Tuesday, May 20, 2008


If terrorism is a meme, then one of the strategies against it has been exemplified by Joe Lieberman's efforts. Senator Lieberman has asked Youtube to remove al-Qaeda videos posted on its site. Google, which owns Youtube, has responded by removing what it deemed the most offensive of the videos. Lieberman said that:

if you search on YouTube for related videos, it will "return dozens of videos branded with an icon or logo identifying the videos as the work of one of these Islamist terrorist organizations." "Islamist terrorist organizations use YouTube to disseminate their propaganda, enlist followers, and provide weapons training – activities that are all essential to terrorist activity,"

Google responded on the YouTube Blog with the removal of select videos. Google said, "we examined and ended up removing a number of videos from the site, primarily because they depicted gratuitous violence, advocated violence, or used hate speech. Most of the videos, which did not contain violent or hate speech content, were not removed because they do not violate our Community Guidelines."

Lieberman's approach can be roughly described as an "anti-virus" strategy. The world functions under a tacit kind of operating system. We know it as a system of laws, freedom of navigation, etc. Just a virus uses the resources of an operating system it aims to subvert against itself, terrorism can be said to use the modern communications, transportation and legal systems of the civilization it wants to destroy in order to empower itself.

It has been said that all wars are ultimately conflicts of ideas. In the 19th and 20th centuries, key conflicts were fought over the question of whether "all men were equal". Or whether there was a "master race" or ideology. Fighting Hitler was not just about destroying the armies of the Third Reich, it was also about discreding the idea of Nazism. Another way to look at these conflicts was as attempts by the world operating system to right itself in the face of a severe viral challenge.

The classic strategy employed by most antivirus software packages is simple. Once a virus has been identified, the software takes steps to 1. attempt to repair the file by removing the virus itself from the file, 2. quarantine the file (such that the file remains inaccessible to other programs and its virus can no longer spread), or 3. delete the infected file.

That would correspond to a vigorous debate with terrorist ideology; efforts to limit its spread and -- when all else fails -- deleting its memes. We are too timid to go into mosques to debate radical imams. Too timid in fact to even acknowledge they exist. But Lieberman at least, sees the utility of quarantining and deleting some of the al-Qaeda memes.

The other approach to malignant memes is to change the operating system of the world in order to accomodate it. Bring it into the Big Tent. Commentary Magazine believes that Barack Obama is on the verge of winning legitimacy for the idea that negotiating with enemy regimes is an end in itself.

It seems to me that it’s a victory for Obama. The Iran debate is being defined as one of diplomatic engagement versus diplomatic isolation, with Obama presenting himself as the bearer of a new strategy ... Why is McCain allowing himself to be dragged into a debate about presidential-level diplomacy, when the more important question — and the question whose answer is more politically favorable to McCain — is whether diplomatic engagement will actually get anything accomplished? McCain should be asking Obama what concessions he realistically thinks he’s going to get from the Iranians upon going hat in hand to Tehran.

But that is nothing to the point when "engagement" -- like the the "peace process" is seen as the end, and not simply the means. Already we are told it is "manly" to negotiate with the enemy. After all everybody has negotiated at one point or the other. But what this skates over is the fact that all "engagements" are not equal. Percevel's negotiations with Yamashita at the Fall of Singapore are not the same as those which the Allied Powers informally had with Japan shortly before its surrender.

Therefore the focus of Obama's proposed negotiations ought to be in what they hope to achieve. Not simply, as they have become, because they will take place come what may.

There are two basic lines of thought in the war of memes with radical Islam. The first implicitly sees it as a virus. The other sees it as a candidate component of the world's future operating system. It's fair to say Lieberman sees it as a virus. What does Obama regard it as?

The Belmont Club is supported largely by donations from its readers.


Blogger Whiskey said...

Obama's strategy is best understood as a last, desperate attempt to surrender to Islam before another provocation becomes too great and the elites are swept from power.

Suppose Iran nukes (or some amorphous group does) a major US city with Ahmadinejad crowing but not taking explicit responsibility?

What then? Obama faces an angry mob, assuming he's won, is impeached, and Dems suffer essentially the death of their party. With the US getting into the business of wiping out Muslims on a large scale. The third conjecture.

Obama himself internally denies that Islam's aggressive demands on the West are a problem, and wants to forestall any action that would sideline community activists who are used to legalized shakedowns of big corporations in the US justice system. He's likely to get played worse than Chamberlain, and get right straight to the Third Conjecture.

5/20/2008 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Irregular Restrictive Measures — Blogospheric Computer Network Attack

Civilian Irregular Counter Propagandists can whack moles Feds don't think are worth bothering with.

Good mission for a Counterinsurgent Supportive People's Information Support Team.

5/20/2008 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

In other words, a software "bug" is not a bug if you accept it as a "feature."

And a software virus is not a virus if you accept it as a legitimate expression of a human being's creativity. Like the way graffiti is tolerated in some places.

After all, Phishing from Romania and Keyloggers that send your credit card info to Vietnam are simply ways the Third World has resorted to in order to deal with our inadequate foreign aid programs and their own governments' corruption. No different from Brazil producing copies of privately developed drugs without the trouble of a license.

And the AIDS Virus is an officially protected aspect of certain lifestyles. No different from being against aborting a fetus, really.

It's all how you look at things.

5/20/2008 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...

I think Obama is best understood as a parasite. His entire life strategy is to present whatever appearance is most reassuring to his audience of the moment.

The Reverend Wright for instance served his purpose for more than twenty years (by establishing Obama as 'sufficiently black' to be electable in urban Chicago politics), but suddenly became someone he hardly knows as soon as Obama's new target audience is no longer comfortable with that association.

In the context of this election the host organism is the political system of the United States. Just like any parasite, Obama's goal is to gain control of it without actually being part of it.

Obama and the rest of us will only discover his real nature if and when he gains power of the Presidency. In this respect he resembles Bill Clinton, who said that on winning the Presidency he felt like a dog who had spent his entire life chasing cars, and at first had no idea what to do when he finally caught up with one.

The key factor driving Obama's campaign is that he is both exotic enough to excite the Democrat elites and slippery enough to do this while reassuring a fair number of other Democrat voters. Hillary, as a woman, was exotic enough until the younger, bi-racial model came along and proved able to deliver just that little bit more of a thrill.

Bill Clinton's driving obsessions turned out to be personal and sexual, and consequently relatively harmless. Seeing Obama though I can't help feeling though that the Democrats' apparently overwhelming desire to hand control over our nuclear arsenal to ever more exotic and in fact visibly fabricated personalities may one day produce a disaster.

It's almost as though, with most of their leftist ideology and program having collapsed, all Democrats now have to guide their choice of Presidential candidates is the indulgence of an overt display of capriciousness.

5/20/2008 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...



Off and on it occurs to me how far into the hall of mirrors we've been led by post-modernism, relativism and secular arrogance.

5/20/2008 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

" . . . the indulgence of an overt display of capriciousness."

Well, the Left has never been very much into accepting responsibility or consequences, so this makes sense.

5/20/2008 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

Obama is clueless personally. But to be fair, GWB was clueless too. But GWB hired a really good staff and managed them, making the hard decisions and sticking to the objective. Can Obama do likewise?

Obama has put together a good team for the purpose of getting elected. He may be able to put together a pretty decent team for the Whitehouse. Unlike Bill Clinton, Obama doesn't exhibit the arrogance of superior intellect, so he could be a good manager, like GWB.

As I've said repeatedly, GWB has done the heavy lifting. Regardless of the postering in the primaries, Obama can't bring the troops home in a "cut and run" manuever. He inherits GWB's work and he will have to see it to completion. Real Americans want to win, not run away.

GWB has decimated Al-Qaeda. Obama/McCain will benefit. GWB has stabilized the ME. Ditto.

I'm soooooo glad that GWB is in the Whitehouse.

5/20/2008 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger sbw said...

When one person ( or one culture) meets another, it has to establish whether communication is possible. Communication isn't simply talking or listening, it's being prepared to change one's mind. Secondly, it demands that each side reciprocally acknowledge the other has an equal claim to life. Neither essential is met by North Korea, Iran, Syria, Hamas, or Hesbollah.

If these are not evident at the outset, talk is secondary to protecting yourself. Obama needs to see priorities before he can get them in order.

5/20/2008 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger Fred said...


Obonga is NOT a real American. If he were, the temptations of victory over our enemies may overcome Dean's Netroots clientelle.

All socialists think the Hegelian forces of history will ameliorate the Muslim call back to its roots in Qur'an and the words and deeds of the Perfect Man, Muhammad.

I think whiskey's "Third Conjecture" is the more likely outcome.

5/20/2008 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Do we really think there's gonna be any Persian leaders left to talk to by the time a new President is sworn in?

5/20/2008 09:21:00 PM  
Blogger davod said...

An example of Obama's delegates -Muslim America Hater, Alleged Spy, Ex Chaplain Gitmo is Obama Delegate. The guy went to Syria to tell everyone what terrible things the inmates said were done to them (No first hand evidence).

5/21/2008 05:09:00 AM  
Blogger watimebeing said...

"Therefore the focus of Obama's proposed negotiations ought to be in what they hope to achieve. Not simply, as they have become, because they will take place come what may.

Only if you assume that "OH" views talking with Iran or Hezbollah or Hammas equivalent to talking to the enemy, or even negotiating. I am not sufficently convinced that his view of the ME situation is not merely the Palestinian recitation of Israel's HR violations and the bogus claim that Israel as a nation is an illegal entity. There is a deep double speak going on, that says the minimum of what is required to appease the many, while allowing wiggle room to wink at those, who like code pink, and G. Soros believe most of the garbage the PA, Hammas and Fat-ah media crank out.

"There are two basic lines of thought in the war of memes with radical Islam. The first implicitly sees it as a virus. The other sees it as a candidate component of the world's future operating system. It's fair to say Lieberman sees it as a virus. What does Obama regard it as?"

There is a third line, one that views conservative political thought, religious traditions, the rights of individual man and even our political process as a flawed system, and by that view the use of a "friendly virus" to make corrections in the Operating System or to physically adjust the resistance of a critical component is legit.

It explains why Saddam is still not perceived as either a terrorist or a threat by the hard left, and why defeating Al Queda is limited to operations in Afghanistan.

5/21/2008 05:46:00 AM  
Blogger Benj said...

Dla - I think you're basically on the One when it comes to Bush's achievement. Another concession re Sadr City on the front page of the TIMES today - but you can't give GWB too much credit for assembling a team if you consider Wolfie's and Tenet's and Rummy's various screw-ups. And remember the Cunning of History? - no surge with Rummy and w/o Dems winning big in 06...

All this talk of viruses and Obama reminds me of his first moment on world stage - Africa trip after he was elected senator. I offer it up in the same spirit I called attention to O's position on Nifong et. al. Not big thing - but it may of interest to those who worry O is the devil in disguise or the anti-Christ or a closet believer in Third-Worldism...

The following comes from Chicago Trib reporter David Mendell's bio of O...

"Outside the clinic Obama was pressed to talk about South Africa's AIDS crisis and what should be done to quell it. Obama was seeking a meeting with the country's president, Thabo Mbeki, who was onie of the politicians who seemed least concerned about the deadly impact of AIDS on his constitutents. Mbeki had publicly questioned whether HIV infection led to AIDS, a scientific fact known the world over. Here, Obama was caught in something of a dilmma. How broadly shoudl he criticize the current governmetn and risk scuttlign his meeting with Mbeki?

Obama chose to come out swinging. He charge the government was in "denial" about the crisis, and he advocated a "sense of urgency and an almost clinical truth-telling" about the spread of the diseases. "It's not an issue of Western Science versus African Science," he said. "It's just science, and it's not right." He then dropped that day's major headling: He would take an AIDS test when he reached Kenya in hopes of erasing the stigma behidn the disease among Africans. ...With these controversial proclamations, it now looked unlikely tha tObama would meet with Mbeki to lobby him to address the AIDS crisis. Yet however ephemeral his statements were that morning, Obama gave voice to a crisis that was killing hundreds of South Africans per day. Few world leaders had spoken out so vigorously oni the handling of the crisis by the South African government. "It sends a message of political leadership, of being prepared to be open about HIV," said Zachie Achmat, one of South Africa's most notable AIDS activists. "We wish more politicans were that honest."

5/21/2008 07:14:00 AM  
Blogger mercutio said...

Anthropologist Lionel Tiger, in today's WSJ, comments on the Texas polygamists in light of primate behavior. He also notes Islamic polygamy and its implications:

"Osama bin Laden has at least five wives, which means that four young men of his tribe have no date on Saturday night and forever. They may become willing jihadists, or desperate suicides eager to soothe their god by killing infidels and Americans."

The Islamist meme, with its offer of 72 virgins in paradise, may not be up to the counter-appeal of a wife for every man?

In another post, Alexis and (I believe) hdgreene, discussed feminist/female responses/attitudes towards Islam. I would rather be on the side of the monogamists/individual rights than on the side of polygamists. Yes, primatology suggests the enduring appeal of the polygamist. But demography is history.

5/21/2008 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 05/21/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

5/21/2008 08:27:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

"There are two basic lines of thought in the war of memes with radical Islam. The first implicitly sees it as a virus. The other sees it as a candidate component of the world's future operating system. It's fair to say Lieberman sees it as a virus. What does Obama regard it as?"

Good question, and one I'd like to know the answer to.

But I'm sure Bill Gates is watching all this very carefully with an eye toward anything he may want to include in the next version of Windows if the second line of thought wins out.

5/21/2008 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Ahmadinijad wants Obama to win.

Given this, he can wait till October and announce that "If Obama is elected, Iran will cease pursueing the bomb".

This gives Obama a giant diplomatic victory, reinforces the appeasers, and costs Iran nothing. After the election, Ahmadinijad can invent a suitable provocation that would allow him to renege on the agreement.

5/21/2008 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter Grynch: Given this, he can wait till October and announce that "If Obama is elected, Iran will cease pursueing the bomb".

Wonderful, but the NIE says Iran has already ceased pursuing the bomb. Republicans have the option to mention "Iran's nuclear power program" but they prefer to just say "nuclear program" to spread fear and win votes.

5/21/2008 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Do you believe ran has stopped pursueing the bomb?

If so, were you surprised when North Korea exploded their bomb. I wasn't.

5/21/2008 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger watimebeing said...

Benj, come on man, you have got to do more than regale us with stories of when "OH" acting was done as an after thought? The stuff you quote was after President Bush advanced for use, a tremendously large number of Aides cocktails in Africa.

Meanwhile, "OH" insults his host thereby losing the opportunity to lobby or perhaps figure out a solution to a part of the crisis. He could have saved the insults for after a meeting, it may have had greater effect that way. Alas, the world will never know how well "OH" can deal with leaders like Mbeki, and we must content ourselves with the comforting thought that "OH" lessened the "stigma" of Aides by taking a test.

"OH" acting with audacity, could have saved lives, but "OH" didn't even try, settling for a sound bite instead. What kind of leadership is that.

On another note, all indications are that the surge could not have occurred with Rummy in the seat because he had become too great a distraction to pursuing any such a surge action. From what I know of such things and that is admittedly very little, The surge plan would have already been written before Baker/Hamilton et. al. sat down to write their commission's report, maybe even earlier.

I believed the relevant data will bear me out that The Dems did not win in 06, The GOP gave it away with piss poor congressional performance.

Alternate explanations are due either to wishful thinking or an intentional distortion of reality. Indications are the major parties' leadership have still not figured it out. Which is why, I figure, McCain is the GOP Nominee and why "OH" has more than a sliver of a chance to become Dem's candidate.

It is not about hope, not about audacity, not about Maverick behavior and not even about being just plain rude. It is about trust, and whether either party will earn the majority of this publics share. So far I and as near as I can tell a large chunk of America remains decidedly unimpressed. Which translates into the chance that someone who would try to foist insulting a foreign president as an example of leadership has even a remote chance of winning.

So, Benj, when is part two due out?

5/22/2008 12:02:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

What I was thinking as I skimmed Benj's latest puerilities, Wade. Good summation.

In the Obama universe according to Benj, he ranks right up alongside Hugo Chavez as a statesman and the both of them are equal to both Churchill and Cesar.

And anyone who disagrees or uses logic can be written off as a racist and ignored.

5/22/2008 06:16:00 AM  
Blogger Benj said...

Hey Wade - I'll take your point re Bush and AIDS as Obama himself has. (He's repeatedly given Bush credit there.) But you should probably be less dismissive of Zachie A.'s commendation. Zachie was the guy who famously forced the S.A. gov to begin trying to treat poor people with AIDS by refusing to take ARVs (which he could afford) until he nearly died. His words on leadership on this front have weight...BTW I think I ante-ed up the anecdote in part because O's offhand line on science suggested how far his instincts are from standard AFrocentric world-views. As you know, there have been doubters on that score in the Club. PS did you read re Obama's (Rice-inspired!) contributions to the Kenya solution. Historyi gets real complicated sometimes - Kofi Annan played a truly useful role there recently...

Re Rummy - Doesn't seem like you've defined a real area of disagreement. As you allow - the Surge could not have occurred with Rummy in power. (Or as Ralph Peters would have it - the "odious" Donald Rumsfeld.) As for the evidence that the plans for the Surge were somehow in place before the 06 election - that doesn't correspond to my sense of how things played out, but if I missed something here, always looking to learn so tell me where I could get a better sense of how all this all went down...

Part deux is coming - but backed up a bit because of final fixes on FIRST OF THE YEAR: 2008. Got to rush that out as I know you can't wait to buy your copy! BTW - As I was looking back over old FIRST material I came on my comment re election in the fall of 04. Back then it seemed to me there were two elections that mattered - the one coming in Iraq after 2005 and Illinois senate election...It's rare for me to be so right - so of course I left that out of FIRST OF THE YEAR

Re Chavez - I've attacked those on the left who are entranced with that blowhard. Morales is a different story...

5/22/2008 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger watimebeing said...

I take issue with characterizing Sec. Rumsfeld's decisions as "screw ups". It is intellectually dishonest, even for former military and especially by those who, like Ralph Peters, know better, or should.

As for the timing of the plan, even before the Golden Mosque was bombed a better way to get a hold on the security situation was being designed. Also better more secure training for the Iraqi Army and internal Security forces was a huge part of that change. Most officers did have ideas and those like General Petraeus who had the strength of their convictions to accompany the proof of their viability as a solution, made sure they were heard. I'll take General Peter Pace's word on what occurred in Rumsfeld's DOD before Peters. Not that I find Peters character flawed (although I suspect he's a bit of prima-donna at times or worse) but because I find his reasoning is.

While I am not privy to the particulars of the trip, What "OH" stood to gain in insight or influence, as a US Senator I assume with DOS support, certainly outweighed any advantage offered by scuttling completely his meet up with that country's President. That he chose to vocally rebuke and to symbolically condemn without meeting Mbeke face to face first... well lets say there are just so many ways that it could have and should have been done. I do not believe the best interests of South Africans nor the US were served. I suspect "OH" was not prepared to serve them that day. I don't think he learned anything by the experience and may in fact have set the cause back a bit. As President understanding the foundation of that influence and knowing how and when to wield it is crucial. His statements on diplomacy as well as this antidote tell me "OH" does not possess a working grasp of it.

Zachie is practiced in wringing the most out of a situation to best favor his cause, I would expect no less.

5/22/2008 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger Benj said...

Wade - Realize we're talking to ourselves here - this one should probably be a private email - but I don't want seem unresponsive or (forgive my ego) abashed!...Nothing much more to say on the s.A. thing - cept (one more time) I wasn't offering it as example of high diplomacy but as a small detail that hinted at O's history of willingness to challenge certain kinds of p.c. thinking - (PS Why come hard on Zachie - Hell - Tutu digs Obama too. Hope that doesn't mean you got to disdain the Bish as well...I'd caution you re quick expression of contempt for "do-gooders." That defines a certain kind of Buckleyesque stance. Just as it's the quickness to disdain the ideals of Honor and courage that (mis)informs a certain kind of beamish leftism.)

Re Rummy - You've got a point re Peters. (But I don't think Mike Yon was thrilled with Rummy's DOD either.) Peters' Post pieces are often marked by a low populist tone - HIS hatred for Rummy's persona probably has something to do with old strains of anti-intellectualism in American life. But, for me, it's not about the persona (which I kinda enjoyed!)It's about the fantasy of "doing" Iraq on the cheap. Though this is not the place to rehearse the "mistakes" of the occupation (and the run-up to the war). But - just to focus again on the immediate historical raised by you - "As for the timing of the plan, even before the Golden Mosque was bombed a better way to get a hold on the security situation was being designed." -

Do you remember twisting slowly slowly in the breeze in the summer of 06 as the bodies kept piling up in Baghdad...And then on into the Fall when even the stalwart Omar (of the Iraq the Model website) broke out of Iraq. I'm not an expert on the background of the Surge either but it was certainly offered at the time (Jan 07) as a " major shift in mission." One that Rummy had resisted! Here's a quote from Christian Science Monitor piece re Kagan's plan, which informed Bush's: "What's being prepared is actually a drastic departure" from recent strategy, says Paul Hughes, a former Army colonel who served in Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority.

5/23/2008 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger watimebeing said...


I didn't think I was coming down hard on anyone, just a different POV about when and who to talk to. It is very highly important, I believe, that the next President knows what to say to whom and when and not only that but it is imperative he know why.

I do remember that summer, an taking a pounding on some E-boards about the pace and direction of the thing. I got wind of a couple of ideas that dovetailed with my thinking. The French battle in Algiers was one and later the recognition that there was an SF plan for 2003 (that did not make the final cut or even the semi finals) was another. The results of the 82nd's actions in Mosul had, over the course of a year already been turned into the current COIN by General Petraeus.

Where I read of these as well as when convince me that the planning was in process, being argued before the Mosque was blown up.

Other stuff is well other stuff, for public consumption, I suppose.

5/23/2008 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger Benj said...

I doubt I'll convince you re O's readiness re FP - But you might consider that O. is a pretty worldly guy. My guess is that he has more gut-knowledge of global dailiness than any recent presidential candidate...He also seems to be developing a genuine strategic outlook - probably farther along there than with domestic policy - his world-view won't go down with most Clubbers who are locked on the Great Fear of Islamism. And isn't that fear appropriate, you'd say? And I'd reply (tentatively cos I'm no wonk) - Yes and No...

Since you're a fan of that Petraeus Counter-Insurgency doc, figure you might be interested to know re one of O's main foreign policy advisors. Just came on this when I was searching for another recent interesting take on O's foreign policy "gaffes." Couldn't find that but...

-Sarah Sewall, a Harvard professor and another of Obama's closest advisers, also knows about stepping outside of her comfort zone. A longtime human-rights advocate with the disarmament organization, the Council for a Livable World, Sewall found herself in 2005 and 2006 with an unlikely partner: Gen. David Petraeus. He and two colleagues were rewriting the Army and Marine field manual for counterinsurgency and wanted Sewall's input on how to create a more just, humane, and successful doctrine. For agreeing to help, she was attacked by some on the left. "Should a human-rights center at the nation's most prestigious university be collaborating with the top U.S. general in Iraq in designing the counterinsurgency doctrine behind the current military surge?" Tom Hayden wrote online in The Huffington Post.

Sewall's involvement may have lost her some influence within the academic left, but she has become a hero to the military's growing circle of counterinsurgency theorist-practitioners. "Her impact on the thinking about the war and the conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been significant and not without cost," says Army Lt. Col. John Nagl, one of the counterinsurgency community's luminaries. "She has shown, in my eyes, great moral courage. I think Senator Obama is listening to someone who has thought long and hard about the use of force and who understands the kinds of wars we're fighting today."

5/23/2008 10:53:00 PM  

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