Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Isolation to Destroy

I probably shouldn't be posting this, because it is 3:00 am, and who knows how clouded my mind is, but 2 days in a row now I keep falling asleep when putting B to bed, so now here I am awake.

I've just been reading various conservative blogs discussing terrorism, Iraq, etc. One re-occurring theme is a false dichotomy presented between the use of military force against terrorists and the review of American policy to make sure it has our best long-term interests at heart. The argument is basically this: "Terrorists are evil, and the only way to stop them is by killing them. It just won't work to appease them, sending flowers to them to convince them we are OK." Neville Chamberlain is thrown in a lot.

Related, another blog was quoting an editorial approvingly stating that no number of policemen can ever stop bombings like those in London. It will require the Muslim countries themselves deciding to root out the evil in its mist, because, paraphrasing, 'no policeman can ever have as great an influence on behavior as the condemnation of one's own society.'

I would just like to put these two concepts together. The idea to lessen terrorism is 1) to kill those who cannot be reasoned with AND 2) to isolate them by convincing the vast majority of their neighbors to support us. There are evil people, and American policy will have no effect on their intentions. These people cannot be gotten in any other way than military or criminal prosecution. At the same time, the support that helps the terrorists keep working must dry up. We need to have more and more people who right now might provide a meal or turn the other way, when they know who is down the street, change their mind and point out the house we need to raid or at least view the evil neighbor with obvious disgust.

In short, we are talking about 2 different people. One cannot be changed and must be taken forcefully; the other can be persuaded, and killing others down the street will do nothing to make that persuasion. Instead, they must feel unequivocably that the people the terrorists are fighting are the good ones, and it is their moral duty to risk their lives to help us. I keep thinking that we would be in a much better way if the $150 billion dollars so far in Iraq had gone into building hospitals, schools and creating jobs in a some shape of a Palestinian state. (Yes, yes, there are huge issues with the capabilities of the Palestinian government, but the basic point that the Isreal/Palestine conflict is the number one disagreement most Middle Easterners have with American foreign policy remains true, and the image of thousands of Palestinian children in schools and their parents at work would do us a world of good.) Would it have killed the bad guys and dismantled Al Qaeda? No. Undoubtedly no. Obviously no. But it would have gotten rid of much of the popular support that the bad guys have, so that they become increasingly isolated, pariahs in their own towns and mosques. That is what the review of American policy is about, defending American interests by having greater and greater numbers in the Middle East on our side, so that the terrorists become an increasingly isolated and unsupported fringe group. This is not an either/or choice. In the fight, you do 2 things: persuade those you can AND kill those you must.

It is similar to the shift that has occurred within the American South with regard to groups such as the KKK. (Yes, regular blog readers, I have mentioned this before.) The KKK is still around, but they have less and less influence on the society in which they live. It is becoming rarer and rarer for the tpyical Southerner to view a KKK attack as a bizarre form of vigilante justice or "just the way it is." Instead, most Southerners now view such crimes as crimes and their perpetrators as abhorrent.

I am reminded of a crime that occurred here in Hawaii recently. A woman was abducted right off the UH campus by 5 men, raped, and then tossed off at a dorm later. So, somewhere on this tiny island there are 5 men who need to be captured and locked up for the rest of their lives. But I keep thinking also that one of these men's brothers or mothers or friends has an idea their guy was involved, but they aren't saying anything. It is a small place, and I am sure someone knows. We need to lock up the rapists, but to get these rapists we also need to have that other silent person believe their duty is to speak. When your own mother, girlfriend, or buddy turns away from you, and the world think that person tragically had to make that choice, it makes the clearest statement how the crime is viewed. And you finally get the scum.

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