'War on Terror,' or terrible war?: an 'Economist' correspondent considers

Max Rodenbeck, Mideast correspondent for the Economist, has written a pungent and closely argued critique, not just of Bush's prosecution of the "War on Terror" (which he considers abysmal), but also of the very idea of a war on terror, which he finds, well, naive to the point of idiocy. It appears in the New York Review of Books, which I urge all intellectually curious people to read often.
Please read above-linked article and comment.


Paul Hue said...

I agree with the vast majority of this article, though as always I remain unclear as to which path is the best to take in response to 911. I have always stated that it seemed to me one logical response was to have done little or nothing, and that a big response might be a big mistake; and I've always been certain that most of the Homeland Security / Patriot Act expenses and prescriptions were wasteful or counter-productive.

I disagree with the view, inserted in the conclusion, that "US policy" -- including support for Isreal -- created the anti-US terror strikes. Most Arabs and Muslims live outside of Isreal. The ones who live inside of Isreal have more freedom and prosperity than anybody else in the muslim world; those who live outside of Isreal can have just as much freedom and prosperity, if they simply concede Isreal and focus on building the areas in which they live into civilizations; this includes Gaza and the West Bank, and of course Lebenon.

I think that Bush made one big mistake: he drastically overestimated the maturity of the Arab Iraqis, basing perhaps his estimation on the maturity of the Kurdish Iraqis, who are obviously more interested in personal freedom and prosperity than in vengance, gangsterism, and religious tyrany. I think that Bush proved wrong his assertion that "all people are ready for freedom and democracy."

And the writer of the article seems not to understand Bush's rationale for invading Iraq, and his linkage of Iraqi freedom with a response to 911.

Tom Philpott said...

After 9/11, here was my response plan.
1) Global investigation to track down the perps.
2) Pull military bases out of Mecca (Saudi Arabia), which the Bush Ad. actually did a year or two ago, figuring Iraq would provide a safe harbor for bases.
3) Tell Isaael, not another penny in aid until new settlements are halted; no full restoration in aid until settlements are handed back to the Palestinians;
4) National effort to reduce oil consumption, by way of conservation and serious effort to find alternatives.

Paul Hue said...

Tom: (I assume you know that Mecca is a city in SA, and that no US military base ever existed there.)

I would have gone along with such a plan, had that been the sitting president's response. It certainly represents a logical approach, and I would have given it a chance to work, with hopes that it would. It's actually quite libertarian, which is my natural style:

Withdraw all US military bases from foriegn land, letting other nations provide their own security. And that goes for Isreal as well, which I do not consider to be a benefit to the US for "providing an oasis of democracy and a US ally" in that region. To the contrary, of course, every manner of competing tyrant (religious or otherwise) in that region, and even other Islamic regions, uses the existence of Isreal as an excuse to ignore advancement of civilization in favor of bolstering various tyrannies.

I regard the creation of Isreal to be a mistake, but not as immoral as the reaction by area non-Jews to all the Jewish immigrants, which was, unlike the US "Minute Men", violent and xenophobic. The local non-Jewish Palistinians acted horribly towards the white Jewish immigrants, who in turn reacted horribly as well.

In any case, why should the US involve itself in that mess? It makes sense to me to totally withdraw from that situation. However, it also makes sense to support Isreal, because it is a democracy with leaderw who appear willing to accomidate and coexist with all people in the region so long as its existance isn't threatened. On the other hand, the Isreali Jews have determined to create and maintain a nation that provides sanctuary to Jews in a region dominated by people who follow a faith premised on violent world domination and subjugation of all members of other faiths. Which then takes me back to: Why should the US get mixed up in this competition?

So I am agnostic on the question of Isreal, and would support trying either approach.

I am, and have always been, open to the idea of permitting the rest of the world to behave like Hussein, Sadr, and all the other ignorant brutes, and just let any civilized peoples amoungst them fend for themselves, perhaps immigrating to the US and contributing their talents here.

I am uncertain if the cretins in Arabia wouldn't simply find other excuses for beastial conduct if we removed these concerns of theirs. Afterall, appeasement of the Nazis and Confederates did nothing to quell those monsters. But I would give it a chance. Confronting these monsters and giving a chance for freedom to the people there has not seemed to work, at least not as quickly as a modern democratic US has patience for.

And as I mentioned several times after 911, perhaps that attack represented not a major threat to civilization, but rather a lucky strike by a few sociopathic religious creeps, and that the worst reaction from civilization would be exactly what Bush did: major, expensive domestic programs that restricted liberty, and massive, expensive international military and reconstruction efforts.

Unlike you and Nadir and the Bushies, I lack absolute and immediate resolution in what to do. You and Nadir have predicted absolute failure in every step, which has been wrong; and Bush has predicted unbridled victory in every step, which has also been wrong.

Nadir said...

"You and Nadir have predicted absolute failure in every step, which has been wrong; and Bush has predicted unbridled victory in every step, which has also been wrong."

At what step have we seen anything other than absolute failure?

I also agree with Tom's response to 911. To date no search for the perpetrators has been conducted. Robert Mueller has admitted that there is no proof the 19 alleged hijackers were the actual perps. No investigation of put options or warnings prior to 911 occured.

Afghanistan was not a front in the war on terror because Clinton has admitted that the invasion of Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taleban was planned before 911. This had more to do with the Taleban's blocking of the infamous UnoCal pipeline than it did their harboring of Bin Laden.

Al Qaeda is not the greatest threat to the US. Bush administration huberis, mismanagement and corruption is the greatest threat to US security. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have increased anti-American sentiment across the globe.

Impeach and prosecute Bush and Cheney, begin a phased withdrawl from Iraq and end the so-called War on Terror, and the US would be respected more than ever.

Paul Hue said...

Nadir wrote: ======================
At what step have we seen anything other than absolute failure?

1. Massive US casualties during the invasion.
2. Massive violence if the first elections preceded as scheduled, leading to low turnout.
3. A certain "October Surprise"?
4. The Kurdish area is doing well enough that if all of Iraq were doing so, Bush would have a victory on his hands.