Monday, August 13, 2007

A Liberal and a Conservative Correspond

There were quite a few emails in response to my post about Muslims having the Wrong response to Tom Tancredo's Mecca statement. That is the nature of the beast when you have a post linked over at Salon.com. There was one I felt compelled to answer and now I feel compelled to post...I hope he/she doesn't mind. It was interesting, and I'm lazy and it would have taken too much time to respond to the last email...

"So let me get this straight--you think the real problem with Tancredo's suggestion that we nuke Mecca in response to some future terrorist act is that it induces Muslims to make threatening anti-American remarks? I'd say the problem is that a US Congressman and long-shot presidential candidate is publicly advocating the murder of over a million civilians, not to mention a course of action which would turn the neo-con fantasy of universal war with a billion Muslims into an apocalyptic reality. Do all conservatives adopt the morality of Hitler and Stalin? Are you people insane?" -BTFJD

"He's not "advocating" bombing Mecca, he's trying to get Muslim leaders and countries to do what they can to stop the problems they've created (and they should have done that without a threat). You people act like he's just saying, "hey, let's bomb holy sites". No, he's saying "if we get hit again, there will be serious consequences so stop turning a blind eye to the infidel-hating Imams in your countries"...
Is that really so bad to say after 20 years of terrorism at the hands of Allah's henchmen?"
-ALa

(I've always wanted a reason to say "you people"...)

"Of course we should do everything we can to prevent terrorist attacks, and we should locate and eliminate anyone who carries them out. In fact, that's what I and virtually every "liberal" or "progressive" I know felt about attacking Bin Ladin and Al Qaida in Afghanistan, as well as the Taliban regime which protected them. We supported Bush 100%, as did most of the world. It's because we think that Bush turned our attention and our resources away from that battle to go into Iraq, a move that not only weakened our fight against Al Qaida but created more such terrorists, that we oppose him now." -BTFJD

"I guess that's where liberals and conservatives part ways... the belief that the threat goes way beyond a figure head like bin Laden and that al Qaeda does and has spanned the Globe.

We know al Qaeda was already in Iraq and (even if you don’t believe they were, they are now) so leaving would create another vacuum just like Afghanistan. I also don't believe the war in Iraq is creating terrorists -I believe the verses in the Qur'an that charge followers to "sever the infidel's head below his neck" is what does it. They "don't hate us because we're free" they hate us because they believe they are commanded to and because we have left the 13th century. They would kill you (opposed to the war) as quick as they'd kill me (supporting the war effort).

Not to mention that the "everyone was for getting Bin Laden and the Taliban" is a misnomer. The left says that now, but I have picture proof of all the protests within days after 9/11 admonishing any action taken against the "innocents in Afghanistan".

War is horrible. Horrible for the soldiers and marines and their families, Horrible for bystanders. Horrible for the civilians that must endure the everyday reality of it. But watching the smoke from 9/11 stream down the horizon as I stood there in horror was pretty traumatic also... The only way to take down a bully is to show them you're not afraid. That was the spirit of Tancredo's message...and it's sad so many can't see that."
-ALa

"There's a lot to say about your comments.
I guess that's where liberals and conservatives part ways... the belief that the threat goes way beyond a figure head like bin Laden and that al Qaeda does and has spanned the Globe.

I doubt that Bin Ladin is just a figurehead, but I entirely agree that terrorism in general and terrorism by Islamic fundamentalists in particular are indeed global problems. They must be addressed primarily by intelligence, and by the cooperation of the intelligence, military, and law enforcement resources of all countries. This is yet another problem with Iraq. It has so alienated our allies and potential allies that it has impacted the cooperation critical to finding and destroying these people before they can do further harm. And I know of no mainstream Democrat/liberal/progressive who does not strongly support a coordinated international fight against terrorists.
We know al Qaeda was already in Iraq and (even if you don’t believe they were, they are now) so leaving would create another vacuum just like Afghanistan. I also don't believe the war in Iraq is creating terrorists -I believe the verses in the Qur'an that charge followers to "sever the infidel's head below his neck" is what does it. They "don't hate us because we're free" they hate us because they believe they are commanded to and because we have left the 13th century. They would kill you (opposed to the war) as quick as they'd kill me (supporting the war effort).

We will have to agree to disagree about Al Qaeda's presence in Iraq prior to the invasion. Every NIE, the Senate report, the Iraq Study Group, and countless other documents and expert commentaries have established beyond a reasonable doubt that AQ had no operational presence in Iraq or assistance or sponsorship from the Hussein regime.

As to whether and how they are there now, the issue is far more nuanced than you suggest. There are definitely some foreign fighters/terrorists who have come to Iraq to attack our troops, and I won't cavil at calling these people AQ. Even General Pace estimated that they constituted no more than 5% of the Sunni fighting us, and they are not affiliated with the Shia at all, since AQ is a Sunni movement. These are the kind of people for whom our troops in Iraq are a target of opportunity, but they would no doubt go to Europe or America. These foreign terrorists should be captured or killed without hesitation, whether they appear in Iraq or anywhere else.

The vast majority of Sunni who are fighting us, however, are not "international terrorists." That is, they are not the people who are committed to attacking the West in general on ideological grounds. Rather, they are a combination of former Iraqi soldiers fighting us because we are occupiers, Baathists who are still loyal to that party, and Sunnis who, being used to power, oppose the majority Shia government and fight us because we stand in the way of their attacks on the government. In the last year or so many of these Sunnis have begun to call themselves "Al Quaeda in Iraq," or "AQI." This may provide Bush et al. with the opportunity to conflate them with Bin Ladin's organization, but they are not the same thing and they have no interest in "following us home." In fact, native Iraqi Sunnis have begun to resent the foreign AQ and have fought them--you will recall that our military has actually given arms to some of these groups to help them fight the real AQ. This is the best possible proof that native Iraqi Sunni fighters are not a threat to the US or Europe, only to our soldiers in Iraq. If we withdrew from Iraq, some of these people would down arms, while others would continue to fight the Shia in a war that has been going on for some 14 centuries, and which we are not going to settle. They are not going to bomb subways in London or Madrid, or fly airliners into buildings in New York.

Now let's consider the effect of the Iraq war on creating international terrorists. The recent NIE flatly stated that the Iraq war has been a big factor helping AQ recruit. It has radicalized many Muslims, because it essentially bears out what OBL has been saying about how the West wants to occupy Muslim countries (I hope I don't have to add that I don't subscribe to OBL's view, but we have to understand how our enemies think if we are to fight them successfully. That's part of intelligence.) You say that they receive their inspiration to attack us from the Koran. I am certainly no Koran scholar, and you may well know more about it than I do, but surely what you say is a tremendous oversimplification. True believers can find justification in their Scripture for almost any position. I'm a Catholic, and I note with shame how many atrocities my own Church has been able to support with verses from Scripture. Also, there are a billion Muslims, but only a tiny fraction of them are suicide bombers and international terrorists. If the Koran contained unambiguous instructions to Muslims to attack non-Muslims, surely there would be more. Many Muslim clergy and scholars point to other parts of the Koran which they believe call for mercy, peace, and justice. If the situation were as simple as you say, there would be no such divergence of opinion. Isn't it more plausible that there are many interpretations and applications of the Koran, just as there are many interpretations and applications of the Bible?

Now this is not to deny that some Muslims to want to attack us, and do use their faith as justification for it. But you should also recognize the impact of policies and events on terrorism. The Koran has said what it says for centuries. The current crop of terrorists grow out of the Wahabist movement of the 20th century, and they really hit their stride with the establishment of Israel, the involvement of the West in supporting less than fully democratic Middle Eastern governments like those of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, etc., and the presence of foreign troops--Russians in Afghanistan, US troops in Lebanon, and later in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and Iraq. Again, I'm not saying that it is appropriate to attack the US because our troops are there. I'm just saying that your claim that it's just a bunch of people reading the Koran is completely inadequate as an explanation.

The problem with such simplistic explanations is that they don't encourage intelligent choices concerning diplomatic and military strategies. If you believe "the verses in the Qur'an that charge followers to "sever the infidel's head below his neck" is what does it," then we can't change their behavior. On the other hand, if you recognize that such people are motivated by a constellation of factors, then you can make strategic decisions to reduce the threat. For instance, if Bush had pressed hard for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question, instead of simply ignoring the problem, we might have removed the biggest single factor which energizes Muslim radicals.

Not to mention that the "everyone was for getting Bin Laden and the Taliban" is a misnomer. The left says that now, but I have picture proof of all the protests within days after 9/11 admonishing any action taken against the "innocents in Afghanistan".
Is there any nation in the world which conducts its military operations with a greater care for innocent civilians than the US? Who is against that? Did you find anyone who said of OBL, let's let bygones be bygones?

War is horrible. Horrible for the soldiers and marines and their families, Horrible for bystanders. Horrible for the civilians that must endure the everyday reality of it. But watching the smoke from 9/11 stream down the horizon as I stood there in horror was pretty traumatic also... The only way to take down a bully is to show them you're not afraid. That was the spirit of Tancredo's message...and it's sad so many can't see that.

War is horrible. It's also an instrument of policy, and just one of a number of such instruments. In fact, until AQ starts fielding armored divisions (and I wish they would, because then our guys would wipe the floor with them), war can't even be the main instrument against AQ. Intelligence must be the main instrument, with military force available when we identify and locate appropriate targets. This makes the dismal record of the Bush administration in the development and use of intelligence all the more dangerous. Bush and Cheney use facts like a drunk uses a lamppost--more for support than for illumination.

Finally, I have two grown daughters living in New York City, so you cannot have any more incentive to prevent future 9/11's than I do. But applying a playground level of analysis about bullies to complex international problems just doesn't work. Or rather, no one denies the abstract principle of standing up to bullies--the problem is applying that principle to the facts on the ground."
-BTFJD

I thought this was a decent correspondence and only responded to that last email by asking if I could post this (it was already getting too long), and he said that would be fine.

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