Sunday, May 21, 2006


A reader links to long but worthwhile interview by Matthew d' Ancona with Philip Bobbitt, author of The Shield of Achilles . Some excerpts. The highlights are mine.

Matthew d’Ancona: Now let’s look at one of the many intellectual provocations in your introduction, principal amongst which was your pointed decision to talk about the wars on terror in the plural. Now what’s interesting about that is that in America with the neo-conservative movement and in this country with the Prime Minister’s advocacy of the war (singular) on terror, there’s an attempt to do precisely the opposite, which is to argue that there is in fact a historic and lethal convergence going on, which must be impeded, between three things: the proliferations of weapons of mass destruction, the continued existence and ambitions of rogue states, and fundamentalist Islam. And the strategy, such as it is in the West, hugely controversial as it is, is to try and do something about those three factors. Now I take it from your use of the plural “wars” on terrors that you do not accept that analysis, and also that further you are trying to disaggregate the war on terror as it is perceived in popular parlance.

Philip Bobbitt: I think that’s right. What would you do for example with the anthrax attacks? Do we think that a rogue state mailed them, do we think they are an example of proliferation to some other entity, such that something like the NPT might have prevented it, do we think it’s anything to do with Islam? Well it may be linked to the Al Qaeda attacks. It’s always troubled me that the anthrax letters were mailed from Trenton, New Jersey and Boca Raton in Florida, both place where there were dormitories for the 9/11 terrorists. But the general thinking in the law enforcement agencies in the States is that it had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. I don’t know. I want a concept of warfare that doesn’t depend upon my knowing. I don’t mean that you have to give up on what I call the demand side of terrorism and the threats that you’ve mentioned are very real threats, and I am not complacent about them. But I think you have to have also a supply-side strategy, you have to be able to defend yourself when you don’t know who is hitting you or you can get hit again. Matthew has very kindly asked me about the title of this book, which has undergone several changes now and have not decided on the right one yet. At one point I was going to call it A Plague Treatise for the 21st Century; as you know, plague treatises were written 13th/14th centuries by physicians and clerics and they talked about a phenomenon that they by and large didn’t understand. They didn’t have germ theory. I don’t think we really understand the operation of terror in the 21st century. But this much I think we do understand, that we have to build up our immune systems. We cannot simply win this fight by going after our adversaries and attacking them and killing them.

Later we have ..

Matthew d’Ancona And on that note, one of the things that struck me, thinking about your attempt to marry the concept of the market state with the new context is that - I mean, I’m probably one of the last five people in Britain who thinks the Iraq war is a good idea, but to use your analysis, it was not a good outing for this germinating idea of the market state for several reasons. For instance, it encouraged the idea that the market state pedals false information, in the manner of a company to clients. That the Halliburton connection encouraged the notion that there were market elements is rather bigger then the accountable democratic state dimension. The horrors of Abu Ghraib, in which there were these mysterious private contractors engaged in acts of torture, again encouraged the idea that the state is simply contracting out acts that it would normally not have been willing to do in order to avoid accountability. So I wondered if you might say something about how you see the aftermath of Iraq, with reference to your analysis?

Philip Bobbitt You also might have mentioned extraordinary renditions as another example of outsourcing by the states. You’ve put it perfectly. The crucial part of a diplomatic and military campaign for a market state is to unify strategy and law. The nation state separated them. It professionalised both. The military people are often heard to say you wouldn’t want a politician to do brain surgery, Mr President; you don’t want a civilian to do warfare either. Leave it to the pros, we’ll do it, you give us the goal, we’ll achieve it if we can. This kind of separation was characteristic in many, many areas of professionalisation in the 20th century. In the 21st century just the opposite is going to happen, because you’re trying to protect civilians, rather then kill enemy soldiers, as your first objective. You must bring the law into the closest possible coordination with strategy, and what this administration has done, and I support the war in Iraq, what they have done is heartbreaking, because they have steadily removed the greatest source of their power, which was the rule of the law. You may think of Abu Ghraib as a battle and we lost. Guantanamo is a battle that we have lost. It will cost us lives, it will cost us political influence, and above all it may cost us, our strategic objectives. Not simply by ignoring it but by having a studied contempt of the law, and not just international law, which needs desperately to be reformed, but for even our domestic laws. The administration has kicked away what should have been its strongest prop. It baffles me. And it angers me.


In Bobbitt's view the entire West was engaged in one continuous war from 1914 to 1989 in which actual fighting was interspersed with attempts to bring law into line with strategy. During that period all the Presidents attempted to build institutions which tried to capture the experience of the preceding conflict. And whether this was reflected in the League of Nations, the UN, NATO, rapproachments to China or arms negotiations of various kinds there was a correspondence between physical warfare and law. Although I do not entirely agree with all Professor Bobbitt's views he is correct, I think, in suggesting that for the first time this has not happened. The War on Terror, which has dealt with the most profound problems of the 21st century, has been curiously sterile institutionally. That's not to say that the last five years have been totally barren; but even when the alliances with India, Central Asian States and the Patriot Act are figured in they still fall short (I think) of a framework within which to meet the future in the style of containment consensus of the post World War 2  years..

It was as if the current administration spent its energy trying to get around the constraints of old institutions -- like the United Nations and what has been called "Transnationalism" -- rather than trying to build better ones. The result is that after five years of epochal conflict the world is left with only the tatterdemalion shadows of 20th century concepts and institutions rather than the solid beginnings of new ones. This is most reflected in the curious instability of American politics, divided between a Democratic Party attached to the concepts of the 1960s and a Republican Party attached to -- at best a new attitude, at worst a few personal figures but to nothing institutionally embodied  -- which may at the next turn of an election lead to wildly oscillating results. The power of law is that it changes the rules; and despite America's great victories in the field the rules have not been changed.

It's not widely appreciated that surveillance, gun control, rules for detention, conditions of interrogation are stricter in Europe than in the United States. British Secretary of Defense John Reid, for example approvingly points to extension of the period in which persons may be detained without charge and suggested the amendment of the Geneva Conventions. The Blair government is seeking legislation to force businesses to hand over their encryption keys to authorities. This after it asked Microsoft to engineer a crypto backdoor into Windows Vista the better to spy on possible threats. And when accusations of running "secret prisons" in Europe were leveled against America, the unasked question is why in Europe and not in America? Because the rules are different in Europe, where for good or ill law has been brought into line with strategy perhaps more than it has been in the United States.

In his introduction to The Shield of Achilles Bobbitt extensively quoted Homer's account of Hephaestus' forging the hero's shield. On it's brazen surface were emblazoned noble cities, wedding feasts, scenes of justice, armies, fallow fields, "estates where harvesters labored, reaping ripe grain", vineyards, cattle and finally the great band of Ocean's River, a fitting rampart to "that great and massive shield". For allegorically the Shield of Achilles is about all the defenses of civilization: culture, faith, arms and commerce. That it should be encompassed by Ocean's River is America's final blessing, but it is only the outermost rampart. Alone the Ocean, unbuttressed by faith, culture and commerce is empty. Bobbitt's curiously unexamined response to d'Ancona reflects his concern about how Western Civilization, though girded by bronze has become curiously hollow, without powers of recovery.

What would you do for example with the anthrax attacks? Do we think that a rogue state mailed them, do we think they are an example of proliferation to some other entity, such that something like the NPT might have prevented it, do we think it’s anything to do with Islam? Well it may be linked to the Al Qaeda attacks. It’s always troubled me that the anthrax letters were mailed from Trenton, New Jersey and Boca Raton in Florida, both place where there were dormitories for the 9/11 terrorists. But the general thinking in the law enforcement agencies in the States is that it had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. I don’t know. I want a concept of warfare that doesn’t depend upon my knowing. I don’t think we really understand the operation of terror in the 21st century. But this much I think we do understand, that we have to build up our immune systems. We cannot simply win this fight by going after our adversaries and attacking them and killing them.

If the Long War of 1914-1989 consisted of fighting interspersed with institution-building there is no reason why the conflicts of the 21st century should not be similar. Those who remember running from their offices in Manhattan or away from Capitol environs on September 11, may if they are honest recall, not without some embarrassment, how far they were prepared to go under the goad of fear to strike at the unknown enemies attacking them then. The years 2001 to 2005 have diminished the first danger and it would be uncharitable to fault an administration responding to the crisis for neglecting what were apparently secondary issues. But they are secondary no longer. The political elite on both sides of the aisle have left the world with none of the defenses on the Shield of Achilles other than armies. Law, institutions, and above of all our thinking have not been adjusted to experience. What then shall we do with our greater power, our sharper sword, our greater reach if another surprise attack comes in the night and we have nothing else but the sword?


Blogger desert rat said...

A supposedly learmed man says "... We cannot simply win this fight by going after our adversaries and attacking them and killing them. ..."

What proof is there of that?
When or where has it been attempted?
What caused the tactic to fail, if it did?
Why are the successful tactics of the past discarded for theories and unknowns?

WWII was won only after the Allies had killed over 1,000,000 Axis country civilians. To expect less of WWIII or WWIV is wishful thinking.
The idea of an omnipotent US is so engrained that now bloodless Victory is demanded.
Leading to Political "solutions",
that never are.
Welcome to Belfeast, no...I meant Baghdad.

This is so demeaning to the foe, that our Public no longer fears of respects them.
Familiarity breeds contempt.

But with but a few Platoons...
cry havoc &
loose the dogs of war

from sea to shinig sea

5/21/2006 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger Habu_1 said...

You have a wonderful way of presenting a thesis. The comments on this one should be great. Thank you.
My observation of this country is that we are almost totally dysfunctional at a most critical time. How you build an immune system to the challenges we face with the number of factions we now have (see Federalist#10) is not possible. At best we need time, which we don't have.
What we do have are currently identifiable enemies we should destroy now, to gain that needed time. Our dysfunctions, guilt,"The Most Destructive Generation,ie. Clintonistas) will do anything they can to provide a nurturing environment to our foes.
We do not have the will to use the military might we possess to it's fullest extent to destroy those enemies already known. Iran would be a start.
It appears for all the world that our solipsistic self absorbed culture will need to be attacked first, with massive casualties before any nascent immune system will grow.
There should be some dandy posts on this, for there are some really sharp minds in the Belmont Club. I look with great anticipation for the comments.

5/21/2006 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger MG said...


Wonderful post. I am most of the way through "Shield of Achilles". I have issues with Bobbitt's complaints about the lack of alignment between law and strategy, or this administration's destruction of the supposed pre-existing alignment.

Historically, how long has it taken for law and institutions to develop that aligned well with strategy? The League of Nations proposal came 50 years after the US forged its nation-state, but the Europeans were still state-nations, and it didn't work. Only after WW2 did the UN begin to work. And THEN -- the UN betrayed its purpose by handing out nation-state status to various and sundry ex-colonies that were states only in name.

So, lets recognize that the pre-existing legal system is not suited to market-state warfare. Even Bobbitt acknowledges the growning role of NGO's and "news reporting" play huge roles in international affairs, and these non-national actors have to adjust, too, for a new legal system to take form.

In short, aligning law and strategy is long, tricky work. It is less than five years after Bobbitt's opus got published. That is far too short a time for a multi-ethnic, fractious, mongrel America to sort out how to reorganize its law to suit the new strategic realities.

Hell, when one of two major parties does not seriously admit to a sea-change in strategic realities, how can one really reorganize the law?

Sorry about the rambling. We Americans, we mongrel Americans, will muddle through, as we always do.

Gordian knots were made to be cut through, not untied; and we'll cut through this one, too.

5/21/2006 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Couldn't agree more with 'Rat.
I have no idea what the guy is talking about re:
Actually, I think I do but just disagree profoundly.
Rush calls it Club Med Gitmo and sells T, shirts, mugs and paraphenalia.
New Prayer Rugs, Korans, Catered Sharia Friendly Food.
THAT is the defeat at Gitmo, imo.
"We're so powerful we (don't even have to) win, no matter what!"
I'd call that Hubris of the first order, and a recipe for further misery and defeat.
Hilarious Howard from Instapundit:
" So the UN – excuse me for interrupting.
The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, said this on May 12th.
He said,
“I have insisted very clearly both in private and my contacts with the America administration and publicly that I think it’s important that the United States come to the table and that they should join the European countries and Iran to find a solution.”

He’s the secretary general. (oooh!)
Do you agree with him?
Well, when I talk about the United Nations processes,
I mean the processes through the Security Council.
I mean, I respect the views of the secretary general but when I talk of the process,
I mean the process which is now underway which involves the potential for further resolutions by the United Nations Security Council
and I think that is the path at this time that ought to be followed.

5/21/2006 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Apparently Mr Maloki did not get the "we can't kill 'em" memo

"... Iraq's new prime minister promised Sunday to use "maximum force" if necessary to end the brutal insurgent and sectarian violence wracking the country, ...

... "We are aware of the security challenge and its effects. So we believe that facing this challenge cannot be achieved through the use of force only, despite the fact that we are going to use the maximum force in confronting the terrorists and the killers who are shedding blood," al-Maliki said. ..."

Frpm the <<USA Tofat

The Sunni PM that walked out, paraphrased from the last thread...
"it's gonna get bloody"

5/21/2006 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Brendan said...

Desert Rat, you make a good point. We are not serious yet. The situation is not understood by Americans as 'serious'. 6,000 people lost on 9/11 and the subsequent conflict is insufficient to mobilize and change our institutions and law in any radical way. The military, the tip of the spear, is certainly adapting in an amazing way. The intensity and remove of the War on Terror does not have our institutions or law on the crucible. Recall that the League and UN were all ex post facto.

This war has a unique character in that WMDs in the hands of non-state actors opens up the real possibility of a very nasty step-function in the casualty rate. We've never seen the likes of it. We want our institutions to adapt before we live with that step-function. I'm going back to my history books to see if there are any shining examples of that.

Alignment of Law and War is a very civilized notion.

5/21/2006 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

It seems we fear threat in our own actions. As if our actions are the only threat, the only cause of hassles, what we do to "make them so mad at us."

It feels like entropy, half the waking people in the country as just tired of hearing about the war. War is a bad thing, period. Just make this bad feeling go away.

It feels like the awareness-field of a slug. We are at war, our troops are face to face with a deadly enemy EVERY DAY. There IS a Reason for this. And yet half our voting population just feel it as an annoyance, an UNNECESSARY annoyance.

Paper Tigers one and all, with nary a thought for what happens when no one takes the pilot's seat. Even the lessons of the 90's are so long ago for half of us, they are lost beneath the sands of time. Couldn't dig those sunken ships of recent history out of the beach if you wanted to.

"Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" didn't mean you were supposed to stop thinking about TODAY!

Q: What if there's a War going on, and we don't show up?

A: 9/11/01.

5/21/2006 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger 11A5S said...

What else do we have besides the sword, Wretchard?

Attempts by the Bush administration to innoculate all first responders with the smallpox vaccine were defeated by the Democrat-backed labor unions. Presumably we have stockpiled vaccines, anti-virals and anti-biotics, but without some sort of buy-in from the first-responders and hospitals, the number of casualties goes up by an order of magnitude or two in the event of an attack.

Building some sort of civil defense organization is a dream. Even in the late 50's and early 60's when we were sure we would soon be at war with the Soviets, we never made more than a token effort to protect our population from the effects and after-effects of nuclear war.

There are two sides to law -- international and national. On the international side, we cannot even bring ourselves to apply some of the more punitive articles of the Geneva convention regarding irregular combatants and reprisals for attrocities. I'm not sure what good it would do to try to re-assess and re-negotiate international law given that the industrialized countries, outside the US and a few others, believe that everything can be solved with diplomacy and the kleptocracies and thugocracies never follow international law anyway.

In the US, the 14th Amendment seriously limits the changes we can make to our laws in response to terror. By ensuring that all laws apply equally to all persons instead of all citizens, the 14th impedes the kinds of responses we can make to the sorts of infiltration attacks that the Islamists specialize in. Between 1917 and the mid-1950's great strides were made in the legal arena with regard to classifying and proscecuting seditious individuals and networked groups as threats to national security. From the McCarthy debacle on, the courts, legislatures and civil liberties groups have undermined and essentially destroyed this body of law. Its like some societal form of HIV infected us and detroyed the legal immune system that protected us from these sorts of threats.

I think that we will win this conflict. I think that a lot of people will die first. Then the survivors will make the necessary changes.

5/21/2006 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

The old institutions no longer serve America's purposes. The whole 1648 Westphalian concept of international law and law of war has been perverted into lawfare. British soldiers in Basra are relunctant to return fire for fear of being hauled into court in The Hague as war criminals, and Americans are bad because we don't want to play that game. Unlawful combatants are taken on the battlefield in arms against their country's Army, and instead of being summarily executed within hours of capture are carefully tended to and sent to an American military enclave in the Caribbean where neither the host nation nor the civilian judicial system has jurisdiction, and Americans are bad because we don't spend millions of dollars and years on Moussaoui media circuses.

Iran bribes Russia and China to vote against any UN sanctions. Saddam bribed the French.
Camel-mounted Janjaweed militia are too formidable for the UN to tackle. The UN is worthless, except for impeding America.

America was attacked on 9/11 by non-state actors. The Jihadis are an amorphous group united primarily in their lust to kill us infidels. Some Jihadis receive valuable assistance from nation-states, and when that assistance rises to the level of a casus belli, America changes their regime. The state sponsors have become adept at not rising to that level, and the ankle-biters keep moving the goalposts on that.

Tranzie Democrats and Euroweenies want to send the Mounties after them and arrest them and try them and keep them alive to be traded for future hostages. Jacksonian Americans would exterminate the Red Sticks, and pursue them into the swamps whether the Spanish liked it or not.

5/21/2006 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Ticker said...

I'm not one of those who is raring to go out and picket the Da Vinci Code, but neither will I join those who cheer it on. For in direct proportion to the degree that we destroy the central narratives of our civilization, its demography and its traditions we must rely on the sword. The weaker our civilizational immune system the more it must rely on barriers to protect it. Gitmo prison is compensation for political correctness. Ironical but true, I think. Apart from the River of Ocean and the mighty US Armed Forces there is precious little Western Culture can use to offer resistance. Ask Borders about Freedom of Speech. Our "Shield of Achilles" without its hard outer shell is more the Paper Parasol of Fi-fi.

To the extent that Bobbitt asks whether we can long rely only on the the sword without changing our culture and law I think he has a valid point.

5/21/2006 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger Ticker said...

Cannoneer 4,

I agree about the danger of LawFare. It was precisely to avoid entanglement in those toils, I think, that the current Administration flanked them. But in the meantime the old guard reemphasized every one of those restrictions. Rewrote everyone of them with filigrees and curlicues. 'We will fight according to the old rules'. Bobbitt you will notice, calls international law "in desperate need of reform". Not in desperate need of being ignored, but in desperate need of being changed.

Maybe the last five years were not the time, but one day it will have to be done. Otherwise we will inhabit a schizoid world where our principles, as embodied in culture, are at variance with action.

5/21/2006 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

From my perspective, it is not that international institutions and "the law" - to say nothing of the MSM - were ignored by the Bush Admin but rather that those institutions and concepts moved off on their own and rendered themselves impotent if not downright dangerous.

A "Legal Structure" which sees the ACLU suing to prevent random searches in NY subways while offering nothing coherent as an alternative is not a force to be used but one to be avoided and circumvented.

A "Law" that views industry - indeed Western Society itself - as a cow to be milked endlessly is similarly worse than useless. As long ago as the early 1980's the USAF was forced to terminate even its previously very limited dissemination of aircraft crash investigation findings due to the ceaseless attempts by civilian lawyers to use the data in lawsuits.

A "Law" that focuses on pointless
"angels on the head of a pin" issues such as Gitmo and Abu Grabe while ignoring the very real and basic transgressions of "the enemy" is not to be taken seriously.

To paraphrase Patton’s speech at the opening of the movie of the same name:

"What did you do in the war, Daddy?"

"I shoveled lawsuits in Louisiana, honey."

5/21/2006 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

ahh... if that were true, about the sword being our sole weapon, but the dollar far surpasses the sword in it's impact.

In India's Call Centers and China's new factories, powered by the newly opened Three Gorges Dam. All fueled by the greenback dollar.

Bolivia and Venezuela are Nationalizing foreign assets, while the US shuts Dubai out of the bidding.

Be careful what is asked for.

We are harassed by the newest generation of Border Bandits and Pirates that harassed both Alexander and British.

The solutions are age old. So are the symptoms of the decline of Empire. How do the two entwine?

In the post modern,
things are soooo acclerated.

5/21/2006 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger Habu_1 said...

Allow me to be more succinct than my first post.

The dissembling by the President,Congress, and the MSM that we are not in a WAR against Islam and it's tenents is a dangerous game. Millions of them need to be killed, before they fulfill their avowed religious duty to kill us.
Islam is NOT a religion of peace.
You must always attend to the greatest threat first.

5/21/2006 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger 11A5S said...

For in direct proportion to the degree that we destroy the central narratives of our civilization, its demography and its traditions we must rely on the sword.

I would date the effective beginning of those narratives to Solonic Athens and the Jewish Captivity -- so ~ 2500 years ago. We've done a fair job of destroying them in just two generations.

My hope lies in the new class of entrepreneurial freeholder that has arisen in the US during those same two generations. And I am not talking about dotcom millionaires. The new yeomen of which I speak are the millions of Americans owning their own businesses. These are the same people who have been the engine of growth for the American economy for the past 15 years.

Unlike historical yeomen, these freeholders have no tie to the land other than their mortgages. Will they fight for their businesses and sacrifice themselves and their sons and daughters as the small-holding farmers of old fought for the soil? I have every reason to believe so. After all, they are the ones filling the churches and still having children. They still believe in the future. They will fight for it, too.

5/21/2006 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Pettitt said...


So basically Bobbitt is arguing that we need to bring the western "institutional memory" into the foreground and establish a standard operating procedure from which to respond? For example, instead of allowing jihadist sympathizers to frame the argument of treating un uniformed, non state combatants, as against the Geneva conventions, we should redefine the rules, and then apply them unapologetically and with vigor.

It sounds good to me on paper...I just don't know if there is a mechanism that would allow a consensus to be formed that would build a spiritual and psychological "emmune response" from society as a whole. Except the military. Perhaps, like the israelis we should all be called to serve.

5/21/2006 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

Bobbitt is correct to an extent. The key to winning in the long run is for the US to use her power and the power of her willing allies to grow and cultivate a global system of ethical rules that, conceptually, are carefully calibrated to stimulate cooperation and avoid an equilibrium point that sits on mass defection. This means that costs and benefits (both material and psychological) will have to be adjusted, tested, and readjusted--a complex organism that demands an active and reactive America, visible and, when needed, felt at all the important levels and nodes of our system space. That is, in fact, what we are doing, pace Bobbitt's anger.

If this new system is not viable--if it turns out to be historically (i.e. contextually) or practicably impossible to actualize (if there is some upper limit on the organizational complexity of the animal homo sapien)--then, yes, our options will be few and immediate--dependent almost entirely on our retention of the noble virtues strength and honor.

However, the situation is unlikely to devolve so much that American will to power becomes the determinant of our survival.

Our primary virtues and values are cooperative ones. They are undeniably, empirically successful rules by which to organize mankind. I'm confident they will win the day.

There is the question of nihilism, of course, and the self-immolation and decadence it entails. But have no fear on this score either. This most insipid of all ideologies is about to be dealt a mortal blow--by an ally hopefully, but if not, by our enemies definitely.

5/21/2006 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

The aphorism should be modified: there are no nihilists in a foxhole.

5/21/2006 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

How many findings, Charters, reifications, United Nations processes, I mean the processes through the Security Council,
I mean, when I talk of the process, I mean the processes which were underway which involved the potential for further resolutions by the United Nations Security Council,
did Wesley and Bill wait for
before they bombed the Crap out of the Christians?

We surrender our country each day to lawyers and gelded legislators wrt our borders and our sovereignty, meanwhile Mexico simply takes care of business on their Southern Border as though they are still truly part of the community of nations that have not yet sacrificed all in the name of PC, and now, even more malignantly, in the name of COMPASSION.

Enough to drive those of us who were brought up in the company real men to drink.

Maybe the New Agers as well as the ACLU and etc, should get more input before we arrive at the final reifications of the meanings of "War," "Enemy," and "Illegal."

5/21/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

4:49 PM,
I am Airborn, therefore we must have been mortared.
At least I think I am,

5/21/2006 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Ticker said...

Joe Pettit,

I don't want to put words into Bobbitt's mouth but it seems to me that you could interpret the argument that way. Law is our shield; when it goes out of date, change the law but don't be lawless.

Just today two Saudi men, one in a trenchcoat and without ID boarded a school bus in Florida and rode it to school. The bus driver called ahead for the cops. CAIR is calling it racial profiling but the more suspicious are thinking, 'is it a dry run?' Where will law come down on this one? What if the bus driver is sued?

5/21/2006 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

If we have indeed for some reason become more dependent on factors other than the noble virtues strength and honor, I'll take the Hemlock now, thanks.

5/21/2006 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger vbwyrde said...

Thanks Wretchard, fascinating post as usual. I do find myself philosophically at odds with some of the premises presented, so I will try to illucidate.

First Point:

I for one am not clear as to why Law *should* align with Strategy. To my mind it should be the other way around; Strategy should always align to Law.

The Law is created to uphold morality, and it defines what penalties are accrued to what sins. The idea that the Law should follow Strategy seems to imply that Law is mutable and rests less on a Foundation than does Strategy, which is counter intuitive, and frankly, wrong. The opposite is true. It is Strategy that is mutable as it should always be conditioned on circumstances and necessity, which are themselves certainly mutable. The foundation of Law, which is Morality, is not. Therefore Strategy should be subservient to Law, not the other way around. Or did I miss something? Aha. I missed something: The premise that Morality is the Foundation of Law only has meaning if one believes in some form of Absolute Justice, ie - God who establishes Morality. Otherwise the argument goes that Morality is just as mutable as Law (being man made and therefore flawed and requiring continuous tinkering). Morality, however is not mutable. Law, being mostly (post biblical?) man made is more mutable than Morality, but less mutable than Strategy. When we talk of "aligning Law to Strategy" Law is as an unintended consequence detached from its Morality-Anchor and the Ship of State is thereafter set to drift with the currents and eddies of necessity, as each Captain in turn creates new Strategies which the Law must then be "aligned" to. That is not as it should be. This would be a ship of fools.

Strategy is the means by which one achieves a broad (strategic) goal. It is a plan. If we are unable to deal with the nuances of a sneaky, diabolical and dangerous enemy then we need a Strategy/Plan that answers the question: How do you defeat the kind of Enemy as the Nizari? (read 'The Templars and the Assassins', by James Wasserman)

The Sunni approach to dealing with the Nizari was Strategic. Our approach needs to be Strategic. At this point I do not get the feeling that we have determined exactly what that Strategy really is. Nor should we be able to, as "All warfare is based on deception." - Sun Tzu. If we knew the actual Strategy then we would be in very serious trouble, because so would the Enemy, and that is never a good thing in war.

Second Point:

Our crisis is that we are divided at a time when we need to be united. But of course the enemy knew that in 2000 after observing the election. It was the old Hobbit and the Trolls play. Throw a rock (9/11) from behind a tree and watch the trolls (political factions) start fighting. While we can feel reasonably assured that militarily Al Qaeda can not take down America, it is not so apparent that they can not instigate America to take itself down, and/or Western Europe, and/or Western Civilization.

The raw viceral and largely false rhetorical "political victories" made in the debates over American (Western) leadership are the very weapons that the enemy gleefully delights to see. "Let them draw their swords and kill one another, that in the end we may rule over them all." Divide and Conquer. That is Strategy.

We must define a comprehensive and effective Strategy against this type of foe. We have all the assets of a powerful nation, but as has been pointed out, our division keeps us from being effective, and therefore any Strategy we may have is undermined. Will changing the Law to make it Align with Strategy create Political Unity? Or instead will it create more division as factions battle over the jots and tiddles, their implications, and other arcania?

Hark! I hear the sound of Osama laughing!

My suggestion is this: Align Strategy to the goal and Unite against the Enemy.

How? Education. We have amazing resources for communications at our disposal. Perhaps we may learn to use them more wisely and effectively.

5/21/2006 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Put CAIR and the ACLU in prison.

5/21/2006 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

What if we just RESPECT the meaning of "Unlawful Combatants?"

5/21/2006 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Habu_1 said...

Will someone please tell me where the wise men are our current society to change the corpus juris a priori a global Islamic realignment?
Just the other day our most serious and deliberative body voted to give money to illegals for being illegals. Marxist redistribution of wealth.
Where are we to find the wisdom?

5/21/2006 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

But habu,
That money depends on "proof" that it was earned:
If you, me, or my wife provided "proof" that we had contributed money under a false name or ID, we would be prosecuted for a FELONY, forthwith.

But fear not for those warm fuzzy illegals you are so concerned about:

Robert Rector informs us that the JUDGES on these matters (won't take but a minute to adjudicate a few million cases, although some are still court from 1986! those judges are to be chosen from a field of

5/21/2006 05:36:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

still IN court from 1986

5/21/2006 05:37:00 PM  
Blogger Habu_1 said...

I know it's just INSANE what's going on in this country. Thus my query.

Should we go for the tin foil hats and await word from the mothership?

5/21/2006 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

It of course depends on the meaning of "Insane,"
as well as the meaning of "it."
Best just put on the depends.

5/21/2006 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger Habu_1 said...

We need a Cincinnatus. Somewhere in a cornfield in Iowa perhaps there's one waiting the clarion call.
But please no peanut farmers.

5/21/2006 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

You're just trying to find a Republican you can trust!

5/21/2006 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

It will not necessarily be a bad thing if, in response to further attacks which definitely are a bad thing, we become like Israel a more routinely and effectively armed and arms-trained society. Let the academics try continuing to push their waffle with the guns on the table, so to speak. It would also be interesting to see what happens to petty crime in the midst of a generally rearmed citizenry.

5/21/2006 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Paine said...

Philip Bobbitt: “…we have to build up our immune systems. We cannot simply win this fight by going after our adversaries and attacking them and killing them.”

I can’t be sure that Bobbitt really means what this seems to say, but if he does, it reeks of the “straw-man” argument -- because it implies that “attacking and killing our adversaries” is substantially *all* that we are doing.

That’s obvious nonsense.

It ignores the creation and the massive flows of money, authority, and whole agencies into a Department of Homeland Security. It ignores the almost as massive attempts to realign & re-coordinate the intelligence communities under the new Director of National intelligence. It ignores the Proliferation Security Initiative, and Condi Rice’s still-fledgling attempts to revamp State, and even Rumsfeld’s well-underway changes at Defense.

These (and other things) *are* a very obvious attempt to “build up our immune systems” -- at the same time as attacking and killing our adversaries.

Of course, some will always say that these are the wrong things to do or that we aren’t doing them well enough. Such statements are always made -- and they are usually both right and wrong.

But to imply that the need is simply being overlooked is perceptive myopia of a brightly obvious sort.

There are several other points in that interview that seem to indicate similar failures to notice the obvious. So I shall put Bobbitt on probation until I find out whether I am interpreting him correctly or not.

5/21/2006 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

A philisophical question which should be answered.
Gibbeting, pressing or the wheel:
Which teaches best by example?

5/21/2006 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

Just today two Saudi men, one in a trenchcoat and without ID boarded a school bus in Florida and rode it to school. (Wretchard @ 5:01 PM)

I hope the mention of "a school bus" is in error. I cannot imagine why an unauthorized person would be allowed on a school bus. If these men boarded without the bus driver's approval or proper clearance, I would hope their action would be prosecutable.

And if it is not then we have abdicated common sense, and the discussion we are currently having about the proper interaction of law and strategy has a very long way to go.

5/21/2006 06:42:00 PM  
Blogger Derek Kite said...

I find Bobbitt's fascination with international law quite quaint.

Law exists only when there is a sword to enforce it. A bunch of lawyers in New York or Brussels or Geneva making up rules without a means of enforcement is meaningless. Essentially the US is the only one with the reach to enforce any law, so really, international law is what the President of the US says it is.

A former foreign affairs minister of Canada essentially said that the world should tell the US how to use it's forces, that international law and multilateral institutions are there to direct the military power of the US, and is quite affronted that the US doesn't go along with it.

I think that the historical view of the policies and actions of the Administration and the US military over the last few years will end up being quite positive.


5/21/2006 06:50:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I linked it at 7:32 PM in the previous thread.

5/21/2006 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

Thanks Doug. I completely missed it.

I love the lengths the authorities go towards 'understanding': "We're not sure if this was a situation of them just being new to this country, or if they were confused or what it was..." Quite likely the whole thing is simply an innocent misunderstanding due to "cultural differences" is what we're saying.

Yeah, ok. So if you don't know the rules it's quite understandable and you shouldn't have to abide them. Ignorance of the law is, apparently, a damn fine excuse after all.

5/21/2006 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger Brendan said...

The interview with Bobbit seems valuable because of the timing of it. We really should be changing our laws so that we can legally justify and rationalize the extension of our will and power into the world. But, if we imagine a world a few days after several million of our fellow citizens have perished in a nuclear detonation or anthrax attack it becomes pretty clear, from that vantage point, that current institutional change is not useful - the current transformation at Homeland Security and State are almost pointless. The institutions that could exist after that event are outside of public debate - their conception as non-existent as the legal framework needed to align our law and strategy.

When Bobbit talks about alignment of law with strategy it seems naïve if discussed from a purely risk management standpoint - from the standpoint that we must successfully interdict ALL WMD attacks from ALL willing non-state actors. It’s a great concept that seems meaningless in the face of a successful WMD attack. When a million lives are erased at a stroke the magnitude of institutional and legal adaptation are probably at the limits of comprehension. The law as we know it is incapable of delivering enough power to the state or to the people to reasonably identify the non-state actors who could threaten a second attack. The institutions underpinning our economic engine and financial risk management systems would be overwhelmed. How do you institute prescriptive law in this case? The successor to the UN that could have any hope of dealing with non-state actors is a practical impossibility at this time. What kind of institution governs all non-state actors’ access to all points in the global supply chain?

The world didn't change on 9/11. We just got a clue. The real change is when we actually survive a WMD attack. I am hating the Three Conjectures. It is a seriously unnerving contemplation.

5/21/2006 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

Brendan, your ending paragraph nails it.

5/21/2006 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Just go down to Social Security and say you didn't understand that more than one person is not supposed to use the same Social Security Number and a fake ID, and see what happens next!
Better yet, make a claim that YOU contributed a bunch of that income reported on Bill Gates' number, and that you are there to DEMAND your fair share!
If they give you any trouble, just start speaking to them in Pig Latin, and demand they provide and interpreter.
Ignorance of the law IS an excuse if you are one of the animals more equal than others.
Your original question still stands:
Why the Hell were they allowed on the bus in the first place?

The Asylum's being run by the riders of the short Bus!

5/21/2006 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

...and the rest of his comment is excellent as well.

5/21/2006 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

It is hard to maintain adherance to any code of conduct when you are rolling on the ground with the thug that just attacked you. Maybe once this primal encounter is resolved we can recodify our rules of engagement.

Prof. Bobbit makes a good point about the attractiveness (to non-nihilists, at least) of our commitment to a lawful order in our affairs, and about our shortcomings in capitalizing on this attractiveness as a tactic in the struggle. That we may have come up short in propagandizing the virtues of the "rule of law" does not, however, mean that those whom we seek to influence have missed the point.

There is a difference, sometimes, between law and justice. We hope that law is a recipe for justice. However, the mere absence of law does not mean that we do not know justice, when we see it.

5/21/2006 10:34:00 PM  
Blogger ed said...


The slaughter.

5/21/2006 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

Not exactly sure how this fits in with the thread, but I have been stewing, and want to get it off my chest. About eight or so years ago there was a young Marine and his wife camped on the S. Fork of the Clearwater River, not so many miles from where I am writing. They were just camping, and fishing, the Marine being off duty from having served his country.Two non-descripts snuck up on them, and killed them both. Took what little there was to take. An Idaho jury got them for 1st degree, death penalty. This outcome made some of us here..well, happy may not be the right word, but feeling that things had been properly done. You got it--9th Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed the execution--that is the 9th Circus of Appeals out of California. The appeal is that lethal injection is cruel and unusual. It is going to be bed and breakfast for these two guys, and one may actually get out before his natural death. I ask myself, what relationship do I have with the 9th Circuit? No matter how one might feel about the death penalty, the case was handled properly here, and the people here have wanted to back up the Marine, and his wife. The 9th Circuit should be broken up, it doesn't represent the people of the good State of Idaho.

5/22/2006 03:26:00 AM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

And I am leaving out the truly vast amount of the people's money that has been expended, and will be expended in the future, on this affair.

5/22/2006 03:46:00 AM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

I quess what I feel is--'God Almighty, what have we come to if we can't back up the Best against the worst.'

5/22/2006 04:11:00 AM  
Blogger Anointiata Delenda Est said...

Superb post, W. I've read this aloud to an audience. Excellent comments above, BC'ers.

Here's mine...

Oh dear.

Just as everybody eroneously thinks God made Man, they think the the law is made 'from above'.

It is diametrically opposite. Man's culture makes the law, power enforces it. When this dynamic is removed, we find that we have 'lost our way'.

Sadly, the Anointed don't know either. Missing the required humilty, one generates Greenpeace, the United Nations, a Koffi - he even has the voice of the Messiah.

Win first, justify later.

Under pressure, we revert to type. Fear the type. When you do, you will create the American constitution; when you fear God you'll create the hell hole of the ME.


5/22/2006 05:07:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

In regards to the school bus incident:

Two Saudi men were held without bond Sunday after they were arrested for boarding a school bus full of children, authorities said.

Mana Saleh Almanajam, 23, and Shaker Mohsen Alsidran, 20, were charged with misdemeanor trespassing and were being held at Orient Road Jail after a judge said Saturday she wanted more background information on them.

The two men arrived in the country six months ago on student visas and are enrolled at the English Language Institute at the University of South Florida.

Investigators said they boarded the school bus Friday, sat down and began speaking in Arabic. Their behavior concerned the driver, a substitute, who alerted the school district.

The men were asked why they boarded the bus, and sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway said they gave different answers: They wanted to enroll in an easier English language program than the one at USF, they wanted to see a high school, and they thought it would be fun.

5/22/2006 05:18:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Killing is required because this is not a problem with a solution, but a "muddle that looks like a problem." Evidently the correct perspective on this problematic muddle will not be publicly embraced, or even uttered: the Ottoman Empire is no more. This is the consequence. Thus there is no more law there, but tribal chiefs as of old and no Sultan to come in and destroy your village if it gets out of wack. This is why we cannot reconcile "the law" and "the strategy." The law is modern to postmodern, while the strategy ought to be imperial - that is dominate, then educate; then, if you want it and can take it, take it, but we will beat your ass to ashes and blood if you fail. For some reason on one likes to look at the nature of the enemy without preconceptions and with a closed imagination. But look at the Balkans; look at Iraq; look at Lebanon in the '80s; look at the experience of the Kurds in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran; look at Israel/Palestine; look at Algeria. What we have here in "the terrorists" - sorry to use quotes but there is almost nothing accurate enough in the public discourse to be useful - are banditos, the wealthy indolent sons of provincial marchlords, perpetrating ancient razzias, getting the mullahs who weren't in on the original project excited beyond belief with the Second Coming (of universal Islam, another Great Jihad, or the Mahdi), confirming the ambitions of those who had already been attempting to engineer it. Just look at 80s movies for god's sake: even in Back to the Future the people trying to steal Doctor Brown's plutonium were Arab terrorists; this has never not been a problem even within the short window of post-WWII American worldview. This is a clash with modernity, but that is a useless expression: we now know far, far more about Islam and its various expressions, institutionally and otherwise. It is clear that it is the stupidest monotheism with the most benighted followers - or, if you like, the followers who retain their medieval trappings, like hundreds of millions of other people currently enduring the historical nexus, yet given the particular features of their own medievalism, they are largely dedicated to the personality cult with what we now call totalitarian features that is Islam. This is Islam's Reformation, echoing the one undertaken in the middle of the Renaissance, the birth of modernity. Why would anyone with an understanding of Islamic society and Islamic theology/jurisprudence be surprised that it should express itself militarily? Of course it has other dimensions, but these hardly matter, and their fate will be determined by the victory or defeat of the military venture. This includes the propogandists. Period. If we cannot accept that, the muddle will continue. If we can accept that, the muddle will be transformed from a source of morose cannablistic anxiety to one of basic encouragement and exhortment to reasonable action. We don't need our own counter jihad, pace the Bolsheviks, we only need to act like men who value our own.

The organizers, footsoldiers and active cells need to be killed - not tried, killed. If Fallujah monkeys decapitate, desecrate and burn American contractors, we level half of Fallujah outright and clear out the other half. The firebrand mullahs need to be deported to some country "where they will be mistreated." So what, if they are? We would do it ourselves - mistreat them - if it didn't offend the transis so deeply, whose media savvy is considerable. We need to hold governments accountable also for their rhetoric, to ingrain the habit of honesty and to tame them enough to bring them into the diplomatic orbit of nations, outside of which lies the state of nature and house of war. If Ahmadinejad calls for war, let us give it to him, up his ass, where he sleeps, along with all his nasty council of mullahs. By all means, let us resort to our own institutions - diplomacy, economic incentives, goodwill gestures, summits; but when a thing such as nuclear armament is the most intense form of belligerence, and when teh rhetoric is so Sura #9, then, by all means, let us not let the process take too long or endure too much Ismaili bullshit. TREAT THEM LIKE MEN. The Persians will be able to understand, I think, and if not, let them suffer, and let us endure whatever the fallout will be, for truth. The "world" if it is to be a world can accomodate much, particularly much perversion, but it cannot countenance one ruined civilization such as this, animated by this admittedly stupid and brutal "religion," with these institutional features and habits, with this source of money, with only these and these and these experiences and events and remarks to offer the world - particularly when they daily or weekly announce that our own Hamlet souls are their greatest strength.

Of course it is. Just look at them.

5/22/2006 07:32:00 AM  
Blogger rogerlee said...

Using the disease model for finding a successful protection against terror attacks is a wise choice.

First of all, there must be general agreement that the situation is dire enough that people are willing to abandon easy and familiar practices to protect themselves. We were well into the AIDS epidemic before universal precautions were adopted, and now even boxing referees wear rubber gloves. We will need to suffer further painful losses to terror before the half of the population that objects to every security measure gets on board.

Second, we will need to analyze the pathogen (terrorist) thoroughly to determine its vulnerabilities, and then propose strategies to attack those vulnerabilities, and finally, test them in the real world. Most of those ideas can be expected to fail the test; the generation of new ideas and the testing of them goes on in a continuous cycle until a sucessful idea (or more likely a successful combination of ideas) is developed. The War in Iraq is a classic "Drain the Swamp" operation whose effectiveness cannot be assessed until the experiment is fairly complete. Using computers to analyze patterns of telephone calls, analagous to monitoring brain waves to predict illness,is another experiment whose effectiveness is quite uncertain at this time.

Until we are scared enough to be willing to abandon the comfort of the status quo, our security experts will not have the freedom to experiment with the many forms of barriers and intelligence gathering needed to successfully defend us. This implies that we will need to endure some major failures along the way. The greatest danger is that the patient will allow denial to keep him away from the doctors until it is too late to save him, for he mistakenly fears the doctors more than the disease. This I fear will be the fate of Continental Europe; we still have time to act.

5/22/2006 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

The problem is not so much that institutions have not been formed in response to the wot but rather that the global wot calls into question the wisdom of nascent institutions that are forming. ie the eu (that includes turkey) the greater mediterranian basin union and the North American Union. (that includes Mexico)

Alas only the liberals are thinking comprehensively about this stuff. the conservatives have only just begun to catch on to the game.... as the implications of the play have become apparent.

5/22/2006 08:29:00 AM  
Blogger Evanston2 said...

With respect to Mr. Bobbitt, Charles, and even Wretchard, you are missing the overall reality about law: it reflects political power after it is achieved. Put another way, laws don't make change, change makes laws. The problem both in the US and internationally is that the liberals are, in fact, the ones resisting the changes in domestic and international law necessary to fight this "plague."
In that context, Derek Kite's observation that "I find Bobbitt's fascination with international law quite quaint" and Bobalharb's later
comments on law enforcement in Idaho under the 9th Circuit make total sense. Their reactions reflect frustration with liberals, essentially that their attitude toward law is on niceties rather than enforcement. Liberals do not take the threat seriously. Period.
Further, Mr. Bobbitt's criticism of the "market state" is silly when applied to Iraq. We have, in fact, taken a hostile power and converted it into a subcontractor in the GWOT. The Iraqi government is now on "our side" embroiled in a struggle for democracy and human rights in the heart of the Middle East.
Our presence in Afghanistan and the gulf states have successfully encircled the Iranian mullahs. Those who refuse to recognize that this is a bold and successful incursion into enemy territory are fools. We fought Desert Storm/Shield, backed Israel for decades, landed in Lebanon twice, and conducted numerous other operations there since the 1960s due to volatility of governments and oil (yes, it's about oil because the Middle East minus oil equals Africa). Oil-fueled Islam is the threat.
Mr. Bobbit's seeming sophistication in wondering exactly "who" is behind our terror problems is equally silly. The nation will not be shut down by handfuls of non weapons-grade anthrax that killed fewer people than car accidents in the U.S. on a given day. Our principal concern is with oil money purchasing nukes or large ground/naval forces shutting down oil access.
In sum, laws will change once political consensus is reached both domestically and internationally, with the defeat of so-called liberals. And our current "market state" methods are working against the real threat, oil-fueled Islam. Mr. Bobbitt's emphasis on law fails to recognize the most basic realities of the political process in the West, and concentrates on the smallest threats while disparaging our success in dealing with the true Threat.

5/22/2006 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger the patriarch said...

Really fantastic post. I don't share many of your views but you come to them thoughtfully and present them beautifully.

5/22/2006 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

We still believe in redemption as a univeral ideal.

Some cannot be redeemed and we are only redeemed by accepting this and acting accordingly.

5/22/2006 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Boghie said...

What are you doing here, Elijah?

"Go out, and stand on the mountain before Yahweh." Behold, Yahweh passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before Yahweh; but Yahweh was not in the wind. After the wind an earthquake; but Yahweh was not in the earthquake.

After the earthquake a fire passed; but Yahweh was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. It was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entrance of the cave. Behold, a voice came to him, and said,

"What are you doing here, Elijah?"

We have heard the sturm and drang. Some are thinking there was no war, we have won the war already, or that we cannot win the war.

It still plays on, quieter...

We are working with the civilized nations of the world to combat this evil. To destroy it. This will be a more quiet adjustment than cold war rearmament. It is and will be fiscal. It is and will be societal. It is and will be cultural. And, it will still be martial.

To actually win - and not be forced to fight for centuries or destroy a culture - we have to permit elements of the culture to change for the better. The structure you speak of is the structure you spoke of – the 3rd Conjecture.

I think we are on target.

5/22/2006 07:41:00 PM  

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