Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The War on Terror Did Not Create Nidal Hassan

Friend Tim invites my attention to the incomparable Christopher Hitchens' (incomparable, except on religion, where I find him tired and shrill) attempt to frame the recent Fort Hood terrorism in the proper perspective. There as you may remember, Nidal Hassan (I will resist the convention to grant famous murderers the custom of the use of all three of their names). Hitch is writing largely in response to Robert Wright who--in a recent NYT editorial basically engaged in a bit of intellectual open-field running. The intelligentsia had previously been avoiding the obvious fact that Mr. Hassan's act was one of wanton terrorism (so as not to feed the hysteria that would surely attend such knowledge in this country; always--in their view--one Bill O'Reilly show away from the lynch mob) . Wright's nifty new move is to recycle the worn and vapid meme that "the war on terror radicalizes--and creates more terrorists".

We've heard this one since the beginning of the war on terror, generally espoused by some very wise and seemingly very rational apologists for inaction. They tell us that the terminology of war is misplaced, they tell us that this is largely in international criminal network best dealt with as a law enforcement and diplomatic threat. But most of all, they tell us the War on Terror creates terrorists.

It occurs to me that FDR's speech on December 8th created tens of millions of radicalized Japanese in one fell-swoop. LBJ's step up of Mr. Kennedy's war in Southeast Asia had a similar impact. This is what war does--it creates enemies. In the process of the conduct of war, sometimes more enemies will be created as the enemy gains allies and or successfully propagandizes at home.

This element of recruitment and radicalization among an enemy is not peculiar to Islamic terrorists, nor is it particularly something to be feared. It is part of the sturm und drang of war, something that war planners take account of, and something that a war ultimately aims to target (in many instances). Ever heard of "breaking the will" of the enemy? This is what is broken--the support among the populace, the farm system for the fighting forces, the desire to keep fighting (or to keep surrendering one's sons to the siege guns of the enemy).

Mr. Wright's position--and that of those who would have us assume a different posture in the War on Terror--is a "turtling" strategy, one where they hope that hiding in our shells will provide us with the protection we need. Don't anger the radicals, or they'll become terrorists. Nonsense. Show the radicals that becoming a terrorist is a poor career choice.


JPH said...

I couldn't disagree more with this blog and your position, but we've discussed this before and we must agree to disagree.

"It occurs to me that FDR's speech on December 8th created tens of millions of radicalized Japanese in one fell-swoop." Right -- Nation State members (Japan) were already "all in", whereas the moderate Muslims weren't... Thankfully most are still apathetic at best and angry at worst. Historically, the major strategic objective of most insurgencies is to provoke an over-reaction/over reach -- I think its pretty hard to argue that hasn't happened in the M.E.

I highly recommend Kilcullen's Accidental Guerilla for a more detailed discussion. JPH

Robert Thorn said...

Here's why I think you are wrong:

I think it is intellectually immodest to state that the Japanese were "all in." While more may have been "in" after Dec 8, it is probably reasonable to assume that some were merely compelled by the fact that they were the lowly inhabitants of an monarchy and didn't have much say in the matter.

If Iran did something colossally stupid like attack us, would you equally assume that the people of Iran were "all in" even after we subsequently declared war on them?
I'm going to guess, no.

Is your definition of moderate, people who don't actually carry the al-Qaeda membership card, but just give at the office through CFC (zakat)? It goes beyond apathy and beyond angry, because it has a real impact in continuing bankrupt Islamist ideology as a going concern. Interestingly, there were great increases in said giving at the office after the Cole attack. What was the overreach that we did afterwards the elicited such a response?

Also, I've read that either UBL, KSM, or both were surprised at the US response to September 11th, so his implication that our overreach in ME has played into the hands of their insurgency is dubious, and they couldn't have anticipated that we'd go after Iraq so immediately if at all.

I highly recommend reading multiple books for more detailed thinking on such complicated topics.

TDP said...


On December 6, 1941, few Japanese civilians harbored any ill will towards the United States of America.

On December 8, millions were prepared to slaughter American Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors.

On August 10, 1945, they seemed pretty humbled.

I highly recommend any of the books on the war in the Pacific (you know, that place that Obama is the "First President of") during what is popularly known as the Second World War.

JPH said...

Robert and TDP: thanks for your responses. I was afraid that i was writing for naught.

Robert, to your first question: “If Iran did something colossally stupid like attack us, would you equally assume that the people of Iran were "all in" even after we subsequently declared war on them?" I'm going to guess, no. I disagree although “All in” is obviously a poor choice (expression) to use. No population is ever all in supporting a government, although cultural ways, fear of retribution or forcible coercion makes the point mute in Japans case. Japan’s population fought aggressively to defeat the US; that is the point.

Having extensively studied Iran the past several years, I can promise you that attacking the US is a viable COA that the Iranian regime considers to secure its grip on power. Obviously they can’t afford to push it too far; else they end up in the same position as Iraq’s Bath party. Nothing unites M.E. populations more than outsiders invading their lands – regardless of the stated reasons/ justification. They will not believe or trust the infidels. However, I digress…

Uniting the population - It would depend on our response and proportionality we use -- if it were measured and reasonable you might be correct. However, it is tempting to outright disagree your position, but it’s a folly to not agree with elements of your argument. We merely disagree with the likely outcomes of using military force to respond to attacks.

Let me shock you – I see 9/11 as a crime, not an act of war – again, obviously a complicated and nuanced discussion would ensue to truly discuss both sides – I don’t believe any position is absolutely clear. Folks with strong views on both sides will not be able to understand or appreciate an opposing view. That is a shame…

Your point about the AQ receiving more funding following the Cole attack – True, but what does that prove? If your suggestion is financial support to AQ increased due to a successful attack on a western interest, of course you are correct. However, numerous UN studies and M.E. opinion polls suggest these actions, although understood by large portions of the M.E. population are not condoned by the masses. If think the average Arab/Muslim ( I will avoid the word moderate for now) was more likely to support AQ following these attacks your quite mistaken. It is a common misperception in the west. In fact several of these attacks have led to 400 Muslim scholars to support Jordan’s King Hussein’s proclamation condemning the actions and perpetrators…what does this translate to – a movement in the right direction. My bottomline - there is a struggle for the direction of the Muslim religion… my recommendation – we should quietly support folks who are seeking peaceful solutions and not be provoked to over-react.

Your point that AQ’s leadership underestimated our INITIAL response to 9/11 – again, I absolutely agree. You point “so his implication that our overreach in ME has played into the hands of their insurgency is dubious.” Obviously I disagree, and based on fighting in that part of the world, I know how we are perceived. Accidental guerillas are the foes we face most every day – AQ engagements were few and far between. Regardless, our initial strategic advantaged has waned and OBL’s stated desire to fiscally ruin the US economy looks like a viable course of action. They have adjusted their strategy… is it working? Well, time will tell… I pray not…

Your point about reading multiple books on the subject – I agree, spent the last two years studying the subject. I merely recommended one of hundred of pieces that I’ve reviewed; one that addresses this topic succinctly and is written by one of the foremost experts in the world on this subject. Would you like a more comprehensive list?

JPH said...


TDP, nice clear response. “On December 6, 1941, few Japanese civilians harbored any ill will towards the United States of America.” Maybe true but also irrelevant – the nation, Japan, and its people fully supported their nation’s leaders’ military objectives. Most Muslims have not…..and still do not. Lets keep it that way and endeavor to mitigate future radicals.

I don’t know what you mean by (you know, that place that Obama is the "First President of")… so I will pass on engaging….

Thanks for engaging and Happy Thanksgiving.

TDP said...

Sorry JPH but back in 1979 when the Iranians took Americans hostage, a Middle East expert addressing our class pointed out that this was just one act in an overall Islamic struggle against the west that goes back to the times of the crusades. They are not fooling around about victory over the infidels.

No shock that you see 9/11 as a criminal act and not an act of war. Furthermore I would not be shocked to find out that you support Obamacare, gay marriage, card check, affirmative action, and whatever other leftist/socialist cr@p proposed by the Obamunists.

Your kind wants to Mirandize these scumbags because you see them as nothing more than international gangbangers involved in a 3000 victim drive-by shooting.

JPH said...

TDP -- your first paragraph is solid, well reasoned and thoughtful. I would only add that the current regime is becoming less popular every year -- the world wide revolution that the radicals invisioned has not occured, nor will it; we shouldn't provide them ammunition to justify their woes and poor economic state on external actors...

Your musings in your subsequent paragraphs show your lack of knowledge of my beliefs and your personal biases and small minded petty perspectives.

I'll gladly engage you in a grown up discussion, but personal attacks and assertions are not worthy of my time or of this forum. JPH

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