January 20, 2004

Fisking Smith - "Waging War Against a Tactic" is a smoke-screen for a sophist.

The following is a Fisking (My first!) of some commentary by a local radio personality, Ron Smith, of WBAL (1090 AM in Baltimore MD). As a bit of background, Ron prides himself on being the “voice of reason.” His political leanings are fairly conservative, most of the time, but he does not even pretend that there should be a moral foundation for conservativism, only “reason.”

Waging War Against a Tactic
Monday, January 19, 2004 - Ron Smith

This “war on terrorism” is wearing on me.

Poor baby. Is it all the long nights you’ve been up late analyzing data, translating intercepted missives from foreign operatives who want to do America harm? No? Oh, yeah, it’s the fact that after about a year and a half, you’ve been largely unable to convince much of your audience to abandon common sense and adopt you’re “reason.”

The likelihood of any one of us becoming a victim of Osama bin Laden’s henchmen is next to zero.

Really? I suppose it’s true. How much more true did that seem in the World Trade Center on 9/11/01 at 8:30AM? By the way, is OBL the only threat? I don’t think so. The point is, some risks you just don’t take if you can at all avoid it. Some risks, though minute, are so horrific that you take significant steps to reduce them even further. I suppose, if you want to use “reason” as you are so fond of doing, it would be tough to justify our proactive use of force where you are comparing billions of dollars to a couple dozen, maybe a couple hundred more lives. Let’s be rational, after all.

Yet we are bombarded with color-coded “terror alerts” designed to keep us perpetually alarmed, and thus willing to suffer whatever our various federal, state and local governments wish to inflict upon us in the name of keeping us “safe.”

Your alternative? I forgot, you don’t ever suggest reform, you only bitch. Let me posit an idea on your whiny ass. IF there are NO superior achievable alternatives, then the system IS NOT broken. You mock the color-coding. OK… Would you prefer obliviousness? In an open culture, such as ours, to function without “undue” prejudices as the general rule, you NEED to be able to let down your guard, to a large extent. With the color-coding, we know that there is a particular type of threat, even if we don’t precisely know what, that we need to look out for. We don't have to live with either undue suspicion of EVERYBODY, nor do we have to blindly trust in the good will of everyone. Don’t pretend to be a civil libertarian concerned about the feelings of the handful of folks who will get a bad vibe because of increased suspicion. Our threat comes from ONE culture, Islamo-facism. If someone starts to meet that description, then TOUGH! They’re going to get an extra look-see.

Terrorism is a tactic, a method by which people with political grievances wage war on whomever they believe is oppressing them.

I see… It’s a tactic. Since that’s the case, we really shouldn’t do anything about it. Now, I haven’t done an exhaustive LexisNexis search, but I did do a quick one. In the text of the state of the union address given to Congress in January of 2002, the president DID NOT say that we were at war with “terrorism.” He did say we were in a “war against terror.” Don’t get smug, the war against “terror” is multifaceted, and involves many avenues of solution, most of them political rather than military. The military is going after the individuals who are causing the trouble, the terrorists. Let me quote the president
“We last met in an hour of shock and suffering. In four short months, our nation has comforted the victims, begun to rebuild New York and the Pentagon, rallied a great coalition, captured, arrested and rid the world of thousands of terrorists, destroyed Afghanistan's terrorist training camps, saved a people from starvation and freed a country from brutal oppression.”

“The American flag flies again over our embassy in Kabul. Terrorists who once occupied Afghanistan now occupy cells at Guantanamo Bay. And terrorist leaders who urged followers to sacrifice their lives are running for their own.”

Sure, Ron, terrorism is a tactic. The people who are using it are TERRORISTS. Maybe we can’t kill the tactic, but I’ll settle for killing anyone who would use it.

Whether it’s the IRA bombers in the U.K., Palestinians blowing themselves up to kill Israelis, Chechen warriors battling the Russian Army in their homeland, or Basque separatists kidnapping and killing Spanish judges, these are men (increasingly joined by their women) who are willing to fight and die in order to change a system they loath.

Well, let’s think about this. They all go after non-combatants, right? Doesn’t look to me like they are all that interested in a fight. As far as I can see, these putzes scamper away like cockroaches whenever an armed opponent shows up on the scene. These murderers are not interested in advance a political cause nearly as much as they want to kill. You see, you can negotiate with someone with a grievance. You can’t negotiate with someone in the throws of a quasi-religious blood-lust. It’s kill or be killed. I know which one I choose, and I suspect that you, Mr. “Voice of Reason,” would come to a similar conclusion, if your house were beset by the maniacs you would have OTHERS negotiate with, if they were convinced that you had a Jew hidden somewhere in your home.

Waging “war” on a tactic doesn’t make sense. Modern history shows that the people who feel themselves political outcasts, oppressed by their government or by alien military and economic dominance imposed upon them stop fighting only when political solutions are implemented.

If, by "waging war on a tactic" we are speaking of actions that will modify the behavior of those who are contemplating using that tactic, then it makes pretty good sense to me. Do you suppose we should encourage the tactic rather than discourage it?

For being the “Voice of Reason,” you don’t seem to be thinking this one through. Let’s assume, argumendo, that these murderes are only “agrarian reformers” with a grievance. (Let’s leave aside the minor fact that terrorists don’t seem to be all that advanced in the agricultural arts and sciences.) How do you motivate people? Carrot… Stick… Those are your choices. For some a carrot will work. For others nothing but a stick will do.

If a homicidal maniac has a gun to your head, and has stated that his sole purpose for showing up is to kill you, are you likely to dissuade him by offering the $20 you’ve got in your pocket? The ONLY possible way to dissuade this kind of confrontation is to demonstrate that should the maniac take the course of action, he will be worse off IN A WAY THAT HE WILL APPRECIATE than if he does not. Neville Chamberlain thought that he could negotiate with Hitler. Churchill knew for a fact that utter defeat was the only message that would mean anything to him.

Have you forgotten that political options have been available to almost all terrorists? Israel, for example, offered to give away about 90% of Arafat’s demands a few years ago. Arafat didn’t want the conflict to end. He made his fortunes by promoting terrorism.

You simply cannot negotiate with cancer. Any attempt to do so merely gives it more time to spread. Likewise, you can only negotiate effectively when the other side knows you have the ability to defeat or destroy what they want.

If military superiority and the willingness to bring it to bear against indigenous guerilla opposition was a workable strategy, France would still own Algeria; Israel would not be suffering bus-bombings in Tel Aviv, and our quick conquest of Iraq would have stood as a clear victory rather than degenerating as it has into a bloody, protracted colonial occupation.

Did you just put “military superiority” and France in the same sentence?


That’s brilliant! I nearly peed myself!

Ron, use your vaunted “reason” for a moment, please. To win a conflict, ANY conflict, requires two (2) elements.
1 – The ability to win.
2 – The will to win.

The ability to win consists of more than military equipment. It also consists of military tactics. Perhaps their ability to think is compromised by the overwhelming odor of their women’s arm-pits, but the French are NOT good military tacticians. Furthermore, the French, being convinced of the superiority of their own language, and ability to out talk anybody else, have not been all that committed to actually winning a war in over a century.

Israel is a different matter. They know what to do, they have the technological ability to bring about an actual victory. They are being held back by OUR carrot and stick. We, and other nations keep applying pressure to Israel to NOT win. We keep making them listen and follow “reason” like yours and present political options to those who only wish to kill them. There ARE Palestinians who can be negotiated with Mahmoud Abbas was one such person. He could not keep his job because the power structure within Palestine does not want a political solution.

You know, a very strong argument can be made that if political solutions had any ability to work, these conflicts would have more peacefully resolved themselves. It’s political crap that keeps solutions from forming.

When the French, the Germans, the Spanish and the Italians are victimized by terrorist acts, they treat them as the crimes they are and hunt down and punish the perpetrators. This is what we should have done, in my opinion, after the attacks of 9/11. Instead our government decided to declare itself at war with terrorism in general.

Europeans have proven themselves to be singularly ineffective at combating terrorism and terrorist activity. You have displayed a glimpse of your ignorance of terrorism. Criminal activity is only defined ONCE activity is underway. Usually, we don’t know until AFTER the fact. If terrorism were treated as “just another crime,” we would have done NOTHING about 9-11. Hey, the perpetrators are all dead… nobody to prosecute. Without a confession from OBL, and without a friendly nation to extradite him, we have no ability to do squat against him.

“Terrorism” is war against our culture. You can’t fight “terrorism” directly, but you NEED to fight those who engage in it as enemies of the state in an armed conflict.

Quick question: In the Spring of 2001, what foundation would you have to object to a group of Arab men wanting to learn to fly passenger jets but not being all that interested in the landing part? THAT is not a crime. Being ARAB is not a crime. Flying a plane is NOT a crime. What the hell would you, as a “crime fighter” do? – Not a damn thing, that’s what. Our problem is that we did not treat terrorism as if those who engaged in it posed a national security risk.

This is a war that cannot be won and isn’t worth the blood, treasure and loss of American constitutional guarantees of liberty taking place under the rubric of making us secure. Governments, by their nature, move against individual freedom. That’s why the framers of the Constitution took such pains to limit the powers of consolidated federal government.

CAN’T be won, eh? How many terrorist training camps are Taliban sponsoring anymore? How many Palestinian families are getting periodic support payments from Saddam Husein?

What would you risk to prevent another 9-11?

And for that matter, which “constitutional guarantees,” in particular, have you lost? You’re spouting rhetoric with no substance.

Yes, the Framers did go to great pains to limit the powers of our Federal government. What they did NOT want to limit was the ability of the federal government to respond to actual threats to American People from external forces. As a matter of fact, this is one of the clearest areas where the federal government has virtually unfettered power. Your cynicism is a result of having to stand in line at the airport. I also have contempt for the largely ineffective TSA airport screeners. This, you see, is not a sign of the destruction of the republic so much as it is a sign of Democrat leadership pandering to buy votes. That’s despicable, and it’s annoying to be inconvenienced, but I defy you to find a constitutional guarantee against inconvenience.

We are now, the majority of us, anyway, apparently willing to slip into shackles, to do whatever our rulers decide is necessary, without protest, because it’ll make us more secure; because it’s better to “fight them over there,” rather than on the streets of our own cities. This is a fallacious proposition. There are no terrorist armies plotting to invade our country. In fact, there aren’t that many terrorists loose in the world, and while the 9/11 attacks were dramatic and dreadful; we shouldn’t lose all perspective because of them.

Blah blah blah… Again, you offer no proof. Hell, other than some big words, you don’t even try to support your proposition that “fighting them over there” is not actually better than fighting them here. What are the last “Official Islamo-Fascist Terrorist Census” results that you have? Oh, you don’t HAVE the census? How the hell do you KNOW that there aren’t terrorist armies plotting to invade our country?

Here’s something your high and mighty self-important reason seems to have TOTALLY MISSED. We’ve busted dozens, maybe hundreds of Al-Queda members here in BALTIMORE. I have friends with first-hand knowledge, and I am not allowed to divulge any more than that. I can say, however, that a number of “drug busts” where significant numbers of people were taken into custody were actually Al-Queda cell groups… They had documentation, weapons and money, but you didn’t know about it… perhaps you couldn’t hear the clues over your incessant whining about the ineffectiveness of our "war against terrorism."

Not only should we not lose “all perspective because” of the terrorist attacks, we should never lose perspective of them. They gave us a glimpse of what we face, and ignoring our enemies will not cause them to disappear.

For what it’s worth, we have lost some liberties recently, but they’ve had nothing to do with the war on terror. The Patriot Act primarily allows the government to use RICO tactics on national security threats. Complain if you want. The only real liberties, constitutionally guaranteed ones, anyway, were lost due to the Bi-partisan Campaign-finance Reform Act. That’s another post, and if you want to complain about that, go right ahead, and feel free to use some of my analysis, here, but don’t confuse your selfish reluctance to allow any other people in the world to benefit from our efforts to eliminate those who support and spread terror. I’ll bet you really do think it’s entirely a coincidence that we haven’t suffered another terrorist attack on our soil (other than Muhammad and Malvo) since 9-11. OK… if THAT’s what passes for “reason” for you.

The chance of any of us being killed or injured in a terrorist attack, I repeat, is infinitesimal. We are at far more risk every time we get behind the wheel and venture onto our streets and highways, every time we’re exposed to a flu bug, and certainly every time we are hospitalized, since hospital-caused illness kills tens of thousands of Americans every year.

Is it that you do not grasp the difference between terrorism and accident?

There is a certain amount of risk that we can avoid, and a certain that we cannot. As a point of law, it is not the government’s responsibility to protect us from the pervasive individual risks of life. The government IS responsible to PROVIDE a national defense. In your world, should the government stop bothering terrorists until after we have secured a cure to the common cold? After the perfectly safe car has been developed and provided to each and every American? Why wouldn’t that same logic have attached after the attacks of Pearl Harbor? Heck, there, mostly it was the military that took the hit, and civilians weren’t targeted.
I could see the President Ron Smith speech “My fellow Americans, we have been attacked. We must avenge our losses. The Empire of Japan will feel the brunt of our political might, but only after we cure cancer!”

The invasion and occupation of Iraq was done for many reasons, which have been debated heatedly for many months. But the idea we are propagandized with incessantly – that this will make us safe from terrorism – is so preposterous that it is simply amazing that the bulk of the American people apparently believe it.

Well, Ron, do you feel like a better person for attempting to lower American morale? You spout all sorts of crap about reason and rights, but you aren’t willing to recognize that the actual motivation of those who would destroy us is NOT founded in reason. Perhaps fighting “terrorism” is the most brilliant tactic America has ever employed. It provides NO disincentive to B if we attack A only because A did a particular thing. It disincentivizes the hell out of B if we attack A for engaging in the hostile course of action which B is also engaged in, even if B has not actually attacked us yet.

What will protect America? The CREDIBLE threat of complete destruction of our enemies who engage in terrorism will deter those who might contemplate hurting us. Funny, this is precisely the thing that will eventually starve “terrorism,” as it is currently propagated, to death. Anything less is an invitation to those who engage in terrorism to do better next time.

Posted by Bronson at 10:39 AM | Comments (1)

January 02, 2004

Consenting Adults

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."-- Abraham Lincoln

"All attempts by the State to bias the conclusions of its citizens on disputed subjects are evil." --John Stuart Mill, 'On Liberty' 1859

"I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University."-- William F. Buckley, Jr.

"Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one's government is not necessarily to secure freedom." -- F.A. Hayek

"There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, showers its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing."--Andrew Jackson

"It would be an absurdity for jurors to be required to accept the judge's view of the law, against their own opinion, judgement, and conscience."--John Adams

Posted by Noel at 12:06 AM | Comments (22)

December 19, 2003

When Christians Consent

"...there are two opposite reasons for being a democrat. You may think all men so good that they deserve a share in the government of the commonwealth, and so wise that the commonwealth needs their advice. That is, in my opinion, the false, romantic doctrine of democracy. On the other hand, you may believe fallen men to be so wicked that not one of them can be trusted with any irresponsible power over his fellows."--C. S. Lewis "Membership" Sobernost #31 (June 1945)

"When Abraham Lincoln spoke in his famous Gettysburg speech of 1863 of 'government of the people, by the people, and for the people,' he gave the world a neat definition of democracy which has since been widely and enthusiastically adopted. But... nowhere in the Bible is the word democracy mentioned. Ideally, when Christians meet, as Christians, to take counsel together, their purpose is not (or should not be) to ascertain what is the mind of the majority but what is the mind of the Holy Spirit - something which may be quite different."

"Nevertheless I am an enthusiast for democracy. And I take that position, not because I believe majority opinion is inevitably right or true - indeed no majority can take away God-given human rights - but because I believe it most effectively safeguards the value of the individual, and, more than any other system, restrains the abuse of power by the few. And that is a Christian concept." --Margaret Thatcher

Posted by Noel at 12:12 PM | Comments (4)

December 15, 2003

The Federalist Speaks

"The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority." — Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 22, December 14, 1787

Did you know?:

Sec. Hamilton was an active abolitionist in the 1700's?
He formed his own artillery company while a teen-ager?
He was ineligible to become President, having been born in the West Indies...ironically, this gave him a national view, having no previous attachment to a particular state.

Posted by Noel at 08:20 PM | Comments (3)