Friday, July 08, 2005

Think about it
Daniel Henninger makes an important point:

Every Islamic terrorist, from bin Laden and al-Zarqawi down to the next suicide bomber, knows how politics in the West works now. They know that many people of the West react to acts of violence differently than they did in 1940 when Winston Churchill demanded 'Victory in spite of all terrors. Victory, however long and hard the road may be.'

But there were no cameras and satellite feeds set up on every corner of that death-strewn road. Yesterday's attack produced another new-media first: Grainy video images fed by a cell phone from a bombed subway tunnel. If the American people had seen daily the up-close reality of every battle and bomb in 1943, might we have 'withdrawn' before June 1944?
Think about it. In the Battle of the Bulge, in just over a month between December 1944 and January 1945 American forces alone saw 19,000 KIA. If you've seen Band of Brothers, or any similar film, you may have some idea of what kind of hell our soldiers went through in that battle. (Note: I would never suggest that watching a film is in any way comparable to what those incredible men endured—it just gives those of us who weren't there some basic frame of reference to understand what went on).

I often hear the argument "well, Hitler was different—he was pure evil." Well, what do you say to a group of people who slaughter men and women guilty only of trying to get to work? Are we honestly to believe that withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan (remember, they want us out of both) will cause them to back down? Do we think that they will let bygones be?

"Well, we wouldn't be in that situation if it weren't for BushCo!" Riiiiiight. OK, let's think about this: we were attacked on 9/11. Everyone supported the invasion of Afghanistan, right? Iraq was the step too far?

But these people want us out of Afghanistan, too. So what's the Dem proposal in this hypothetical? How should we have responded to an attack like this if we hadn't invaded Iraq?

"Well, they wouldn't have attacked if we hadn't invaded Iraq." Really? So what was 9/11 about?

"Well, we built up an empire that oppressed these people, and they had a right to strike back in whatever way they could." (I sh*t you not, my roommate gave me a line almost identical to this ON 9/11). You may by now see where I'm going with this. The whole line of reasoning that I'm following here is based on the idea that we brought all of this on ourselves. From day one, these people hate us because of what we've done.

But really, what have we done? Yeah, we initially armed bin Laden to turn back Russia—who had actually invaded sovereign soil for their own gain. And then he turned on us... why? Recognizing that Wikipedia is far from 100% accurate, let's take their words with a grain of salt:
After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, bin Laden offered to help defend Saudi Arabia (with 12,000 armed men) but was rebuffed by the Saudi government. Bin Laden publicly denounced his government's dependence on the U.S. military and demanded an end to the presence of foreign military bases in the country. According to reports (by the BBC and others), the 1990/91 deployment of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia in connection with the Gulf War profoundly shocked and revolted bin Laden and other Islamist militants because the Saudi government claims legitimacy based on their role as guardians of the sacred Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina. After the Gulf War, the establishment of permanent bases for non-Muslim U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia continued to undermine the Saudi rulers' legitimacy and inflamed anti-government Islamist militants, including bin Laden.
Soooooooo basically bin Laden wanted to defend Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein's aggression. He was turned down. The US then stepped up to do precisely what he'd wanted to do—and he denounced both Saudi Arabia and the US for doing what he wanted to do in the first place. Yikes, what a crime.

It's jealousy. He wants to run the show. He's not fighting for the liberation of his people, he's fighting to keep everyone that doesn't fit his image of Islam OUT. So, again, let's follow this line of reasoning.

Should we have let bin Laden defend Saudi Arabia from Saddam? Say we'd never built permanent bases in Saudi Arabia and the first Gulf War had never happened—does anyone doubt that Saddam would have hesitated from using Kuwaiti oil profits to build up his then-declared stockpile of WMD? Would things be better with Saddam running the table in the Middle East? No one (that I'm aware of) claims that the first Gulf War was an unjust war. But if bin Laden had had his way, it never would have happened.

It's simple: he wants to be the Caliph. He wants his brand of Islam to spread across the globe (either by conversion or by force), and he's willing to kill everyone who doesn't go along with him.

To get back to my original point: is this any less insidious than Hitler? Oh, wait. I'm remembering something about Hitler. What was it? Let's turn to Wikipedia again, for a brief summary of his thoughts in Mein Kampf:
In terms of political theories, Hitler announced his hatred in Mein Kampf toward what he believed to be the twin evils of the world: Communism and Judaism, and he stated that his aim was to eradicate both from the face of the earth. He also announced that Germany needed to obtain new territory: Lebensraum. This new soil would properly nurture the "historic destiny" of the German people; this goal explains why Hitler invaded Europe, both East and West, before he launched his attack against Russia.

In regards to foreign policy, Hitler states that a National Socialist foreign policy would go through several stages. In the first stage, Germany would, through a massive program of re-armament, overthrow the "shackles" of Treaty of Versailles and form alliances with the British Empire and Fascist Italy. The second stage would feature wars against France and her allies in Eastern Europe by the combined forces of Germany, Britain and Italy. The third and final stage would a war to destroy what Hitler saw as "Judo-Bolshevik" regime in the Soviet Union that would give Germany the necessary Lebensraum. In the so-called "Second Book" of Mein Kampf, which was written in 1928, Hitler expanded upon these ideas and went to suggest that around about 1980, a final struggle would take place for world domination between the United States and the combined forces of Greater Germany and the British Empire.
OK, there's no mention of Allah, and it's in Europe instead of the Middle East, but otherwise—sounds pretty much like bin Laden's goals, doesn't it?

Now, to bring this full circle, imagine if we'd gotten those cell phone images from the Ardennes Forest in late 1944, early 1945. Would Americans have had the stomach for war, or would we have heard the same arguments we're hearing today? Would we have withdrawn because it was our fault in the first place? After all, it was our allies that had subjected Germany to the infamous Treaty of Versailles that gave reason to Hitler's rise to begin with. Really, we'd driven him to it in the exact same way we've driven bin Laden to his current course—if anything Hitler's success can be even more directly attributed to the actions of the Allies following WWI than bin Laden's can to any of our actions. Surely it would have been appropriate for us to follow in Chamberlain's footsteps and declare "Peace in our time"? After all, we gave bin Laden what he demanded, so he'll leave us alone, right? Just like Hitler did after Munich?

No one (with the exception of Neo-Nazis) claims we should have left Hitler to his own devices. So why in the earth would anyone argue that we should back down in the face of bin Laden's aggression?

Thanks for sticking with me through that—I just needed to get it out. Please comment with any thoughts or criticisms.

UPDATE [7/8/2005 - 09:08]: Tech Central Station has more evidence of the lunacy I attempt to combat above.

UPDATE [7/8/2005 - 9:22]: Dave Justus points to another piece that speaks along these lines.

Honestly, are we supposed to be sympathetic to these people because they are threatened by our culture and want to kill us for it? And if so, how are we supposed to restrain culture from reaching the Middle East in this age of jet planes and electrons? Even if they would leave us alone if we left them alone, how are we supposed to do that? Can we help it that Muslims around the world have gotten a taste of personal liberties and want more?

I know I've been asking a lot of rhetorical questions—I just can't see any other way to get at this issue. I still invite you all to provide feedback.

Still another UPDATE [7/8/2005 - 15:01]: Lileks has similar thoughts.

1 comment:

Clara said...

I completely agree with your analysis. I would add that we need to get away from calling this war a "war on terror." Our enemies are Al-Qaeda and other extremists anti-American organizations. Their members ought to be outlawed wherever they are. Any school that deliberately teaches hatred, should be closed. War-mongering clerics should be persecuted.