Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Calculus of Confrontation

Peace is very nice, but it doesn’t exist until everyone subscribes. Where ever in the world there are tyrants who rose to power using violence, or something close to violence, there are people who know the effectiveness of violence, and will resort to it with increasing frequency as it becomes increasingly effective.

Our enemies recognize that, for the most part, we do not come from the same school as they do. We can be intimidated by accusations that we bully others, usually by bullies themselves, and we can be intimidated by threats of violence. Americans see the rest of the world as a hornets’ nest. I mean, sure, we’re more powerful and everything, and sure, we could just destroy them completely, but my gosh, why should we go meddling? What’s to gain? Live and let live. People are different. Respect their differences. Culture is relative, and everyone thinks their culture is the best. Isn’t that right?

Well of course it’s right. But seriously, these annoying other places are annoying because they don’t share any of those dicta of tolerance. They would like to grab that ring in our collective nose and lead us around like a prize bull. If you think they would have any qualms about embarrassing us, or hurting us, you’re crazy. The use of power by power-loving people becomes when unmet, effective and exponentially cumulative. Prussia nearly conquered the world. Do yourself a favor and look at the historical maps of the Roman Empire.

We, and the rest of the free world, represent something new. We are a people who truly believes that we can coexist and actually wants to coexist with the rest of the world. Before the US came into being, nations addressed each other with avarice, animosity or indifference. We are different. You don’t have to be part of the US to be our natural allies. You can be as different as you want, and everything is cool. We love everybody, but we must not allow ourselves to forget that some nations, the lands of the powerful men, return the favor by viewing us with avarice, animosity or indifference – and they make their plans.

Ralph Peters discusses some of these axioms in an article in Front Page Magazine. He notes that our enemies, unchecked, unconfronted, have meddled, and will not hesitate to meddle more in whatever efforts we take in the world. As long as the parental eye of the voting American public doesn’t see the devious action under the table, there is no price to be paid by the troublemakers.

Within two weeks, four choppers go down in Iraq. Shot down. By enemies who previously couldn't hit the Goodyear Blimp.

Attack helicopters and transport birds, military and contractor aircraft went down. Crews KIA (in one case, executed). Did the bad guys just get lucky?

No. They have new weapons. And new training. And a new strategy.

Unless these shoot-downs were a weird blip, foreign powers are involved, providing the missiles and training - probably outside of Iraq. Our intel services either already know who's lurking behind our enemies' new capabilities or will confirm it soon enough.

And who might those third parties be?

[T]he foes of freedom beyond Iraq's borders raised the stakes significantly by providing deadly new weapons and training to the insurgents and terrorists. They're confident that they hold the winning cards. It's time we taught them how to play for keeps

To your Average Anti-War Thinker, this sounds like new excuses to pursue a tired strategy. But why do we do it? What profit is gained for the Administration by hysterically barking at every rabbit in the woods?

The fact is that there are reasons rooted in the real world, reasons that cannot be believably explained to a cynical public in the midst of a propaganda war. So the President does not try. The AAWT, on the other hand, fleshes out that unexplainable something with the magic sinews of imputed motive. I’m sure you’ve heard some of these accusations. They are ludicrous, but they are believed. The over-the-top conspiracy theorizing on the Left tells you that they are outraged at the uncivilized behavior of the White House. And it should also tell you that they just cannot compute what the real reasons might be.

2/11/2007 2:46 AM

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At Sunday, February 11, 2007 9:50:00 AM, Blogger Steve said...

I'm glad you mentioned the Romans further down, JJ, because your opening line immediately brought them to mind. I think I'd have appended "or are made to subscribe".

I don't know. Maybe history will show Iraq to be equivalent to one of the wars the Romans fought during the Pax Romana (assuming we prevail in some fashion).

Last night I watched the first half of "One Bright Shining Moment", a documentary about George McGovern's political life. (My first vote was for McGovern. Against Nixon, actually.)

Dick Gregory features prominently (I've always liked Gregory, especially ever since hearing the story about how he responded to some cracker's threat to do to him whatever he did to the chicken he'd just been served by picking it up an kissing it's rear end).

The film also reminded me of just how much I detested Hubert Humphrey.

The thing that kept buzzing around my head as I watched the documentary was that I wish I could fully embrace the worldview of all those good people, but I can't. It's just that I think they are softies in a hard world. I think this is the greater bulk of the nose ring you mention.

Your quote of the Peters piece concludes with, "It's time we taught them how to play for keeps." I'm afraid the time to plan for that was 2002, and that it'll never happen now. We're not going to loose nukes over this, and that's probably what it would take at this point. Or so it seems to me.

These days I cannot help but think about Stingers in Afghanistan. What a mess.

At Sunday, February 11, 2007 2:52:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

Well, you have some justification in questioning our resolve. War, however, always has its tests. You must be prepared to prevail in each and every one of these tests. The real war here is the one that we're trying to avoid thinking about. Iran has been at war with us since 1979. Isn't it about time we recognized that fact. We don't have to return the favor completely, but we do have to respond appropriately. Catch and release was not appropriate. Tit for tat retaliation would be.

Iran has essentially killed, or abetted the killing of, hundreds of our fighters in Iraq. They cry loudly about our accidental downing of a an aircraft, for which we have apologized, but if they're seeking revenge, they have taken it many times over. They are today deliberately stirring up the internal conflicts in Iraq in order to deny us any claim to victory. This is exactly what we should be doing for them.

You are right. We are not going to loose the big Dogs of War. We are problably not going to bomb them aside from border provocations. But there are many tools. As long as we have resolve, we have deeper pockets and greater capacity for innovation. We do have to find a way to explain to the AAWT why we need to do this. Bush is apparently not the man for that job.


Rome rose to power on their willingness to use violence in a consistent and thorough way. The Carthaginians, who represented the most powerful force at the time, and a great influence for peace, failed to defeat Rome in the first two Punic Wars because they were disunited, complacent, and tolerant. Rome was in the wrong, but Carthage was willing to concede and pay war reparations in order to have peace. In the end, they received "none of the above" and disappeared from the world scene. Rome in the end lost because it had changed. The average aristocrat could no longer be bothered by all these ridiculous border wars, and, according to one theory, the rest of the people had become such peace-loving Christians that they would not take steps to defend the Empire.

Defeat begins at home. The West, today, is a much better thing than either of those nasty places from history, but it will join them in history if it cannot relearn the importance of victory.

At Sunday, February 11, 2007 4:01:00 PM, Blogger Steve said...

There's a different take on Rome's downfall in Tainter's piece on complexity. Probably you've seen it? here here


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