not the terrorists, but the reasons why there are more terrorists every day, if we don’t get to understand that, and do something about it, then the problem will continue to get out of control.

    Conventional wars won’t help. This is something different.

    Let me put the issue like this. Here in Spain we have a terrorism problem called eta. Eta have ‘commandos’ or cells. At any one time how many ‘soldiers’ do eta have on active service in these cells, I don’t know, I don’t work in intelligence, but maybe 50 would be a good guess. Then there would be logistics and support, let’s say you have another 1,000 there. Behind this come the political infrastructures – maybe 10,000 participants – and behind this the voters, and this number we know 150,000. Now Ray you can’t go out and kill 150,000 people. But you don’t know which people out of the 150,000 are the 50 you are looking for, this is the problem of terrorism.

    So part of your effort needs to go, not in tanks and fancy aircraft, which I guess is what the Pentagon wants (in the end its all about budgets) but good trained security agencies – with things like people who can speak the appropriate languages, and can inflitrate (these used to be called assetts) so you can find and take out one way or another the actual ‘terrorists’. But if you do this in such a way that for the 50 you take out of circulation you foment another 200, then you are *losing* the war.

    So you need a second prong, which is to detach those 150,000 voters from their support from terrorism, and for this you need to use your brain more than your fist (in fact on both fronts the issue is more about brainwork than force, but still).

    If in trying to find those 50 you simply go round shooting in the dark (or with a mass of troops in a place called Fallujah) all you are doing is showing your vulnerability.

    The 1,000 terrorists who die want that result, and they know that their deaths bring on 10,000 more.

    This is my issue.

  12. Thank you Edward,

    for a well reasoned response. I would like to address each of the respondents in the order that they appeared.

    Antoni, “not caring about killing people–no matter how innocent”. I used the word terrorist Antoni. These are people that are trying to kill us, as they have so well demonstrated. They are not innocent people.

    Alex, Questioning my loyalty or bravery is perhaps an argument one would use if you had no other. I am a Korean veteran, honorably served, and honorably discharged. I doubt that they would have someone as old as me today, but I am doing my best to protect my country. Just exactly where have you dealt with terrorism, the U.S.? This seems to be the only place that is dealing with terrorism (no attacks since the loss of the world trade center). I also differ with you on how well it is working. We are killing them in large numbers. Some of them are probably from your own country Alex, coming to Iraq to be a martyr. We shall oblige. The only post that has used the expression “psychological ill” is yours Alex–is that a favorite argument of yours?

    Edward, War is hell, as I think Ernie Pyle once said (a correspondent killed in the war in the Pacific). People get killed and some of them are innocent, just like the three thousand in the world trade center.

    The reason there are more terrorists, is because they are being produced the same way that they have always been produced, by the Wahabis, the madrassas and by the despots that benefit from blaming someone else for their own shortcomings. The hundreds of billions of dollars that have gone into the oil producing countries has not been invested in the people. Not in education. Not in infrastructure. Not in welfare. Not in pensions. Not in freedom. Instead, it has gone into attacks on the free world. Not just America or Spain, but in almost every country on earth.

    Acquience and appeasment do not work. Spain is learning this. Algeria learned this. If Spain does not fight both the eta (basques aren’t they?) and al quaida, you will find that they will increase their attacks and they will slowly steal your freedom. If you rule out actions that have risk for innocents, you will find your hands completely tied, and you might as well surrender now.

    The killing of innocents is horribly wrong, but impossible to avoid when fighting an enemy that is difficult to identify. In Iraq, even the Sunni communities are becoming allies in stopping the foreign terrorists. They are beginning to realize that these foreigners are not helping them when they blow up water supplies, explode bombs in public places and cause havoc among the civilian population. They are also beginning to realize that they will have to share power in the government that is taking shape.

    Freedom is not free. The horrific cost of freedom has benefited Alex, or his ancestors, has benefited you Edward (remember Franco and the fascists?) and will probably benefit Antoni (his post indicates he may be from the mideast). Antoni’s children may grow up in freedom. His children may be able to get a free education from oil revenues (instead of being used to purchase mansions in London for the royal robber barons).

    It is important to note that this didn’t start in Iraq. Nor in Afghanistan. It started shortly after the mideast countries decided that they didn’t like what the free world was doing. The creation of Israel by the United Nations started a beehive of terrorist activity that has not stopped (no I am not jewish–English and Scottish descent). It started with the blowing up of the marine barracks in Lebanon, the destruction of our embassies, the assasination of our emissaries, blowing up our ships, and finally the deliberate killing of three thousand innocent people in the world trade center.

    Now we are going to finish the job. Believe me, we are going to finish the job. You may get mixed signals from some of our right and left coast people, but they are not the ones that elected Bush. We did, and we did it to get the job done. We would like your help, but if you don’t want to help, get out of the way because we are going to finish this whether you help or not.

  13. Edward,

    I neglected to answer your question, “where did I get my impressions of Europe?” I lived there for several years, owned a home in England, had a business partnership with a large French company (CGR) and once belonged to the American Legion in Paris (Post Number 1). Since then I have visited twenty three times. Believe it or not, sometimes I find people that agree with me.

  14. I’m in the same region as Edward, some 30 km away at most, in Spain not the mid-east. As for terrorism in the mid-east, there was “Israelite” organisations that practiced it before the instauration of the state of Israel. That does not mean all predecessors of present Israelites were terrorists, far from it. However to understand the Arab world reaction one must understand that the creation of Israel looks too much like the Europeans guilty of oppressing jews up to genocide for centuries, “compense” Jews taking from the land of the Arabs. Remember that the actual map of the Mid East is the result of the interests of France and the UK. Not of the local population.

    As for your reference to Franco, I do not get it. Franco was a bane for Spain since the Spanish civil war, but if today Spain is a reasonably democratic state, it was not thanks to armed procedures, on the contrary. As for both ETA and “al qa’ida” terrorism the police action and, for ETA, the draining of reasons to support it –as Edward has already explained– will suffice to end it, at a lower cost in lives and rights.

    DSW

  15. Antoni,

    I mention Franco because until 1943, his methods were as cruel as the Nazis and he was supported by the Germans. In 1943 he felt the Germans would lose the war, and changed sides. This was a direct result of America’s involvement in WWII.

    I suspect that in the time between the Balfour Declaration (after WWI), and 1945, England had changed it’s mind about a new Jewish State. Thats why they blockaded the immigration of jews, disarmed them and turned the weapons they had over to the Arabs before leaving.

    But we must start somewhere, and now that is the war on terror. Frankly I am not interested in futher discussion of the Arab/Israeli conflict.

  16. The thing is Ray, some of your arguments probably we would all agree with, but I think what most of us are struggling with is what all this has to do with Iraq.

    Before the war Zarqawi was holed-up in some cave in the mountains in the Kurdish zone (I think), and he was more or less irrelevant. No one could even be bothered to go and root him out. Now he has a chain migration process of terrorist migrants into Iraq who seem to do a lot of the ‘dirty killing’ for the Sunni nationalists.

    So the issue is why are 25 million odd innocent people, who by and large never had anything to do with terrorism, and never will do, stuck in the middle of all this. Is Iraq being used as a magnet to draw in terrorists from all round the world?

    And what will happen if the political cost of the war in Iraq becomes too great for the US to bear and the troops, pulled out leaving the country to disintegrate into civil war. We could then see reverse chain migration back up into Europe, this is my concern, that in the end we leave Iraq as a base for terrorist ops (something which it seems it wasn’t before the war).

    I accepted the war, being convinced by Tony Blair that there was a serious danger of some kind of WMD’s. I always thought, and still do think, that the danger of a biological attack is much greater than even a ‘dirty nuke’. On discovering that Saddam wasn’t up to this, I think I was pretty shaken. I felt used. I mean, I take Antoni’s point about innocent life, but the kind of biological attack that Blair was insinuating might have been being prepared, well I think our civilisation might not stand that, so reluctantly I would accept what you in the US call collateral damage, if these were the stakes. But if they aren’t, then that changes everything.

    “The reason there are more terrorists, is because they are being produced the same way that they have always been produced, by the Wahabis, the madrassas and by the despots that benefit from blaming someone else for their own shortcomings. The hundreds of billions of dollars that have gone into the oil producing countries has not been invested in the people. Not in education. Not in infrastructure. Not in welfare. Not in pensions. Not in freedom. Instead, it has gone into attacks on the free world. Not just America or Spain, but in almost every country on earth.”

    I think we all agree with this, but we also all know that one of the main states we are talking about here is not Iraq, but Saudi Arabia.

    We also know that most of the rest of the issue needs covert ops in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Philipinnes etc.

    So I come back to the same question, what the hell are we doing in Iraq, and what will be the legacy of leaving what might become something approaching the Lebanon in the 1970’s.

    On the ‘backyard issue’, please don’t forget that 192 people lost their lives here on March 11 2004. In US terms this might not be big, but to us it is important. And as Antoni says, the Spanish police are doing a good job of working their way back up the line to get to the roots of this, and of your 11 September. Mohammed Attah, remember, visited Salou, just before the attacks. Some of the key contact people were in Spain. I’m not sure if you are aware that they are currently trying some people who seem to have been quite involved in the preparation and planning side.

    One last point: oil. I entirely agree that no good will ever come from allowing countries to live off oil. You only have to look at Chavez and Putin to name two non-islamic instances. So the sooner we invest some real money in getting alternatives up and running, and get ourselves off oil, the better for all of us. And my other proposal: fast track all rogue states for WTO membership and substantial inward FDI, backed by funding and ‘advice’ on structural reforms from the IMF. Our labour markets would take a knock, but the benefits on the civilisation front would make it well worth it.

  17. Edward,

    Why Iraq? Why not? Keep in mind that it was Saddam that attacked Kuwait. Saddam that refused to cooperate with the inspectors, and Saddam that had so recently butchered his own people (and oh yes, gassed the Kurds). I also think that most of us are very good Monday morning quarterbacks, (meaning that we are very good at hindsight). If you remember, it was the belief of everyone that he had weapons of mass destruction. He did nothing to disavow anyone of that opinion.

    Saddam terrorized Kuwait, the Iranians and his own people. I can’t think of a better place to face off with terrorists. Are you suggesting that he should have been spared because he did not knock down the World Trade Center? Who cares? He is the worst of the terrorists and his Bath party the worst oppressors the world has ever seen (remember the rape rooms?). Frankly, if it wasn’t Iraq, it would be wherever the terrorists could go to dominate a local population (maybe Spain is next). I think the world loves getting rid of Saddam, they just hate to admit it and are embarassed that they either did nothing to help, or were in fact obstructionists. France and Germany are good examples.

    European’s dislike for America is called “penny wise and pound foolish”. It is probably fun to constantly express dislike to a powerful friend. Without us, the world would be in a hell of a mess.

  18. The reason why there are so many more terrorists is because the US does really bad things like invading Iraq and killing lots of innocent people. It has very little to do with Madrassas etc.
    It is the same as Nazi Germany claiming that it is the communists fault that there are so many terrorists (what resistance fighters mostly are). It was true that a large part of the resistance was communist but they didn’t fight because they were communist but because their country was occupied and when the Nazi’s left they stopped with their terrorism.

  19. Saddam was a very bad man but to call him the worst oppressor is simply hyperbole. He wasn’t Charles Taylor but America did nothing to end his rule. Iraq used rape against political opponents while Taylor used it as pay for his troops. Iraq only tried to get small chunks of other country while Liberia terrorised all its neighbouring countries and filled them with terrorists.
    The world loves that taylor is gone but the same is not really true of Iraq as the only options for Iraq are civil war, Saddam lite or Shiite theological democracy in which case Saddam lite is obviously the prevered solution of Europe and the US

  20. The funny thing in this story, the Americans removed the only guy that the “terrorists” really hated, lol.(question who are the “terrorists” ? 50 guys with few success, just 2 towers down lol )

    And now as soon as the American will be defeated, and by result do not keep these bad guys busy, we can expect some desastrous in Europe : do you remember that the civilian war in algeria began with the return of the bad guys from Afganistan !!! they were crazy, islamist, and used to be in war.

    They will probably bring the djihad in Europe :-(.

  21. I’m rather astonished that the agency that failed to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union, did nothing of any consequence to detect or to stop the 9/11 attacks or the other prior al Queda attacks and that told Bush that finding WMD’s in Iraq would be a “slam dunk” is now considered a paragon of wisdom. Of course, it’s saying something that can be used to attack the United States.
    For an alternative view of terrorism vis a vis Iraq, you may wish to consider this

    I particularly enjoyed the comments above regarding Europe’s superior track-record of managing terrorism. There is a fundamental difference between ETA and the IRA and the terrorists in Iraq. The former have a limited political objective but use fanatical means to achieve it. The Islamists have both fantatical (or fantastic) ends and fantical means. They cannot be bargained with, only tracked down and killed and imprisoned. And since they are hard to drive out of the poluations in which the hide to plot, it is much better to draw them out into the open using suitable bait and by denying them the sanctuary and succor of state support.The European terrorist groups closest in type to the jihadis were the Baader-Meinhof and Red Brigades lunatics. Tellingly, these groups almost completely disintegrated once their state sponsor, the Soviet Union, collapsed.And the US will not be defeated: don’t mistake the frightened bleating of the American main stream media whose shrieks of defeatism simply echo the ever shrinking minority of Americans who continue announce their prestigious social placement by aping European manners and thought.The rest of us will do what we must, come what may.

    Of course, trying to discuss real politics (including military affairs) with Europeans is like hearing children talk about sex: they mouth the words, but have no idea what they’re talking about.

  22. “Before the war Zarqawi was holed-up in some cave in the mountains in the Kurdish zone (I think), and he was more or less irrelevant. No one could even be bothered to go and root him out. Now he has a chain migration process of terrorist migrants into Iraq who seem to do a lot of the ‘dirty killing’ for the Sunni nationalists.”

    Your point is what Edward? That if Iraq never happened Zarqawi would still be holed up somewhere? That’s absurd and unprovable. And in the murky world of terrorism it’s debatable as to whether that chump is even alive. Or Bin Laden for that matter. There’s never any video.

    “So the issue is why are 25 million odd innocent people, who by and large never had anything to do with terrorism, and never will do, stuck in the middle of all this. Is Iraq being used as a magnet to draw in terrorists from all round the world?”

    That isn’t the issue for me. Better there than here. Islamic terrorism is an Arab construct. Better they feel the consequences of that than the US.

    ‘No war, no terrorism’. Well, read a history book.

    The Iraqi war, while not perfect, is *not* a disaster by any measurable metric. Only time will bear a proper judgement.

  23. “I’m rather astonished that the agency…..”

    Well firstly Pierre I’m not one of those people who has been going round over the years saying that the CIA was the party responsible for everything that was bad in the world. Clearly CIA activity in Latin America in the 70’s got the agency a deservedly bad name, but I did have the impression that a lot was done in the 90’s to clean the thing up.

    Secondly, I don’t think it is fair to blame the CIA for 09/11, any more than it is fair to blame the Spanish CESID for 03/11, in both cases the politicians were ball-watching in other directions, and the priorities weren’t straight.

    I cite the CIA in this post since we have to imagine that they can speak with some authority on the matter. And we have to also imagine they have another view from that of the Pentagon about how to handle terrorism (and I suspect they are nearer to the reality). I mean, if I just say, my hunch is… you are rightly going to be skeptical (although my hunch actually is….).

    The link you point to seems to voice the opinions of one David Warren. He is entitled to his views, but forgive me if I prefer the research of the CIA.

    Now the flypaper theory may be one of the views motivating current US policy (I have sometimes speculated on that possibility myself), but if it is this raises two problems, one, it assumes there are a fixed number of terrorists out there, and secondly it ducks the horrendous ethical question of what right one group of people have to do this in the country of another group of people. The 25 million stuck in the middle argument.

    “Of course, it’s saying something that can be used to attack the United States.”

    I don’t see how any of this could be considered attacking the United States. It is criticising a policy decision, one which was also supported by Britain, Spain, and a host of other European countries. It can still be a bad decision, and no-one in Britain asks me ‘why I hate Britain’ for voicing my deception at the way Blair went about persuading us.

    The point is, all this post is about Europe, and the problems that are building up for us, are you saying we are doing this only to get at the US?

    “There is a fundamental difference between ETA and the IRA and the terrorists in Iraq. The former have a limited political objective but use fanatical means to achieve it.”

    Now this is a good point, and thank you for raising it. I deliberately stuck to Eta, and the IRA would do just as well, becuase I was practicing an old economists trick of ‘partial analysis’: ie I intentionally stripped out the islamic fanatic factor, so we could look a little, without more heat than light being thrown, at the actual dynamics of a terrorist war. You see I had in mind this point from Ray:

    “The typical European response these days is “we should try to understand them better-”

    Which kind of fudges the issue. What we Europeans are saying is that you need to understand the terrorism phenomenon better (not understand the terrorists, this seems to me an argument which has been displaced from the field of poverty and social workers). It appears from your cited extract Pierre, that you agree it is important to understand terrorism in order to fight it, so we are advancing :).

    “They cannot be bargained with, only tracked down and killed and imprisoned.”

    I don’t disagree with this at all.

    “The European terrorist groups closest in type to the jihadis were the Baader-Meinhof and Red Brigades lunatics”

    I would also agree with this.

    “Tellingly, these groups almost completely disintegrated once their state sponsor, the Soviet Union, collapsed.”

    I think this may be a little simplistic. What about eg the Weathermen. Don’t you think security agencies serve any useful purpose? Possibly in the case of the RAF and Carlos it was the old DDR, but i agree that was a ‘sattelite state’. The Italian connection with the USSR is news to me, associations with the mafia have been more common, do you have any info?

    Now back to the flypaper bit.

    You see, forgive me, but as an economist I tend to use forms of analysis which come to me from my day to day activity in an area I know a little more about. What is very striking to me,and comes to mind immediately, is the similarity between the flypaper theory and what is called the ‘lump of labour’ problem. Basically the ‘lump of labourists’ assume that there is a fixed quantity of work available, and that if someone in China is sending goods to my country, or some immigarnt comes to work, then there is one less job for me. This is clearly false. What we have is a dynamic system, and the system operates to increase the quantity of work available to all.

    Well the new global terror, is a somewhat similar phenomenon. If you simply use a military strategy it may not work, because you may create terrorists at a faster rate than you are able to eliminate them. This is what the CIA suggests is happening.

    I wrote an article a year or so ago, which I think is now very relevant here (so I will dig it out) about Indian IT. Contrary to popular opinion, the drift of Indian IT workers to the US did not constitute a fatal loss of ‘brainpower’ from the Indian economy, but in fact generated enthusiasm among hundreds of thousands of young people to learn IT (you can see the same phenomenon in the case of the Argentinian and Brazilian football ‘leg drain’, the loss of some talent, only encourages even more). Then came the NASDAQ crash (which in this analogy would be the equivalent of the US troop withdrawal)and a lot of ‘boys on the bench’ went home, taking their skills with them.

    Result, India becomes the new IT superpower.

    You see what we have in the case of the ‘new generation global terrorism’ is a phenomenon which displays many of the characteristics of a ‘networked system’, so all the characteristics of networks probably apply, including things like clustering, flat tails, giant nodes, and increasing returns. So you won’t really convince me by citing any ‘commentarist’ who doesn’t begin to take some of this into account.

    And you certainly won’t convince me by saying I think all these things because in some warped way I want to attack the United States. I suppose that is why all those British lads are in Southern Iraq, to attack the US. Well if this is how you treat your friends…..

  24. “Why Iraq? Why not? Keep in mind that it was Saddam that attacked Kuwait. Saddam that refused to cooperate with the inspectors, and Saddam that had so recently butchered his own people (and oh yes, gassed the Kurds).”

    Ray, we all agree about this. There is no issue here. Saddam was a very bad guy. My worst fear, as I’ve already suggested, is that if he is left in Iraq when you leave someone will ‘spring’ him, and he will be held out by the Sunni’s as a symbol of their defianace.

    But that Saddam was a very bad guy doesn’t meanb that if you want to fight terrorism you go to Iraq.

    Incidentally, what the hell happened to Libya? The leader there is every bit as bad, and there is a lot of proven evidence of his involvement with terrorism.

    “He is the worst of the terrorists and his Bath party the worst oppressors the world has ever seen (remember the rape rooms?).”

    I think this is frankly way OTT. What about Idi Amin (‘daddy’) or Pol Pot, to name just a couple. Pol Pot’s name would not be without importance in the debate we are having here about the legacy of Iraq, because clearly he was part of the ‘legacy’ of Vietnam. At the time few worried about the long term consequences of all that bombing in Cambodia, but the ‘killing fields’ that followed were certainly part of the legacy. I used to think we had learnt something.

  25. “Your point is what Edward? That if Iraq never happened Zarqawi would still be holed up somewhere? That’s absurd and unprovable.”

    Yep, this is exactly what I am saying. I think, as I have been explaining we need to apply some ‘new economy’ theory here, especially the increasing returns bit. To put it in a way that is clear to everyone OBL is “Times Warner” and Zarqawi is “Yahoo”.

    Of course OBL and Zarqawi are only marketing names for the relevant MNC’s, I have no idea whether they are actually alive or not. In fact it may not matter.

    “why are 25 million odd innocent people, who by and large never had anything to do with terrorism, and never will do, stuck in the middle of all this.” – “That isn’t the issue for me.”

    OK, that’s clear. Just so everyone knows up front what are the values we are and aren’t defending. This I would say is one of the differences Europeans have with *some* americans. We are not prepared to accept the lives of ‘innocents’ as expendable in the way you seem to be able to.

    Really of course this is a debate that has been going on since Hiroshima, but in those days the victims were Japanese, and they had a different religion.

    ‘No war, no terrorism’.

    Can you point me to where I say this? I think I am saying this war isn’t effective in fighting terrorism, and is probably counterproductive (as well as not being ethical).

    “is *not* a disaster by any measurable metric”.

    Well I think the CIA just offered us one by which it is. I also think the growing danger of an ethnically motivated civil war could be another. The number of civilian casualties – which have now surpassed those eliminated by Saddam would be another.

    “Only time will bear a proper judgement”.

    I am sure this is true.

  26. Keep in mind that it was Saddam that attacked Kuwait. Saddam that refused to cooperate with the inspectors, and Saddam that had so recently butchered his own people (and oh yes, gassed the Kurds).

    You have stated the case that he was a ruthless butcher. That was never disputed.
    But was he by necessity an enemy? I would very much doubt that. There is this terrible American weakness to identify the enemy by his methods, not his aims. It probably has some connection with the need to be among the good guys.

    And you cannot argue that it was a good thing anyway. Troops that are in Baghdad cannot be in Teheran. Any needless war weakens you. As a demonstration of power, it is failing, as the US is not dominant enough.

    We are not prepared to accept the lives of ‘innocents’ as expendable in the way you seem to be able to.

    That is not true. Europeans are just shy about it. It would be interesting to calculate how many people Europe’s agricultural export subsidies have driven into abject poverty and disease.

    And really the US doesn’t have killed that many people by world standards. In fact the policy on this is inconsequential. Enough are killed to cause murderous anger but not enough to inspire sheer fear.

    If you simply use a military strategy it may not work, because you may create terrorists at a faster rate than you are able to eliminate them. This is what the CIA suggests is happening.

    That is not the whole story. That you would completely eliminate terrorism this way is and was always an illusion. You need to aim at those willing to support terrorists.
    IIRC, the Chinese call this: “Kill a monkey to scare the birds”

  27. Hmm, moderately amusing exchanges.

    Of course, despite Rupert’s rather peculiar logic, Iraq is rather clearly a disaster. A slow motion disaster, but a disaster. Pity, too, could have gone reasonably well if in the key May-July 2003 period the proper resources had been deployed (and I would be a richer man for it as well), but there it is.

    Since roughly early to mid 2004 Iraq has rather clearly been following a Lebanon trajectory. There is nothing to break that evolution. Period. Nothing. Of course people who know little to nothing about the region will continue to flail about and engage in wishful thinking, but that won’t change reality.

    Now, as to the innocents, and millions dead and so forth and so on, it’s probably most useful (although indeed less entertaining) to lay aside the emotive hystroinics and empty posturing about supposed caring – neither most of the pro war nor most of the anti war people in fact giveing a flying fuck about the innocent here, it’s politics.

    The question really is cost-benefit. Despite “Ray’s” flailing about, he’s got it wrong in re “just” killing all the “terrorists” – or insurgents and terrorists and whatever other mix one can imagine. Rather nasty brutal regimes have tried that route in re the Islamists, hasn’t worked terribly well as anyone thinking of a taking a Ouahrane – Alger bus ride might attest.

    Iraq was irrelevant to al-Qaeda and the like, its terror past, despite the rhetoric dredged up out of probable genuine ignorance and suckeredness, was fairly pedestrain 3rd world liberation blah blah terror of a vaguely lefty bent. It’s internal police state network equally not all that remarkable (yes, yes, rape rooms and blah; bloody well can find such things in Egypt which is all Kosher for the time being) if rather ugly. For Iraqis (real ones) it at least had the bounded blessing of being fairly predictable and thus avoidable if one kept one’s head down, like most police states.

    All quite unremarkable and even sadly despite the sadly inflated later day faux concern, ordinary.

    Still, taking the fellow out was not evil -although badly executed. What is criminal, however is the delusion and incompetence since.

  28. Still, taking the fellow out was not evil -although badly executed. What is criminal, however is the delusion and incompetence since.

    I must disagree. If the west, respectively the US decide that a government must be removed because it is immoral, we are putting the axe to the foundation of the international order.

    A war against a regime that is a danger is not a bad thing in that regard. Even a war of outright conquest wouldn’t be as damaging.
    If an outside power may decide what an acceptable government may be, as opposed what it may do outside its borders, the very concept of sovereignity is destroyed. But sovereignity makes peaceful coexistance possible. Without it, the world degenerates into a mad rush for nukes against an agressor that is seen as irrational. Against rational enemies there can be sufficient deterrence. Against irrational enemies you have to go all the way.

  29. “What is criminal, however is the delusion and incompetence since.”

    I wish I could believe this Collounsbury. I mean I wish I could believe it could have worked differently if it had been done better.

    A lot of the incompetence came in the prepartaion before, of course. If we are to believe the ‘downing Street memo’ – and I tend to be agnostic on all this kind of thing – then preparations were afoot well in advance. So why were there so few translators?

    But my feeling is that even with the best laid preparations, and the most competent administration, this was always going to run into trouble. You can’t go in and introduce sophistocated democracy in a place like Iraq from one day to the next, anymore than you can introduce a market economy overnight in China.

    Essentially I think what you and I are discussing is whether or not Iraq consitutes a ‘nation’. OK lets leave the Kurds out, whether the rest constitute a nation. I tend to doubt this, but I rapidly accept this is not a field in which I have any expertise.

    I think we do agree though that living together ‘happy families style’ between Sunni’s and Shia simply isn’t on. This isn’t going to hold. But wasn’t this already clear before the war for those who bothered to look into the question?

  30. Ok, here’s another metric for you rupert:

    Army Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command, and top U.S. commander in the Middle East, speaking before the Senate Armed Serices Committee.

    Abizaid said insurgents’ strength had not diminished and that more foreign fighters were coming into Iraq than six months ago. “There’s a lot of work to be done against the insurgency,” Abizaid said, adding: “I’m sure you’ll forgive me from criticizing the vice president.”

    Or is he too not objective enough for you?

  31. “They cannot be bargained with, only tracked down and killed and imprisoned.”

    bargaining works actually quite well. See for example the South after the civil war or the ANC (Terrorist ANC wanted to change much more than goverment ANC).
    Killing or imprisoning don’t work well. Terrorists are part of a much larger group who will create new terrorists when you, according to that group, act bad. If on the other hand you don’t act “bad” that the terrorists will get old (+40 is not an age to be a terrorist) while they will not teach the new generation in terrorism so ending the cycle.

  32. “No Edward. You presented the ‘we’ argument, not I. You proposed to speak for all of Europe. You said, “We are not prepared to accept the lives of ‘innocents’ as expendable in the way you seem to be able to.” So *you* are the one presenting an ethical facade, I was merely disproving it.”

    Sorry Rupert old chap, I’m simply stating a fact. I knew there was a *strong* point I had forgotten to make. We *were* talking about the flypaper argument, introduced by Pierre. This argument implies having a country which 25 million people call home turned into a battle ground, to fight *your* war. I have no doubt whatsoever that a majority of Europeans would not accept this, in the same way a majority of Europeans don’t accept the death penalty. There are different value systems in play here.

    Fact: the British army would not have *done* Fallujah. What happened in Fallujah is a disgrace. Actually we Brits may not speak for all of Europe on this as the only similar examples I can think of in recent history would be the French in Algeria, and the Russians in Grozny.

    Chechenia is a good case in point, since the spreading of Chechen terrorism out onto the global arena, was one of the notable features of the late 90’s.

    So I was saying that ‘there are two different views about ‘collateral damage’. Are you seriously saying this isn’t the case?

    That we all sat by and watched Ruanda isn’t to anyone’s credit, but it would have nothing to do with this point. (or Bosnia, or Dafur).

    “number of Iraqi’s who came out to vote”

    This is clear, but of course the Sunni’s didn’t. Since I don’t consider that – see my points to Collounsbury – Sunni and Shia Iraq form a nation in the modern sense, one group, the Shia, came out and voted for their control of the apparatus, so ultimately they could settle scores with those who have been oppressing them for hundreds of years, the Sunnis. This isn’t going to be resolved in a fortnight.

    The Kurds voted, because in return for allowing the Shia to take over they were given an assurance that they would get Kirkuk, and ultimately an autonomy that was so extensive, that when the inevitable battle between Sunnis and Shia comes they will be able to isolate their sector, and then break lose.

    “Suicide bombings are a show of weakness and ultimately aren’t sustainable.”

    This is undoubtedly true, but like the US CA deficit, what is unsustainable in the long run may have quite a life before it finally pops. You will doubtless know the famous expression from Keynes, in the long run we are all dead.

    The issue is can it be sustained for long enough to do the damage it is intented to do. I obviously don’t know, any more than you do. The evidence is that they are having no trouble recruiting at the moment (my source:Abizaid). So it will be a battle between two wills, that of the ‘martyrs’ looking to get the chance to die, and that of the US voting public. It isn’t clear to me that the centre will hold.

    “The growth of Iraqi security forces and their competence.”

    This whole situation reminds me so much of the UDR in the North of Ireland. Now you can either have a protestant dominated force, or a catholic one, but what won’t work is a ‘joint force’ (emnity is just too strong). When Collounsbury talks about errors, one of the ones he is probably reffering to is de-baathification.

    I’m not sure about this, since if you hadn’t done that, that would have left the Sunnis controlling the military, and hence it would only have been a matter of time before another Saddam emerged. If you are only 15% or so of the population, then it’s obvious that the only winning stratgey you have is ‘extra parliamentary’ force in some form or another. (I am of course leaving the Kurds out for the reasons mentioned earlier).

    So now you are effectively training a Shia army outside the Kurdish zone, and this army will enforce Shia control once the US is gone (and of course we don’t know how long that will be, but we could imagine no later than when the Shia feel they have a sufficiently strong force to handle things themselves, at that stage the US will politely be asked to leave). There is an interesting issue of what kinds of military equipment may or may not be being supplied to this force. I haven’t seen much discussion of this, I don’t know if anyone else has.

    “the region as a whole has been turned on its head”

    On this I am sure we agree, although the reading is surely different :).

    The big issues will be Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Syria maybe, but I’m not sure about how.

    If we get civil war, and the Kurds leave, and the ethnic cleansing of the Turkmen, then I think it is virtually inevitable that the Turkish army occupy Northern Iraq. Even on the best case scenario of no civil war, a stable and prosperous ‘new Kurdistan’ would destabilise Turkey in any event. So this is one issue.

    Then there is Iran. My feeling is any new Shia state, or an Iraq embroiled in internal conflict with the Shia in charge (which under any known system of democracy they would be) would come, in one way or another, under the wing of Iran. This then changes the whole balance of forces, and obviously Saudi Arabia is immediately under pressure. Since these three countries combined account for a significant chunk of the world’s oil supplies, you can imagine we may well be in for a whole lot of fun.

    “Yes, Saudi Arabia”

    I don’t know what reliability you can place on these numbers (weirdly you seem to trust NBC but not the CIA), but if they are correct they are comprehensible.

    Basically the Sunnis are using the qaeda people to further their own ends. Since if the Shia win, Saudi Arabia will lose, it isn’t surprising that people are signing up to go and get involved. This is just a guess, but it would be a plausible explanation. It also evidences the fact that SA is a far more important breeding ground for terrorists than Iraq ever was. But I guess that was something we already knew after 09/11.

    “Dismissing the use of violence on principle”

    Who is doing this? The international pacifist association I imagine. But what is the relevance here.

    “”The CIA report is merely speculation.”

    This report is still classified, so how the hell would you know this :).”

    You still haven’t addressed this.

    “‘No war, no terrorism’.

    Can you point me to where I say this? I think I am saying this war isn’t effective in fighting terrorism, and is probably counterproductive (as well as not being ethical)”

    Again, you haven’t answered this, although you considered an argument I never made to be an example of my ‘childishness’.

    One thing we have seen Rupert, is that you are pretty good at being rude (a specialist I’d say), not bad at attributing to others arguments they don’t make, and light generally on reason.

    To each his own I suppose.

  33. “bargaining works actually quite well. See for example the South after the civil war or the ANC (Terrorist ANC wanted to change much more than goverment ANC).”

    I think we have to be clear about one important distinction. Firstly terrorism itself is a means, it is a form of violent action, outside of the law, directed to some purpose (or none whatsoever, which would, curiously, turn out to be a purpose in itself).

    You can eg have state terrorism, where a state kills people illegally. The Spanish state practiced this in the era of the GAL, and people went to prison for it.

    But more importantly you have what we could call type A and type B terrorism.

    Both are equally without justification (as is, of course state terror).

    But in dealing with the problem the distinction can help.

    Included in type A might be the IRA, ETA, and some of the Sunni insurgents.

    Type B would be Al Qaeda, RAF in Germany, Grapo in Spain, Briggadi Rossi in Italy.

    The difference between the two does relate to negotiation. Any intelligent state renounces neither resource to force, nor to negotiation. Maybe each state has the balance a little different. In general European states favour negotiation, in the case of the US (and this is Sebastian’s original point, although I suppose by now he is long gone) resource to force is given rather more importance. This is true internally (ie gun carrying) and externally. As far as I can see this is just a fact, and I don’t see why recognising it and trying to talk about it leads to all the mud-slinging. These things are to do with culture and history.

    Now…..

    Dealing with type A terrorism involves a strategy of rigourous police work – of the kind that the British and the Spanish have been quite good at, and a ‘talking them in’ approach which again is being sucessfully applied in Ireland and Spain, and which the US now has to use with the Sunni insurgency in Iraq (Condaleeza Rice obviously recognises this).

    With type B, like in-particular Qaeda, there is no negotiation, since there is no objective, and people essentially want to die. This we saw in Leganes (Spain) when they surrounded the organisers of 03/11 and they blew themselves up. There was some speculation that there was evidence that they felt ashamed of not becoming martyrs on 03/11.

    Here it is impoprtant to introduce a sub division in type B, since the really striking thing about the Qaeda people is how few of them have ‘renounced’. (There has been a much publicised case of a ‘recycled’ red brigades activist being released from prison last week). The difficulty in ‘turning’ people makes intelligence work much harder, and I feel that responsible people, instead of constantly criticising the CIA should have some sympathy with them on this.

    There is some evidence here in Spain (and again this in part was what the post was about) that the police are having more success at ‘breaking in’, since the qaeda net here has partly criminal roots, and the ‘usual techniques’ apply, and since also for historic reasons the cultural divide between Spain and North Africa is a lot less than that between the US and the middle east generally.

    This is why I think ‘we’ Europeans can be very useful allies, and that some people should ease up on ‘slagging us off’.

    I also think that the tendency of some people in the US to talk about ‘muslims’ in a rather disparaging way is making the job of their soldiers and security services a lot harder. Fortunately the Spanish ‘man on the Lavapies omnibus’ hasn’t reacted in anything like the same way to the terrible tragedy of 03/11. There is no general atmosphere of recrimination, and in general people seem more sensitive to the activities of the ‘Latin Kings’ and other sect-like adolescent movements with their roots in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, than ever they are about their new North African or Pakistani neighbours.

  34. BTW Rupert some more from Abizaid that I missed:

    “”We’ve also seen an influx of suicide bombers from North Africa, specifically Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.””

    The two things are compatible, maybe the majority still come from Saudi, but the evolution is important. This fits in with the Spanish recruitment net picture.

  35. bargaining works actually quite well

    If you have something to bargain away. What would that be?

    With type B, like in-particular Qaeda, there is no negotiation, since there is no objective, and people essentially want to die.

    But not without purpose.

    Dealing with type A terrorism involves a strategy of rigourous police work – of the kind that the British and the Spanish have been quite good at, and a ‘talking them in’ approach which again is being sucessfully applied in Ireland and Spain, and which the US now has to use with the Sunni insurgency in Iraq (Condaleeza Rice obviously recognises this).

    The trouble with that is that
    a) you have to give up some of your own positions
    b) if the terrorists have a foreign base, your making war by defense alone. That will fail.

  36. Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the whole Middle East. Actually nothing in where our position is right.

    The hunderd men around Bin Laden may belong to the B group but to assume that the same is true of greater Al Qaeda is IMHO wrong. They think that America is the bad guy in Iraq, which if you look at it objectively is true, and that they are supporting their brothers

    I think you can compare the battle against muslim fundamentalism with the battle against communisme. Though communisme is obviously more evil, more expansionistic and alien to our way of live than muslim fundamentalism.
    a) we gave in when we supported the USSR in its war against the Nazi’s. Where we wrong in that?
    b) Communisme has a foreign base in the USSR, that meant we could use force offensive but their are other ways to fight battles which were much more effective.

  37. Though communisme is obviously more evil, more expansionistic and alien to our way of live than muslim fundamentalism.

    No, most thoroughly no.
    Communism was a product of western enlightenment. As was fascism by the way. Islamic fundamentalism on the other hand is something from the dark ages.

  38. Why is it worse, because it is religion?

    Beside fundamentalisme is just as much a product of enlightenment as fascisme and communisme were.

  39. Olivier:
    I did not say that the war was the “right” thing to do (having been sitting right next door at the time, trying to do business, I was most unenthusiastic as I had the sense that thinking was muddled). I said it was not “evil.” I personally think it was a fuck up, but fuck ups are not evil.

    Edward:
    I believe you misunderstood me.

    My comment, very brief as it were, was not intended to say that Iraq would have, in the alternative universe where the Bush Administration was not quite so grotesquely incompetent in policy execution and ninnyhammeredly obsessed by PR driven ideology, been all peaches and cream.

    Rather, it did not have to be quite so bad.

    When I was working on potential investments c. 2003 it was palbably being mis-executed, and what made that worse to see is that there was a genuine window of opportunity before the Sunnis were entirely alienated, etc. where one could have gotten a somewhat unpleasant ad hoc government together and blundered through via sheer bribery to the tribes, holding onto the Army and generally engaging in massive payoffs until some rather ugly compromises between the two Arab and Kurdish factions could have been achieved.

    Democracy? No, not at all. A reasonable fascimile of a stable government? Vaguely within the realm of reason. Might have collapsed later, the Lebanonesque forces were certainly there regardless, but it would have been a better start. Free Market? Well, no, again, not at all, but a more realistic start at it could have gotten off the ground.

    Having actually worked on these things, I can say that excluding the US-Brit prep side, on the Iraqi side, it was vaguely possible not to have an utter disaster.

  40. This war was not the right thing to do because we obviously lost him. (anybody who doesn’t shake the hand of a woman is a muslim fundi in my book and that should be our enemy not our allies)

    IMNSHO it was clear from the beginning that this Iraq adventure would be lost even under the most competent leadership as a democratic Iraq would invariable choose a fundi goverment in power.
    By being so “incompent” the US has created an excuse and can say next time that they will not make the same mistakes so it will go well.

  41. Beside fundamentalisme is just as much a product of enlightenment as fascisme and communisme were.

    Indirectly at most. Enlightenment was primarily a western thing. But yes, a communist doesn’t believe in going to heaven after he blows himself up.
    A communist will measure success by standards close to a sanguine western capitalist. He can be deterred without question.

  42. Fundamentalisme is a direct response to contact with modernity (aka enlightenment) while communisme is just a new name to farmers rebellions and as such much older than the enlightenment.
    That a communist can blow himself up without believing that he goes to heaven is in fact proof that they measure succes by a standard which isn’t as close to a sanguine western capitalist as a fundamentalist suicide bomber.

  43. “The hunderd men around Bin Laden may belong to the B group but to assume that the same is true of greater Al Qaeda is IMHO wrong.”

    I think this is a reasonable point (although I imagine the inner core is far more than 100).

    The context here was negotiation. With these core activists there is nothing to negotiate, which isn’t true of , say, Hamas.

    In a broader understanding of the *dynamics* of terrorism (see way back up the thread what I said about eta) what you call greater Al Qaeda is obviously influenced by a large number of things like Abu Ghraib scandals, Fallujah, or the possible urinating on copies of the Koran in Guantanamo. All these things obviously increase g-a-q, and as such make the terrorism problem worse. We need, I repeat, a policy which stands on two pillars, absolutely uncompromising with the inner core (but careful with the methods we use) and a second one which tries to dry up the sources of support for g-a-q.

    Terrorism is a complex problem, there cannot be one simplistic solution.

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