Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Can you still blog on a subject when you have no idea what your opinion is?

Yesterday Congressman Tancredo made the comment that if Al Qaeda was able to hit an American city with a weapon of mass destruction that the United States ought to hit back at Mecca. I first heard about this from Hugh Hewitt on his radio show. He was outraged. It seemed pretty genuine to me. (Few things annoy me like phony outrage.) He makes very persuasive arguments:

Let me be blunt: There is no strategic value to bombing Mecca even after a devastating attack on the U.S. In fact, such an action would be a strategic blunder without historical parallel, except perhaps Hitler's attack on Stalin. Anyone defending Tancredo's remarks has got to make a case for why such a bombing would be effective.

Take down the Syrian regime? You bet. Replace the House of Saud? Fine. Bomb every nuclear facility in Tehran? Absolutely. The US would respond to a savage attack with fury --but purposeful fury. Bombing Mecca would be the opposite of purposeful fury.

Lots of people with whom I normally agree make similar points: CaptainsQuarters, RovingTheologian OneClearCall, OpaqueLucidity Brainster's Bogus Gold and Mark Daniels.

I still couldn't summon the outrage. Maybe the deterrent value is there. I read a couple of other arguments. Ace of Spades made the point:
I know the Chinese General's statement that China was ready to use nukes on America should we interfere in a Chinese reconquest of Taiwan sort of put me on edge. He says he wasn't speaking for the Chinese Army or Goverment, but the fact that a high-ranking general felt comfortable making such a statement does tend to make one a mite more cautious about military moves to defend Taiwan.
Then I read Michael Reynolds at The Mighty Middle. Michael is my absolute favorite left of center guy on the web to read. The guy can write better than I can do almost anything, including sitting on the couch drinking beer, a skill for which I'd place myself in the upper percentiles. Normally, I'd say he makes really bad arguments, but he makes them incrediblly well. This time they don't sound like bad arguments:
Is every Muslim an Al Qaeda member? Of course not. Was every German in 1944 a Nazi party member? No. Was every citizen of Hiroshima a supporter of Tojo? No. The fact is, when you fight a war, you kill innocent people. You kill good people. You kill people who might be your friends if. . . if you didn't kill them. This is why it is such an excellent idea to avoid wars: because in order to kill the monster you sometimes end up being a monster.

We spent 40 years eye to eye, missile to missile with the Soviets. We were prepared to massacre every Russian, Ukrainian, Latvian, Azerbaijani who had the bad luck to live within the big red circles we drew around major cities and military bases. We were ready, they were ready. We knew what we would lose, they knew what they would lose. And in the end, the missiles never flew.
In October of 2001, I went to Las Vegas with some friends of mine. It was right around the time of the smallpox attacks. At that time I remember saying (after more than a couple of the aformentioned beverages) if it turned out those attacks had come from a state sponsor then our government had almost a duty to respond with our own weapons of mass destruction. Deterrence only works if the enemy believes that you're serious. Are we willing to kill a half million innocents to make that point? I'm doubtful. I think our enemies don't care. Would hitting Mecca be the same thing? Maybe not, but that might be something our enemies do care about.

One related thought that I've had, and I'm a little reluctant to mention it because I'm suspicious that it makes me something of a sicko for where it logically leads. If it was alright to focus on Dresdeners because they were making tanks and guns, why is it wrong to focus on the populations that are churning out the not-so-smart bombs? I actually know why it's wrong and that it is indeed probably a strategic mistake. Maybe it is an outrage when an elected official says something similar. Hell, maybe it really is an outrage for me to just write it down, but I think it's at least interesting to think about.