Hey, Lets’ Give ISIS What They Want!

    Well, at least that seems to be everyone’s current plan—from the Republicans to the liberals to just about everybody else in the world. How’s that? Doesn’t ISIS want the US government to be replaced by a Caliphate (I mean a Muslim one, not the Christian one that Ted Cruz and all the Republicans except Trump want)? Well, maybe ultimately. But for right now, both sides want the exact same thing, FOR US TO BLOW UP A BUNCH OF MUSLIMS.
    You’re thinking, “Right, they want US to blow THEM up.” You bet they do, buckaroo. Here’s the deal. In Terror 101, the first thing the class is taught (after knife sharpening) is that the two main goals are to get people to pay attention to you and to recruit more gullible schmucks to your side. If ISIS wasn’t cutting off heads and blowing shit up, they’d have the same international visibility and ability to attract people to their cause as Lindsay Graham, which is none whatsoever. Now, there’s always a few hard core numbnuts who’ll come join the revolution—any revolution—but did you ever try to get people to, say, drop leaflets door to door for a political campaign? Right. Everybody’s got something else to do, you know, soccer practice, pick up the dry cleaning, rake the yard. So how hard is it to get people to forget about soccer practice, quit their jobs and RUN OUT AND BLOW THEMSELVES UP IN A FUCKING SHOPPING CENTER? How the hell do you talk people into that? Good luck. Talking doesn’t work. PREACHING doesn’t work. The only thing that works is to get people really, really pissed off. And how do you piss people off? I mean besides snoring really loud or saving 5 seats at the movies with one coat. Well, you get someone to attack them and their loved ones, that’s how. THEN they’ll drop everything and flock to defend their God/Homeland/Way of Life, trigger fingers itching, souls aching to go to heaven and to send the enemy’s to hell. So that’s what Terror 101 teaches. You provoke your opponent into dramatic repression, the bloodier the better. The more your own people suffer, the more of them flock to your cause. If you sit quietly in your basement and write clearly reasoned, impassioned tracts and blog posts—crickets (Lindsay Graham, Rob Porter). But get someone to set off a few explosions in your town, machine gun a crowd, and voila, people come out of the woodwork ready to kill. That’s what ISIS just did in France, they KNOW the response it will provoke, and THEY CAN’T WAIT. They’re praying 5 times a day for “Crusader” troops to return to the Middle East.
    In football, if somebody gives you an opening, you run through it as fast as you can. In chess, if somebody gives you an opening, you figure out where the trap is—and don’t step in it. So we’re playing football and ISIS is playing chess.
    If I were a presidential candidate, I’d stop here, and not spell out what I think we SHOULD do. But I’m not running for anything, so I’m perfectly happy to put my money where my mouth is and tell you the best chess response. In the short term, people do have to die. We need to send a bunch of their higher-ups on a free trip to see if that afterlife they’ve been dreaming about is all it’s cracked up to be. We’ll lose our own recruiting match if something like this doesn’t happen. The trick is that it has to be done in a way that doesn’t make good jihad TV. No obliterated homes with sad eyed old men standing in front of the rubble, no children’s bodies arranged in a photogenic line on the sidewalk surrounded by crying women, no American (or French, German or Guatemalan) planes roaring overhead. And absolutely no tanks rumbling through Arab neighborhoods. Let the bastards do their own recruiting.
    In the long term, we attack their resources, not their people and towns. Last I heard, there weren’t any factories making machine guns and high explosives and tanks and shit in ISIS lands. All their stuff comes from elsewhere, paid for with money from selling oil or simple looting. So the people who run the companies that sell them weapons, the people who run the banks that handle the money, and the people in charge of the companies that buy their oil? All those people need to go to jail. And if there’s no way to make charges stick, maybe they just have a little visit from SEAL Team 6. And you thought I was a softie.


It Ain’t Over Till We Say It’s Over

Article in the NYT today about our ongoing inability to close Guantanamo (see article).

Did you know that this year, it is costing about $443 Million to incarcerate 149 people? That’s $3 Million per prisoner or $8,145 PER DAY! That’s a hell of a tropical resort, particularly since the pool is closed. For that price we could put every last detainee on a cruise ship and sail the 7 seas. Hey, I know! Then we could drive the ship up and down the east coast of Africa until it was highjacked by Somali pirates, who would hold the prisoners for ransom and…ha ha, joke’s on you. Problem solved. Of course we couldn’t really do this—the cruise ship would put the prisoners at risk of Norovirus, which even the US would have to consider an unacceptable violation of their rights. Oh, and also the prisoners are “enemy combatants,” who can be held until the “war is over.”

Now we can disagree about the justice and wisdom (or lack thereof) of this plan, but just for the sake of argument, let’s assume it’s a good idea. My question is this: How do we know when the War On Terror is over? What visible event could we conceivably witness that would allow Dick Cheney to give the nod and have every last Republican agree that “Yep, by golly we’ve won.” (Of course, the war could equally be over if it was “Oops, we’ve lost,” but I notice nobody is going there).

Now we knew when the war with Japan ended because in 1945 some Japanese government officials put on funny Western formal clothes, lined up on the deck of a battleship and signed a bunch of papers. Now, even though we don’t have any more battleships, I’m sure we can find a suitable boat, but who signs the surrender forms in the War On Terror? The Mayor of Terrorville? The Secretary of Sorry I Don’t Have a State? Even if the current, and highly temporary, successor to Bin Laden as leader of Al Qaeda were to show up in his best formal camouflage and execute a document (as opposed to a journalist), that would be binding on maybe a few of his closest followers and more likely on no one whomsoever. Most current Al Qaeda groups share only the name; they take inspiration but not orders. And that’s just Al Qaeda. The biggest bunch of terror trouble-makers currently are the nutcases from ISIS, who even Al Qaeda told to “tone it down a little, you’re making us look like crazy extremists.” No, bombs will continue to go off as long as there’s a half-dozen numbnuts somewhere with a grievance and a case of C-4.

So if there’s nobody who even can surrender, and there will always be somebody willing to blow stuff up, what does the end of the WOT actually look like? Is there one, or are those who profit (politically or financially) from endless war the only winners here? Hey, I know! How about if Al Qaeda and ISIS sold all their guns and bombs and formed a super PAC to support Republican candidates? Would that be enough to let us say we won? Well, you know, that might actually do it—for the Republicans anyway—but the rest of us would still think they were out to destroy our country. Oh well…

Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves!

There’s a lot of talk about the Drone Wars this week, and rightly so given that we had the confirmation hearings for John Brennan, CIA Director nominee. Can’t resist adding my 2 cents. There are 3 separate issues involved:

  • Is it moral/just?
  • Is it legal?
  • Does it work?

You can probably approach these in any order. If something’s not moral, then maybe you shouldn’t do it, even if it works. OTOH, if something doesn’t work, perhaps it’s not worth unending debate about legal technicalities. If something’s illegal—well, who gives a shit, that’s why we classify documents; this is American security we’re talking about!

Anyway, there are some issues related to “does it work?” that don’t seem to have gotten a lot of hot-airtime, so I want to start with that. The underlying unarticulated premise of the drone bombers is that we can kill our way out of this problem. Now, killing people who piss you off has a long and venerable tradition in humanity. The earliest villages excavated by archaeologists all had walls, which, it is speculated, were NOT there to keep soccer balls from rolling into the Euphrates. And clearly, some  problems are quite solvable by killing. Let’s take Bernie Madoff, he of the decades-long Ponzi scheme that separated numerous 1 percenters from their hardly earned cash. I think it’s pretty likely that if early in his career, SEC Team 6 had sent a squad of crack auditors to bludgeon him to death with copies of the tax code, problem solved! No more Bernie = no more Ponzi scheme. Nobody’s thinking that “Well, you took out Bernie, but some other con man with close personal relationships with wealthy upper East-siders will just step in and continue fleecing. Why, even more morally bankrupt investment advisors will be drawn to a life of crime!” Hardly, right?

So is it just the same with Islamic fundamentalist terrorists? Are they just like Bernie (except for the expensive haircut, suits and Jewish friends)? All we have to do is kill the ones that are making trouble, hold a parade and call it a day? That would be the unspoken assumption. Now of course the specific individual who was killed is not going to make any more trouble (by-by Osama), but does it stop there like it would with Bernie? Well, I think likely not. Why? Motivation. Unlike Bernie, the fundamentalists aren’t motivated by personal greed. Instead, they are angry at us. And no, they’re not blowing themselves up because we have titty bars, homosexual legislators, and let girls go to school. They’re angry at our unreserved support for Israel against the Palestinians. They’re angry that we’ve invaded and occupied Muslim countries. And they’re angry that we’ve been bombing other Muslim countries with our drones—sometimes killing people who are not evildoers*. Is it really likely that “bomb them until they stop hating us” is a recipe for long term success? Many seem to think so, and I guess the beatings will, in fact, continue until morale improves.

*Yes, I know we have our reasons for our actions in the Middle East (some of them even not involving AIPAC!), and many believe that Muslims are not justified in their anger and resentment. But be that as it may, if such anger leads to more people willing and eager to attack the US, and stopping such attacks is our ultimate (not short term) goal, we need to reevaluate what we’re doing.