When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

June 04, 2005


In a recent post on Qu'rangate I speculated that there might be a silver lining:

But sometimes I wonder if Muslims, the deeply religious and the fanatical alike, shouldn't be a little more worried that we might just fly off the handle once in awhile. I worry that our apologists have been too successful at convincing them we're nice, even-tempered barbarians.

Well, I'm not kidding. And a recent post by The Belmont Club demonstrates why it's important.

Wretchard updates a series of classic posts that began with Three Conjectures, and a Postscript. The subject of his first two posts concerned the calculus of retaliation by the leaders of the US and/or other western nations to a possible WMD attack by Arab terrorists. Essentially the advantage of decentralized control and asymmetrical war becomes a disadvantage if Arabs want to limit the escalation of retaliatory consequences. The conviction that we would limit or measure our retaliation to the scale of the original attack is an assumption as naively misguided as the conviction within our own peace movement that Al Qaeda would be satisfied if we met a few simple demands.

The The Fourth Conjecture takes this logic a step further, in response to the fact that the first WMD retaliation by an anti-jihadist has already taken place. Anthrax spores were apparently mailed to an Indonesian embassy in Australia in retaliation for a jihadist who was sentenced to a mere 30 months in prison for the murder of 100 Aussies, while an Aussie received a 20 year sentence for drug abuse in the same court system.

Apparently the Aussie street is "mad as a cut snake." There are limits to the patience of citizens in English settler societies, and attacks may not bear a return address.

It could be the case that the ability of human associations (tribes, cities and nations) to think forward to the ultimate consequence of their actions, and then reason back to a solution, might prove to be the most important human capacity manifested since that ancient Adam learned to put the blame on his girlfriend. MAD kept us on the edge of our seats for generations, but the recognition of the consequences, in part, allowed us to prevent them. However let's not overestimate ourselves, because this is an entirely different situation. Throughout the critical years of the Cold War we had a mainline electronic evesdrop on the Kremlin, so we didn't have to guess about their intentions. The absence of uncertaintly played no small role in allowing the logic of Mutually Assured Destruction to work. We no longer have that luxury. Yes, we know their intentions. What we don't know are their capabilities. They, on the other hand, know our capabilities, but they take our intentions far too much for granted.

Beliefs are more malleable than people think. Sometimes beliefs lead a design, but they more often follow. I am not convinced that Islam is inherently any more unreasonable or dangerous than any other religion. Hamas members once believed that killing noncombatants was a sin, but they adapted that belief to suit the political situation within a matter of weeks, becoming the most effective Palestinian terrorst movement, when their design changed. That's both the bad, and the good news. If the World of Islam can appropriately perceive the threat they really face then they may be able to think forward to the consequences, and reason back, to a fundamental change.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at June 4, 2005 07:02 AM

Retaliatiory Launches

It's something of a recurring fantasy of mine. A horde of Americans, a hundred thousand strong, marching down the mall, holding pictures of George Bush and Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, screaming "Death to Iran!" while burning the Iranian flag.

Posted by: Mycroft at June 10, 2005 01:06 AM

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