Thursday, August 02, 2007

No Nukes

Here's a really lethal combination. Telling the enemy that you are going after him with inadequate forces and then specifying in advance what the limits of your rules of engagement are. Barack Obama, just days after saying he would send American forces into Pakistan if Musharraf did not crack down on al-Qaeda said but added that he would not use nuclear weapons against al-Qaeda under any circumstances. The Washington Post reports:

"His position could not be more clear," said Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "He would not consider using nuclear weapons to fight terror targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan." That position came a day after Obama vowed he would be willing to strike al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan with or without the approval of the government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Obama's rival, Hillary Clinton, said talking about the specific "use or non-use" of nuclear weapons was unwise.

The New York senator and former first lady quickly pounced on Obama's remark about nuclear weapons at a Capitol Hill news conference. "I think presidents should be very careful at all times in discussing the use, or non-use, of nuclear weapons," she said.

"Presidents since the Cold War have used nuclear deterrence to keep the peace. And I don't believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non use of nuclear weapons," she said.



If Obama's disavowal of nuclear weapons has any possible meaning it must be that the US will not use nuclear weapons against al-Qaeda even if it launched a nuclear, radiological, chemical or biological attack against the US from Pakistan or Afghanistan. (Obama's spokesman specifically said "Afghanistan and Pakistan".) A retaliation for the use of those weapons are the natural circumstances under which the use of nuclear weapons would be contemplated. One would hardly consider nukes in response to an al-Qaeda attack using car bombs, small arms or even 200-ton jetliners to attack. We've been there, done that.

How likely is it that such a pledge would ever have to be considered? A President Obama would be in office from 2008 to perhaps 2016. Over that time frame, most analysts would regard the possibility of al-Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons as almost nil, unless of course it could seize Pakistani atomic weapons. But the odds that al-Qaeda can mount a radiological, chemical or biological attack are substantially higher. One expert I listened to says the use of radiological bombs against Western targets is a definite possibility. A radiological attack planned or mounted from Afghanistan or Pakistan within the 2008-2016 time frame is not to be discounted. While the proper response to such an attack may not include nuclear weapons (because effective conventional ripostes are available) Hillary Clinton is right in saying that categorically taking the option off the table merely simplifies al-Qaeda's planning by telling them in advance what they need not fear. One might even argue that it signals what they may attempt with relative impunity.

This is especially dangerous because biological weapons may eventually come to rival, if not exceed the lethality of nukes. And one of the grey areas which was never fully explored during the Cold War is whether a sufficiently lethal non-nuclear attack would cross a threshold which would provoke an American nuclear retaliation. But because it was a grey area, no foe using such weapons could ever be sure that US national command authority would consider the threshold crossed. To Obama at least, the area is not grey. Insofar as the al-Qaeda in Afghanistan or Pakistan are concerned, the answer is crystal clear. "His position could not be more clear," said Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "He would not consider using nuclear weapons to fight terror targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

One might argue that Obama has forgone nothing, but simply "reduced tensions" by making the non-use pledge. If the chances of a nuclear, radiological, chemical or biological attack are vanishingly small then it might be argued he can freely renounce a counterstrike with nuclear weapons without real risk. He gives up nothing in exchange for "reducing tensions". But in that case his renunciation amounts a stunt. It would be the equivalent of promising animal rights activists that he would not shoot a T-rex if he encountered it while jogging in Central Park. And since there is essentially no chance he will meet a T-rex in Central Park, Obama would be foregoing nothing while making animal rights activists happy. But the possibility al-Qaeda may acquire some very lethal weapon with which to attack America is considerably greater than encountering a dinosaur in New York City. Therefore one cannot help but conclude that Barack Obama is actually foregoing something of actual deterrent value and military advantage.

But in exchange for what? The Counterterrorism Blog suggests that Obama has drafted a national security platform with the help of former national security policy experts.

The speech by the Illinois Democrat was surprisingly sophisticated for this early in the campaign season - even as a response to Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) calling his foreign policy views "naive" - and demonstrated an unusual depth of understanding about the secret CIA-run war along the Afghan-Pakistan border. One line in particular by Obama jumped out at me: "The Taliban pursues a hit and run strategy, striking in Afghanistan, then skulking across the border to safety."

That is not only true - and true also of Al Qaeda-led fighters conducting cross-border ops - but surprising to hear in any public setting these days, much less a high-profile political speech by a leading presidential candidate. Obama had help from a group of former Clinton and Bush National Security Council veterans, including some who haven't even endorsed him: Richard Clarke, Susan Rice, Rand Beers and Mary McCarthy.

And my guess is that Obama's stance is being articulated for political advantage by casting himself as a "war fighting" President yet one who will fight it on terms his political base will approve of. Here's a man who will attack Pakistan if need be, with a scale of forces that has excited derision it's true, but who will never go too far and use nuclear weapons. Obama is legitimately fleshing out what a liberal War on Terror would look like. And while one might criticize it as being dangerous, stupid or whatever, he has at least mapped out an alternative to the Bush strategy. And in so doing Obama has distinguished himself from Hillary Clinton who while more tentative than Obama in criticizing the Bush strategy, has not herself articulated a positive program for fighting the War on Terror, apart from looking wise and sage. And that's fair enough. Whether or not one disagrees with Obama's strategy (and I do) he has at least set it forth. If the Counterterrorism Blog is correct, then we are beginning to see the shape of a Democrat strategy in fighting the War on Terror.

Update

Former Spook doesn't think Obama's new posture does deterrence any favors.

So much for that nuclear deterrent. Might as well scrap those Minuteman IIIs, Trident ballistic missile subs, and the thousands of tactical nukes in the U.S. arsenal. In a matter of a few seconds, over the course of barely 40 words, the man-who-would-be-president told America's adversaries that our nuclear option is off the table in any scenario. Or maybe just when civilians might be affected. Or, perhaps Senator Obama realized that's he's over his head in discussing national security policy (again), and needs more time to hash it out.

From our perspective, Mr. Obama's position seems clear enough. Under his administration, the United States would move from a "no first use" policy on nuclear weapons (long a cornerstone of our national security strategy), to rejecting their use altogether. Never mind that there are plenty of scenarios which could require a nuclear response, including a North Korean invasion of South Korea; a push by Beijing to take Taiwan, Iranian or Syrian regimes with ICBMs (possible within the next decade), or simply a resurgent Russia.

Personally, I'm not sure that Obama's remarks can be interpreted to eliminating deterrence with respect to nuclear armed states, though it certainly doesn't strengthen it, especially where those states resort to deniable terrorist proxies, based say in "Afghanistan or Pakistan". I'd just like to add, that for those who believe al-Qaeda is not deterrable in any case because of its religious fanaticism, the same does not necessarily apply to states or persons who may supply it with arms or materiel. While the utility of nuclear weapons may be be diminished in the age of terror, it is not necessarily extinguished.

26 Comments:

Blogger RWE said...

First, I don't think it is theoretically possible for the Democrats to have a "strategy" for fighting terrorism.

Modern day liberalism is less a coherent set of compatible beliefs and approaches than it is a monogrammed designer bag in which they carry around their trendy, politically correct, and focus-group approved ideas.

Obama's statements and positions, including this latest one, confirm this fact. So far he has said:

1. Staying in Iraq to prevent bloodbath is not a good enough reason to keep our forces there.

2. He would pull our forces out of Iraq but would send them into Darfur to stop the bloodbath there.

3. He would sit down with the leaders of countries such as North Korea and Iran and talk with them about how to resolve our differences.

4. He would launch strikes and/or invasions into Pakistani territory if required to get terrorists.

5. He would not use nuclear weapons against terrorists under any circumstances.

Note 3 and 5 in particular. What applies to Al Queda clearly must apply to Iran and North Korea, especially if they act covertly (and why would they not, given that always have). So that would be an real interesting chat.

His plans would convert terrorism into a foolproof and unstoppable method of enacting national policy.

Everybody sing! "I'd like to buy the world a Coke..."

8/02/2007 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger Terry said...

RWE- great comment. "Liberalism" as it is now shared by the people I know as "liberals" is not a coherent philosophy or ideology. It is social-popular politics. It's all about attitude, fashion, good manners and making sure that no matter what happens, "it's not my fault". Note how Obama's circular reasoning leaves him in the end blameless. It is the point of liberal foreign policy to not be responsible, to never be guilty or to blame, no matter what.

8/02/2007 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger Philip said...

I'm not sure if he's actually stated a permanent limitation on his part, or has made a cynical, pandering move.

If an attack was deadly enough to warrant a nuclear response, the public outcry would give him enough cover do so, while saying 'that was the campaign and I was young- this is reality'. Toss in a shrug and a resigned expression.

The questions are: has he set a tone for an eventual, overall Democrat strategy, and and has he emboldened certain... parties as well?

8/02/2007 06:10:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

I think Obama's national security ideas are stupid. But having said that, I think it's true that many people, especially on the Left actually agree with him. Obama's ideas are how those people believe the world can be safeguarded.

For the longest time many liberals and those on the left have taken shelter in the negative. They've opposed "torture", "unilateralism" etc. And that's given them a certain superficial but plausible moral cachet. Now Barack Obama comes and spells out what they actually think will work and that has I think two good effects.

First it will create a basis for comparison that wasn't there before. Do you remember how in college people railed against "capitalist exploitation"? It sounded high-minded until they articulated their alternative: state ownership of the means of production and centralized planning. Once you understood the alternative to capitalism, then it became clear that however bad capitalism was, there something far worse.

Second, I think it will force some of the reasonable Democrats to say "what?" There are enough Democrats left over from the Cold War days to create serious misgivings within the Party over whether or not Obama's ideas are sound. I think Obama's concepts are rotten to the core. But the important thing is that many serious Democrats will agree that they are rotten.

8/02/2007 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

Obama's 3rd Strike is his refusal to strike at all.

Buh-bye.

8/02/2007 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

Obama has outed himself as a lightweight and second rate thinker. He will not get the nomination.

BTW I would like to amend the Constitution to provide that a President must be at least 50 years old.

8/02/2007 07:02:00 PM  
Blogger John J. Coupal said...

Is that quote correct...?

Hillary said "Presidents SINCE the Cold War have used nuclear deterrence to keep the peace." (capitals mine)

Presidents since Harry Truman have used nuclear deterrence - at the start of the Cold War.

That quote is not accurate.

8/02/2007 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

john j,

You are historically correct I believe, but the quote is verbatim from the Post article. It may not be logically right but that's what the newspaper says was said.

8/02/2007 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger Boghie said...

Wretchard, et. al.

Am I wrong, or do I have a recollection of articles past regarding Mrs. Mary McCarthy...

I remember many contemporaneous references to Mr. Beers as well...

Just found Mrs. McCarthy's on-line resume.

In fact, it was a bit of a scandal.

8/02/2007 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Second, I think it will force some of the reasonable Democrats to say "what?" There are enough Democrats left over from the Cold War days to create serious misgivings within the Party over whether or not Obama's ideas are sound. I think Obama's concepts are rotten to the core. But the important thing is that many serious Democrats will agree that they are rotten.

Wretchard -- I just don't think that's accurate. Other than exile Joe Lieberman, there are no Democrats with any serious credentials or Cold War experience.

What this does is set up failure: just enough forces to get wiped out publicly in Pakistan, and telling Pakistan and Iran there are no consequences to providing AQ or other groups with nukes to kill US cities.

Moreover I think you are flat dead wrong in the dangers. Bio and radiological weapons are probably the least of our worries, nukes the largest. First as Libya has proved you can hold people for hostage and get free nuke technology. As Iran has proved you can flout the world and get it, see also North Korea. There is no barrier whatsoever to getting nukes and anyone who pretends so is ignoring reality. With all those eager providers AQ can either buy (from North Korea, Pakistan, China, or Iran) or "borrow" from Iran or Pakistan eager to hurt the US. Morever nukes provide the psychological body blow the other weapons do not, and provide easier command and control (the firing component can be provided at the last minute).

What Obama and the Dems have done is paint a giant sign on our cities: "Nuke us with zero consequences." It is now inevitable unless we do something frightening to deter such attacks that we will lose cities. It's far easier for Pakistan to simply provide a nuke or two and resolve the Red Mosque crisis than anything else.

8/02/2007 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

I've said before that watching the Democrats at the business of foreign policy/national defense is like watching a child play with a loaded gun. Obama is their latest attempt to bring that dynamic into complete corporeal form.

BTW, I consider the State Department to be a longtime, wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democrat Party.

8/02/2007 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

Obama, obviously, hasn't thought this through very well. He thinks that atomic weapons are bad and that reducing their numbers in the world and the numbers of countries that have them in the world is good. That's OK as far as it goes but he just doesn't seem to understand the law of unintended consequences. His people are quoted as saying the United States and Russia should work together to "de-emphasize the role of nuclear weapons," and avoid rushing to produce a new generation of atomic weapons, while still "maintaining a strong nuclear deterrent."

Um, OK, whatever. Ever hear of Iran?

Saying that you will keep them but won't use is making it more likely that you will use them, or that you will be thrown out and your successor will use them.

W, I think your analysis regarding what he means is partly wrong. I agree that the only likely case where the US would consider using nukes in Waziristan is in retaliation for a nuke or other sever attack against the US or US ally. I don't think Obama is saying that.

I think he is really saying, plain and simple, we won't use nukes against Waziristan. Which of course nobody said we were going to do.

However, if there were a nuke attack against the US, traceable to Waziristan, there would be EXTREME pressure on POTUS to use nukes in retaliation. It's hard to comprehend that a US president wouldn't use nukes in retaliation against a nuke strike on US soil in which the attackers are known. Incomprehensible. He just hasn't thought it through.

Hillary is beating him 2:1 in the polls so it doesn't really matter what he says.

BTW, most of the dinosaurs in NYC hang out at 79th and Central Park West. I've seen them there lots of times.

8/02/2007 09:09:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Since in the Cold War, nuclear deterrence has functioned between States within a second generational framework – power vs. power. One power would attack the other with the intention of overwhelming it; nuclear weapons strategically are no different from the shells lobbed at opposing sides in WW1 except for their lethality. The Right ignorantly jumps to the conclusion that Al Qaida works within the same strategic mindset. But anyone with even a smidgen of brain matter can realize that terrorist don’t attack for the immediate results of their attacks, they attack for a response. In other words they didn’t attack the twin towers to knock them down; they attacked so the US would respond by placing a large army somewhere in the Middle East.

The reason Al Qaida would attack with biological or nuclear weapons is that they would hope that we would respond by nuking Mecca or something that would serve their larger political purposes. By stating that in no circumstances would nuclear weapons be used in response to a terrorist attack the incentives are less for terrorist groups to actually launch such an attack. In fact it is the exact opposite of the logic between states, where the certainty of a nuclear response heightens the deterrent effect; with terrorist groups (or black flag operations launched by people who might want to see a nuclear response) the certainty of a non-nuclear response heightens the deterrent effect.

But the Right further show their ignorance by then confusing a statement concerning terrorist groups with deterrence between States. A little humility from a group of people who have basically been wrong about everything for the past five years is in order I think, and that includes Hillary Clinton.

8/03/2007 01:26:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Kevin,

"The reason Al Qaida would attack with biological or nuclear weapons is that they would hope that we would respond by nuking Mecca or something that would serve their larger political purposes. By stating that in no circumstances would nuclear weapons be used in response to a terrorist attack the incentives are less for terrorist groups to actually launch such an attack."

This is really the same old argument that is habitually trotted out. Fighting terrorism only makes it worse because it makes others "mad" at us. First of all, we are not talking about nuking Mecca. If a biological strike were being staged from Pakistan against say, the city where you live, what would be the point of nuking Mecca except in revenge? There might be real military utility in nuking the facility where the attacks are being prepared, say hypotehtically in Pakistan and Afghanistan, if it were so deeply buried that it could not be touched by the largest conventional weapon. But this is precisely what Obama has prohibited. A moment's thought should convince you that this policy of mandated ineffectuality will eventually lead to inevitable acts of desperation.

Arguing that fighting terrorism only makes things worse precisely guarantees an unfortunate event like nuking Mecca because if you can't hit back at the military source of the danger, you will eventually take so many hits from that self-granted sanctuary that you will lose counterforce capability must eventually be reduced to countervalue. In other words, keep losing cities to al-Qaeda by not striking back and eventually you guarantee conditions under which Mecca will get nuked.

I'm not saying that nukes are a good way to respond, but if they were necessary to prevent al-Qaeda from launching an attack then why not use it? Consider. Suppose al-Qaeda were preparing to launch biological weapons attack on Arabs or people in Darfur -- and don't tell me he won't because he doesn't kill Muslims or non-Americans -- then would it then be moral to stop him with nukes? If that were the only way? Or should Obama watch them die and say "I had to stand on my principles?" Take another example. Suppose he was planning a biological attack on Israel. If he succeeds a holocaust will break out in the Middle East. Israel is planning to nuke Osama in Pakistan to stop it. But Obama has sworn that no nukes should be used. What does the US do then? Nuke Israel first to keep Obama's pledge? Just because he wants to send the message to Osama that you suggest?

Nuclear weapons must be used for a definite set of reasons. They are not used to "send messages". If they are used the time for talk is over. Sometimes they are useful -- such as when you are attacked by nukes or bio weapons -- sometimes they are not. How can Barack Obama make a determination in advance that no circumstances exist where such weapons may be used? You seem to believe that making this offer not to strike back al-Qaeda will be stymied. "By stating that in no circumstances would nuclear weapons be used in response to a terrorist attack the incentives are less for terrorist groups to actually launch such an attack." How do you know what Osama Bin Laden thinks? I don't. If Obama had rattled the nuclear saber that may have been ill-advised too. Better, I think, to have kept silent on the matter to keep the enemy guessing; to have kept the option on the table for use only when necessary. But we know it will never be necessary. Or at least, Obama does.

8/03/2007 03:42:00 AM  
Blogger Shropshirelad said...

One thing that has not been considered in this debate is the effect Mr. Obama's policy might have on our allies--our friends in Eastern Europe, or a nation like Japan for instance.

Japan is facing China, Russia, and North Korea. Perhaps the Japanese reluctance to go nuclear has been restrained by the presence of the US nuclear umbrella over Tokyo, more than it has been by historical or Japanese constitutional considerations.

If I were a Japanese legislator, I would be listening very closely to this debate. I would begin thinking very hard about the value of American security guarantees.

8/03/2007 04:42:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Wretchard,

I did not say that fighting terrorism only makes it worse. I said the goal of terrorist action is overreaction on the part of the victim. There is a huge difference here. In my statement the terrorist is the cause and the overreaction the hoped for effect. In yours it is the victim who is the cause and the terrorist the effect.

While overreaction must be avoided, targeted and effective response is required. For the most part nuclear weapons would not be part of an effective targeted response.

You are certainly right that there actually could evolve a case where there would be a military justification for the use of nuclear weapons against terrorists. In this case all Obama would have to do is to break his promise, something all politicians are proficient at. I know you are familiar with the work of Thomas Schelling and so you know that in these war game therories the promises for retaliation of non-retaliation are never accepted 100% by an advisary.

But Obama exists within a culture that is profoundly ignorant of military and strategic theory and so he has to deal with statements like the following:

"If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina," Tancredo said at the Family Table restaurant. "Because that's the only thing I can think of that might deter somebody from doing what they otherwise might do."

[http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/08/02/america/NA-POL-US-White-House-2008-Tancredo.php]

While admittedly Tancredo was ambiguous about the use of nuclear weapons in taking out Mecca, he certainly left the option on the table. Such a revenge attack would be Al Qaida’s dream and would certainly motivate them to actually start planning a nuclear attack against the US if they were pretty sure that nuking Mecca would be the response. They would think twice however if they actually believed that the response would be targeted and effective. But in the end there are no guarantees either way.

I think what Obama had in mind was to pre-shape the domestic political battlefield since in the event of a nuclear attack on the US, popular emotions will run high and he would be under intense pressure to overreact. With this statement out there, he will hope to buy himself more space to respond effectively in the event of such an attack. But in case of military necessity (the examples Wretchard points out among others) his statement is not an ironclad promise, any more than candidate George Bush’s promises to not get involved in state building and to have a humble foreign policy were. But any statement at this point that would enable him to effectively fight back in the event of another attack should be applauded by all those who actually want to defeat terrorism.

8/03/2007 05:42:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

The U.S. Cold War response to the threat of nuclear attack was deterrence. And the basis of that deterrence was a Counter-Value strategy. A nuclear attack on the U.S. would cause a reply in the form of a nuclear attack on Soviet cities. By not targeting Soviet military bases, we indicated that we would not engage in a first strike, but would instead respond to a Soviet first strike by wiping out their cities – that which they “valued.”

The Soviets openly said that they thought that a Counter-Value strategy made no sense at all. The purpose of a war was to destroy the enemy’s military capabilities; the cities and other “value” items were what you wanted to capture. The Soviets advocated Counter-Force: aim you missiles at the enemy’s missiles and military capabilities.

The question is: how do these sort of deterrence concepts apply to Al Queda. A Counter-Force has its problems in implementing against such an adversary. So does Counter-Value; Al-Queda is itself a Counter–Value instrument, even when it "wins.". We need a new set of ideas, a new Thinking The Unthinkable. Maybe the answer is Counter-Culture – and, when you think about it, that is just what our approach to the War on Terror has been.

8/03/2007 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

"The U.S. Cold War response to the threat of nuclear attack was deterrence."

One of the dangers of proxy warfare is that it severs the link between the actual attacker and the mastermind. Putin could speak to Sharansky about a hypothetical suitcase bomb going off in New York.

Who is al-Qaeda a proxy for? Some people on this forum will say it is a proxy for Islam itself. Others may argue it works as a proxy for one or the other national or subnational cabals in the Middle East. But whatever the case may be, both counter-value and counter-force capabilities are useful when appropriate. Countervalue to hold the ultimate sponsors at risk. Counterforce to destroy the physical threat devices, should they be vulnerable to attack.

It's hard to see how Obama could possibly be advancing the cause of peace by inhibiting himself from either the countervalue or counterforce options. Why? It's axiomatic that to have degrees of freedom are always to be preferred to constraints. What purpose is served by constraining yourself?

Kevin argues that he can always break his promise. But only after having given a promise upon which the enemy may act. Obama only had to say nothing to keep his degrees of freedom open. He did not have to threaten. He did not have to bluster. As President he could have simply refused to use nukes when their use was not appropriate. Why does it make sense for him to give the enemy a false impression that he won't use nukes on the grounds that he can break his promise? To keep his degrees of freedom he only needed to say nothing. Instead, he constrained himself. And then to salvage the ensuing loss of freedom it is necessary to argue "he can break his promise". What a goat rope.

8/03/2007 07:24:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

"I did not say that fighting terrorism only makes it worse. I said the goal of terrorist action is overreaction on the part of the victim."

It depends.

If you are an insurgent seeking the support of the population, then you seek escalation on the part of the authorities. But part of escalation is that its taken out on the wrong target and its use is not seen as justified. And the authorities have to be stupid.

This is a very defined model.

I am not sure how international terrorism fits in this - in fact it does not.

Lets look at some examples.

Like when it began in Egypt and Hatshepshut and like 9/11 - OBL and AQ sought to GALVANIZE the faithful by attacking the West.

They did not expect any reaction of substance because they had not seen any reaction to the other attacks.

John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry is similar in this respect. JB thought he could get the white sharecroppers and black slaves to rise up in revolt. Nothing happened and JB was hung. JB was not looking for an escalation.

JB DID give air to anti-slavery forces based upon his religious message which was given a hearing during the subsequent trial.

But, much much worse, his actions and the North's reaction to them, deeply polarized the South and convinced the Southern Elite and most Southerners that they had to fight and secede.

So, the end result was the Civil War caused by the South - the very thing opposite of what JB intended. Had the South succeeded, and it came very close to doing so, then Slavery would have continued into the 20th Century. So JB raid was a failure on the surface and on a strategic level.

Same for AQ and 9/11.

How does this pertain to OBL and AQ?

9/11 woke the West up and led to a catastrophic defeat for AQ in Afghanistan and most likely in Iraq. It drained AQ of all its future recruits and exposed the AQ cells in SA and around the world.

Most Islamists cheered the attacks, but have since come to regret homicide bombings and much of the Islamist extremism.

( This probably means that in the mind of Muslims that 20 years from now the WOT will be seen as the "War of Western Agression" - which it probably will - while their kids get belly rings and eat at Mcdonalds. )

But I digress.

The goal of international terrorism depends on who does it.

The PLO hijackers were not seeking escalation. The Japanese Doomsday cult was not seeking escalation. The Bader Meinhoff and Red Brigades were not seeking escalation. OBL and JB were not seeking escalation.

As far as Nukes go, there are three uses for them and each has its own doctrine. The literature is widely accessible and credible operators exist from whom Barack Obama, who is a very smart man, could have informed himself.

He just has not done his homework.

8/03/2007 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

Shrop,
"If I were a Japanese legislator, I would be listening very closely to this debate. I would begin thinking very hard about the value of American security guarantees."

Especially when viewed in the context of the Democrats racing to see who can be the first out of Iraq.

8/03/2007 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

Kevin,
"The reason Al Qaida would attack with biological or nuclear weapons is that they would hope that we would respond by nuking Mecca or something that would serve their larger political purposes."

That's just plain wrong. The reason that AQ would use WMD is because they are positive that we would NOT react by nuking Mecca. They expected minimal reaction from 9/11; they didn't view that as a way to draw us into an ambush in the Middle East.

8/03/2007 08:27:00 AM  
Blogger dchamil said...

Memo to B. Hussein Obama: "Don't telegraph your punches!"

8/03/2007 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Kevin's problem is that he projects a comfortable, middle class existence under the rule of law, with police and courts and the government acting within a western framework, onto a very alien culture.

Take his laughable assertion that AQ attacks us to provoke a response. That's proven false by AQ's own words in that regard. AQ attacks us to force us to surrender. Bin Laden believed that the US would collapse under the 9/11 attacks being weak and decadent and would surrender to him. While that did not happen he hasn't changed his mind, and neither has Zawahari. Over 35 years of appeasement, retreat, surrender, and avoidance by the West to Muslim terrorism have made that Muslim attitude that if they kill enough of us we will submit to them and give them western wealth while they act as our masters and we their slaves.

This is part and parcel of Muslim culture which is founded on raiding other peoples and taking them as slaves.

Osama and people like him are NOT like Westerners. Osama rose to his position by car-bombing his mentor Abdullah Azzam and sons into oblivion. He comes from a massive family that was polygamous (he has umpteen half-brothers and sisters). He and Zawahari have several wives and umpteen children.

Muslims don't think like us, don't act like us, don't have families like us, don't believe in the same things like us, don't even operate with the same assumptions.

If anything Tancredo does not go far enough, the problem with Muslims is that they don't fear us. The Soviets did and understood they'd be wiped out to the last man if they attacked us with nuclear weapons. Muslims require the same fear.

A policy of wiping out every last Muslim on Earth outside the US, and interning those inside the US essentially forever would indeed be the most "humane" policy in that it would safeguard US cities from Muslim nuclear attack and the response that would wipe out millions if not half a billion people.

IF ... people believed it. Which would require "first use" of nuclear weapons to take out Pakistan's or some other target to show the US willingness to strike at the drop of the hat. Regardless of the media, UN, NGO's, and various caterwauling on the Left.

Muslims certainly do want to kill us so we will "surrender" to Islam and be their slaves. This is how their culture works and forms every society in which they live and make up the majority. But even AQ needs someone to help them with nuclear weapons, and the problem for us is that regimes like Pakistan, or Iran, or Libya, or North Korea don't fear us but do fear THEM. With Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, UAE, Jordan, all announcing nuclear weapons programs this problem will only get worse.

Threatening all Muslims with death, the death of Islam, and being able and willing to carry it out and seen as able and willing to carry it out in case of attack is the Alexandrian sword through the Gordian Knot. It is not "nice" it is not "humane" and certainly not "civil liberties" oriented but will make Muslims out of fear stop attacks on the US.

It of course won't ever happen, instead we will lurch around until we lose a city, decide to be "nice" and lose another, maunder around because our elites really don't care about the people (like all diseased priesthoods), and then be swept away in a Jacksonian fury and we will end up killing half a billion people.

Let's not mistake what being "nice" and the moral vanity of those who hold to fantasies like Kevin will cost: tens of millions of our own dead, ruined cities, and half a billion Muslims.

Let's face it, nuclear proliferation is here to stay and we need clear policies that the whole world can factor into and know how to avoid getting killed. "Nice" is not going to cut it.

8/03/2007 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

As Kevin has stated and others here have concurred with, the classic terrorist/guerilla model is to prompt reaction/over reaction on the part of the “legitimate” government, thereby causing popular support to swing to the insurgent. That is what used to be taught in DoD schools; maybe it still is.

But Al Queda does not seem to be following this playbook, at least not in the classic sense. The only people they have galvanized by the “overreaction” to their actions are much of the Left in the West and the sad losers in the Islamic countries. Well, let’s simplify that by saying that they have only galvanized the sad losers of the world, period.

While Al Queda leadership may advertise a desire for The Caliphate, I think it is obvious that they would be at the least be equally delighted with the creation of a global version of Afghanistan. I.E., them on top with all the luxuries they care to have and no one else with anything at all. Given the world of today, that is about the only way they can prosper relative to others – if all others are laid low. Anything past, say, the year 1492, is too advanced for them.

A U.S. overreaction that nukes Mecca and the other capitals of the Arab world is indeed probably a desirable situation for them. Those capitals are forever lost to them anyway, as long as they still stand; rubble they can handle. They would hope that this would end the lure of the West for the surviving Muslims and cause such disagreement among the West that they could lord over the rubble. “It is better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven” seems to sum up their attitude.

As to how this situation affects “deterrence” I don’t know. It is difficult to see a situation where an Al Queda attack could cause us to nuke any capital city, anywhere. The mountains of Warzistan, yes. Threaten nuclear destruction until the Saudis and everyone else coughs up every last Whabbist cleric and militant, maybe. But I do not know what I would target with Minuteman or Tridents that would get Al Qudea’s attention – except Al Queda, itself – and if we knew where to fire those missiles we would not need nukes, anyway.

And many thanks to everyone for this discussion. I just hope the hell that at least a few guys in that 5 sided building I used to frequent are having similar ones.

8/03/2007 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

"And many thanks to everyone for this discussion. I just hope the hell that at least a few guys in that 5 sided building I used to frequent are having similar ones. "

Our nukes currently just go boom, and some are delivered by ICBM. That limits the doctrine on how they can be used.

If our nukes did some imaginative things like produce a muon or neutron shower or lased in gamma rays, then the doctrine could change.

Barack Obama cannot change the nature of our nukes nor can he redefine US strategic posture which is based on geopolitics and physics.

There is somethign fatal in the Liberal psyche that seeks to disarm its owner and everyone else before potential evil.

8/03/2007 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger francisb said...

I said the goal of terrorist action is overreaction on the part of the victim.

I"m not sure I agree with this. Who defines what an "overreation" is?

I don't think we're dealing with complex actors in the case of AQ. They want to kill enough infidels to force the rest of us to bow down to their desire for a caliphate, and then, Islamic domination.

I think attributing complex, Machiavellian strategies on these bozo's is giving them way too much credit. They aren't that sophisticated.

There will come a the point where a severe "overreaction" by the West will terminate all meaningful terrorism that we're seeing. It might also cause the death of a significant portion of the country that enables and supports these terrorist activities.

An overreaction? Not from where I sit. I guess one man's overreaction is another mans' "holy shit, let's make sure that never happens to us again!" moment. It'll be a happy day when we see every Imam in the ME hanging from Minarets of the local mosques, and then the mosques getting bulldozed for fear another clown will start preaching in them again...

The reason we see all this crap coming from the Muslim world is because there is no downside to it for them, only upside. Change the economics of the equation and you could stop this very quickly...

Look how terrorism pays! the PLO, hostage taking, saber rattling, Beslin, etc. etc. Hell, after oil, terrorism is the 2nd largest industry in the ME.

AQ got rocked on their heels when Bush invaded Iraq, and are still reeling for the impact. We can argue whether or not Iraq was a good idea, but it certainly wasn't the "overreaction" AQ was hoping for...

8/03/2007 03:42:00 PM  

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