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> Richard Brodie
> Have you considered the possibility that they are all in bed together and
> they are taking advantage of our politeness and good nature to stall for
> time while they plan and execute other acts of terrorism?
Yes, I've given that possibility quite a bit of thought. My sense is that
Bin Laden takes his time, as well. Planning for the Sept 11 attacks took
years. There are rumors of possible attacks yet to come in September, but
this would already be in place.
> >> I think you're way off in #4. Once the kid shoots of his Uzi in the
> >> schoolyard it's a little too late to have a nice chat with him
> >> and find out
> >> why he thinks he's being unfairly persecuted.
> >Actually, it is not too late. Yes, of course it would have been better to
> >so before the event, but even afterwards it is of great use.
> I think that says it all. You're way out on the fringe here.
Better on the fringe now than in the middle and through naivete and
impatience responsible for advocating policies that turn out to create even
> Or would you
> >suggest we shoot first and ask questions later?
> You make it sound like we're not already sure bin Laden is a terrorist.
> Remember, he's already been convicted of killing hundreds of American
> servicemen in Africa.
Convicted where? I think you mean accused, no?
> Why so averse to learning
> >about those we consider our opponents? Are we afraid of what we might
> Straw man. No one is afraid of learning. We all love to learn. We spend
> billions on intelligence. We know quite a bit about this cult and we're
> learning more hourly. This is about stopping our enemies from killing us.
> The best way to do that is to destroy them utterly.
There is much we don't know about Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, and that we need
to know to be able to stop them, defuse them, or predict and forestall their
actions. For example, do you know where Bin Laden personally will flee is
expelled by the Taliban? If we knew more about him, this would not be hard
to figure out. Do you know the circumstances under which he would abandon
his terrorist strategy? Do you know who has influence over him? Do you
know the best communication channels to him? Well, of course this is
rhetorical, I don't expect you to. But the cogent reality is that our
intelligence groups don't know either, despite the billions you correctly
point out we are spending on intelligence. Oh, a myriad other questions come
to mind, all relevant to how we deal with this situation. Who is standing
behind Bin Laden? Is it possible that is being used as a puppet by those who
might want US-Muslim relations to take a nose-dive? Is Bin Laden the kind of
person who might be used in such a way? How many people might step into his
leadership shoes if he is killed? What are their names? Skills? You see, if
he represents a popular movement of opposition to US polcies, there will be
many behind him. Killing Bin Laden may be of little use to us, and indeed,
hydra-headed, may actually, hard as it may be to imagine this, might lead to
even more difficult situations. Well, these are just some of the questions
that would be important for us to answer.
> Now if it turns out that the entire Muslim world takes exception to our
> objecting to having our cities destroyed, maybe you need to use a
> tactic to avoid a world war.
Everyone is sympathetic with our loss, and in this sympathy we may find the
makings of a smart policy re. Bin Laden, etc. But if we attack a Muslim
country militarily wihtout first being seen to have exhausted genuine
diplomatic and legal initiatives (and I don't mean the type of sham
negotatiations that Bush senior engaged in with Saddam Hussein before the
Persian Gulf war), that sympathy will evaporate with breath-taking speed,
leaving Bin Laden and his cohorts in a more powerful position than ever.
> But for now no one is on bin Laden's
> side. The
> world is outraged. We have the power and the mandate to destroy
> them. Let's
> do it.
Richard, as comforting as it may be to assert that we have "the power" to
destroy "them," the reality is that we don't. Yes, we've got aircraft
carriers galore, bombers, a gazillion troops and rifles and GPS's etc., but
we don't have the right kind of power: the kind that you need to find and
kill someone who has popular support in a forbidding terrain. Remember Viet
Nam? Somalia? Our best bet is to work through the Taliban. We have not tried
to do so yet, and done intelligently I think you might be surprised at what
might be accomplished. As for a mandate, I have not heard anything but
reservations about a unilateral military attack as I think you are
envisaging, on the part of our European allies, Russia. etc. I'm not sure
that the mandate you allude to is anything but self-ascribed by Bush and
some (but far from all) of his advisors.
The problem with rhetoric like 'it's time to lower the boom' is that we
don't have a boom that will do the job, that its use will likely cause us
greater problems than we presently have, and there is no place to lower the
boom that is likely to be in our interests.
I appreciate your participation in this dialog, Richard. It is helpful in
sharpening the differences in our views and knowledge of the situation, and
a fitting backdrop for the president's speech this evening. I have the
feeling you will find comfort in his annoucements, though they are likely to
make things far worse and harder for us than they already are. Bush is not a
man of fine understanding, background knowledge and experience, and precise
distinctions. Well, perhaps he will surprise us, positively. I hope so. It
will be interesting to compare thoughts tomorrow.
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