politics

Three Ways To Fight Terror

The following posts are all related to the thinking of George Kennan  during the Cold War era, substituting for the Soviet Union Al Qaeda.

Defeating the Terror Meme

Defeating The Terror Meme. A mini-meditation insplred by the thinking of George Kennan linked to the perception and articulation of Abba’s Way.
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When the Terror Meme Burns Out

When The Terror Meme Burns Out. Osama has no real vision of where things should go in the event he wins. That in itself more or less seals defeat. But that should not make us sanguine.
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President Obama Stop War and Start Winning the War on Terror

We should stop fighting wars that breed suicides because they are so immoral and start supporting governments like Mali’s that would otherwise be bigger breeding grounds for a conflict that can dog us for centuries
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politics

Pakistan Has Consistently Lied on Nuke Issues

If you do not read to the final words of today’s NTTimes dispatch on the possibility of nuclear mischief by the surging Taliban in Pakistan, then you will not understand why we have for weeks issued a warning, a warning that even today’s Times downplays.

Here they are. Read well.

David Albright and Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security wrote in a recent report documenting the progress of those facilities, “In the current climate, with Pakistan’s leadership under duress from daily acts of violence by insurgent Taliban forces and organized political opposition, the security of any nuclear material produced in these reactors is in question.” The Pakistanis, not surprisingly, dismiss those fears as American and Indian paranoia, intended to dissuade them from nuclear modernization. But the government’s credibility is still colored by the fact that it used equal vehemence to denounce as fabrications the reports that Abdul Qadeer Khan, one of the architects of Pakistan’s race for the nuclear bomb, had sold nuclear technology on the black market.

In the end, those reports turned out to be true. SOURCE

The nuclear issue runs clear back to the beginning when we, the US, used faulty logic and distorted facts to justify the use of two decimating actions that killed and maimed countless Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then, save for tests which themselves took a toll, as residents of St. George, Utah, and other locales east of the Nevada Test Site, well know, we have avoided nuclear war. We did so mainly by the MAD structure of the Cold War. Mutually Assured Destruction.

I have argued here for an updating of George Kennan’s original containment thesis, a proposition which was not implemented in full during the Cold War, but one which makes sense in dealing with the global terror threat.

But the proximate threat of an actual, successful terror effort that would place nuclear weapons in the grasp of the Taliban and their allies rises to the level of an emergency that requires an emergency response.

Immediately, we need to convene an international meeting to swiftly put flesh on a new, second-generation UN peace keeping apparatus. This would not be rag-tag elements from willing countries assembled in a rag-tag way. This would be the creation of an international capacity to ensure that terror enclaves are not the targets of self-interested unilateral parties, but of the preponderance of civilized nations, aghast at the prospect of possible nuclear blackmail. The need for this is palpable. The failure to create such an entity will drive nails into our effort, making each unilateral move we make a step into the quagmire resulting from the failure to give legs to a consensus that surely does exist, but equally surely does not have any concrete manifestation.

Pakistan has consistently lied about its actual role in making the world less and less safe because of nuclear criminality and less than assured nuclear security. When that fact is digested, the only option becomes preparing for the worst. The worst would be a meltdown sooner than later, an anarchic situation in which no power was in place that could actually ensure a measure of safety from renegade actions by the Taliban. The very worst case could be a sort of nuclear blackmail situation created with the advent of credible evidence that the Taliban and other terror groups were in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Hit the containment and Kennan and Pakistan labels above for more on all this.

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Kennan Posts So Far — What They Show

I have been posting excerpts from George Kennan’s famous 1947 letter outlining the reasons for containment as a means of confronting the hostile Soviet Union. The response to Kennan was not to embrace his largely non-military smart-diplomacy approach.

Thus what was called containment was not what Kennan was advocating exactly. It morphed into Mutually Assured Destruction.


HERE ARE MY KENNAN POSTS SO FAR

By substituting the terror movement for the Soviets in my transposition of the Kennan texts, I mean to show that in many respects Kennan’s description holds true today. And that we need to think about a way to contain the movement without falling into the trap of military engagements that are utterly inappropriate to the task at hand.

The supreme irony of the present moment is that we are now dickering with the Russians for a route into Afghanistan, in an eerie replay of Mr. Wilson’s War. In the present situation, war is not merely hell. It is stupid.

The Kennan posts show the following, so far:

1. The terror movement has a specific aim which is to reclaim the Islamic Peninsula and root out secularizing rulers so that there can be a rebirth of an Islamic culture which is regarded as ideal.

2. Words will not suffice to mute the intent of the terror movement, particularly words aimed at proving them wrong.

3. The only effective responses is deeds, actions that cannot be seen as posturing or lies.

In the case of our opposition to Al Qaeda the following survey is salient:
ISLAMIC COUNTRIES REJECT BOTH AL QAEDA AND OUR MILITARY AND OTHER EFFORTS TO OPPOSE AL QAEDA

Deeds that are effective do not include largely unilateral efforts to prop up or improve things in countries like Afghanistan or Pakistan. Multilateral efforts to activate the good will and help of neighbor countries is more pertinent and the US is moving in that direction now.

The most effective thing the US can do is to give countries we have sought to prop up the respect of allowing themselves the freedom to succeed or fail.

The moral of this post is found in a superb article in the New York Review of books which I commend to the President and his staff for salient weekend reading:

What You Can Learn from Reinhold Niebuhr

The point of the Niebuhr article is that a military war on terrorism is not merely hell, not merely stupid, but an example of American exceptionalism that could be the final thorn in the side of a precariously balanced experiment that faces terminal dangers.

If a new containment program becomes American policy it should be created an led largely by persons of Islamic extraction and directed to initiatives that are inspired and originated truly, not manipulatively, by indigenous groups. In other words by actions designed to minimize the perception of us as an incursive occupier and raise disapproval of terror acts and aims.

It should also accept the cultural critique of the Western secular zeitgeist in a nuanced way, distinguishing between freedom and license. This is something which President Obama can do with skill and to great effect.

We need an Obama Doctrine which is based on containment and a rejection of military means except when we are directly attacked, and then after such an attack, and not before. If the enemy knows this is our rule it will be less likely to initiate.

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Kennan Containment > Obama Foreign Policy 6

Continuing a series of posts based on the famous missive that helped define the United States position in the world following the Second World War. I am taking relevant sections of George Kennan’s “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” (1947) and transposing them to suggest that the policy of containment he proposed then, in relation to the Soviet Union, can and perhaps should, be applied to current conflicts, even though there are radical differences between the Cold War era and now.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL KENNAN DOCUMENT

CLICK HERE FOR THE SERIES TO DATE

This means we are going to continue for long time to find the Russians difficult to deal with. It does not mean that they should be considered as embarked upon a do-or-die program to overthrow our society by a given date. The theory of the inevitability of the eventual fall of capitalism has the fortunate connotation that there is no hurry about it. The forces of progress can take their time in preparing the final coup de gr?ce. meanwhile, what is vital is that the “Socialist fatherland” — that oasis of power which has already been won for Socialism in the person of the Soviet Union — should be cherished and defended by all good Communists at home and abroad, its fortunes promoted, its enemies badgered and confounded. The promotion of premature, “adventuristic” revolutionary projects abroad which might embarrass Soviet power in any way would be an inexcusable, even a counter-revolutionary act. The cause of Socialism is the support and promotion of Soviet power, as defined in Moscow.

This brings us to the second of the concepts important to contemporary Soviet outlook. That is the infallibility of the Kremlin. The Soviet concept of power, which permits no focal points of organization outside the Party itself, requires that the Party leadership remain in theory the sole repository of truth. For if truth were to be found elsewhere, there would be justification for its expression in organized activity. But it is precisely that which the Kremlin cannot and will not permit.

The leadership of the Communist Party is therefore always right, and has been always right ever since in 1929 Stalin formalized his personal power by announcing that decisions of the Politburo were being taken unanimously.

On the principle of infallibility there rests the iron discipline of the Communist Party. In fact, the two concepts are mutually self-supporting. Perfect discipline requires recognition of infallibility. Infallibility requires the observance of discipline. And the two go far to determine the behaviorism of the entire Soviet apparatus of power. But their effect cannot be understood unless a third factor be taken into account: namely, the fact that the leadership is at liberty to put forward for tactical purposes any particular thesis which it finds useful to the cause at any particular moment and to require the faithful and unquestioning acceptance of that thesis by the members of the movement as a whole. This means that truth is not a constant but is actually created, for all intents and purposes, by the Soviet leaders themselves. It may vary from week to week, from month to month. It is nothing absolute and immutable — nothing which flows from objective reality. It is only the most recent manifestation of the wisdom of those in whom the ultimate wisdom is supposed to reside, because they represent the logic of history. The accumulative effect of these factors is to give to the whole subordinate apparatus of Soviet power an unshakable stubbornness and steadfastness in its orientation. This orientation can be changed at will by the Kremlin but by no other power. Once a given party line has been laid down on a given issue of current policy, the whole Soviet governmental machine, including the mechanism of diplomacy, moves inexorably along the prescribed path, like a persistent toy automobile wound up and headed in a given direction, stopping only when it meets with some unanswerable force. The individuals who are the components of this machine are unamenable to argument or reason, which comes to them from outside sources. Their whole training has taught them to mistrust and discount the glib persuasiveness of the outside world. Like the white dog before the phonograph, they hear only the “master’s voice.” And if they are to be called off from the purposes last dictated to them, it is the master who must call them off. Thus the foreign representative cannot hope that his words will make any impression on them. The most that he can hope is that they will be transmitted to those at the top, who are capable of changing the party line. But even those are not likely to be swayed by any normal logic in the words of the bourgeois representative. Since there can be no appeal to common purposes, there can be no appeal to common mental approaches. For this reason, facts speak louder than words to the ears of the Kremlin; and words carry the greatest weight when they have the ring of reflecting, or being backed up by, facts of unchallengeable validity.

Transposition:

This means we are going to continue for long time to find the terror movement difficult to deal with. It does not mean that they should be considered as embarked upon a do-or-die program to overthrow our society by a given date. The theory of the inevitability of the eventual fall of the secularizing West and the restoration of the Islamic world has the fortunate connotation that there is no hurry about it. The forces of terror can take their time in preparing the final coup de grace. meanwhile, what is vital is that the notion of jihad — that oasis of power which has already been won for the movement in the person of Bin Laden — should be cherished and defended by all good Muslims at home and abroad, its fortunes promoted, its enemies badgered and confounded. The promotion of premature, “adventuristic” revolutionary projects abroad which might embarrass this effortin any way would be inexcusable.

This brings us to the second of the concepts … the infallibility of the terror movement …. which permits no focal points of organization outside its own amorphous but focused network of cells and training facilities. The movement demands that its leadership bee seen as the sole repository of truth. For if truth were to be found elsewhere, there would be justification for its expression in organized activity.

The leadership of the terror effort is therefore always right, and has been always right.

On the principle of infallibility there rests the iron discipline of the movement. In fact, the two concepts are mutually self-supporting. Perfect discipline requires recognition of infallibility. Infallibility requires the observance of discipline. And the two go far to determine the behaviorism of the entire apparatus of power.

But their effect cannot be understood unless a third factor be taken into account: namely, the fact that the leadership is at liberty to put forward for tactical purposes any particular thesis which it finds useful to the cause at any particular moment and to require the faithful and unquestioning acceptance of that thesis by the members of the movement as a whole. This means that truth is not a constant but is actually created, for all intents and purposes, by the terror movement’s leaders themselves. It may vary from week to week, from month to month. It is nothing absolute and immutable — nothing which flows from objective reality. It is only the most recent manifestation of the wisdom of those in whom the ultimate wisdom is supposed to reside, because they represent the logic of history.

The accumulative effect of these factors is to give to the whole subordinate apparatus an unshakable stubbornness and steadfastness in its orientation. This orientation can be changed at will by the terror leadership but by no other power. Once a given line has been laid down on a given issue of current policy, the whole movement moves inexorably along the prescribed path, like a persistent toy automobile wound up and headed in a given direction, stopping only when it meets with some unanswerable force.

The individuals who are the components of this machine are not amenable to argument or reason, which comes to them from outside sources. Their whole training has taught them to mistrust and discount the glib persuasiveness of the outside world. Like the white dog before the phonograph, they hear only the “master’s voice.” And if they are to be called off from the purposes last dictated to them, it is the master who must call them off.

Thus we cannot hope that words will make any impression on them. The most that we can hope is that they will be transmitted to those at the top, who are capable of changing the party line. But even those are not likely to be swayed by any normal logic in our words. Since there can be no appeal to common purposes, there can be no appeal to common mental approaches. For this reason, facts speak louder than words to the ears of the terror movement; and words carry the greatest weight when they have the ring of reflecting, or being backed up by, facts of unchallengeable validity.

Addendum: I take the meaning of this to be that we do not waste words explaining how wrong the terror effort is or skewering its warped morality. Rather we act in a way that is clearly in contrast to and whose results are clearly preferable to the purposes of the terror movement.

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politics

Kennan Containment > Obama Foreign Policy 5

Continuing a series of posts based on the famous missive that helped define the United States position in the world following the Second World War. I am taking relevant sections of George Kennan’s “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” (1947) and transposing them to suggest that the policy of containment he proposed then, in relation to the Soviet Union, can and perhaps should, be applied to current conflicts, even though there are radical differences between the Cold War era and now.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL KENNAN DOCUMENT

CLICK HERE FOR THE SERIES TO DATE

Original:

So much for the historical background. What does it spell in terms of the political personality of Soviet power as we know it today?

Of the original ideology, nothing has been officially junked. Belief is maintained in the basic badness of capitalism, in the inevitability of its destruction, in the obligation of the proletariat to assist in that destruction and to take power into its own hands. But stress has come to be laid primarily on those concepts which relate most specifically to the Soviet regime itself: to its position as the sole truly Socialist regime in a dark and misguided world, and to the relationships of power within it.

The first of these concepts is that of the innate antagonism between capitalism and Socialism. We have seen how deeply that concept has become imbedded in foundations of Soviet power. It has profound implications for Russia’s conduct as a member of international society. It means that there can never be on Moscow’s side an sincere assumption of a community of aims between the Soviet Union and powers which are regarded as capitalist. It must inevitably be assumed in Moscow that the aims of the capitalist world are antagonistic to the Soviet regime, and therefore to the interests of the peoples it controls. If the Soviet government occasionally sets it signature to documents which would indicate the contrary, this is to regarded as a tactical maneuver permissible in dealing with the enemy (who is without honor) and should be taken in the spirit of caveat emptor. Basically, the antagonism remains. It is postulated. And from it flow many of the phenomena which we find disturbing in the Kremlin’s conduct of foreign policy: the secretiveness, the lack of frankness, the duplicity, the wary suspiciousness, and the basic unfriendliness of purpose. These phenomena are there to stay, for the foreseeable future. There can be variations of degree and of emphasis. When there is something the Russians want from us, one or the other of these features of their policy may be thrust temporarily into the background; and when that happens there will always be Americans who will leap forward with gleeful announcements that “the Russians have changed,” and some who will even try to take credit for having brought about such “changes.” But we should not be misled by tactical maneuvers. These characteristics of Soviet policy, like the postulate from which they flow, are basic to the internal nature of Soviet power, and will be with us, whether in the foreground or the background, until the internal nature of Soviet power is changed.

Transposition:

So much for the historical background. What does it spell in terms of the political personality of the terror movement as we know it today?

Of the original ideology, nothing has been officially junked. Belief is maintained in the basic badness of the secular West, in the inevitability of its destruction, in the obligation of good Muslims to assist in that destruction and to take power into its own hands.

Importantly, the issue today is not an innate antagonism between capitalism and Socialism. What dominated the Cold War is no longer pertinent in a globalized world where, to use a passing dialectic, capitalism and socialism may be said to have experienced a synthesis, From the viewpoint of the terror movement what is noxious is not the profit motive but its results, particularly in the domination of the territory (the Peninsula) which they regard as their sacred turf.

The result is that there can never be a sincere assumption of a community of aims between the terror movement and its adherents and powers which are regarded as relativist, secularized antagonists, along with leaders in the Peninsula nation who veer in the direction of this globalizing stance. It must inevitably be assumed by the terror movemen that the aims of the globalizing world are antagonistic to the entire community whose interests it claims to represent and foster.

The clear wedge that exists in the current situation is between a spectrum understanding which allows for flexibility in the globalizing “enemy” and the minority status of the terror movement and the hostility to it within its own constituency. Both of these factors create a vast opportunity for the globalizing world,

But as I shall argue, this opportunity is given up every time it is assumed that the terror movement can be overcome by frontal military incursion, particularly into the territory which it regards as sacred.

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Kennan Containment > Obama Foreign Policy 4

Continuing a series of posts based on the famous missive that helped define the United States position in the world following the Second World War. I am taking relevant sections of George Kennan’s “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” (1947) and transposing them to suggest that the policy of containment he proposed then, in relation to the Soviet Union, can and perhaps should, be applied to current conflicts, even though there are radical differences between the Cold War era and now.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL KENNAN DOCUMENT

CLICK HERE FOR THE SERIES TO DATE

Original:

Now the outstanding circumstance concerning the Soviet regime is that down to the present day this process of political consolidation has never been completed and the men in the Kremlin have continued to be predominantly absorbed with the struggle to secure and make absolute the power which they seized in November 1917. They have endeavored to secure it primarily against forces at home, within Soviet society itself. But they have also endeavored to secure it against the outside world. For ideology, as we have seen, taught them that the outside world was hostile and that it was their duty eventually to overthrow the political forces beyond their borders. Then powerful hands of Russian history and tradition reached up to sustain them in this feeling. Finally, their own aggressive intransigence with respect to the outside world began to find its own reaction; and they were soon forced, to use another Gibbonesque phrase, “to chastise the contumacy” which they themselves had provoked. It is an undeniable privilege of every man to prove himself right in the thesis that the world is his enemy; for if he reiterates it frequently enough and makes it the background of his conduct he is bound eventually to be right.

Let it be stressed again that subjectively these men probably did not seek absolutism for its own sake. They doubtless believed — and found it easy to believe — that they alone knew what was good for society and that they would accomplish that good once their power was secure and unchallengeable. But in seeking that security of their own rule they were prepared to recognize no restrictions, either of God or man, on the character of their methods. And until such time as that security might be achieved, they placed far down on their scale of operational priorities the comforts and happiness of the peoples entrusted to their care.

Transposition:

Now the outstanding circumstance concerning the terror movement is that down to the present day this process of political consolidation has never been completed and the men (sic) who lead it have continued to be predominantly absorbed with the struggle to secure and make absolute their power. Within their own organizations and within the wider societies where they operate they have also endeavored to secure and extend their power against. For ideology, as we have seen, taught them that the outside world was hostile and that it was their duty eventually to overthrow the political forces beyond their borders. Then powerful hands of Islamic history and tradition reached up to sustain them in this feeling. Finally, their own aggressive intransigence with respect to the outside world began to find its own reaction; and they were soon forced, to use another Gibbonesque phrase, “to chastise the contumacy” which they themselves had provoked. It is an undeniable privilege of every man to prove himself right in the thesis that the world is his enemy; for if he reiterates it frequently enough and makes it the background of his conduct he is bound eventually to be right.

Let it be stressed again that subjectively these men probably did not seek absolutism for its own sake. They doubtless believed — and found it easy to believe — that they alone knew what was good for society and that they would accomplish that good once their power was secure and unchallengeable. But in seeking that security of their own rule they were prepared to recognize no restrictions, either of God or man, on the character of their methods. And until such time as that security might be achieved, they placed far down on their scale of operational priorities the comforts and happiness of the peoples entrusted to their care.

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Kennan Containment > Obama Foreign Policy 3

Continuing a series of posts based on the famous missive that helped define the United States position in the world following the Second World War. I am taking relevant sections of George Kennan’s “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” (1947) and transposing them to suggest that the policy of containment he proposed then, in relation to the Soviet Union, can and perhaps should, be applied to current conflicts, even though there are radical differences between the Cold War era and now.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL KENNAN DOCUMENT

CLICK HERE FOR THE SERIES TO DATE

Original:

Now it must be noted that through all the years of preparation for revolution, the attention of these men, as indeed of Marx himself, had been centered less on the future form which Socialism would take than on the necessary overthrow of rival power which, in their view, had to precede the introduction of Socialism. Their views, therefore, on the positive program to be put into effect, once power was attained, were for the most part nebulous, visionary and impractical. beyond the nationalization of industry and the expropriation of large private capital holdings there was no agreed program. The treatment of the peasantry, which, according to the Marxist formulation was not of the proletariat, had always been a vague spot in the pattern of Communist thought: and it remained an object of controversy and vacillation for the first ten years of Communist power.

The circumstances of the immediate post-revolution period — the existence in Russia of civil war and foreign intervention, together with the obvious fact that the Communists represented only a tiny minority of the Russian people — made the establishment of dictatorial power a necessity. The experiment with war Communism” and the abrupt attempt to eliminate private production and trade had unfortunate economic consequences and caused further bitterness against the new revolutionary regime. While the temporary relaxation of the effort to communize Russia, represented by the New Economic Policy, alleviated some of this economic distress and thereby served its purpose, it also made it evident that the “capitalistic sector of society” was still prepared to profit at once from any relaxation of governmental pressure, and would, if permitted to continue to exist, always constitute a powerful opposing element to the Soviet regime and a serious rival for influence in the country. Somewhat the same situation prevailed with respect to the individual peasant who, in his own small way, was also a private producer.

Transposition:

Now it must be noted that through all the years of preparation for their attacks, the attention of these men (sic), as indeed of Bin Laden himself, had been centered less on the future form which the reclamation of the “peninsula” would take than on the necessary overthrow of rival power which, in their view, had to precede the takeover. Their views, therefore, on the positive program to be put into effect, once power was attained, were for the most part nebulous, visionary and impractical. There was no agreed program. There was most generally a fissure between activists like Bin Laden and the clerics who from place to place led or dictated to movements that embraced terrorism.

The circumstances of the the period leading up to 9/11 helped to solidify the resolve of the movement by achieving advances without suffering major setbacks. 9/11 marked a serious advance and served mainly to galvanize both sides in the conflict, while reducing the Western response almost to a childish war mentality with virtually no appreciation for the nature of the opposition or understanding of its basic aims. The leverage of 9/11 and the aftermath probably was as seismic as the forces that created the Soviet Revolution. The financial jolt to the “West” more than likely amazed the attackers as much as it surprised Americans.

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