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New at Reason: Nick Gillespie says it's time to get back to the war on terrorism.

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  1. Many of us have been accused of bringing everything back to the war on drugs, but here goes:
    Like drugs, the more vigorously terrorism is fought the more terrorism there’ll be.
    Terrorism is indefensible, but it must be fought with finesse.

  2. Actually, Ruthless, I think that crushing, highly publicized victories over terrorists and their enablers are an absolutely indispensable part of any campaign to eliminate terrorism as a political tactic. Terrorism cannot be deligitimized without inflicting humiliating and overwhelming defeat on its proponents every single time they come back for more. Every time terrorists are negotiated with or conciliated, for example, terrorism is legitimized, and more terrorists are born.

    By historical standards, the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have models of military finesse – great pains have been taken, at the cost of American lives, to spare civilians.

    Finesse in warfare is all well and good in appropriate circumstances, and there are doubtless situations where finesse will contribute to beating the living crap out of the Islamists. We are blessed with a military that can beat the living crap out of its enemies with finesse, but make no mistake, there is no substitute in war for, yes, beating the living crap out of your enemies where all can see. Por encourager les autres, if nothing else.

    We tried fighting terrorism with nothing but a more diplomatic form of “finesse” for well over a decade, and it got us a smoking hole in lower Manhattan. We are not yet done with satellite-guided finesse, or the kind of finesse that weighs 165 grains and travels at 1500 feet per second.

  3. Inflicting death can be effective in certain circumstances, but inflicting humiliation is chasing a rainbow.

  4. “…but inflicting humiliation is chasing a rainbow.”


  5. it’s all just a way for the jesuits to succeed with the counter-reformation and make the pope the head of the new world order.

  6. Only your momma, daddy or jesuit can inflict humiliation.

  7. From Saddam the invincible who owned golden toilets to Saddam the homeless bum living in a rat-infested latrine hole — yeah I’d say there was humiliation aplenty.

    As for OBL, he is plastered inside a collapsed cave in Tora Bora. We won’t be finding him.

    Nick, I’m sorely disappointed in you — the “smoking gun” memo discovered this weekend was only the latest in a long line of evidence that Saddam was in bed with terrorists. Maybe you can tell us what Abu Nidal was doing in Iraq, and how he managed to shoot himself in the head 4 times in his “suicide”.

    Face it: The US had every right to overthrow Saddam at any time, whether for the attempted assassination of Bush Senior in Kuwait, the invasion of Kuwait, the ties to Ramsey Yousef and the first WTC bombing, or the myriad of humanitarian crimes against his own people.

  8. I can go to and read this stuff.

  9. This is fun… it’s like reading a war-blog.


    PS Dear RC, I could almost imagine your near orgasm describing implements of destruction …

  10. Nick:

    Basically, your thesis that Iraq was a distraction from the war on terrorism assumes facts not in evidence. Perhaps you would say the same about a libertarian endorsement of the decision to attack one of al Qaeda’s accessories and suppliers, Saddam Hussein’s regime (facts not in evidence, right?). This is a factual matter to be resolved in the coming weeks or months, not a true philosophical divide, since you (and the Cato folks) apparently endorsed the campaign in Afghanistan and granted its legitimacy.

    The philosophical divide among free-marketeers is among those who believe that the U.S. should have a foreign policy and be assertive with military force when necessary to protect ourselves and our freedom, vs. those who are essentially pacifists, isolations, “anti-war.”

  11. [i]”The philosophical divide among free-marketeers is among those who believe that the U.S. should have a foreign policy and be assertive with military force when necessary to protect ourselves and our freedom, vs. those who are essentially pacifists, isolations, “anti-war.”[/i]

    Put me in the first camp not the latter.

  12. Gillespie says capturing Saddam will have no appreciable effect on the situation in Iraq, but TV tells me the army’s already used intelligence found on him to round up cell leaders in Baghdad. Whom to believe?

  13. Rick:

    I think we’ve probably determined that we are simply not going to agree about the issue at hand (Iraq) or libertarianism in general. Let’s just agree to disagree.

    BUT, enough with the Mecca reference. It was purely OBL’s sop to uninformed public opinion in the Islamic world, it’s not really a meaningful point (U.S. forces were stationed on the other side of the peninsula, near the Iraqi zone and around the air bases, but not in the Hijaz and certainly not in Mecca, which the Saudis would never have countenanced). Bin Laden’s jihad ideology has deep roots in the Islamic psyche, is about far more than Israel and the U.S., and would not go away if America did. Some of his most loyal followers, the Pathans and others in Central Asia, have been persuadable on the “restore the Caliphate” propaganda since the waning years of the Ottoman state.

    This is a bundle of rage, rage about modernism, about being left behind technologically and economically, about a set of failed political and social assumptions that true believers just can’t bring themselves to admit to. I’m not going to deny that more recent events, such as Israel’s creation and repeated humiliation of the Arabs and various Islamic resistance movements to mostly communist aggression in Central Asia and the Balkans, have stoked these flames of rage higher. But they did not light them.

    Point taken on the pacifism/isolationism distinction. The two are not the same, though obviously there are individuals who have both set of beliefs.

  14. RC, we’re not at war (or “war”) with a tactic, no matter how many times we hear the term “War on Terror.” We’re up against a radical Islamist movement. If OBL saw the footage of Saddam being deloused, his reaction would probably be “sic semper tyrannis. That’s what happens when you abandon the godly path. And why did that fool try to fight the Americans with tanks and armies, when a single martyr can do so much more?”

    Let’s get the freaking Predators back to Afghanistan already!

  15. Good column Nick. Yeah; is it asking too much that the government spend it’s time hunting down Al Qaeda and killing them so that they can’t do it again, rather than pursuing an “elective” war in Iraq?

    Also, if the government would rain in their hyper-interventionist foreign policy the evidence is that the risk of terrorist attacks would be reduced.

  16. John Hood wrote:
    “The philosophical divide among free-marketeers is among those who believe that the U.S. should have a foreign policy and be assertive with military force when necessary to protect ourselves and our freedom…”

    This postulation ignores the fact that it is exactly an “assertive” foreign policy (such as; financing the Israeli government’s brutal occupation) and “assertive” military force (such as; stationing troops in or in proximity to Mecca;) that precipitates deadly reaction, such as 9/11 and endangers “ourselves and our freedom.”

    “… vs. those who are essentially pacifists, isolations, “anti-war.”

    Those three aren’t the same. I wish all free-marketers were; “anti-war”, ie, that war should be only used for protection against a imminent and REAL threat.(as opposed to the Iraq case) We may define “isolationists” as those who are reticent to project US government power around the globe.(count me in) I don’t of any “pacifists” among isolationist free-marketers. A rare bird, I’m sure.

  17. Rick,

    How many Palestinians have been killed by the IDF, and how many have been killed by Syria, Jordan and the other Arab states?

  18. Rick,

    So, you believe Bin Laden? The first time he gave Palistine as a reason was after 9/11–obviously to weaken support for the US in the Islamic world, not out of conviction (if it was a conviction, he would have mentioned it before).

    The US is the center of the West at this point in time. “More proximate and softer “western” targets” would have missed the central target. They aimed dead center and hit–and the target was as soft as any target they could hope for.

    If this was a matter simply of bad US forign policy, then the likes of Bin Laden would give us some credit for helping Muslims in Afganistan in the ’80s, in the Balkins in the late ’90s, defending Saudi Arabia & Kuwait from Saddam, etc., with the bad things we have done or they think we have done. It isn’t like we are the only one to support Israel (the Soviets supported Israel before we did, as did France and
    England). And if the point is Israel, why didn’t they attack Israel? Our forign policy balance sheet on the Middle East more or less balances out. But that doesn’t matter to Bin Laden, he hates us for what we are, not what we have done.

  19. John,
    I need an editor. What I should of said is the “troops in the land of Mecca”, which is how Bin Ladden said it in the 9/11 Fatwah. Thank you. Our government’s military pulling out is a step in the right direction for sure.

  20. DonS,
    If that were it, there are many other easier, more proximate and softer “western” targets they might have hit. We were attacked because our government finances the Israeli government’s inhumane, thieving and murderous occupation of the Palestinian Land. Our government supported sanctions against Iraq that caused malnourishment mal-medication for the Iraqi people but strengthened Saddam’s ruthless dictatorship. (Note that he was especially brutal on fundamentalist Islamics). Also, our government stationed troops in the land of Mecca. (That idiocy is finally been remedied)

    Bin Laden told us the reasons in his 9/11 Fatwa.

  21. “. . . that precipitates deadly reaction, such as 9/11 . . .”

    Actually, 9/11 was precipitated by the success of the West & the US & the failure of Islam.

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