Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Dog to sponge, part deux . . .

One of Spotty's most faithful readers - and persistent critics, God love him - is Dave. He posted a comment to And then the dog said to the sponge that is thoughtful and it also provides a good introduction to what Spotty wants to write about in this second installment in reply to Mr. Sponge's balance of terror.
Let's say for a moment that Spot is right-that we need to stop creating terrorists to win the war on terrorism. Let's imagine for a moment that Kerry had won the election, and that the dems had one back control of the Congress. Imagine further that we pulled our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, whatever the consequences. What then? Would the terrorists stop hating us? Would they say "gee, those Americans aren't really so bad, maybe we should leave them alone"? Or would they maybe smell blood on the water and come after us even harder? It's not our foreign policy they hate, it's our whole way of life. Anything that we do that violates a strict view of Shi'a Islam is offensive to them, and they hate Americans for spreading our culture. And that's the rub. They are, by American standards, not thinking rationally. You can't reason with them, or try to placate them. Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

Dave Thul
First, Spotty wants to express his gratitude to Dave for granting Spot even a moment of rightness! You don't know how much it means to him.

Dave has identified what political scientists call the tiger by the tail conundrum. Well, actually they don't, but they should. How do you unwind or resolve a conflict that may well be made worse in the short run by attempting to solve it? You start by applying an old principal govening human behavior. It is called The First Law of Holes (FLH).

The First Law of Holes states:
When you are in a hole, the first order of business is to stop digging.
Now some readers may think this principle was conceived by Tom Friedman, the formerly brilliant writer for the New York Times. It was not. Spot is quite certain that it was first espoused by a group of influential eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers.

It is pretty apparent that our presence in Iraq is making the terrorism threat to the US and our allies worse. Spotty doesn't have any paticular citation for that; he just suggests that you read the papers. The FLH tells us to stop doing what is making things worse. The FLH is pretty intuitive, really, which is why George Bush's telling us to stay the course in Iraq is reassuring to fewer and fewer people.

There is a political science guru, Professor Huntington as Spotty recalls (Spotty doesn't read many political science journals), who says in essence what Dave is saying; we're in a Religious War of the Worlds; there is nothing we can do to avoid it, and we had better buckle down and win it. And Huntington has his adherents. But Spotty and lots of people smarter than Spotty say that Huntington is wrong.

Spotty says think of a lasting argument you had with your significant other, co-worker, neighbor, whatever. What did you do? Spotty will tell you. You started to think of all of the other things the other person ever did to piss you off, his or her annoying personal habits, and every other grievance you ever had against that individual, whether or not it had anything to do with the argument at hand.

Why, oh why, do people behave this way? Again Spotty will tell you why. It provides psychological reinforcment, helping you stick to your guns. Imagine the cognitive dissonance that would occur if our minds, whenever we got into an argument, began to think of all the good traits of our opponent. It would be like trying to hate puppies.

It is why, as Spotty has written about before, president Bush wants us to think of terrorism as a free-floating and inexplicable evil, entirely inhuman. But in Spotty's observation, people around the world have more in common than not, regardless of religion - that's blasphemy to fundamentalists of every stripe, Spotty acknowledges, but it's true.

As Spotty has also written before, the roots of Islamist terror lay in the same things people always go to war about, resources, pride, etc. Why does this seem like a religious war? See hating puppies, supra.

Will dismantling our Iraq policy solve the terrorism problem? Certainly not in the near or even medium term. It took most of the 20th century for the West to screw up the Middle East as bad as it did; it will probably take most of the 21st for Humpty Dumpty to reassemble itself. So what in blazes does the US do?

It is apparent that we cannot bloody afford what we are doing now. In Spotty estimation, we should have started a crash program of energy conservation and development of alternative sources of energy years ago. It will be one of the greatest ironies of American history if we fight to exhaustion to stabilize our Middle Eastern oil supply and then find that the region is running out of oil anyway, as some people think it is. A Manhatten Project on energy would actually be good for the economy.

We should also take some of the money we would otherwise piss away in the sand and use it to property secure our ports, chemical and nuclear facilities, etc. here in the "homeland."

And finally, and this may be the hardest of all, we need to genuinely reach out to our traditional allies (Germany, France, Canada, Japan for example) and, if necessary, beg for help in extricating us from Iraq, to get their contractors and NGOs involved, and to help press the law enforcement side in the fight against terrorism, which it should have been in the first place.

As far as living on one's knees or dying on one's feet are concerned, Spotty would prefer to do neither, and he doesn't think that's the choice.

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