A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Sunday, March 14, 2004 :::
With the arrest yesterday of five men with apparent (and perhaps self-evident) connections to al-Qaeda, the horror committed against the Spanish people and against civilization last week takes on an international character. That should not in any way take attention away from the sadness that has settled over cosmopolitan, disco-loving Spain. We should include the victims and their families in our prayers.

But this was another battle in a long, drawn-out war, and al-Qaeda or whoever else is responsible did it for attention, so analyze we must.

The European peoples--for there are not yet any such people as 'Europeans'--have had a mixed reaction to the war on terror. Simply put, those with a fresh memory of state terror take the war very seriously, and contribute out of all proportion to their economic or military strength. Who would have thought that the Third Millenium would begin with the Bulgarians having military control of an Iraqi city? Their bravery is inspiring.

But the countries whose memories are dulled by the long-term support, protection, and economic benefits that derive from being close the United States have felt the dangers less keenly. One need not consider the cynical way in which the French forced the Turks to not help us in the war--costing lives and introducing an element of uncertainty at the worst possible moment. That was not the French people; that was a corrupt French government with ties to Saddam. But when one considers the average people of the the "be here now," don't have babies, disco-loving Western European countries, one finds a lack of seriousness, a belief that somehow if you just worry about yourself, everything will correct itself. Spain has become a famously fun-loving country--although the Spaniards this writer knows have somehow managed to keep their famously dour personality even as they dance all night. The brave Jose' Aznar, who today steps down from the prime minister's office, faced horrendous domestic opposition to his support for our war. One suspects that the average citizen is torn between realizing that he is right about international terror, and blaming him for making Spain a target. The last point is terribly, terribly wrong, and will be addressed in a moment.

But one has to stop and ask again why human beings are that way. Why do we always stop being careful just because things are going well? But we do.

Isn't that what has happened here in the US? While the jobs situation is still difficult, those with jobs--the overwhelming majority--are doing well. Opponents and former supporters of the war were quick to return to strictly "domestic" concerns and charge that the Bush Administration was trading in paranoia, once the stated reason for the war turned out to be wrong. While this writer has never, ever been an enormous supporter of the war, and has even concluded the whole policy underlying it was catastrophically misconceived, he has never wavered in the belief that we are confronting a lethal and dedicated enemy. But many Americans seem to have drifted off into their suburban heaven again, and that was a mistake.

Some final points:

One thing this writer learned from Allen Drury is that one should attend carefully to what people are saying and assume that they mean it. It is an essential doctrine of Islam as taught over nearly 1400 years that lands that have been converted--in whatever way--can never be allowed to leave the dar-al-Islam, the territory of submission. (Much has been made of Karl Marx's indebtedness to Christian morals, however much he rejected religion. Upon learning of this Islamic doctrine, this writer immediately thought of its parallel with Marxism, and wondered if perhaps people had left a large rock unturned in the search for Marx's ideological forbears.)

Spain was liberated from its Arab conquerors, after many centuries of rule, 512 years ago. For us, that seems a long time, and so not something to worry about. But the reconquest of Spain has figured large in the thought of Osama bin-Laden. Perhaps Mr. Aznar had enough respect for bin-Laden to assume that he meant it. Obviously, bin-Laden did. He wants to see the US and any trace of its culture out of Muslim lands. He wants Spain itself.

One supposes most Muslims could not be bothered about that. But Osama bin-Laden is hardly your average Muslim.

It just came to mind that bin-Laden has been successful in one of his aims: the removal of US troops from Saudi Arabia. Those who think he has been beaten down should try to see it from his angle.

To turn to the US, in practical terms, this attack will help Americans refocus on security. Will they turn instinctively toward the Republicans, as they did throughout the Cold War, or will they blame them for failing to do the right thing? Not "failing to do enough"--it is hard to see how we could spend more than $200 billion and use most of our armed forces, as we have in Iraq. But "failure to do the right thing."

Again, the perplexing triumphalism that has entered conservative rhetoric since the 2002 elections shows itself to be a horrendous mistake. It would be a relatively easy thing to point to this week's horrors as a reason for continuing a fight of which the war against Saddam was a part. A part. But the faintly articulated strategic element of the case for the war portrayed the elimination of Saddam as the key. Once again, the active choice of indulgence in very unconservative rhetoric has trapped the Administration and many of its supporters in a corner.

Consider the commentary around the revelation that the "father of the Pakistani atomic bomb" was actively engaged in trading the parts for such weapons. The grim truth, as very well articulated in an op-ed in the Journal by Bernard Henri-Levy, was that the affair showed that there is a huge trade involving people from many countries. The elimination of Libya from that cycle may have no effect whatsoever. But those committed to the certainty that this war would bring "an end to evil" were forced by their own rhetoric to play up the significance of the changed ways of a leader the tabloids long ago dubbed "Daffy Qadafi."

Recent commentary on al-Qaeda has concentrated on the supposed disarray of the central command structure, led by bin-Laden, an Egyptian named al-Zawahiri, and a few others. There was concern about all those well trained followers, but the shattering of the command structure was considered a major deal. So much information flies past that it all becomes a blur, but this writer is fairly certain that within the last few days he saw someone comment on how the lack of a central command meant that al-Qaeda could not carry out a large attack. One now has to go back and ask how so many commentators seem to "know" that bin-Laden and al-Zawahiri are bogged down somewhere.

Consider that 9/11 was carried out by 19 Saudi citizens. 5/11 was carried out by only 5 people, apparently, and they were from Morocco and India. Now think again about the phrase "an end to evil," and see why this writer would wish that conservatives would go back to being conservative.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 2:58 PM



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