Thursday, August 04, 2005

On proportion and strategy...

Fred Pruitt, Rantburg:
It's tough being commander in chief. I've never done it, of course, but when you give the subject a little thought you can see where the difficulty lies. George Bush is sworn to support and defend the Constitution, which provides for the common defense. Quite aside from the Constitution there are fundamental matters of right and wrong, the possible and the impossible, the desirable and the undesirable, plus the Law of Unintended Consequences. He's got to deal with all these factors, not sequentially, but all at once, and he's got to make a minimum of mistakes. Despite having been described as "simplistic" by his detractors, he's handling complex events well, making decisions based on events as they unfold, strategy for the coming years, and the constraints as they exist.

The U.S. has the capability to "nuke Mecca," to lay waste the entire Muslim world that's declared war on us and that wants to destroy our civilization, despoil us of our riches, and grab our women as sexual playthings. Having the capability and using it are two different things. Extreme actions usually aren't the ones that have desirable outcomes, and they're invariably the ones that have the highest incidence of unintended consequences. Consider: READ MORE

* Not all Muslims — the Iraqi Kurds, for instance, and the members of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan — have joined in the war against us. In fact, they're on our side. We don't want to nuke them.

* A certain number of Muslims have seen the error of their ways and come over to our side, for instance the Iraqis who are getting killed by the terrs every day and who are fighting them with a little bit more competence each day. Indonesia might be included on this list, though I'd still call it wobbly.

* Some Muslim states are more or less quietly on our side, usually not making a big thing of it, for instance Ould Taya in Mauritania, Saleh in Yemen, King Abdullah in Jordan, Bouteflika in Algeria, Ben Ali in Tunisia, the al-Sabahs in Kuwait, and most of the al-Thanis in Qatar.

* Some are effectively neutral, which would include most of the Gulf emirates, while others maintain a hostile neutrality, like Qaddafi in Libya, or Badawi in Malaysia, Sudan, and the Lebanese.

* Some few Muslim states are no threat to us because they're abject failures at being states. Who's afraid of Somalia? No one stays up nights worrying about the threat from Niger. The Nigerian Islamists have managed to disrupt a Miss World pageant and to reintroduce polio in their children. Some accomplishments.

What this means is that we're not "at war with Islam," as the Islamists like to claim. The actual number of states we're at war with — all undeclared at the moment — is pretty small: Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.

With only one of these states do we have something that approaches open hostility, and that's Iran, to whom we're the Great Satan and where they see fit to harbor al-Qaeda's leadership. Syria wobbles between hostile neutrality and outright hostility, afraid to take sides against the Islamists because they're afraid the Islamists will kill them, afraid to push us too far because they're afraid Assad will get what Sammy got. They're also the most susceptible to receiving a push at just the right spot to make them implode. There's no need for us to waste a nuclear weapon as long as they're willing to slaughter each other.

That leaves Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, both of whom profess to be best friends with us. The Pak jihadis are the Saudis' surrogate. The country itself is somewhere between Syria and Afghanistan, only with a larger population and a small nuclear arsenal. Left to its own devices, bereft of Saudi funding and outside economic aid, Pakistan's just another failed state, and a fairly spectacular failure at that. Given the right circumstances, Pakistan will become Somalia, or more likely four or five Somalias.

So now we're down to only Saudi Arabia. That's where the money comes from. That's where the Learned Elders of Islam reside. That's the headquarters for the "charities." Saudi Arabia is the country people call before exploding in the subway in London and after taking hostages in Moscow. They fund madrassahs to keep Pakistan at a boil, and they export al-Ghamdis to lead the jihad.

They also produce a fair amount of the oil that we use, so open hostilities with them is a shot to our economic foot. Just as important, they're of central religious significance to the rest of the Muslim world. Nuking Mecca's the sure way to take all those states out of the "neutral" category and put them into the "hostile" category, and to take most if not all the friendlies and put them there, too.

That leaves us with conventional tools, which boils down to diplomacy, military action, legal action, and covert action. That's where the constraints Bush works within show up. Rather than carpet bombing large portions of the Muslim world, we're engaging in diplomacy, trying to give the Saudis the opportunity to quietly cease and desist and we'll all pretend it never happened. Where military action is appropriate, we're using it. Throwing Sammy out was a slice through the Gordian knot of despotism, and trying to establish a reasonably democratic state in the heart of Fanaticstan is a counterattack on the caliphate. Eventually Iran will either collapse from within or we'll slice that knot, too. Legal and police action takes the cannon fodder off the streets and sometimes breaks up an entire network, usually in the wake of an attack. Covert action is hopefully bumping off the holy men behind the jihadis one by one, not that it's something we should ever admit to.

Winning the war isn't going to be a quick operation. Cheney warned us about that four years ago. The trick is not only to win it, but to win it with the smallest possible corpse count. "The Masses™" all have faces, homes, children, and they're just as human as we are, even though some of them don't feel shame like we do. The innocents, even the hostile neutrals, haven't done anything that deserves incineration, any more than the people who went to work at the WTC on 9-11-01 did.