Originally posted by addabox
Maybe the american public doesn't make "granular" distinctions between terrorists, but they should, and as a matter of policy the United States must...
Your arguments seem to consist of citing the odd bit of inconclusive data to butress the idea that Iraq had something to do with 9/11, but failing that, you fall back on the notion that it doesn't really matter, an evil Muslim is an evil Muslim. After all, if we are engaged in a global war of cultures, why get hung up on a little thing like culpability?
And this is why: America's response to the threat of terrorism must reamain proportionate, targeted, and just, or we will become the global equivalant (if we haven't already) of the frightened National Guardsman in Tikrit, spraying automatic weapon fire in a 360 degree circle because he thought he heard a shot...
The result? Dead civilians, another family filled with rage and hatred for the United States and all it stands for. Not "freedom". Not "democracy". The wanton exercise of disproportionate power...
I made the point that terrorism is a strategy not because I don't think it dangerous, but because declaring "war" on it is absurd on the face of it...we can no more win a "war" on terrorism than we could win a war on hatred.
You would solve this problem by ascribing terror to transnational coalition of Islamic jihadists to which you attribute the capacities and motives of a more convential enemy, such as the Soviet Union or facist Germany. This is convenient for your argument, since it allows you to coopt the rhetoric of those struggles (appeasement is a proven failure, the dsitinction between Iraq and, well, some other terrorist outfit is of no more importance than the difference between Japan and Germany)...
This is the same self serving lie that made the cold war such a disaster for the "domino" states unlucky enough to serve as a battleground, overt or clandestine, for "freedom" vs. "tyrany". More importantly, it is a lie that can only lead to repeated "preemptive" attacks on countries within which the difference between military and civilian targets are impossible establish, since the "enemy" is any person or child who is willing to do violence to the US or her interests...
In other words, your world view requires the US to become a terrorist state in order to combat terrorism. Since the enemy is somehow simultaneously mighty, organized, diffuse and fluid, we have no choice but to set aside all standards of international relations and rules of engagement and wallop the bejezus out of anything tthat moves. After all, our very existence is threatened, so who could bame us?
And the answer to that question is: the next generation of terrorists.
Thanks for advancing the discussion beyond the he said/she said to one of policy & principles.
One of the difficulties of dealing with widely diverse ideological viewpoints are there are implicit assumptions (stereotypes) made about an opponents line of argument, which prompts an inaccurate stock response. I think it might be helpful to first clarify my particular views:
To me, there is/was extensive evidence of links (or associations if you prefer) between Saddam Hussein and several terrorists and groups, some of it pretty well known when it comes to anti-Israeli organizations. However, there is almost no credible evidence, to my mind, of Saddam and al Qaeda coordinating or assisting one another in the attack of 9-11. And there has been some, perhaps more, murky links (associations) between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.
Usually the dialog gets derailed at this point, because some (like Giant) assume the argument is a defense brief - that if one cannot conclusively prove both the extent and nature of the links, the argument has ended (Giant: case closed). Why the left adopts this narrow legalistic view is deserving of its own thread, but for ME it is the starting point to discuss the correct foreign policy goals and strategy based on what we DO KNOW.
So I start with several assumptions. First, that American foreign policy should serve our national interest, which may include, but is never limited to humanitarian and moral goals. Second, in the game of nations there is are no world policemen, no enforceable courts of law, no agreed upon body of laws that protect us, and no moral system that will achieve justice. In other words, the world is not ruled by the consent of the governed and protected by world public safety departments and courts.
In this vigilante environment (some are democracies, more are not), if one wants to fight the local gang, or the Mafia, then one best do it with natural allies (other democracies) but if necessary, do it alone.
So in my world view, politically Islamo-facist terrorism represents many different gangs of the same underworld. Yes, a few are ideologically opposite one another (Baathist and al Qaeda), but all of them are shaped and inspired by some combination of Isalamic culture, Pan Arabist imperialism, and fierce ethno-religious identity. Most importantly to us, they are also united in their long standing hated the West in general, and the U.S. and Israel in particular.
Examine the history of Muslim based terrorism, among the alphabet soup of organizations does one find a love the west, or a respect for democracy, or are there natural allies for west among their families? True, with some we can have a truce (for a time), others may occasionally serve our interest, but in the long run, after 9-11 this is not security.
In my world view we should treat the gangs of Islamic terrorist world as criminals to be contained or eliminated, not because they are always overt allies with one another, but because they already view us as their enemies and are already fighting that war. In my world view our national interest is not to torment ourselves over which gang is culpable for the latest atrocity, but to let all the gangs know that their actions, collectively, are inhumane and will be punished; and to hold any nation that harbors or supports them as accountable.
I understand your concern over proportionality and targeting nothing is to be gained by wantonly killing the innocent or unnecessarily alienating our friends. However, one should not confuse the wisdom of our tactics, or the moral parameters of our strategy, with the justice of our cause.
Was Iraq the second best place to start to defend our national security interests (the first being Afghanistan) well, I dont know. Terrorism was but one of a constellation of Iraqi concerns which, in hindsight, seem less pressing. I doubt our wisdom in invading Iraq at this time, but I have little doubt of its Justice. Perhaps Saddam should not have been the second on the list, but we will have one less Frank Nitti and Al Capone will come soon enough.
Let me close by noting the long-standing political anxiety of many liberals; that to defend oneself will only bring more recrimination from other Muslims, that the "world will become a West Bank".
"9/11" already demonstrated that the United States is a West Bank. You can either pursue the spiritless half measures prior to 9-11 or you can pro-actively fight back. If, in the very unlikely event such defense galvanizes every Muslim nation their people to oppose us so be it, we are already at war.