Monday, December 12, 2005

Defense of Freedom or Evil Empire?

Another interesting conversation around the net, talking with a fellow in Lawrence, Kansas about whether all wars, even ideological wars or wars where we claimed to be "defending freedom" are for land and resources and whether that equates to national security and defense of freedom or just a cover for empire.

I'm putting his opening posts here:

I'm currently speculating on the similar issues, but to finish up this bit of speculation:

While I think that the threats posed by the Axis powers in WWII very well may have warranted military intervention on the part of the US, if so it was made necessary by some very stupid decisions on the part of the winning side after WWI, and the claim that our soldiers were "protecting our freedoms" is debatable, at best. If they had stayed at home, instead of dying by the 100's of thousands, our freedoms very likely would have remained intact, although that might not have been the case for those living in Europe and Asia.

There is no other foreign military adventure in US history where US freedoms or security have been at stake, including the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

My responses and his response below the fold as they say (read more):

I'll jump in on the WWII protecting freedom question. Though, this is suborning total comment drift.;)

One of the main confusions has always been about what constitutes protecting the United States and "freedom". Here are the two points which arguably would represent the two views:

1) Protecting the land of the United States (ie, within its contiguous borders including the Islands of Hawaii and the state of Alaska; all citizens therein)

2) Protecting the INTERESTS of the United States (ie, protecting its allies physically who in turn protect the United States physically; protecting allies who the United States trades with thus protecting commerce, economy and the survival of its citizens; protecting sea and land routes around the world which allows raw materials and finished products to be imported and exported protecting the economy; protection of these routes, resources and allies insures free trade and commerce among all nations which in turn maintains the peace avoiding costly wars for resources)

It may seem strange that protection of interests have such a long list, but then as now, the US was experiencing huge population booms and even more so had seen the rise of totalitarian governments across the globe. While there may be a question in Bozos mind about whether the United States needed to be concerned with those nations is a matter of perspective.

65 years of perspective. First, Japan had already been at war with China for many years and had taken several islands, all of which would control the Malacca straits and the China sea. Once the straits of Malacca and China sea were controlled, all trade coming in and out of Asia, India, the middle east and africa would have been cut off or greatly hindered (ie, take many more days, possibly months considering the technology and shipping of the day, to reach the US or any allies).

Which of course is why we had flying tiger "volunteers" fighting with the Chinese nationals to push back the Japanese.

Now, I would argue that it was inevitable that war would occur with Japan because we did have marines stationed on islands in this area and naval ships that patrolled it. In order for Japan to consolidate control of the area, they would have had to confront us, which is what they did, but they decided to do "pre-emptive strike" to take out the largest most threatening force, the Navy at Pearl Harbor.

Add to that Germany, which was pushing down towards the Balkans and the Mediteranean, allied with fascist Italy, which would have controlled the westward routes from the Asian, Indian, ME and Africa.

Germany and Japan, having made a pact already, would have controlled, between them, all of the eastern trade.

Posted by kat_missouri (anonymous) on December 11, 2005 at 5:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This means that Germany would have confronted us directly, sooner or later, too. We in turn, in order to avoid direct confrontation and because people assumed the war was just another European state power struggle and did not want to be involved with questions of European Sovereignty (in general, being less conected to the ideas of international trade and its effect on economy), were fighting a proxy war to insure our economic survivability which in turn insured our physical survivability.

Don't forget that cutting off these routes would have isolated, not only the US, but Australia and Europe (if it survived) leaving two very large powers on earth, Japanese Empire, German Reich controlling all others. And, since both empires had expressed their goals to see their empires from sea to sea, then the next logical would have been for one or both of them subjugating all other nations on the globe.

It might seem far fetched, but, if the US had not provided support to Europe and Russia and China, these nations would have fallen very quickly. Once they were gone, who then would have provided the US with assistance to fight off an invasion, particularly after oil, rubber and other materials had been cut off (all things necessary to field a military)? Keep in mind that Japan and Germany were both eyeing the western region where south america supplied beef cattle, agriculture, gold, silver, precious gems...etc.

You can't look at wars through a single dimension of whether your borders are actually physically threatened or not at the time. You have to consider all facets AND using available information, make a reasonable deduction about the future prospects. Which, with Japanese and German aggression running rampant, didn't look to favorable to a futue of peace, prosperity and freedom. That was a pipe dream the minute large steam and diesel fueled ships could make the Atlantic crossing in five days carrying hundreds of passengers and thousands of tonnes of goods, all of which was adapted to the military to carry soldiers, supplies, arms, artillary and air craft.

In the isolationists fantasy, the US would be secure in its borders, using largely the resources that it can obtain from within the borders or trade within the western hemisphere and would, in real politics, not care whether any country was oppressing its people or murdering whole nations, so long as we could maintain good trade relations (of course, this is surmising that any such nation would not want to expand or decide it was ticked at us and cut us off).

Bozo replies (that's his name he chose, not my implication):

I agree with most of your analysis, kat. But it doesn't contradict at all my contention that our wars have never been about "protecting our freedoms."

I believe all wars are almost exclusively over economic issues and control of vital resources, although they are usually dressed up in religious, nationalistic, and/or ideological costumes. The current war in Iraq is mostly a war over oil, but that would be a hard sell. BushCo can't be honest about the real reasons for this war (even to themselves) because that might encourage a look at the alternatives, which in a rational world would include a crash program to drastically reduce our dependence on all fossil fuels rather than resorting to war gain control of rapidly dwindling supplies.

Finding and developing these alternatives would also mean that we could curtail our meddling in the affairs of other countries in order to gain favorable access their raw materials and cheap labor, the main causes of terrorism.

Then, knowing me, my giant reply which I placed here to avoid using up the entire band with of the LJW, but explaining the complete interaction of Islamists, international trade and basically how protection of resources and trade = economy = survival = defending freedom:

Bozo..I disagree.

First, to survive, you need more than to protect your borders. Even if you want to drill it down to protect your borders, there are many more things that go into creating a viable military than having men and the will. You need raw materials, minerals, metals, rubber and yes, even oil. In those days, alternative fuel and the technology was barely a pipe dream. Thus, protecting resources equated to protecting integrity of borders equated to "defending freedom". It really hasn't changed today except the shape of the threat.

So, in order for freedom to survive, you must be able to protect it. Protecting it requires a military. A military requires much more than men and we do not have the other resources in the amount that is required in the US or even in the western hemisphere.

So, yes, it was to protect resources, but resources mean surviving. Surviving means freedom remains. So yes, it is about "protecting freedom". What you disagree with is that it was presented in such simplified terms. yet, in the end, that was the final outcome.

I also disagree that developing an alternative fuel and "disengagement" from the ME would be the end of it. First, you assume that the Islamist movement would be happy if we no longer supported the Saudi or Arab peninsula regimes or no longer supported Jordan or were even willing to sacrifice Israel and no longer confront Iran.

Based on the organizations own words, this limited goal hardly describes more than the first volley. Second, I would ask if you have looked at a map and viewed the wide spread locations where Islamist movements are attacking or are in power. From north Africa (including Egypt) down to the horn of Africa (Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea) across to the Arab Peninsula (controlling the Red Sea and Suez Canal), up to the Caucuses (cutting off the black sea outlet to the Mediterranean to Russia), across east Asia and Indonesia (controlling the Malacca Straits).

In all of this area is the major maritime routes for trade from the African/Asian/Indian area. Did you know that Japan is the major producer of steel? 20% of the world's steel as a matter of fact. That South American nations are the largest consumer of Asian steel? Or that the Balkan states are the second largest consumer? That India imports 14% of the world's cotton of which they purchase 6% from the US? Any idea how much produce, minerals and finished product traverses this area on any given day?

You are correct that it is highly unlikely that Islamists could actually invade and conquer the US directly today or in the next 10 years. But, they don't have to. Nor do they have to necessarily take over a country with oil or even all the countries with oil. They only need to control two points on the globe and these are actually NOT on the Arabian peninsula.

why do you suppose that Zawahiri believes the first place they need to control is Egypt and the Sinai? Does Egypt have oil? Who suffers first and most if the Suez and Mediterranean are cutoff or hostile to energy sources like oil or trade of other raw materials? Don't believe me, believe Zawahiri who wrote in Knights Under the Prophet's Banner that Egypt was the heart of the battle and further confirmed it in his letter to Zarqawi directing him, ever so politely, to take the battle to the Levant (a triangle of land that includes part of Egypt and the Sinai which covers the Suez, Israel, Lebanon and Jordan). Afghanistan was just a base of operations, never the final destination.

Now, you are correct that wars, even wars of freedom (even the revolutionary war) are about land and resources at its base, but it does not change the fact that without those two things, nations do not survive. If the nation cannot survive economically, then it will fall into anarchy, rebellion and likely tyranny (witness failed nations around the globe). Thus, freedom as we know it would die.

Military defeat nor conquering land is required to destroy a nation. Economic destruction is just as terrible and just as definite. (Why did the USSR fail?)

We prefer, as a nation, to have open and free trade to secure such resources. Wars are costly and it is much cheaper to make free trade agreements. You cannot deny that fascist or totalitarian expansionist ideologies are a threat to that free trade. You also cannot deny that oil is barely the tip of the iceberg when discussing the danger to US interests. Nor what would happen if free trade was cut off from other developing nations. Because, you have in fact made an extremely important point, that wars are for land and resources.

Yes, I am re-enforcing your position, but a reminder, when countries go to war for land and resources, one or the other is always defeated and often that defeat means that country no longer exists. Remember also that defeat does not have to be physical combat, but economically.

Let us say that, your position of creating an alternative to fossil fuel allows us to withdraw from the ME. the first question that must be answered is, what raw materials would be required to create the energy source, transport it and maintain it? What would the components be made of? Silicone (with a base that includes an oil by product), zinc, copper; coal? How much will be needed and how much do we have?

And, if we no long bought or traded oil (remember, this is not direct, this is on an open market), what raw materials or by products of raw materials would we use to replace the materials we currently get and receive from oil? Plastic; synthetic rubber; synthetic cloth for clothes, coats, etc that keeps it cheap and allows even our poorest to be better clothed than a Sudanese national, surviving all sorts of weather extremes; protective gear for fire men; fire resistant insulation for buildings? Those are just a few things (extremely few) that would be jeopardized and require an alternative raw resource to create (not to mention time, re-engineering factories, etc).

One does not have to be an eco-warrior to know that the US does not have an infinite supply of materials within its borders (some even less than others). Nor do you have to be a greedy, power mongering capitalist to know that survivability of the nation, no matter what we create, when that nation has an expanding population (one that cannot be reversed when you consider the expanding populations of the world and which cannot be reversed without cataclysmic war or event), will need raw materials to do so and free trade to obtain it.

It is not simply a matter of oil or no oil. It is a matter of trade routes, raw materials and products. Resources. Resources=economy=survival=freedom.

It's difficult to ferret out all the permutations and effects of every action. I cannot say with any authority that I have even written 1000th of the problems that exist. Most Americans do not take the time to think it through to any depth, but only reach a plateau they feel comfortable with and stop there, though, somewhere in the back of their minds they must understand how the synthetic cloth shirt from China or India gets on the rack at Wal-Mart and only costs them $10 even though it has come half way around the world.

Still, I would agree that an alternate fuel development is important. There are differing views of how long the current oil reserves will last or how many undiscovered possible oil reserves are waiting for drilling in international or unexplored places. What seems obvious, however, is that the pace and ability to extract it does not seem to be matching current consumption. Further, that the nature of oil is a finite resource. Consumption is not just the US, but in developing countries with expanding populations and economies like China or India or the Balkans or South America.

China is the fastest growing consumer of oil, by the way.

With this in mind, as a matter of securing a resource or ability to maintain our current level of production in non-oil related industries and thus the economy, in order to secure at least a similar level of existence for future generations in an expanding population, in order to maintain our strength economically and militarily, thus to maintain our survivability, thus to maintain freedom for our future generations, this country will need to develop a science and resource that is viable.

Viability must be more than "not oil" because to replace oil as an energy resource, it must be able to not only heat houses or make cars go, but must be able to be used in every facet of transportation and energy development, such as long haul trucking, replace diesel engined trains and diesel engined ships and jet engined planes, just to name a few. Further, it must be cost effective, easily manufactured, and renewable and we must have time to replace or upgrade engines of every sort to accept this resource before we go whole hog and reject oil importation.

As for Iraq, the condition of containment was failing. Now it is true that we did not find more stockpiles of WMD ready and waiting to be used. But, if ever anyone had read the unmovic reports and remember a little history from the 90's, ready stockpiles was only one facet of the equation. We continue, even today, to discuss "duel use" materials and equipment. Of which, through the Oil For Food Scandal, Iraq was able to obtain. Many of these items could be used for legitimate manufacturing, but history of actions is important to evaluate future actions.

In 1995, Saddam's son in law had defected to Jordan. He gave information about a factory at el Hakayim. It was a factory that the unmovic (then unscom) team was not aware of. Using duel use technology that had originally been purchased and approved for sale for a veterinarian drug manufacturer, Saddam had built a factory for manufacturing VX at el Hakayim. All during the period of inspections that was to contain his abilities.

Now, today, the most meaningful discoveries in Iraq in a post war final review are not stockpiles of WMD but duel use technologies and materials that were prohibited. Whether they were being used or would be used for WMD is a good question. Whether we can say that Saddam had effective or extremely minimal and inoperable relations with Al Qaida can be questioned.

However, I believe that it would be naive for any leader of any country to ignore the activities of a nation when that nation has avowed retribution or even destruction of your nation. Particularly in a world where war by proxy, either through states or non-state actors, has been rather well perfected through the period of the Cold War. More so, in a world where it does not require an army of hundreds of thousands to defeat a country, but only the ability to deliver weapons or destruction to specific high value targets or control resources to destroy economy.

Imagine, if you will, on 9/11, that, not only the WTC had been destroyed, but the Pentagon had been destroyed, not just damaged and last, that the last plane did not crash in Pennsylvania but did in fact make it to Washington, DC and managed to destroy the house of congress with representatives and Senators from many states dying.

The government of the US would have effectively shut down and, I would say, that the chaos and shock following the known attacks would have been magnified by some degree (possibly even have seen national guard in every state mustered and on the streets and internment of "other nationals" would have seen like a nice idea compared to the reaction of citizens; not advocating, just pointing out how each action creates a reaction). The entire dynamic would have changed.
WE would have changed.

I am not saying Saddam was involved in 9/11 by the way. My point is, we knew many other things at the time which included the fact that nuclear technology and other technology had been sold or leaked to other states and that Al Qaida was not simply a group of goat herders in caves, but included savvy business men who had used investment in the stock market to develop revenue and used proxy companies to move money around (not just charities) and had used this cover to purchase legitimate products (which it still does today, witness the many ieds and car bombs triggered by a virtual plethora of cell phone and infrared devices).

Frankly, when two men, states or organizations have had a nodding acquaintance or even a limited exchange, and both men, states or organizations believe that their goal in life should be to destroy you, your state or organization (which Saddam regularly did on state television; he even had murals of himself painted with pictures of the WTC and planes flying into it around Iraq), do you take them at their word or do you brush them off? They both have history of mass killings of civilians.

Now, the only difference is that one is a "secular" leader who had made great pains in the last several years before invasion to at least appear more pious and build mosques. The other has stated that his goals are of an ideological nature, yet has completely secular goals of conquering lands, controlling resources (for whatever reason he claims it is "Allah", securing the ulema, etc) and avowed destruction of "apostate governments" meaning of course, Muslim governments that did not meet their standards.

There is, in fact, a line of thought which seems to govern many people's ideas on the viability of potential interaction between these two entities based on ideological differences and Bin Laden's offer to fight Saddam in Kuwait in order to keep US troops from being involved, that insists that there was no danger. No danger of a sanctionless Iraq developing again its WMD capacity (which, again, reading the unmovic reports and post war reports indicates that retention of expertise and duel use materials/equipment, allowed Saddam to develop the Hakayim project in just three years, right under our noses), no danger that it would consort with, even in its limited capacity, al Qaida and no danger of al Qaida, an extremist organization based on an extremist ideology, would allow themselves to consort with an apostate.

But, again, I would say that line of thought is extremely naive. Consider that Al Qaida had no compunction about investing in businesses and stocks, surely secular and even non-Islamic interest bearing products (charging interest being against the fundamentals of Islam). Or that they had willingly taken assistance from the Pakistan government, secular in nature, to shore up the taliban and the "mujihadeen" in Afghanistan during and after the Afghanistan/Russo war. Or that during our own movement in Afghanistan, they sent 16 of their "leadership elements" into Iran, Shia by nature and an apostate in Wahabist doctrine, the base of Al Qaida ideology, these same elements enjoying the hospitality of the Iranian government (they are not in prison). Or even that Zarqawi was not so purist as to not accept hospitality, money and weapons from Iran.

I could go on, but the point is, to imagine that either Saddam or Al Qaida were so absolute in their ideology that they would not have found a way to interact with each other, having already had multiple contacts, is extremely naive and tends towards the belief that a multi-layered, disseminated leadership organization that has proved itself very adaptable cannot adapt.

Further, it tends towards the belief that Al Qaida is simply a violent proselytizing of wahabism and not an organization with purely secular goals of, you guessed it, land and resources. Since you and I have already agreed that all wars, whatever the ideological claim by the adherents, revolves around land and resources, doesn't that belief seem ultimately short sighted?

In the end, the ability of a nation to create WMD and deliver it directly, nation on nation, to our shores as the only national security threat we need to be concerned about is the old Cold War construct. One that we officially nullified the moment that the USSR collapsed from economic destruction. While we cannot dismiss nations with nuclear weapons as a non-threat, we also need to get past it as the only threat. We know that we can nullify WMD total destruction by mutual assured destruction, not just from WMD but economically as well (ie, China as number one trade partner as an example). And that threat of economic destruction must be on our minds as well.

Iraq, presented a threat by its very nature and by the fact it was a failing state. I do not believe that we falsified information about the WMD program so much as the Iraq disinformation program, continued blocking of unmovic inspections, Saddam's continued rhetoric avowing the destruction of the US and known contacts, however much they failed to produce an immediate operational cooperation, with Al Qaida, lack of internal viable intelligence, failing sanctions, broken ceasefire agreements and the history of the state itself served to create the impression of a much larger threat in a post 9/11 world full of willing proxies. Since all things could not be known, we had to take Saddam at his word, his word being absolute in Iraq, that he would attack us if given the opportunity.

Addressing "pre-emptive wars", wars of ideology and wars of land and resources. Pre-emptive war seems like an oxymoron. The fact is, war is war, whoever instigates it and both parties, regardless of how strong or weak either is, have their role to play in creating the conditions. We have simplified the concept to mean that we have preemptively attacked another nation in order to forestall an attack on the US (again, knowingly not a direct attack by the state's armies, but a proxy war).

In doing so, we have taken steps to meet the first rule of national security: protect the borders and the citizens from any and all attacks. Arguably, meeting the most strait forward approach of "protecting our freedom".

Secondly, pre-emptive war means to pre-empt the possibility of greater and more catastrophic war. Again, keeping in mind the spread of wahabist doctrine, the places on the map where Islamists are a) in control of a nation; b) fighting for control of a nation; c) using a peaceful nation for a base of operations and the threat to the free flow of trade, not just to the US or effecting oil, but to every first world nation and every developing nation, effecting every type of trade and resource, means that every nations' survival would be affected. When that happens, nations tend to protect their survival by whatever means necessary and that, almost always, includes war.

Its really a matter of a little war now or a big war later. Which is more costly? And, are people willing to take that gamble on the basis of over simplified morality: Saddam had no WMD we should have no war; No war for oil; etc, etc, etc. It feels good, but isn't necessarily practical or realistic.

By taking out Iraq who we had been unofficially at war with for 11 years and presented a danger through proxies to national security construct 1 (borders and citizens), we have effectively changed the region and by pushing a contradicting ideology (democracy/freedom) this change has pre-empted the ability for the Islamist doctrine to seriously threaten or undermine nations. It has not, as yet, negated the danger of terrorism by these organizations, but has taken a major piece off the board (think of it like chess) and effectively moved to protect national security construct 2 (resources=economy=survival=freedom).

We could lose it all. We have not actually put the opposition in check or checkmate. We continue to move against them on every place of the board. But the very nature of these organizations to be disseminated means that we have to continue to play the entire board and not concentrate solely on one big move that will end the game. That means, the idea that taking out bin Laden or Zawahiri will end the threat is ineffective. We would have to take out Zarqawi. Then, after him, whoever came next.

In Iraq, we could lose whatever momentum we have by abandoning it to chaos where the government is unable to secure its land, citizens and borders. In which case, it would have gone from a threat of cooperation with such an organization with much more destructive capabilities, to a place where AQ/Islamists can meet a primary necessity, to establish a secured base from which to train and operate, surely a lethal threat to the people of the region and all other nations.

I would hazard that, even such folks as Pelosi and Murtha do not base the demand for withdrawal on a simplified morality of "no WMD, no war"; "no war for oil" or even avoiding involvement in an internal civil war, so much as they are concerned that a continuing war would serve to continue to polarize the region and draw more fighters to the Islamist ideology creating this much larger threat anyway. I do not dismiss this fear as impossible because we know that it has in fact drawn in many fighters from outside the country.

However, fortunately, the inability for AQ to declare a victory in Iraq or Afghanistan and the fact that they have over played their hand by attacking peaceful Muslims of their own doctrine even, has served to minimize the effect though not destroy it. So, we stay, because even if the larger part of the unrest in Iraq is sectarian in nature, collapse into chaos gives AQ a symbolic and real victory. Success breeding success, the next thing you know, many more people believe and the more people join. Then they will have a place to operate from, to train, to regroup and to attack, totally negating the purpose of the war in the first place and without a doubt surrendering national security constructs 1 and 2 as we and our allies are attacked more often and the region becomes unstable.

I'm talking about this in a purely cold-blooded nature because, of course, there are people involved who just want to live and grow as we do. But, I don't ignore them either. As I noted before, its small war now or big war later. That bigger war could be simply regional as Islamists seek to consolidate their gains and actually move to take over other nations (surely many more people will die and suffer) or even bigger war where international players (not just the US; continuing to look at it through our eyes only is the height of arrogance) feel their interests are in danger and act accordingly (because every nation follows national security constructs 1 and 2).

Not every nation is warm and fuzzy towards its own citizens. They do not necessarily believe in the "minimize collateral damage" war that we practice. Imagine if you will, as impossible as it seems, a Chinese intervention (China being a net importer, receiving 80% of its oil from the region and increasing its ability to project power by developing amphibious and carrier based assault troops and weapons).

Those that advocate leaving in congress believe that we can effectively cool the region and minimize the threat, attacking al qaida in other places; those that advocate staying say that Iraq is on the verge of a tipping point, not just for Iraq, but for the region and leaving it will allow it to fall back.

It's as simple as that. I believe that is why certain senators who were once simply calling for a time line for withdrawal have now changed their tune to "set parameters and verifiable bench marks" to set the condition because they believe that instant retreat is a mistake, but do not want to give up their constituency by saying the President is right. Now that they've beat the drums for withdrawal and elections are around the corner, it would be political suicide. Then you have the ones that continue to clamor for complete withdrawal on the side of isolationist ideology (such as you are expressing). In todays world, I see that as the least viable alternative.

As for simplified slogans such as "defending freedom" or "no war for oil", humans have consistently developed means of communicating their ideas in the simplest format in order to be understood by the widest body of people, with few words as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, that also means that people tend to lend their own interpretations to the slogans, drilling it down as far as they understand the situation and making their decision as to which one best suits their understanding of the situation, often on limited knowledge.

It is up to each person to decide which is the best representation of their understanding, and each side to explain as best as possible why someone should agree, but it does not mean that the definition of those slogans does not involve much more complicated situations that, in the end do equate to the simplified slogan: "defending freedom"; "no blood for oil".

As you may well have understood by my explanation, I fall into the "defending freedom" category. Or, maybe in the world of Lawrence, Kansas dominated by the Universty of Kansas, surely a liberal institution, I would be known by the simplified label of "greedy, capitalist pig". ;) Whichever floats your boat.

I believe that history has taught us not to ignore the little corporals with their seemingly fantastic ideologies. Particularly when they write them down in manifestos (Mein Kempf, the little red book, Knight's Under the Prophet's Banner, The Bitter Harvest, etc, etc). They tend to mean what they say and tend to do what they say. It would also be nice to think that withdrawal or protestations of understanding and peace would negate the worst or most threatening aspects of the ideology. But, when the first demand on a list is to "return you to Islam", "you" being you and me (1998 Declaration of War from the Islamist Front signed by Zawahiri), don't believe for a second that withdrawal from the ME, failure to support Israel or any other retreat would make us safe.

Finally, the fact that Islamist organizations are extremely disseminated and appear to "cooperate" as opposed to having a clearly definable leadership, is at once a hindrance to our prosecution of war and continuing to have the support of our citizens and a powerful tool of evasion and fear mongering on their part. We cannot see how big it is, but must guess based on knowledge of the individual Islamist organizations (some of which we know little about). We cannot see how much cooperation they have, but guess that it is extensive since money, men, materials, expertise and tactics quickly moves from one area of the globe to another (of course, helped extensively by use of every form of media, including the one that we are using now). They are not a big army, with artillery and tanks, or men marching around in black uniforms, deaths heads emblazoned and torches burning singing Duetchland Uber Alles.

The very fact that they use limited resources to make their attacks, but do it all over the globe using disparate organizations lends to the idea that they are both big and small at the same time. Its classic guerilla warfare on a global scale.

And, you notice, that no one declares single leadership of the organization, but even bin laden styles himself as a simple warrior serving an unassailable commander (Allah) and the wide "ulema" which he hopes to convince is the entire Muslim population or at least as many as possible to join them. They, zawahiri or bin laden, has set themselves up as "one of the people" (picture Castro or any guerilla who eventually takes power) although, in the perfect utopia of the caliphate, there has to be a caliph (kalifa-ruler). Ostensibly selected by the "ulema", but we know how that works.

You see, there are some things that we can know because history tells us so.

For instance, why did they attack the United States? Instead of, attacking one of these apostate governments directly, surely a direct oppressor of the Arab ulema? Because they know that we would consider that a direct threat and work against them anyway? Or, did that estimation include the fact that, had they done so, they would have attacked the very people they were attempting to convince to join them, thus delegitimyzing them in the face of the very people they need to create their army?

And, would that not include the fact that it would have made their movement too small and too easy a target?

Why do they claim, without direct oppression, oppression of the Arabs by the United States? Why have they listed their reasons to include the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, the sanctions against Iraq (arguably over now) and all sorts of historical and current applications?

Because they need to legitimize their claims and provide cover for their movement. This cover serves to both polarize people all over the region as well as give them legitimate political cover that would keep the wider world from interfering with their plans (see opposition to expanding NATO presence in Afghanistan, NATO or UN cover for the Iraq war, etc, etc, etc).

In fact, by doing so, they have even effectively split our electorate.

Again, classic guerilla warfare except that they are practicing it on a global front instead of regional or intra-state. Dissemination of organizations and leadership allows them the strange contrary position of being both feared and dismissed; allows them, in fact, to continue to consolidate people, land, resources and financial aid while we dither about correct actions or if any actions are necessary at all. Then one day, they stand up an army with much more than IEDs and VBIEDs (car bombs) or suiciders.

I'll stop now. All of these things are in play and I haven't even touched on Russia, the Caucuses and the Iran situation or Europe, the Middle East and the Iran situation, or China, Taiwan and Iran, the ME, US and Iran with Nuclear weapons, which is just another layer of the same problem.

Now, of course, I am not just a greedy, capitalist warmonger, but a fearmongerer, too. largely because most people do not spend their time thinking about these things. Mainly because we cannot live and operate in fear all the time. Fear paralyzes. Most people would prefer to get up, go to work, feed their children, drink their coffee, eat dinner and go to bed not thinking about it at all nor do they sit around drinking wine, eating cheese and planning to take over the world. And, because they know that's what they, tending to see people in our own image, they can't imagine some guy in a mud hut, sitting on a floor, sipping tea, watching a video of the murder of 3000 people, laughing about its success and planning, just that, how he could take over the world.

They much prefer to see such a man as only a man who could be killed and then their world no longer threatened. At most, they recognize him as a murderer, possibly serial mass killer, with many followers yet, not enough to threaten their existence. Because he lacks a large, visible army, his ideology is null.

People like me, on the other hand, are much more scary because we tend to look at projections based on known facts, history and patterns. We tell them that their existence is not assured. It doesn't match what they know and believe in their world today, going on as it is, so people like us are crazier than bin laden and scarier. Plus, they feel comfortable saying it because I am not threatening them physically. It's why the "message" from the government regarding the danger barely resonates. Further, they (government) make limited attempts to make it so because they do not want fear to be the by word or paralyze the country. And, in fact, all things that I mention are simply projections that may be turned one way or the other depending on actions or inactions of all parties. So, calling for a wider reaction than we have had so far may well be overwhelming paranoia that induces a massive reaction and precipitates the very thing we wish to avoid - big war.

We may not need to fear for that future after all, but I wouldn't dismiss it either.

In closing, while I have stridently opposed anti-war sentiment on other occasions and in different locations, I am not in fact fearful of their existence. Not because I think we can or should ignore the idea, but because the existence of polarized groups (ie, war/no war) tends to create tension and moderate the actions of either group. Thus, by having a moderating force we can avoid single polarity of ideology (see Nazi Germany, communist Russia, pre WWI and WWII) which could, in fact, lead us to an overwhelming reaction, turning us into the thing that we fear most (and which many a paranoid would have us believe - Chimpy/McHitler/Bush/Cheney/Haliburton/Military complex), a police state bent on (hard) empire. Conversely, we can avoid total paralysis and disarmament by anti-war that, in a dog eat dog world, means loss of resources or invasion, destruction of country and loss of freedom.

Maybe someday, people all over the world will be more interested in interpersonal communications and understanding, improving their condition through interaction and market, rather than fear of the unknown, demanding that they remain unchanged in a rapidly global community, falling for every ideology that claims they will lift them out of their condition and spare them the inevitable “change” if only they kill or subjugate ALL people that don't look or think like them. That's a lot to ask of a world where 3/4 of the population lives in abject poverty and global communications can show them what they are "missing".

Until then, small wars, moderation, pushing for freedom, free and open markets and vigilance.

Until then, land and resources=economy=survival=defending freedom.

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