My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Dissecting Record

Much Ado has been made in the last few weeks of the report to the Army War College by Jeffrey Record title "Bounding the Global War on Terror." In particular, some local liberal talk nags have been touting this as "evidence" that their view of the situation has been vindicated by the Army War College. So I spent the day absorbing and dissecting this report--here's what I've come up with:

It occurs to me that I should give the conclusion first, and then anybody who wishes to can read the points of analysis below. In short, this is a biased report which is not sanctioned by the Army War College, and should not be assumed to be reflective of the majority of thought within the ranks of the military. Record's obvious point is to say the the Iraq War was a bad idea which does nothing for achieving the goals of the Global War On Terror (GWOT). Many of his points betray a willingness to ignore obvious facts, and to draw unsubstantiated conclusions from a loosely-linked array of administrative statements.

(Editorial note: while it is certainly true that pulling specific quotes out of a lengthy article can create false or misleading impressions of content, I will strive to stay within the context of the report and not distort)

The views expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, . . .
So much for official sanction.

Jeffrey Record. . .served as Legislative Assistant for National Security Affairs to Senators Sam Nunn and Lloyd Bentsen
Two former Senators with strong military credentials, to be sure; nonetheless, two Democratic Senators.

Terrorism is a recourse of the politically desperate and militarily helpless, and, as such, it is hardly going to disappear.
Early on Record reveals what I consider to be a mind-numbing naivete with regard to the nature of terrorism. To call them "politically desperate" assigns to them some political ambition; Al-Qaeda has none. Its ambition is the destruction of Western Civilization, and its means is the killing of as many non-combat people (women, children, the aged, the sick) as it possibly can. His analysis assigns them victim status, and that is abhorrent.

The ultimate measure of success in the GWOT will be diminished incidence and scope or terrorist attacks--i.e. nonoccurring events. From an analytical standpoint, however, this is an unsatisfactory measure of success.
Not to me, it's not unsatisfactory. No more attacks on US soil--success! And, sure, we want to also prevent attacks elsewhere, but we're in this because of an attack on US soil that killed 3,000, and this President's job is to protect Americans. So if there is a slight uptick in terrorist activity in distant lands, then that is tragic and unfortunate, but not necessarily our concern.

The current U.S. national security strategy defines terrorism as simply "premeditated, politically motivated violence against innocents." This definition, however, begs the question of who is innocent and by what standards is innocence determined.
Again, Record plays a little moral equivalence card. I don't think anybody doubts that the children buried in the rubble of the daycare of the WTC were innocent--some "standards" are pre-cognitive and are readily understood by anybody not handicapped by overthink.

The definitional mire that surrounds terrorism stems in large measure from differing perspectives on the moral relationship between objectives sought and means employed. . . .Condemning all terrorism as unconditionally evil strips it of political context and ignores its inherent attraction to the militarily helpless.
This is a difficult point--is Record trying to say that a.)targeting and killing babies is not evil because it is "inherently attractive" or that b.) were these people militarily not helpless they would not resort to these means? I think we saw while the Taliban was in charge of a country that a lack of "helplessness" does very little to molify the acts of evil men--indeed, it only legitimizes them.

Was Jewish terrorism against British rule in Palestine, such as the 1946 Irgun bombing attack on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem justified as a means of securing an independent Jewish state?
Another clever equivalency argument. If memory serves, the King David Hotel was headquarters of the British Occupying Force, and thus a legitimate military target. It's not as if the Jews waited for the wedding of the British General and walked in with an AK-47 and an explosive belt. Likewise, "terror" as employed by the West (for instance, the French Resistance in WWII) tends to target legitimate targets, like supply lines and communications, which have strategic importance; terror, in the modern Islamist context, targets life and the symbols of life.

The President thus postulated, at least with respect to the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, a monolithic, direct terrorist threat to the United States in the form of undeterrable WMD attacks.
Here, and elsewhere, Record tries to say that Iraq would initiate an attack in exactly the same way that al-Qaeda did. Not true--the point the administration made all along was that the two were linked, that Saddam had demonstrated a willingness to mass killing, and that the idea that he develop the weapons and then freeliy distribute them to the terrorist networks was unacceptable. Surely Iraq was never going to invade the US; that was never the fear. The fear was what he would give to those who were willing to attack the US.

. . .rogue states. . .are subject to effective deterrence and therefore do not warrant status as potential objects of preventive war and its associated costs and risks.
Ah, yes. Effective deterrence. Like Hussein with the U.N. North Korea with SecState Albright. Again, the point isn't what they would do to the US; it is what they would do to their neighbors and with their friends that we would be powerless to prevent if WMD's were a player.

There was no substantive intelligence information linking Saddam to international terrorism.
I guess the payments he made to the families of successful terrorists isn't enough information. Or the Ansar al-Islam camps in the north of Iraq. Or the airline fuselage he kept outside of Baghdad for training purposes. I guess the point Record would make is that even though he gave financial support to, provided a haven for, and provided training facilities for terrorists, he would never go that next step to provide them with weapons, were he to have them. Nope, that's one line he just wouldn't cross. Gimme a break.

Historically, moreover, transition from autocracy to stable democracy has more often than not been protracted and violent;but There was not a single act of politically-motivated violence against American occupation forces during the 7 years of U.S. military governance in Japan.
So which is it, Dr Record? In the historical context you put this in, 7 years in not a long time at all, and bloodless. Perhaps proving the point of unique American ability to handle this sort of thing. Or, if the first postulate is more the case, then why the panic after only 8 months of occupation?

Quoting Yassir Arafat The difference between a revolutionary and a terrorist lies in the reason for which he fights. For whoever stands by a just cause and fights for the freedom and liberation of his land from the invaders, the settlers and colonialists, cannot possibly be called a terrorist.
Which does nothing to explain 9/11.

Preventive war, though a substitute for deterrence, would actually reinforce deterrence. In fact, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM appears, at least so far, to have had the opposite effect on North Korea and Iran.
How do you figure? North Korea has made overtures to come back to the table, Iran is going to subject itself to inspections, and, just for good measure, Libya has opened its doors to inspections, as well. There is no substitute, I suppose, for deliberate ignorance of facts.

American competence and staying power will be keys to achieving both goals, . . .
Um, yeah. Duh. At least he managed to land on one obvious correct statement.

. . .they convey the magnitude of the federal fiscal crisis that lies ahead if the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are not rescinded, . . .
Isn't this the same argument Howard Dean is making--pay for the war by reinstituting (read:raising) taxes? Just so you know where Jeffrey Record is coming from.

Okay, that's enough. I think you get the point. The reading of this report leaves an overwhelming impression of someone attempting to use the Army War College to legitimate an argument that has not been in the ascendency of late. And, insofar as his logic is tortured, Record makes his point with somewhat less effect than the President and Tony Blair.

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