Soob

Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Beyond Bush

Courtesy of Eddie in tdaxp open thread VI this Zakaria piece. Let me highlight a few choice excerpts.

"The enemy is vast, global and relentless. Giuliani casually lumps together Iran and Al Qaeda. Mitt Romney goes further, banding together all the supposed bad guys. "This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hizbullah and Hamas and Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood," he recently declared.But Iran is a Shiite power and actually helped the United States topple the Qaeda-backed Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Qaeda-affiliated radical Sunnis are currently slaughtering Shiites in Iraq, and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are responding by executing and displacing Iraq's Sunnis. We are repeating one of the central errors of the early cold war—putting together all our potential adversaries rather than dividing them.
We are repeating one of the central errors of the early cold war—putting together all our potential adversaries rather than dividing them. Mao and Stalin were both nasty. But they were nasties who disliked one another, a fact that could be exploited to the great benefit of the free world. To miss this is not strength. It's stupidity."


This speaks directly to a previous post and it's good to see a mainstream source calling into question the homogeneous quality of the term "terrorist." The term "terrorism" would be better served to identify a tactic rather than label an element of resistance (without regard to the brutality of said resistance.) Further it illustrates the sophomoric quality of both Giuliani and Romney in terms of foreign policy, specifically in relation to the complexities of the Middle East.

"We will never be able to prevent a small group of misfits from planning some terrible act of terror. No matter how far-seeing and competent our intelligence and law-enforcement officials, people will always be able to slip through the cracks in a large, open and diverse country. The real test of American leadership is not whether we can make 100 percent sure we prevent the attack, but rather how we respond to it. Stephen Flynn, a homeland-security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that our goal should be resilience—how quickly can we bounce back from a disruption? In the materials sciences, he points out, resilience is the ability of a material to recover its original shape after a deformation. If one day bombs do go off, we must ensure that they cause as little disruption—economic, social, political—as possible. This would deprive the terrorist of his main objective. If we are not terrorized, then in a crucial sense we have defeated terrorism."

While I don't always agree with him Zakaria seems to possess an unconventional journalistic ability to entail a realistic approach to any given subject as is illustrated above and here in another article of his I referenced a few months back concerning global warming.

A related post regarding the term "terrorist" can be found here at NeoNeoCon. While I don't disagree with the subjective journalistic approach that Neo outlines I do remain adamant in light of the simplification the term carries. In an age of youtube and mass information it is critical that our country adequately define the enemy they wish to entangle with.

4 comments:

Adrian said...

Agreed. Also problematic is that we can't agree on what a "terrorist" is. The FBI and CIA use two different definitions, to say nothing of the international community.

Ymarsakar said...

So what do you want Rudy and Mitt to do, say Iran is our ally and we should use them to "counter-balance" the Sunnis in Iraq?

There's no benefit to splitting the Syrian sunnis cooperating with Baathist insurgents and Iranian agents, from the Iranian Shia Revolutionaries backing Al Sadr if there they both know you are planning to off both of them at the end; Al Sadr relying upon the Al Qaeda Sunni insurgency for increases in his power is another cross-link.

There is no strategic value in dividing AL Qaeda from Sadr, Sadr from Iran, Iran from Syria, or Iran from Taliban in Pakistan. Because the only way one of those factions would help the US is if we gave them weapons to kill their hated rivals. And we're not going to do that.

The people the United States is dividing from the terrorists are the people of Iraq. Sunnis in Al Anbar. Not Hizbollah from Hamas or Hamas members from Hizbollah.

subadei said...

ymarsakar,

"So what do you want Rudy and Mitt to do, say Iran is our ally and we should use them to "counter-balance" the Sunnis in Iraq?"

Damn you almost hit the nail right on the head.
Ally? No, not yet. Iran has some years of maturing to endure before it's very vocal pro-western minority can kick the ruling mullahs to the curb. Iran is the one state in the middle east in which a true western democracy could evolve. A democracy that evolves from within (through revolution in one form or another) is, really, the only viable form of democratic rule. Anything else is either faux democracy (Egypt) or a complete mess (Palestinian Authority.)

To address your further comments, I suspect you are thinking in light of counter insurgency where as my post addressed policy. That aside, I agree counter insurgency is dividing the populace from the elements of resistance. However, by simply tossing aside the complexities that define those which you fight you enter your cause blind. Sun Tzu comes to mind.

If Rudy and Mitt cannot or are unwilling to recognize the difference between a Shia, nationalist resistance (Hezbollah) and an apocalyptic Salafist movement (al Qaeda) then they lose my vote. Certainly both groups use similar terrorist tactics but the ends to their means (to paraphrase a commenter at Neo's blog) are entirely different.

Bear in mind I'm not romancing Hezbollah at the expense of, or in comparison to, al Qaeda. If Hasan Nazrallah fell off the earth tomorrow I'd nod and utter something to effect of "good enough." But the fact remains that the Middle East and it's less than desirables entail a complexity that goes way beyond that of the term "terrorist." Does this mean we and the media should self censor ourselves and find a more comfortable term of endearment? No. But we should at least think, strategize, and create policy beyond the vague term "terrorist."

Ymarsakar said...

However, by simply tossing aside the complexities that define those which you fight you enter your cause blind. Sun Tzu comes to mind.

I don't believe that the quotes from Romney and Rudy were examples of that however. It seemed to me that they were trying to communicate about the people we were fighting against. They didn't use terroists as part of an answer to a policy question concerning "what would you do about Iran and Hizbollah" did they?

If are you interested in the strategic vision capability of the politicians, then what is up Zakaria saying that Iran is a Shiite power? Iran isn't a Shiite power, Iran couldn't careless how many Shiites their shaped charge IEDs killed in Iraq. They're an Islamic Revolutionary clique of power brokers interested in domestic and personal issues. Economic issues over jobs, even.

If it is complexity that is sought, then why does it help for people like Zakaria to label the Iranians a Shiite power that supposedly helped topple the Taliban (and are now working to destabilize Afghanistan)? He doesn't come to the standards he expects of Romney. I don't see what issue gives him superiority on such matters.

Qaeda-affiliated radical Sunnis are currently slaughtering Shiites in Iraq, and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are responding by executing and displacing Iraq's Sunnis.

As for that bit of analysis, it is missing a few key ingredients. For one thing, Baathist under Saddam's regime didn't just include Sunnis. It included Shia as well. Even though they broke apart into Sunni Death Triangle and Shia militias ideologies, doesn't mean that the contacts amongst the Baathists just evaporated. It is the principal reason, in my view, why there continues to be cooperation amongst Sunni and Shia terrorists in Iraq. And this isn't just Iran's aiding of Sunni and Shia terrorists and insurgents in Iraq.

To label Al Sadr's attempt at usurping government power and the support of the populace away from the Prime Minister of Iraq, a "response" is inadequate.

Al Sadr didn't respond to the killing of Sunnis. He didn't give a damn how many folks the Baathist and AQ killed in Al Anbar and Baghdad. What Sadr cared about was how this could benefit him, could benefit his network of retainers and loyalists. If the central government could not contain the insurgency and the terrorists, then Al Sadr can move in and take a slice of the pie of power if he can use Sunni terrorism as an excuse to enact his own reign of terror. He can justify it as "security measures", temporary ones even. Consolidating his power in Najaf, Baghdad slums, and Sadr city by ordering the killing of anyone who resisted as a "Sunni collaborator".

With Iran's backing, Sadr could be relatively safe in the knowledge that Al Qaeda wouldn't attack him, for the precise reason that Iran supplies IEDs and weapons to the Sunni insurgency. And AL Qaeda benefits from this arms trade, given that they were allied with the Sunni insurgency in Al Anbar and Fallujah.

Regardless of what the word terrorism means, redefining it won't change a thing about the strategic vision, subadei. Calling attention to the fact that our enemies are certain groups, and that they are terrorists (aka WoT terrorists), frames the threat in a broad manner. Because it is those organizations that form the fore front of the problem and the enemy.

But even that isn't enough, because as those researching Iran's proxy war in Iraq, it is the state sponsors that allow and fund these terror organizations. Sunni or Shia, Hamas or Hizbollah, it doesn't really matter. They will all have to be taken care of eventually.

The only strategic question should be, which one are you going to target first. Not, how do you define terrorism in such a way that everybody knows everything there is to know about the difference between Hamas and Hizbollah in relation to Syria and Iran.

People either know that or they don't. No matter what you do with the word terrorism, specifics or in general, it won't make people any better informed.

It makes no sense to me. Because why does it matter what Rudy and Mitt communicates using the word terrorism? If it is their policies that are important, then shouldn't the focus be on what they are going to do, not what words they are using?

If Rudy and Mitt cannot or are unwilling to recognize the difference between a Shia, nationalist resistance (Hezbollah) and an apocalyptic Salafist movement (al Qaeda) then they lose my vote. Certainly both groups use similar terrorist tactics but the ends to their means (to paraphrase a commenter at Neo's blog) are entirely different.

There's nothing in the Zakaria piece that would lead to this conclusion.

But we should at least think, strategize, and create policy beyond the vague term "terrorist."

The War on Terror "term" is a Bush product. Whatever policy Rudy or Mitt or etc comes up with, it will be different just by definition. Hopefully it will be different than what we have now, in a positive manner. Technically, we are against Islamic terrorists. Whereas the environmental terrorists and the whatever terrorists of the Left (Hugo and North Korea) aren't even on the radar. Islamic terrorists are the focus, but Bush doesn't say that. Cause can't profile, ya know.