War and Terrorism

War in Iraq

Tim Brown counters charges that Bush has made a mess in Iraq with a change that Clinton made a mess in es-Yugoalavia:: "To be historically accurate, this comment should read "Clinton did not go to war in Iraq," since Clinton did go to war elsewhere. There was a nice article in The Economist about the botched-up mess that the war in the former Yugoslavia has turned into the aftermath of that intervention. As I recall, that war was fought to a great extent by American armed forces at the behest of the French and Germans, who twisted our arm to become involved when they realized they were unable to do it alone. That action by them tells me that the French and German in fact have no objection whatsoever against going to war when it is in their interest. It?s just that in this particular case they have chosen to condemn our doing in Iraq without them, exactly what they insisted we do in Yugoslavia with them. When they are along for the ride - - intervention is good: When they are not involved it becomes an immoral act. I find this a very interesting exercise in sophistry, to say the least.

Incidentally, I do not use "Europeans" above because in my world France and Germany do not comprise the entirety of Europe. In my world Europe also includes Spain, Italy, the UK, the Eastern Europeans, the Dutch and all the other countries located on that continent and who form parts of the "coalition of the willing", even though I fully realize that this undercut post-modernist efforts to re-define "unilateral" as synonymous for anything and everything that does not include the French and Germans. But then I'm old fashioned."

RH: Donald Rumsfeld would agree with Tim about the "old Europe". I do not know what Wesley Clark would think of Tim's account of the ex-Yugoslavia war, but I do know what the French and Germans would think.

Miles Seeley writes; "I am amazed that in the voluminous reporting about David Kay's findings and remarks, and the investigations ensuing about intelligence "failures," that there has been so little mention of the Special Plans Group in the Pentagon. Articles in the New Yorker and a couple of other reputable magazines, have suggested that the group was set up specifically because Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, et al were not satisfied with the CIA reports or the National Estimates. This group, it is alleged, was to rework the raw data and find items that would support the existence of WMD and imminent threat scenarios that the hawks wanted. If that is true, and that group had direct influence on what was sent to the President as finished intelligence, it would clarify much of the apparent confusion that reigns now. I wonder why that group, its functions, and its influence, is not investigated further".

RH. A good question. Spying is a popular subject. History professors are desperate to attract students. One reports that his most popular class is "The history of spying". To attract students to courses on the Middle Ages, things like witchcraft are stressed. The spy museum in Washington, DC is a great success. Books on spies are popular. I hope that out of all this, there will come a serious study of spying, which has grown enormously and perhaps dangerously in the electronic age.

I wondered why Nicaragua was sending landmine experts to Iraq. Tim Brown explains: "Please let me reassure you of the potential value of "Nicaraguan landmine experts" in Iraq. At the end of the Contra War Nicaragua was one of the most landmine infested countries in the world, primarily in the form of minefields sown along both sides of the Nicaragua-Honduras border by the Sandinista Army. (For example, in 1988 an entire Sandinista Army Counter-Insurgency Battalion - BLC- was decimated inside Honduras when it walked into one of that army's own previously sown minefields during the battle of Bocay. I visited the battlefield shortly thereafter and personally observed some of the results of that tactical disaster). During my last 18 months dealing with the aftermath of that war, one of the primary contractors working under my supervision was engaged in fitting prosthetic devices for landmine victims in Honduras and kept very busy indeed. Subsequently, for more than a decade, I kept abreast of the mine clearing operations that were taking place there. The challenge was greatest inside Nicaragua where there were hundreds of personnel engaged in mine detection and clearance. This was a very dangerous proposition because the minefields had not been properly plotted by engineers or marked or reseeded with regularity, all standard practices in accord with the laws of land warfare that were not practiced by the Nicaraguan Army. Because of this, Nicaragua has a large number of well qualified veteran experts in detecting and removing landmines, so its providing landmine experts in Iraq makes perfect sense.

John Gehl muses on the terrorist mindset: "More than a decade ago, the erudite Irish diplomat, educator and
politician Conor Cruise O'Brien reacted to an editorial on terrorism with these comments: "That editorial, like many others of the same tune, exemplifies a dovish, or sentimental, variety of wishful thinking on the subject of terrorism. There is also a hawkish, or hysterical, variety. Each has its own misleading stereotype (or stereotypes) of the terrorist. Let us look at the stereotypes:
"Sentimental stereotype. According to this stereotype, the terrorist is a misguided idealist, and unsublimated social reformer. He has been driven to violence by political or social injustice or both. What is needed is to identify the measures of reform that will cause him to desist. Once these can be identified and undertaken, the terrorist, having ceased to be driven, stops.
"Hysterical stereotype. Less stable than the sentimental variety, this can be divided into subvarieties:
"(a) The terrorist is some kind of a nut -- a 'disgruntled abnormal' given to 'mindless violence.' ('Mindless violence' may be applicable to the deeds of isolated, maverick assassins. As applied to the planned activities of armed conspiracies, it is itself a mindless expression.)
"(b) The terrorist is nothing more than a thug, a goon, a gangster. His 'political' demands are simply a cover for criminal activity.
"(c) The terrorist is an agent, or dupe, or cat's paw of the other superpower. (He might, of course, be a nut or a goon as well as a dupe.)

"These stereotypes serve mainly to confuse debate on the subject. There is no point in arbitrarily attributing motives, nice or nasty, to the terrorist. It might be more useful to look at the situations in which terrorists find themselves and at how they act, and may be expected to act, given their situations. Terrorists have a grievance which they share with members of a wider community. But they also have, from the moment they become terrorists,
significant amounts of power, prestige, and access to wealth, and these constitute vested interests in the present irrespective of the attainment or non-attainment of their declared long-term political objectives.

The sentimentalist thinks of the terrorist as driven to violence by grievance or oppression. It would be more realistic to think of the terrorist in hauling himself up, by means of the grievance or oppression and the violence it legitimizes, to relative power, prestige and privilege in the community to which he belongs, For an unemployed young man in a slum the most promising channel of upward social mobility is his neighborhood branch of the national terrorist organization. There are risks to be run, certainly, but for the adventurous, aggressive characters among the
unemployed or the otherwise frustrated the immediate rewards outweigh the risks. In this situation the terrorist option is a rational one: you don't have to be a nut, a dupe or an idealist." See
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0671667246/newsscancom/ref=nos im for Conor Cruise O'Brien's Passion and Cunning: Essays on Nationalism, Terrorism & Revolution.

RH: In fact, many terrorists are not unemployed young men.