Tuesday, July 12, 2005
I haven't written anything about the London bombings yet because I was away for the weekend on a sailing trip. Do I get a reprieve because I'm actually *going* to London, tomorrow night, with my wife and son?
In any event, belatedly, I have to admit that for all the horror of the attacks, I'm actually relieved they were no worse. There's surely more to be done in terms of mass-transit security, but I suspect that's a losing battle. The real areas that the U.K. (and continental Europe, and the U.S. and Canada) needs to work on are domestic intelligence and immigration control. From any perspective - cost/benefit analysis, public relations, whatever - it makes very little sense to be waging war to bring democracy to the Muslim world and *not* be working much harder to keep terrorists out of Europe and North America, and to keep legal residents and citizens from becoming terrorists. And the latter is more about keeping tabs on those who incite violence (or, better, treason) and either locking them up or throwing them out.
As for John Derbyshire's view: what, precisely, would appeasement look like in this case? Withdrawing from Iraq? Derb says that appeasement might have worked in the 1930s had Hitler not been Hitler, and that "no English person of today thinks that Osama bin Laden is Hitler." Well, OBL *is* Hitler, in his malevolence, his megalomania, his bloodthirstiness, and, to a considerable degree, his popularity. It's just that where Hitler burned down the Reichstag at the height of his popularity, to push him over the edge into absolute power, OBL blew up the World Trade Center to catapult himself from backwater Afghanistan into an imaginary Caliphate. The point is: whatever the disparity in power between our enemies in 1938 and our enemies today (and it is considerable) today's enemies are equally unappeaseable.
Appeasement means giving in to an opponent's demands. What are the bombers' demands? Most narrowly, a withdrawal from Iraq, which Derbyshire favors (and I think he has a point, BTW). Most broadly, the global triumph of a particularly brutal strain of Sunni Islam. Does Derb think that is going to happen? Well, I suppose it's possible.
But I think what Derb is fretting about is not that Britain will "pull a Spain" nor even that neither we nor they are willing to kill millions to teach the enemy a lesson they won't forget, but that neither we nor they are willing to conceive of the war in the terms that we understood the Pacific Theater of WWII: as a clash of civilizations more than a clash of ideologies. He's right about that: we don't. Whether he's right that winning the war depends on such a characterization is, I think, another matter, and not an easy question to answer. For myself, I don't think what we need right now is to lay waste to much of the Middle East. I think we need to get much tougher on the immigration and domestic intelligence fronts (how to do the latter is a good question - when we had to do something similar to Communist-infiltrated organizations in the 1950s, we had ex-Communists to help us out; how many ex-Islamists are there?).
As for weapons of mass destruction: believe me, I'm very worried. And they do change the equation. Of course, part of what 9-11 proved is how much damage can be done using conventional weapons. But that's precisely why I'm encouraged by the limited scope of the more recent attacks. In any event, if we're serious about keeping nukes out of the hands of terrorists (and we damned well better be) I just feel like there are a couple of countries that are enormous threats in this regard and where our policy response has been a little less robust than in Iraq.