Thursday, April 28, 2011

An Analysis of Terrorism

Pat Buchanan's 2004 book "Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency" contains a wonderful analysis of the history and causes of terrorism.

Buchanan makes a general assertion that the neocons were originally "Cold War liberals" who became disaffected with the Democratic party when McGovern was nominated in 1972, and gravitated to the Republican party. I see no specifics in his book supporting this assertion, but otherwise the book is, as usual for Buchanan, very well researched and documented. He describes how conservatives in the '70's came to see "detente" as a dirty word, and began disregarding George Washington's sage advice to stay out of foreign entanglements. Buchanan says that "Intervention, wars for democracy, and a passionate attachment to Israel are what neoconservatism is all about."

Buchanan examines how the neocons captured the presidency. Bush 2 was particularly vulnerable since he knew nothing about foreign policy and really had no interest in it when he assumed the presidency in 2001.In his campaign he was skeptical of nation-building and seemed to have the instincts of a true conservative. However, once he put his foreign policy team together after being appointed president by the Supreme Court, he peopled it with the likes of Paul Wolfowitz Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, and others. Buchanan documents how all of these had been beating the drums for intervention in Iraq for ten years prior to 9/11, ever since Bush 1 failed to get rid of Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War.

Buchanan documents how Bush's rhetoric changed after his election. In his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush identified Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil", and issued threats against these countries. Buchanan says that "the Bush threat of war upon nations that had not attacked us was unprecedented". He goes on to say that "Bush had no authority to issue those threats. The Constitution does not empower the president to launch preventive wars."

Buchanan then discusses a speech Bush made in June at West Point, in which Bush "rejected as obsolete the doctrines of containment and deterrence that had won the Cold War". Buchanan notes that "in dealing with nations, containment and deterrence had never failed us". The Bush concept that we will never brook any rival, and that the future is one of permanent American hegemony, is decried as ludicrous. Buchanan notes that "Prudence is the mark of the conservative. Where was the prudence in the president's address at West Point?"

In analyzing the feelings in the Arab world, Buchanan observes that "Interventionism is not the solution to America's problems in the Middle East. Interventionism is the problem. America's huge footprint on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia led straight to 9/11. The terrorists were over here because we were over there. Terrorism is the price of empire. If you do not wish to pay the price, you must give up the empire."

Buchanan undertakes an account of the history of terrorism, introduced by the quote that "Terrorism is the war of the poor and War is the terrorism of the rich." He quotes Thomas Walkom as saying that "History demonstrates two dirty little secrets about terrorism, neither of which governments are anxious to admit. The first is that terrorism is almost impossible to prevent--unless its root causes are seriously and systematically addressed. The second is that, quite often, terrorists get what they want."

Buchanan's account of the history of terrorism starts with the French revolution, goes into czarist Russia, and then really becomes powerful when he writes of the 1916 Irish rebellion against Britain. He writes that 15 of the Irish rebels were executed, and by creating these 15 martyrs Britain sealed its doom in Ireland. The cause was successful when in the early 1920's Irish independence was achieved. Buchanan says that "This would be the pattern for wars of liberation in the 20th century." He later says that "Terrorism often succeeded in the 20th century, and when it did, the ex-terrorists achieved power, glory, and immortality, with streets, towns, and cities named for them. And America today recognized every regime to come out of these wars where terrorism was a common tactic."

Buchanan's forthright conclusion is that "We must give up the empire, bring the troops home, let lapse the old treaty commitments dating to a Cold War ended 15 years ago. As the greatest republic in history, America has never been and can never be an isolationist nation. But we must cease to be a compulsively interventionist one." While Buchanan's observations on domestic policy are somewhat dubious, and frankly weaken the overall quality of his book, his foreign policy judgments are right on, and the U.S. must heed them if it is to remain a strong country.

5/4/11 update.  The assassination of Osama bin Laden presents a number of issues. I was watching the Phillies-Mets Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN, and the chant of "USA" went up in the stands. The players were baffled, as they had no cell phone access in the dugout or on the playing field. Celebrating the death of another human being seems odd for Christians to do.

It also seems odd to call it justice". It certainly is not justice in any normal sense of the word. I have no problem with the Navy Seals shooting him after he resisted arrest, as this is standard procedure, but to call it "justice" is a stretch.

To go into Pakistan without informing the Pakistanis speaks volumes about our lack of trust of this country which is supposed to be an important ally of the US in the region. It is questionable whether we should continue to pour in the massive amounts of foreign aid to this uncooperative country.

But now we get to the heart of the matter. Using Buchanan's analysis, it is apparent that killing one individual will have no effect on the problem of terrorism. As Buchanan states, "the terrorists are over here because we are over there". The solution to the problem of terrorism is clear; in Buchanan's terms, it means giving up your empire, because "terrorism is the price of empire".

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