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OK, so how do you propose to deal with the problem of persons plotting and training for mass murder? Or would you just let it happen?

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Mon Sep 8th, 2008 at 07:03:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, so how do you propose to deal with the problem of persons plotting and training for mass murder? Or would you just let it happen?
Well, I would deal with the problem. The war in Afghanistan is not dealing with the problem, so what you suggest is not dealing with the problem.
People in terror camps anyhow are bad mass murderers. Therefore you need more sophisticated skills, which e.g. the 9/11 terrorists learned, uhmm, in the United States of America. And plotting I can do here in my home.

How to deal with the problem?
Lots of things, most of which are actually done.

  • securing critical vulnerabilities with sky marshalls, airplane courses, extra security personal in nuclear power plants, give the political responsibility for things like NORAD to people who are competent...
  • police work, secret service work: This has controlable success. So while you look to Afghanistan, our police locks terrorists, with enough proofs to go to ordinary court and send the terrorists to prison, no Guantanamo, no military tribunals needed
  • try to cut their financing
  • try diplomatic pressure on countries which are known to harbour terrorists
  • give carrots to countries, which are cooperating.
  • try to cut their popular support, by stopping to behave like an asshole

Of course a lot of these are already done (except of the last, it seems Bush wants more terrorists, not less), but the war in Afghanistan is not helpful.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 8th, 2008 at 07:43:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Martin, sounds to me like you're saying we should do basically what we were doing before 9/11, except of course not acting like assholes, only this time we should catch the terrorists before they strike.

I'll agree that this approach does work much of the time as it did before 9/11 and has since.  But what if, (as long as we are playing with people's lives) despite our best efforts, something else like 9/11 or worse happens?  What if we pull out of Afghanistan and the Taliban regains control, allows Al Qaeda to set up its training camps again and continues to plot.  Maybe this time they'll learn to fly somewhere else and maybe they will just fly a few planes into Nuclear power plants, say in France. Can't happen? Tell me why it can't and I'll figure out a way to make it happen, and I'm just a mediocre, semi-paranoid, retired security person with no desire to commit suicide.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Mon Sep 8th, 2008 at 10:18:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Martin, sounds to me like you're saying we should do basically what we were doing before 9/11, except of course not acting like assholes, only this time we should catch the terrorists before they strike.

Competent person in charge? No. 9/11 is mainly the fault of the Bush administration's incompetence. That by the way is the reason, why they have tried to prevent proper analysis of what went wrong.
As well there are quite a number of security issues, which were improved, since. Security is expensive and when for a long time nothing happens, it is attractive to let the level of vigilance dropping. 9/11 has reversed that. Survaillance, sky marshalls, and as well the crackdown of the financial streams is much sharper than before.

What if we pull out of Afghanistan and the Taliban regains control, allows Al Qaeda to set up its training camps again and continues to plot.
Well, this can happen. But what happens, when they plot in the tribal areas of Pakistan, or in Somalia, or in France or in the USA?

The terrorists don't need a major training camp to pursue attacks in the developed world. Plotting they can do everywhere in the world. But even when they needed them, they have plenty of options. The US can't invade all countries who harbour a couple of terrorists. For the terrorists moving from Afghanistan to another country is a burden, but doesn't finish them off. For the west to make a meaningful nationbuilding, which guarantees, that the terrorists can't come back, once the western troops pull out, is quite effortful.
I think even just invading the tribal areas of Pakistan will be very dangerous, and getting the Pakistani army to do it themselves is difficult and associated with risks, too.

Furthermore the costs of an attack like 9/11 as well in human live and pain, are not infinite higher than the cost of a war. If you can reduce the risk of an attack like 9/11 by 5% (which I very much doubt) by 'winning' in Afghanitan, but you have to sacrifice 5,000 soldiers and 50,000 seriously injured ones, it is not worth it.This doesn't include a single victim of 'the other side', which will go to the 100,000, until Afghanitan is won. You have to accept, that their live has some value, too, even when most of them are 'regular' targets, but of course there are a lot of purely civilian victims, too.
In terms of money, it is of course even more so. The war in Iraq (which could indicate how much effort is needed to secure Afganistan; just because there were really terrorists in Afghanistan doesn't mean it is easier to win in Afghanistan than in Iraq) costs probably each year more than 9/11.

except of course not acting like assholes
But that is a quite important point. And the west is losing the propaganda war in middle east. Not only the war in Iraq, but as well the war in Afghanistan are seen by a number of relevant people as occupation of a muslim country by unbelievers. This can increase the risk of a terror attack. The most idiotic thing is of course the security support of the Saudi monarchy. That probably is the single most important point. Second would be the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Both sides are strongly supported financially by the west. We could say, either you both make bold moves to peace, or we pull out our support. Or not, it is really only the second most important issue.

And finally, war is creating chaos. Chaos creates unpredictable outcomes. So far in the argumentation it is assumed, that Afghanistan is won, if the US gov is just determined enough and providing sufficient resources. That may be a flawed assumption. There can happen unpredictable things, which could prevent the US from winning in Afghanistan, even when fully determined.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 8th, 2008 at 10:57:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Was the Bush administration at fault for 9/11?  Let me rephrase: did the administration contribute to the non-detection of the terrorists?  From what I have read, it is very likely that the administration was sleeping on the job, but I don't believe it can be directly blamed. There is no way to be certain that the terrorists would have been detected/halted if the democrats were in charge. Obviously, things have improved, but I don't have a warm and fuzzy feeling about our capability to prevent a new, innovative attack. We need to keep the terrorists on the run and off-balance.

The terrorists don't need a major training camp to pursue attacks in the developed world. Plotting they can do everywhere in the world. But even when they needed them, they have plenty of options. The US can't invade all countries who harbour a couple of terrorists.

You are mistaken, the terrorists do need safe havens to train, recruit and plot. The US doesn't need to invade every country where terrorists establish cells if the local government is cooperative and vigilant in repressing them and keeping them on the run. It just makes their activities difficult and provides opportunities to disrupt their plans and activities. The problem with Afghanistan was that it had become a safe haven and the local government/regime not only tolerated but supported al-Qaeda.  Yes, the tribal areas of Pakistan are a problem, and that is why the US Govt spends so much time in Pakistan working with the Govt.on this issue. Somalia and other lawless areas are also a problem but no to the extent Taliban led Afghanistan had become.

Not acting like assholes.  I couldn't agree with you more.

War and chaos.  Again, I agree. War is a horrible solution should be the last resort.  I just don't know what else can be done about Afghanistan.  We need to maximize peaceful solution there so the people choose an alternative to repressive, terrorist supporting regimes.  The problem is that these "regimes" don't have our same values about war and peace.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 11:52:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Comment responses
We need to maximize peaceful solution there so the people choose an alternative to repressive, terrorist supporting regimes.  The problem is that these "regimes" don't have our same values about war and peace.

oh, please... some scare quotes would be nice!

they have warlord values and we don't, they're for sale to the highest bidder and we aren't?

they have shitty hardware and kill indiscriminately, we have the best hardware and a lot of it is full of sand and broken, and we do a lot of 'collateral damage'.

afghanis have some strong ideas about honour, and so do the marines and special forces, just very different.

they live in one of the poorest countries on earth, and are defending it from outsiders. even if they want to have terror camps, which i deplore, we have to go upriver and apologise for our meddling, and really go for the hearts and minds that way, balance out the past, while winning their gratitude...NOT their subservience...i have been in afghanistan, and they are the proudest people on earth, they will never give up.

meanwhile trying to bomb them into the stone age (where they know a thing or two about survival we've long forgotten), just hardens their resolve, sharpens  their wile, and compounds their already low opinion of us.

they took cia money to fight the russians back, i'm sure they were not naive about the quid pro quo, but they will not lay down and roll over till the last one is dead, and we cannot afford on any level to keep looking like rich, murderous bullies without creating two terrorists for every clusterbomb, raised from birth to think about bringing down the western Great Satan as prime raison d'etre.

but i forgot, terrorists are the new commies, makes everything so much simpler, look how b-a-a-ad they are, that must mean we must be wearing the white hats.

with all due respect gringo, 'our' values about war and peace are sadly very similar, however seen through the rest of the world's eyes, and yes they are looking very hard, they (the taliban, al quaida) seem like the underdogs, taking money from bin laden and using it to protect islamic lands from heathen infidels, just as we try to stop islamofascists from crashing planes into skyscrapers.

i wish there were more differences...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 08:02:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, you are correct.  I wrote that last statement (about values) in haste without thinking about the effect/meaning.  My intent was to address the Taliban and its support for al Qaeda, and to critize al Qaeda's tactics as being contrary to the laws of war.  The US has come under a lot of criticism for violations of the laws of war, and rightfully so. However, the Taliban and al Qaeda don't get much credit for their on-going violations of the same.

I don't agree that we should apologize for meddling with thier terrorist camps.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 01:11:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But what if, (as long as we are playing with people's lives) despite our best efforts, something else like 9/11 or worse happens?

You mean like

  • Europe becoming a suitable habitat for the malaria mosquito?

  • A major coastal city being wiped out by natural disasters in a nominally first world country?

  • A million or so people incarcerated in nominally first world countries for trivial non-violent crimes?

Terrorism Is Not An Issue.

And the funny thing is that I conclude this based on largely the same line of argument that you use to justify making it an issue: It is so ridiculously easy to make a major kaboom somewhere in a Western(TM) society where it will hurt badly. If there were slavering hordes of terrorists out there whose highest ambition in life were to make the lives of Western(TM) citizens and/or countries difficult, stuff would blow up every other month. It doesn't, so there aren't.

The Danish resistance during the War (which wasn't particularly impressive) managed to blow up more stuff in Denmark over two years than Al Qaeda's goons have managed throughout Europe since the founding of the organisation.

Can we please stop being scared now?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 02:05:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good points.  BTW, I not scared; otherwise I wouldn't be living Mexico's latest kidnapping and murder kingdom. However, that doesn't mean I take kidnapping, global warming, repressive governments, exploitation of the poor or any other man made scourge lightly. As far as I'm concerned they are all issues that have to be dealt with.  Terrorists are an issue, but not the most pressing one at the moment.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 04:35:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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