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September 24, 2003
The Outer Limits of Sadism
Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.
Belmont Club has an interesting thesis on the nature of the suicide bombers, and why they hit the targets they do.
The War on Terror [from the point of view of the terrorist] has been a process of destroying all the remaining conventional taboos which by luck or decency, survived the totalitarian wars of the 20th century. It has become an exercise in discovering the outer limits of sadism.
Wretchard also poses a question:
All that is in doubt is whether it can vanquish the foe without becoming like him.
It's a good question. I think that the answer is 'yes'. I think that we can effectively eliminate the problem by democratizing and secularizing the Arab world, and potentially the wider Muslim world. That will be a very difficult task, and will take a generation, but it beats the alternative. Because, let's face it, the alternatives are genocide against the Arabs - nuclear or conventional - or the killing of all those who not only act out violence, but those who merely preach it. Neither of these would be good for the Western conscience, nor would either of them be preferable to giving the suicide bombers more reasons to live than they have to die.
That said, I have no doubt that the day a nuclear, chemical or biological attack happens on an American city is the day that millions of Arabs will die in a nuclear retaliatory strike. Americans are a gentle and peaceful people, but we are also the most vicious and dangerous enemies to have, once the wall of "fighting fair" has been breached.
I hope it can be done the way you suggest, Jeff, but I'm more inclined to think that a rigid quarantine of Islam, forcing its devotees to live with no one but themselves for company (and victims) until they grow up, will be required.
No one wants a genocide...but what alternatives will there be if the carnage being inflicted upon the Israelis should continue or, God forbid, intensify? It's subhuman to demand that they not act to protect their own against assaults by persons so savage that they'll blow themselves to bits for the chance to kill Israeli civilians.
The crux of the thing lies in the enthusiasm for the deeds of the terrorists felt by their concealing and nurturing populations -- their enablers, if you like. That enthusiasm has to be turned into revulsion. How can we do this? I can't prove it definitively, but I have a strong intuition that democratization and the increase of wealth will not solve a problem whose roots lie in religious fanaticism.
I don't think that quarantine would be possible as a practical matter. I suspect that the radical Islamists would like it, but I don't think it's really possible.
I don't think anyone wants genocide, though I would not blame the Israelis at this point for ejecting and, if necessary, killing the Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza. Hopefully the fence will make that unnecessary. Certainly the "road map" won't help any.
My real concern is whether or not we can survive without killing off millions of Arabs and Muslims. The only way I can think to do this is to democratize and secularize the Arab world, to remove the causes of and impetus to extremism. If this does not work, the alternatives are horriffic.
While I have no doubt that a nuclear strike on the US would result in our use of nukes, I don't think we'd murder millions of innocent Arabs in response. Nukes on the military of a state held responsible--sure, but pure murder? No.
Even after 9-11, our response to 3,000 dead was pretty focused on the guilty party. Remember how many Europeans feared we'd pave Afghanistan?
Yeah, we are a terrible foe when attacked, but we will not murder like our enemies.
And we will win this.
The enemy is not an army. It is not true that our campaign in Afghanistan was to bring down the Taliban's fighters, nor was our campaign in Iraq aimed at destroying the Iraqi army. These are sidelines, necessary tasks on the way to the objective: destroying the sources of terror.
It may be that the sources of terror are the only organizations such as al Qaida, and the Taliban and the Iraqi government (and, I think obviously the Saudi government and the Iranian clerics and the Syrian government). It may be that destruction of these organizations, and provision of an alternative - free-market capitalism coupled with representative government - will be sufficient, over time, to reduce radical Islamism to the level of threat of the neo-Nazis.
However, it may be that the real source of terror is in the slums and the winding alleys, in the large mosques and the radical Islamic schools, in the silent acceptance and borderline sympathy of the Arab peoples themselves. If a nuclear weapon were set off in an American city, I suspect that the American people would stop assuming the former, and start assuming the latter. This could also happen if we manage to convert the Arab world to free-market, representatively-governed states who still turn out huge numbers of terrorists and apologists for terrorism.
In either case, once the US collectively makes the decision that the problem is the people, we will not stop with taking down governments, nor will we stop with taking down people known to have committed terrorist acts. We will start dismantling the culture and society until what is left is not inimical to us.
We'd much rather do this peacefully, and in ways that benefit the Arabs themselves. If necessary - and I think most Americans would begin to believe it necessary the moment an American city ceased to exist - if necessary we will destroy them.
And a note on murder. Murder is extra-judicial killing. It does not apply to acts of war committed against an enemy. I just hope that the enemy remains the radical Islamists and a few governments who support them, rather than becoming the Arabs and a vast swath of non-Arab Muslims.
fantastic site..telling about the real basic nature of terrorism as part of the human psychological process of torturing and able torture..gr8!