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Thread: Legitimizing Thugs as a strategy II

  1. #1 Legitimizing Thugs as a strategy II 
    Time Lord
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    The old legitimizing thugs theory was at the breaking point. It simply had too many flaws to continue, so this should be a refined version. Even if I'm wrong about how to address it, I don't think I'm wrong in saying what the problem is. I might need to refine it again, too. We'll see.

    My idea is to publicly recognize the Taliban as the ruling authority of Afghanistan, and then hold them publicly responsible for every death that happens until they surrender to us. It's only a political strategy, not a tactical one, but it's politics that has been ruining this war for us, not tactics.

    This doesn't mean we punish them for the deaths. It's simply a restructuring of our own war doctrine. It's unrealistic to give ourselves responsibility for civilian deaths, when we have hardly any control over it. We're not the ones who ought to surrender if the civilian death toll gets too high. The Taliban is. It's their people, and their responsibility to protect them, not ours. We need to start asserting that.

    If they don't either surrender, or defeat us, in the next few years, then every civilian death that happens must be seen as being their fault. A responsible leader would surrender if the suffering of their people became too great. Sometimes the only way to discredit someone is to give them the chance to prove themselves. So, yes, we should negotiate with them, by which I mean we should offer them terms of surrender. (Probably those terms would be "unconditional surrender", where all we agree to do is stop harassing the people that they are supposed to be in charge of.)

    I think our political mistake has been trying to set up a government in a place that still has a government. Taking Kabul didn't mean the Taliban was no longer Afghanistan's government. Until the Taliban publicly surrenders, or a significant portion of the people publicly refuse to follow them, or aid them, the political fact of the matter is that they are in charge. Pretending otherwise, or labeling them "terrorists" doesn't change that fact. What it does is make it impossible to change it.

    Going back to WWII, the real point of victory with Japan was when the Emperor surrendered. If we merely took Tokyo, I don't think that would have counted as victory. It was probably the emperor's knowledge that he was seen as primarily responsible if we went on Nuking Japanese cities, that motivated him, not fear of death. (Because it was seen as being his responsibility to stop us, not our responsibility to stop.) If it were fear only for his own life, he probably would have refused, and as long as the emperor remains credible in the minds of the Japanese people, he can be replaced as many times as we kill him.

    Somehow, our fear of "total war" engagements has prevented us from being able to put enemy leaders in the same position as the Emperor was in.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    The real mistake was in attacking Afghanistan in the first place. Ditto Iraq. But Afghanistan especially. History shows it is almost impossible to conquer and subdue. The terrain is too broken. Too many places for guerilla fighters to hide. The British, with an overwhelming force, left with their tail between legs. The Soviets the same. Now the USA thinks it can conquer and hold???

    The other mistake was in treating Al Qaeda as if it was a political entity. It is not, and never was. Al Qaeda is the Muslim equivalent of the mafia. Just a collection of murderers, thugs, and criminals. And that is how we should have treated them. Track down the villains using normal police investigation methods, and then use whatever strategy is required to arrest the culprits and put them on trial.

    Al Qaeda as a whole was not responsible for 9/11. Just a few of them. By focussing on the real culprits and ignoring the rest, you disempower them. By treating them like an enemy force, and attacking militarily, you give them a status way above what they should have, and that encourages others to join. The more you use the military against Al Qaeda, the stronger they get.


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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic

    The other mistake was in treating Al Qaeda as if it was a political entity. It is not, and never was. Al Qaeda is the Muslim equivalent of the mafia. Just a collection of murderers, thugs, and criminals. And that is how we should have treated them. Track down the villains using normal police investigation methods, and then use whatever strategy is required to arrest the culprits and put them on trial.
    The question is whether the Taliban had a responsibility to suppress them, rather than allow them to begin attempting diplomacy (by which I mean waging war) with a foreign government as though they were a government.

    If there are two factions in a country, both capable of committing acts of aggression toward a foreign power of a sufficient magnitude so that it would constitute an act of war by one country against another, then I think one or the other of those two groups needs to assert authority, and stamp the other out. We can't be expected to allow that kind of anarchy to prevail in a country, at least not when it makes that country a danger to us.

    Maybe that's where we should draw the line. If a country is in such a state of chaos that it is no longer able to make unified diplomatic decisions, that should be the point at which it no longer has the right to rule itself.



    Al Qaeda as a whole was not responsible for 9/11. Just a few of them. By focussing on the real culprits and ignoring the rest, you disempower them. By treating them like an enemy force, and attacking militarily, you give them a status way above what they should have, and that encourages others to join. The more you use the military against Al Qaeda, the stronger they get.
    That's a very interesting point. We basically started an advertising campaign for them, didn't we? It's like we're dealing with attention-starved children with behavioral problems. If you punish them, that means they're getting attention.
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  5. #4  
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    They key is giving people enough respect so that the world's expectations of them stay high. If we treat them like they're 5 year old children, then the world will expect only as much from them as a 5 year old child.

    I think a lot of what makes the Nazi's holocaust seem so much more horrifying than any number of ethnic cleansing events in Africa is the "who" that did it. We think we should expect better from a Western European power. All moral accusations have to be measured relative to some expectation. "Freedom fighters" will tend to be allowed a much freer reign than "government bodies".
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    If there are two factions in a country, both capable of committing acts of aggression toward a foreign power of a sufficient magnitude so that it would constitute an act of war by one country against another, then I think one or the other of those two groups needs to assert authority, and stamp the other out. We can't be expected to allow that kind of anarchy to prevail in a country, at least not when it makes that country a danger to us.

    Maybe that's where we should draw the line. If a country is in such a state of chaos that it is no longer able to make unified diplomatic decisions, that should be the point at which it no longer has the right to rule itself.
    Taliban as sovereign was spurned though. Most countries didn't like them, so refused to recognize that government. In reality the Taliban did solely govern Afghanistan for about five years, just not in ways we were comfortable with e.g. eradicate the poppy and close the girls schools; they were "our" freedom fighters and they behaved like despots. They generated cognitive dissonance. So Afghanistan never had a chance, because the world refused to give it a chance.

    I'm a fan of state security and fair, open international relations. I think if you look to where both those conditions exist, you find even former "bad guy" states improving. Improving better than the pariah states that got sanctioned, freedom-fightered, and regime-changed.

    Officially the Taliban ...government-we-refuse-to-recognize... did say they'd deport bin Laden and co. if a proper UN-level request was made. This means dealing with Taliban Afghanistan as equal sovereign. That's an "unreasonable demand" as the politicians say. In hindsight it could have been a watershed, and who knows maybe some Taliban wanted just that.

    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    The other mistake was in treating Al Qaeda as if it was a political entity. It is not, and never was.
    Kinda ironic we refused to recognize the Taliban government, but then inflated al Qaeda as powerful, coordinated organization.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Taliban as sovereign was spurned though. Most countries didn't like them, so refused to recognize that government. In reality the Taliban did solely govern Afghanistan for about five years, just not in ways we were comfortable with e.g. eradicate the poppy and close the girls schools; they were "our" freedom fighters and they behaved like despots. They generated cognitive dissonance. So Afghanistan never had a chance, because the world refused to give it a chance.
    .
    Maybe it was the Taliban's job to conduct better diplomacy. They should earn the world's respect instead of just demanding that it be freely given.
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  8. #7  
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    Diplomatic overtures don't guarantee recognition of a state. See China's refusal to recognize Taiwan. Or America's refusal to recognize Iran, or Iran Israel, etc. Or even recognition of your own newly independent country: which sovereigns recognized the USA "entity" and why? This is all about stonewalling a perceived threat or problem.

    Normally the recipient of stonewalling is given impossible conditions, which seem innocent to outside parties. For example the condition offered Saddam was that he reveal massive stockpiles of banned weapons... lol and he could just try to meet that condition. Or the condition offered Israel that it remove "Jewish" from the constitution, as if Israeli voters would allow such a change.

    If you want to examine Taliban diplomatic overtures, against stonewalling tactics by other countries, I warn you it's a pathetic picture of "kick the runt".

    Anyway, the thread idea is to offer some conditional sovereignty to the Taliban right? Smells like a trap to me. Isn't it really?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Diplomatic overtures don't guarantee recognition of a state. See China's refusal to recognize Taiwan. Or America's refusal to recognize Iran, or Iran Israel, etc. Or even recognition of your own newly independent country: which sovereigns recognized the USA "entity" and why? This is all about stonewalling a perceived threat or problem.

    Normally the recipient of stonewalling is given impossible conditions, which seem innocent to outside parties. For example the condition offered Saddam was that he reveal massive stockpiles of banned weapons... lol and he could just try to meet that condition. Or the condition offered Israel that it remove "Jewish" from the constitution, as if Israeli voters would allow such a change.

    If you want to examine Taliban diplomatic overtures, against stonewalling tactics by other countries, I warn you it's a pathetic picture of "kick the runt".

    Anyway, the thread idea is to offer some conditional sovereignty to the Taliban right? Smells like a trap to me. Isn't it really?
    You just have to look at what people aren't saying (where the money is), the realities nobody is willing to go out and say, but they're the driving force behind everything. All Saddam had to do was offer his precious petrol at the right price to the right buyers, and everyone would suddenly stop talking about his abuses of power inside Iraq.

    The Taliban should have allowed the natural gas pipeline through their country, protected it, and then just sat back and enjoyed the jobs their people were getting. They're such idiotic cultural purists that they end up making everyone get tired of them.

    Israel needs to quit thinking that the Palestinians are just going to go live in the ocean, or get absorbed as economic refugees by any number of underdeveloped neighbors who are having trouble finding enough jobs for their own people. No matter what happens, if the Palis don't get their own state, and the unlimited right to live *somewhere*, Isreal's going to be an economic thorn in everyone's side. Their enemies may call it "anti-semitism", but it's really just economics.
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  10. #9  
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    Much insight to be had from that lens. Thanks.

    To keep the thread moving let's apply it fast and loose: Legitimizing thugs then means we have to make the Taliban economically indispensable? I've argued that for Palistinians before - mutual dependence forces peace - but hadn't tried it elsewhere. Maybe the world could depend on Taliban for opium suppression? They've proven effective in the past.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  11. #10  
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    That is a very good synthesis, Pong. Any government that makes itself economically essential to the rest of the world, and in a way that's beneficial to the world economy, guarantees its sovereignty.

    Saudi Arabia, for example, is never going to be invaded by anyone. They are "stable" in the sense that they're able to reliably deliver their oil without interruptions. They took the money from their oil sales and invested it in the economies of most of the key world players.
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  12. #11  
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    So sovereignty depends largely on trade. NK hampers trade, its sovereignty is dismissed... except by South Korea which sees intense trade possible.

    The biggest hitch I see is that war itself is a resource valued by all militaries that must justify their budgets, and Afghanistan is rich in this. See how NATO rotates members through South Afghanistan so everybody gets a turn. And of course the US rotates through whole regions. Maybe better if we use just Afghanistan, forever?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    So sovereignty depends largely on trade. NK hampers trade, its sovereignty is dismissed... except by South Korea which sees intense trade possible.

    The biggest hitch I see is that war itself is a resource valued by all militaries that must justify their budgets, and Afghanistan is rich in this. See how NATO rotates members through South Afghanistan so everybody gets a turn. And of course the US rotates through whole regions. Maybe better if we use just Afghanistan, forever?
    You know, the scariest part of your theory, if it is true, is that a lot of what soldiers in Iraq have been learning is anti-insurgency, how to suppress a civilian revolt. I don't doubt that a lot of soldiers are happy to get some real field experience, and probably a lot of military contractors are happy to get a chance to demonstrate that their machines and gadgets work in the real world.

    I suppose it would be no surprise if the military behaves like every other kind of civil servants behave, trying to expand their budgets. Now ask yourself: what would motivate us, above all else, too do what they want? I'm thinking that they have to make sure their wars are economically profitable to us. Then we have both the will and the means to fund them, instead of just the will.
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