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William C. Altreuter
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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

From Slate's "Fraywatch":

"'What was the reason for the war in Iraq? Sept. 11 was the reason; Sept. 11 did not come from a single Bad Guy; it was a product of the larger totalitarian wave, and the only proper response was to comprehend the size and depth of that larger wave, and find ways to begin rolling it back, militarily and otherwise;mostly otherwise. To roll it back for our own sake, and everyone else's sake, Muslims' especially. Iraq, with its somewhat antique variation of the Muslim totalitarian idea, was merely a place to begin, after Afghanistan, with its more modern variation.

'US strategy to defeat Islamic terrorism after 9/11 rapidly emerged with four equally important parts, the first three of which are presumably not all that controversial (except on the Left where no action beyond arresting terrorists caught red-handed seems to find support):

'1) Upgrade security on more vulnerable US targets and create new systems specifically designed to impede the more likely high-casualty terror assaults;
2) Mobilize US police and intelligence resources and in cooperation with those of friendly governments, find and disrupt, arrest or destroy terrorist operatives;
3) Take the fight directly to the enemy by the assault on Afghanistan and the coextensive overt and covert operations against Islamic guerrillas in such disparate locations as the Yemen, the Horn of Africa and the Philippines;
4) Seize Iraq and topple Saddam to achieve several vital aims simultaneously:
a) Eliminate an Arab regime that was implacably hostile to the US and, thus, far more likely to give aid to other US adversaries than most nation-states.
b) Eliminate one of a few regimes in the world (identified publicly as the "axis of evil") that were both hostile to the US and, it was presumed by everyone, possessed WMD of one sort or another that in the hands of terrorists could make 9/11 look like a minor prelude.
c) Inject US military forces into the heart of the Middle East where they would or could menace Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia and the rest of the states of the Arabian peninsula and, thus, bring the maximum pressure on all of these states to cooperated with the US in crushing anti-Western Islamicist terror groups.
d) In particular, create a situation where the Saudi monarchy is forced finally to choose sides in this struggle;
e) Create within Iraq a new government that would be closely aligned with the US and serve as both an ally and a model (in the Friedman sense) for other Arab and Muslim states or, at least, their modernity-oriented elites.'"

Arguments that are structured like this cheat by getting you to start nodding, so that by the time they get to the false premise, you are a bobblehead, and don't notice that you have just bought into a huge hoax. I'd told myself that I was going to try to be more about law in Outside Counsel, and less about this sort of thing, but I am going to sneak this in now because the Fray poster here is using an advocacy technique that should be called on. Let's break it down:

"US strategy to defeat Islamic terrorism after 9/11 rapidly emerged with four equally important parts, the first three of which are presumably not all that controversial (except on the Left where no action beyond arresting terrorists caught red-handed seems to find support)."= Any reasonable person who loves America would agree with these points. Arguments that start this way are almost always trying to get you to buy into something that you know better than to accept; they work because they are an appeal to our self opinon that we are reasonable people-- maybe that's true, but it does not establish that the argument is reasonable. This is like saying, "If you have a sense of humor, you will find this joke hilarious." Not if it ain't funny, I won't. You'd be surprised how many people will laugh if they are set up like this-- mostly, the ones with no sense of humor at all. Who do you think the appeal to the reasonable works best on?

"1) Upgrade security on more vulnerable US targets and create new systems specifically designed to impede the more likely high-casualty terror assaults." This is arguing the ends vs. the means, of course, and not very subtly. He's got me nodding already, notwithstanding that where he is going with this has me taking off my shoes at the airport, for no real reason, and even though the sorts of things that would actually upgrade security are precisely the things-- like benefits for reservists, or education and health care funding, or engaging our longstanding allies in mutually beneficial foreign policy decision making-- that the Bush administration is failing to do

"2) Mobilize US police and intelligence resources and in cooperation with those of friendly governments, find and disrupt, arrest or destroy terrorist operatives." This also makes sense to me. I wish we were doing it.

"3) Take the fight directly to the enemy by the assault on Afghanistan and the coextensive overt and covert operations against Islamicist guerrillas in such disparate locations as the Yemen, the Horn of Africa and the Philippines." Again, a pretty mainstream notion, particularly to the extent that doing this goes forward on a collaborative, cooperative, multilateral basis.

"4) Seize Iraq and topple Saddam to achieve several vital aims simultaneously" Whoa, whoa! Where'd that one come in? Let's look at the "vital aims": "a) Eliminate an Arab regime that was implacably hostile to the US and, thus, far more likely to give aid to other US adversaries than most nation-states." From the evidence, this category of Arab regimes is pretty broad, and includes, inter alia, Saudi Arabia. Down this path lies the US occupation of almost every place in the Middle East except Israel, and a lot of other not so nice places besides. "b) Eliminate one of a few regimes in the world (identified publicly as the "axis of evil") that were both hostile to the US and, it was presumed by everyone, possessed WMD of one sort or another that in the hands of terrorists could make 9/11 look like a minor prelude." A lie. There does not appear to be any other word for it at this point, and employing this argument at this point amounts to pure chutzpah. "c) Inject US military forces into the heart of the Middle East where they would or could menace Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia and the rest of the states of the Arabian peninsula and, thus, bring the maximum pressure on all of these states to cooperated with the US in crushing anti-Western Islamic terror groups." Another way to describe this might be to say something like, "Become an enemy occupying regime by means of overwhelming military force so that those you are opposing are left with no other means of resistance except terrorism." Ask Israel how that plan is working out for them. Then ask if this is something we need to or even can do, seeing as we are an invading army. Ask yourself, "When was the last time, historically, that an invading army was able to sustain its position over anything other than the short term? When was the last time that it worked out for the invader?". "d) In particular, create a situation where the Saudi monarchy is forced finally to choose sides in this struggle," Calling a spade a spade at this point in the argument gets points for candor, or swagger, or something, but there is nothing that I've seen that suggests that this is actually what is happening, and, I submit, from what we know about the roots of al Qaeda, if what the Bush administration is thinking is that the Saudi elite will line up with (I almost said "The West"-- there is no more "West"-- at least, none that includes us) the US, they are pretty sadly misinformed. "e) Create within Iraq a new government that would be closely aligned with the US and serve as both an ally and a model (in the Friedman sense) for other Arab and Muslim states or, at least, their modernity-oriented elites." Because that worked out so nicely when we tried it in Iran thirty years ago. Or have we forgotten that?

I've heard my share of summations that worked like this, and they are tough arguments to beat if you don't have the last word. This one is put together rather well, but it is false through and through, and amounts to -- well, I don't like to say what it amounts to, or sounds like. I keep thinking that the Nazis' pretext for invading Poland was that it constituted a threat to Germany, and I hate that this is where my mind keeps going: "There must have been Germans who thought like this."

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