An Open Letter to the Religious Right

Politics — By on March 25, 2008 at 11:16 pm

[Note: This post is an adaptation of an address I recently gave for a conference of pre-law advisors at Regent University Law School which itself was originally based...on a previous blog post.]
I’m honored to be able to speak to you today for I am a great admirer of your work. Indeed, it is my opinion that pre-law advisors are significantly undervalued despite the fact that you carry out one of the most important tasks in the legal profession–talking people out of becoming lawyers.
While it is true that the bar exam and law school admissions officers perform the same function, though perhaps more brutally, pre-law advisors provide the first line of defense in preventing people like me from stumbling into a career in law.
In 1987 I entered the University of North Texas as a freshman with the intention of someday becoming an attorney. The first week I was there I scheduled an appointment with the pre-law advisor, expecting him to tell me that I could choose any major I wanted, as long as what I wanted was to major in political science.
Instead, the first words out of his mouth were “Why do why to be a lawyer?” I was so caught off guard that I ended up answering truthfully–telling him that I wanted to be part of a profession that made a lot of money. He then set about ripping my response, explaining why this was a terrible justification. I gave him another lame reason and he shot that one down too. That went on for several minutes before I laid out the dumbest rationale of all. I told him that my friends and family always told me I’d make a good lawyer “because I was good at arguing.”
He leaned forward in his chair and gave me a pitiable look generally reserved for fools who are about to make a disastrous life choice. “Mr. Carter,” he said, “how good could you be at arguing when you can’t even make an argument for why should be a lawyer.”
That day he planted a seed of self-awareness’ within me. I realized two things about myself: (1) I really would make a terrible lawyer and (2) I’m really not all that good at arguing.
So today I won’t even bother trying to argue my case. Instead I’ll just throw out a pile of assertions and conjectures and let you sift through it all to see if there is anything of value.


***

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was purportedly asked if God was on his side.
“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side,” said the President, “my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
Ironically, though Lincoln is often praised for this remark, it contains three of the most controversial ideas in American politics: that God should be invoked in the political sphere; that God’s existence matters, much less that he is always right; and that since He takes sides on certain issues, some people will be divinely justified while others will be in opposition not only to their political opponents but to the very Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.
If you find these ideas absurd and repugnant, you are most likely a secularist. If you find them to be embarrassing truths, then you may be on the religious left. If you find them so obvious that they hardly need stating, then you are probably a member of the so-called “religious right.”
I embrace them whole-heartedly, which makes me a certified member of the religious right. Although I’ve often been uncomfortable with that term, I find it fits me more and more, as if I’m growing into it. So be it.
For the past few years I’ve served in various positions that have allowed me the opportunity to engage with people who express firm religious and political convictions. I work for the nefarious Family Research Council. I’ve advised the shawdowy Arlington Group. And I worked on the political campaign of the scary Christianist candidate Mike Huckabee. The experience has been was encouraging, funny, provocative, aggravating, frustrating, and, on occasion, downright weird.
But I remain optimistic about the role of politically conservative Christians but there are a number of things that give me pause. I tend to be a “Yes, I agree…but…” kind of guy fellow. While I could talk today about the “Yes, I agree” stuff, I think it’s the “…but…” that is far more interesting so I want to use this opportunity to share a few thoughts on that. I have ten “buts” and since I’m still not very good at arguing, I’ll simply throw them out as raw assertions in the form of an open letter to my fellow members of the religious right.
One– As a matter of political liberty I believe it is important that we support such issues as prayer in schools and public displays of religious symbols. But I can’t imagine that on the Day of Judgment I’ll hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant–you have faithfully fought to keep the Ten Commandments in the courthouse.” More likely we’ll all be asked why we didn’t spend more time concerned about our neighbors in Darfur or fighting the pandemic of AIDS. Perhaps we should rethink our priorities and put the first things first.
Two — Being Right doesn’t mean we are always right. I know we claim we understand that but it would probably help if we acted like we believed it as well.
Three — We have ideological enemies (such as Islamo-fascists) and we ideological opponents (such as secular liberals). While our ideological opponents want us to lose elections; our ideological enemies want us to lose our lives. That’s a crucial distinction that we should always keep in mind. While we have to love them all, we shouldn’t lump them all together.
In a classical statement of ecumenicity, St. Augustine once said, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.” Those of us on the religious right should adopt a similar principle and clearly define the boundaries between what is essential and what is non-essential in matters of policy and politics.
Protecting the sanctity of innocent human life and defending the traditional definition of marriage are clearly essentials. Those matters are based on principles that can be clearly derived from the Bible. Other issues, however, are often less opaque. For example, can someone truly be on the “religious right” and not support the war in Iraq?
The fact that question can even be asked shows how we’ve muddied the waters. While I personally think that, on the whole, the war was morally justified and a necessary humanitarian intervention, I can respect those who disagree. Indeed, the alternate opinion may be as rooted in Biblical and conservative principles as, I believe, is my position. We should be very, very careful where we draw the lines of political heresy.
Four — I can’t make excuses for us on this one anymore: Christians have to take a firm stand against torture. Yes, there is a debate about what exactly is meant by that term. Let’s have that debate. Let’s define the term in a way that consistent with our belief in human dignity. And then let’s hold every politician in the country to that standard. Our silence on this issue has become embarrassing.
Five — We must keep in mind that term “religious right” encompasses two unique spectrums. Because of our commitment to the faith, we will often find ourselves in agreement with the religious left. And because our conservatism is informed by our religion, we will also find ourselves in disagreement with the secular right.
Our political alliances, therefore, will often be tenuous and shift based on particular issues. For example, two years ago at Family Research Councils Values Voter Summit, the Southern Baptist leader Richard Land said he’d vote for a Jewish pro-life politician who promised to raise his taxes before he’d vote a Christian pro-choice candidate who promised to cut them. The rousing applause he received would be as disturbing to most Republicans as it would to most Democrats.
Six — It is not enough to simply baptize the conservative agenda; our political beliefs must be derived from our Biblical worldview. Doing that, however, requires developing such a worldview and knowing how to derive political policy prescriptions from the principles. While the difficulty of the task makes it easier to accept off-the-rack conservatism, we need to be able to tailor our policies from the fabric of our faith.
Seven — Whenever you hear someone say that the religious right is attempting to install a theocracy, simply say “You;re an idiot” and move on. We’ve wasted too much time on this nonsense already. It’s a desperate attempt to create a term that has the affect of “racist” or “sexist” so that when its applied, it automatically paints an opponent as beyond the pale of political discourse. Really, anyone who says that-no matter how much they may try to nuance the word-is an idiot.
Eight — In the 1950′s, William F. Buckley, Jr. and National Review led the move to anathematize the John Birch Society from the ranks of respectable conservatism. Today, we religious conservatives need to follow that precedent by purging the most odious hangers-on from our company. I propose that we start with the obnoxious, hate-spewing Ann Coulter.
Why do we justify the vile rants of Coulter and her ilk? Is it excusable because they direct the bile at liberals? We sully our own reputations–and disgrace our Lord–by associating ourselves with such hateful speech. The sooner we shun them the sooner we can return to the path of serious discourse.
Nine — Our beliefs are often informed by tradition and sacred texts. This does not, as our ideological opponents often claim, make them invalid. But it does make it necessary to ?translate? them when we bring them into the public square. I firmly believe that the Bible is true and authoritative for both the Christian and the non-believer. But premising a political argument on “Because the Bible says so?” is rarely effective or convincing.
Fortunately, God also gives us general revelation-conscience, rationality, empirical observation-which is often more effective in expressing His foundational principles in a way that non-believers can accept and understand. We must use these tools to make obvious the connections that are often overlooked. For instance, we can use logic to show how same-sex marriage affects religious liberty or use empirical research to show how family structure influences poverty. It is not enough to be right. We must also be persuasive.
And finally, number ten — America is not a “Christian nation”, though we should aspire to be a nation of Christians. America is not a “shining city on a hill”, though we should let our light of freedom be a shining example for the entire world. America is not the “greatest blessing God gave mankind”, though it is a great nation worthy of our conditional adoration. Patriotic sentiment has its place but we mustn’t let it expand beyond its acceptable borders. We are citizens of both a country and a Kingdom and must always be careful not to confuse the one for the other.


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  • http://www.one-eternal-day.com/ James Skaggs

    In #Three above you write “Other issues, however, are often less opaque.” Did you mean “more opaque” or “less clear”? Or am I being obtuse?
    This is a very good, and necessary, reminder.

  • http://www.one-eternal-day.com/ Jim Skaggs

    In #Three above you write “Other issues, however, are often less opaque.” Did you mean “more opaque” or “less clear”? Or am I being obtuse?
    This is a very good, and necessary, reminder.

  • http://www.one-eternal-day.com/ Jim Skaggs

    Sorry about the double comment.

  • jd

    Sorry, Joe.
    I just can’t work up outrage over Ann Coulter. What she says just isn’t that bad and she’s funny. Vile? I don’t think so. Maybe she has stepped over the line a few times, but so have you.
    Neither can I work up the outrage you have over torture. That is, I can’t work up the outrage you have over waterboarding, because that IS what we’re talking about here, right? You did not start writing about this subject until waterboarding came up. It’s good to have the discussion. But to imply that most of us on the religious right are in favor of torture because we don’t agree on waterboarding is unfair and harmful to the debate.
    I smell political correctness in both of these positions.
    With respect to waterboarding, while intellectually I’m not really outraged about it, I’m not sure that if it came right down to it, I’d be able to do it myself. I must be a chickenhawk, right?

  • ucfengr

    Why do we justify the vile rants of Coulter and her ilk? Is it excusable because they direct the bile at liberals? We sully our own reputations–and disgrace our Lord–by associating ourselves with such hateful speech. The sooner we shun them the sooner we can return to the path of serious discourse.
    Joe, wouldn’t we be better served by focusing on “shunning” people who spew their bile from the pulpit? I for one am more offended by John Hagee’s anti-Catholic rants from the pulpit than I am by Coulter’s anti-liberal rants on O’Reilly (I assume she is a guest there). If we want to claim to be the “Religious Right”, shouldn’t we focus on getting the “Religious” part right first and the worry about the “Right” part?
    That is, I can’t work up the outrage you have over waterboarding, because that IS what we’re talking about here, right? You did not start writing about this subject until waterboarding came up. It’s good to have the discussion. But to imply that most of us on the religious right are in favor of torture because we don’t agree on waterboarding is unfair and harmful to the debate.
    I’m with you here, jd. The debate on torture is not about thumbscrews, the rack, and red hot pokers; it is about loud music, stress positions, and waterboarding. I think it is disingenuous for Joe and his ilk to not make that distinction.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    I would have to agree with jd and ucfengr… Coulter occasionally oversteps the bounds, but it appears you just don’t get her cunning wit. She makes the mainstream media look like fools by falling over themselves to denounce her SATIRE. She makes her “fag” comment to rip on the political correctness and double standars in our country (think Isaiah Washington) and everyone thinks she is calling John Edwards gay. Her other comments also almost all fit in this same category, satirical jokes that no one gets because they’re too daft and blinded by political correctness.
    That said, I do believe she is wrong in her promotion of Hillary Clinton. As Mike Adams made the case a couple weeks ago in his column, he believes it’s because she cares more about selling books than saving babies. That very well may be, and she should be called to account for that. But “obnoxious, hate-spewing?” It sounds like you only listen to the Coulter sound bites that the mainstream media plays.
    Regarding torture, again, you seem to be listening to the mainstream media a bit too much. Christians aren’t denying torture is wrong, but what we’re talking about IS NOT TORTURE!!!!

  • http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com Collin Brendemuehl

    ucfengr,
    If we want to claim to be the “Religious Right”, shouldn’t we focus on getting the “Religious” part right first and the worry about the “Right” part?
    That’s pretty close. We are first Christian.
    We would/should likewise oppose the excesses of capitalism as well as the abuses of Marxism.
    Collin
    http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Joe,
    Fortunately, God also gives us general revelation-conscience, rationality, empirical observation-which is often more effective in expressing His foundational principles in a way that non-believers can accept and understand. We must use these tools to make obvious the connections that are often overlooked.
    A most excellent point, Mr. Carter. You should cherish this nugget of wisdom and share it with as many of your colleagues and political allies as you humanly can.
    The sooner we shun [pundits like Ann Coulter] the sooner we can return to the path of serious discourse.
    I don’t agree with everything Ann Coulter believes. For example, I do not revere Sen. Joe McCarthy, and I do revere Charles Darwin.
    However, I strongly suspect that you do not “get” what Ms. Coulter does for a living, and how she does it. I have great admiration for her, and I think she does wonderful work most of the time. And those times when I think she goes a bit too far are just instances of Ann pushing the envelope and making a miscalculation about how hard she is actually pushing.
    Ann Coulter does not generally hate the targets of her scathing satire. Quite the opposite — she is actually showing them the respect of holding them to a high standard. She makes people look foolish only by holding a mirror up to their own words and behavior.
    I think that if you fully understood that, you wouldn’t have such a big problem with what she says and writes.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    “Ann Coulter does not generally hate the targets of her scathing satire. Quite the opposite — she is actually showing them the respect of holding them to a high standard. She makes people look foolish only by holding a mirror up to their own words and behavior.
    I think that if you fully understood that, you wouldn’t have such a big problem with what she says and writes.”
    Great comment, Matthew. I think you described her (and Joe’s apparent lack of understanding) perfectly. Fred Phelps spews hate, Ann Coulter spews satire. The first makes the speaker look foolish, the latter can make the listener appear a fool.

  • Tim L

    Guys, get real. Joe does get what Ann Coulter is about. Just because it’s satire, it doesn’t make it right.
    You guys are right in that the likes of people spewing hate from behind the pulpit is much more disgusting.
    And waterboarding is wrong. There is NO argument biblically or rationally that you can use to suggest that it is ok. Period.

  • Dale

    I’m not too conversant with Coulter but I think it really depends on what she is saying. I would shun Phelps and his ilk because he portrays himself as a person of God, speaking for God. If Coulter does this then I would be on board for shunning her. If she is just generally rude (satirical I suppose many of you would say) then I couldn’t care much less about what she says; I’ll just choose to continue ignoring her.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Tim, so morally you think it better to allow, say, a thousand people to die than give a terrorist some momentary discomfort? Interesting…

  • Cameron

    Regarding Matthew’s defense of Ann Coulter (above):
    “She is actually showing them the respect of holding them to a high standard.”
    We ought to do the same for Ann. The highest standard I can think of would be Holy Scripture, which has clear ideals by which we can evaluate our behavior.
    For example, in the second chapter of Titus, Paul writes that “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be reviled.”
    The standards of Scripture are lofty, and no one can live up to them perfectly, but I don’t even see Ann making any effort at all. Let’s not give her a free pass just because she’s funny.
    Have you ever thought about why Ann Coulter gets so many invitations to appear on secular, anti-Christian TV shows? It’s not because she’s a winsome ambassador for Christ, but because she’s an public embarrassment for Christianity. Non-believers can defend their stereotyping of, and hatred for, Christians by pointing to the Ann’s unapologetically savage words. Because she ignores the commands of Scripture, the Word of God is reviled. And for this you defend her????
    I’ve read most of her books, and she comes down on the right side of many issues, but I agree with Joe, we need to stop slurping up the poison she spews.

  • Cameron

    On the topic of waterboarding, I think some people may be misunderstanding what Joe is arguing (maybe it’s me).
    I take Joe to mean that torture, including waterboarding, is wrong. I assume he would also say that allowing innocent people to die when you have the ability to prevent their death is wrong as well.
    There could potentially exist a situation in which the ONLY way to prevent the loss of innocent life is to torture. In this situation, I think Joe would agree that Christians who find themselves in this rare situation would be justified in torturing.
    That said, the mere fact that a prisoner refuses to reveal valuable information does NOT justify torture, for at least two reasons. First, there may be other ways to obtain the information, or other sources. Secondly, there is no guarantee, and I would argue not even probable cause, that torture will yield accurate information.

  • ucfengr

    That’s pretty close. We are first Christian.
    Then complain to Joe; I was responding to him and that was the term he used.

  • ucfengr

    That’s pretty close. We are first Christian.
    Then complain to Joe; I was responding to him and that was the term he used.

  • ucfengr

    That’s pretty close. We are first Christian.
    Then complain to Joe; I was responding to him and that was the term he used.

  • ucfengr

    That’s pretty close. We are first Christian.
    Then complain to Joe; I was responding to him and that was the term he used.

  • http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com/ Collin Brendemuehl

    ucfengr,
    I wasn’t (x4) complaining.
    It was a compliment.
    Collin

  • ucfengr

    Dang, how the heck did I post that 4 times? I only hit submit once and then went to another tab.
    I wasn’t (x4) complaining. It was a compliment.
    My apologies for misunderstanding you.

  • ex-preacher

    I am glad to see a post that I can largely agree with. I still have a fundamental disagreement with your implication that laws in this country should somehow be in line with the Bible. If we could all agree on the simple (and thoroughly American) premise that the government should neither encourage nor discourage any religion or irreligion, we would find a great deal to agree on. Just as it is not the government’s job to broadcast prayers or post religious commandments, it is not its job to enforce biblical marriage rules.
    Christianity Today posted an excellent article yesterday on this very subject of separation of church and state. The article is by Steven Waldman, author of the new book “Founding Faith.” He makes a good case for looking to James Madison instead of Patrick Henry.
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/marchweb-only/113-22.0.html?start=1

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Cameron,
    The standards of Scripture are lofty, and no one can live up to them perfectly, but I don’t even see Ann making any effort at all. Let’s not give her a free pass just because she’s funny.
    Loving one’s enemies does not mean giving them a free pass when they are being foolish or sinful. In fact, it is more loving to draw attention to someone’s faults, than it is to ignore it.
    Even if the person being satirized is too stubborn or stuck on sin to learn and to change, at least Ann’s readers are likely to get the message.
    Education, moral or otherwise, can be humorless and colorless, but if a talented person can grab and hold her readers’ attention by using humor and merciless logic, isn’t that something that promotes the common good, and the morality of the Gospels?
    You seem to be saying that Ann has been guilty of slander and irreverence, and uses satire as an excuse for rudeness or worse. And perhaps Ann has crossed those lines sometimes. But the vast majority of her material that I have read, does not, in my opinion, do that.
    Satire is not sinful, in and of itself. It depends on who the target is, and whether the satire is honest or dishonest.
    Good, worthy satire is often going to offend some well-meaning readers, even though the satire is justified and appropriate, because some readers are going to misconstrue the context and/or the intended meaning. But in order to be fair to the satirist, such unintended offense has to weighed against the positive aspects of the satire.

  • unapologetic catholic

    “Tim, so morally you think it better to allow, say, a thousand people to die than give a terrorist some momentary discomfort? Interesting…”
    Yes, Christianity is interesting. You should study it.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    That’s not the Christianity in the Bible… perhaps YOU should study it more clearly.

  • ucfengr

    Yes, Christianity is interesting. You should study it.
    It’s a strange view of Christianity that would allow you to kill someone to prevent him from setting off a bomb (I assume you wouldn’t have a problem with that), but wouldn’t allow you to “waterboard” him to do the same thing.

  • ex-preacher

    So, ucfengr, would your version of Christianity allow you use “thumbscrews, the rack, and red hot pokers” to prevent someone from setting off a bomb? Would you torture his children if that achieved the objective? Where would you draw the line? Who would Jesus torture? (I think the right answer to that last one is “everyone who doesn’t believe in him.”)

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Wow, the intellectually lazy are sure out in force today.

  • ucfengr

    Romans 13:1-2 says “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
    During the Second World War, a Dutch woman Corrie ten Boom hid Jews in her home in Haarlem, Holland. By doing so she was defying the governing authorities, in effect rebelling against God. Would anybody like to make the case that what she did was wrong? I certainly wouldn’t because when protecting innocent life comes into conflict with obeying the will of the governing authorities, protecting innocent life takes precedent and I believe that God would approve. I feel the same way about “waterboarding” and other coercive interrogation methods. For the most part, I think they are wrong, and I don’t think we should “waterboard” every captured terrorist or even most, but when innocent life is at imminent risk, protection of that life should take precedent over our desire not to “waterboard”.

  • ucfengr

    BTW Joe, I like the way you auto-link Bible passages to Bible Gateway.

  • unapologetic catholic

    Speak for yourself Darius. Benedict XVI can be called many things but he can’t be called intellectally lazy.
    The official teaching of at least one Christian denomination–by far the largest single denomination–The Catholic Church–is summarized here:
    “Church teaching is clear: torture is never permissible, even for the gravest reasons, Father Perry said, noting that that’s because the church has a deontological or rules-based approach to ethics. In other words, moral standards are objective and absolute and based on the inviolability of the human person. That contrasts, he said, with a utilitarian approach that seeks the greatest good for the greatest number, suggesting that a utilitarian model would permit torture in the event, say, of an imminent nuclear attack.
    An imminent attack is not merely a preposterous plot on the television’ show “24,” featuring Jack Bauer, Father Perry said, pointing to a recent story about a leaked British intelligence document revealing that Al Qaeda members in Iraq are planning an attack with a casualty level of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. But even if British officials had a plotter in custody, it would be wrong to torture, according to church teachings, he said.
    http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=23888
    So, I suggest again. Ponder what it means to be Christian. Hint: It never includes torture.

  • ex-preacher

    I think Darius’ witty remark was aimed at me, though I noticed that neither he nor ucfengr answered my questions. Where would you draw the line on torture in order to save innocent lives?

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Benedict XVI may not be intellectually lazy, but he is morally repugnant if he believes that it is better that a thousand people die than one person feel MOMENTARY discomfort.
    As for your appeal to two logical fallacies… just because you make ad populum and ad verecundiam arguments doesn’t mean your opinion is right or BIBLICAL. Mind giving us a Scriptural-based reason against even minor “torture” rather than appealing to the beliefs of the leader of an anti-biblical heirarchy? (oops, that just opened a can of worms).
    Again though, I think you’re missing the point. The main topic is waterboarding and similar interrogation methods. Are they ALWAYS wrong? Or, on occasion, are they ethically-viable means to save lives?

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Benedict XVI may not be intellectually lazy, but he is morally repugnant if he believes that it is better that a thousand people die than one person feel MOMENTARY discomfort.
    As for your appeal to two logical fallacies… just because you make ad populum and ad verecundiam (authority) arguments doesn’t mean your opinion is right or BIBLICAL. Mind giving us a Scriptural-based reason against even minor “torture” rather than appealing to the beliefs of the leader of an anti-biblical heirarchy? (oops, that just opened a can of worms).
    Again though, I think you’re missing the point. The main topic is waterboarding and similar interrogation methods. Are they ALWAYS wrong? Or, on occasion, are they ethically-viable means to save lives?

  • Marvin the Martian

    Where would you draw the line on torture in order to save innocent lives?
    Where would you draw the line in order to save a life that you hold near and dear to your heart. Do you have children? Lets change things up. What if some pedophile kidnapped your child? The pedophile is caught, but says that your child has been buried alive. You are left alone in the room with the pedophile. What do you do? What lengths would you take to save the life of your own flesh and blood?

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Oops, sorry for the double posts.
    Ex-preacher, you asked your questions in such a sarcastic manner as to imply that you didn’t expect or want an answer. But since you now appear interested in an answer… methods of interrogation should only include “harm” to a KNOWN terrorist/evildoer, and never harm to innocent parties (thus children of terrorists are off-limits). The “harm” involved should be proportional to the KNOWN danger to human life. If we have a terrorist in custody who is DEFINITELY a part of an IMMINENT plot to kill 200,000 people, then almost all interrogation means are on the table. If we have a possible terrorist who MIGHT know a little information about a bombing that will only kill a few people, then severely limit the discomfort he could feel.
    Now the obvious retort to this is that it is so highly subjective… yes, that is correct. That’s what the human quality of ethical discernment is for. We don’t punish a shoplifter the same as a rapist. So rules like the one attempted to be passed through Congress recently which would have outlawed waterboarding in ALL situations are just plain immoral. Who knows when waterboarding might be a necessary option?

  • ucfengr

    So, ucfengr, would your version of Christianity allow you use “thumbscrews, the rack, and red hot pokers” to prevent someone from setting off a bomb?
    The rack and thumbscrews are so primitive, I’m more of a 21st century kind of guy, so maybe a Taser, though one of those neural-inductors from Dune would be cool too.
    Where would you draw the line on torture in order to save innocent lives?
    Depending on the situation, somewhere around torturing innocents or taking innocent lives. Please make a note of this so you don’t have to ask me another dozen or so times. It really is becoming…torture [ucfengr brings pinky to mouth].

  • ex-preacher

    I’ll answer the question after you do, Marvin. If you are a Christian, I’d be interested to know the biblical justification for your position on torture. After I give my answer, I’ll give my rational justification.

  • ucfengr

    So, I suggest again. Ponder what it means to be Christian. Hint: It never includes torture.
    Does it ever involve killing people? There would seem to be a much stronger Biblical injunction against killing people than torture (killing being specifically called out), but I know very few Christians who would claim that being a Christian “never includes killing”.

  • Marvin the Martian

    Ex-preacher…
    If you are really an ex-preacher, then you should know that the Bible doesn’t specifically address whether “torture” for the cause of the “greater good” is acceptable. Christian ethics in general is in fact quite nuanced (and I do hate using that word). There are a great many host of issues that are not specifically addressed in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean that the a Christian can’t take an informed position that seeks to be true to their faith. Take for example Deitrich Boenhoeffer. He was a German pastor and theologian during the rise of the Third Reich who wrote many essays on Christian ethics. He was also a pacifist. However, by the time things were done, he was a member of the resistance movement that was nearly successful in the assassination of Hitler. His role in the assassination plot led to his arrest and death in a concentration camp.
    As for where to “draw the line” on torture, what constitutes as torture must itself be defined. My definition might not be the same as yours. I think that anything that leaves permanent physical damage is off limits, i.e. severing of fingers, crushing toes, lacerations, etc. But harsh interrogation tactics that seek to break down the will of the interrogatee are OK. Things that wear on the person mentally. That is what cops do, they will play good cop/bad cop for hours on end with suspects. That could be considered tortureous or abusive.
    That is what makes waterboarding so appealing for the ticking time bomb scenario. Time is of the essence and the long drawn out methods are simply not viable options. Waterboarding is a mental form of torture with no physical damage done. Not to mention that it has been demonstrated to work in the past with the most hardened of America hating thugs. I am not advocating the widespread use waterboarding. But I also think that it should be left on the table for the extreme doomsday scenario.

  • Nick

    I know very few Christians who would claim that being a Christian “never includes killing”.
    Huh. I know lots of them. I guess we move in different circles of Christians.

  • ucfengr

    Huh. I know lots of them. I guess we move in different circles of Christians.
    So a Christian can’t be a cop, a soldier, or a Marine? Guess that leaves me out. Though on the plus side, my Sunday mornings will be free.

  • http://randythomas.org Randy Thomas

    Great post Joe. It is a good inventory of issues, accountability and action.

  • Nick

    So a Christian can’t be a cop, a soldier, or a Marine?
    It’s not currently the major interpretation, but throughout Christian history, there has been a significant minority of Christians who do indeed believe (usually based on their interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’s other teachings) that Christians shouldn’t be cops, soldiers, or marines.
    In my denomination, a major controversy in recent years has been the issue of whether congregations should be allowed to accept as members a) “practicing” homosexuals or b) soldiers. I would guess that more congregations accept a) than b), but lots of them would accept neither. Cops seem to be a bit of a grey area.

  • doulos tou theou

    Nick,
    Interesting. A Christian congregation where neither David nor Cornelius would be welcome. At the risk of offending a brother in Christ, I’m curious what inventive eisegetical arguments are used to get around the problematic existence of faithful men of war in both the Old and New Testaments.

  • http://hucksarmy.com David Schmidt

    Great post. Ann Coulter does need to go because she claims to be one of us. Not just a conservative but also a religious conservative. Her statements are not loving and are hateful. I will never attend a conference in which she speaks at.
    Keep up the great work!

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Ann Coulter stays. Make her a permanent fixture of the Religious Right. I’m serious. I like her authenticity. She’s not even close to being as bad as you say she is Joe.
    Your comments about her are the equivalent of all the wrongful insults hurled at Mike Huckabee.
    “Whenever you hear someone say that the religious right is attempting to install a theocracy, simply say “You;re an idiot” and move on. … Really, anyone who says that-no matter how much they may try to nuance the word-is an idiot.”
    I agree. Except they’ll think ill of you and of Christians in general for being a mean-spirited name-caller by calling them an idiot.

  • ucfengr

    Interesting. A Christian congregation where neither David nor Cornelius would be welcome.
    Nor Gideon, nor Sampson, nor this guy.
    I’m curious what inventive eisegetical arguments are used to get around the problematic existence of faithful men of war in both the Old and New Testaments.
    Me too.

  • ucfengr

    In my denomination, a major controversy in recent years has been the issue of whether congregations should be allowed to accept as members a) “practicing” homosexuals or b) soldiers.
    You are obviously not Amish (computer use is the tip off) and I can’t imagine Quakers having a major controversy over admitting homosexuals, so which denomination do you belong to?

  • Nick

    ucfengr:
    Mennonite Church USA, so the Amish guess was in the right ballpark.
    Confession of Faith is here:
    http://www.mcusa-archives.org/library/resolutions/1995/index.html
    Articles 22 and 23 are probably what would create problems for an active duty soldier
    doulos tou theou:
    If you’re interested, there are several hundred years of theological reflection out there. More recent and easily accessible works from an anabaptist perspective would include the books of John Howard Yoder.
    More specifically, with regard to Cornelius, one might argue that Jesus is unambiguous in his commands regarding how we are to treat our enemies, but Scripture is silent on what Cornelius did after his conversion (some church traditions say that he became a bishop, presumably leaving the Roman army). With regard to David and Sampson, one could argue that God calls different peoples at different times to do different things. Old Testament Jews were called to follow the law. New Testament Christians are called to follow Christ’s commands. Perhaps that’s too “inventive,” but there you are.
    In any event, I wasn’t seeking to start an argument about pacifism. I was just following up on ucfengr’s comment that he doesn’t know any Christians who think that injunctions against killing mean, you know, don’t kill. I merely sought to point out that the Christian population is rather more diverse than his comment implied.

  • Nick

    A Christian congregation where neither David nor Cornelius would be welcome.
    Just a clarification:
    A soldier be welcome to worship and participate in the life of the church, he/she just couldn’t join or hold leadership positions nor, I suspect, would he or she want to. I presumably wouldn’t be welcome to join a Catholic church, although they’d welcome me to worship with them, because of my opposition to a host of catholic beliefs from the authority of the Pope down to infant baptism. I’ll bet there are Christian churches that you couldn’t join too.

  • ucfengr

    In any event, I wasn’t seeking to start an argument about pacifism. I was just following up on ucfengr’s comment that he doesn’t know any Christians who think that injunctions against killing mean, you know, don’t kill.
    I actually said “I know very few” which is quite a bit different from claiming “I don’t know any”. I am aware that there are pacifist sects in Christianity, but they are not the norm, which is why I said “very few”. So, you responded to something I didn’t say.
    In my denomination, a major controversy in recent years has been the issue of whether congregations should be allowed to accept as members a) “practicing” homosexuals or b) soldiers. I would guess that more congregations accept a) than b), but lots of them would accept neither.
    You really think more Christian denominations are accepting of “practicing homosexuals” than of soldiers? You must move in some odd circles indeed.

  • Nick

    You really think more Christian denominations are accepting of “practicing homosexuals” than of soldiers?
    More congregations in that denomination, not more denominations.
    I guess we’re both having trouble responding to what was actually written…

  • Tim L

    Darius your attitude towards others is pathetic! You should apologize but I have a feeling thats not in your nature. I see that for you, being a Christian is having a certain set of beliefs and going to church. Talk about interesting.
    You can rationalize torture all you want. You can make up situations of “to save a 1000 lives”. (Where are these situations by the way?) But as a Christian, it is imperative that you do ONE thing. That is, if you confess Jesus as Lord, you must follow his examples and obey his teaching above all others. (e.g. Phil. 2:5-8; Eph 5:1-2; Jn 15:10, 14). “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching,” (Jn 14:24). And “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (I Jn 2:6).
    As my pastor has wisely surmised from the examples of Jesus.
    Jesus chose to love, serve and die for his enemies rather than engage in “justified” violence against them. He chose to be killed rather than to kill. Followers of Jesus are called to mimic this attitude and behavior towards their enemies (1 Pet 2:18-23; 3:15-16; Heb. 12:2-3). Moreover, Jesus (and the rest of the New Testament) consistently taught that we are to love, bless, pray for and do good to our enemies (Mt.5:44-45; Lk 6:27-36). We’re to never retaliate or use violence in self-defense (e.g. Matt 5:38-39; Rom. 12:17-21; I Thess.5:15; I Pet 3:9 ). No where in the New Testament is this example or these teachings about non-violence ever qualified. No where do we find any exceptions to the commands to love and do good to our enemies.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    My wife grew up in the Mennonite church, but nothing like what you’ve described. That your churches would more soon allow a homosexual than a soldier to join shows some really twisted theology. The Mennonite churches I’ve been in have never been this bizarre.

  • Tim L

    “Nick writes:
    So a Christian can’t be a cop, a soldier, or a Marine?
    It’s not currently the major interpretation, but throughout Christian history, there has been a significant minority of Christians who do indeed believe (usually based on their interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’s other teachings) that Christians shouldn’t be cops, soldiers, or marines.
    In my denomination, a major controversy in recent years has been the issue of whether congregations should be allowed to accept as members a) “practicing” homosexuals or b) soldiers. I would guess that more congregations accept a) than b), but lots of them would accept neither. Cops seem to be a bit of a grey area”
    The way I see it:
    Technically, based on how Jesus treated soldiers, etc., there is no restriction. The problem is that you as a Christian, can be placed in a position that is not loving your enemies for example, by situations that arise from being a cop or soldier.

  • ucfengr

    I guess we’re both having trouble responding to what was actually written…
    In the tradition of my never admitting to a mistake I will attribute it to poor wording on your part;).

  • ucfengr

    The problem is that you as a Christian, can be placed in a position that is not loving your enemies for example, by situations that arise from being a cop or soldier.
    Do you show love to people by allowing them to commit evil deeds? Take school shootings (been in the news a lot lately) as an example; could a Christian use violence (understanding that violence can result in death) to stop a school shooter or must he restrict himself to trying to reason with the shooter and if that fails waiting until he gets tired or runs out of ammo? Or is it okay for a Christian to sublet his violence to a police officer or must the Christian try to restrain the cop as well? In other words, IYO does Christianity require that I sacrifice the lives of the innocent to “show love” to evildoers. Does my obligation to protect the innocent trump my obligation to “show love” to my enemies or is it (as you appear to believe) the other way around?

  • James England

    I defer to Lincoln, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on my side, my concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” I think that was the whole point of the debate.
    With regard to torture, let’s follow that rule.
    With regard to military and police vocations, let’s follow Romans 13.
    With regard to Ann, she opposed Huckabee, so she has questionable stances in my view, but those who are not against us are for us-see silencingChristians.com.
    Let’s stand for right, and if we get to work with secularists or liberals occasionally as we stand for righteousness, so be it. If they seek our alliance in some questionable venture, let’s speak the truth in love and decline the offer-just as if we might attend church with someone but decline to visit the strip club afterwards. We still can be their friends the next day.
    Next, know what Scripture teaches and follow that. Let your personal beliefs be changed accordingly.
    We’re all sinners, but the homosexual activist movement is just as evil as if there were a ‘Local 883 Rapists and Murderers Union’ pushing for endorsement of their activities. Homosexual behavior is a sin against God and oneself and is never OK. Love sinners, hate the sin.
    Abortion is always murder of a human being created in the image of God. One reason terrorists hate the USA and attacked on 9-11 is their stated hatred for our abominable sins, including abortion and homosexuality…. They’re not morally right, but they are correct, if you follow my meaning. By the way, why are the only countries in which those two practices are illegal Muslim countries????
    Oppose the Iraq war if you will-I’ll respect you. But you must google UN resolution war in Iraq first, and find the legal justification for it. Saddam had WMDs and the whole world saw their use against Kurds, and live on CNN in ’91 against Kuwait and Saudi. He was required to demonstrably destroy them, but did not. Fought UN inspectors every step of the way. That was the cause for war. We could have chosen not to go to war, for sure, but we did have reason, endorsed by the UN.
    Finally, I disagree with Joe on the notion that we shouldn’t primarily refer to Scripture with regards to influencing our culture. In this scripturally illiterate society [and church, as well!] it will take more skill and study to effectively argue, but that is expected since the fundamental problem is that society has thrown the Bible out. It is hard in our soundbite society to make a point without being cut off, but the word of the Lord is the sword of the spirit. It is our most powerful weapon. We must stand upon its truth. But we must also know it. We must absolutely quit standing upon our denominations’ statements of faith and doctrine. We must go to the Bible and read it for ourselves. We are part of the priesthood of all believers. We read Scripture, see what it reveals, and then we can use statements of faith and doctrine as bases for description or summarization of what Scripture says. Again, as Carter quotes Augustine, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.”
    BUT BY ALL MEANS START NOW. I MYSELF HAVE BEEN A DORMANT, ‘SLEEPER-AGENT’ CHRISTIAN FOR FAR TOO LONG, NOT MAKING A DIFFERENCE. WE HAVE TO SPEAK UP FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS, FEED THE POOR, AND BE SALT AND LIGHT IN THE CULTURE. WE MUST ACT TO BRING SOULS INTO THE KINGDOM WHILE THERE IS STILL TIME, AND ACT BEFORE PERSECUTION GETS TO THE POINT WHERE WE FEAR FOR OUR LIVES AND CAN NO LONGER SPEAK OPENLY. IT WILL HAPPEN IN THE USA, SOONER THAN YOU THINK. THIS SOCIETY WILL DESTROY ITSELF FROM WITHIN.

  • http://tomgrey.motime.com Tom Grey

    Great post, Joe (tho I haven’t read all 55 comments yet, maybe later tonight.)
    What about a #11 — Focus on the Family; Christians need to learn how to support marriage that lasts between real men and real women in the real world. It seems that divorce rates for Christians are about as high as for non-Christians.
    While my view is that pre-married folk need to understand how hard a good marriage is, and how much compromise is needed, I’m not certain I’d be the best at helping to prepare folk. Nor at helping folk solve their marriage problems. But in our fairly secular society, Christians, pastors & priests & lay people, need to find better ways of keeping wedding vows as sacred.
    (Yeah, McCain looks worse than Romney here, and even worse than Obama, though perhaps less hypocritical than Clinton.)
    and #12 — gov’t solutions are ALWAYS solutions based on force. Where the credible threat of force is a form of force. Peace & love are voluntary. Gov’t “doing good” is never charity, because of the force.

  • Marvin the Martian

    The problem is that you as a Christian, can be placed in a position that is not loving your enemies for example, by situations that arise from being a cop or soldier.
    Imagine this scenario…
    Mary, the mother of Jesus, is preparing a meal. A thug breaks into the home brandishing a sword and smacks Mary across the cheek. This thug tears Mary’s clothing off and starts to do likewise, obviously preparing for a violent rape. Jesus walks in. What would Jesus do?
    Considering this:
    Exodus 15:3
    The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.
    I think that there is no way that would be rapist walks away unscathed.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Tim, like most Christian pacifists, you seem to confuse INDIVIDUAL instruction with commands to governments.
    1 Peter 2:13-14 “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”
    Yes, you are correct, you and I as individual Christians are to love our enemies. But a government is supposed to keep order and punish evildoers. Keep the two straight.
    So what you’re saying is basically it is more loving to not give any discomfort to an evildoer than to save 1000 innocent people from dying? I have a hard time believing you’re that morally confused, but it seems you are.

  • Tim L

    Darius,
    You call me confused but then tell me to submit to governments which says nothing of the fact of how said government should act.
    On that argument, I guess that you submit that abortion is OK. After all, you must submit to your government and it is the rule of our land. Don’t confuse your individual instruction/morals here.
    Come on Darius, you can do better.
    I am not a pacifist, I am a follower of Jesus. A pacifist believes in pacifism. Pacifism itself is worthless. I believe (and granted fall much too short) in being a part of the Kingdom of God which means being a certain type of person, like for example, loving your enemy no matter how much sense it may not make. Whether you agree with it or not, there is a big difference.

  • http://neumatikos.net Kyle French

    You always get swamped in comments, and then I feel silly commenting myself.
    Anyway, your bald assertions didn’t particularly contain any new idea – sort of stand-bys that I mostly agree with. But your introduction… sheer genius.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    The reason I quoted 1 Peter 2:13-14 was not because of the “submit to authority” part, but the “punish those who do wrong” part. I’m not saying it, the BIBLE IS SAYING IT. To believe what you do means you have to both be morally confused and to pick and choose your Scriptures.
    Let me repeat, since you don’t seem to get it. WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT WHAT YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL WOULD DO TO YOUR ENEMY, WE ARE DISCUSSING WHAT MEANS A GOVERNMENT SHOULD USE TO PROTECT ITS CITIZENRY. Get the two straight, then we can discuss further.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Tim, I do want to adamantly affirm what you are saying regarding INDIVIDUAL conduct towards one’s enemies. You are correct, we should love our enemies. I wish Christians would follow that command much more closely than we do. Christians sue others in court over frivolous things, Christians hold grudges, Christians don’t help homeless people (though helping homeless people has to be done with wisdom). That has gotta stop!
    However, we’re not talking about that. You can go have a conversation in some other post that is more appropriate to that topic, but here we’re discussing what a government should be able to do to protect innocent life. Thus, it is entirely CONSISTENT to be anti-abortion and pro-war and pro-harsh interrogation tactics.

  • ex-preacher

    Marvin,
    Thanks for your reply. I basically agree with your position on torture and aggressive interrogation methods. I find it a little hard to believe that you wouldn’t resort to “permanently damaging” someone who had buried your daughter alive. I also think the buried child and ticking bomb scenarios are extremely rare outside of movie and TV scripts. I would like to see judicial approval for waterboarding or anything like it.
    The larger point for me is to point out the contradiction between your position and the teachings of Jesus. I think any common sense reading of the Gospels can lead to no conclusion other than the fact that Jesus modeled and taught absolute pacifism. He taught his followers to do only good to those who did harm.
    The Encyclopedia of Christianity has this to say:
    “Early Christian pacifism is rooted in the example and teachings of Jesus, especially in the Sermon on the Mount. Christian practice up to the fourth century included rejection of the bearing of arms and military service, even at the cost of martyrdom. No known Christian author from the first centuries approved of Christian participation in battle . . . . Only with the change that came with Constantine (AD 306-37) did the church fundamentally break with pacifism. . . . by AD 416 only baptized Christian could serve in the army. As Christianity became a state religion . . . [Augustine developed] the just war theory. . . . killing as an expression of love became possible.”
    This strict pacifism in the early church explains why Jewish Christians refused to help other Jews fight the Romans in the revolt of AD 70 and the Bar Kochba Revolt of AD 130. If there ever were a just cause for war, the Jews had it, but Christians ran away, thus leading many Jews to hate Christians and vice-versa.
    The problem for Christians today, of course, is that absolute pacifism doesn’t usually work in the real world. Thus many have devised various rationalizations. Fortunately, the Bible can provide good ammunition for both sides of almost every conceivable argument. Thus, the 39,000 denominations. I do find it a bit humorous that some want to use David and Gideon as rationalizations for Christian soldiering. I doubt those same people would argue that the polygamy of those two provides a good example for Christians today (we won’t even get into David’s naked dancing as part of worship).

  • ex-preacher

    To divide between an individual’s obligation to treat enemies with kindness and the government’s authority to punish evildoers is to play games with the Bible. This interpretation was easier to maintain in Paul’s day when no Christian was in the government or had any role in choosing the government.
    What happens when an individual Christian (soldier, FBI agent, bureaucrat) is ordered by the government to do something that plainly violates a biblical teaching? I guess the easy thing would be to close his/her eyes and obey or to just look away while someone else does the dirty work. Should a Christian vote for someone who will order individuals to violate Christ’s commands to individuals? Isn’t the government made up of individuals? Are there two sets of laws?

  • ucfengr

    like for example, loving your enemy no matter how much sense it may not make.
    Is it love to allow an enemy to commit evil deeds or do we have an obligation, as Christians to try to restrain that evil even if it entails using violence? Do you show love to a murderer by allowing him to continue to murder?

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Ex-preacher,
    Using your logic (and I hesitate to call it logic), the death penalty is anti-Biblical. And any Christian taking part in it is sinning. The only one playing games with Scripture is you (and Tim). The rest of us have a clear understanding of what real morality means, and it’s not your simplistic, 3rd grade ideas.

  • ex-preacher

    I don’t know if you’ve heard, Darius, but many Christians (including most Catholics) believe that the death penalty is wrong. Many of us rationalists also believe that it is immoral.

  • smmtheory

    This interpretation was easier to maintain in Paul’s day when no Christian was in the government or had any role in choosing the government.

    I don’t think you know what you are talking about here Ex, please cite your sources for this assertion that no Christian was in the government of Rome.

  • ex-preacher

    My point is that Christians were not running the government. There probably were some low level government officials who were Christian, but they did not have real power. In the first century Roman empire, power was held primarily by the emperor and the governors he appointed. If you have evidence that any of the emperors or governors of the first or second century were Christians, I would be interested to see it.

  • smmtheory

    Mind giving us a Scriptural-based reason against even minor “torture” rather than appealing to the beliefs of the leader of an anti-biblical heirarchy?

    Odd statement that, considering that all of the authors of the New Testament were members of the ‘anti-biblical heirarchy’… and some of them even the leaders of said heirarchy.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Guys, get real. Joe does get what Ann Coulter is about. Just because it’s satire, it doesn’t make it right.
    Calling John Edwards a fag is satire? Explain that to me please. When you’re done, explain to me why that’s so hysterically funny.

  • smmtheory

    My point is that Christians were not running the government. There probably were some low level government officials who were Christian, but they did not have real power.

    IOW, by today’s standards, soldier, FBI agent, bureaucrat… so how did that make it easier to maintain the interpretation of the divide between an individual’s obligation to treat enemies with kindness and the government’s authority to punish evildoers back in the day?

  • Tim L

    I’m playing games with scripture.
    Yeah, OK
    ucfengr. Have I said it’s love to allow an enemy to commit evil deeds? All I have said that we have been told how to treat the enemy. (And why is it that I should follow your logic over the logic of Jesus?) As an individual who believes that, I’m going to try (but not put too much importance in) to express the need for a government that reflects that same belief. Explain to me where I should do otherwise?!
    Boontoon, not sure why you are on my case. I didn’t think it was funny!

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Boonton, Coulter did NOT call Edwards a fag, but what she WAS doing was ripping on the politically correct environment that requires people like Isaiah Washington to go into counseling when they do call people fags. It’s over your head, I know, but that’s what she was getting at. If you would have lived in Jonathan Swift’s day, you would have wanted him burned at the stake, wouldn’t you?

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    “Odd statement that, considering that all of the authors of the New Testament were members of the ‘anti-biblical heirarchy’… and some of them even the leaders of said heirarchy.”
    Mind explaining how that is even close to true????

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    Darius, Darius, Have you read the Bible at all?
    “Mind giving us a Scriptural-based reason against even minor “torture”
    Well, how about this?
    When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] 20 tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
    He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
    This is the greatest and the first commandment.
    The second is like it: 23 You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
    The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
    or this:
    “Blessed are the poor in spirit, 4 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
    Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
    Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
    Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
    Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
    Blessed are the waterboarders, for they will be called children of God.
    Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
    Those passages probably aren’t too familiar to you but I assure you, that with one ironic alteration, those are indeed biblical passages. From the Source, I might add.
    Joe Carter is right. Torture needs to be uneuivocallly condemned.
    “Again though, I think you’re missing the point. The main topic is waterboarding and similar interrogation methods. Are they ALWAYS wrong? Or, on occasion, are they ethically-viable means to save lives?
    1. Yes, they are intrinsically evil. This main point was addressed to you but you failed to comprehend the difference between objective morality and consequentalism.
    This is a fundamental yet common misunderstanding of Christian teeaching.
    2. No, they are not.

  • ucfengr

    ucfengr. Have I said it’s love to allow an enemy to commit evil deeds? All I have said that we have been told how to treat the enemy.
    What does it mean to “love your enemy”? Some people seem to interpret that to mean that a Christian can never harm anyone even in self-defense or to prevent the loss of innocent life. So, what does it mean to “love your enemy” and what happens when that command conflicts with our other obligations, such as the protection of innocent life.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Man, we’ve got moral nitwits on here. Again, unapologetic catholic, for the LAST time, why do you (and your pacifistic brethren) apply rules and statements to INDIVIDUALS to governments??? Mind giving some references from the Bible you claim to know so well?
    Seriously, it’s like banging my head against the wall on here.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    ucfengr, I do believe that the Christian pacifists just like to ignore one aspect of God’s character for another. He’s only kind and gentle love, but He’s never justice, in their minds. Or at least, humans aren’t supposed to aspire to those same qualities.
    Ex-preacher, I figured you were against the death penalty. You can’t square that with Scripture (unless you take the view that the Old Testament is a secondary text and not inherently inspired by God). God clearly shows that JUSTICE is a key part of His character, and since we are made in His image and with His characteristics (albeit corrupted by sin), we should also desire justice. The earth screams out for justice. And part of justice is executing those who take innocent life. A healthy hermeneutical study of the ENTIRE Bible with all your modern day queasiness about execution left to the side will bring you to that same conclusion. I pray that God opens your eyes on this issue, cause I fear for a Christian who doesn’t basic morality and justice.

  • ucfengr

    Unapologetic Catholic, none of the verses you cite explicitly condemn the use of coercive interrogation techniques, I don’t think they even implicitly do. Let’s look at the words of Jesus, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37):
    On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
    What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
    He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
    But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
    In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
    Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
    The expert in the law replied, “The ones who had robbed on him.”
    Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
    Now, that’s not really what the expert in the law said, but essentially that is what you are arguing, that our neighbors are the people who rob us and leave us for dead. I don’t think that is what Jesus intended.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Boonton, Coulter did NOT call Edwards a fag, but what she WAS doing was ripping on the politically correct environment that requires people like Isaiah Washington to go into counseling when they do call people fags.
    Ahhh ok, so now how about Joe McCarthy was right all along…that’s satire too? You’ll have to bear with me since I’ve more or less written her off as not worth my time.
    Anyway, yea political correctness is really funny. Actually, though, it’s more like it’s funny that we have an environment where its frowned upon to call other people fags. I suppose the world would be a much better place if calling people fags was accepted as polite conversation.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    You know, a good movie to show this contrast between INDIVIDUAL morality and a government’s role as punisher of evil doing is “Munich.” In the film, Spielberg confuses the two as well. The main guy, who is sent by Israel to assassinate the terrorists involved in the planning of the Munich Olympic Games plot, feels strong feelings of guilt afterwards. Spielberg twists those feelings into implying that the whole mission was wrong. However, that is completely not the case. It was JUST and right for Israel to pursue the death of these men (though bringing them to justice via a court system was preferable perhaps, but that’s a side issue) so. It is completely understandable that the assassin feel conflicted over his personal role as a killer, but that doesn’t mean that the government was also wrong for trying to protect its citizens.

  • Darius

    Boonton…
    As opposed to a world where people sue over hurt feelings?

  • Marvin the Martian

    I suppose the world would be a much better place if calling people fags was accepted as polite conversation.
    Kind of like your side calling people racists, bigots, amongst other highly inflamatory rhetoric. Just ask Mumon.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    As opposed to a world where people sue over hurt feelings?
    If John Edwards sues someone for hurting his feelings please feel free to call him a fag.
    Kind of like your side calling people racists, bigots, amongst other highly inflamatory rhetoric. Just ask Mumon.
    The two are not at all the same. If I call you a faggot I’m simply hurling names at you. It’s no different than calling you a meathead, a jerk, an a**hole etc.
    If I call you a racist, I’m making a specific charge against you. That charge may be accurate in which case there’s nothing wrong with me making it. It may be innaccurate in which case you have every right to claim innocence and hurl your own charge at me for making a false accusation.
    If, after time, it becomes clear I charge racism whenever anyone just happens to disagree with me then I will be seen as a fool. Likewise, if I, ohhh, say, charge someone with treason in a like manner.

  • ex-preacher

    Darius, If you want to use a movie as the basis for your ethics, try watching any movie about the Nazis (say “The Nuremburg Trials”) and look for the “I was only following orders” defense. Wrong is wrong whether the government orders it or not. I seem to recall also a passage in Acts about whether one should obey God or man.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Joe Carter: “Whenever you hear someone say that the religious right is attempting to install a theocracy, simply say “You;re an idiot” and move on. … Really, anyone who says that-no matter how much they may try to nuance the word-is an idiot.”
    Joe, it’s ironic that you should write that. It really sounds like something Ann Coulter would say.
    Seriously, Ann Coulter is being wrongfully demonized. In the same fashion that Mike Huckabee was wrongfully demonized.

  • Marvin the Martian

    Hey ex-preacher…you never did answer my question as to what just how far you would go to protect the life(s) of those you love dearly.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    United,
    Joe’s problem is that he doesn’t have a coherent philosophy but he likes to think he does. A while ago he did something like a 20 part series on what conservatism should be. At the end he basically said it should be gov’t policies that support families. Not very helpful considering just about every policy idea can be framed in terms of ‘making families stronger’.
    So it’s not surprising he says incoherent things like Ann Coutler should be demonized for being a childish name caller but childish name calling is the best response to the charge of theocracy.

  • smmtheory

    “Odd statement that, considering that all of the authors of the New Testament were members of the ‘anti-biblical heirarchy’… and some of them even the leaders of said heirarchy.”
    Mind explaining how that is even close to true????

    All authors of the New Testament were members of the Church of Rome, which eventually became known as the Roman Catholic Church, of which the Pope is head. Saint Peter, the first bishop of Rome, was the first Pope. So if you are going to call the Catholic Church anti-biblical, you must not forget that the New Testament is essentially a collection of works by Catholic authors.

  • ex-preacher

    Marvin,
    I wrote and posted a response this morning, but it has not yet cleared Joe’s filter. Unfortunately, I didn’t save a copy so I’m hoping it will still come through. If it doesn’t appear by tomorrow, I’ll try to reconstruct it.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “All authors of the New Testament were members of the Church of Rome, which eventually became known as the Roman Catholic Church, of which the Pope is head.”
    Are there any historical documents that substantiate this claim?

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    They were members of the Church of Rome??? Really? That’s news to me.
    Let me explain better what I meant when I said that the Catholic Church is anti-Biblical (even to the point of heresy) in its structure/hierarchy. The Catholic church teaches people have to confess sins to a priest and that the Church still has to have a hierarchy of people who have more connection to God as you go up the ladder, so to speak. This is completely opposite of what was intended when God ripped the temple curtain in two when Jesus died. Jesus is our high Priest, and we can pray to Him and confess our sins to Him (ALONE!) and He will intercede on our behalf. The Catholic Church merely replaced the OT Jewish hierarchy with their own. Both are incorrect and not what was spelled out in the New Testament for Christians.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    ucfengr,

    I’m with you here, jd. The debate on torture is not about thumbscrews, the rack, and red hot pokers; it is about loud music, stress positions, and waterboarding. I think it is disingenuous for Joe and his ilk to not make that distinction.

    Au contraire. Waterboarding has traditionally be recognized by Christians as a form of torture, and was used extensively by the Spanish Inquisition. It was called “la toca” sometimes, but the name “la tortura del agua” was also commonly used.
    What about waterboarding makes it not a form of torture to you? Is it because it doesn’t leave physical harm on most of the people that it is used on? If someone were to engineer a way to make your brain simulate the sensation of having your flesh burned off, would that be torture or “politically incorrect interrogation?”

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Has anyone ever watched the tv series “24″? They do a pretty good job of showcasing the ethical dilemmas about torturing someone to get information which will hopefully save the lives of thousands, tens of thousands, or millions of people.
    Suppose you’re President of the United States. And a black ops group has captured a mastermind who’s about to nuke San Francisco in a matter of hours. And the only way to get the information in that short a timeframe is to torture the person. Whaddya gonna do? Let the people of San Francisco get blown up? Or do you authorize any and all means necessary to get the information to stop the nuclear bomb from blowing up San Francisco?
    ——-
    Jesus Christ was tortured to death by crucifixion. So were many of the apostles and martyrs throughout history.
    Hell could be construed as torture if its unending conscious torment.

  • Baggi

    All authors of the New Testament were members of the Church of Rome
    Nonesense. There was no “Church of Rome”.
    There were gathering of saints in Ephesus, and Phillipi, and Galatia, etc.
    But they were all members of the Church of Christ. That is to say, they were all members of his body.
    So in effect you are making a circular argument with your assertion. The scholars of the Bible were all members of Christ’s Church. Christ’s Church, the true Church, is the Catholic Church. Therefore, the authors of the Bible were all Catholic.
    Look up the word “fallacy” before you continue with the silly assertions.

  • jd

    What about waterboarding makes it not a form of torture to you?
    I think it’s the notion that I have experienced it pretty closely already, as has anyone who has ever panicked underwater. It is extremely unpleasant. Intellectually, I know that there is not going to be any harm because of it, but that doesn’t change the fact that I would do or say anything to get it to stop. It’s an ingenious, effective and largely benign “torture.”
    I can’t argue with Joe’s logic that it’s a form of torture, but if it’s on some guy like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, I’d say, “We got the information we need; now let’s do it again, until he sings at least one verse of ‘New York, New York’”

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    Suppose you’re President of the United States. And a black ops group has captured a mastermind who’s about to nuke San Francisco in a matter of hours. And the only way to get the information in that short a timeframe is to torture the person. Whaddya gonna do? Let the people of San Francisco get blown up? Or do you authorize any and all means necessary to get the information to stop the nuclear bomb from blowing up San Francisco?

    You allow them to break the law, and ask for forgiveness later. This is part of the reason why the President has the power to pardon people. Yes, I know, only bleeding liberal and/or corrupt presidents use the pardon, but it is a situation where the pardon was intended to be used.
    If you legalize torture, ever, it will become policy rather than something that may be justified after the fact and pardoned because it actually did some good that outweighed the act.

  • Rob

    “I can’t argue with Joe’s logic that it’s a form of torture, but if it’s on some guy like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, I’d say, “We got the information we need; now let’s do it again, until he sings at least one verse of ‘New York, New York’”"
    What a despicable comment. Would you stoop to the level of the terrorists?
    I like to think we are better than that. I like to think we show our enemies more compassion than they deserve. I would like for our nation to show the world how a civilized people behaves.

  • ucfengr

    Au contraire. Waterboarding has traditionally be recognized by Christians as a form of torture, and was used extensively by the Spanish Inquisition. It was called “la toca” sometimes, but the name “la tortura del agua” was also commonly used.
    MikeT, did you read my post before you ‘cut and pasted’ it? Where did I say that waterboarding is or isn’t torture? What I did say is that we need to distinguish between waterboarding and things like hot pokers and thumbscrews; things that are more generally accepted as torture, as opposed to waterboarding, whose status is more ambiguous.
    What about waterboarding makes it not a form of torture to you? Is it because it doesn’t leave physical harm on most of the people that it is used on?
    That is certainly one of the things that distinguishes it from thumbscrews, pulling out fingernails, hot pokers, etc.
    If someone were to engineer a way to make your brain simulate the sensation of having your flesh burned off, would that be torture or “politically incorrect interrogation?”
    I’m already working on something like that in my basement. Would you care to be a test subject?
    What a despicable comment. Would you stoop to the level of the terrorists?
    Rob, I really don’t understand how “torturing” a terrorist to prevent a terror attack is the same as committing the terror attack yourself. Do you also equate US soldiers killing terrorists with terrorists killing school children?

  • doulos tou theou

    Nick,
    Scripture is silent on what Cornelius did after his conversion
    I don’t mean to be critical but I think it’s of paramount importance to let the authority of Holy Scripture speak on its own behalf and not add hypothetical events to it that make our theological system more defensible.
    That said, I understand you didn’t intend to go down this route, and I’ll have to put Yoder on my reading list. Thanks for the pointer, and for rightly calling me out on the unjudicious use of not welcome.
    Ex,
    I do find it a bit humorous that some want to use David and Gideon as rationalizations for Christian soldiering. I doubt those same people would argue that the polygamy of those two provides a good example for Christians today (we won’t even get into David’s naked dancing as part of worship).
    Forgive me if you think it unkind, but I’m not certain whether this was meant as a back-handed comment or an argument which you wanted a response to.
    Giving you the benefit of the doubt, a person as educated as you seem to be must understand that when Holy Scripture speaks well of someone it is not necessarily condoning every choice that person ever made (particularly when it comes to societal norms). At the same time, if someone’s very profession in life were in disobedience to God that would be a radically different proposition.
    For example, if I said “that ex-preacher seems like a genuinely warm and caring person” no rational person would assume I meant you never did anything unwarm or uncaring in your life. On the other hand, if your profession was that of a neo-Nazi militiaman I think it’d be hard to rationalize my characterizing you as warm or caring.

  • smmtheory

    Nonesense. There was no “Church of Rome”.

    Church of Rome is just one of the nicknames given to the Catholic Church, mostly because the seat of the Holy See was established there long before it was moved to France and then back again.

    There were gathering of saints in Ephesus, and Phillipi, and Galatia, etc.

    And Rome… the very first book in the New Tesatament by the Saint Paul is the letter to the Romans. Or did Protestants throw that one out?

    But they were all members of the Church of Christ. That is to say, they were all members of his body.

    Indeed, and they still are despite being labeled anti-biblical.

    So in effect you are making a circular argument with your assertion. The scholars of the Bible were all members of Christ’s Church. Christ’s Church, the true Church, is the Catholic Church. Therefore, the authors of the Bible were all Catholic.
    Look up the word “fallacy” before you continue with the silly assertions.

    If I am making a circular argument, you are helping. And also according to some people, I shall go to Hell for continuing to follow the fellow they called the Anti-Christ at the head of the Catholic Church. If you are offended by my calling the Catholic Church the Church of Rome, then this Papist apologizes… for whatever that might be worth to you.

  • smmtheory

    Oh, and I should think that Darius calling the Catholic Church anti-biblical would be a better example of a circular argument than my meager attempt to point that out.

  • smmtheory

    I would like for our nation to show the world how a civilized people behaves.

    We tried, and ended up with a crater in Manhattan as payback for our attempts.

  • http://www.dailyduck.blogspot.com Robert Duquette

    that God’s existence matters, much less that he is always right;
    Was the slaughter of 6 million Jews by the Nazis right? What does it say about god that this happened? If it was wrong, then how can it have happened, if he is always right? If what happens on Earth has no correlation to what he wants, then why does his existence matter?
    If the Union had not won the war, would that have meant that the South was on god’s side?
    You can read the tea leaves of history to try to discern what god wants if you wish. To me, if history follows gods will, then god is a psychopath. I’d rather just follow what I think is right.

  • http://www.dailyduck.blogspot.com Robert Duquette

    It is not enough to simply baptize the conservative agenda; our political beliefs must be derived from our Biblical worldview. Doing that, however, requires developing such a worldview and knowing how to derive political policy prescriptions from the principles.
    Why not just start with your political beliefs and derive your Biblical worldview from that? That’s what everyone else does. If you did what you are proposing, then you’d have to develop a policy for witchcraft. Does not the Bible say “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”? What have you Christian Conservatives done lately to stem the tide of witchcraft?

  • http://www.dailyduck.blogspot.com Robert Duquette

    One– As a matter of political liberty I believe it is important that we support such issues as prayer in schools and public displays of religious symbols.
    Are you talking about voluntary, individual prayer, or mandatory group prayer? If the latter, how does that comport with political liberty, or more importantly, religious liberty?
    And do you want public displays of religious symbols or, more accurately, public displays of Christian symbols? Would you be happy if your children went to a school that displayed Wiccan symbols?

  • http://www.dailyduck.blogspot.com Robert Duquette

    And finally, number ten — America is not a “Christian nation”
    Halleluia!

  • ucfengr

    Was the slaughter of 6 million Jews by the Nazis right?
    Why is it wrong? Those 6 million Jews would be dead one way or another anyway; what difference does it make if they died in a gas chamber or if they died from cancer? Deads dead.

  • jd

    MikeT You allow them to break the law, and ask for forgiveness later. This is part of the reason why the President has the power to pardon people. Yes, I know, only bleeding liberal and/or corrupt presidents use the pardon, but it is a situation where the pardon was intended to be used.
    If you legalize torture, ever, it will become policy rather than something that may be justified after the fact and pardoned because it actually did some good that outweighed the act.
    I tend to agree with that sentiment. It’s just all the holier than thou posturing from the usual suspects here that is troublesome. Read the comment by Rob above to see what I mean. He is more angry about my “despicable” comment here, on a blog, than, for example, the “not so despicable” million and a half abortions a year that are legal.

  • jd

    RobertDuquette What have you Christian Conservatives done lately to stem the tide of witchcraft?
    Personally, I voted for Obama in the primary. That ought to help.

  • jd

    RobertDuquette What have you Christian Conservatives done lately to stem the tide of witchcraft?
    Personally, I voted for Obama in the primary. That ought to help.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I think it’s the notion that I have experienced it pretty closely already, as has anyone who has ever panicked underwater. It is extremely unpleasant. Intellectually, I know that there is not going to be any harm because of it, but that doesn’t change the fact that I would do or say anything to get it to stop. It’s an ingenious, effective and largely benign “torture.”
    You then would have no objection if it was used on American troops who might be captured by an enemy? You would also support a public apology by this country to anyone it prosecuted for using waterboarding on Americans or allies?
    Suppose you’re President of the United States. And a black ops group has captured a mastermind who’s about to nuke San Francisco in a matter of hours.
    So that explains why the army chick was leading the guy around in a dog collar. See what the uneducated eye misses.
    jd
    Personally, I voted for Obama in the primary. That ought to help.
    So bad it’s good!

  • http://www.dailyduck.blogspot.com Robert Duquette

    Why is it wrong? Those 6 million Jews would be dead one way or another anyway; what difference does it make if they died in a gas chamber or if they died from cancer? Deads dead.
    It matters that they were not accorded the full natural extent of their lives to find meaning and happiness. It matters that they were subjected to such inhuman and unjustified suffering and pain. It isn’t immortality that gives life dignity and meaning.
    I could argue that it is the immortality of the afterlife that makes Earthly life meaningless. What is the point of extending an earthly life when an immortality awaits?

  • ucfengr

    You then would have no objection if it was used on American troops who might be captured by an enemy?
    I would, but then again I don’t equate US troops with terrorists. I also don’t think we should use it on apostates or ladies who show a little too much leg.

  • http://www.dailyduck.blogspot.com Robert Duquette

    Personally, I voted for Obama in the primary. That ought to help.
    That was a good first step. But what will you do about this?

  • ucfengr

    It matters that they were not accorded the full natural extent of their lives to find meaning and happiness.
    Are you similarly outraged by people who die in car accidents? After all “they were not accorded the full natural extent of the lives” either.
    It matters that they were subjected to such inhuman and unjustified suffering and pain.
    Inhuman and unjustified by who’s standard? The people who committed the acts felt justified and probably didn’t question their status as humans.
    It isn’t immortality that gives life dignity and meaning.
    Dignity and meaning are Western constructs that serve largely to justify the West’s sense of moral superiority over, shall we say, darker hued people.

  • http://positiveliberty.com Jon Rowe

    Wrong is wrong whether the government orders it or not. I seem to recall also a passage in Acts about whether one should obey God or man.
    I’ve done a lot of study of Romans 13 the past year or so. The traditional biblical response is: It’s more about submission than obedience. Submit to government authorities. Follow your conscience and obey God. And if doing so leads you to break the law, than accept the legitimacy of the punishment or the civil system that punishes you (i.e., don’t rebel against it). If you don’t like it you may work within the system to change it.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I would, but then again I don’t equate US troops with terrorists.
    Why would it matter? If water boarding isn’t torture then an enemy using it on captured US troops would be no different than an enemy, say, playing their annoying foreign music rather than letting them hear MTV.

  • ScottSp64

    Joe,
    You wrote:
    “Nine — Our beliefs are often informed by tradition and sacred texts. This does not, as our ideological opponents often claim, make them invalid. But it does make it necessary to ?translate? them when we bring them into the public square. I firmly believe that the Bible is true and authoritative for both the Christian and the non-believer. But premising a political argument on “Because the Bible says so?” is rarely effective or convincing.
    Fortunately, God also gives us general revelation-conscience, rationality, empirical observation-which is often more effective in expressing His foundational principles in a way that non-believers can accept and understand. We must use these tools to make obvious the connections that are often overlooked. For instance, we can use logic to show how same-sex marriage affects religious liberty or use empirical research to show how family structure influences poverty. It is not enough to be right. We must also be persuasive.”

    Well that reminded me of the following which I recently read:

    “This brings us to a different point – the manner in which religious views should inform public debate and guide elected officials. Surely, secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square; Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American History – not only were motivated by faith but repeatedly used religious language to argue their causes. To say that men and women should not inject their “personal morality” into public-policy debates is a practical absurdity; our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo Christian Tradition.
    What our deliberative, pluralistic democracy does demand is that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals must be subject to to argument and amenable to reason. If I am opposed to abortion for religious reasons and seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or invoke God’s will and expect that argument to carry the day. If I want others to listen to me, then I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”

    So, it turns out Joe, that you and Barack Obama agree on something. That quote is from “The Audacity of Hope” (p218-219 Paperback edition).
    Scott

  • ScottSp64

    As for torture, I believe (or hope) even you pro-torture (to humor you I’ll call it pro-waterboarding) people would agree it should only be used in the most of extreme situations, such as the ticking time bomb scenario. The thing is, what has been pretty well established by people who have studied the matter is that Intel produced by torture is pretty much worthless because the person being tortured will say “WHATEVER HIS TORTURERS WANT TO HEAR” rather than the truth, especially in the ticking time bomb situation.
    Torture (including waterboarding) is immoral and ineffective.
    Scott

  • ucfengr

    Why would it matter? If water boarding isn’t torture then an enemy using it on captured US troops would be no different than an enemy, say, playing their annoying foreign music rather than letting them hear MTV.
    Number one, I haven’t said that water boarding is or isn’t torture; what I have said is that it is a coercive interrogation technique. Number two, I have not said that I thought water boarding appropriate in all situations. In comment 28 I outlined my beliefs on water boarding:
    “I feel the same way about “waterboarding” and other coercive interrogation methods. For the most part, I think they are wrong, and I don’t think we should “waterboard” every captured terrorist or even most, but when innocent life is at imminent risk, protection of that life should take precedent over our desire not to “waterboard”.”
    I am not a moral absolutist on “water boarding” etc.; I am moral objectivist; IOW I believe that when we have conflicting moral precepts, protection of innocent life takes precedence.

  • ucfengr

    The thing is, what has been pretty well established by people who have studied the matter is that Intel produced by torture is pretty much worthless because the person being tortured will say “WHATEVER HIS TORTURERS WANT TO HEAR” rather than the truth, especially in the ticking time bomb situation.
    The thing is, nothing of the sort has been established. To my knowledge, we have only used “water boarding” on three occasions and in at least two of those it “extremely fruitful“.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    ucfengr,

    things that are more generally accepted as torture, as opposed to waterboarding, whose status is more ambiguous.

    I read your comment, which is why I posted the link to the Spanish Inquisition and waterboarding. The fact is that waterboarding has been regarded by the West for hundreds of years as a real form of torture, without “ambiguity.”
    If it is ambiguous to you, then perhaps that’s a sign that you are having a hard time accepting the fact that torture is a form of interrogation that relies on pain to extract information out of a target. Torture has traditionally only been used to make people suffer and to get false confessions.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    ucfengr, I don’t think the moral simpletons on here understand moral objectivism. If a Nazi would have asked them where some hiding Jews were during WWII, they would have told them since lying is wrong. To them, morals and ethics never come into conflict. It must be nice to live such an intellectually lazy and convenient existence.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    I have no problem calling waterboarding “torture,” and if that is the case, then not all torture is always wrong.
    Scott, you are completely wrong about the usefulness of harsh interrogation. As ucfengr linked to in his comment, waterboarding has been quite successful. You are correct, terrorists will tell the interrogator anything he wants to hear to stop the waterboarding. What you seem to forget is that the terrorists know plenty, and thus have plenty to say that the interrogator wants to hear.

  • ucfengr

    ucfengr, I don’t think the moral simpletons on here understand moral objectivism. If a Nazi would have asked them where some hiding Jews were during WWII, they would have told them since lying is wrong. To them, morals and ethics never come into conflict. It must be nice to live such an intellectually lazy and convenient existence.
    We in the US are very lucky in that most of us have never had to face true moral dilemmas (i.e. ones more complex than choosing between maintaining our diet and eating that second piece of cheesecake). The problem arises in that most think they will never have to.

  • ucfengr

    The fact is that waterboarding has been regarded by the West for hundreds of years as a real form of torture, without “ambiguity.”
    Well, apparently some ambiguity has arisen, else wise we would not be having this debate.

  • ScottSp64

    ucfengr said

    The thing is, nothing of the sort has been established. To my knowledge, we have only used “water boarding” on three occasions and in at least two of those it “extremely fruitful”.

    Read your link and as for its “fruifulness”, I confess I won’t believe anything fed to the public from the Bush administration unless it can be independently verified. Sorry that just where I am with this administration, I just don’t believe much of what they say. That article you linked was just BushRovian talking points.
    Here’s another perspective.
    Also, Ive added this book to my wishlist at Amazon, but my understanding is the scholar looks at centuries of torture and pursues the question of whether or not torture is effective. Can’t wait to read it.
    However, even if it could be proven to be effective, I still think it crosses an unacceptable line, even in the most extreme of circumstances.
    Scott

  • ucfengr

    You are correct, terrorists will tell the interrogator anything he wants to hear to stop the waterboarding. What you seem to forget is that the terrorists know plenty, and thus have plenty to say that the interrogator wants to hear.
    This is a bit of a misunderstanding of what happens during an interrogation. Before a person is ever subject to interrogation, the interrogators have been provided with a lot of information from other sources. This makes it hard for the subject to lie because he doesn’t know what his interrogators know, and since it his lies that instigate the harsher techniques, he has a lot of incentive to be truthful. Modern interrogation is not just throwing a suspect in the dungeon and going to work on him.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Exactly, ucfengr! The point of waterboarding is not to inflict harm or pain, but to verify information and gather more.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Darius,
    I’m a conservative evangelical. This blog attracts a good number of people who are not. Thus the starting presuppositions will be different in your interactions with those who don’t profess Christ.
    It’s challenging, to put it mildly. I don’t have the time for such challenges; yet I’m glad that there are Christians who do.
    God bless.

  • ucfengr

    Read your link and as for its “fruifulness”, I confess I won’t believe anything fed to the public from the Bush administration unless it can be independently verified.
    Yeah, that Reuters is pretty well known as the “Re-thug-lican” house organ. Also Michael Hayden, current director of the CIA, was also director of NSA during the Clinton Administration, so you can’t believe anything he says.

  • Marvin the Martian

    However, even if it could be proven to be effective, I still think it crosses an unacceptable line, even in the most extreme of circumstances.
    Scott

    It is easy for you to take your “moral high ground” stance. You aren’t responsible for protecting the lives of the citizenry. Walk a day in the life of a president. Feel the weight of the burden, knowing that hundreds of millions lives are your responsibility to protect. Compound that with living through the tragedy that was 9/11. Get the daily intelligence briefings that will inform you of far more horrific plots than you could fathom.
    Once you do that, then tell us that you would think that it is always unacceptable, even in the ticking bomb scenario.
    I will pose the same question to you that I posed to someone else who agrees with your sentiment. Make it personal. If you have a child, your own flesh and blood, and that child is abducted by a pedophile. The pedophile is captured and confesses that after he had his way with your child, he left your child for dead, but still breathing, a short time prior to capture. You are left alone with the pedophile. How far would you go to make him tell you where your child is located, knowing full well that as each hour passes, the clock is ticking on the life of your precious child?

  • ScottSp64

    ucfengr,
    I read the wiki article. Thanks. I learned that Hayden is a Bush appointee who has instituted programs to spy on Americans contrary to our Constitution. Every comment regarding the efficacy of torture in that Reuters article was simply a quote from Hayden , so yeah, it was from the Bush administration, therefore I will not accept it as true without verification.
    Scott

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Good point, Truth Unites.

  • ScottSp64

    Marvin,
    you said

    I will pose the same question to you that I posed to someone else who agrees with your sentiment. Make it personal. If you have a child, your own flesh and blood, and that child is abducted by a pedophile. The pedophile is captured and confesses that after he had his way with your child, he left your child for dead, but still breathing, a short time prior to capture. You are left alone with the pedophile. How far would you go to make him tell you where your child is located, knowing full well that as each hour passes, the clock is ticking on the life of your precious child?

    Good question. I don’t know. I would hope that my response would not be sinful and immoral and contrary to God’s law. But it probably would be. Later I would cling to the gospel (I hope).
    Thats a different question, however, from what our public policy should be.
    Scott

  • Marvin the Martian

    Thats a different question, however, from what our public policy should be.
    Scott

    Is it really that different though? Instead of one individual life at stake, with the ticking bomb scenario, there could be hundreds of thousands of lives at stake. All those lives are precious to someone. They are all someones son/daughter, mother/father, bother/sister.
    As to your question about whether it would be contrary to God’s law, ponder this. If God saw fit to subject his only begotton Son to brutal torture and execution for the sake of the greatest good, that is the salvation for those who believe; then why is it so hard to conceive that maybe, just maybe, God would see the greater good in doing some harm to a thug for the sake of protecting hundreds of thousands, maybe millions?

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    ucfengr,

    Well, apparently some ambiguity has arisen, else wise we would not be having this debate.

    Ambiguity exists on whether abortion is murder as well. Doesn’t mean that there should be ambiguity there.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    Marvin,
    You, ucfengr and Darius need to face up to the fact that the sort of Jack Bauer moments where torture is going to be clearly justified are going to be statistically insignificant. What will be statistically significant if you allow torture, including waterboarding, is having it used wherever the government feels it will do some good. The lot of you are working from the very ivory tower that Darius complained about earlier when you think there won’t be serious mission creep if torture is allowed as policy.
    The reason the President has the power to pardon is to allow for mercy in cases where it is called for. It would be called for if someone used torture to save hundreds of lives, but if allowing it becomes policy, it’ll eventually slip down into mundane policy.
    You’re too caught up in Christian notions of mercy and grace to realize that God still demands vengeance through the state for those who break His laws in ways that are not justified by the gospel. I, for one, would take no pity on a government agent who tortured the wrong person to save a life. If they want grace, then they have to get it right, otherwise God’s justice demands that the state shed the blood of the agent who committed violence against an innocent party, even if it were in good faith on the agent’s part.

  • Marvin the Martian

    What will be statistically significant if you allow torture, including waterboarding, is having it used wherever the government feels it will do some good.
    This is a strawman Scott. What you say is not current policy. Waterboarding has been used very sparingly, it has been used as a last resort type tactic, and has yielded very good intell when it was used.
    The reason the President has the power to pardon is to allow for mercy in cases where it is called for.
    And if the president himself authorizes the method to save lives, what then? The president cannot pardon himself. And there is no assurance that the next president would do so as well.
    it’ll eventually slip down into mundane policy.
    How can you possibly know this?

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    MikeT,
    I agree with you that waterboarding is torture. Indeed, just playing loud noise or music could, under certain circumstances, also constitute torture.
    Inflicting severe pain, discomfort, and/or fear and distress in the goal of breaking someone’s will to resistance, their will to withhold information, is a deeply serious and disturbing thing to consider and to do.
    Moreover, waterboarding or any other kind of torture would never be justified as to either punish a crime or to satisfy a sadistic urge for revenge.
    However, as far as we know, we have only tortured three high-profile terrorist prisoners in the past six and a half years. We have only tortured them to get vital, life-saving information that was otherwise unavailable. And, as far as we know, the torture was effective or at least partially effective in getting life-saving information.
    One could try to dismiss this successful use of torture as “statistically insignificant”. But what does “statistically insignificant” mean?
    We have no way of knowing how many lives were saved by the information produce by the torture. So allow me to ask a hypothetical: what number of lives saved could have possibly justified the torture that we inflicted? 100 million, 1 million, 10 thousand, 1 hundred, 5 or 6?
    I don’t know the answer. But I suspect that when it comes to a person whom we know is actively plotting to kill thousands or people, if we strongly suspect that waterboarding that person could save even one life, than I think that would be a sufficient justification.
    If I am wrong, I am ready to hear you explain why.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    I guess what all of us “pro-torture” people would like to know is an explanation of why waterboarding or other harsh or worse methods of interrogation are wrong. For the sake of the argument, let’s assume they all qualify as torture. Why is it wrong to subject a person to non-lethal pressure to save innocent lives? All of the anti-torture people on here seem to think that torture is prima facie wrong. But assuming the wrongness of torture isn’t self-evident, explain why it is ALWAYS wrong. For Christians, explain how your anti-torture position is consistent with an honest reading of the ENTIRE Bible.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    The “Torture Is Always Wrong, No Exceptions” people are torturing me with their pseudo-logic and emotive rants.
    Follow your own advice and stop torturing me!
    ;-)

  • Rob

    ucfengr: “Rob, I really don’t understand how “torturing” a terrorist to prevent a terror attack is the same as committing the terror attack yourself.”
    That is not the part of the comment I was referring to, although I do oppose torture in all cases. You might want to look at that comment again. It alluded to torturing for entertainment. Now jd is trying to change the subject to abortion in a vain pursuit of some high ground. Too late, jd. Your credibility is shot.
    smmtheory: “We tried [to show the world how a civilized people behaves], and ended up with a crater in Manhattan as payback for our attempts.”
    Oh, that’s right. Never mind, then, let’s just give up since it will possibly never work.
    Darius: “ucfengr, I don’t think the moral simpletons on here understand moral objectivism. If a Nazi would have asked them where some hiding Jews were during WWII, they would have told them since lying is wrong.”
    Nobody believes this, Darius, not even you, because no one here is quite that stupid. I’m not as willing as you are to assume others are simpletons.
    I think all the support I see for Ann Coulter from some of my fellow commenters is very telling. I’m glad Joe has it right with regard to this person. I often disagree with Joe, but at least he places his sincere faith above narrow political posturing. I don’t understand how supposed Christians can approve of torture and demagoguery.

  • Marvin the Martian

    I don’t understand how supposed Christians can approve of torture
    This is another strawman. I don’t approve of torture in general. No one on this thread has advocated that. What the Christians here are saying is that in some rare instances, it (by it I mean waterboarding) is justifiable.
    Using your logic, if I kill someone who breaks into my house with the intent on harming me and my family, then I am guilty of murder, on par morally with a pre-meditated slaying because killing is wrong no matter what the case may be. There is no such thing as a justifiable homicide if I apply your reasoning on “torture” to the above scenario.

  • smmtheory

    Oh, that’s right. Never mind, then, let’s just give up since it will possibly never work.

    I didn’t say we should give up though. But for all our troubles, we get the terrorists who practice torture for pleasure and punishment and now you at home calling us uncivilized and telling us we are not any better than the terrorists. This despite the fact that we hadn’t used water-boarding even sparingly before that crater in Manhattan. So you think providing a good example will chasten the fellows who would burn you and rip strips of your skin off just for pleasure?
    Oh, that’s right, you think the crater in Manhattan was our fault. The fellows who did it just wanted to provide us with an example of civilized behavior, is that right?

  • ucfengr

    Darius said:
    “ucfengr, I don’t think the moral simpletons on here understand moral objectivism. If a Nazi would have asked them where some hiding Jews were during WWII, they would have told them since lying is wrong.”
    Rob responded:
    Nobody believes this, Darius, not even you, because no one here is quite that stupid. I’m not as willing as you are to assume others are simpletons.
    Nobody believes this? I am not sure, because it is not clear that you have given any serious thought into how to resolve these moral dilemmas. It’s easy in the abstract to say that “we should never torture”, but what happens when real lives are at stake? Then the moral calculus changes and real people have to make hard choices. Would you have them sacrifice you or your family to your ideals? I wouldn’t, not only would I not be willing to sacrifice my family, but I wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice yours either. If you think that makes you better than me, that’s your problem. I can face my Maker with a clear conscience, at least on that matter.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Ucfengr,
    Joe Carter may have stumbled across the solution to the waterboarding dilemma.
    The next high-profile terrorist we capture, just lock him in a room for four or five hours with Ann Coulter!
    And if we keep Ann busy enough as an interrogator, she might not have enough time on her hands to write those trasy books of hers. Two birds with one stone — and Ann would enjoy herself as well.
    There’d have to be extremely strict guidelines in place against deploying Ann against U.S. nationals, of course, like the ones the CIA is supposed to observe.

  • ucfengr

    The next high-profile terrorist we capture, just lock him in a room for four or five hours with Ann Coulter!
    Curse you for thinking of this before me. Damn you to Heck, Matthew Goggins. Damn you to Heck.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Ucfengr,
    Curse you… [etc.]
    I will only consent to serve time in Heck if it is more fun than the E.O.
    But a cursing from you is high praise indeed. Please accept my sincere gratitude, Ucf-sensei (先生).

  • http://TheAmericanView.com John Lofton, Recovering Republican

    William F. Buckley’s “Conservative Movement” Still-Born, Dead-On-Arrival, Decades Ago, Because It Was Godless, Against Christ, Ignored God’s Word
    “Except the Lord build the house they labour in vain who build it.” — Psalm 127:1..
    By John Lofton, Editor
    The Lord Jesus Christ did not build the “conservative movement” house. Thus, it was a house built on sand, it fell and great has been the fall of it, a recent example of this fall being the “conservative movement’s” support for President of George W. Bush who has given us the most Godless, unconstitutional, debt-ridden, big spending Federal Government in our history.
    Even though most of its “leaders” claimed to be Christians, the “conservative movement” was dead-on-arrival because, from the beginning, it’s political plan was Godless, against Christ, and ignored the Bible. This “movement” vainly imagined succeeding without honoring Christ, succeeding through bread-alone, flesh-and-blood-only-politics when God tells us the REAL battle is a spiritual war which must be fought in the full-armor of God (Ephesians 6:10ff).
    An example of the Godlessness I allude to occurred when I was on Bill Buckley’s “Firing Line” program June 24, 1987. Referring to him having told Malcolm Muggeridge that he (Buckley) did not believe there was a Christian means of organizing society, I asked Bill: “Wouldn’t God’s Laws, wouldn’t the Laws of Christ be a means of organizing a society?” Buckley said: “No. Noƒ.The consent of the governed in societies ruled by the people is the ultimate source of authority.”
    Alexander Solzhenitsyn was once asked how just a few Communists could take over his country when it had a thousand years of being Christian? He replied: “We forgot God.” The leaders of the “conservative movement,” politically-speaking, forgot God. They forgot that the Lord Jesus Christ is Lord over ALL, including politics. They forgot that He is King of kings, Lord of lords, with ALL power in Heaven and on earth. They forgot Psalm 2:12 commands: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
    I know all of what I say here is true because, from the inside, I ran with this “conservative movement” from the mid-1960s to 1980 when God, by His grace alone, raptured me from among this Christless crowd Ð something for which, literally, I will be eternally grateful
    To hear much more on this subject, please click here to hear the latest “The American View” radioshow 145
    http://www.theamericanview.com/dictator/media/997/show_145.mp3
    If you’d like to interview John Lofton, you may reach him by calling: 301-873-4612; 410-760-8885; or by email: JLof@aol.com.
    Press Release Sent to the Christian Newswire; for release March 3, 2008; 7 am EST.

  • jd

    Boonton You would also support a public apology by this country to anyone it prosecuted for using waterboarding on Americans or allies?
    Absolutely. No question.
    But an apology of this sort could only be made by someone with the experience, gravitas and sincerity of a true world-class groveler.
    Only one man would do.
    Only Bill Clinton is up to the job. If he was busy apologizing to some other country, his wife could do it. She has finally found her voice as a genuine purveyor of contrition for all Americans who feel that apologies should be made most especially when they are not deserved and when the apology has no meaning to anyone whatsoever.

  • Rob

    “Oh, that’s right, you think the crater in Manhattan was our fault.”
    When all else fails, set up the straw man. Give yout opponent an outrageous opinion he has never expressed and, in fact, does not hold. You must like the new guy, Darius. He claims that he isn’t sure whether I’d lie to save a Jewish family because I wouldn’t torture a terrorist, as if no distinctions could be drawn between the two actions.
    How phony can you get?

  • ucfengr

    You must like the new guy, Darius. He claims that he isn’t sure whether I’d lie to save a Jewish family because I wouldn’t torture a terrorist, as if no distinctions could be drawn between the two actions.
    Actually I am not a “new guy”; I’ve been commenting here quite a while, and secondly I didn’t say it wasn’t because you wouldn’t torture a terrorist, I said “I am not sure [you wouldn't lie to save someone], because it is not clear that you have given any serious thought into how to resolve these moral dilemmas”.
    From comment 28:
    Romans 13:1-2 says “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
    During the Second World War, a Dutch woman Corrie ten Boom (link in original) hid Jews in her home in Haarlem, Holland. By doing so she was defying the governing authorities, in effect rebelling against God.
    So, how do you reconcile your absolutist position on torture with relativistic position on rebelling against God?

  • smmtheory

    When all else fails, set up the straw man. Give yout opponent an outrageous opinion he has never expressed and, in fact, does not hold.

    Strawman? Naaah, it would have to be an argument for that label to apply. No, that was just a snide remark in response to the implication that unless the U.S. advertises to terrorists that we will never use agressive interrogation techniques, the terrorists will never consider not torturing and maiming people for pleasure, and nothing else the U.S. could do applies to providing a good example of civilized behavior. Of course, if it really mattered to you, you could clarify the impression your misguided remark left instead of insinuating that I was even attempting to debunk some sort of non-existent argument you made.

  • http://www.vaonlineservices.com jon

    Great post and comments, i sit here thinking.

  • Rob

    “Actually I am not a ‘new guy’”
    ucfengr: I am aware of that, having posted since ’04 under my full name. I no longer do that as it led to problems for me with certain others. I was referring to Darius, and it was his comment about lying to save a Jewish family that I referred to. And the crater comment was smmtheory’s; I don’t know why you thought I was addressing my comment to you.
    “So, how do you reconcile your absolutist position on torture with relativistic position on rebelling against God?”
    First off, I am an atheist, so biblical precepts get no special treatment from me. I like some of them, though. For me, it just makes good sense for our government not to torture. I think it hurts us more than it helps us.
    Darius: “If you can’t be harsh to a known terrorist to save thousands of lives, how could you lie to save one or two lives?”
    Several distinctions can be drawn between these two scenarios. First, when I lie to protect the Jewish family, I am not acting as an agent of my government. My action will not reflect poorly on my nation or adversely affect world opinion. Second, I consider the “torture to save thousands” scenario to be very farfetched. I think our policy should aim to work as effectively as possible within certain acceptable moral parameters rather than hedging a long-shot bet. I’m quite willing to risk the farfetched scenario by doing the right thing. Life is full of risks, and we have to choose our risks wisely. I think we risk more by allowing our government to sanction torture than we do by simply saying we will not do it under any circumstances.
    I’m always dumbfounded when people try to personalize these issues. That is exactly the wrong way to think about these things. Emotion is quite often the enemy of reason. If someone killed my family, there is no telling how I would respond in my rage and anguish if I thought I could get away with it; maybe I wouldn’t even care if I could get away with it. I don’t want the behavior that I myself might be tempted to adopt to be considered acceptable in our society. That is exactly the sort of response I think our government should avoid. Our government serves many millions of people. We need to put our risks and losses in perspective. We don’t need to wreck the car because a bee is inside it.
    It isn’t waterboarding or fighting in Iraq that keeps our country safe; I think these things add to our risk rather than ameliorating it.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Rob,
    You have written an eloquent defense of your position on torture. I cannot find anything to disagree with with, for everything you say is true. I don’t think torture should be our policy either.
    I do think that a handful of waterboarding cases should probably have been allowed as exceptions to the general policy against waterboarding.
    I do disagree with you about Iraq, though, for two reasons.
    First, I am not sure that, even in the short term, invading Iraq has increased our risks. Libya was disarmed, Iran was intimidated for about a year, Saddam and his regime were deposed, the North Korean/Pakistan nuclear network were exposed — these things are all huge in themselves.
    Were jihadis more inflamed by our actions than they would have otherwise been? I really doubt it, but I do admit it’s possible.
    However, those jihadis will not be so inflamed if we win in Iraq, where winning means we set up a successful, moderate, terror-hating democracy that can survive on its own two feet. Most jihadis will have the wind taken out of their sails by such an outcome.
    So perhaps jihadi recruitment has been given a boost, but only in the short term. If we win, the prospects for the terror-mongers will be looking pretty grim.
    We lived in a fairly racist world prior to World War II. After the Allies defeated the master races of Germany and Japan, the adherents of racial superiority went into shock and decline, and have not recovered since. Is there any reason to believe that we can’t do the same thing to jihadis if we commit ourselves to victory?

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    First, I am not sure that, even in the short term, invading Iraq has increased our risks. Libya was disarmed, Iran was intimidated for about a year, Saddam and his regime were deposed, the North Korean/Pakistan nuclear network were exposed — these things are all huge in themselves.
    Lybia’s decision to disarm was the result of a long diplomatic front that climaxed around the time of the invasion. It’s easy to assume the two were related if you didn’t bother to dig too deeply into the story.
    I’m not sure how North Korea was ‘exposed’ by the Iraq invasion. It was well known that NK was going after a nuke before the Iraqi invasion and it’s possible they have one today.
    Pakistan tested its first nuclear weapon in 1998, long before an Iraqi invasion was on anyone’s radar screen.
    Iran does not seem to have been intimidated at all. They seem to have almost as much influence in Iraq as the US does. The object lesson of the Iraqi invasion was the best insurance policy for a ‘rouge nation’ against US invasion is to quickly finish a nuke.
    However, those jihadis will not be so inflamed if we win in Iraq, where winning means we set up a successful, moderate, terror-hating democracy that can survive on its own two feet. Most jihadis will have the wind taken out of their sails by such an outcome.
    Doubtful, Iraq was never very fertile ground for jihadists to begin with. Unlike Saudi Arabia it has a religiously diverse population and it does not have so much oil wealth that it can support a large class of idle rich who can afford to make supporting radicals a pet hobby. The civil war that we seem to be spending a lot to keep a lid on doesn’t seem to be between civil minded citizens and terrorists but different ethnic gangs who use terrorism to win terrority and influence. A stable, democratic Iraq would be a great thing but face it, the neoconservative dream of turning Iraq into the Middle East’s America is long gone at this point. Even if it did happen, it’s doubtful it would directly impact actual terrorist groups. There are moderate regimes in the Middle East such as the UAE and even democratic ones like Turkey. That hasn’t had any noticable impact on the tiny bands that want to dedicate themselves to terrorism.
    We lived in a fairly racist world prior to World War II. After the Allies defeated the master races of Germany and Japan, the adherents of racial superiority went into shock and decline, and have not recovered since. Is there any reason to believe that we can’t do the same thing to jihadis if we commit ourselves to victory?
    Once again, and hopefully for the last time.
    WWII != The Iraq War
    Nazi Germany != Iraq
    Hitler != Saddam
    Imperial Japan != Iraq
    9/11 != Iraq or Saddam
    We aren’t fighting ‘racial superiority’ in Iraq. We are nation building and at a time when we have to be fighting terrorism plus doing a lot of other important things it’s not at all clear this was a good investment.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Boonton,
    Libya’s decision to disarm was the result of a long diplomatic front that climaxed around the time of the invasion. It’s easy to assume the two were related if you didn’t bother to dig too deeply into the story.
    Would Libya have disarmed if we had not invaded Iraq?
    I report, you decide: link to brief article from the March 2004 edition of World Press Review.
    I’m not sure how North Korea was ‘exposed’ by the Iraq invasion. It was well known that NK was going after a nuke before the Iraqi invasion and it’s possible they have one today.
    I’m talking about Abdul Qadeer Khan (A. Q. Khan) and his dealings with North Korea. Most of his nuclear proliferation activities were not uncovered until our non-proliferation investigations and diplomacy got a crucial boost in 2003 from our invasion of Iraq.
    Here’s another link for you: link to “2003 revelations from Iran and Libya” on A. Q. Khan Wikipedia page.
    Iran does not seem to have been intimidated at all.
    See above link, and also the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate: link to Nov. 2007 NIE.
    The NIE is brief, only 9 pages, and it gets right to the point. It actually says that Iran was probably intimidated from pursuing nuclear weapons for a several-year period.
    I said Iran was intimidated or deterred for about a year, and not longer, because I wanted to be conservative, and because I’m also referring to other activities besides developing nuclear weapons, such as supporting terrorists and militias in Lebanon and Iraq.
    [Matthew said:] “However, those jihadis will not be so inflamed if we win in Iraq, where winning means we set up a successful, moderate, terror-hating democracy that can survive on its own two feet. Most jihadis will have the wind taken out of their sails by such an outcome.”
    [Boonton replied:] Doubtful, Iraq was never very fertile ground for jihadists to begin with. Unlike Saudi Arabia it has a religiously diverse population and it does not have so much oil wealth that it can support a large class of idle rich who can afford to make supporting radicals a pet hobby.
    Iraq became the front line in the war on terror, not because we invaded, or because it was a terror nest before we invaded.
    It became the front line because Al Qaeda and other terror networks reacted to our invasion by declaring jihad against the coalition forces. They put all their jihadi capital on the line to try to sabotage the efforts of Iraqis and their coalition allies to build a liberal democracy.
    In 2006 it looked as if their bet was paying off. Our strategy was on the ropes, despite three successful national elections in Iraq.
    President Bush changed strategy in 2007. Instead of being holed up in safe, isolated operating bases, our troops were now going to move out and live in the field, on the battlefield, and gain the trust and support of the people they were trying to protect.
    This change in strategy has proved to be even more successful than we could have hoped. Al Qaeda jihadis have gotten thoroughly pummeled by the very Iraqis they tried to terrorize and enslave. It appears that Al Qaeda and its allies have lost big, and will not be able to recover.
    This is not the kind of thing that helps jihadi recruitment.
    And if the victory sticks and consolidates, with a stable and secure democratic government in place in Iraq, then the jihadis will have suffered an enormous defeat. They will have lost tremendous momentum, hopefully permanently.
    A stable, democratic Iraq would be a great thing but face it, the neoconservative dream of turning Iraq into the Middle East’s America is long gone at this point.
    With all due respect, you need to spend a little less time writing about Iraq and a little more reading about what is going on there.
    It’s true that the neo-con’s who believed that our invasion and occupation would essentially pay for itself through subsidies from Iraq’s oil-rich government were wildly mistaken, if not outright delusional.
    But the overriding goal, beyond Saddam’s disarmament and removal, has always been to establish a beachhead for democracy in the Muslim Middle East. And that goal is well within reach, provided the next president doesn’t fumble the ball.
    The next president needs to follow President Bush’s policy of keeping enough troops in Iraq to get the mission accomplished. If he/she withdraws troops before they are done with the mission, then Rob’s and your fears about the counter-productivity of our sacrifices could very well be borne out.
    There are moderate regimes in the Middle East such as the UAE and even democratic ones like Turkey. That hasn’t had any noticable impact on the tiny bands that want to dedicate themselves to terrorism.
    Don’t forget Israel and Lebanon.
    If we lose in Iraq, don’t you think that will be very bad news for the UAE and for Turkey?
    But you are right, Turkey has been a democracy for many decades. Why hasn’t that prevented the rise of the “tiny bands” of terrorists?
    That’s an excellent, very interesting question. Part of the answer is that all politics is local.
    If you’re under the thumb of a tyrant in Iraq or Egypt, or of a theocratic prince-opoly in Saudi Arabia, you’re not necessarily going to be very inspired by how well some Turks (not even Arabs) are doing hundreds of miles away.
    Another part of the answer is that the terror masters who recruit jihadis rely on a narrative of a historical movement whose time has come, a movement that seems to have an inevitable and invincible momentum attached to it.
    They’ve been scraping together a string of victories, some major, some minor, some merely symbolic, against the various Satans of the world for 30 or 40 years now. If they have to suffer a major setback now in Iraq, coupled with a permanent, thriving anti-terror Iraqi regime as a permanent counter-example to their hateful ideology, then the damage to their cause could well prove irreversible and fatal.
    Democracy and freedom would steadily gain ground and push back theocracy and Islamofascism, much in the same way that communism was widely discredited in the years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
    Once again, and hopefully for the last time… [etc.]
    Again, with all due respect, who the heck are you, and who made you Henry Kissinger/Bismarck/Sun Tzu?
    You’re entitled to your opinion (I, for one, don’t particularly want to keep it for myself), but what makes you think you can lecture anybody on what the real deal is?
    Who are you trying to impress? Your kid brother, Mike Toreno?
    WWII != The Iraq War
    Nazi Germany != Iraq
    Hitler != Saddam
    Imperial Japan != Iraq
    9/11 != Iraq or Saddam
    We aren’t fighting ‘racial superiority’ in Iraq. We are nation building and at a time when we have to be fighting terrorism plus doing a lot of other important things it’s not at all clear this was a good investment.
    You are more right than even you might realize.
    Saddam was certainly not Hitler. Not even close.
    The reason, of course, is because President Bush was not Prime Minister Chamberlain. He looked the threat squarely in the eye and decided to act now (2002/2003) rather than later.
    And now Saddam is like Hitler and Mussolini: a deposed, dead, and discredited dictator.
    Likewise, Islamofascism is nothing like the threat that Nazism posed to Europe and even the United States. But only because we’re trying very hard to deal with it now, and not 20 or 30 years from now, when it might be a little bit too late.
    Hopefully we’re not too late right now to keep Iran’s mullahs from getting a nuclear weapon arsenal. That could lead to very, very bad things if we are. Even if those annoying terrorists are just “tiny bands” that one shouldn’t overreact to.
    Peace,
    Matthew

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    If we lose in Iraq, don’t you think that will be very bad news for the UAE and for Turkey?
    Depends on what you mean by lose. While a civil war always means instability it doesn’t follow that the UAE or Turkey would be any worse off because of one in Iraq.
    But you are right, Turkey has been a democracy for many decades. Why hasn’t that prevented the rise of the “tiny bands” of terrorists?
    I’m not clear why Turkey being democratic would have prevented bands of terrorists congregating in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan. Likewise, I’m also unclear why Iraq being democratic will stop bands of terrorists? We’ve had bands of terrorists in the UK, Spain and Germany and they are all democratic countries.
    Another part of the answer is that the terror masters who recruit jihadis rely on a narrative of a historical movement whose time has come, a movement that seems to have an inevitable and invincible momentum attached to it.
    They’ve been scraping together a string of victories, some major, some minor, some merely symbolic, against the various Satans of the world for 30 or 40 years now. If they have to suffer a major setback now in Iraq, coupled with a permanent, thriving anti-terror Iraqi regime as a permanent counter-example to their hateful ideology, then the damage to their cause could well prove irreversible and fatal.
    You’re making a dangerous assumption here, namely that there is some unified terrorist ideology that can have setbacks (or, the opposite, steps forward). There isn’t. Out of nearly a billion Muslims, we have maybe a thousand cases of true terrorism at best. A lot fewer if you subtract out cases where terrorism is used as a tactic in some larger conflict (Paliestinians vs. Israelis, various factions in Iraq against each other, Sunni’s against Iranian influence in Iraq etc.). Needless to say, if you start looking at non-Muslim terrorism (again back out cases that are clearly related to some known conflict like the IRA, Kurdish separatists, Basque terrorists etc) and the following picture emerges:
    There are two types of terrorism:
    1. Terrorism related to some larger conflict. Here the solution lies in resolving the underlying conflict if possible or at least containing them. Democracy in Iraq would not have prevented the Libyans from bombing the Lockerbie flight in the 80′s, nor the IRA from its activities.
    2. Terrorism related to the fact that a fraction of human society will be populated by nutcases. Most of the time nutcases tend to cancel each other out but sometimes enough of them can get ‘in sync’ to cause trouble. The cult in Japan that attacked the subways was so detached from reality it isn’t even sensible to ask if the problem was lack of democracy. Some attempted to excuse Tim McVeigh because he was supposedly avenging gov’t abuse at Waco but when push came to shove he and his helpers were only slighlty more in touch with reality. Two very different agendas but both share a common element where a random idea just happened to catch the right nuts and line them up so they could pull off blowing something up.
    Every now and then someone asks what does Al Qaeda want? Well the answers are out there. They want a mix of a few remotely possible things (removing US troops from Saudi Arabia, which I believe they actually got) with the absurd (‘restoring the caliphate’ is quoted often but exactly how would that come about when it appears Iraqis can’t even choose a single mayor of a city without a half dozen factions killing, kidnapping and bombing each other? now tell me how you would apply that to all of the middle east?) with stuff that just makes you scratch your head (not passing campaign finance reform in the US, not signing Kyoto).
    You can scratch a little less if you realize it is because Al Qaeda falls more into #2 than #1. As such there is nothing you can do directly about the problem. A fraction of us will always be nuts. You can try to disrupt the nuts from gathering together and getting on the same page (when that page is destructive) but since nuts are by definition disconnected from reality you’re not going to solve the problem by altering reality. Socio-engineering Iraq to become the first Muslim nation capable of hosting a season of MTV’s Real World may be possible assuming total willingness to tolerate any financial and human cost but it fundamentally misses the point.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Boonton,
    While a civil war always means instability it doesn’t follow that the UAE or Turkey would be any worse off because of one in Iraq.
    A civil war in Iraq would not immediately and directly cause problems in UAE or Turkey.
    That is to say, if someone gets kidnapped or assassinated on the streets of Baghdad or Basra, that doesn’t ordinarily have a direct and immediate impact on the average person in some other country.
    But saying the UAE or Turkey wouldn’t be worse off from an Iraqi civil war is like saying poverty and drug cartels in Mexico have no impact on the United States. It’s just not true, not even a little bit true.
    I’m not clear why Turkey being democratic would have prevented bands of terrorists congregating in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan. Likewise, I’m also unclear why Iraq being democratic will stop bands of terrorists? We’ve had bands of terrorists in the UK, Spain and Germany and they are all democratic countries.
    If you re-read my comment, I said that politics is local. In other words, I was agreeing with you to a certain extent.
    On the other hand, Islamofascism is clearly a global movement with global ambitions. The reason you can currently dismiss it as a ragtag network of “tiny bands” of terrorists is because we have been remarkably successful in both our tactics and our strategy since the devastating blow of 9-11.
    The Islamofascists do still control Iran, Syria, and parts of Pakistan. They still have powerful allies around the planet. You can insist all you want that they are divided and relatively powerless, but they remain a terrible threat.
    If we don’t stay on the offensive, the jihadis will seize the initiative on several fronts, and we will have to hit back much harder later, on terms that will not be as advantageous to us as conditions in Iraq are now.
    You’re making a dangerous assumption here, namely that there is some unified terrorist ideology that can have setbacks (or, the opposite, steps forward). There isn’t.
    Since I know how you love World War II analogies, let me compare Islamofascism to the rise of anti-democratic forces in the 1920′s and 1930′s.
    Back then, we had Nazis, Fascists, Japanese imperialists, Bolshevists, and their sympathizers in the democracies. There was no unity among the bad guys back then, but the authoritarians still posed an existential threat to the democracies.
    It was a threat that was not resolved until the bloodiest and most expensive war in history had run its awful course.
    Islamofascism today is, as you point out, just as splintered and varied as were the totalitarianism and authoritarianism of the 20′s and 30′s. But that is only a positive sign if we are willing to take advantage of our enemies’ weaknesses by confronting them.
    If we complacently dodge the fight, then we are allowing the jihadis to earn an edge over our side which is in our power to deny.
    Out of nearly a billion Muslims, we have maybe a thousand cases of true terrorism at best. A lot fewer if you subtract out cases where terrorism is used as a tactic in some larger conflict (Paliestinians vs. Israelis, various factions in Iraq against each other, Sunni’s against Iranian influence in Iraq etc.).
    You are severely undercounting terror attacks or incidents.
    Check out the website of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center’s Worldwide Incidents Tracking System: link to U.S. Worldwide Incidents Tracking System of the National Counterterrorism Center.
    Look at how many terror attacks they have in their database for the following countries:
    Iraq 17249
    Israel 1680
    India 3715
    Pakistan 1854
    Indonesia 647
    the Philipines 674
    Thailand 2770
    Now, not every terror attack in the database is Islamist. So slice out some percentage from each of the totals.
    But also ask yourself, what percentage of terror attacks make it into the database in the first place? Is it 70 or 80%, or more like 10 or 20%?
    Any way you cut it, your hopeful number of 1,000 is way out of line.
    There are two types of terrorism:
    1. Terrorism related to some larger conflict. Here the solution lies in resolving the underlying conflict if possible or at least containing them…
    2. Terrorism related to the fact that a fraction of human society will be populated by nutcases…
    This is not a bad way of analyzing the situation. And yet… I think you are making a false distinction between “conflict” terrorists and “nutcase” terrorists.
    What easier way to label someone a nutcase than to call them a “nazi” or a “fascist”? Yet they were powerful ideologies in their day with tens of millions of adherents and followers.
    And returning to today, what is the real distinction between a terrorist and a nutcase?
    Mohammed Atta was an Egyptian architectural student from Hamburg who hated skyscrapers. He was the leader of the 9-11 hijackers and piloted an airplane into the World Trade Center. He may have even tricked most of his fellow jihadis into thinking they weren’t on a suicide bombing.
    You don’t think he was a nutcase? You don’t think he was as deranged as old Adolf himself?
    More to the point, if he wasn’t crazy, then Hitler himself wasn’t either. Is that something you really want to insist upon?
    Terrorists, especially the “masterminds”, can be cold, calculating, ruthless, and fearless. They can be “sucessful” in their pursuits, and even acquire a modicum of worldly power and wealth. But I don’t see the clear distinction that you do between “nutcase” and “Islamofascist”.
    Of course, your point is that if you drain away the root causes of terrorism, the underlying conflicts, then all you have left are the isolated and relatively harmless nutjobs, as opposed to the highly motivated and well-organized nutjobs who pose the far greater threat.
    But that is what President Bush has been doing since 2001: he’s attacking the root causes of Islamofascism and jihadism. He’s saying, we tried the realpolitick of “stability” in the Middle East and it didn’t work, so now we’re going to try something different: depose Saddam, and build a democratic Iraq.
    It hasn’t been a straight and clear march to final victory, but the invasion of Iraq has paid some very important dividends (WMD’s in Libya gone, A. Q. Khan network exposed, Saddam gone), and victory is still on the horizon if we are willing to pay the price.
    You can scratch a little less if you realize it is because Al Qaeda falls more into #2 than #1 [they are more nutcase than conflict-motivated]. As such there is nothing you can do directly about the problem. A fraction of us will always be nuts. You can try to disrupt the nuts from gathering together and getting on the same page (when that page is destructive) but since nuts are by definition disconnected from reality you’re not going to solve the problem by altering reality.
    Briefly:
    1) You could have dismissed Hitler in the same way. And many people did!
    2) I don’t believe you understand Al Qaeda or nutcases very well. The jihadis recruit. When things go well, the recruiting goes well. When things go poorly, the recruiting dries up (and gets disrupted in other ways, as well).
    Socio-engineering Iraq to become the first Muslim nation capable of hosting a season of MTV’s Real World may be possible assuming total willingness to tolerate any financial and human cost…
    I think you might be overestimating the cost of democratizing Iraq.
    And I know you are denigrating the tremendous sacrifices of our Iraqi allies and comrades by your flippant tone. They deserve better, a lot better.
    … but it fundamentally misses the point.
    There are two rival points here, and they are in tension with each other. The two points are in a precarious struggle or tug-of-war with each other.
    The first point is that the Iraqis need our help, we are in an excellent position to give them our help, and it is in our overwhelming self-interest to see the Iraqis succeed, if such success is in fact possible.
    The second point, which is your point, is that the war in Iraq is expensive, both in blood spilled and other resources spent, and we need to make sure that we’re are getting a good return on our investment.
    For example, it could be that today it makes sense to continue the surge, but that three months from now, things could be falling apart and it makes sense to stop what we are doing and pull out. In other words, the situation is dynamic, and the end result has yet to be written in stone.
    The point which I firmly believe that you are missing is that the two points above both exist, and they both matter, and that to consider one without the other would be negligent and tragic in the extreme.
    Tragic for us, but even more so, tragic for the people of Iraq. Fortunately, we are still at a point where we can choose a course that holds out the prospect of democracy and freedom for Iraq.
    Cheers,
    Matthew

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Boonton,
    I forgot to add something in my last comment:
    Democracy in Iraq would not have prevented the Libyans from bombing the Lockerbie flight in the 80′s, nor the IRA from its activities.
    As I documented in comment 161, democracy in Iraq (actually, the videotape of a shabby Saddam being yanked out of a hole in the ground by a U.S. infantryman) did have a remarkable effect on Libya’s behavior.
    Here’s the link again, for your convenience:
    “The Libyan Surprise”, by Peter Valenti.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    But that is what President Bush has been doing since 2001: he’s attacking the root causes of Islamofascism and jihadism. He’s saying, we tried the realpolitick of “stability” in the Middle East and it didn’t work, so now we’re going to try something different: depose Saddam, and build a democratic Iraq.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    But saying the UAE or Turkey wouldn’t be worse off from an Iraqi civil war is like saying poverty and drug cartels in Mexico have no impact on the United States. It’s just not true, not even a little bit true.
    While we’re at it, I’m sure drug cartels aren’t doing anything good for Turkish democracy. Nor is Chinese oppression in Tibet. I’m a bit at a loss to understand why Iraq must be made perfect no matter what the cost but everything else can be ignored.
    On the other hand, Islamofascism is clearly a global movement with global ambitions. The reason you can currently dismiss it as a ragtag network of “tiny bands” of terrorists is because we have been remarkably successful in both our tactics and our strategy since the devastating blow of 9-11.
    Nutcases can indeed be global. Just to come back to that Japanese cult, they had offices in multiple countries. Ditto for that cult that committed suicide because they thought a UFO or something was coming for them. I would suggest a little less patting ourselves on the back here. We haven’t had another 9/11 because Islamofascists lack the manpower to do it, not because we’ve done such an amazing job. You are reverting to an old paradigm, pretending Al Qaeda is Nazi Germany or the USSR with so many divisions, ships, planes etc…..if you take them out they can’t wage war. One guy, a few bucks to buy some propane tanks at Home Depot and a little bit of basic wiring skills is all that’s needed to kill a hundred people at a shopping mall or other ‘soft’ target. Spending a trillion dollars trying to pick one group of Iran backs Shi’ites as the good guys in Iraq doesn’t make that go away.
    Since I know how you love World War II analogies, let me compare Islamofascism to the rise of anti-democratic forces in the 1920′s and 1930′s.
    I don’t love them, especially here. They are forced and quite frankly not very impressive and they are carrying less and less weight as Iraq goes on and on.
    Look at how many terror attacks they have in their database for the following countries:
    Don’t back out Islamic based attacks but do back out attacks that are clearly a tactic in some local battle or conflict. There’s a distinction between what, for lack of a better description, we can call sane terrorists and insane ones. Sane terrorists are applying a tactic. They are essentially a scaled down version of a nation-state that launches an attack on civilians in a country they are at war with. Insane terrorists are applying a tactic for a strategy that is disconnected from the world we actually live in. Hammas is attacking Israel as part of the larger dispute between Palestinians and Israel. A perfectly democratic Iraq has as little to do with that than the fact that Turkey has been democratic all along has stopped a single suicide bomber in the West Bank. Like all tactics they sometimes work and sometimes don’t (in Israel they haven’t, in Pakistan they seem to have had some success)
    Likewise insane terrorists are already disconnected from reality. A democratic Iraq makes as little difference to them as a democratic Turkey made.
    While we are on the subject of the insane, do you really think making the ‘existential threat’ comparisions to WWII or the pre-WWII era is particularly helpful? Al Qaeda was and is many things but it never was or will be an existential threat to even a two-bit Arab dictatorship let alone to ‘the west’. Unlike the anti-democratic forces of the 1920′s and 30′s they have no practical agenda, no leadership that can move beyond cult, no serious manpower (go ahead and read up on just how much Bin Laden and his men really helped in the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan).
    What the whole ‘existential’ thing does do, though, is play right into the enemy’s hand by reinforcing the delusion that they are capable of changing the world. That they are really fighting a war. That they are something more than what they literally are which is nuts who live in caves with the equilivant of My Space pages. Mockery would be an effective weapon but we are denied its use because some would have us keep pretending George Bush is Churchill who saved the world.
    What easier way to label someone a nutcase than to call them a “nazi” or a “fascist”? Yet they were powerful ideologies in their day with tens of millions of adherents and followers
    This is only because those ideological fads have been long out of style. A vigerous supporter of absolute monarchy would likewise be viewed today as a nutcase (but probably an unharmful one) yet at one time not too long ago that too was a powerful ideology that had more than a few defenders. I’ll grant you that there’s a bit of a spectrum here. The Nazis were disconnected from reality in many cases but they were connected enough to actually run a country. Al Qaeda is not. But if you insist I’ll grant you that they are more connected than the UFO cult was or the Japanese subway bombers.
    My point, though, is that ‘nutcase terrorism’ is almost by definition random. Crazy people are essentially unpredictable. Who knew that a botched law enforcement effort against a wacked out cult in Texas would result in the Ok City bombing a few years later. Who knows if tomorrow a thousand are not going to get killed in some major city because a self-styled prophet thinks he is getting messages from the neighbor’s dog?
    While there’s little that can be done against ‘lone nuts’ we can take precautions against nuts getting ‘in sync’. But that does not involve throwing money and blood down a nation building program that is going to make the Great Society look like the local Elks fundraiser. Nor does it involve making the world a perfect place out of the delusion that nuts exist or ‘sync up’ because reality is not perfect. By definition nuts aren’t connected to reality!!!!
    Of course, your point is that if you drain away the root causes of terrorism, the underlying conflicts, then all you have left are the isolated and relatively harmless nutjobs, as opposed to the highly motivated and well-organized nutjobs who pose the far greater threat.
    Not quite. Terrorism that’s related to a conflict is either going to be resolved with that conflict or contained to it. It’s hard to imagine, for example, the IRA going on a bombing spree in Turkey. Yes it’s nice that the UK seems to have come to some settlement with Ireland but even if they didn’t it was mostly a problem between the UK and Ireland. While I would say the US should do some things (don’t let the IRA raise money in the US, IRA bombers hiding in the US should be deported out), they would mostly be in line with keeping the conflict contained and keeping the US out of it.
    But that is what President Bush has been doing since 2001: he’s attacking the root causes of Islamofascism and jihadism. He’s saying, we tried the realpolitick of “stability” in the Middle East and it didn’t work, so now we’re going to try something different: depose Saddam, and build a democratic Iraq.
    Essentially we’ve spent a trillion dollars and four thousand men to double the size of Iran. That, BTW, is the ‘stable’ scenario.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    But saying the UAE or Turkey wouldn’t be worse off from an Iraqi civil war is like saying poverty and drug cartels in Mexico have no impact on the United States. It’s just not true, not even a little bit true.
    While we’re at it, I’m sure drug cartels aren’t doing anything good for Turkish democracy. Nor is Chinese oppression in Tibet. I’m a bit at a loss to understand why Iraq must be made perfect no matter what the cost but everything else can be ignored.
    On the other hand, Islamofascism is clearly a global movement with global ambitions. The reason you can currently dismiss it as a ragtag network of “tiny bands” of terrorists is because we have been remarkably successful in both our tactics and our strategy since the devastating blow of 9-11.
    Nutcases can indeed be global. Just to come back to that Japanese cult, they had offices in multiple countries. Ditto for that cult that committed suicide because they thought a UFO or something was coming for them. I would suggest a little less patting ourselves on the back here. We haven’t had another 9/11 because Islamofascists lack the manpower to do it, not because we’ve done such an amazing job. You are reverting to an old paradigm, pretending Al Qaeda is Nazi Germany or the USSR with so many divisions, ships, planes etc…..if you take them out they can’t wage war. One guy, a few bucks to buy some propane tanks at Home Depot and a little bit of basic wiring skills is all that’s needed to kill a hundred people at a shopping mall or other ‘soft’ target. Spending a trillion dollars trying to pick one group of Iran backs Shi’ites as the good guys in Iraq doesn’t make that go away.
    Since I know how you love World War II analogies, let me compare Islamofascism to the rise of anti-democratic forces in the 1920′s and 1930′s.
    I don’t love them, especially here. They are forced and quite frankly not very impressive and they are carrying less and less weight as Iraq goes on and on.
    Look at how many terror attacks they have in their database for the following countries:
    Don’t back out Islamic based attacks but do back out attacks that are clearly a tactic in some local battle or conflict. There’s a distinction between what, for lack of a better description, we can call sane terrorists and insane ones. Sane terrorists are applying a tactic. They are essentially a scaled down version of a nation-state that launches an attack on civilians in a country they are at war with. Insane terrorists are applying a tactic for a strategy that is disconnected from the world we actually live in. Hammas is attacking Israel as part of the larger dispute between Palestinians and Israel. A perfectly democratic Iraq has as little to do with that than the fact that Turkey has been democratic all along has stopped a single suicide bomber in the West Bank. Like all tactics they sometimes work and sometimes don’t (in Israel they haven’t, in Pakistan they seem to have had some success)
    Likewise insane terrorists are already disconnected from reality. A democratic Iraq makes as little difference to them as a democratic Turkey made.
    While we are on the subject of the insane, do you really think making the ‘existential threat’ comparisions to WWII or the pre-WWII era is particularly helpful? Al Qaeda was and is many things but it never was or will be an existential threat to even a two-bit Arab dictatorship let alone to ‘the west’. Unlike the anti-democratic forces of the 1920′s and 30′s they have no practical agenda, no leadership that can move beyond cult, no serious manpower (go ahead and read up on just how much Bin Laden and his men really helped in the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan).
    What the whole ‘existential’ thing does do, though, is play right into the enemy’s hand by reinforcing the delusion that they are capable of changing the world. That they are really fighting a war. That they are something more than what they literally are which is nuts who live in caves with the equilivant of My Space pages. Mockery would be an effective weapon but we are denied its use because some would have us keep pretending George Bush is Churchill who saved the world.
    What easier way to label someone a nutcase than to call them a “nazi” or a “fascist”? Yet they were powerful ideologies in their day with tens of millions of adherents and followers
    This is only because those ideological fads have been long out of style. A vigerous supporter of absolute monarchy would likewise be viewed today as a nutcase (but probably an unharmful one) yet at one time not too long ago that too was a powerful ideology that had more than a few defenders. I’ll grant you that there’s a bit of a spectrum here. The Nazis were disconnected from reality in many cases but they were connected enough to actually run a country. Al Qaeda is not. But if you insist I’ll grant you that they are more connected than the UFO cult was or the Japanese subway bombers.
    My point, though, is that ‘nutcase terrorism’ is almost by definition random. Crazy people are essentially unpredictable. Who knew that a botched law enforcement effort against a wacked out cult in Texas would result in the Ok City bombing a few years later. Who knows if tomorrow a thousand are not going to get killed in some major city because a self-styled prophet thinks he is getting messages from the neighbor’s dog?
    While there’s little that can be done against ‘lone nuts’ we can take precautions against nuts getting ‘in sync’. But that does not involve throwing money and blood down a nation building program that is going to make the Great Society look like the local Elks fundraiser. Nor does it involve making the world a perfect place out of the delusion that nuts exist or ‘sync up’ because reality is not perfect. By definition nuts aren’t connected to reality!!!!
    Of course, your point is that if you drain away the root causes of terrorism, the underlying conflicts, then all you have left are the isolated and relatively harmless nutjobs, as opposed to the highly motivated and well-organized nutjobs who pose the far greater threat.
    Not quite. Terrorism that’s related to a conflict is either going to be resolved with that conflict or contained to it. It’s hard to imagine, for example, the IRA going on a bombing spree in Turkey. Yes it’s nice that the UK seems to have come to some settlement with Ireland but even if they didn’t it was mostly a problem between the UK and Ireland. While I would say the US should do some things (don’t let the IRA raise money in the US, IRA bombers hiding in the US should be deported out), they would mostly be in line with keeping the conflict contained and keeping the US out of it.
    But that is what President Bush has been doing since 2001: he’s attacking the root causes of Islamofascism and jihadism. He’s saying, we tried the realpolitick of “stability” in the Middle East and it didn’t work, so now we’re going to try something different: depose Saddam, and build a democratic Iraq.
    Essentially we’ve spent a trillion dollars and four thousand men to double the size of Iran. That, BTW, is the ‘stable’ scenario.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Boonton,
    What the whole ‘existential’ thing does do, though, is play right into the enemy’s hand by reinforcing the delusion that they are capable of changing the world. That they are really fighting a war. That they are something more than what they literally are which is nuts who live in caves with the equilivant of My Space pages. Mockery would be an effective weapon but we are denied its use because some would have us keep pretending George Bush is Churchill who saved the world.
    Like I said, we’re trying to engage Islamofascism now, so that we don’t have to deal with it when the threat is so clear even you will have to admit it exists.
    And yet… although the threat is currently not up to the Boonton existential standard, the truth is that a nuclear-armed Iran could field a terrorist threat that could, either intentionally or unintentionally, bring down civilization as we know it. If that ain’t existential enough for you, then I think you are talking yourself out of the conversation to a certain extent.
    By the way, it’s not for President Bush’s sake that you should feel inhibited about mocking Islamofascism. It’s for your own — mocking Islamism in public is something that is generally acknowledged to be not very conducive to one’s health and well-being.
    My point, though, is that ‘nutcase terrorism’ is almost by definition random. Crazy people are essentially unpredictable.
    Yes, and Al Qaeda is more random than not, so we shouldn’t worry our heads about them.
    Or at least they would certainly become the random kind of bugger if we would just leave them alone and stop invading their turf.
    Or they would be if people stopped converting from Islam to other religions and thus called down the wrath of Allah on their apostate heads.
    Or they would be if we just stopped publishing those stupid, provocative, insensitive cartoons. How can we keep the level of Islamist moonbats down to a reasonable level when we insist of fetishing freedom of speech and freedom of the press?
    So let’s just leave the Islamists, and the Islamofacists, the jihadis, and the mujahadeen alone in their own little world. Everything will be all right, then, more or less. For the most part.
    Because the alternative, trying to reform the Muslim world, is just pie-in-the-sky, a waste of precious lives and resources. We’re just giving them what they want when we fight them, ’cause they’re all just nutcases at heart.
    Well, Boonton, you can’t convince me of all that, since it’s not true, not yet anyway. But it is good of you to try, though. If you keep repeating this nutcase-terrorist paradigm of yours often enough, you may one day at least persuade me that you yourself believe it.
    As it stands, I can only half swallow the idea that you really believe all the stuff you write about Al Qaeda. It sounds too much like wishful thinking, whistling past the graveyard. You seem like way too smart a fellow to believe your own propaganda points, especially the more half-baked ones.
    Listen to me, please, Boonton. Islamism is a fantasy ideology. I agree with you. But it does make sense on its own terms, and 1.5 billion people, due to their religious affiliation, are at risk to succumb to its twisted logic. You discount the power of Islamfascism at your peril, and ours.
    Fighting Islamofascism by refusing to pay attention to it seemed to make sense, more or less, before 9-11. Now it’s time to acknowledge that denial was a policy that had reached the point of diminishing returns. If you don’t like the Bush doctrine of pre-emption and spreading democracy, you can’t just turn back the clock to “Nyah, nyah, nyah, I refuse to pay attention to those dopey terrorists” — you need to come up with a new and improved alternative.
    The Democrats did that in 2006: they campaigned for more troops on the ground in Iraq. And then Bush fired Rumsfeld after the November mid-terms, only to have the self-same Dems tell us that they didn’t really mean what they said.
    They proved they weren’t serious, and you’re just seem to be following their lead. I wish you could do better, amigo.
    Essentially we’ve spent a trillion dollars and four thousand men to double the size of Iran. That, BTW, is the ‘stable’ scenario.
    If you’re shooting for clever snark, I’ll award you a couple of points.
    But the truth is Iraq is not as you characterize it. And it will never be a client of Iran as long as we are willing to watch the back of the Iraqi government.
    You are so concerned about four thousand dead troops and several hundred billion dollars. But you never weigh the costs against the actual and potential benefits, and you never weigh the costs against the costs we have had to bear in other wars, or even during peacetime in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s, when we had many thousands of non-combat fatalities. And you never consider the cost of leaving Saddam in place with the consensus to maintain the U.N.-backed sanctions regime poised to collapse.
    In short, your words seem to calculated for effect, and not for the hard work of digging at the truth and figuring out what we need to do.
    If Iraq is such a quagmire for us, then what has it been for Al Qaeda, who has also lost thousands of fighters? Does that not count for anything, or is everything just black and white in your view: Iraq, bad, withdrawal, good?
    Boonton, at the end of comment 163 I wrote:
    There are two rival points here, and they are in tension with each other. The two points are in a precarious struggle or tug-of-war with each other.
    The first point is that the Iraqis need our help, we are in an excellent position to give them our help, and it is in our overwhelming self-interest to see the Iraqis succeed, if such success is in fact possible.
    The second point, which is your point, is that the war in Iraq is expensive, both in blood spilled and other resources spent, and we need to make sure that we’re are getting a good return on our investment.
    For example, it could be that today it makes sense to continue the surge, but that three months from now, things could be falling apart and it makes sense to stop what we are doing and pull out. In other words, the situation is dynamic, and the end result has yet to be written in stone.
    The point which I firmly believe that you are missing is that the two points above both exist, and they both matter, and that to consider one without the other would be negligent and tragic in the extreme.
    The above excerpt summarizes what I feel to be missing in your analysis. Yes, it is possible that we have succeeded in marginalizing Al Qaeda to a large extent. But that’s really changing the subject. The question is, what do we do in Iraq? And unless you see and acknowledge the points I make in the passage above, everything else is just so much hand-waving, and irrelevent hand-waving at that.
    All the best,
    Matthew

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    And yet… although the threat is currently not up to the Boonton existential standard, the truth is that a nuclear-armed Iran could field a terrorist threat that could, either intentionally or unintentionally, bring down civilization as we know it. If that ain’t existential enough for you, then I think you are talking yourself out of the conversation to a certain extent.
    Let’s be clear what existential means, it means existence. The Axis powers were an existential threat because they posed a threat to the existence of the west. Iran does not. Even Iran with a nuclear bomb, or several nuclear bombs does not.
    And ‘Islamofascism’ is a different subject than Iran seeking to go nuclear. I said it before, Iran’s foreign policy is so deadly rational Henry Kissenger could have been a consultant to them. Anyway if this is going to be the newest metric then our policy is an even deeper failure. Iran has been empowered by Bush’s policies. Even if the invasion caused some brief hestitation it has now become clear the US is mired in Iraq and does not have the resources to committ to additional nation demolishing and rebuilding efforts. Likewise the spike in oil prices has further fueled Iran’s economy and helped cover up its domestic problems from running a partially socialized economy. Finally, a democratic Iraq essentially means an Iranian ally whereas before we had a road block to Iranian influence in the rest of the Middle East.
    Nutcases
    Yes, and Al Qaeda is more random than not, so we shouldn’t worry our heads about them.
    Or at least they would certainly become the random kind of bugger if we would just leave them alone and stop invading their turf.
    Not what I said. Nutcases do have to be watched and when they start getting ‘in sync’ they have to be stopped. What is random, though, is that you CANNOT control nuts by controling reality. Here I’m as critical as the leftwing POV as the right. Al Qaeda said one of the reasons they attacked us was because we didn’t sign the Kyoto Treaty and we didn’t properly punish Bill Clinton for the Monica affair. I do not think either made any difference nor would have listeninging to some of the more supposedly rational demands like removing troops from Saudi Arabia. AND even if doing those things did make Al Qaeda happy and prevent 9/11 whose to say that some other group wouldn’t be pissed off that the Kyoto Treaty would have cut the oil profits earned by Arabs? Or, for that matter, some UFO cult wouldn’t go ballistic because they believe Bill Clinton is the second coming of Christ? Since nutcase ideology is essentially random there’s no way to craft policy to either address their concerns or counter their ideology.
    What is wrong, then, is the implication that nutcase terrorism can be stopped by ‘fixing things’. Either from the left wing POV of fixing poverty, lack of education etc. or from the neocon POV of fixing the corrupt gov’ts in the Middle East. There are merits to doing these things on their own but like all benefits they a have to be weighed in relation to their costs.
    If Iraq is such a quagmire for us, then what has it been for Al Qaeda, who has also lost thousands of fighters? Does that not count for anything, or is everything just black and white in your view: Iraq, bad, withdrawal, good?
    Here is the problem with your line of thinking. Your insistance on treating this as the next WWII or Cold War belies the fact that it isn’t. Al Qaeda may have lost thousands of fighters but because they are a collection of nuts it doesn’t matter. 9/11 demonstrated you can do just fine with a dozen. Furthermore, the more you make things unstable the more you open the doors to new terrorists.
    Let me illustrate. Much of Iraq’s terrorism is not nutcase terrorism but ‘sane terrorism’. Sunnis, for example, fear a Shi’ite dominated Iraq and for good reason. Saddam treated the Shi’ites horribly and they are right to fear payback. So you get hundreds of kidnappings, suicide bombers, IEDs and so on. These groups might publically announce they are in line with Al Qaeda but it’s a distortion to pretend they are the front line troops of bin laden that he is wasting in Iraq. It’s NOT like WWII where Hitler divided his troops on two fronts thereby paving the way to his eventual defeat by the allies. Those Sunni terrorists, though, exist BECAUSE we deposed Saddam’s regime. There would have been no incentive for them to have formed before that since Saddam was already carving out the better slice of the pie for his clan and, of course, he would tolerate no competitors.
    Likewise Shi’ite terrorism was sparked by the fact that wereas there was no question who had power before it is now open….so various groups take advantage of the opening to try to grab as much power as they can both from the Sunnis as well as from other groups.
    As far as the nutcases go, we are opening the door for more trouble. IMO, the worst thing you can do for nutcase terrorists is to play into their fantasies that they can really change the world by blowing something up or killing a few dozen or even a few thousand people. Of course, now Iraq really is a place where you can secure yourself a seat at the table by doing this or if you’re not so inclined it still offers plenty of training opportunities should you aspire to be an international nutcase.
    Yes, it is possible that we have succeeded in marginalizing Al Qaeda to a large extent. But that’s really changing the subject. The question is, what do we do in Iraq? And unless you see and acknowledge the points I make in the passage above, everything else is just so much hand-waving, and irrelevent hand-waving at that.
    Option 1. Simply set a date and pull out leaving behind a few bases to attack terrorist cells should they start forming.
    Option 2. Divide the country into three sections for Suni, Shi’ite and Kurd with a shared section to manage oil revenues and national defense etc. Kurds, it would appear, can more or less stand on their own. Have other states manage their respective populations (Iran for the Shi’ites, perhaps Jordon, Syria or Saudi Arabia for the Sunis). The US would guarantee external security (no country could invade Iraq just as the US ended Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in the 90′s.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Boonton,
    Let’s be clear what existential means, it means existence.
    Well, Boonton, maybe you are right. Maybe Islamofascism is not an existential threat, and maybe it never will be.
    But what kind of threat is this: link to “One Story, Two Comments” by Andrew Stuttaford?
    And what kind of threat would it be if Iran, either directly or through a proxy, exploded a nuclear bomb in Tel Aviv? Is that an existential threat? If not, why not? If not, then what exactly is it?
    And ‘Islamofascism’ is a different subject than Iran seeking to go nuclear.
    No, it isn’t.
    I said it before, Iran’s foreign policy is so deadly rational Henry Kissenger could have been a consultant to them.
    Hmmm, so jihadis are nutcases, except when they aren’t. Has anyone else on this comment thread been making this point? Let me see… hmmm, hmmm, — ah, yes, I do believe that would be me, Mr. Existential-Threat-Monger!
    Anyway if this is going to be the newest metric then our policy is an even deeper failure.
    Yes, you are right again. If we leave Iraq in the lurch, our policy is an even deeper failure. It’s strange how things fail when you give up before finishing them. What could possibly be the reason for such an outcome?
    Iran has been empowered by Bush’s policies.
    Arguable. Would Iran be empowered by a stable, terror-hating Iraqi democracy as well?
    Even if the invasion caused some brief hestitation it has now become clear the US is mired in Iraq and does not have the resources to commit to additional nation demolishing and rebuilding efforts.
    Thank you for acknowledging the “brief hesitation”. Quite magnanimous of you, actually.
    But let’s say we see Iraq through to the end. Let’s say we get really lucky and the democracy project works out in Iraq. Wouldn’t that free up a lot of resources for additional nation demolishing and rebuilding?
    Likewise the spike in oil prices has further fueled Iran’s economy and helped cover up its domestic problems from running a partially socialized economy.
    True.
    Finally, a democratic Iraq essentially means an Iranian ally whereas before we had a road block to Iranian influence in the rest of the Middle East.
    If Saddam was a road-block, then the cure was just as bad as the disease.
    When you refer to a democratic Iraq as “essentially … an Iranian ally”, you seem to by implying that Iraq would be a menacing Shiite client state of Iran, or even a full-blown Islamism-exporting theocracy, like Iran.
    But neither one of those possibilities could happen now unless we allow it to happen by withdrawing our troops. It could have happened back in 2006 and early 2007, when the Congress was pressuring President Bush to pull out while a civil war was being fought in Iraq, but a mini-Iran in Iraq is no longer in the cards.
    As it stands now, a democratic, terror-hating Iraq would be our most effective ally in the region, even more so than Israel.
    Iraq is still in danger of turning into a Shiite theocracy allied with Iran, but only if we leave before we finish securing democracy there. The very policies you advocate (immediate withdrawal and/or partition) are the ones which could lead to the outcome you want to avoid.
    Since nutcase ideology is essentially random there’s no way to craft policy to either address their concerns or counter their ideology.
    Their ideology is not random, it’s the opposite of random (although their specific demands are often, as you point out, a meaningless smokescreen).
    Their ideology is that liberal democracy is anathema to the will of Allah. Muslims (according to the Islamofascists) have a duty to overwhelm, by war and/or demography, all democratic regimes and install Sharia law.
    There is nothing random about that at all. It’s all very clear and very straightforward, and it’s not even something the Islamists bother to hide.
    Hitler advertised his goals in Mein Kampf. But the Islamists are as multi-media as they come: they blare out their agenda in literally thousands of mosques, madrassas, universities, T.V. shows, and websites on an ongoing basis all the time.
    The only reason it seems random to you is because you want it to be random, and because the Islamists are smart enough not to field armies in battle order against Israel and the U.S.
    Once again, perhaps you are right that the Islamist threat is not existential. But to say their ideology is random is not a tenable position. You, sir, are an ostrich.
    What is wrong, then, is the implication that nutcase terrorism can be stopped by ‘fixing things’. Either from the left wing POV of fixing poverty, lack of education etc. or from the neocon POV of fixing the corrupt gov’ts in the Middle East. There are merits to doing these things on their own but like all benefits they a have to be weighed in relation to their costs.
    Hmmm, I actually agree with you, no sarcasm here.
    But you’re leaving out how we can stop terrorism: by fighting, defeating, and killing terrorists in Iraq or any other country where they choose to make a stand.
    You make it sound like it’s a bad thing the terrorists are fighting us in Iraq. But it is probably the best thing that could happen for us in terms of overall counter-terrorism strategy: the nation of Iraq has been converted to staunch anti-terror, and we have gotten to actually fight Al Qaeda in the most effective way possible, with guns and bombs.
    A preacher might be very persuasive when he tells some poor Muslim sucker that jihad is the path to heaven. But if jihad only leads to defeat and death, then the best preacher in the world is not going to be able to mount any jihadi crusades.
    Here is the problem with your line of thinking. Your insistance on treating this as the next WWII or Cold War belies the fact that it isn’t. Al Qaeda may have lost thousands of fighters but because they are a collection of nuts it doesn’t matter. 9/11 demonstrated you can do just fine with a dozen.
    Hold that thought: killing thousands of terrorists “just doesn’t matter” because they “can do just fine with a dozen”.
    Furthermore, the more you make things unstable the more you open the doors to new terrorists.
    But wait — you just said that the number of terrorists “just doesn’t matter”. Who cares then, if things are stable or unstable? That’s not our problem, they can’t touch us where it counts.
    Or is it the other way around now? They can touch us, no matter what we do, so just leave them alone? Hmmm, I’m getting a little confused here!
    As far as the nutcases go, we are opening the door for more trouble. IMO, the worst thing you can do for nutcase terrorists is to play into their fantasies that they can really change the world by blowing something up or killing a few dozen or even a few thousand people.
    But if we are creating Sunni and Shiite terrorists in Iraq, why in the world is that the worst thing we can do? You’ve just explained that killing thousands of terrorists just doesn’t matter, so why does creating thousands of terrorists suddenly matter? And if the terrorists are not connected to reality, then how are can our policies and our invasions be creating terrorists? And if none of this could never, never be an existential threat in any case, then what the heck do we care at all? Why shouldn’t we just invade any damn country we want (Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt) and let all those nutcase terrorists just sort it out among themselves?
    In short, your “analysis” is the most incoherent, self-contradicting piece of nonsense; you make the Bible look like a treatise in logic by comparison.
    If I wrote what you wrote, you would tear it to pieces, and rightly so.
    Of course, now Iraq really is a place where you can secure yourself a seat at the table by doing this or if you’re not so inclined it still offers plenty of training opportunities should you aspire to be an international nutcase.
    And that just doesn’t matter. Or it does. Yeah, that’s it, now it does matter: in this part of this paragraph it does matter now, I can tell from the contextual clues “plenty” and “really”.
    But if it doesn’t matter, you’ll let me know, right? I’m trying hard to get this straight.
    I mean, the training opportunities matter if we don’t kill them, but then they don’t matter if we do kill them, because in that case, we’re only killing people who wouldn’t have been there if we weren’t there. Although if we weren’t there, then Saddam would still be there, but he has nothing to do with terrorists; except that if he does, those are the terrorists who don’t matter, unless, of course, when we choose to fight them, because then they do matter — except of course when we fight them and succeed in killing them, and then they don’t matter any more.
    I’ve got it right, now, right?
    Option 1. Simply set a date and pull out leaving behind a few bases to attack terrorist cells should they start forming.
    Option 2. Divide the country into three sections for Suni, Shi’ite and Kurd with a shared section to manage oil revenues and national defense etc. Kurds, it would appear, can more or less stand on their own. Have other states manage their respective populations (Iran for the Shi’ites, perhaps Jordon, Syria or Saudi Arabia for the Sunis). The US would guarantee external security (no country could invade Iraq just as the US ended Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in the 90′s.
    I appreciate your paying me the respect of answering my questions.
    I disagree with your recommendations, but I acknowledge the reasonableness of what you propose.
    My opinion is that both of your options would lead to disaster, but I do understand why you think otherwise. Only time will tell which of us is correct about Iraq.
    Twenty or thirty years from now, history will render its verdict on the Bush doctrine, and at least one of us will have been proven wrong.
    Good day,
    Matthew

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    And what kind of threat would it be if Iran, either directly or through a proxy, exploded a nuclear bomb in Tel Aviv? Is that an existential threat? If not, why not? If not, then what exactly is it?
    Probably an existential threat to Israel and Palestine if it was of a megaton or more. If it was less it would be a diaster to Israel and suicide for Iran. Of course if Iran wants suicide it could get it right now by simply launching an all out war on Israel. Why don’t they do so? Yes Israel has a threat to manage but that’s not an existential threat to ‘the west’ or the US. In contrast, Pakistan is known to have maybe a dozen or more nukes and has been involved in both hot and cold wars with India. Is that an existential threat?
    Two more questions:
    1. What does this have to do with Islamofascism? It sounds like you’re more concerned about containing Iran.
    2. Exactly how is this threat best addressed by subverting the strength of Iran’s natural enemies, increasing its oil revenue and giving it a foothold in Iraq? Something Iran couldn’t pull off after ten years of bloody war in the 1980′s is now handed to them on a silver platter.
    Hmmm, so jihadis are nutcases, except when they aren’t. Has anyone else on this comment thread been making this point? Let me see… hmmm, hmmm, — ah, yes, I do believe that would be me, Mr. Existential-Threat-Monger!
    Iran != jihadis. Look at both rhetoric and reality.
    Arguable. Would Iran be empowered by a stable, terror-hating Iraqi democracy as well
    Quite possible. Even if Iraq was a stable democracy that rejected terrorism they would be natural allies with Iran for religious and ethnic reasons. It would be easy to see how they would be inclined to unite with Iran, for example, in regards to OPEC. (Ohhh yea, there’s other stuff in the Middle East to worry about besides suicide bombers).
    But let’s say we see Iraq through to the end. Let’s say we get really lucky and the democracy project works out in Iraq. Wouldn’t that free up a lot of resources for additional nation demolishing and rebuilding?
    No it doesn’t. Spent resources are spent. If you take out a home equity loan to build a deck and the contracter screws it up then you’re in trouble. Even if he comes back and makes good on the deck that doesn’t mean you will now have the money to add a new level to your house.
    When you refer to a democratic Iraq as “essentially … an Iranian ally”, you seem to by implying that Iraq would be a menacing Shiite client state of Iran, or even a full-blown Islamism-exporting theocracy, like Iran.
    Iraq doesn’t have to become a slave to Iran to become an ally. We are essentially helping them be an ally right now of Iran. Both of the major groups fighting are friendly with Iran. Our rhetoric has painted us into a corner where we are backing one because he is the ‘legitimate’ President of Iraq.
    Hitler advertised his goals in Mein Kampf. But the Islamists are as multi-media as they come: they blare out their agenda in literally thousands of mosques, madrassas, universities, T.V. shows, and websites on an ongoing basis all the time.
    Hitler’s ideology was coherent enough to take over a country and the country he took over was developed enough to put itself in a position to be an existential threat. Italy and a few other European countries signed onto facism but they were essentially bit players to Germany. Japan had a different ideology that sought out to make Japan an Imperial power in the Pacific. Their ideology was not the same as Hitler but it had enough overlap to make them allies.
    The problem with your attempt to make Islamists into “World War II part2″ is that it ignores the following reality:
    1. Islamists are too fundamentalist to build a pan-Arab consensus. You effortlessly interchange Al Qaeda and Iran, for example, while ignoring the fact that both have a religious ideology that makes them incompatitable to act as an allied unit. In contrast while both German and Japanese racism inhibited them from acting together as much as they could, they were both strong enough individually to mount an uncordinated threat to the west. A flavor of Islamism that could overcome both the selfish interests of the various Arab nations (why would Saudi Arabia join non-oil states to divide their wealth) as well as be inclusive enough to bridge the religious differences wouldn’t look anything like what Bin Laden has to sell.
    2. No Middle Eastern country is capable of making itself an existential threat. The world is dramatically different from 1930. The US remains the only military superpower whose capability dwarfs not only any other nation but all other nations combined. Add in NATO & China who wouldn’t entertain an aggressive Islamic superpower and the game is over before it even began. In contrast an observer in 1920 or 1930 could not be certain which of the Great Powers would be viable for another 100 years. Economically Islamic countries are either dirt poor or totally dependent on oil revenue. Unlike Germany or Japan they are not self sufficient. They can become rich yes but only by being a merchant to the rest of the world. Even a monopoly merchant has to keep his customers happy. Germany and Japan, though, were industrial powers who could generate their own wealth (not to say, of course, that the need for raw materials wasn’t an issue for them).
    In contrast look at not fascism but communism. As an ideology it was flexible enough to accomodate a world power that posed an existential threat to the west. But it needed to accomodate, to use PC speak, a multi-cultural empire. China’s Mao had to be able to get along just enough with the USSR which had to get along enough with Cuba, North Korea and so on to pose a united threat. We now know for sure, of course, that even then the ideology was just barely able to do that job. China and the USSR, for example, actually engaged in fighting along their border….try to imagine the UK and US actually shooting at each other during the Cold War.
    Fascism was unable to be so flexible as communism but as I said it didn’t have to be. It was flexible enough to run Germany which was capable of being a superpower in the geopolitics of the 1900′s.
    Terrorism
    But you’re leaving out how we can stop terrorism: by fighting, defeating, and killing terrorists in Iraq or any other country where they choose to make a stand.
    What you’re not getting is that most of this terrorism was/is created by the instability of invading to begin with.
    Hold that thought: killing thousands of terrorists “just doesn’t matter” because they “can do just fine with a dozen”.
    But wait — you just said that the number of terrorists “just doesn’t matter”. Who cares then, if things are stable or unstable? That’s not our problem, they can’t touch us where it counts.
    REcall what I said has to be done with nutcases. They have to be watched, broken up when they get ‘in sync’ etc. This is hard enough to do when things are normal but when you spend a fantastic amount of resources on a nation building project it is all the harder. The instability opens the door to a lot of ‘sane terrorism’ which will be resolved or contained with their underlying conflicts (which Shi’ite group will rule Iraq?, what will the place of Sunis be in Iraq? Who gets how much of the oil revenue? etc.) It also opens the door to breeding new nutcases which increases the danger all the more. You’re trying to fight a war by looking at aggregate numbers…how many thousands of the enemy have been killed or neutralized? That’s excellent strategy in a conventional war but not when the real danger comes from unpredictable micro-groups. If 10,000 of one group become terrorists against 10,000 of another all you’ll ever see is the big aggregate numbers. You can declare victory if out of those 20,000 9,000 get killed and the remainder come to some understanding and stop fighting but you’ll never see the 12 or so synced up nutcases that form from that chaos until ten years later when something big gets blown up on the other side of the world.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    The analogy I would use is bacteria. You have bacteria which is all over the place. You get a cut there’s automatically bacteria in it and you try to keep it clean but you don’t go out trying to kill all bacteria because such an act would be worthless.
    Then there are superbugs. Superbugs are more rare but they are undesirable because they are unpredictable & when they do pop up they cause a lot of unexpected damage. (A normal cut is expected to get infected to some degree and measures can be taken to deal with the expected problems that brings, infection by a superbug, though, can lead to all types of unexpected problems).
    When you get all scraped up and wallow in the dirt you are going to have a small riot of bacterial activity going on. Some hydrogen peroxide and maybe some antibiotics, though, will kill trillions of bacteria.
    So if we wanted to have a war on super bugs should we get ourselves all scraped up and dirty? The bacteria hawk will declare that we are doing great because we’re killing billions of bacteria and even some superbugs and, of course, if we are killing them then that’s all the fewer of them to kill us! Right? That’s wrong, though, because unleashing a lot of normal bacterial activity increases the chance that a mutant bacteria will get formed in that choas and come back to bite us. Your ‘war on superbugs’ would have made a better use of resources monitoring routine infections, trying to develop new antibiotics and a thousand other little tasks.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Boonton,
    … if Iran wants suicide it could get it right now by simply launching an all out war on Israel. Why don’t they do so?
    Iran doesn’t want suicide, they just want to destroy Israel.
    … Pakistan is known to have maybe a dozen or more nukes and has been involved in both hot and cold wars with India. Is that an existential threat?
    Yes, very much so.
    What does this have to do with Islamofascism? It sounds like you’re more concerned about containing Iran.
    Iran has an Islamofascist national government. After the fall of the Taliban, Iran and Saudi Arabia are the world’s two leading Islamofascist regimes.
    I knew from prior exchanges that you don’t like the term “Islamofascism”, but your question does explain a lot: it seems we have been talking past each other to a large degree when it comes to Islamofascism.
    Exactly how is this threat best addressed by subverting the strength of Iran’s natural enemies, increasing its oil revenue and giving it a foothold in Iraq? Something Iran couldn’t pull off after ten years of bloody war in the 1980′s is now handed to them on a silver platter.
    Good question.
    I agree that it would be very, very bad if we abandoned Iraq tomorrow. That would very likely lead to chaos in Iraq which would fracture the country and indeed hand Iran a strategic victory on a silver platter.
    But if a democratic, terror-hating Iraq became an ally of Iran, that would be a tremendous blessing, both for the people of Iran and the world at large.
    Iran’s authoritarian theocracy could not indefinitely withstand the living, breathing flouting of their ideology and repression right across the border in Shiite-majority Iraq. The mullahs would eventually have to embrace reform or ignominiously perish.
    Iran != jihadis. Look at both rhetoric and reality.
    Boonton, I love going back and forth with you in our game of comment tag.
    You have a sharp, curious mind, and a willingness to engage every nook and cranny that seems relevent.
    But every now and again you say things that are so dumb/f**ked up that only a really smart person like yourself could possibly lend them the least bit of credence.
    Iran is the premier Shiite theocracy, and arguably the largest sponsor of jihadis on the planet today. Jihadi terror is their second most important export after oil.
    What dope are you toking, sir?
    … if Iraq was a stable democracy that rejected terrorism they would be natural allies with Iran for religious and ethnic reasons. It would be easy to see how they would be inclined to unite with Iran, for example, in regards to OPEC. (Ohhh yea, there’s other stuff in the Middle East to worry about besides suicide bombers).
    Two remarks:
    1) I (and I hope you would too) would willingly and gladly pay $10.00 a gallon for gas if that would guarantee a free and prosperous Iraq and peace in the Middle East.
    The foreign policy of the United States is, and has been for a long time, to promote the liberty and welfare of all peoples. International relations does not have to be a zero-sum game, and most of the time it isn’t.
    2) A terror-hating Iraqi democracy could become a full-fledged ally of Iran only when Iran renounced terror.
    No [a successful conclusion to the Iraq war] doesn’t [free up resources]. Spent resources are spent. If you take out a home equity loan to build a deck and the contracter screws it up then you’re in trouble. Even if he comes back and makes good on the deck that doesn’t mean you will now have the money to add a new level to your house.
    Wrong for two reasons.
    First, we need to spend a few percentage points of our GDP on our military whether we invade/occupy Iraq or not.
    The gross figure for military spending is certainly higher due to Iraq, but the net figure is not as high as you seem to think it is.
    So if we are going to spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year equipping and training our military, it is actually a good thing from a budgetary point of view that we are fighting a small to medium sized war in Iraq. It is a combination of the ultimate live-fire exercise/war game, and an invaluable learning experience in how to fight terrorists and insurgents. We are definitely getting a lot of bang for our buck in Iraq.
    It is not so easy to justify the human side of the ledger, the 20,000 casualties we have taken (not to mention the devastation for the Iraqis), so it would certainly have been better to have found a way to avoid war in the first place. But your money criticism doesn’t hold up very well.
    The second reason you are wrong is that we haven’t screwed up the deck on the house. The war has gone very well from our point of view, better than we had a right to expect in March 2003, although not as well as some of the rosier scenarios that were floated at the time.
    We are essentially helping them be an ally right now of Iran.
    That would be a good thing if it pans out; a feature, not a bug.
    But of course, Iran is no “ally” of the Al Maliki government. They are lending material support and apparently some key personnel to the hot war against the Iraqi army and security forces.
    If Al Maliki is able to negotiate a de-escalation or a truce with Iran due to shared interests and Shia fellowship, that hardly makes Iran an “ally”.
    Our rhetoric has painted us into a corner where we are backing one because he is the ‘legitimate’ President of Iraq.
    I think Al Maliki is the one who is most cramped is his corner. And so far he’s been doing very well at maneuvering and playing his hand.
    He still has a way to go, and maybe he won’t succeed (even if the war goes well, the problems of corruption and building infrastructure might prove too intractable for him). But his corner is way tighter than our corner or Iraq’s corner.
    Hitler’s ideology was coherent enough to take over a country and the country he took over was developed enough to put itself in a position to be an existential threat.
    Hitler would never have become an existential threat if the allied countries hadn’t, for various reasons, stood aside for five or six years and allowed him to become one.
    And the Islamists’ ideology is every bit as coherent as Hitler’s.
    Japan had a different ideology that sought out to make Japan an Imperial power in the Pacific. Their ideology was not the same as Hitler but it had enough overlap to make them allies.
    Two competing master races were able to become allies, but two strains of Islam can’t?
    If Hitler was anything, he was anti-Communist. His mortal enemy was Joe Stalin. But even they were able to sign a non-aggression pact and co-ordinate an invasion of Poland together.
    And, of course, when Hitler betrayed Uncle Joe, FDR and the U.S. were able to swallow our antipathy and work in league with Stalin to defeat the Nazi war machine.
    Iran supports Sunni Hamas. Syria supports Shia Hezbollah, who in turn allies with the Palestinians against Israel. Iran also supports Sunni insurgents in Iraq.
    And Saddam himself, after the Iran-Iraq war, tamped down his secular ideology and took up the mantle of holy Islam.
    Some Sunnis and Shias hate and mistrust each other as much as it is possible to hate another human being, but they still seem quite willing to gang up on the Great Satan and her ally, Israel, when circumstances call for it.
    Islamists are too fundamentalist to build a pan-Arab consensus. You effortlessly interchange Al Qaeda and Iran, for example, while ignoring the fact that both have a religious ideology that makes them incompatitable to act as an allied unit. In contrast while both German and Japanese racism inhibited them from acting together as much as they could, they were both strong enough individually to mount an uncordinated threat to the west. A flavor of Islamism that could overcome both the selfish interests of the various Arab nations (why would Saudi Arabia join non-oil states to divide their wealth) as well as be inclusive enough to bridge the religious differences wouldn’t look anything like what Bin Laden has to sell.
    This is a solid analysis, as far as it goes.
    But I’m afraid you are committing a common fallacy of relying solely on past performance to gauge future risks and opportunities.
    The picture you draw, even if it is currently valid, is not describing a static world. Rather, as you know, world affairs are turbulent and dynamic, and our success or failure in one corner of the world disrupts equilibria and shakes up the status quo elsewhere.
    Germany was a weak, dispirited country when the Nazis took over. It wasn’t a real threat to any one of major powers at the time. Yet less than a decade later, Hitler was ready to take over a substantial fraction of the planet and almost succeeded in imposing his will on all of Europe.
    This is just one example. History is replete with the stories of the dramatic rise and fall of powerful empires, some more durable than others.
    As for militant Islamism, it’s easy to survey the terrain and conclude that their ambitions are a pipe dream. But even if that turns out to be the case (as I am convinced it will), that doesn’t mean Islamofascism won’t wreak great destruction and misery on its way out the door.
    I’m not concerned that the U.S. will become part of a 1,000-year caliphate. I’m concerned that our current modest clash of civilizations could degenerate into a all-out world war, a war that could conceivably top all the records for destruction and long-term fallout.
    Such a devastating war is not currently the most likely path that the world will follow. But what is likely now and what is likely two or five or ten years from now is not the same thing.
    No Middle Eastern country is capable of making itself an existential threat. The world is dramatically different from 1930. The US remains the only military superpower whose capability dwarfs not only any other nation but all other nations combined. Add in NATO & China who wouldn’t entertain an aggressive Islamic superpower and the game is over before it even began.
    I don’t think you appreciate how fragile civilization is. It is much easier to disrupt and to destroy than it is to build and to create and to nurture.
    I don’t think Islamofascism is capable of beating the West and/or China, but I do think it is capable of losing in a spectacular way.
    … try to imagine the UK and US actually shooting at each other during the Cold War.
    It is not as hard as you might think.
    For example, the U.S. and the Soviet Union actually ended up teaming up against the British in the Suez crisis of 1956.
    But your point is taken. Islamofascism is not as flexible and accomodating as liberal democracy.
    What you’re not getting is that most of this terrorism was/is created by the instability of invading to begin with.
    No it wasn’t, o mighty Boonton.
    Yes, the invasion created instability. Yes, there was a power vacuum that insurgents and terrorists and petty criminal gangs exploited.
    But we didn’t create a single terrorist. The terrorists were created by their own free will and by the exertions of the terror masters. And, they, in turn, are part and parcel of the Islamofascist mentality that devalues the infidel and struggles for Sharia and/or a new and glorious Caliphate.
    We created instability in Germany and Japan after World War II. But the Germans and the Japanese didn’t go around setting off bombs in crowded marketplaces or shooting home movies of civilians getting their heads hacked off.
    The bombs and the terror are an Islamofascist wrinkle. The invasion gave these people a specific opportunity and perhaps tweaked their motivation a bit, but the Islamofascists are the ones who seized the day to commit crimes against humanity. We had nothing to do with their decision.
    I’m not playing semantics here. This is a fundamental distinction that you are missing: the terrorists are responsible for the terror, and no one else.
    How could it be otherwise? If you can’t see that, then one could claim that Bin Laden is responsible for the U.S. and its allies invading Iraq, because we were provoked by 9-11. And that would be just as false: we are responsible for what we do or don’t do, and the Islamofascists are responsible for what they do.
    You can declare victory if out of those 20,000 9,000 get killed and the remainder come to some understanding and stop fighting but you’ll never see the 12 or so synced up nutcases that form from that chaos until ten years later when something big gets blown up on the other side of the world.
    I think your terrorist estimate is off by about one order of magnitude: I think there are probably around a couple of hundred thousand Islamist terrorists who are more or less active worldwide.
    But you are right: I would declare victory if we kill 9,000 terrorists and get the rest to cry uncle. At that point, the Boonton paradigm of nutcase-terrorist as opposed to conflict-terrorist would become the correct model, and I would walk hand-in-hand with you through future counter-terror comment threads.
    But of course, we are not there yet, and I suspect we won’t be there yet for quite a while. Not while the mad mullahs of Iran are safely esconced in the corridors of power. Nor while the Sauds are still pumping petro-dollars into the bank accounts of Wahabbi imams and school-teachers on six continents.
    I am glad, though, that you seem to understand what I am driving at. I am glad that you agree with me that we are currently not just dealing with unpredictable micro-groups, as you put it.
    So if we wanted to have a war on super bugs should we get ourselves all scraped up and dirty?
    No, I don’t think that at all. Our policy should be (and since World War II it has been) to never invade another country — unless it is necessary to forestall a likely larger war that would otherwise be coming down the pike in a few years anyway.
    And that was the situation with Saddam. If we had not invaded in March 2003, we would have had to have ended up fighting him, one way or another, by March 2008. Not to mention that we were already at war with Iraq due to Saddam’s ongoing violations of the first Gulf War’s ceasefire agreement.
    I understand you don’t agree with me 100% about all this, but would you admit that war with Iraq was inevitable, whether we invaded or not?
    That’s wrong, though, because unleashing a lot of normal bacterial activity increases the chance that a mutant bacteria will get formed in that choas and come back to bite us.
    Good point. We should generally avoid provoking terrorists, or at least avoid provoking them with violence, and pick our fights very carefully and sparingly. I agree with you.
    But that is not what happened in Iraq.
    To use your bacteria analogy, this is what happened:
    About five years ago, our neighbors down the street had a nasty, virulent disease. In fact several of our neighbors had caught the same bug (it was that time of the year, apparently), and some of them had chronic, horrible symptoms that they just couldn’t shake.
    Now it happens that we had some antiviral medicine that could clear things up, and we went over and knocked on the door of one the homes that was suffering the most. It turns out that the drug performed remarkably well and quickly to boot, but had some unfortunate side effects that allowed some opportunistic infections to take hold.
    So we are currently administering some I.V. antibiotics and waiting patiently for our neighbors to recover.
    Last year, they almost went into septic shock, but they have since recovered and their prognosis, with continued treatment, is guardedly optimistic.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Iran has an Islamofascist national government. After the fall of the Taliban, Iran and Saudi Arabia are the world’s two leading Islamofascist regimes.
    I knew from prior exchanges that you don’t like the term “Islamofascism”, but your question does explain a lot: it seems we have been talking past each other to a large degree when it comes to Islamofascism.
    I don’t like the term because it explains too little. Iran and Saudi Arabia are like oil and water. Using the same term to describe them is helpful ONLY if their similiarities are more important than their differences, if the opposite is the case then using the same term leaves you with an inaccurate picture.
    Iran’s authoritarian theocracy could not indefinitely withstand the living, breathing flouting of their ideology and repression right across the border in Shiite-majority Iraq. The mullahs would eventually have to embrace reform or ignominiously perish.
    You have a remarkable degree of faith, even after seeing the current President of Iraq plus his Shi’ite competitors seek blessings from Iran’s President.
    Iran is the premier Shiite theocracy, and arguably the largest sponsor of jihadis on the planet today. Jihadi terror is their second most important export after oil.
    OK so why again was Iraq #1 on the invasion list?
    Hitler & Japan
    Two competing master races were able to become allies, but two strains of Islam can’t?
    Actually the Axis did not coordinate their military strategy as much as they should or could. The racism of Germany inhibited cooporation that could have made the military situation better.
    But here’s the way to look at this analogy. Contradictory ideologies can work together if they are sperated by long distances & do not run up against each other. If Israel existed in 1930 and ruled by a Jewish fascist I doubt Hitler could have allied Nazi Germany with her.
    If Hitler was anything, he was anti-Communist. His mortal enemy was Joe Stalin. But even they were able to sign a non-aggression pact and co-ordinate an invasion of Poland together.
    And Iran worked with Israel on the Iran-Contra deal.
    Germany was a weak, dispirited country when the Nazis took over. It wasn’t a real threat to any one of major powers at the time. Yet less than a decade later, Hitler was ready to take over a substantial fraction of the planet and almost succeeded in imposing his will on all of Europe.
    Germany was weak because it was being purposefully handicapped by the other powers. It was being handicapped because it was a superpower before and was a superpower after WWI. Iran, though, does not fit the bill nor are any other countries in the Middle East.
    But your point is taken. Islamofascism is not as flexible and accomodating as liberal democracy.
    Actually my point was that communism was not as flexible and accomodating as Islamofascism. A superpower ideology needs to be better than a fundamentalist ideology.
    I understand you don’t agree with me 100% about all this, but would you admit that war with Iraq was inevitable, whether we invaded or not?
    I would agree that instability in Iraq was inevitable (Saddam would have died at some point if he wasn’t deposed) but its laughable to assert war was inevitable. Saddam’s Iraq was a shadow of what it once was and while he did cheat as much as he could on the sanctions there was no threat against any other Arab nation in either the short or medium term.

  • Mike Toreno

    Boonton, you are approaching the argument wrong. Matthew’s arguments are basically arguments from authority. He makes these unsupported pronouncements, and you are just supposed to accept them. He is basically saying that there is this thing called Islamofascism, against which we are locked in some sort of apocalyptic struggle. He says that if we just “win” in Iraq, the sky will break open and ponies will rain down from heaven. He discounts the costs that have been incurred, and ignores the costs of continuing to maintain troops in Iraq. He pretends that the war is going splendidly. He puts forth these propositions without any evidentiary support.
    You don’t argue meticulously against the ravings of a lunatic, you dismiss them. Keep these points in mind:
    There is not any such thing as Islamofascism, and we are not locked in an apocalyptic struggle. Matthew is simply glomming onto a Republican talking point. In addition, he wishes to see the U.S. as locked in an apocalyptic struggle, because he sees war as romantic and exciting, and he feels himself a participant in a grand adventure by sitting and advocating the continuing deaths of others, that come without cost or danger to himself. He believes in the existence of “Islamofascism” not because there is evidence that it exists, but because by participating (through cost-free, risk-free, means) in the “struggle” against it, he sees himself as a bold warrior.
    The Iraq war is not moving in a direction of advantage to the United States. The “surge” – a strategy of paying off and arming various militias – has no chance of achieving a favorable outcome. Militias will take our arms and our money, and will maneuver to achieve their own ends, but their ends are not our ends.
    Matthew’s ability to write down words describing a favorable outcome does not constitute proof that such an outcome is possible. The sky is not going to break open and ponies are not going to cascade down from heaven. The claim of an impending rain of ponies does not justify the continued waste of resources caused by the Iraq war.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Mike Toreno,
    It is possible that things will turn out as you describe.
    In fact, if a majority of Americans demand a quick withdrawal, and the next president responds by cutting our troop strength too much and too soon, then that would greatly increase the likelihood of what you describe.
    In short, if enough people listened to you and/or agreed with you, your worst-case scenario would become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    Fortunately, your debating style is not well-suited to winning converts, so I don’t think Iraq has much to worry about from your rhetoric.
    Peace,
    Matthew
    Boonton,
    I don’t like the term because it explains too little. Iran and Saudi Arabia are like oil and water. Using the same term to describe them is helpful ONLY if their similiarities are more important than their differences, if the opposite is the case then using the same term leaves you with an inaccurate picture.
    Labels are a double-edged sword.
    They remind us of salient features, but they also, even when used properly, over-simplify and allow a certain lazy complacency to sneak into one’s thinking.
    That said, are Saudi Arabia and Iran Islamofascist?
    Well, they are both authoritarian theocracies. They both aggressively export their respective Islamist ideologies. They are both anti-semitic regimes, and one gets the sense that at least part of the Saudi Arabian oligarchy would like to be as anti-American as Iran if it weren’t such a dangerous line for them to pursue. And they both persecute and oppress women, homosexuals, and various other minorities.
    As such, I feel justified in using the label. And no, I didn’t glom it from any Republicans; I stole it from a Trotskyist (Chris Hitchens) and a “conservative” drama queen (Andrew Sullivan).
    You have a remarkable degree of faith, even after seeing the current President of Iraq plus his Shi’ite competitors seek blessings from Iran’s President.
    I do have a lot of faith in the power of Iraqi democracy. The problem is, it hasn’t been established yet, although it seems to be putting itself on a firmer basis every day.
    As for the great influence of the Iranian government on Iraqi politics, right now it does have way too much influence, thanks to the extra-legal militias that it supports. Hopefully that will prove to be a temporary problem and not a permanent one. It is certainly a very good reason why we should think twice or three times before bugging out of Iraq.
    OK so why again was Iraq #1 on the invasion list?
    Saddam may not have been the biggest threat – he probably wasn’t – but he certainly was the lowest hanging fruit. For example, he was more intensely hated by more of his subjects than any other Arab or Muslim tyrant; he was thumbing his nose at the U.N. and had been for twelve years; and we were already in a state of war due to his cease-fire violations.
    Actually the Axis did not coordinate their military strategy as much as they should or could. The racism of Germany inhibited cooporation that could have made the military situation better.
    Quite right.
    But here’s the way to look at this analogy. Contradictory ideologies can work together if they are separated by long distances & do not run up against each other.
    Yes, that would seem necessary. But what actually brings the cooperation about in the first place is the combination of a common enemy and a crisis.
    The United States and her allies are the common enemy of the Islamofascists; so far, we’ve been able to avoid or defuse any potential crises that would throw the Shia and Shiite and nihilistic Islamofascists into a hard, formal alliance.
    If Israel existed in 1930 and ruled by a Jewish fascist I doubt Hitler could have allied Nazi Germany with her.
    Well, Hitler’s alliance with the original Islamofascist, the great Mufti of Jerusalem, was only a little less bizarre, if you think about it. The levantine arabs are a semitic people, after all.
    Germany was weak because it was being purposefully handicapped by the other powers. It was being handicapped because it was a superpower before and was a superpower after WWI. Iran, though, does not fit the bill nor are any other countries in the Middle East.
    I guess the Persian empire doesn’t count in this context. But Iran doesn’t have to be a superpower in order to be as destructive as Hitler. All they need is a willingness to be ruthlessly evil, either directly or by proxy, combined with a stockpile of WMD’s.
    If Hitler had atomic weapons, he might not have lost World War II. As it was, he come close to knocking Britain out near the end just with his newly developed V-2 rockets.
    I would agree that instability in Iraq was inevitable (Saddam would have died at some point if he wasn’t deposed) but its laughable to assert war was inevitable. Saddam’s Iraq was a shadow of what it once was and while he did cheat as much as he could on the sanctions there was no threat against any other Arab nation in either the short or medium term.
    I don’t want to get into a long discussion about this, so I will just agree to disagree. Or as Mike Toreno puts it, I’ll just leave my unsupported assertion out there for you to bow down before or reject.
    Have a good weekend,
    Matthew

  • Mike Toreno

    Matthew, considering that a substantial majority of Americans want out of Iraq, it isn’t necessary for me to win converts among the few remaining chickenhawks such as yourself, those who do not care about Iraq or about America, but whose primary interest is in pretending that the advocacy of war makes them warriors. If you notice, I was talking to Boonton, not to you. I don’t care about converting you because I know that converting you is not possible. It doesn’t matter to you what arguments anyone presents, it doesn’t matter what the facts show. You are not interested in the facts, you are interested in pretending to be a warrior.
    It isn’t possible or important to win you over, because no rational course of action would satisfy your need – the need to watch men fight so that you can pretend you’re a man.
    What’s important is not for the large majority of Americans opposed to the war to compromise important principles, or to indulge the egos of those opposed to us, so that we can build a larger (but less effective) majority. What’s important is for us to use our majority to bring into action our vision for America.
    For that reason I laid out (for Boonton, not for you) an analysis of your “arguments” that cuts through your obfuscation and lays bare your motivations, and urged him to focus on what’s important and what’s not. It’s not important to argue with a worthless coward who wants continued war (at no cost or danger to him) so that he can pretend to be brave. That is a fruitless course of action. What’s important is to work to bring the government in line with the public will.
    Therefore, I urge Boonton not to engage in endless argument with someone for whom arguments and facts are not important, but instead to join with others to promote the Responsible Plan.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Mike Toreno,
    Ever since the rise of the insurgency in 2004, there have been about 50 million Americans who have consistently supported the war, about 50 million Americans who have consistently opposed the war, and about 50 million who have swung one way or another around the middle, depending on how well events on the ground have been going.
    If you think that any of these people are lunatics, irrational, wanna-be warriors, or cowards just because they agree or disagree with some position on the fighting, then you are one very sorry puppy.
    I respectfully suggest you get a life, sir.
    Cheers,
    Matthew

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Boonton,
    I’d like to take a step back from discussing the bigger picture, and bring your attention to just one aspect of the war in Iraq.
    Here’s a link to a first-hand account of conditions in the town of Karmah:
    Link to “The Liberation of Karmah”, by Michael Totten
    If you are so inclined, I invite you to read it (part 2 is even better than part 1; to get to part 2, go to Michael’s main page and scroll down).
    If you do read it, think about the following question: Is the liberation of Karmah the sort of thing that the U.S. should be doing? Is this the sort of thing we should be spending money on, and risking our troops’ live for?
    I’d be interested in knowing what you think.
    Matthew

  • Mike Toreno

    Matthew, I wasn’t talking about various groups whose opinions we don’t know in detail, I was talking about you, whose opinions and claims we do know in detail. We have an abundance of evidence that you are a worthless coward seeking to conceal (and hide from) your worthlessness and cowardice by urging risk and sacrifice for others, at no cost to yourself. The way for Boonton to respond to you is not to refute your claims, but to ignore them and work to put the Responsible Plan into fruition.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Mike Toreno,
    I don’t know how you were unable to uncover my worthlessness and cowardice. I doff my hat to you.
    But of course, a worthless coward can still speak the truth. If you or Boonton or anyone else cannot deal with what I have to say on the merits, than any character failings I may or may not have are irrelevent. And any mention you make of them (or repeat for the hundredth time) become irrelevent ad hominem attacks.
    I also invite you, Mike, to read the article at the link in comment 182 and think about what Michael Totten describes in Karmah. Decide for yourself, without my cowardly commentary (for Mr. Totten is the opposite of a worthless coward, even if I might not be), whether Karmah is a sound expenditure of our tax dollars, and whether Karmah is the kind of mission that is appropriate for our military.
    As with Boonton, I would be interested to know what you think.
    All the best,
    Matthew

  • Mike Toreno

    Matthew, there was no need to “uncover” your worthlessness and cowardice, it’s right there on the surface.
    It’s true that a worthless coward can still speak the truth, but you haven’t spoken the truth about Iraq. I am not pointing out your worthlessness and cowardice in order to refute the various dishonest claims you are making, and the various dishonest and clumsy sleights of hand to which you resort. I have already refuted your claims. I said doing what you desire (to commit U.S. resources, at no cost or hardship to you, to an interminable mission in Iraq) is not going to cause the sky is not to break open and rain down ponies.
    My purpose in pointing out that you are a worthless coward is to explain to others why you tell the lies that you tell and why you are impervious to the truth. My purpose in pointing out that you are a worthless coward is to make the point that argument with you will be fruitless because the facts don’t matter to you. What matters to you is hiding the fact that you are a worthless coward.
    Therefore, it is a waste of time to refute your dishonest points one by one; you will simply repeat the same dishonest points, come up with new dishonest points, and put up more links to wingnut websites. Your claim that whatever points you pretend to make are worthy of engagement should simply be ignored with the contempt that they (and you) deserve.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Michael,
    I guess this might be your way of telling me not to take your arguments seriously.
    But if I’m wrong about that, and if in fact you do mean what you say, I ask you to get some counseling.
    If you really hate someone you’ve never met over a political disagreement, then it’s likely that, somewhere inside of you, you hate yourself as well. If you seek counseling and find someone you can trust, then maybe you can learn to accept yourself, and learn to love yourself and other people.
    None of this is meant as a back-handed insult to score points in our debate. I sincerely ask you to strongly consider getting help from someone you can respect and listen to.
    I’m sorry to have provoked such strong feeling in you to no good end. I hope you can find happiness and fulfillment, I hope you can feel good about yourself.
    Peace and love,
    Matthew

  • Mike Toreno

    Matthew, I feel great about myself, what I feel bad about is cowards like you who advocate war so long as it costs them nothing, and because it costs them nothing, who mischaracterize the positions of their political opponents, who seek to define patriotism as including their on viewpoints and excluding others. You share responsibility for the deaths of 4000 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Now I know that among wingnuts, that’s unimportant and what really matters is that war opponents don’t frame their arguments in the way that war advocates desire. But here in reality land, being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and continuing to advocate the deaths of still more thousands, is morally repugnant. You are morally reprehensible because of your grossly immoral acts. My recognition of that fact is not a psychological deficiency, no matter what Soviet-style analysis you use to frame your political opponents as defective.
    Again, it doesn’t matter whether you take my arguments seriously. You won’t take them seriously, because you don’t care about reality, you only care about playing soldier.

  • Marvin the Martian

    4000 soldiers and “hundreds of thousands of Iraqis” killed in 5 + years of combat. Spare us your faux outrage Mike.
    1,000,000 plus babies are killed by their own mothers each year thanks to “morally superior” moonbats like you Mike who trully devalue defenseless, innocent, pre-born human life.
    We all know that if Al Gore were president and had gone into Iraq, you would be singing the praises of the one who ended the reign of a brutal dictator with a long history of human rights violations.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Michael,
    I feel great about myself
    Thank you for letting me know. I was truly concerned. If you say you feel good about yourself, I’m willing to take your word about it.
    And thank you for sharing your thoughts about all this. You seem to think that I am just ignoring your arguments, but I have considered what you said and responded to the best of my ability. If you are disappointed in my response, then I recognize that as your privilege.
    Now I know that among wingnuts, [their responsibility for death and destruction is] unimportant and what really matters is that war opponents don’t frame their arguments in the way that war advocates desire.
    Well, this particular wingnut thinks that what is going on in Iraq right now is something that really matters.
    Would you like to respond to my question about Karmah?
    Here is the link again: link to “The Liberation of Karmah”, by Michael Totten.
    Our work in Karmah, is it something we should be doing or not?
    Thanks again,
    Matthew
    P.S. For your convenience, here is the link for part 2 of the Karmah story: link to “The Liberation of Karmah, Part II”.

  • MikeToreno

    Matthew, see, the problem with your arguments is that none of them involve telling the truth. The fundamental character flaw of yours that vitiates your arguments is that you are a liar. You claim that continuing the occupation in Iraq is going to cause the sky to break open and ponies to rain down, well, it’s been 5 years and no ponies. You claim that if we “succeed in Iraq”, that is, if we are able to cause a rain of ponies, this success will demoralize our enemies. Your argument is a fundamentally dishonest argument of the type “I can imagine X outcome, if X outcome is achieved, I can imagine that it will cause Y outcome, Y outcome would be good for the United States, therefore we must be willing to commit infinite resources (so long as I don’t have to contribute) to Z activity, so that X outcome will be achieved. Your argument does not demonstrate how Z activity causes X outcome or how X outcome leads to Y outcome. It also does not consider whether other, less costly alternatives to Z activity exist. For example, engaging Iran to broker negotiations with the various Shiite militias over which they have influence in order to bring stability and avoid slaughter of Sunnis would be vastly less costly and destructive than our present course of action, which is to arm various militias and pay them off in order to (temporarily) avoid attacking us. Engaging Syria to use their influence on the Sunnis to broker a peace between the Shiites and the Sunnis would similarly be less costly and destructive. However, these acts are unattractive to worthless cowards like yourself, because they do not involve the idea that you are part of a glorious, apocalyptic struggle.
    I took a look at the wingnut article you cited. Let me get this straight. You are asking me if causing the creation of al Qaeda in Iraq, driving them into a small, relatively undefended town where they commit mayhem, and then clearing them out after much bloodshed, is something the U.S. should be doing. Well – no. What the U.S. should be doing is preventing bloodshed.
    Why don’t you try once to argue in an honest way, rather than through clumsy slight of hand tricks like the false dichotomy you resorted to here?

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Michael,
    You claim that continuing the occupation in Iraq is going to cause the sky to break open and ponies to rain down, well, it’s been 5 years and no ponies.
    One reason war should be used only as a last resort is that war is extremely costly and deeply devastating and cruel.
    Another very important reason to avoid war is that war is very unpredictable. In a war, we will have a strategy and a plan, but most plans, even successful plans, get overtaken by events very quickly, and strategies need to be very flexible and accommodating.
    People who were dead set against the war in March 2003 made predictions that turned out to be just as off-base as ponies-from-heaven.
    If we all knew ahead of time how wars were going to turn out, we wouldn’t have to fight them in the first place: the losers would just surrender to the winners without going through the pain and expense of actually losing.
    You claim that if we “succeed in Iraq”, that is, if we are able to cause a rain of ponies, this success will demoralize our enemies.
    Which is actually what happened for a while when we were able to topple Saddam’s regime so quickly. Moreover, in past wars, defeat has ordinarily led to demoralization of the losing side.
    This is not a pie-in-the-sky proposition. It is, rather, a simple observation about how wars turn out when one side is able to pull off a decisive victory. If we are not able to pull off a decisive victory, then you are correct, our enemies will not be very demoralized.
    … therefore we must be willing to commit infinite resources (so long as I don’t have to contribute) to Z activity, so that X outcome will be achieved.
    That is a devastating criticism — of someone else’s argument.
    I’ve argued that we should not be willing to commit infinite resources. I’ve said that we must be careful to monitor our progress continually and decide, based on what is going on, whether it makes sense to continue or to stop.
    Your argument does not demonstrate how Z activity causes X outcome or how X outcome leads to Y outcome. It also does not consider whether other, less costly alternatives to Z activity exist.
    If you have specific questions that you would like me to answer about how X, Y, and Z are supposed to be related, or about alternatives to Z, then please go ahead and ask me.
    For example, engaging Iran to broker negotiations with the various Shiite militias over which they have influence in order to bring stability and avoid slaughter of Sunnis would be vastly less costly and destructive than our present course of action, which is to arm various militias and pay them off in order to (temporarily) avoid attacking us.
    Once again, it is possible that you are right.
    We should probably be reluctant to embrace the course of action you recommend, however, because it seems impossible to truly engage Iran when her interests are so divergent and contrary to our own.
    We are working to build a liberal democracy which separates church from state. Iran is looking to exploit Shia demographics to install a repressive theocracy in Iraq.
    Our collaboration with the militia-type groups of the “Awakening” seems to be working very well for the moment. Time will tell if such tactics are wise or foolish in the long term.
    However, these acts are unattractive to worthless cowards like yourself, because they do not involve the idea that you are part of a glorious, apocalyptic struggle.
    You know, I’ve engaged anti-war people in discussion, in person, over the past 6 1/2 years, and I’ve never talked to or met anyone who has tried to personalize disagreements the way that you do. You are truly a special, if not unique, person when it comes to insults and vitriol.
    I would like to hope I am the first person you have ever unfairly assaulted, but I doubt that that is the case. Even if you do feel good about yourself, you should seek out counseling anyway. You are one very angry dude, and you are channeling your anger on the wrong target(s).
    Do you get anywhere near this upset with the psychopaths who belong to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups?
    I took a look at the wingnut article you cited.
    And Michael Totten is a wingnut because?
    Let me get this straight. You are asking me if causing the creation of Al Qaeda in Iraq, driving them into a small, relatively undefended town where they commit mayhem, and then clearing them out after much bloodshed, is something the U.S. should be doing.
    We created conditions in Iraq that Al Qaeda in Iraq took advantage of. I’m not sure, however, what we should have done to prevent them from establishing themselves in the post-Saddam power vacuum.
    People like yourself would say we shouldn’t have invaded in the first place. Others say we should have had more boots on the ground, and yet others say we should have installed our own strongman to keep such troublemakers in line. And there are those who say we should have just left and allowed the chaos to run its course.
    I don’t know what kind of plan we should have had in place ahead of time to deal with these nasty murderers, or what kind of policies should have been implemented in response to the terrorists and the insurgents. Even with the benefit of hindsight, the armed resistance seems an intractable problem with no totally satisfactory solutions.
    I understand why you and Boonton and so many others have found this situation to be reprehensible and deplorable. (I find it reprehensible and deplorable too — but I don’t blame our coalition for the activities of the people we’re fighting against.) I don’t know how to answer your objection other than to point out that war has always been a horrible business, and this one is no exception.
    All of the alternatives that might have been available for us to pursue had their own costs and unintended consequences. It seems to me that the course we did follow was justified by our understanding of things at the time.
    Maybe a decision had been made in Washington to use Iraq as “flypaper” to attract terrorists and kill them on a terrain that was favorable to us. That would have been a deeply immoral decision; I hope that was not how things actually transpired.
    What I think probably happened is that we were not prepared to imagine just how deeply vicious and evil our enemies would turn out to be. We were caught off guard by the willingness of so many people to kidnap, maim, torture, and kill innocent victims. We were guilty of not pre-judging our enemies and their capacity for pure ruthlessness.
    Well – no. What the U.S. should be doing is preventing bloodshed.
    I agree. Good answer.
    And yet… if for whatever reason we fail to prevent the bloodshed, we shouldn’t flinch from doing what is necessary to end it.
    Why don’t you try once to argue in an honest way, rather than through clumsy slight of hand tricks like the false dichotomy you resorted to here?
    According to you, asking a question is “resorting to a false dichotomy”.
    Now that is a good one. Of all the insults you have thrown against the wall in my direction, this is the first one that I recall which displays a bit of cleverness.
    I’m going to want to remember it: resorting to a false dichotomy. I wouldn’t use it myself, unless I was really face-to-face with a genuine false dichotomy. But it’s amusing to apply it to ordinary questions the way you have done.
    Thanks very much for responding to my question about Karmah.
    If you decide to respond one more time to my latest comment, I would like to issue you a challenge: Can you respond to me without any name-calling or insults?
    I know you are capable of doing so, because you are not dumb and because you have actually responded to me in another comment thread in a civil manner. But it would still be nice if you could do me the courtesy of a clean and respectful comment.
    Thanks,
    Matthew

  • Mike Toreno

    Matthew, after you get back from your tour of duty in Iraq, you’ll have proven that you are willing to make the same sacrifices you urge on others, so you will have proven that I was mistaken in calling you a worthless coward. In the absence of such evidence, therefore, all I have is your self-important pronouncements about how destructive war is but how it is necessary that “we” keep fighting. In light of such evidence, there is no reason for me not to point out that you are a worthless coward.
    Most of your blathering is not worth fooling with. I do notice, however, that you are back to the refuge of the chickenhawk, that of pearl-clutching at the incivility of your detractors (who were right about all the things you were wrong about) and Soviet-style declarations that those who disagree with you are crazy.
    “I’ve argued that we should not be willing to commit infinite resources. I’ve said that we must be careful to monitor our progress continually and decide, based on what is going on, whether it makes sense to continue or to stop.”
    Uh-huh. Infinity one Friedman Unit at a time is still infinity. Your claim to want to “monitor our progress” is a lie, because you always want the war continued, no matter what the monitoring shows.
    “All of the alternatives that might have been available for us to pursue had their own costs and unintended consequences. It seems to me that the course we did follow was justified by our understanding of things at the time.
    Maybe a decision had been made in Washington to use Iraq as “flypaper” to attract terrorists and kill them on a terrain that was favorable to us. That would have been a deeply immoral decision; I hope that was not how things actually transpired.
    What I think probably happened is that we were not prepared to imagine just how deeply vicious and evil our enemies would turn out to be. We were caught off guard by the willingness of so many people to kidnap, maim, torture, and kill innocent victims. We were guilty of not pre-judging our enemies and their capacity for pure ruthlessness.”
    This is just idiotic. It was known that Iraq wasn’t a threat to us. It was known that Colin Powell’s UN speech was all lies. It was known that there was no cooperation between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. It was known that Osama bin Laden launched the September 11 attacks to lure the U.S. into a war against Islam – to get us to fight them over there so they didn’t have to fight us over here. It was known that invading Iraq was going to be a disaster.
    All this was known. You cannot escape the culpability brought on by your support of what you saw (and see) as a glorious adventure by saying “wow, who knew that the people we attacked were going to fight as hard as they did.” The war was undertaken to install the Chalabi gang, well, the other gangs weren’t too crazy about that. Big surprise.
    “We should probably be reluctant to embrace the course of action you recommend, however, because it seems impossible to truly engage Iran when her interests are so divergent and contrary to our own.
    We are working to build a liberal democracy which separates church from state. Iran is looking to exploit Shia demographics to install a repressive theocracy in Iraq.”
    Yeah, it would be horrible, wouldn’t it, to try something that didn’t involve the U.S. unilaterally imposing its will through military force (so long as you personally didn’t have to pay for or participate in the enterprise). It’s a lot better for you to make excuses about why it wouldn’t work than for you to advocate a course of action that would be easy and cheap, and whose failure wouldn’t leave us any worse off than we are now.
    The rest of your various lies, excuses, mischaracterizations, and self-justifications, I don’t feel like bothering with.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Michael,
    Matthew, after you get back from your tour of duty in Iraq, you’ll have proven that you are willing to make the same sacrifices you urge on others, so you will have proven that I was mistaken in calling you a worthless coward. In the absence of such evidence, therefore, all I have is your self-important pronouncements about how destructive war is but how it is necessary that “we” keep fighting. In light of such evidence, there is no reason for me not to point out that you are a worthless coward.
    1) Just in case you really don’t get this: calling people “worthless” and “coward” is very rude and insulting. I’m not sure what exactly it might be, but there is definitely something wrong with you that you feel free to deal with other people in a way that seems calculated to hurt or discredit them. If you don’t understand this, you should, as I have said before, seek out a counselor who can help you figure out your issues.
    2) Your point seems to be that someone who hasn’t served in the military doesn’t have the moral authority to support the war and encourage others to support the war.
    Yet consider Michael Totten.
    Michael has actually risked his life and is currently risking his life by going to Iraq and embedding with soldiers, so he can report back to us on what he sees there. Before his first trip to Iraq, he was deeply skeptical of the war and our strategy.
    Yet, because he writes stories that highlight the good things we have accomplished, you casually dismiss him as a “wingnut”.
    And of course, there are thousands of troops who firmly believe in their mission and who are committed to victory in Iraq. They are not worthless cowards, even by your standards, so how can you dismiss their position on the war and their moral authority?
    Most of your blathering is not worth fooling with. I do notice, however, that you are back to the refuge of the chickenhawk, that of pearl-clutching at the incivility of your detractors (who were right about all the things you were wrong about) …
    If the chickenhawks are wrong and you are right, then there is no need whatsoever to resort to incivility. My wrongness and your rightness will speak for itself.
    Incivility is a tool to distract from more substantial arguments. It’s wrong, and you should be ashamed to embrace it.
    … and Soviet-style declarations that those who disagree with you are crazy.
    I didn’t say you are crazy, I said you needed counseling. And I’m not going to knock on your door at 3:00 am and arrest you and commit you to a military hospital. Other than those minor details, though, you are correct.
    And please note, you need counseling not because you are anti-war, but because you appear to have no problem being abusive and contemptuous. I’d say you have a problem if you were abusive and pro-war; the politics doesn’t have anything to do with it.
    Infinity one Friedman Unit at a time is still infinity.
    We’re stuck fighting in Iraq not because our troops aren’t doing their job, but because our enemies (including Syria and Iran) are determined to test our will to stick it out.
    I don’t know how long the war will last, but if we don’t end up fighting Iran directly, I’d be very surprised if we were still taking casualties in Iraq three years from now.
    If you want to bug out, now or in the next few months, the Iraqis will be left paying the tab. If Iraq becomes chaotic and fragmented and tyrannical as a result, it will be because we refused to finish the job, not because the job was unfinish-able.
    Now, I can’t prove that I am right and you are wrong. That is just my opinion. But it is based upon following the situation as best I can from a distance. If you don’t like the fact that I can’t make a definitive prediction, then perhaps you should remember that you can’t make a definitive prediction either.
    Decision-making is based upon incomplete information, and there is nothing we can do about it. Because even if we pull out, then that is just as much a decision based upon incomplete information as staying and fighting would be.
    Your claim to want to “monitor our progress” is a lie, because you always want the war continued, no matter what the monitoring shows.
    My standards for pulling out are very different from yours, but they do exist. If having different standards from you is your definition for lying, then yes, I am a liar.
    This is just idiotic.
    Once again: if something is truly idiotic, then you should be able to explain how wrong it is without actually having to call it idiotic. The adjective doesn’t add anything other than an element of abuse.
    It was known that Iraq wasn’t a threat to us. It was known that Colin Powell’s UN speech was all lies. It was known that there was no cooperation between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. It was known that Osama bin Laden launched the September 11 attacks to lure the U.S. into a war against Islam – to get us to fight them over there so they didn’t have to fight us over here. It was known that invading Iraq was going to be a disaster.
    Actually, none of these things is “known”. You accuse me of making unsupported assertions, but this whole paragraph is a list of five unsupported assertions.
    I don’t mind you making unsupported assertions: you could be right, after all, and even if you are wrong, you are letting me know what you think. But it is ironic, to say the least, that you indulge yourself in this way when you make a point of criticizing me, rightly or wrongly, for the exact same thing.
    Yeah, it would be horrible, wouldn’t it, to try something that didn’t involve the U.S. unilaterally imposing its will through military force …
    There are still 30 countries in our coalition with boots on the ground in Iraq. And although the U.S. constitutes the vast majority of foreign troops in the coalition, the actual majority of troops fighting is now Iraqi. So perhaps we’re not being as unilateral as you think we are.
    … (so long as you personally didn’t have to pay for or participate in the enterprise).
    Thanks for reminding me that I am a chickenhawk. I was kind of forgetting towards the end.
    It’s a lot better for you to make excuses about why it wouldn’t work than for you to advocate a course of action that would be easy and cheap, and whose failure wouldn’t leave us any worse off than we are now.
    I couldn’t disagree more strongly. I think “engaging Iran” could very well be disastrous, unless it were done from a position of strength.
    It could be disastrous, not just for Iraqis who would be trapped in civil war and/or Shia theocracy, but also because it might greatly help Iran in their quest to obtain nuclear weapons.
    The rest of your various lies, excuses, mischaracterizations, and self-justifications, I don’t feel like bothering with.
    You don’t need to respond to anything I write. Although I do appreciate your letting me what you think, your rudeness is something I would just as soon do without.
    If you wanted to respond to one thing, though, I would like to know how you justify calling Michael Totten a “wingnut”.

  • Mike Toreno

    “Now, I can’t prove that I am right and you are wrong. That is just my opinion. But it is based upon following the situation as best I can from a distance. If you don’t like the fact that I can’t make a definitive prediction, then perhaps you should remember that you can’t make a definitive prediction either.”
    “From a distance” is, of course, the only way you would dream of following the situation. It isn’t that I don’t like the fact that you can’t make a definitive prediction, it is that all your predictions to this point have been inaccurate, yet you continue to make predictions (based on lies) and claim that your views are as worthy of consideration as the views of those who have been right from the beginning.
    Your pearl-clutching at the “incivility” of your detractors is what’s a tactic. You seek to define a range of acceptable discourse so that you can avoid engaging your opponents honestly. When someone points out that your arguments are lies, and that you are motivated in your support of the war by the fact that you aren’t suffering the consequences, you avoid facing up to the facts by falling on the fainting couch at how “uncivil” it is for you to be called out as a liar.
    “It was known that Iraq wasn’t a threat to us. It was known that Colin Powell’s UN speech was all lies. It was known that there was no cooperation between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. It was known that Osama bin Laden launched the September 11 attacks to lure the U.S. into a war against Islam – to get us to fight them over there so they didn’t have to fight us over here. It was known that invading Iraq was going to be a disaster.
    Actually, none of these things is “known”. You accuse me of making unsupported assertions, but this whole paragraph is a list of five unsupported assertions.”
    Yeah they are. I know that the wingnut sources that are the only place from which you get information discount them, but these are all facts that are known now and were known in 2003. There are numerous credible references bearing all of them out. You have nothing to offer in contradiction except to gravely ponder what will happen if we “give in” to the imaginary “Islamofascism” and the tiny splinter group “al Qaeda in Iraq”. Your not accepting the facts doesn’t diminish their truth, it merely proves that you are unconcerned with the facts. The reason you are unconcerned with the fact is that you don’t care about America, you only care about depicting yourself as a warrior, while thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis die.
    I am entitled to use tactics designed to hurt and discredit you. Your arguments are dishonest. Someone who uses dishonest arguments deserves to be hurt and discredited.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Mike Toreno,
    Your pearl-clutching at the “incivility” of your detractors is what’s a tactic.
    Yes, it’s a tactic to try to coax civility out of you. It’s a tactic to try to help you understand that someone can disagree with you because he sees something you don’t, not because he’s making stuff up or lying.
    But even if someone were making stuff up and lying, incivility would still be counterproductive. For if someone were lying, you could expose the lies with the truth. If you insist on throwing rudeness into the mix as well, you are just making yourself look rude and taking away from your own credibility.
    In other words, when I point out to you that you are impolite, I’m not attacking you and trying to discredit you, I’m trying to help you and make your arguments sharper.
    And why would I want to do that?
    Because I’m not avoiding your ideas and your views, I’m trying to engage them. Your attacks are an impediment to me (and to anyone else who would be reading these comments) engaging your ideas. And since you are a smart person, it raises the possibility that maybe you are insecure about your own views, and actually don’t want people to engage them too seriously.
    You seek to define a range of acceptable discourse so that you can avoid engaging your opponents honestly. When someone points out that your arguments are lies, and that you are motivated in your support of the war by the fact that you aren’t suffering the consequences, you avoid facing up to the facts by falling on the fainting couch at how “uncivil” it is for you to be called out as a liar.
    I haven’t been avoiding anything, chum. If anyone’s been avoiding some points, I would have to say it’s been you.
    For example, how exactly is Michael Totten a “wingnut” again?
    The reason you are unconcerned with the fact is that you don’t care about America, you only care about depicting yourself as a warrior, while thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis die.
    You know, if would be very easy for me to say that you don’t care about Iraq, and that you want to throw the sacrifice of our dead and wounded soldiers in the trash by bugging out of Iraq. That you don’t care if, as a result, the Islamist terrorists regroup and hurt America.
    But I know that that isn’t true. And even if it were true, it is irrevelent to whether or not your position and points are correct.
    So I don’t go there, and I won’t. Shame on you, for choosing differently.
    If you can’t handle a relatively simple discussion, you shouldn’t expect anyone who doesn’t agree with you already to take you seriously.
    I am entitled to use tactics designed to hurt and discredit you. Your arguments are dishonest. Someone who uses dishonest arguments deserves to be hurt and discredited.
    If my arguments are dishonest, you can explain why they are dishonest and leave it at that.
    I think, at a minimum, you are using my alleged dishonesty as an excuse to indulge yourself in a self-satisfying way at my expense, and at the expense of people who agree with me (which is on the order of about 50 million of your fellow citizens).
    At worst, you are, again, one very sorry puppy who desperately needs to find a grown-up confidante who can help you work through some issues that you have.
    And, no, that is not a tactic. It is an attempt to grab your attention and focus it on the fact that something appears to be wrong with you, and you would probably be much happier if you could push yourself to start fixing it.
    I know that the wingnut sources that are the only place from which you get information discount them, but these are all facts that are known now and were known in 2003. There are numerous credible references bearing all of them out. You have nothing to offer in contradiction except to gravely ponder what will happen if we “give in” to the imaginary “Islamofascism” and the tiny splinter group “al Qaeda in Iraq”. Your not accepting the facts doesn’t diminish their truth, it merely proves that you are unconcerned with the facts. The reason you are unconcerned with the fact is that you don’t care about America, you only care about depicting yourself as a warrior, while thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis die.
    You’ve accused me of ducking your points, and not engaging the truth.
    Well, I think I’ve addressed everything you mention here. I will just add that having a credible reference for something does not mean that point is proven and “known”.
    When something is controversial, there will be a great many credible references on each side. If you (or I) latch on to one set of references and ignore the other side’s set of references, then the truth will evade you (or me).
    The war in Iraq is very complicated and messy and dynamic, and it has been for five years. I strongly encourage you to do more research from credible “wingnut” sources (in addition to anti-war sources, of course), and try to piece together a more complete understanding of what is going on.
    Good luck, amigo.
    All the best to you,
    Matthew

  • Murali

    Lets be a bit clear on things here.
    On the subject of torture, yes… there are justifications for or against torture. In fact, there are various deontological and consequentialist arguments that can condone torture.
    One deontological argument could go something like this:
    P1. Torture violates the right to be free from pain
    P2. Acts of terrorism cause pain
    P3. Such acts violate the right to be free from pain
    P4. Hence a terrorist does not recognise the right to be free from pain
    P5. Since he does not recognise that right, he has no claim on the right to be free from pain either
    Conclusion: A terrorist can be tortured as he has no right to be free from pain.
    Same can be argued for the death penalty.
    P1. Murder is a violation of the right to life
    P2. A murderer does not recognise other’s right to life
    P3. He consequently cannot, at the same time, consistently demand that he has a right to life
    P4. A murderer has no right to life
    P5. Killing a murderer is not murder.
    Conclusion: The death penalty for murder is ethical.
    However, even though there are moral justifications for the death penalty and torture, it does not mean that such things are supported in the bible. Meaning that the bible is not necessarily the best moral guide in the world. in fact, it may not even be a very good moral guide. It may very well be that torture and the death penalty are extremely unchristian. This of course is arguable as even with regards to morality, the bible is rarely consistent about anything. The various arguments in this thread about the various biblical justifications for or against following government authority are just a case in point.
    Hence, we should remember to draw a distinction between whether or not a position is ethical or whether or not a position is chirstian. Devout christians, for various reasons may very well in good concience not be able to choose positions that are ethical because such actions are proscribed by their religion. Things like loving your enemy etc may very well be things that are not universal but just peculiar to christians, just like eating kosher is peculiar to jews.
    It is only when we are able to draw a distinction between the two can we actually decide when something is a case of public morality which the government is well within its rights in enforcing and when it is just religious ‘morality’ of which government enforcing constitutes a government imposition of religion.