Erislover affirms his opinion: use force

My good folks of the SDMB:

I am at a loss for words regarding the raging debates that seem to cycle around how force should be applied with respect to the WTC attack. Scylla has started a thread on it, and Zenster has also. I will not attempt to speak for them, though I certainly did-- and will continue to-- post to those threads.

I have been advocating the use of force, and I know others here do as well. What seems to be unclear is what form exactly that force will take.

As for myself, I do not seek a total war/scorched earth policy solution. Very few of the regulars seem to (in fact, none of them do when prompted directly). And yet the response to our mention of force is knee-jerk response to perceived knee-jerking.

Well, I can say this is not the case for myself.

However, allow me to display my perception of the situation. We have an area of the world that has been on the shit-end of some bad foreign policy of the US. But the foreign policy was directed at the already bad leaders and circumstances in the area. It wasn’t like the US walked in and everyone started killing each other. The seeds of violence, if not the violence itself, was already there.

Terrorism, on the other hand, was pretty much non-existent before we stepped in. And this only makes sense. The radical factions were fighting conventional war with conventional weapons. When a superpower entered the picture, however, the odds suddenly flew away from those who we did not side with.

Now, history is not clear-- at all-- on how a situation like this should play out. We do know how it did play out, though, with our 20/20 hindsight. The radical elements got more radical. The ethical combatants dug WW1 trenches. And those who did not stand against the US now do because of the allies we chose to make. This was primarily seen in Israel where terrorism first reared its ugly head in the form we know it today. I am not certain whether or not any governments began such a campaign; in fact, I somewhat doubt it. But what the governments involevd did do was not give up their position in the matter. Direct conflict and terrorist attacks led to retaliatory strikes. A tit for a tat, and so on. You bomb our embassy, we send in a cruise missle.

And it was understood that terrorism was a problem. The solution has been to react to terrorism by sttempting to stifle it, much like having a fire in an office building and simply containing it.

There was, quite possibly, a time for diplomacy in regards to terrorism. It was probably even tried to some weak extent. No contry overtly supports terrorism, for example. However, terrorism remains the last bastion of “defense” in a radical’s struggle. For a clear perspective on the general case of terrorism-- that is, the general case for undermining an opponent-- I heartily recommend everyone read the Comunist Manifesto which deals with advocating internal strife through political means. The so-called Unabomber Manifesto deals with this sort of terrorism as well, but makes an even broader (though less rigorously developed) case, hinting strongly at an anti-liberal-but-not-rightist revolution. The authors explicitely stated force was not the only method to accomplish their revolution, but it is the route they chose.

This brand of terrorism is not dissimilar. Its form is vastly different, its morals are seemingly incongruent with honesty, and Communists would and should be rightly offended by the implication. I understand, and I am prepared to take some heat for that analogy, but please read on and see why I make the comparison, but also show why it is partially false.

But we should begin to recognize that terrorist activity is not limited in scope to simply killing innocent civilians. It is a mindset that a group is attempting to impose.

The psychological warfare that peaceful demonstrators use is founded on a few rather simple principles. One: areligious Manichaeanism-- we are right, and those against us are wrong. Two: human malleability-- we can reason with these people to help them see we are right. Three: causality-- there is a reason we are right in the first place, and we can demonstrate it.

To me, this is also terrorism. It seeks to undermine the social construct and replace it with a new one by mental force. Societal sabotage, if you will.

The breed of terrorism that we faced in the WTC, however, does not invoke all of the principles above. Allow me to demonstrate.
Areligious Manichaeanism: Our goal is right, and those who don’t think so are wrong. Check.
Human Malleability: we can reason with these people. BZZT!-- wrong. I hope no one disagrees that explicit force in any form and reason are diametrically opposed. Guns and bombs are not tools of debate, they are shaping tools. We cannot change our opponents mentally, we must eradicate their presence through force. So a big “X” here for WTC-style terrorism.
Causality: there is a reason we are right in the first place. Check that.

Now, there are many people who seek to understand the terrorists in an attempt to combat them more effectively. I believe that Scylla, Zenster, and perhaps even Spiritus Mundi disagree with this premise for the reason I gave above: they have already demonstrated that they do not see a way to shift the situation, they must shape it themselves.

There is nothing to understand here. What shapes violent terrorism is a single belief: we cannot convince our enemies we are right. That is it. That’s what seperates demonstrators who distribute pamphlets from terrorists who distribute death. It is a remarkably large leap. It involves a person or persons casting peace aside as impossible. It is reactionary isolationism.

The cause of this is simple: a refusal to recognize pluralism. I see no other cause here. Can we eliminate this cause? No, not really. We can pull flammables away from the office fire, but we can’t remove the stuff that’s already burning without putting out the fire first.

This is why I whole-heartedly advocate the use of force. Once the fire is out we can begin to act preventatively. In fact, as we fight the fire we can act preventatively elsewhere where no fires are demonstratably burning. But we need to get that fire put out. We need to wipe out existing terrorism. The terrorists have demonstrated they are not willing to use reason; there is no cause for us to try. It is a huge shame.

So do I support a much more appropriate and active foreign policy? Yes. Do I support incredible efforts of humanitarian aid? Undoubtedly. Do I find that this will eliminate terrorism? Probably not. What it will do is halter the push of more people into terrorism, and remove (hopefully) the reactionary isolationist attitude that is our largest enemy here.

But make no mistake: there needs to be a threat of force in the face of existing terrorist activities, and there needs to be a willingness to use that force through to its logical conlcusion should the need arise. It can no longer suffice to bomb a few buildings and wait, bomb a few buildings and wait.

Understand, also, that the force I advocate takes two distinct forms. One: the overt threat. This is used against the governments who may have turned a blind eye to terrorism, or outright funded it. The stance is, “We will not hesitate to damage you if you do not help eliminate this very real threat to international policy and even diplomacy itself.” Two: the use of explicit force without looking back. This one is for the terrorists, the ones who cannot respond to peace offerings because they feel there is no peace possible, there is no pluralism. We must not hesitate to strike agaisnt these people. We must try very hard to avoid any civilian casualties but should it be a choice between civilian casualties to a minor degree (in scope, not in moral evaluations) and letting a terrorist get away, we should choose to go after the terrorist. This is an unfortunate side-effect of fighting with an opponent who has no fear of death. We cannot threaten, we must use his own tools against him. The terrorist wants to shape reality, we must shape back. We must carve every rock under which he wants to hide, we must make every hovel that would normally be a safe-haven a trap. This is not revenge. This is not “stooping to the level of terrorists.” This is, quite simply, eliminating places to hide and plan again for another day. “The Overt Threat” is crucial in eliminating funding from governmental agencies, but they can still hide and take money from private interests. We must strike against this method as well.

The lives we save, and the possibility for peace and freedom (in whatever form that freedom should take) will be unprecidented if we recognize the mistakes we’ve made in the past, and we move strongly and boldly forward toward the elimination of terrorism and advocate an internationally pluralist platform.

I read an article today which said that “the age of irony is over.” Obviously, they were wrong.

My friend erislover, you’ve entirely misrepresented the major differences which began the two main debates you cite in the OP. They neither began nor developed into disagreements between factions calling for action or inaction. There were no knee-jerk accusations of knee-jerking. No one presented any arguments in favor of trying to “convince terrorists that we’re right” rather than using force to eliminate them.

Instead, Scylla offered an OP which wondered if there were some brutal nuclear “solution” the US could employ which would strike such fear in the hearts of our enemies that they would foreswear terrorist acts against us, and Zenster presented a pyrotechnical display of aggressive ignorance regarding Afghanistan while making the argument that we should deliberately kill a tenth of the population of that country.

If you wish now to promote the idea that terrorists are intractable and we should deal with them ruthlessly while pursuing sensible policies in our dealings with legitimate governments, then by all means do so; I don’t think you’ll get much argument over the principle. But please don’t present this as a continuation of some constantly presented argument you’ve been holding against weak-minded liberal peaceniks. You weren’t, and this isn’t.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Well, if you selectively edit that sentence we can certainly create irony. I am at a loss for words regarding the SDMB factions which seem to be forming. I am certainly full of everything else :wink:

Not that I want this thread to be a meta-debate, but I believe I offered a very coherent and strong solution that involved nuclear weapons. I also thought that was in line with the OP. Instead, the interpretation of “nuclear solution” always seemed to imply dropping nukes. Funny, why do I stress semantics so much?

Zenster probably wants to eliminate the Taliban as a terrorist breeding ground. That is not a completely unreasonable opinion.

I didn’t think I was.

Where do peaceniks come into the picture??? The debate rages in how the form this force should take. I wanted to make my position very clear, and people who have been taking flak for advocating force seemed to have agreed with my position as well. So: I am at a loss for words in the misunderstandings… etc.

Didn’t it strike you in at least the Zenster debate that the objections to his argument were entirely based on the misinformation he was presenting, and on the immorality of the specific forceful actions he proposed? Please show me a single instance in that thread where anyone was given flak over the very idea of using force.

Your entire OP here is an argument in favor of using force. (Thus, the title of the thread.) Yes, as you say, there is disagreement about the form that force should take, but as of this moment you have yet to make a specific proposal of your own, other than “try very hard to avoid civilian casualties”, a brilliant insight I’m sure Rumsfeld will be overjoyed to receive.

So it appears to me you are arguing against some unnamed Doper who’s advocated an exclusively diplomatic solution.

Yes, I would like to avoid civilian casualties, but I hope that I stressed it clearly: this is a secondary concern to killing or otherwise stopping terrorists in the first place. The elimination of existing terrorists will go far towards a longer peace.

I do not want to name names, except for the people who seem to share my ideas or have in fact expressed the sentiment.

My concern is over dopers who seem to stress that there is an underlying cause that we can eliminate. I do not agree. I do not feel one adopts radical isolationism through reason.

My concern is over dopers who seek to have America recognize some culpability. I disagree. The only culpability we have is that we are, in fact, a superpower. Bad foreign policy is the fault of governments everywhere in all manner of situations.

My concern is over dopers who feel that there is a cycle of violence should we use explicit force. My opinion is that the cycle exists because the force was not used through to a logical conclusion of its implimentation in the first place, and so I disagree.

My concern is over the few posters who seem to advocate a “kill 'em all” attitude which is disgusting to me, and acts against what most governments main purpose is, especially one that allows people of all beliefs to reside in its very open borders.

All along the US has advocated a policy which has amounted to “deal with each situation as it comes.” That has demonstrated itself to be unsatisfactory. I want a clear, solid plan that both the public and our adversaries and the fence sitters can chew on. I am not privvy to government intelligence data, and so I cannot do much more than outline a somewhat philosophical premise based on what information is available to the public.

But this philosophical stance remains: we cannot eliminate those who would become terrorists. We cannot make peace with actual terrorists. We can strike at existing terrorists with an iron fist, giving secondary concern to loss of innocent life. We can have a stronger humanitarian program aimed at the integration of seemingly disparate cultures, which will drive more people to not turn a blind eye to terrorism. We can threaten-- and use if necessary-- force against governments who would turn a blind eye to terrorism and act as shelter, if not give implicit aid.

This is a police action. I see cops driving down the street every day. No one has stepped up previously to be that police force with respect to terrorism, we have simply locked our doors better; now I suggest we become that police force.

Considering that using force probably will only hurt the people of Afghanistan, and not the people we’re going after…

Isn’t a good definition of a terrorist that they kill civilians?
Don’t we therefore have to avoid killing civilians?

There used to be terrorists in Israel. Now they are part of the Government.
There used to be violent protests by the ANC in South Africa. Now they are the Government.
Currently the British Government are tackling the protracted conflict by (amongst other policies) appointing former terrorists to the Northern Ireland Government.

Perhaps you could take a look at the methods the Russians used in Chechnya, against both alleged terrorists and the Government. (Remember they don’t have to worry about a free press criticising rape, murder and genocide).
Grozny is now in ruins, thousands of civilians are dead and (strangely :rolleyes: ) the problem is not solved.

Those who do not learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.

On what basis do you conclude that we will ONLY hurt the people of Afghanistan? There will inevitably be some civilian casualties, but ONLY civilian casualties? Good Lord, our aim isn’t that bad.

And yet the apartment bombings that started the war have stopped.

And no, I’m not advocating Russia’s methods, but let’s not pretend that using violence against terrorists can’t be effective.

I don’t think that is a sufficiently rigorous definition, no.

You are welcome to find that reactionary violence in response to political instability and terrorism are equivalent. I will not agree.

I will agree that terrorism is largely political in nature, and seeks a political goal. This makes the line between revolution and terrorism fuzzy. I don’t see a problem with a somewhat fuzzy definition. What I don’t like is a loose definition like the one given above.

Why don’t you specifically mention what you want to hint at here, and explain why you feel that the US will attempt genocide and why you feel that US troops will commit rape. If you don’t mean to imply those things, please explain why you mentioned them in the first place.

Do American police arbitrarily shoot people in an attempt to wipe out crime? I think it is disingenious to assume that a strike must automatically destroy civilians.

As well, when we gave Afghanistan $43 million worth of wheat that sure didn’t strike the terrorists as a good reason to not attack the US.

Are you implying that we must either destroy civilians or do nothing? Are you implying that any force we exhert can only serve to hurt the people of Afhganistan? In what way do you propose we destroy terrorism and the governments or quasi-governments that support them without harming infrastructure?

You were a vocal supporter of “know your enemy.” Do you feel the comments I have made in this post with regards to that are incorrect?

Gee, xenephon41, did you bother to notice the qualifiers in that statement when you read it in the first place? Have you bothered to notice my own repeated statements of discomfort at feeling compelled to advocate a harsh reply to what has happened?

Cbviously not. It’s much easier to misinterpret someone so as to make a convenient target out of them. What solution are you bringing to the table? Do you have any sort of coherent plan for this logistical nightmare?

Thanks again erislover, for always looking towards the intended spirit of the post and not exaggerating its construable flaws. You have done a commendable job of filtering my own, at times, admittedly inflamed rhetoric. I really appreciate the level of quality you have brought into this overall argument.

I could not agree with you more. Your entire OP is quite sensible.

I haven’t seen any evidence that Chechens were responsible for the original bombings. (I have seen suggestions that they were used as a pretext to invade the rebel province).
But even if they were (and I completely condemn whoever did it), do you think the appalling violence by the Russians in Chechnya was worthwhile?

OK, what’s your definition?

I mentioned it because it was about the most extreme form of violence by a Government against a civilian population in the name of stamping out terrorism. And it hasn’t solved the problem. The Times, London newspaper today suggested that Bin Laden might flee to Chechnya, because one of his lieutenants is now in charge of the Chechnya forces.
Didn’t you realise that implication from my closing quote?
Of course I’m not suggesting US troops will commit atrocities. I’m saying that Government acts of anti-terrorism that kill civilians will cause a violent reaction.

In particular, the Russians did not have a free press monitoring their behaviour.
This leads me to a further point:
surely you remember how the US (rightly) tried to stop warlord violence in Somalia, but pulled out because of a public outcry after terrible TV pictures of a few US casualties.
Afghanistan contains many men of violence - how long will the US keep up the ‘war’ after the casualties start?

Zenster. I have no wish to engage you in further discussion. Your posts in that thread were incredibly distasteful to me, and I find your entire outlook appalling. If you wish to select the mildest phrase from your insanely stupid rantings to make it appear as if you preached moderation, have yourself a grand old time.

I direct all who are interested in seeing your actual argument to the thread in question, but I would caution that they must be prepared for vileness they may not have expected from the username on the OP.
erislover: “My concern is over dopers who feel that there is a cycle of violence should we use explicit force. My opinion is that the cycle exists because the force was not used through to a logical conclusion of its implimentation [sic] in the first place, and so I disagree.”

Do you understand that the “logical conclusion” of explicit force is determined not only by the ways in which it is applied and the targets of its application, but also on which parties are applying it and on how it looks to other parties? Your idea that a cycle of violence can be avoided purely through a more complete implementation of force is dangerously naive.


I’m fairly convinced that the bombings were the result of an extremist movement inside Chechnya that wanted to expand its brand of Islamic radicalism to neighboring states. Granted, Russian security forces play fast and loose with “evidence” so you are well within reason to question the identity of those responsible.

The Russian invasion of Chechnya treated every Chechnyan as a potential enemy and so every Chechnyan became an enemy. To keep casualties lower than in the previous invasion, Russian forces relied more on long range firepower to accomplish their goals and unfortunatly increased the number of civilian casualties.

So the answer to your question is a “No, but…” The Russians had to do something. They could not simply allow their civilians to be attacked, but the invasion of Chechnya should serve as an example to us now of the kind of war we do not want to fight.

The Chechnyans did not all support the militants but they all united against the Russians. The vast majority of the Afghanis do not like the Taliban or have any intention of defending the Taliban. All who can are fleeing the cities or moving towards the borders. We must make sure that our actions do not unite them against us.

Then I suggest the people of Afghanistan rise up and overthrow their leaders. People who sheepishly accept a corrupt government get what they deserve.

Of course, with their literacy rates of around 30% for men and 15% for women, a per capita annual GDP of around $800, infant mortality rates that would turn your hair white, an average life expectancy between 45 and 50, and little to no telecommunications outside of Kabul, it’s easy for us to categorize them as “sheepishly accept[ing].” Perhaps they have deeper concerns. Like, say, eating.

Ain’t it great to be culturally superior? Then we can pass judgement on everyone who doesn’t do what we think we would do if we were them!

This is well put, and I agree.

Again accurate, except that I strongly disagree that the Russian goal was worthwhile.

Absolutely (and you can include the prolonged and ultimately unsuccessful Russian invasion of Afghanistan as another undesirable outcome).

The Afghans are indeed currently fighting amongst themselves, but I disagree with your further premise. If Americans (= ‘non-Muslims’ to the Afghans) invade, I think all local factions will unite (just like the Chechens did).
The refugees fleeing are the poor bloody civilians, who suffer the most as usual.
If you want a really scary scenario, consider that although the US have persuaded Pakistan to help so far, there are massive street demonstrations against the US. It is not ridiculous to suggest that the wrong actions (referring to this as a ‘Crusade’, for example) could lead to the Pakistani Government being overthrown by Muslim militants.
And Pakistan has nuclear weapons…

P.S. Well said pldennison! (It’s a similar situation for the Kurds in Iraq).

[g]glee**, I think I gave a pretty solid definition in the OP. Terrorists see right in wrong in black and white, and only they are right; terrorists find there is no hope for peace; terrorists have some reason they think they are right.

Well, if your mention of rape and genocide give any implication of the tactics used then I can see why. Do you equate a policeman with a military soldier in Vietnam to a military soldier in WWII? Are all these the same people? You seem to be equating degrees of action to come to your conclusion.

I remember; I don’t know how the people will react. I think that the outcry won’t be so great because the American people have a clear cause to rally against; it is one thing to fight an ambiguous battle for ambivalent reasons that don’t involve us. I trust you can see that this situation is different in that respect.

Well, then you missed the stress I placed on humanitarian efforts that are to come with the military action. We cannot turn terrorists over to our side; we can, through these humanitarian efforts, offer people who don’t side with the terrorists but don’t really side against us see which of the two is a better choice.

We have never executed military and intelligence-based force in an attempt to eradicate dangerous terrorist factions.

The cycle of violence is achieved because we either don’t help people who may become terrorist sympathizers or we don’t wipe out existing terrorists. We always do one or the other, and so the cycel continues.

Well, it is important to note that people are fleeing afghanistan, and the people that don’t aren’t really fond of the Taliban either. But the Taliban’s brand of peace is in some ways better than the conflicts of the last few decades, this is why there is mass revolt.

They are a defeated people, emotionally and perhaps physically as well. I think we can do them right and remove the oppression of the Taliban.

From an editorial by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in today’s NY Times (requires registration):

"Essential to the global response to terrorism is that it not fracture the unity of Sept. 11. While the world must recognize that there are enemies common to all societies, it must equally understand that they are not, are never, defined by religion or national descent. No people, no region and no religion should be targeted because of the unspeakable acts of individuals. As Mayor Giuliani said, ‘That is exactly what we are fighting here.’ To allow divisions between and within societies to be exacerbated by these acts would be to do the terrorists’ work for them.

Terrorism threatens every society. As the world takes action against it, we have all been reminded of the need to address the conditions that permit the growth of such hatred and depravity. We must confront violence, bigotry and hatred even more resolutely… <snip>

Doing so will not remove every source of hatred or prevent every act of violence. There are those who will hate and who will kill even if every injustice is ended. But if the world can show that it will carry on, that it will persevere in creating a stronger, more just, more benevolent and more genuine international community across all lines of religion and race, then terrorism will have failed."

(Bolding added.)

All the more reason to rise up against their corrupt leaders (who do get to eat).

You’ve confused “cultural superiority” with “moral superiority”. I have no doubt whatsoever that regimes based on strict imposition of religious doctrine are morally bankrupt (regardless of the specific religion). I categorically reject cultural relativity, and I have no qualms in condemning in no uncertain terms cultures whose fundamental principles are immoral. That they consider them moral is of no importance or concern to me whatsoever.

America is not perfect, but it is, without a doubt, morally superior to Afghanistan.