Saturday, March 23, 2002
I think I might qualify to work as a columnist for the New York Times. Not because I'm a liberal, a quick glance through the archives here will dispel that impression, but because I can sometimes write as incoherently as the Times' Thomas Friedman.
In his Sunday column, Friedman makes a series of silly claims about terrorism.
Real terrorists don't want to kill a lot of people. Rather, they use limited, but indiscriminate, violence or hijacking to create noise or fear that draws attention to their cause and ultimately builds political or diplomatic pressure for a specific objective.
It's difficult to find someplace to start when you're offered this type of inanity. So, the 19 hijackers that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11 really didn't want to kill a lot of people? Then why the hell did they fly the planes into the two largest buildings in the largest city in the United States? Why didn't they just rent a couple of cessnas and fly them into a Florida swamp?
What an idiot. Of course they're trying to kill a lot of people. If they just want to create noise or fear, why don't the suicide bombers in Israel walk into a mall and warn everyone to back off before they kill themselves? Why didn't the terrorists that bombed the Marine barracks in Lebanon just keep the truck parked outside and blow it up there? Because they want to kill a lot of people.
Also, terrorists use "limited" violence only in comparison to what a high-tech military like that of the United States has. They don't have hyperbaric bombs or fuel-air explosives or bombs that are guided by GPS satellites, so they use the most destructive weapons they can get their hands on. If terrorists had access to nuclear bombs, they would use them. Anyone who thinks they wouldn't is deluding themselves.
That's why Osama bin Laden is not a mere terrorist. He has much larger aspirations. He is a super-empowered angry man who has all the geopolitical objectives and instincts of a nation-state. He has employed violence not to grab headlines but to kill as many Americans as possible to drive them out of the Islamic world and weaken their society. That's why the Sept. 11 hijackers never left a list of demands, as terrorists usually do. Their act was their demand. Their demand is total victory.
OK, so by Friedman's logic (?) bin Laden is not a "mere terrorist" because terrorists don't want to kill people and it's obvious that bin Laden does. I don't think that there's any doubt that bin Laden is an angry man, but the rest of this is just some sort of weird gibberish. Do terrorists usually leave a list of demands? I'd ask the Israelis, but I doubt that after a suicide bomber pushes the button that there would be enough of any note left. Sure they often leave behind videotapes demanding the Israel withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank. But it's really unnecessary, and to some extent untrue, because the Palestinians really want so much more, the top-selling "Mein Kampf" by Hitler is evidence of that.
Since that is the case, the proper, long-term U.S. strategic response to Sept. 11 should be twofold: First, we must understand exactly who these 19 suicide bombers were and how they were recruited. We need to know how these human guided missiles are assembled. Second, we need to launch an all-out global effort to make sure that all nuclear and biological warfare materials are under as tight a control as possible.
It appears as though whatever drugs Friedman was taking have begun to wear off by this point. Of course, we've been doing both for decades. And we've been a little better at the latter than the former.
The truth is terrorists don't need to leave a list of demands, we have plenty of people throughout the Middle East who tell us what they want, including bin Laden himself.
What worries me most for my daughters' future is not Saddam Hussein. He's a homicidal dictator who can be deterred, or eliminated, by conventional means. No, what worries me most is the fact that we still don't understand who those 19 hijackers were. What worries me is that nearly every day for the past six months, Palestinian men and women — many of them secular, not religious — have strapped dynamite around their waists and blown themselves up against Israeli targets. How do you deter young people who hate us, or Israel, more than they love their own families or their own future?
It will take us a long time, and much diplomatic therapy, to cure such intentions.
Well, I'm not sure that "diplomatic therapy" will ever do any good, but they can go ahead and try, as long as it is secondary to "military therapy."
As far as deterring people from blowing themselves up, we accomplish that by continuing the way we've been doing. We destroy their training camps and kill their recruits. When potential recruits see that it is very likely that won't live long enough to strap a bomb to themselves and kill innocents, the method will become much less popular.