Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Are these people stupid?

Blowing up their own country's infrastructure to hurt the country trying to rebuild it? Not just oil which they say we want, but THEIR OWN WATER SUPPLY?

From the New York Times:

The bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad today provided grisly evidence of a new strategy by anti-American forces to depict the United States as unable to guarantee public order, as well as to frighten away relief organizations rebuilding Iraq.

Tactically it makes a horrible kind of sense - from a certain warped angle. We expect the successful rebuilding of Iraq to reduce the appeal of terrorism. They agree. It makes sense only if the primary goal is not to help Iraqi's, or even Islam, but to harm America in any way possible, no matter what the cost to Iraq. Of course, this is pretty much the stated goal of the terrorists, so it would be naive to be shocked.

The problem is the rest of the Iraqi's. Many of them seem less angry at the people who attack their water supply and kill Iraqi policemen than they do at us. No sense being surprised by the priorities of the terrorists. It's the people who aren't scrambling desperately to help us catch them who should give us pause for thought. The people who aren't morons - so if they believe these things were done by Americans it's because they want to. They are the people who have me worried.

Yet perhaps this too should have been expected by those who supported the invasion.

From Steven Den Beste's 'Stategic Overview' essay (just a tiny part):

Why is the US fighting the war? Why were we attacked?

American success casts Arab/Islamic failure in sharp contrast. Politically, economically, militarily, technologically and culturally we set the standard and our accomplishments make their failure look particularly bad.

I have come to believe other of his ideas as well. Poverty may be part of the problem - but not the primary part. Charity cannot solve it, since loss of face is the problem. The only question is, how we could fail to wonder how far people who thought 9/11 was a sensible response to that sort of humiliation would be willing to go to prevent further humiliation. Again, I don't mean Al Qaeda, or even those who approve of them, but the large numbers who might not agree but don't think they are psychotic idiots. And that they would see having their country rebuilt by the hated Americans as a humiliation is obvious too in retrospect. I didn't think of it either, but I address this to those who still in hindsight believe the invasion made sense.

For those eager to remind me that we need to decide what to do now, I still think where we went wrong and why is relevant to correctly making our next decision. Nevertheless, I'll move on.

Can we still snatch victory? Maybe. I think we need to protect the Sunni's now. And odder yet, Baath party members. I'm not saying we should coddle the latter. But if people with scores to settle can shoot them indiscrimately, they will be desperate enemies indeed, with nothing to lose. If we can prevent people associated with Saddam from being killed without trial, perhaps we can bring order.

What if we can't? A much more painful question. Anyone remember the domino theory? Somehow, people didn't panic in the streets for fear of a communist invasion when we lost the war in Vietnam, as if on some level eveyone knew the idea was silly. Of course, Al Qaeda has shown the will and ability to attack us however they can. It's not unimaginable that failure here would give them a critical boost, allowing them to recruit enough members that they could actually field enough resources to build an atomic bomb and get it into the United States. Very unlikely but not unimaginable. Perhaps we really can't accept defeat - at least not unless we have a huge victory elsewhere in the Arab world.

How about we start building economies elsewhere in the Arab world, places like Jordan or Egypt perhaps. We could not give the money to governments. Perhaps we could carefully support investment in promising businesses. If the problem is that they have no modern accomplishments to be proud of, perhaps we can start the solution somewhere where those who hate us don't have quite as much support. The Marshall plan didn't just rebuild our old enemies, but our allies as well. It won't be easy. We would have to get guarantees of government noninterference, and find something that cheap unemployed labor could manufacture at a cost advantage, but it's been done before.

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