February 27, 2004

WAR? THERE'S A WAR?

Mark Steyn in the latest Spectator:

To many Democrats, there is no war. Itís a fraud got up by Bush because Halliburton were itching to get the exploitation rights to Afghanistanís supply of premium rubble. Or something like that. Itís hard to follow ...

This is, when you think about it, a very odd situation. Generally speaking, when a nationís at war, its citizens recognise it as such. In, say, 1944, even the conscientious objectors did not attempt to argue that there was, in fact, no war. But in 2004 America is divided between those who want to fight the war and those who want to fight the guy who invented the war as a means of distracting us from the tax cuts for his cronies and his plan to destroy the environment.

Lately, Iíve taken to employing the Patrick Cook gambit:

He merely asks: "Do you believe we are at war?" An affirmative answer indicates that conversation may proceed at an adult level. A negative reply requires Cook to excise large words, and to explain any difficult concepts using puppetry and mime.

You know ... it actually works. Try it.

Posted by Tim Blair at February 27, 2004 02:49 AM
Comments

Yeah, but it only works when your audience is young and easily distracted by puppets or is one of those rarities who opposes the war and doesn't have attention deficit disorder.

Posted by: Gary at February 27, 2004 at 02:52 AM

No, I think it's a highly effective strategy. We ARE talking about people who think that giant puppets are a way to make a political point, after all.

Posted by: Robert Crawford at February 27, 2004 at 04:08 AM

But, the puppets need to made of paper mache to work effectively. Sock puppets or foam rubber Muppets do no good.

Posted by: Dave T. at February 27, 2004 at 05:11 AM

And this war started when? It will end when?

Posted by: judson at February 27, 2004 at 06:06 AM

I still resent Roosevelt for never giving us an "end date" for WWII. In his "day of infamy" speech he should have said, "since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire, and it will end on January 27, 1944 or forget it." Stupid Roosevelt and his no deadline giving *mumble grumble*...

Posted by: dorkafork at February 27, 2004 at 06:29 AM

And this war started when? It will end when?

Like all wars, with victory or defeat.

Posted by: Quentin George at February 27, 2004 at 06:38 AM

If the war on terrorism is twice as successful as the war on drugs, then we're still in trouble.

One of those wars perhaps that makes the initial problem worse.

Posted by: bongoman at February 27, 2004 at 07:17 AM

An issue my US inlaws have with calling it the "War on Terror" is that there appears to be no way of defining an end point, making it easier for the government to maintain the civil liberty restrictions imposed through the Patriot Act, keeping people worries with orange alerts, etc, etc

Posted by: Adam at February 27, 2004 at 07:23 AM

A few misguided souls genuinely believe we are not at war, rather like the poor wretches who still believe the moon landing was staged at some clandestine TV studio in Area 51. Contemptible.

Greater in number are those shivering wretches who know in their hearts the danger that approaches but who live in a Treaty-of-Westphalia fantasy world of sovereign nation-states exercising total control over the territories within their carefully defined borders. They recoil at words like "Northwest Province" or "Pankisi Gorge". Better to set-and-spike meaningless words on the UN word-volleyball court than to confront the real danger. Much more contemptible.

Posted by: Tongue Boy at February 27, 2004 at 07:28 AM

And this war started when? It will end when?
If the war on terrorism is twice as successful as the war on drugs, then we're still in trouble.

The war began 9/11/2001.
It will end (or at least change from a war into an actual law enforcement exercise) the first day that no government in the world diverts public funds to terrorist organizations or allows those organizations safe harbor within their borders.

Posted by: Daleri at February 27, 2004 at 07:39 AM

"when a nationís at war, its citizens recognise it as such"

Except, apparently, for those who should be thinking of ways to pay for it.

I'd take all this "war" talk a bit more seriously if anyone were making even a token effort to make Americans understand that some tiny degree of personal sacrifice might be called for someday.

I realize that most of you think raising taxes (or even cancelling tax cuts) to help pay for the military is a silly idea, but it happened during WW2 and Vietnam, so why should this war be any different?

Posted by: vaara at February 27, 2004 at 08:05 AM

Vaara: an obstacle, since warfare is one of the few things govt might do succesfully, well they do, they can pay for war by cutting a great swathe of all their other consumtion inclduing `welfare. Govts have a duty to be lean and not some mystical obligation on citizens to pay over every dime they have so govts can run the few things that they might be theirs to do without sinking all and sundry into poverty and treating them like crims - worse, guilty until one proves oneself inncoent each year at tax time.They don't need to increase taxes, they can cut them and still pay for war by shreeding the thieiving exotrionate rackets they run .

Posted by: d at February 27, 2004 at 08:28 AM

The column after Mark Steyn's is a jaw-droppingly fatuous one by 'historian' Corelli Barnett, who uses the sixth-form debating tactic of asking why, if the justification for invading Iraq was that he was in breach of Security Council resolutions, we haven't invaded Israel. For a so-called professional historian to be unaware of the distinction between Chapter Six and Chapter Seven resolutions is bad enough; for a journal as hitherto august as the Spectator to carry such nonsense is inexcusable.

Posted by: David Gillies at February 27, 2004 at 08:40 AM

If the war on terrorism is twice as successful as the war on drugs, then we're still in trouble.

Bongoman, if the War on Drugs had been fought in the same way as the War on Terror, we would have been finished and done with it five years ago.
It's the difference between saying nasty things about Columbian cocaine lords in court affidavits... and napalming their fields (and houses)

Posted by: Dave Paglia at February 27, 2004 at 08:46 AM

Someone better tell the British Government we're at war: what were they thinking dropping charges against a self-confessed traitor?

They should have locked her up and thrown away the key!

Posted by: bongoman at February 27, 2004 at 08:48 AM

vaara, my husband is in Iraq, so by extension I guess I am doing my part by keeping the "homefires burning"..or at least, not allowing the children to totally overrun the house and burn it down...yet. He should be home next week, hopefully to a non-burned down house.

I don't think my husband thinks raising taxes is a great way to show support to the soldiers...maybe some homecoming signs would be nice...and also, people who voted for the war should also vote for funding it...that would be a nice gesture..Plus, showing some good things on the tube from time to time about Iraq would be a great boost to morale.

Getting the economy going by cutting taxes so when he retires in September he can find a job is a much better thing to do..cutting the budget would be even better.

Posted by: KellyW. at February 27, 2004 at 09:11 AM

Judson --

When did World War II start, and when did it end?

No, that's not a joke. If we look at the parties to the surrenders and peace treaties in 1945, then the beginning of combat between belligerents was July 7, 1937, with the Japanese invasion of China. There are plenty of later dates that make useful beginnings, too. And there are multiple different dates for the U.S.; the U.S. Navy was engaged in active, albeit low-level, combat with the German Navy well before Pearl Harbor.

By analogy, I can give you several dates for the beginning of the current war. November 4, 1979, October 23, 1983, December 21, 1988, February 26, 1993, June 25, 1996, August 7, 1998, October 12, 2000, and September 11, 2001 all make good dates; the last is the obvious Pearl Harbor equivalent. We can argue as far back as 1956, I think, if we count Fatah vs. Israel as the Japan/China equivalent.

How about when WWII ended? If we look to when the final peace treaties and settlements of borders occured, it hasn't ended yet; there has yet to be a Russian-Japanese peace treaty and border settlement. If we date it to the end of active resistance, then the answer is "sometime in 1949 or so, but it's hard to say." If we mean the end of major combat operations, then V-J day.

Posted by: Warmongering Lunatic at February 27, 2004 at 09:20 AM

er, adam, what 'civil liberty' restrictions? i work in lower manhattan; i haven't seen 'em. maybe you're refering to fingerprinting brazilians?

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at February 27, 2004 at 09:38 AM

KellyW.--

Please give your husband a huge deep wet kiss of thanks from me for his service.

I'd do it myself but I'm a guy so I think he'd appreciate more if you gave him my message.

Posted by: JDB at February 27, 2004 at 09:42 AM

Adam, you write of "civil liberty restrictions imposed through the Patriot Act" worrying your in-laws. Do chickens, smiling dogs and clouds shaped saucepans worry them too because they're more dangerous than the Patriot Act. Methinks you married into a family of Gore-ons and neurotics and I hope your missus is a bit more stable between the ears than they are.

Mate, I live in the States, and I haven't seen one of my rights curtailed. The only influences that have cramped my right to pursue happiness are the rug-kissing sons of camel fuckers who give you second thoughts about working in skyscrapers.

Don't listen to your stupid in-laws, you'll end up as pig ignorant as them. Read the Patriot Act and try and figure out just which rights it takes away. You won't find any. What will you will find is a law that brings together various law-enforcement measures (anti-Mafia RICO statutes etc.) and makes them cohesive enough to deal with a tribe of shaven-crotched, boy-fucking sand goblins who abuse the West's freedoms to bring it down. Personally, if I was Bush, I'd let it be known that the very next terror attack would prompt the immediate nuking of Mecca. Let the caftan-lifters find a new meteorite to stick in a wall somewhere and bend over with the arses in the air so Omar-bin-Tan-Track can get a stiffy dreaming of where to smear the date oil.

The next time you see your in-laws, poison the whole fucking lot of them. All they're good for is fertiliser. Dick in the ear morons, the lot of em.

Posted by: aussie exile at February 27, 2004 at 09:43 AM

What a coincidence! Just like my in-laws!

Posted by: ilibcc at February 27, 2004 at 10:19 AM

Thanks 'aussie exile' your observations are spot on. And as The Onion put it: The question is not whether we should use nukes - it's how many do we use - and can I push the buttons?

Posted by: Sean at February 27, 2004 at 10:20 AM

I've got an idea, lets not be at war. Take the money we're spending on it, and fix social security so that I'll actually get back the money I'm putting into it when I retire.

Posted by: Jonathan at February 27, 2004 at 10:41 AM

Unfortunately not an option for some countries which instead of pensions take the '72 virgins' early retirement scheme, now extended to females as well (what do they look forward to, being the more 'monogamous' of the sexes?).

(Bingo! Racial, sexual, political, economic and religious presumptions in just one short paragraph!)

Posted by: ilibcc at February 27, 2004 at 10:59 AM

Warmongering Lunatic : Dammit, you got in before I could, and expressed the situation even better than I would have.
When did WW2 begin? The Marco Polo bridge incident, or the Spanish Civil War, or the German Invasion of Poland, or...
When did it end? Given there's still no formal treaty between Russia and Japans, maybe never, or maybe the Treaty of san Francisco, or VJ day...

Quentin George: Those who don't study history are condemned to repeat it.

Posted by: Alan E Brain at February 27, 2004 at 11:21 AM

just dont tell any lefties about halliburton operating the new Ghan railway ok?

Posted by: roscoe at February 27, 2004 at 11:32 AM

"do you believe we are at war?"

It is a fatuous question. All it does is beg further questions.

Who do you mean by "we"?
What do you mean by "war"?

For instance: If by "we" you mean Australia, and by "war" you mean, well, war, the only possible rational answer to this question is NO. (Well, you could also say "no, obviously not").

Of course, if you define the terms differently, you might get a different answer.

This is just another variation on "if you disagree with me you are stupid". It's a seductive line of course. Ask me, I use it all the time. Sadly. it is only ever persuasive to those who already agree with you.

And the others are just dumb fools anyway.

Posted by: Nemesis at February 27, 2004 at 11:51 AM

""KellyW.--

Please give your husband a huge deep wet kiss of thanks from me for his service."

Ditto here. I am a girl, so I could do it myself, but I don't want to smooch your husband. So, you do it and tell him that he is a hero. Thanks.

Posted by: Katherine at February 27, 2004 at 11:59 AM

Nemesissy: this thread is becoming a moron magnet and you prove it. You don't think we're at war? What about Bali, fucktard, or was that a kitchen accident like moron matriarch margo claimed?
They were killed because they were Australian. Big pity you weren't there on the footpath handing out Greens literature when the bomb went off. A gearbox up your vegan hole would have set you straight. Allah's animals try to kill you because of what you are then it's a war whether you like it not. Pity good people died when scum like you were available for atomising. Bin Laden's butt boys could have done everyone a favor.

Posted by: aussie expat at February 27, 2004 at 12:15 PM

Nemesis, honey, you are playing with semantics. I know all these verbal tricks; I have been subjected to endless "performance/morale-boosting" seminars and workshops while working for "We Are Family" Corporations.

"We" is best defined as Civilization. Not even Western Civilization, but just Civilizations, as opposite to Barbarity.

"At War" means that we are in deadly struggle for survival.

Do you honestly believe that the world with universal laws of Sharia is preferable to the world with laws and mores of liberal democracy?

Sorry if I come out as a nasty believer in universal human rights and not at all multiculturalist, but there it is. A system that supports death for gays, total suppression of female rights down to genital mutilation, does not allow scientific and logical enquiry, a system without Freedom is not for me. I once fled the Commies; I will be dammed if I will allow my world to succumb to Islamofascist threat.

It is easy to pontificate from the comfort that the Western liberal democracies provided; but I still weep for my parentsí wasted lives, left to rot behind the Iron Curtain, sacrificed for the convenience and comfort of the West after the WWII.

Sorry for the rant. Got really pissed off, though.

Posted by: Katherine at February 27, 2004 at 12:22 PM

Wow, "assie exile", I seem to have touched a nerve! My inlaws are small-government Republicans, not "Gore-ons", so sorry to break the stereotype.

Posted by: Adam at February 27, 2004 at 01:14 PM

Nemesis just cant move on from being the same joke over and over again.

Posted by: Gary at February 27, 2004 at 01:17 PM

I'm beginning to think Nemmie's autistic.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at February 27, 2004 at 01:18 PM

"If by "we" you mean Australia, and by "war" you mean, well, war, the only possible rational answer to this question is NO. "

So the Bali bombing was just a friendly Muslim cultural exchange, then?

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 01:49 PM

Thanks, guys, for proving my point with uncanny precision.

And Tim, you can thank me later for boosting your count of commenters.

Posted by: Nemesis at February 27, 2004 at 01:53 PM

Strange that Britain was not "at war" during years of IRA bombings.

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 01:57 PM

Thank YOU, Nemesis, for....errr...completely avoiding the replies to your posting...

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 01:59 PM

Michael,

Can you name a time/place when 200 (let alone 3000) people were killed by the IRA ?

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 02:00 PM

I don't know of any single IRA bombing that killed 200 people. However, they blew up civilians, soldiers and members of the British government, in Britain. And it wasn't a war.

No bombs in Canberra yet, and if there were, would that make it a war? Against whom?

Presumably Spain has been "at war" with Basque separatists for ages already.

I'm suspicious of the use of the word war to circumvent rational debate.

Why not call it terrorism and be done with it?

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 02:06 PM

OK then Michael, perhaps you could give us your definition of "war"; including mention of how many people have to die and under what circumstances, before you will call it "war" ?

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 02:10 PM

No people have to die for it to be a war.

Australia was at war with Germany in WWII months before any Australian soldier entered combat, while America was not at war with Germany in WWI even after the sinking of the Lusitania.

The Bali bombings have been treated as a criminal act, and prosecuted as such.

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 02:15 PM

In the years that Her Majesty's Government chose to live with "an acceptable level of violence", Loyalist and Nationalist paramilitaries chose to go after each other with guns and bombs.

Hundreds of innocents died and a generation of children were scarred, investment was lost, living standards sank, and infrastructure was destroyed. Welfare and Organized Crime became a way of life.

Thus, the UK proved that terrorism is not to be dealt with in a half hearted manner. It just isn't effective.

Eammon DeValera hung terrorists in Ireland during the 1940's and '50's. The problem subsided.

I'd rather the Bush/Blair/Howard approach: hunt them down and kill them where they live than let them gain a foothold in our countries and prosecute their war.

Better that than having roving gangs of "Christians" and "Moslems" carbombing each other in Chicago, Birmingham, or Sydney with innocent Christians and Moslems caught in the crossfire.

Posted by: JDB at February 27, 2004 at 02:18 PM

So, Michael, you insist we're not at war, but refuse to define what a war is.

The Patrick Cook gambit is spot on yet again!

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 02:19 PM

"I've got an idea, lets not be at war. Take the money we're spending on it, and fix social security so that I'll actually get back the money I'm putting into it when I retire."

Jonathan, please atleast try to get a grasp of the basic concepts of money and economics before you go and say something that stupid in public again. Stick with something you understand, like maybe boiling water. Can you do that?

Posted by: aaron at February 27, 2004 at 02:20 PM

That's perfectly valid JDB, I'm simply disputing the vague charge of being "at war", as I think the term would benefit from a more careful definition.

Australia was certainly at war with Afghanistan, and at war with Iraq. I don't believe that Australia is currently at war; what do you think?

(Metaphorically, we are always at war against poverty, at war against crime, at war against obesity, etc. etc, but that's clearly not what is meant here).

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 02:21 PM

Well THHC, being in a state of active military conflict or preparing for same is probably a good starting point.

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 02:23 PM

One major factor that makes it a war is the underlying ideology of al-Qaeda and its allied groups; a utopian but false ideology that takes root in backward parts of the world and entrenches the backwardness all the while scapegoating it onto the "Great Satans" and "Little Satans". In this sense it is very similar to the Cold War, which was more accurately a War on Communist Totalitairanism; just as the War on Terror is more accurately a War on Islamist Totalitairianism. The objectives are even the same - world dictatorship. This goes quite a bit beyond being a "criminal offence".

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 02:25 PM

THHC, again, the IRA might have declared war on Britain, either explicitly or implicitly, but Britain was not at war. Al-Quaeda declared war on America years ago, long before America declared war on Afghanistan.

Is Australia at war, at this moment?

And as I said, the Bali bombing was treated as a criminal offence.

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 02:28 PM

Incidentally, the Cold War is a good example of a metaphorical "war", like the war on poverty. For most of the Cold War, asking anyone if we were at war would be answered "no", except when we were actually at war, either in Vietnam or Korea or ...

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 02:32 PM

Or to put it yet another way, "A state of heightened alertness does not a war make".

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 02:33 PM

A formal declaration of war does not make it a war, nor the lack of one make it not a war. America never declared war on Afghanistan or Iraq, and no Western country was ever fromally at war with the Soviet Union - but it was war nonetheless.

As early as 1999 Osama bin Laden singled out Australia as a target for his jihad; and Bali showed it was not just words. OBL (or whoever is sending the tapes puroprting to be him) continued to mock and threaten us after Bali, and the existence of terror cells and radical Imams in Australia shows, again, that this is not just talk.

As long as al-Qaeda, Jemma Islamiya etc exist and are a real threat to Australia, we ARE at war. Every day we go about our lives could well be the day a terrorist attack occurs on our soil. Not only are we at war, we are on the front lines, and no amount of questioning whether we're at war, or attempting to re-define it as something else, is going to change that.

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 02:43 PM

Neither the US nor Australia was/is at war with Afghanistan or Iraq. These are campaigns in the wider, global war called World War IV.

Was the US or UK "at war" with Morocco in 1942 when they invaded (Operation Torch)? Of course not; Torch was a campaign, not a war. Was the US "at war" with the Philipines when they invaded? Again no, this was yet another campaign.

A global war has been declared against civilization by bin Ladin in, IIRC, 1999. It started much earlier undeclared.

Posted by: Dean Douthat at February 27, 2004 at 02:43 PM

There was nothing metaphorical about the Cold War; it was a war against an ideologically-based, dictatorial empire based in Moscow; that empire is now gone (though a couple of satellites have not yet collapsed), so the war is over.

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 02:51 PM

So Australia is at war, right at this moment.

Honestly, how can you tell?

Compare Australia now to Australia during WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars...

"We are at war" is a rhetorical device, that does not advance the debate as to how we should proceed in any useful direction.

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 02:56 PM

THHC, how about China? Cuba? North Vietnam? North Korea? Are they now non-ideologically-based, non-dictatorial non-empires all of a sudden?

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 02:58 PM

Dean, if invading a country, deposing or capturing their government and occupying their territory do not make you at war with a country, what does?

Presumably then, a Japanese invasion of Australia would not have meant they were at war with us, it would just have been a campaign in their larger struggle to establish an economic empire in the Pacific. What does war mean, if you adopt that logic?

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 03:05 PM

OK Michael, since you are so against the use of the term "war", I'll re-phrase the question from Tim's original posting:

Do you believe that radical Islamist groups pose a serious threat to Australia, and need to be actively fought against if we are to preserve our lives and liberties?

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 03:06 PM

THHC, good question. One nitpick though, can you rephrase "Islamist" (a meaningless term?) with Islamic, or Islamic fundamentalist, or whatever?

The answer of course, is no. Right at this moment, death by Islamic fundamentalist car bomb is probably the least likely cause of death for someone living in Australia. Perhaps you could say, "long-term threat"?

The next issue of course, is if it is recognised as being a long-term threat to Australian interests, how shall it be actively fought against? A strong relationship with Indonesia is crucial, I would imagine.

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 03:09 PM

Sorry, I meant "replace", not "rephrase".

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 03:11 PM

>>"If the war on terrorism is twice as successful as the war on drugs, then we're still in trouble.
One of those wars perhaps that makes the initial problem worse."

War critics are mostly mistaken although they do raise a few valid points from time to time. The War on Terror is very hard to define and therefore it is very difficult to identify the war's progress, objectives and appropriate strategies.

There are several parallels to the War on Drugs (surveillance of underground groups and tracking illicit weapons and funding). But if you dig deeper, the comparison falls apart. At the heart of it, the use of stimulants or intoxicants is a human behavior - a vice like gambling or prostitution, and the iron laws of supply and demand, risk and return, etc. all mean that efforts to eradicate them will be necessarily draconian and ultimately futile, (although that doesn't mean that all efforts to reduce them shouldn't be abandoned). The temptation to partake and the economic incentives to supply can never be completely stamped out. The desire to participate in terrorist activities is the subject of much debate but it is mostly ideologically driven, i.e. manufactured, it is not an inate human urge. Islamic terrorism is profitable (much less so now) for some of the leaders but it does not create an economy the way drugs do (although many terrorist groups turn to drugs for funding). The footsoldiers participate for various reasons but for the leaders and directors, it is largely political and calculated.

The Cold War is a better comparison since it was a wide-ranging complex meta-struggle that played out differently over time and in different countries. There were elements of national power struggles between superpower countries, brutal local factional conflicts over wealth and influence, as well as a desperate clash ideology and worldview.

Many people think the Cold War ended in 1991, although, arguably it still lingers in places like Korea. It's legacy will linger for centuries.

Like the Cold War, our own societies will argue and vacillate over how to prosecute the war on terror, aggressively or detente-style. Some people will even come to doubt the existence or necessity of the war. I dislike Kerry but I think he believes in opposing Islamic Terror. However, he and his supporters mistakenly believe in a more accomodationist approach.

Posted by: John in Tokyo at February 27, 2004 at 03:12 PM

John, actually, I would say that the compulsion to create symbolism and ideology is an innate human urge.

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 03:17 PM

The term war is an irrelevant red herring.

There is a clear and present danger to western civilisation from Islamist terrorists and those who identify with them.

As it is not a nation, you can't declare war. But you do employ a number of strategies that are also used during wars. OK, to that extent it's a war even though it may not be one by conventional definition.

What some people have trouble with is employing these strategies on a nebulous 'enemy' which cannot be easily identified as it is not a homogeneous group or nation and may not have stated intentions or declared war.

This kind of 'war' is far more dangerous than any conventional war which could be won easily. That's why this 'enemy' is engaging in this kind of 'war'. It's the only type they could potentially win. They can certainly win a great many battles within it and hope to win by attrition.

Take note peaceniks.

Posted by: ilibcc at February 27, 2004 at 03:22 PM

Michael, I wish I could share your confidence that the threat is that low.

However, assuming that you are correct, I'd suggest that this is precisely because of the campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, coupled with crackdowns on terrorist financing and political pressure on terror-funding states.

Make no mistake about it - David Hicks was in Afghanistan to learn how to be a terrorist, and if it weren't for his much-maligned incarceration in Guantanamo he would have likely put his training to use.

I'd suggest, in summary, 2 reasons why no attack has yet occurred on Australian soil:

1. Lack of resources, especially since the post-September 11 crackdowns.

2. The fact that terrorist oprganisation are being pursued and disrupted makes it more difficult for them to plot and execute attacks.

The intentions are there, just not the capabilities; which is why they are resorting (for the time being) to soft targets in Muslim countries.

The current situation is a but like the Nazi army being seriously damaged, but Hitler still being alive and plotting a comeback. If there's one lesson from WW2 that should be remembered in the current climate, it is this: finish the job!

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 03:26 PM

ilibcc, do you believe Islamic fundamentalists are a threat to western civilisation?

More specifically, do you believe that they are a more dangerous threat to western civilisation than anything else, including international conflicts between India and Pakistan, America and China, Europe and America, Japan and Korea...?

(I ask this because I believe that it is important to clarify the nature of the threat, and its importance relative to other current and future threats, if we are to have any hope of forming a sensible policy of action to reduce the threat).

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 03:27 PM

THHC, in Australia, the threat is that low, as you can verify empirically simply by watching the news every night and noticing the continuing absence of terrorist attacks on Australia.

As to the future threat, that's a more difficult question. Who can tell what twisted logic could cause someone to launch such an attack. One would hope that existing intelligence sharing efforts and immigration screening would be sufficient to at least reduce the risk of such a thing, as well as being useful in the ongoing struggle against international crime.

However, I'm uncertain as to how we can "finish the job", and ensure that we are never at risk of any terrorist attack. How can such a thing possibly be achieved?

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 03:33 PM

Admittedly, you can never stamp out terrorism completely. However, the risk is increased when there are countries which either assist or turn a blind eye to terrorist group activities within their own borders, as long as the attacks occur elsewhere.

This is the general gist of the agreement between al-Qaeda and Saudi Arabia - money and a free reign to recruit and organise, as long as the attacks were carried out elsewhere. Terrorist groups that are starved of funding and on the run from the law in every country they attempt to set up base in are a lot less of a threat, and may ultimately cease to exist as terrorist groups and become more like mafia-type gangs more intereseted in raising money for survival and profit rather than jihad.

Without a country and all its resources at his disposal, dictators like Hitler, Hussein, etc, have much less cope to do harm. Ditto for terrorist networks; which need, as Colin Poiwell put it "to be ripped aprt"

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 03:41 PM

True, hopefully IRA terrorism will decrease, now that America is taking a hard line on fund raising activities there.

What do we do about Pakistan?

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 03:43 PM

Incidentally, your concise summary of the situation indicates that we should go to war against countries that harbour terrorists, until no such countries are left. When no countries harbour terrorists, it is purely a matter of law enforcement, with appropriate cross-border cooperation.

I'm not convinced that this strategy will work against Pakistan, though.

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 03:49 PM

In the end, I think a multifaceted approach will be necessary rather than simply "war", because the world is too big to fight all of it. That suggests to me that announcing "we are at war" and insisting that the debate ends there is a dangerous step to take, and obscures a more complicated problem with simple rhetoric.

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 03:52 PM

(Similar to the way the "War on Drugs" can sometimes obscure more complicated social issues, as noted by John above).

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 03:55 PM

Michael, this is where the real resons behind the Iraq war become apparent. They are, as I see it:

1. To eatablish a military beachhead in the Middle East, so that the US can exert greater pressure on terrorist hotbeds like Syria and Saudi Arabia.

2. To spread democracy and modernization throughout the Middle East, so that there will be less of a tendency for people to turn to terrorism as they will instead have jobs, education, money etc to concern themselves with. Iraq is the first domino, and it is expected that others will follow. Although its too early to call the experiment a success or failure, the early sign are promising, with reforms in Syria, Saudi Arabis and elsewhere being discussed and promised. Obviously, the proof will come in whether or not they are really delivered.

But to get back to Pakistan, it is indeed a tough nut to crack, what with its 150million people, low levels of literacy and plenty of support for fanatics. With nuclear weapons, it can't even be threatened militarily as much oas other nations.

A vital victory in the struggle is to choke the flow of Saudi money to radical.terror organisations - it is Saudi money funding the madrassas in Pakistan and elsewhere; and these places become breeding grounds for terrorists. For the moment, President Musharraf is about the best the West can hope for; and the fact that the terrosits are after him personally confirms this. Musharraf's cooperation and self-interest in chasing terrorists, coupled with a dry-up of Saudi funding, may be enough to gradually stamp out Pakistani terrorism.

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 03:59 PM

I hope I'm not being obtuse here, but isn't Saudi Arabia an American beachhead in the Middle East?

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 04:01 PM

ilibcc, do you believe Islamic fundamentalists are a threat to western civilisation?

Michael, they believe they are a threat and have (bearing in mind that they are a disparate group) made sufficiently threatening statements such that western governments must as a duty of care to their citizens take these threats seriously.

More specifically, do you believe that they are a more dangerous threat to western civilisation than anything else, including international conflicts between India and Pakistan, America and China, Europe and America, Japan and Korea...?

Michael, as well as talking about duties of care in the face of serious threats, we are also talking about events which have yet to occur. It becomes a matter of judgment. Degrees of danger may wax and wane. However, your examples here are generally discrete States so you would probably say they are more 'manageable' threats, yes even North Korea, if it were to act as a State.

With terrorism, governments must anticipate and act, not just react. I would be thankful for any government which took its duties of pro-active protection of its citizens seriously, even zealously.

The elimination of terrorism is not an outcome, it is a continuum. The price of freedom etc.

Posted by: ilibcc at February 27, 2004 at 04:02 PM

And if democracy and modernization do take root in the Middle East, Iran, etc then pressure will build on Pakistan to follow suit. This will be even more pronounced if Pakistan's rival India can maintain its economic growth, and the military power that goes with it.

Nevertheless, I suspect that Pakistan will be one of, if not the, last "domino", to fall - if it falls at all.

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 04:04 PM

Personally, I believe the only way that democracy could be spread in the Middle East, is by force. Otherwise, the first elections will elect a non-democratic candidate, who will dissolve any semblance of democracy, putting everything back to square one. Democracy doesn't work if people don't want it, and a substantial fraction of people in the world don't.

In practice, I believe that democracy in Iraq will not out-last the removal of American troops, and even then they will have to ensure that the "right" group/candidate gets elected (can that even be called democracy?)

It would be great to be proved wrong, but democracy tends straight towards tyranny by the majority, it seems.

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 04:06 PM

Saudi Arabia is part of the problem, with a relationship with the US far too complex to detail here - suffice to say they have a foot in every camp. In the Afghan campaign, the Saudis refused the use of their airfields to the US military, rendering the miltary presence there mostly useless (though the US was allowed to use a commadn centre there to help conducting the campaign). Moreover, OBL often cited the presence of US troops in the "holy land" (I don't think they were within sight of Mecca, but this is OBL we're talking about) as one of his justifications for jihad against the US and the Saudi monarchy. Iraq is in any case a better location, having borders with Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia - asll possible targets of future US military action.

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 04:10 PM

ilibcc, that's perfectly reasonable. However, the way you describe it seems more like a matter of traffic safety, or safety tests for medicines, and other health risks of that nature. Potentially life threatening, and something that government takes a hand in reducing the risks.

Not going to cause western civilisation to come crashing down and reduce us to a state of barbarism, Mad Max style, fighting packs of wild dogs in the desert and bartering for food and lynching people we don't like and having rotten teeth and generally a miserable time :)

The collapse of western civilisation is not a threat to be bandied about lightly, otherwise it cheapens the whole thing. Rock and roll was going to cause the collapse of civilisation, once. Mick Jagger is a threat to the nation.

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 04:10 PM

(I believe we have just discredited the Patrick Cook gambit -- I have claimed that we are not at war, and yet the discussion that has taken place has been at an adult level, with no puppets or mime *shudder* involved).

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 04:15 PM

Michael, I share your concerns about democracy in the Middle East. The appropriate point of comparison is, I think, post-WW2 Germany and Japan, which are STILL under token US occupation. It was th eUS military presence which prevented a slide back to dictatorship,a nd that will go doubly for Iraq and elsewhere. The experiment is reliant upon the US staying the course in Iraq for not just years, but decades.

John Kerry, and other future US Presidential hopefuls, please take note.

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 04:16 PM

That's not providential, as presumably Germany would not have been occupied for so long without Stalin eyeing Berlin. Similarly, Japan makes a great big aircraft carrier.

The best way to ensure the ongoing occupation of Iraq would be for another country to threaten to invade it.

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 04:18 PM

Michael, I did not mention 'collapse' of western civilisation, you're putting words in my mouth, er, keyboard.

A major attack on any western city by a terrorist group is sufficient reason to take due precautions against future threats and to go to those terrorist groups' places of refuge and root them out. And kill them. That's all. You wanna argue that?

I don't care if you call it a war or not. You can call it a picnic if you want.

Posted by: ilibcc at February 27, 2004 at 04:22 PM

I'd say 3000, or even 200, people killed in one day IS a serious threat to civilisation. Attacks upon electricity, water, and other essential infrastructure could potentially cause widespread disorder, if there was a sustained string of attacks (not to mention WMDs). Admittedly this is a big if, but if al-Qaeda had another 5 or 10 years in Afghanistan to go about their business, they would have certainly been getting close to such a goal.

In many ways, September 11 was a major strategic blunder for al-Qaeda as it was carried out too early and, I suspect, they were not expecting the Afghan ground war (Clinton's half-heated responses in the 1990s would have given them this idea). But I imagine they will not be so carefless next time, so it is all the more reason to pursue them to the ends of the earth.

Posted by: TreeHuggingHippyCrap at February 27, 2004 at 04:26 PM

Hey, Michael, ask the 900 or so ADF personnel in Iraq if they think we are at war (or possibly ask their loved ones back here!)

We are definitely in a War, a war against Islamofascists and totalitarianism (see Axis of Evil). We must hunt down and kill the ring leaders and destroy the infrastructure that supports them, by whatever means are necessary.

Are we winning? Yes we are - how many Western targets have been effectively attacked by Islamic Fundamentalists since 11/9/2001? - 0. Scratch two Dictatorships - both which were fertile support grounds for terrorists. And Libya has renounced it's NBC program and opened the book on the programs of the Axis of Evil. More winners than losers all round. And the UN has been shown up for what it realy is - a corrupt, rotting, self-centered pile of manure.

Victory will be ours because we are right. This is going to take decades, just as the cold war did. But we will win and the world will be a better place for it. And all the peaceniks and anti-Bush/Blair/Howard types will continue to be able to freely speak their minds and hate themselves and the society they are apart of because people like me will have protected their right to believe and say what they want. And if we lose. . .for those poor fuckers who believe in God, even he won't help - ask the women in Afghanistan when the Taliban was around.

Posted by: Razor at February 27, 2004 at 05:22 PM

Razor, so, is Pres. Musharraf up against the wall next? Being a totalitarian ring leader, and all that. I'll be interested to see how that is going to happen.

How are the women in Afghanistan, today? Have they been allowed to read the constitution of their own country yet?

Karzai and Chalabi. An unlikely vanguard for democracy.

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 05:36 PM

(But I quite agree that the war in Iraq isn't finished until the occupation is over. It's merely the wider use of the "war" as a hammer to defeat opposition on any topic that I am suspicious of).

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 05:39 PM

Michael - so it's not perfect in Afghanistan, but it's a hell of a lot better than it was, or are you suggesting that more than a million returned Afghanis are wrong?

The world is a better place becasue of the actions taken in the War against Terrorism.

As for Pakistan, and other friendly dictatorships ,such as Singapore perhaps, I think the saying goes "they might be bastards, but they are our bastards" or something like that. Even China will slowly come around as the power of market forces drives up incomes and the demand for reform in that country.

We will prevail. Or don't you want too? Is that it?

Posted by: Razor at February 27, 2004 at 05:51 PM

Razor, it's not a question of us prevailing or not. What happens in Iraq after the soldiers go home?

The only answer seems to be that the soldiers won't go home, which is fine. But it's not possible to garrison the entire world. Or is it?

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 05:54 PM

And if you think I'm not original then you are probably right. No need to re-invent the wheel when Steyn's already done it.

How the hell can he be so right so often?? The guy rocks.

Posted by: Razor at February 27, 2004 at 05:55 PM

A realistic viewpoint is that you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

However, the current philosophy seems to be that if you smash enough eggs, you'll eventually get an omelette.

I'm not convinced that the implication holds, but voicing doubt tends to just get responses like "you hate yourself", or "you don't want us to win", as you have ably demonstrated.

Everyone knows that democratic nations enjoy military superiority, that's a given. But can they leverage that to end every single party state?

Posted by: Michael at February 27, 2004 at 05:58 PM

Michael - you are wrong - it is a question of prevailing, because , for all it's flaws, western democratic society with a separation of powers and the rule of law is the most successful socio-economic system ever. It is the reason why we can have this debate on these keyboards, with anyone in the world watching - amazing when you consider it really. The alternative is a nihilistic fatalism that kills progress, let alone innocent people. What would you prefer for the world? Socialism I suppose.

What happens in Iraq when the soldiers go home? Don't take the soldiers out until the situation is sorted. What's the big rush? The US has been in Germany and Japan for almost fifty years. And they are still in Korea. Where's the rush? Take the time to do the job properly.

And I'll give you a bit of licence on garrisoning the whole world.

Posted by: Razor at February 27, 2004 at 06:06 PM

Colonel Gaddafi is an exellent example - the bombing by the US scared the shitter out of him personally and made him pull his head in. It appears, from anecdotal evidence that he admitted to Berlusconi (Italy) that what happened in Iraq, put the frightners into him even more and that's why he came clean.

That's what I call effective assertive foriegn policy in action.

Posted by: Razor at February 27, 2004 at 06:11 PM

Friday - I'm going out on the piss. I think you should drink more too Michael.

Posted by: Razor at February 27, 2004 at 06:13 PM

I'm already there.

Posted by: ilibcc at February 27, 2004 at 06:55 PM

Har Har!'Michael'is retarted leftist pupet! Prepare to meet fate of former Macedonia President killed by Bosnia peoples Grr!!

Posted by: Drago at February 27, 2004 at 07:46 PM

EVeryone who is tired of the way Michael has taken over the conversation with his anal-retentive nitpicking, raise your hands.

PS: Nemmie, the same people are commenting here who have always commented here. I am not sure what you mean by "boosting (Tim's) count of commenters." Unless it was you who put Michael up to his attempt to end this thread by boring everyone to death. Or maybe you expected all your little troll friends to attack. Where are they?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at February 27, 2004 at 08:10 PM

We are very much at war and on many different fronts. Rosie O'Donnell should have had her nuptials on the West Bank- the better to get the
muslim blood pressure up to stroke and aneuryism
levels. Even better if the jihadis kidnapped her
bride- just imagine a big loudmouth from Long
Island raging through Arafats' compound- terror
hell, that is unspeakable horror.
Semi OT- I just saw an article from "The Age"
about 2 ministers in court because some people
laughed during some remarks about the koran. Is
there actually a "race and harmony" commission in
Australia?

Posted by: okimutt at February 27, 2004 at 09:40 PM

Michael:

In fact, Japan was not at war with Australia during WWII. Rather the Axis was at war with the Allies. That's what made it a global conflict aka World War. Whether or not Japan invaded Australia or even intended to do so is beside the point. An analogy might be the quarterback of one football team and a linebacker of the opposing team. The linebacker and quarterback certainly compete but the game is between the two teams.

Similarly, World War III (Cold War) pitted supra-national groupings against each other globally. There were numerous campaigns, some bloody, some not. For example, the Berlin airlift was an early campaign of WWIII. Korea and Vietnam were "hot" campaigns thereof. You may recall that none of these three was call "war".

World War IV, the current supra-national global conflict most closely resembles WWIII wherein "hot" combat is supplemented by police, espionage, and intelligence efforts.

Posted by: Dean Douthat at February 28, 2004 at 12:41 AM

This war started sometime in the seventh century when the Arabs decided they wanted to rule the world. It will probably end when Islam is eliminated from the planet (obligatory disclaimer: prediction is not advocacy).

Posted by: David Gillies at February 28, 2004 at 02:02 AM

What happens in Iraq when the soldiers go home? Don't take the soldiers out until the situation is sorted. What's the big rush? The US has been in Germany and Japan for almost fifty years. And they are still in Korea. Where's the rush? Take the time to do the job properly

Hear, hear. I wonder why we're still in Saudi Arabia? Wasn't Iraq's threat the main reason we had a counterbalancing force in Saudi? Get out of Saudi, move those troops to Iraq. Give Osama what he claims he wants, and bring light and life to the region. Win-win-win-win-win!

Posted by: Brian Jones at February 28, 2004 at 03:54 AM

Brian, we are out of Saudia Arabia. We are in Iraq mainly, with bases in Kuwait and Quatar. To believe that Bin Laden is going to play nice since we are no longer in the holy land or whatever is false. Just like believing that once the Palestinians have their own state they will stop killing Jews. Radical Islam is going to be a threat for a very long time, probably "forever". The vision Bush brings to the table is that by trying to get a democratic government that respects the rights of its people (and not build palaces while starving your people all the while blaming their ill fortune on the great satan) is that people will open their eyes and find out the crap their "leaders" have been feeding them. You see signs of it in Iran with their students.

I for one do not want to go back to the old status quo of proping up a dictator who freely pumps oil while torturing, murdering, and invading it neighbors and own people. Democracy in Iraq will hopefully be the beginning of a new Middle East.

Posted by: Dave at February 28, 2004 at 04:36 AM

I agree with you, Dave. I'd just like to have seen a more...demonstrative exit from Saudi, if that's the word I want. If we're really out, have a ceremony, turn over the keys to the bases, tell the princes we'll be watching them from Iraq, tell them to have a nice Dome of the Rock, and now here's hoping everybody who had a problem with us being there will be happy.

THEN KILL THEM when they keep attacking us.

Posted by: Brian Jones at February 28, 2004 at 06:49 AM

What a fucking stupid argument. Given that there's no fundamental disagreement that that the west needs to aggressively resist militant islamofacsim, who the fuck cares what you call it?

The fact that one group of people think this is worth insisting on merely demonstrates the cynicism of their attempts to gain political mileage out of the circumstances.

Posted by: Mork at February 28, 2004 at 11:25 AM

And this war started when? It will end when?

Those answers can only be found in the history books of the future. Pray God those books are not written in Arabic. We're too close to the conflict to answer the first question, and the answer to the second will only be known long after the killing stops.

The United States still has troops in Germany and Japan...the war's not over until all the troops go home, right?

If the war on terrorism is twice as successful as the war on drugs, then we're still in trouble.

One more reason why the metaphorical "War On Drugs" was a BAD THING...blinded the literal-minded to the real meaning of WAR.

I've got an idea, lets not be at war.

Duh! (smacks forehead). We self-preservationists are so dumb! Sheez, if we'd just done that in '39 or thereabouts we wouldn't be in this mess! We (or our descendants, if any) would be dead, or slaves...no worries!

Are we at war? Hmmm...attacks around the globe on both civilian and military targets with attendant loss of life, declaration of war by al Queda, massive movements of troops and materiel on a global scale by a 30+ coalition of nations, thousands of tons of munitions detonated around the world on one side or the other...

If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck...

The question isn't "is it WAR?" The question is "is this WWIII?"

I think the answer to that question is "yes." And as the outcome of WWII was to drag Germany and Japan kicking and screaming into the 20th century, I hope the outcome of WWIII to be the dragging of Islamic societies into the 21st century.

Posted by: Timothy Lang at February 28, 2004 at 12:30 PM

Further comments...

so, is Pres. Musharraf up against the wall next? Being a totalitarian ring leader, and all that. I'll be interested to see how that is going to happen.

I remember very well the day Musharraf siezed power in Pakistan. Was on the phone with my ex-wife, wondering if the missles would first come from Pakistan or India, then who would next hit the button.

Fortunately, he had a lick of sense, and very shortly after 9-11 we were able to turn him. This is the real world, they are bad guys until they roll over and smile.

How are the women in Afghanistan, today? Have they been allowed to read the constitution of their own country yet?

Well before 9-11 I read accounts of women being taken by their rulers, the Taliban, to the soccer field and receiving a bullet in the back of their brain. So yes, I think their status is better.

Quiz: what countries require a certain percentage of delegates to the ruling body to be women?

Posted by: Timothy Lang at February 28, 2004 at 01:29 PM

Wow. Was that really Mork? Never thought it would be good to hear from him. Weird, I kinda missed him.

Mork, I think the cynicism is well founded. As far as gaining political mileage, that makes no sense at all.

Hope you had a good vacation.

Posted by: aaron at February 28, 2004 at 01:48 PM

Does anyone have a registration for The Spectator? I really don't want to go through with their stupid registration.

Posted by: kai jelly at February 29, 2004 at 01:33 AM

I hope I'm not being obtuse here, but isn't Saudi Arabia an American beachhead in the Middle East?
-Michael

Certainly not. The Saudis have some political and economic interests in common with the US, but not all of them. They're about as much of a US beachhead in the ME as Germany is a US beachhead in Europe (actually, probably less- IIRC, the German government can't refuse the US the use of bases in German territory, while the Saudis can and have refused to let the US use bases in Saudi territory).

Posted by: rosignol at February 29, 2004 at 08:41 AM