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The Problem of Nice Guys Coming in Last

 
 
swolf
 
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 09:07 am
http://www.danielpipes.org/article/1169

Quote:

[Why the U.S. is] Discarding War's Rules
by Daniel Pipes
New York Post
July 22, 2003

"Since the events of 9/11," observes Lee Harris, America's reigning philosopher of 9/11, "the policy debate in the United States has been primarily focused on a set of problems - radical Islam and the War on Terrorism, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein in Iraq."

We sense that these three problems are related, Harris notes in an article at TechCentralStation.com, but we can't quite figure out how. He proposes a subtle link between these seemingly disparate issues - and it's not specifically their common Muslim identity. Rather, it has to do with their unearned power.

"All previous threats in the history of mankind have had one element in common. They were posed by historical groups that had created the weapons, both physical and cultural, that they used to threaten their enemies." States achieved power through their own labor and sacrifice, developing their own economies, training their own troops and building their own arsenals.

The same cannot be said of the threats emanating from the Muslim world. Al Qaeda destroys airplanes and buildings that it itself could not possibly build. The Palestinian Authority has failed in every field of endeavor except killing Israelis. Saddam Hussein's Iraq grew dangerous thanks to money showered on it by the West to purchase petroleum Iraqis themselves had neither located nor extracted.

How, despite their general incompetence, has this trio managed to guide the course of events as if they were powers in the traditional sense?

The cause of this anomaly, Harris replies, is that the West plays by a strict set of rules while permitting al Qaeda, the Palestinians and Saddam Hussein to play without rules. We restrain ourselves according to the standards of civilized conduct as refined over the centuries; they engage in maximal ruthlessness.

Had the United States retaliated in kind for 9/11, Harris tells me, the Islamic holy places would have been destroyed. Had Israelis followed the Arafat model of murderousness, the West Bank and Gaza would now be devoid of Palestinians. Had the West done toward Iraq as Iraq did toward Kuwait, the Iraqi polity would long ago have been annexed and its oil resources confiscated.

While morally commendable, Harris argues, the West's not responding to Muslim ruthlessness with like ruthlessness carries a high and rising price. It allows Muslim political extremists of various stripes to fantasize that they earned their power, when in fact that power derives entirely from the West's arch-civilized restraint.

This confusion prompts Muslim extremists to indulge in the error that their successes betoken a superior virtue, or even God's support. Conversely, they perceive the West's restraint as a sign of its decadence. Such fantasies, Harris contends, feed on themselves, leading to ever-more demented and dangerous behavior. Westerners worry about the security of electricity grids, computer bugs and water reservoirs; can a nuclear attack on a Western metropolis be that remote? Western restraint, in other words, insulates its enemies from the deserved consequences of their actions, and so unintentionally encourages their bad behavior.

For the West to reverse this process requires much rougher means than it prefers to use. Harris, author of a big-think book on this general subject coming out from the Free Press in early 2004, contends that Old Europe and most analysts have failed to fathom the imperative for a change. The Bush administration, however, has figured it out and in several ways has begun implementing an unapologetic and momentous break with past restraints:

* Pre-empt: Knock out fantasist leaders (the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat) before they can do more damage.
* Rehabilitate: Dismantle their polities, then reconstruct these along civilized lines.
* Impose a double standard: Act on the premise that the U.S. government alone "is permitted to use force against other agents, who are not permitted to use force."

In brief, until those Harris calls "Islamic fantasists" play by the rules, Washington must be prepared to act like them, without rules.

This appeal for America to act less civilized will offend some; but it does offer a convincing explanation for the inner logic of America's tough new foreign policy.




Many links included in article.

Lee Harris' book "Civilization and its Enemies" is pretty nearly a must read. George W. Bush and co. are clearly on the right side of this one.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 09:14 am
I'm confused, swolf: the article doesn't explain how this is all Bill Clinton's fault. Would you care to explain?
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 09:16 am
Re: The Problem of Nice Guys Coming in Last
swolf wrote:
* Impose a double standard: Act on the premise that the U.S. government alone "is permitted to use force against other agents, who are not permitted to use force."

In brief, [..] Washington must be prepared to act like the [Islamic 'fantasists'], without rules.


scary
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 09:37 am
Re: The Problem of Nice Guys Coming in Last
I mean, where to begin? The article is flawed from detail to abstraction.

Take the detail, for example, which supposedly provides the "facts" that the argument's sweeping conclusions rely on:

Quote:
Had the United States retaliated in kind for 9/11, Harris tells me, the Islamic holy places would have been destroyed.

The WTC is the "holy place" of a world religion?

Quote:
Had Israelis followed the Arafat model of murderousness, the West Bank and Gaza would now be devoid of Palestinians

Like Israel proper is now devoid of Israelis? (not)

This is an out-of-control definition of retaliating "in kind", which leads us right to the edge of insanity. You kill two thousand of mine - I have the right to wipe you out. "In kind".

Then to the level of abstraction:

Quote:
While morally commendable, Harris argues, the West's not responding to Muslim ruthlessness with like ruthlessness carries a high and rising price.

Whereas the proposed action in this article - to act in just the kind of "ruthless", "demented and dangerous behavior" that the Muslim extremists exhibit, does not carry a high price? Makes the world a safer place for us all? Really?

And an attempt to impose on the world a double standard as mindbogglingly unfair and vengefully resented as "we get to attack anyone we consider a bad guy - but none of you is allowed to use force" -- is supposed to actually lessen the risk of attacks against America? Really?

What is scary is not that there are crackpots out there who come out with such stuff - but that it's people like Pipes. Wasn't he appointed as President Bush's advisor on Muslim affairs last year?
0 Replies
 
swolf
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 10:05 am
joefromchicago wrote:
I'm confused, swolf: the article doesn't explain how this is all Bill Clinton's fault. Would you care to explain?


It isn't. There were problems in the world before Slick Clinton arrived and the problem which Harris describes is one of them. The difference is that W is actually trying to fix the problem.

The main link for Harris' article:

http://www.techcentralstation.com/031103A.html
0 Replies
 
swolf
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 10:12 am
Re: The Problem of Nice Guys Coming in Last
nimh wrote:
I mean, where to begin?


If you can't do any better than that, don't try.

Mecca and Medina ARE the epicenter of whatever it is which sent the 9-11 hijackers out against us. Terrorism absolutely depends upon the victim being more civilized than the perpetrator. You will search the history books in vain for any sort of a story about anybody conducting an intifada against Chengis Khan, Tamerlane, or Joseph Stalin. The response of any of those guys to anything like 9-11 would have been to level Mecca and Medina. The pentagon actually has discussed the idea and I would guess that if anything else like 9-11 were to occur, it might happen.

As to the "palestinians", the only thing I know for sure about Ariel Sharon is that he's a nicer guy than I am or than most Americans are. Given the same level of provocation, Americans would have exterminated the "palestinians" three years ago.
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 10:18 am
Quote:
As to the "palestinians", the only thing I know for sure about Ariel Sharon is that he's a nicer guy than I am or than most Americans are. Given the same level of provocation, Americans would have exterminated the "palestinians" three years ago.


It's statements such as this that lead me to believe that you don't understand a single thing about the situation over there right now.

Try doing some research on just how badly the Palestinian people are treated before you label THEM as the problem.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 12:00 pm
Re: The Problem of Nice Guys Coming in Last
swolf wrote:
As to the "palestinians", the only thing I know for sure about Ariel Sharon is that he's a nicer guy than I am or than most Americans are. Given the same level of provocation, Americans would have exterminated the "palestinians" three years ago.

Yeah - I can see how the article would appeal to you, then.

The article first says, quit the nice guy bullshit, we should retaliate "in kind".

As if the notion of 'hell, we'll respond by today's security threats by simply all becoming as ruthless, demented and dangerous as the worst of us are' isnt scary enough, there then is the definition of what "in kind" means. Thats the point I was making re: the WTC vs Mecca, which you seem to have completely missed.

The article says that a retaliation "in kind" for 9/11 would be to destroy Mecca and Medina. Never mind that the WTC, even if there were a great many people in there, was no Mecca or Medina.

Responding "in kind", in my book, means a retaliation that creates as much damage and suffering as the attack it's retaliating for did. Note: "as much". Not: "two, five or ten times more".

Apparently, Mr. Pipes and you are using a different dictionary, cause the same point is magnified to the nth degree in Pipes' other example, which you neatly repeat. The Palestines kill several thousand of our citizens? Then a retaliation "in kind" is to exterminate them.

Not. Thats not a retaliation "in kind" - that's a mindnumbing escalation. Hence why I'm very glad you will never have your finger on the atomic trigger.

Unfortunately, Mr. Pipes might be unnervingly close to those who do.
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