Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Restraint

Over at Done With Mirrors, Callimachus points to a couple of articles discussing home-grown terrorists in Canada and the USA. From a Christian Science Monitor story by Rebecca Cook Dube we get this:

With a little leadership, [Marc] Gopin [director of George Mason University's Center on Religion, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution in Washington] says, it's easy to create and harness rage in young people. It's possible for people who have never experienced the hardships of war to get even more upset and radical about it than those who have.

In the case of Western born-and-raised Islamic terrorists, Gopin says, "It's not based on the personal experience of grievance; it's a constructed grievance."
This is precisely why the USA SHOULD be the most feared nation on Earth. There's no reason other than a lack of cultural triggers that we can't substitute "American suburban youths" for "Islamic terrorists". From the standpoint of military and economic power, and from distributed technical savvy, we far outstrip any other nation or group of nations on Earth. Given the inchoate nature of our current national culture, the right trigger could put that power in the hands of a wrathful generation unaccustomed to war.

The events of September 11, 2001 could have provided that trigger. Mixed in with the shock of that day was tremendous anger. Around the time the second tower collapsed, I had a cabbie tell me that we needed to nuke the whole of the Middle East, turn it all into slag, even though it would mean the destruction of Israel. He was Jewish, but it seemed to him that the death of Israel would be an acceptable sacrifice in the new reality.

But we didn't unleash the atomic fires on the Middle East, or in Central Asia, or anywhere else. We didn't even expand our military for the coming conflicts. No, our leaders urged restraint, and took great pains to define the enemy very narrowly.

Seriously, I don't think Bush gets enough credit for NOT unleashing the fury of our nation on the Muslim world following 9/11. Almost five years on now, and there hasn't been that much damage done to the Islamic world. Hell, Afghanistan is in better shape now than it was five years ago. By this point in WWII we had already leveled Japan (mostly by ourselves and with one arm essentially tied behind our backs) and Germany (with the full weight of the Soviet and British, amongst others, on our side), laid waste to large swathes of the Earth, and had moved on to post-war reconstruction. And all that from a standing start against nations that were more or less our equals.

Even without resorting to nuclear weapons, we could have essentially annihilated every Muslim nation-state on Earth by now, had we chosen to. We didn't have to occupy territory. We could have swept through the Muslim world in a manner reminiscent of Sherman's march to the sea. Our military is built for speed and breakouts. It would have been much easier to level everything in sight and never look back. Fight block to block in Muslim cities? No, just surround them and level them with artillery batteries and carpet bombing. Start on the north-western coast of Africa, and head east until you hit India. Skip over to the islands of Malaysia and Indonesia, and finish off with Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines.

But we didn't. I think that history will be kinder to Bush than most now imagine, if only for his restraint. Either that, or far harsher than even Chomsky might imagine.

6 comments:

bill said...

there’s a lot of truth in there. IF we were as imperialist and evil as some like to accuse of us, the world would be a quieter place.

Pooh said...

Well, yeah, he could have done worse I suppose. I prefer it when things have something affirmative to recommend them, however. "Not as bad as _____" doesn't do much for me that often.

Icepick said...

Yes, Pooh, I know that you have accused the President of fear-mongering before, as have so many on your side of the debate. But he hasn't, and he has taken great care to quiet such fears. Would it actually kill you to admit that that occassionally, just maybe, perhaps even by accident, the current President has done something right?

reader_iam said...

I didn't take this post as a comment on this president either way.

I took it as an observation on what the U.S. could have done, period, in terms of capability, without regard to who was in office.

That capability was a reality well before 2000 and will likely be a reality well after 2008.

I don't see the point of this post to be a comment "as bad as" (or how wonderful," either) looked at in both the longer view and from a broader standpoint. It's descriptive of a reality that both far precedes this administration and likely will long outlive it.

Interesting, the immediate reduction to a "he" here, in the comments--although that facilitates a very particular, short-term judgment and a time-bound, limited analysis of the larger point.

And permits letting oneself off the larger hook. Neat trick, which works for now ... but what about in the longer run?

Tom said...

We could have respected international law and have solved the problem.

Icepick said...

Thank you RIA for actually geting my point. I realize I make my living with the language of mathematics, but I didn't think this piece was THAT obtuse.

And Tom, you're right, "[w]e could have respected international law and have solved the problem." Except that in Afghanistan, the Taliban had been considered an outlaw regime before 9/11/2001, and exactly NOTHING was done to make them respect "international law". Action only happened (and internationally legal action, at that) only AFTER the USA decided to do something. Come on, Tom, you anti-Zionist crusaders ought to be able to do better than that. You're completely wrong about Afghanistan BY YOUR OWN STANDARDS.

But we should have let international law handle Iraq. After all, look at what a wonderful job "international law" has done in resolving the Korean conflict (the world community at war with one nation for 56 years now with no end in sight), how well it resolved the Taliban problem before the USA decided to actually do something, how many people it saved in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, how well it has resolved the problem in Darfur, the bang-up job "international law" did with the A. Q. Khan nuclear weapons black market, how well it's done in resolving the conflict in the Congo, etc., etc.