December 5, 2006
Followup to "Why Newt Is Right"
Well, there seems to be quite a bit of misunderstanding of my last article in TCSDaily. I'll lay the blame for this solely at my own feet, since I'm the one who did all the writing.
The article is titled, "Why Newt Is Right," and if I could have added a subtitle, it would have been, "To worry about a catastrophic attack." It seems instead that many people added their own subtitle, something like, "To restrict free speech."
Arguing in favor of restricting free speech was not my intent. Aside from poor writing on my part, that it was nonetheless taken that way may show just what problems await us as the war continues.
For example, blogger Glenn Greenwald took special umbrage to the piece:
In a TCS Daily column this week entitled "Why Newt is Right," Josh Manchester talked about all the bad things that would happen in the event that a nuclear bomb were detonated in Long Beach, California, and then expressly urged measures for "physically stopping or legally outlawing the ideas behind radicalism"Like I said, this is my fault for writing poorly. When read in context, this sentence was meant to show an alternative strategy to restricting free speech:
An offensive yet superficially benign way to accomplish some of these same goals might be to begin a cultural war against extremism. In addition to physically stopping or legally outlawing the ideas behind radicalism, such a campaign might seek to propagate competing memes, which appeal to the same core demographic that is apt to become extremists.I should have written, "instead of" where I did write "in addition to."
Let me elaborate upon this, since I obviously did a poor job in the article: Rather than merely restricting speech, as many would assume is what I was talking about, why not create competing ideas, and discredit those that appeal so strongly to the core demographic (young men) who are drawn to terrorism? In order to do this, I think many of the same things Newt mentioned would be necessary: technologies to disrupt and track extremist websites. As I tried to say in the piece, to merely restrict such websites is a defensive method.
To take an example: outlawing a website only gives it a sort of cache within the world of rebellious extremists. But a lampooning of extremist ideas in a comedic fashion, in a cultural manner that appeals to the demographic of extremism, would be much more valuable, and probably more successful in the long run.
For the benefits of monitoring terror sites instead of shutting them down, see this backgrounder by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Also, I don't think it's clear that Newt wants to restrict free speech. Instead, he was merely noting that the pursuit of terrorists and stopping attacks is going to require "a serious debate about the first amendment," and that it is better to have this debate now to "develop the appropriate rules of engagement." I don't think it's a straight leap from that to detention camps, and a police state, as the left seems to assume. I can't speak for Newt, but what I was more concerned with is things that we can do now that will serve the purpose of both preventing an attack and preserving the government. To me, this includes civil liberties. In fact, it's not just to me. I used the examples of the nuclear strategists Fred Ikle and Philip Bobbitt in the article. One of Bobbitt's pet peeves is that as of today there is no legal mechanism in place to quickly reconstitute the House of Representatives should a majority of its members be killed or incapacitated in an attack (the Senate does not have this problem, as replacement Senators can be appointed by governors). I'm no legal expert, but I believe that the only way to restaff the House of Representatives is to hold new elections. Even if these are scheduled to take place a few months after an attack, those months are likely to be when crucial decisions need to be made by the House, and when crucial oversight needs to take place as well.
In short, ask yourself: is the United States less or more secure in its freedoms if a plan exists to quickly reconstitute the House of Representatives after a catastrophic attack?
You might say that such measures are how the Nazis rose to power. I'd argue that "stockpiling laws" such as Bobbitt has advocated, is meant to stop such a nightmare scenario from occuring.
This in fact is the entire thrust of Fred Ikle's new book. It's no accident that it's called "Annihilation From Within." Here's an excerpt from the book's website:
Our greatest threat is a cunning tyrant gaining possession of a few weapons of mass destruction. His purpose would not be to destroy landmarks, highjack airplanes, or attack railroad stations. He would annihilate a nation's government from within and assume dictatorial power. The twentieth century offers vivid examples of tyrants who have exploited major national disasters by rallying violent followers and intimidating an entire nation.Frankly, Ikle is advocating a series of measures to prevent this from happening, not a series of measures that would make it more likely. If you need more evidence, I'll go get my copy and quote some more.
To be clear as well, just so I'm not misunderstood, neither Bobbitt nor Ikle argues for restrictions on speech.
Now Newt is a different story. As I tried to argue in the article, he's right to be concerned with the same issues as Bobbitt and Ikle. I think he's right to raise the questions of undermining terrorist communications as well.
If Al Qaeda were a state -- Qaedastan -- where we could clearly locate them, is there any doubt we would have destroyed their command and control infrastructure long ago?
The problem is that Al Qaeda, or jihad, or extremism, or however it can be identified, is not a state. It is more like a virus. It's command and control infrastructure is highly diffuse and a lot of it is located in cyberspace. To stem recruitment, I think we should offer counternarratives and competing memes. Newt thinks we should shut down recruiting websites.
Whichever of us you agree with, the point is that we are both concerned with preventing another attack. Newt is asking for a dialogue about free speech in order to figure out how to stop terrorism from spreading through the internet. To merely demonize him as wishing to restrict speech is to deny the very dialogue that he seeks.
I'm a blogger. I can appreciate the beauty of free speech. In a post a long time ago I once told "the troglodyte FEC bureaucrats and their draconian moronic henchmen in the court system" that "You can have my blog when you pry it out of my cold dead hands."
At the same time, as a blogger, I'm pretty in tune with the power of the internet to organize people and ideas. Jihad can use this power just as well as Josh.
I guess all of this debate swirls from the fact that cyberspace is both speech and a place. It's probably the one true commons in the world today.
Well, I hope that helps somewhat. Again, I wish I could have been clearer in my article.
November 13, 2006
By a thousand cuts . . .
Travel has kept me from writing about what I'd intended today . . . but not to worry, as Westhawk has instead done so. See his piece on Britain's looming insurgency.
November 8, 2006
The Best and the Worst
For the most magnanimous take possible on the election, see Bill Whittle:
Remember one thing before you go. The most important election we are ever likely to see in our lives was not this evening's election. Bush's re-election in 2004 was the one we HAD to have, and we got it. Be grateful for that, acknowledge that this loss is no one's fault but our own, congratulate the Democrats on their impressive wins and start figuring out how we can make sure this never EVER happens again. =)For the most pessimistic, see this, from a reader of the Corner, which I quote in full:
I wish to tell my friends to be cheerful and especially to be of good will. Disappointments come and go, but moments of courage and integrity in dark hours will be there when the stars grow cold. We have lost the election, so let us maintain our determination, our dignity and our sense of humor, and let us take this moment to reflect upon how our actions have fallen short of our ideals. And then, finally, let's act like the Americans we are, roll up our sleeves and start rebuilding. We who have survived Civil War, the Nazis and the Communists can probably manage to find a way to preserve the Republic in the face of Speaker Pelosi.
America is not only much, much stronger than you imagine; it is stronger than you CAN imagine.
To those who have written me in anger over the years, I say sincere congratulations to you on a big win, and I genuinely hope it will remove some of the bitterness in your hearts and restore some belief in a system that was never broken.
As for me, I pledge to re-enter the fight with more energy, not less, and to continue to try to make the case I think needs to be made. I'll start on that tomorrow.
"Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities." -- Winston Churchill
Welcome to the process of exhausting all other possibilities. This is where we separate the men from the boys. Pick a line and stand in it.
Those people who were serious about criticizing Rumsfeld (as opposed to those who were just vindictive or crazy) did so because they wanted our military to be doing more, not less, but does anyone seriously think that a Democratic Congress is going approve expenditures for the extra 50-70,000 troops that his serious critics say would be required to actually win in Iraq?
As a practical matter, I'm not sure how Iraq is possibly salvageable at this point given our current political situation. Zal is apparently on his way out, not wanting to be scapegoated as the man who lost Iraq and the real travesty is that he will be unlikely to receive half the official honors that Bremer and Tenet got despite his far more capable service to our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once the Baker Commission comes out, the administration is going to be under overwhelming pressure to implement the suggestions of the "bipartisan" commission and their failure to do so is just going to give the Democrats one more issue to run on to a pliable media and (near as I can determine) general public. Sooner or later, Baker's recommendations will likely be implemented, at which point al-Qaeda will be left in control of Anbar, Salahaddin, and possibly Babil and Diyala as well. They won't have any oil, but they'll have their failed state and that will give them a base from which to strike throughout the rest of the Middle East. Whether or not they are able to work out a manageable detente with Muqtada al-Sadr (who I expect will likely seize the southern part of the country), they won't be able to conquer his territory nor vice versa, meaning that we will still have a failed terrorist state made up of what was central Iraq to deal with. Oh, and a lot of innocent Iraqis are going to die, probably in the tens of thousands. But no one here will care about them, just like no one ever cares about the hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese and Cambodians who died when we abandoned Vietnam, but the important thing is that we'll all feel that much better. The truly ironic thing is that Iraq is likely to be held up as an example of why "Arabs/Muslims can't handle democracy," because to believe otherwise would be to admit that we should have done more, fought harder, and worked better to save them. And we can't have that. It goes without saying that if this is going to be the result that we never should have gone into Iraq in the first place.
The loss of Iraq is almost certain to coincide with a major push in Afghanistan-Pakistan and having defeated the United States, al-Qaeda is likely to regard the momentum as being with them. My own assessment is that Pakistan is likely to fall (probably in a palace coup) before al-Qaeda and the Taliban make any serious headway in Afghanistan. That may preserve the Karzai government, but it will also turn bin Laden into a nuclear power. The only good news that I can take away from this is that if, not when, this occurs the United States is unlikely to lapse into a "Blame America First" or "Iraq Syndrome." We won't lift a finger to save Somalia (now almost certainly lost) or Iraq, but the fall of Pakistan is likely to awaken the general population from their slumber. If not now, then certainly once the nukes start flying, whether at India or at the United States in Europe. It also now goes without saying that the US will not prevent the emergence of a nuclear Iran or take anything more than token gestures regarding North Korea. One thing I want to be clear on is that this isn't the apocalypse and al-Qaeda is not going to take over the Middle East in 2 years but that they will make a great deal of headway there if the US is emasculated in the interim as a result of domestic politics, particularly if the legislative branch now treats the executive as though it is part of an enemy state.
A word on Europe. As you are no doubt seeing in the media coverage, much of the European punditocracy is now giddy that the US has rejected the evils of Bushitleretardespotheocrat and all his works. While this is likely to make American tourist trips and cocktail parties more enjoyable, it is also nothing short of meaningless because, as we have seen over the last several years, Europe wants to be treated as a great power but does not wish to exert the necessary effort to actually be one. Our cooperation with them on intelligence and law enforcement matters would continue regardless of the event because they must [cooperate] for their own self-preservation, but they will not support sanctions against state sponsors of terrorism or increased troop commitments to Iraq or Afghanistan. In the case of the latter, they simply do not have the troops to send or the logistics to sustain them. . . .
The next 2 years are likely to suck, but I could always be wrong and the Democrats could always develop an uncharacteristic amount of sanity.
"You win some and you lose some." "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game." And so forth.
Well, actually, no. When you and your countrymen might die, it is whether you win or lose.
There no doubt are many furtive conversations taking place in both Iraqi kitchens and government councils right now.
"Should we go to Jordan?"
"Should we let the Americans attack Sadr?"
"If I try to tamp down the death squads, but the Americans leave, will the squads come for me?"
November 3, 2006
The Adventures of Chester Radio: Interview with Army Military Police in Baghdad
Today's guests on The Adventures of Chester Radio are Staff Sergeant Jason Oliver and Specialist Kimberly McGinness, two Army military police who are training the Iraqi police forces in Baghdad.
Staff Sergeant Oliver and Specialist McGinness discuss the competence of the police, what the biggest crimes are ("auto theft"), how they get around the language barrier, Specialist McGinness' view of why the Iraqis might be a little frightened of her ("I carry a bigger weapon than they do"), and the bravery of the Iraqis.
This episode is about 18 minutes long.
Special thanks to US Central Command Public Affairs for making this possible.
October 26, 2006
"Welcome to the party, pal!"
A quick cycle through the headlines of the past two days provides an update on our NATO allies:
October 24, 2006
A Simple Plan
The New Media Journal carries a fictional bit of prognostication by one Raymond S. Kraft. It is the story of a surprise nuclear attack on the United States, performed with aplomb by Iran and North Korea [via Rocket's Brain Trust].
At 0723 Hawaii time on the 67th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack three old fishing trawlers, about 100 miles apart, and each about 300 miles off the east coast, launched six small cruise missiles from launch tubes that could be dismantled and stored in the holds under ice, or fish, and set up in less than an hour. The missiles were launched at precisely one minute intervals. As soon as each boat had launched its pair, the skeleton crew began to abandon ship into a fast rubber inflatable. The captain was last off, and just before going overboard started the timer on the scuttling charges. Fifteen minutes later and ten miles away, each crew was going up the nets into a small freighter or tanker of Moroccan or Liberian registry, where each man was issued new identification as ship's crew. The rubber inflatables were shot and sunk, and just about then charges in the bilges of each of the three trawlers blew the hulls out, and they sank with no one on board and no distress signals in less than two minutes.Commentary
The missiles had been built in a joint operation by North Korea and Iran, and tested in Iran, so they would not have to overfly any other country. The small nuclear warheads had only been tested deep underground. The GPS guidance and detonating systems had worked perfectly, after a few corrections. They flew fifty feet above sea level, and 500 feet above ground level on the last leg of the trip, using computers and terrain data modified from open market technology and flight directors, autopilots, adapted from commercial aviation units. They would adjust speed to arrive on target at specific times and altitudes, and detonate upon reaching the programmed GPS coordinates. They were not as adaptable and intelligent as American cruise missiles, but they did not need to be. Not for this mission.
I'm unfamiliar with Mr. Kraft's work, but here he succeeds in rapidly painting a scenario that is entirely plausible. The more interesting questions are those it merely implies.
October 3, 2006
Good Cop, Bad Cop
Suppose you are a member of Britain's security services and are faced with a dilemma: you can either arrest a terror plotter and lose the opportunity to continue rolling up his network, or know that if you don't, the US will swoop him up and send him to a secret prison (aka, "render" him)? Which is worse?