12 September 2007

9/11 and Following

The attacks on September 11th, 2001 are worth remembering. But what history will judge more significant than the attacks themselves--which did little long-term damage to the nation as a whole--is the reaction to those attacks.

There are those who categorize US Foreign Policy into a handful of schools. Frequently, they are referred to by various commentators by the names of presidents associated with them.

Jeffersonian isolationism was discarded as unworkable by Jefferson himself when he sat down and looked at the amount of money being paid as tribute to the Barbary pirate states--in the first War on Terror, he decided that violating his espoused principles by building a navy and sending it to do as much damage as possible to terrorist states was better than sending them money, as the modern Democratic Party prefers to do.

When it comes to war-fighting, there are pretty much two schools of thought. Wilsonian and Jacksonian. The Democratic Party is neither, preferring abject surrender. The real debate in the country--between adults, that is--over foreign policy is between the Jacksonian and Wilsonian wings of the Republican Party.

Anyone alive 6 years ago was aware of what some folks had been saying for years--that the United States was at war with a portion of the Islamic world, a portion which supports terrorism using the ancient justification first elucidated to an American envoy by Tripoli's ruler.

"[I]t was …written in the Koran, that all Nations who should not have acknowledged their [the Muslims'] authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon whoever they could be found, and to make Slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise." (From Jefferson's report to Congress).

Now, there is no question as to what the problem is. The problem, for America and the rest of the world, is that the Islamic World is a mess, is run by corrupt autocrats, and which seems to breed this form of Islam like a open cesspool breeds flies.

There is universal agreement on this point among people who aren't mentally ill. MoveOn.org seems to be in this category.

There are two ways to address this problem.

The Jacksonian method is very, very simple. Trash the system. Blow away every single Muslim state that supports or supported this ideology and groups which espouse it. Raise large armies to build pyramids of skulls, or simply nuke major population centers. Most of the oil is in places that will not be affected by the detonation of nuclear weapons over the big cities. Screw it, right? Even if you keep it non-nuclear, the Jacksonian method is the method used in WWII to reduce the Japanese, Italian, and German totalitarian regimes to non-existence. Jacksonian methodology drove Sherman's March to the Sea, and many of the Indian Wars.

This is not in keeping with modern counter-insurgency theory. Jacksonians fight dirty, messy counter-insurgency campaigns that suck for the local population, something like the Second Boer War.

Now, a Wilsonian looks at the problem from a different point of view. A Wilsonian (erm, neo-conservative) looks at folks and sees, pretty much, just folks. He says to himself, "I don't imagine Yusuf al-Muslim is that different from you and I. Given a chance at peace, good representative government, and a decent job, maybe he'll stop frothing at the mouth and settle down to raise his 6.5 kids in a nice house with a mud-brick fence and a donkey."

Wilsonians are damned cheerful and optimistic. It is worth noting that this is a traditionally liberal viewpoint which has been appropriated by the neo-cons. Such Democrats as bother to think on foreign policy generally don't seem to disagree with this premise, they just believe they can execute it better than George Bush can. Or at least, I can't find many Democrats who don't believe either this, or something along the lines of "If we leave the Islamic World alone, maybe they'll ignore us." Those who believe the latter are not really adults, mentally, and are not worth discussing.

Anyway, Wilsonians and Jacksonians agreed on trashing Afghanistan. Near as I can tell, everyone agreed on trashing Afghanistan. It was a cesspool of the worst degree. Sucks much.

Iraq, that was a Wilsonian idea. Basically, the idea was that the United States would take down another cesspool, strategically located and which had been (de facto) at war with the United States and the United Nations as a whole since 1990. Had we gone anywhere else in the Middle East, Saddam would have taken the opportunity to make trouble, and he was well located and had the resources and the prestige to make lots of trouble. I'm with the Wilsonians thus far.

A Jacksonian president would have perhaps done thing differently. Perhaps he would have chased the Taliban into Pakistan, telling the Pakistanis that they could either agree to it or get their nation shot up also. Perhaps he would have gone after Saudi Arabia. Regardless, once Iraq and Iran got up to trouble-making, this hypothetical Jacksonian President, discovering the limits to conventional military power, would simply have made those countries go away in an atomic fireball.

But that's the past. The present is this--that the Republic of Iraq is the primary theater in which the "War on Terror" is being fought today. It is being fought in accordance with Wilsonian principles and counter-insurgency theory, which place a high emphasis on building coalitions of local allies and permitting them to assume self-government as soon as is possible and sometimes sooner. It's a slow, messy process. It's expensive. It is a threat to al-Qaeda in as much as a policy of putting insecticide in pools of stagnant water is a threat to mosquitoes. It reduces their ability to perpetuate their ideology. By violently opposing US forces in Iraq with all of their ability to do so, al-Qaeda has validated Bush's Wilsonian ideas at least to a point. They have staked their continued existence on their ability to defeat US forces in a struggle for control over Iraq.

If we fail in our efforts, al-Qaeda will be immeasurably emboldened and empowered. Our Middle Eastern allies will fall away instantly, unifying between the only power shown to be able to stick to their guns in the Middle East. Congratulations to Osama bin-Laden. Congratulations to horsemen of apocalypse as well, as plague, famine, war, and death will tear through the Middle East in the process of reordering that part of the world in accordance with an interpretation of the Koran which does not admit of any possibility of compromise.

However, then they will come back after us. Of course, the Democrats will enjoy a period of electoral success--which they will use to slash military budgets and reduce the conventional defenses of the United States even further. I'm not looking forward to serving in that Army.

But when the wolf is at the door, Americans very rarely trust Democrats. At this point, they won't be trusting any Wilsonian idealists either as this plan will have been discredited.

Answer: Jacksonian men using Jacksonian methods to do Jacksonian things.

In simple terms: Big bad boom. Middle East becomes overlapping craters.

You know, we win either way. bin Laden and his coterie are not going to conquer the United States, no matter how happy that would make all those idiots over at the DailyKos. We will come out on top. The question is what will it cost, not merely in money and lives, but in damage to our souls?


Blogger dracphelan said...

Exactly. One of the reasons I believe the USA has not seen another large terrorist incident is the presence of our military in Iraq. This has pulled resources that could have been devoted to infiltrating and attacking the USA away into a largely wasted effort to attack our troops.

I know you don't particularly care for Tom Kratman. But, he has written a novel that has the world ~100 years after the Jacksonian scenario describe. It is not pretty. The USA has become an imperial power with member states, protectorates and conquered territories.

5:15 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I'm with the Jacksonian methods. This is one of those wars were you just need to go Roman.

Dipping bullets in pig fat before you load and letting the locals know it is a good step. That and stopping with the "culturally sensitive" meals at Gitmo.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

I must admit, it's amazing how much the Meade article has taken hold over the years. It keeps popping up. So, a few comments.

First, you might note that the invasion of Afghanistan was a pretty Jacksonian move. Pakistan was told "put up, provide basing, or we'll just take what we need." You might note that 2 MEUs were offshore to provide a seizure force, and that _all_ of the MPS at DG were spooled up - along with 2 CVWs, plus the stuff moving in offshore. Mussharaf was presented with a very limited set of choices, involving cooperation, invasion, and conventional and (if needed) nuclear counterforce targetting.

Second, you might also note that Iraq _started_ as a Jacksonian move, and was in fact co-opted by the Wilsonians. A truly Jacksonian occupation (vice invasion), would have involved tactics reminiscent of the 2nd Battle of Grozny.

Oh, and I think you might be how many people who are identified as Wilsonian neo-cons really aren't, one, t'other, or both.

9:22 AM  
Anonymous Bill McD said...

Yeah, that would've been great.

Outrage good, loyal American muslims at home, generate even more political pressure among our allies to disown and oppose us from their own islamic populations, and in general make sure that every pork-fried bullet fired fans the fire of extremism from Morocco to Indonesia.

BRILLIANT! THAT sure would've maintained that global expression of empathy and solidarity that we had right after 9/11.

Jebus H. Criminey. We had a window where damn near every country in the world was saying 'uhm... fuck, ok, this was funny at first, but now it's gone too far'. Fucking IRAN came up, totally unprompted, to say 'Dudes, not cool. We're with you.' SYRIA was volunteering intelligence information. Do you actually have any idea how big that was? Do you realize how much those nations had to have been saying 'I think this whole terror thing has just gotten out of our control, let's help them try to shut it down' in order for them to do that?

Instead, we helped them out. Afghanistan? If we'd spent 6 years w/the forces we sent into Iraq rebuilding Afghanistan instead, the whole 'USA is the Great Satan' angle would've evaporate like dew in the morning sun.

Instead, we've given those nations who wish us ill a means to get their psychos armed, out the door, and into an environment where they can totally deny their existance. The ones who survive will, they hope, be willing to work with them to achieve the state's goals. The ones who aren't? They can get sent right back into the meat grinder, where it's assumed that eventually, we WILL kill them.

Right now, the only sensible move we can make is to shift this from a US Military operation to 'Hey, Iraqi Government. Govern. We'll have out guys here, you want some help, give us a specific day and time, we'll be there. Otherwise, hey, Kuwait's nice this time of year'... but it all has to come through the auspices of the domestic government, not an occupying power.

Jacksonian warfare is one thing. 'Fuck you, rest of the world', in this situation, especially to the degree you're espousing, can only make things worse. The more irate islamic nations become, the more tense neighboring nations become. If Pakistan gets really pissed off, India gets nervous. When India gets nervous, China starts making sure it's packing. Start lobbing nukes, and it's only a matter of time before some PO'd Pakistani nuclear technician sneaks out some fissionables for suitcase retaliation.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Ah yes. The Wilsonian speaketh.

One might want to bother looking at the historical example. Look at how much outrage there was during WW2 from "good, loyal" Germans, Japanese, and Italians. Start with the 442nd RCT on that. I'm curious.

For all the breast-beating about how American Jacksonianism would have fanned the fires of Islamic hatred... the historical example proves you wrong. Where's the great exodus to Chechnya, over exactly the same tactics? Ans? There isn't one.

You're also obviously forgetting what actually _did_ happen in 2001, vs some interesting construction thereof. Or are we forgetting the mild point that the US govn't basically told the Pakistani gov't that they had choices of (a) cooperating, (b) getting run over as we moved into Afghanistan (basically, token resistance on the part of the Pakistanis as they got out of the way), or (c) full-scale resistance, with threats of counterforce targetting if the Pakistanis threatened to use their nuclear deterent. The B-52s and B-1s shuttling overhead from DG would probably have been quite a signal as to which side was the more likely to succeed.

As to Afghanistan... I'll ask you what I've asked others. How the hell do you suggest we supply a force the size of what's in Iraq, in Afghanistan? Fly it in? DRIVE it in, through the very tribal territories the Pakistani gov't can't control as it is? Logistics rules, and the Sov's were never able to maintain a very large force there, even being much closer to their logistical chain, and having far fewer issues and a much lighter logistical burden, comparatively speaking. Hell, just look at where the rail lines terminate, and think about that for a minute.

As for Iraq, well... opinions differ. I would note, though, as I have to others in the past, that the land speed record for quelling an insurgency is 8 years, that 12-14 years is the norm, and that 15-18 is not unreasonable. We've been there... 4.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

OK, let's get some clarification. One of the things that drives me bat-shit with blogger is there is no obvious way to tell who a commentator is addressing.

I'm fairly certain, based on my past interactions with Bill, that he was speaking primarily to Mark's stupid shit about dipping bullets in pig fat. But some clarification would be nice.

Regarding Charles' comment re: folks misidentified as Wilsonians. Yeah, any system that tries to pigeonhole folks on a something as complex as foreign policy is bound to be too simplistic and lots of folks will not fit either category.

Anyway, to ALL of you, I've said it before and said it again. Afghanistan is a relatively small country with horrendous terrain. The big mechanized forces that go to Iraq would not only not be able to be supplied, they wouldn't be very useful either. Besides which, the whole point of counterinsurgency is to let the locals do as much as possible. The Afghans can fight, that's never been their problem. We don't want to put their leadership in the position of obvious American puppets.

That's also a debate that is no less than 4 years too late. Once 3rd ID stepped off from Kuwait into Iraq, the question of whether or not the United States should invade Iraq became a question for historians. And the war ain't even over yet so historical analysis is a bit premature. In my opinion.

Of course, in my opinion, good historical analysis won't be written until everyone involved is dead. I could be wrong.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Bill McD said...

Yes, I was speaking about the pork-rind bullets, not about the comment Charles posted while I was writing.

And as you know, I've said more than once that what should have been done then is a moot point... doesn't stop me from bitching about it. ;)

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the choice is using bacon bullet vs nukes, I'm all for the bullets.
But if you'd asked me on 9/12, I might have swung the other way and there were others who felt the same way--remember the map showing "Lake Afghanistan"? I'll bet that some of that cooperation we got from Syria & friends was because they were worried that we just might push the button, and they wanted to avoid being on the list of targets.
Frankly, I'd much rather have our guys sucking them in in Iraq, rather than letting them sit around to dream up ways to hit us here. Perhaps I'm biased--I live within 15 miles of three East Coast strategic targets.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

OK, from the top.
Bill-- Yes, I misunderstood your aimpoint. Sorry 'bout that, but, I would point out, it was a generic blast, and came RIGHT after I posted. Again, my apologies.

Unser host - When I wrote the Meade FAQ lo these many years ago, I'll admit I really glossed over the whole issue of multiple identification. I probably should go back and rework it to address that. The real problem is not "folks who identify in the wrong category", but rather "folks who identify in multiple categories". Agree muchly, as well, about the fact that historical analysis of current conflict is a rather pointless exercise. Though I do note a tendancy amongst certain critics to (a) attempt to use historical examples to buttress their argument, then, (b) a flight to "but historical analogies are worthless" once their chosen historical analogy demonstrates the invalidity of their original assertion.

As to anonymous' comments: First, I would refer you to John Ringo's suggestions re. creation of Port Kandahar, as a means of getting the real point of available American power across to the there-locals. Second, I'd have to agree with you about motivations in the period immediately after 9/11/01 - a lot of countries were very afraid we'd come out punching, in a big way. Finally, as to bias - I grew up within the primary blast radius of a tier one target on the west coast - the Blue Cube, and Moffett Field NAS, then-home of Patrol Wings Pacific - 40% of total P-3 strength in the USN. I understand completely.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

One (hopefully final) point on the pork-rind bullet nonsense:

It's damned hot in the Middle East. Anyone here ever smelt bacon after it goes bad? Now, imagine living with that smell constantly for 15 months.

Obviously, anyone who advocates bacon grease on the bullets does not intend to carry them themselves.

Or, it is obvious hyperbole. Please refrain from such stupidity.

If you have a concrete suggestion, make it. If not, STFU. Pointless posturing to 'prove' your manliness does neither entertain nor inform me.

Charles: I agree, as I would identify myself as "Wilsonian, until I get pissed off enough to chuck idealism out the window and nuke the bastards." Hamiltonian ideas seem to be more or less irrelevant once the shooting starts, and Jeffersonian isolationism hasn't been practical for over a century.

I'm not arguing that you can't make argument by historical analogy. You can, provided you know a great deal about the history, and a great deal about the current situation you are comparing the historical situation to. Most people don't have the historical background to be worth listening to once they bring up the Roman Empire.

I am arguing that trying to understand the historical implications of major decisions only a few years after they are made is silly, because the story hasn't played out. It's rather like trying to discuss the importance of the Munich Agreement in 1942. It might look, to some historians, at that point (knowing what we knew then, not what we know now) that perhaps appeasement wasn't tried hard enough, because "obviously" fighting the Nazis wasn't working.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Ok, I stand chastised on the pork coating on the bullets concept. I should have known better. I actually have explained why it was a bad idea to others in the past. I clearly was not at my best yesterday. Mea Culpa.

12:23 AM  
Blogger Zero Ponsdorf said...

"I am arguing that trying to understand the historical implications of major decisions only a few years after they are made is silly, because the story hasn't played out."


3:53 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Attempting to understand the historical implications of major decisions only a few years is silly. I agree. Your premise is quite solid. Examining the same major decisions using different historical models is useful though. At least, it gives you insight into other viewpoints.

The obvious model is the Vietnam model, which many on the left use, because it was one of the great victories for the forces of Socialism over the West.

There is actually some validity to that model. This ware, like the Vietnam war, can be viewed as a proxy war, being fought on someone else's real estate.

This opposing forces in this case are those of Western Civilization and the forces that want to establish an Islamic Caliphate. The range of forces against the Iraqi government (and its Western allies) are, like the North Vietnamese/Viet Cong, are supplied from outside the national borders by other countries that can not be openly targeted in the current situation.

The same model can be used by those not in far left camp, to justify not just pulling up and leaving. Just adjust the focus on the Vietnam Lenses and focus the effect of the American withdrawal of both military forces and foreign aid.

Charles points out interesting historical items, i.e, "good, loyal" Germans, Japanese, and Italians. In a more modern setting, I've heard pundits warn of upsetting the "Islamic Street" since mid-September 2001. An uprising I haven't seen. Ya, kids from Middle Eastern countries are going to Iraq to fight the Great Satan, but before the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, they were going to training camps in Afghanistan, and else where, to learn to kill the Infidel.

One thing the "Average Arab Moslem on the street" does understand is the use of force. Momar Kadafi backed down from his overt support of terrorists after being bombed in the 80's. He also turned over chemical weapons he had successfully hidden from UN inspectors after Saddam Hussein was removed from power. He flat out said it was because he didn't want to be next. They also understand weakness. Bin Laden observed the American response to terror attacks throughout the 90s and determined that America was a Paper Tiger and escalated the level of attacks, resulting in the 9/11 attacks.

Personally, I prefer the results of the Reagan and Bush policies than those of the Carter and Clinton policies.

Getting to your final question, how Jacksonian can America go and still be the American we want it to be.

That is really how far can "middle American" go? There are those who are at either end who feel that that literally "Going Roman" is just this side of acceptable, and on the opposing scale, any military activity by the US and its allies automatically damn us to Hell (do not collect the $200 on the way).

Using Nuclear weapons against a middle eastern target is out.
Perhaps as a response to a large WMD (chemical or biological) strike that effected US forces, but even that would have to be "surgical".

Leveling a town that was mostly full of hostiles. Nope. Even without the MSM raising the specter of "we had to destroy the village to save it", that would not go over well with "moderate America."

A house by house, room by room, clearing of the town has been, and would be acceptable by "moderate America", even with the higher cost in KIA and WIA American military.

Is a continued presence in Iraq acceptable, if there is perceived progress being made? I think yes, except by those whose worldview precludes any concept of an American victory. Will all those who would support it, like it? No, but they will consider it a valid front in what some call WW IV.

5:54 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I would argue that American History now adds an additional model to American Statecraft. You mention Jacksonian, Wilsonian, Hamiltonian and a few others. My point is that we now have a Bushian model to deal with. Perhaps that is why there is so much confusion in the political sphere to the analysis of the GWOT.

The Bushian model is unique in that it is tailored specifically against non-nation military actors , and the nation-states that support them. Obviously, this model is not complete as we have yet to use overt military action against Iran. I expect this to change soon. Also, it has not been applied across-the-board to all sponsoring nations such as Syria.

But the Bushian model acknowledges the pragmatic limitations of power: we haven't attacked Iran, Syria (or even Sudan) because we can't.

Popular political commentary is colored so heavily with GWB hatred that the obvious originality of this new doctrine is ignored. GWB will rarely be credited with creating the GWOT 'Bug Zapper' that is Iraq. But it is successful, and we are killing the would-be terrorist and Talibanesque political factions in wholesale commodities. Now that Iraq has finally been acknowledged as a counter-insurgency war, we are winning it.

To take the Bushian doctrine to the next level, I suggest that GWB send Condi Rice to Iran to deliver a simple message: "Shut it off, or you're next". And to punctuate her comments: overt military actions against Iranian military targets. I further suggest that CENTCOM tally up the number of Coalition troops killed by EFP's (all of which were made in Iran), Then design the military action so that an equivalent number of Iranian casualties be inflicted. This would be basically 'Operation Praying Mantis III' the main difference being that the mines in question are land-based instead of sea-based.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then design the military action so that an equivalent number of Iranian casualties be inflicted

Why stop at 1:1 ? Our guys are a hella lot more valuable than their guys.


5:27 PM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 09/13/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Karl Gallagher said...

One of the things that drives me bat-shit with blogger is there is no obvious way to tell who a commentator is addressing.

Why I love LJ, reasons one through five.

As for the Mead categories--the Dems and those left of them seem to have inherited Jeffersonianism in the mutated form of "America isn't good enough to try improving other places." Hamiltonians keep springing up as "realists" in the service of Dems who need to deal with an overseas problem. Both seem oblivious to how much the world is changing.

9:56 PM  
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6:42 AM  

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