Friday, September 21, 2001

As with each of my other posts here since the tragedies of 9/11, I'm just thinking out loud about my own attempt to walk that fine line between appropriate response and quagmire. I also believe we are all suffering from a certain lack of sleep. Never-the-less, here's some thoughts after the President's big speech to Congress and a few emails with friends...

A friend of mine wrote to say that he "never thought [he] would support the U.S. sending troops to battle in a foreign nation." I agree. Even more bizarre is that I found comfort in the President's saying that while some of this battle will be seen on TV, much of it will be "secret even in success."

I can't believe it, but I agree that this will be most successful if it is kept primarily in black ops and covert actions. We need to quietly and effectively cut off their network and eliminate the operatives from the bottom up. Bin Laden is actually the last one we want to assassinate. Taking him out, while he still has an army of terrorists would only make him a martyr and light the fuse on ten thousand bombs. Cut off that army first, and then take out the leader when he's on the run.

These are things that need to be done with the combined intelligence services of all our allies, funded by the U.S. but much of it carried out by the agents of some of our friends who don't have that pesky little prohibition against assassination.

Now that's some shit I never thought I'd support. But, I'm convinced that conventional "war" isn't going to work here. Not just because I'm pretty much of a pacifist, but because, objectively, it's just the wrong strategy. (Like the President said last week, "You don't send a $2 million missile into a $10 tent." That's why the Clinton attempts failed.)

When the President (and you'll notice I've stopped calling him W, and have come to accept that he is the President, like it or not) said that some of this battle will be seen on TV but much of it will be "secret even in success," I realized that he knows that too: He needs a few conventional strikes for PR. The video will let people know that we're working on it, and keep us in support of him and the fight. But that's all for show. The real work will be stuff we won't know about for twenty years, at least.

My friend's email concluded, "Do not expect rational thought from irrational minds." Here, I will disagree with him to an extent. It's a mistake to assume that they are irrational. Everybody, including insane people, act in ways that seem rational to them.

So, why would last week's attacks seem rational to bin Laden? Well, to make him a hero in the fundamentalist world, sure. But that's not enough because he knows that we've got to retaliate for something that big. And that's why the article I posted the other day from Alternet, that suggested bin Laden was trying to goad us into WWIII, made sense to me.

Bin Laden's writings suggest he thinks a war of the Muslim world against the West is winnable. He doesn't believe we can hold a coalition together for anything bigger than a single strike or show of power. He knows from history that no outside force has ever successfully invaded Afghanistan. From that point of view it's totally rational to make a first strike that requires our response. He's certainly wrong on the first point, probably wrong on the second, and the third doesn't take new technology into consideration. But he's quite rational. Insane or foolish, perhaps. But certainly rational.

Anyway, as always, these are just thoughts as they're forming and evolving without the benefit of sleep. I'm sure there'll be more tomorrow.

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