OxBlog

Sunday, April 16, 2006

# Posted 9:07 AM by Patrick Porter  

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." (Leon Trotsky).

How true. Even though the number of wars between states is actually declining, its more true than ever. In the era of the suicide bomber, as civilians we are on the front lines every time we step out the front door, get on a train or bus or aeroplane, or line up to vote, or worship, or go to a bar.

Obviously, the risks we face are not as grave as those which civilians and coalition troops face in Iraq. But it is there. Its the line I use when I teach summer school on the history of war and someone claims that the study of it is morbid and bizarre. As though at this time in history, wars were just happening somewhere else and didn't involve each of us whether or not we like it.

A common retort to this point is that the stakes are much lower in this war, that radical Islam poses no existential threat, or that it represents a menace of a lesser order of magnitude than, say, Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. Charles Krauthammer responds to this:
'The discovery of nuclear power is the greatest 'order of magnitude' leap in potential destructiveness since the discovery of fire. True, the atomic bomb was detonated half a century ago; but the democratisation of the knowledge of how to make it is new...Radical Islam's obvious intent is to decapitate the American polity, cripple its economy, and create general devastation...Imagine what a dozen innocuous vans in a dozen American cities dispersing arosolized anthrax could do. Imagine what just a handful of the world's loose nuxes, detonated simultaneously in New York, Washington, Chicago, and just a few other cities, would do to the United States. America would still exist on the map. But what kind of country - and what kind of polity- would be left? If that is not an existential threat, nothing is.'
(12) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
The degree of threat posed by an enemy is a function of means, motives, and opportunities. Not just motives plus nightmare scenarios. Krauthammer can imagine this sort of thing all he wants, but the probability of it coming to pass remains extraordinarily low for the forseeable future. Much less than the existential threat posed to the US if Nazi Germany or the Soviety Union had expanded and consolidated their empires throughout Europe.
 
When was Nazi Germany ever a threat to the United States? It wasn't like Hitler was going to invade the mainland.
 
The scenario of terrorists detonating multiple atomic bombs in American cities strikes me as mostly the stuff of movie plots. I don't think there is any plausible mechanism by which terrorist groups could undermine the viability of the American state.

Consider the American bombing of Japan during the second world war. Between 50 and 90% of the populations of dozens of Japanese cities were killed by bombs, firestorms, and the disease and starvation that resulted. And yet the existence of Japan was not undermined.

States are durable things.
 
hey big man

just wanted to draw yout attention to this:

http://eustonmanifesto.org/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=1

which might be worthy of your time & attention. Would be keen to see your reactions.
 
Francis Fukuyama addressed this specific point in the "The End of History and the Last Man". While rogue groups or an isolated country could carry out a nuclear attack or several concurrent attacks against the West, this is still in no way an "existential threat" on par with Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, or Cold War USSR. Islamic fundamentalism has no coherent governing ethos, and the very anti-modernization ideology they adhere to is what ultimately undermines their appeal on a widespread basis.

Nukes in DC, New York, and Chicago are a very scary thing, no doubt, but they are not an existential threat. For all of its tragedy and economic disruption, 9-11 served to strengthen the core existence of America as a concept and country. Out of terror came unity, not chaos. And chaos is all the terrorists have, unlike Germany or the USSR, who actually had a governing strategy and could conceiveably put boots on American soil at some point.
 
I still doubt that the Germans could have actually invaded the U.S. Personally I wouldn't be suprised if we got tagged with a dirty bomb. There was a group in Britian trying to buy one from some Russians, no reason it couldn'
t happen here.
 
The dirty bomb was a compromise. NO WMD or bioterror. So, what should we trade here? cold fusion was actually working fission. Maybe we can avoid the WMD biotrerror if we explain fission?
 
Krauthammer shouldn't give them ideas, and we might buy a little more time. In the long run, however, the odds are terrible.
 
The hostile attitudes of the left or even leftish centre to issues such as counter-terrorism and Iraq often seem explicable to me only on the basis that they do not at bottom see the threat as real or someting to be worried about. And this difference in attitude points to a deep divide on a whole range of philosophical and political issues.
 
Seneca said, "...they do not at bottom see the threat as real or someting to be worried about."

That rings true, and it worries me a great deal. I don't want them to have to be woken up forcibly by our enemies, but at present I don't feel optimistic that they'll be able to do so on their own.

If only they'd refrain from trying to undermine our efforts in the meantime, I'd feel more confident in our ability to thwart that wake-up call.

This seems to me, to be a classic "Catch-22."
 
The terrorist threat must be kept in perspective, in comparison with other threats. More people die from car crashes or smoking every day than died in the September the 11th attacks. While certainly a tragedy and an outrage, they do not deserve to dominate the agenda of government, or our ideas of what kind of actions are important to take in the world.

For a single example of that, consider how - according to Jeffrey Sachs and UNICEF - 30,000 children a day die of malnutrition around the world. For a fraction of the annual defence budget of the OECD, that number could be cut substantially.

Terrorism, while scary, is not the only threat to global welfare. I would argue that it isn't even the main one.
 
Please write Vietnam Veteran & now Arizona Senator John McCain about:
You Are Not Forgotten Falun Gong:

EXAMPLE:
Arizona Senator John McCain, There are times in history when a single act can affect the fate of millions. This is one of those times. You may have seen recent reports at:

http://www.faluninfo.net/

that Chinese authorities are enriching themselves from the sale of human internal organs and that dozens of concentration camp-like facilities are used for harvesting these organs. Reports tell us that China’s repression of prisoners is far more extensive, more brutal, and more horrifying than previously thought.

As a Politician you have some power to REVIEW your position that China never used American Vietnam prisoners for human organ harvesting. American Vietnam prisoners may still live and their off spring may still be used for such harvesting-breading.

We don’t need to stop Iran from entering America because that is the same BS used with the Vietnam War.

We need to stop China’s attitude towards Capitalism at any expense from entering America.

You can Email Senator John McCain at:
http://mccain.senate.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.Home
 
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