By lex, on March 16th, 2004
Eric wrote from Kalamazoo, Michigan, taking umbrage at my most recent post * on appeasement. He writes with obvious passion, and something close to civility on the subject. My response would take up more room than I care to use under Haloscan’s restrictions, so I’ve chosen to quote his comments here and reply to him in an entry all his own. (Plus, it keeps me from having to scratch my head over what to write tonight.)
“NO! Haven’t these attacks shown that our heavy-handed approach to the Middle East is doing nothing but galvanizing our enemies against us? We started with enemies in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, and created enemies in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia and now Morocco, not to mention losing allies in France, Germany, Australia and now Spain! Haven’t we realized yet that violence only begets more violence? What will it take to see that the solution does not depend on us backing desperate people into corners, thereby compounding the problem, but instead on creating options for them, so they feel they have another way of improving their situation besides blowing things up.
How appropriate that you quote Ahab – a lunatic obsessed with an impossible goal that he chases futilely until it destroys him and his crew. What a wonderful source of inspiration . . . Hopefully I’ll be able to grab a coffin and float to safety when this ship goes down.
P.S. If you really think military tactics are effective in stopping terrorist attacks, how do you explain Isreal’s lack of results after 50 years of waging their own “War on Terror” against Hamas?”
First off, thank you Eric for your comments. I really mean that. I certainly appreciate alternative views on the pressing subjects of the day. In a civil discourse, assumptions can be challenged, and views potentially modified. It would be a truly boring place, if everyone agreed with me.
Having said that, I would really like to avoid a point-by-point refutation, but I am not sure that this is possible. Eric seems to me one of those familiar types who long to deal with the sea as they wish it would be, rather than the sea as it is. We Sailors do not have that luxury. If Eric’s point is that we have to address the “root causes” of terrorism, then I am fairly certain that we will not have much to agree upon. But more on that later.
Eric posits that our actions in the Middle East are galvanizing our enemies against us. If the legacy of the attacks on our embassies in Nigeria and Kenya, the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the USS COLE in Aden and last, but by no means least 9/11, indicate that our enemies were not already galvanized, I shudder to think what they’re capable of, once they really get angry.
They were already galvanized, Eric. The pin-prick cruise missile response of our previous administration against aspirin factories and empty tents in the desert emboldened them to take greater action. Three thousand American civilians lost their lives because they thought we were a paper tiger.
I wonder if they think that now?
And have we really “created” enemies in Syria, Iraq and Iran, where none were found before? Or have we, faced with unparalleled destruction in our homeland, finally opened our eyes to see the world as it is, and not as we had hoped it might be?
And what of our allies in Germany and France? What has France done for us, since the American Revolution? And excluding the ever-present Gallic tendency to to stick their thumbs in the eye of perfidious Albion, what have they done for us ever? Germany, abashed by their own fascist past, has ceded foreign policy to Paris, who has only ever acted in their own self-interest, while cloaking it in a convenient veil of smug, effete condescension. All the others appeasers in the West are free to look down their noses at the American cowboys, secretly content that we will do what must be done, while they perfect their socialist utopias. That will inevitably cave under the weight of their unproductive, aging populaces.
Every tree is known by the fruit that it bears. Allies are not allies by self-proclamation, nor because they were beneficiaries of the blood shed by countless American soldiers and the shared wealth of the American people, given freely to reconstruct a continent which very nearly destroyed itself in the last of a series of pointless European wars. Allies do not speak of setting up “counterweights” to “hyper-powers,” as though defining themselves in opposition to the policies and aspirations of their transatlantic friends were the highest form of diplomatic courtesy.
Allies are allies because they share common values, and common burdens. Apart from that, I steadfastly decline to take moral instruction from any continent that in the same century brought us Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini and Vichy. I refuse to bow at that altar.
And what of the terrorists? What are they galvanized against? Bin Laden and his ilk didn’t like infidels in the Muslim holy land of Saudi Arabia, it was offensive to them. But our soldiers were there defending the Kingdom from a certain rapacious neighbor, just to their north – one that had proven that his ambitions were unbounded by an excess of the milk of human kindness. By removing the Ba’athist dictatorship from Iraq, we removed the requirement to have infidel soldiers in Saudi – on our terms. We also laid the foundations for hope in a new future for a brutalized populace. Perhaps they will even grasp the ring. We have again, spent so much in blood and treasure to provide it to them.
But democracy is anathema to extremism. They are mutually incomprehensible.
So the terrorists also didn’t like our support of the only democracy currently extant in the Middle East – Israel. (Actually, this was a late-breaking tactical move on Al-Qaeda’s part – the Palestinian issue is one that Arab tyrannies routinely use to focus the discontent of their masses outward, against an external foe, rather than inwards, against their own governments’ repression, incompetence and venality. Bin Laden was merely channeling the hot emotion of the Arab street against the familiar enemy.)
Which brings us to the root cause discussion, that Eric doesn’t speak to explicitly, but which is nevertheless there, between the lines. So tell me, Eric – what do we do about the Jewish question?
You point out that Israel has fought for 50 years against Hamas, with nothing to show for their efforts. (It’s actually 37 years , but never mind.)
Do we cut off all support for them, and let the seething resentment of the Arab multitudes against the only symbol of success in the region push them into the sea? Or do we ask them to don again the mantle of Massada, cut their own throats, and save us all the fretting? There is no middle ground, Eric, no Solomonic baby to split – Israel’s struggle is existential. When asked to choose between good and evil, good men must make a choice, or else through indecision allow evil free reign. Although I must admit, doing so would take the desperate people out of their corners, and leave them “options.”
If you intend to reply in some fashion that there is no distinction between the Israelis fighting for their survival against an implacable foe, with the occasional error or misstep leading to non-combatant casualties on the one hand, and the intentional murder of innocents merely for being who they are on the other, I ask you to refrain. I have heard these arguments – I find them repugnant. Here is no issue of moral ambiguity, there are no shades of gray. If this is your viewpoint, I tell you in advance that we must agree to disagree.
Or shall we sign another peace treaty, perhaps at Oslo?
So what have the Israelis gained in their 37 year struggle against Hamas? Another day to live, for the survivors. Perhaps that would not be your choice, but it is not your choice to make.
Perhaps it truly is appropriate that I quote the madman Ahab in his struggle with the white whale. I am a southerner, and congenitally predisposed to desperate struggles, and lost causes.
Among these desperate struggles I include protecting your life, and your liberties, and the lives and freedom of others like you, regardless of whether or not you’d want me to. And so I too hope you find your coffin, and float to whatever safe harbor you can find, when this ship goes down.
Thanks again for writing.
*06-29-18 Link gone – Unable to find post – Ed.