Friday, August 12, 2005

And then the dog said to the sponge . . .

Mr. Sponge over at Clever Peasantry posed a question. If Spotty had half a brain in his head, he would have blown off the question as merely rhetorical. But he didn't, and he is mightily sorry for it. It is really Katherine Kersten's fault, he supposes, as so many things are.

Kersten wrote a column about how it was necessary to vaporize a couple hundred thousand people to see if our new atomic bombs worked and to give that extra special kick to the tottering Japanese empire. I guess the Japanese are just damn lucky we didn't have more of those bad boys ready to drop!

So our friend Sponge, using his prodigious gift of free association, says Golly, (well he didn't say golly, but work with Spot) isn't terrorism the new atomic bomb? In other words (and believe Spotty when he says you are getting the short version here), both are indiscriminate attacks calculated to cause mass casualties and destruction of property. And both are employed to achieve an objective. So far, so good.

Then Mr. Sponge analogizes a balance of terror as a deterrent to terrorism the same way mutually-assured destruction (MAD) served - and still serves - as a deterrent to war, especially nuclear war. You can read the whole post here. What prompted Sponge to think of this was the statement by a Colorado congressman that if there is another terrorist attack on the US, we should bomb Mecca. (Boy, wouldn't that make the Saudis stingy with their oil!)

So here's the question: is the balance of terror idea workable or desirable? Spotty doesn't believe that Sponge really thinks much of the idea, but Sponge does say that it may be where we are headed in the war on terra, especially for the folks who want to turn the whole thing into a War of the Religious Worlds. And Spotty regretfully agrees.

Here's the thing. Wars ostensibly about religion are almost always about something else, wolves dressed as religious sheep. As described by Kasper Gutman in the Maltese Falcon, the Crusades were "largely a matter of loot." The Spaniards were not so much interested in Christianizing the natives in South America as they were interested in the plunder available. Sure, they took along the odd priest, whose job it was more often than not to declare the natives beyond redemption and therefore eligible for slaughter.

Islamic terrorism is about Islamic or Arab shame and American foreign policy, gussied up into religious extremism. Once a terrorist is "born," he pretty much stays a terrorist until he is killed or is too old to pick up a gun. Very few terrorists retire to a life of ease. So, the trick is to keep terrorists from being born. Terrorist birth control: what a concept!

The terrorists are non-state actors of course, and Spotty does not believe they are deterrable. Period. The Bush administration has that much right; that's why there has been so much saber rattling about “regimes that support terrorists”; regimes can be deterred, even really hinky ones like North Korea. That's also why it is important to stop creating so many terrorists; we can never kill them all.

If Islamist terrorists were deterrable, all of the Israeli reprisals for bombings and terror incidents in Israel would have had some effect. You could argue that there would have been more terror without reprisals, but Spot doubts it's true. If they were deterrable, they wouldn't retreat into mosques (including some rather sacred ones) and sacred cemeteries in Iraq to seek refuge when attacked.

Our chimpanzee president and his sycophant Secretary of State (Spotty had a recent post about the latter) tell us that terrorists are just evil and hate us for our freedoms. Negative, you two. They hate us because we soak up so much of the world's resources, support repressive regimes in the process, and because we don't seem to have any restraining influence on Israel; Israel being one of the saddest cases of the oppressed becoming the oppressor that probably has ever been. It is convenient to think of our enemies as boogie men; then we don't have to reflect on whether we had at least something to do with creating them.

The key to producing terrorist condoms lies in the last paragraph. It is the only key. Think of it as supply side terrorist control. If we want to preserve our profligate "way of life," we will just have to live with midwifing more and more terrorists. Then, we will spend more and more blood and treasure until we collapse, exhausted, and become reacquainted with our old friend reality.

There are also legal and obviously moral - Mr. Sponge addresses the latter in his post - objections to the idea of a balance of terror to restrain terrorists. Spotty will probably take this up again in a future post.

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