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Saturday, October 30, 2004

Reality check for me

Reality checks can be a bitch to handle. I was looking at Democratic Underground, and quite a few people there felt like they wanted to take Bin Laden up on his offer. Not everyone by a long shot, but quite a few thought we should never interfere with any Muslim states. I'm not sure if they realize that means totally abandoning Israel, because supporting Israel with money or even defending it in the UN is considered interference of the worst kind by these types.

I'm just amazed, though, that anyone would look at a communication from a terrorist and assume that this was said in good faith and was a deliverable promise. My reaction to this sort of thing is probably a Mark Steyn sort of reaction - I believe that responding to these demands is likely to make the violence more intense and continue longer. What would happen, for instance, if an Islamic state wanted to invade Afghanistan? Would we just say "well, we can't interfere or we'll get bombed?"

I'm just overwhelmingly surprised that so many people had that reaction. It doesn't make sense to me. I can't believe it's more than a small minority of the US population who feel this way, but I'm still surprised. The US population has always been pretty isolationist, and I have too. I wasn't even in favor of the first Gulf War (I thought we should just let the Soviets sweat it), but after 9/11 I believed we couldn't end the sanctions and leave Saddam Hussein in unobstructed power. It just wasn't possible.

If we had pulled out the Kurds would have been massacred, and we'd already left them swinging in the wind once. Our intelligence was correct at least in telling us that Saddam was actively pursuing his weapons program, according to the Duelfer Report. What would have happened to Kuwait, a tiny little country with all that yummy oil? We needed to get out of Saudi Arabia, because that regime is unstable. What would we have done when Saddam started moving again? WMD aside, it just seems impossible to me. And then there was a huge threat in the poison gases alone, because the regime was seeking contacts with terrorist groups, and Saddam's regime would have had the materials to give them.

And that brings me to my final reaction - why would anyone believe that Osama Bin Laden can speak for the entire Islamic world? He can't. Even if one assumes that he started the whole movement (which he did not), he can't control it. Every one of these groups is going to see the world on their own terms, with their own interests and goals in mind. About a week after 9/11 I woke up with the dull sense that we had no good options left, only bad ones. I still believe that.

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