Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Root Causes

I read a lot of the Conservative's/TheoCon/Regressive's (whatever you want to call them) blogs out there to see what they are saying and to see why they are saying it. Something I constantly hear from them is how Liberals/Progressives/Elitists (whatever you want to call us) take the side of the people who produce the terrorists. I hear we are more concerned about the plight of the "oppressed people" than the safety of our own citizens. This is not only false, but very insulting. It is not that the left condones terrorists behavior due to the plight of "oppressed" people. It is that we are looking at the root causes of terrorism in addition to the consequences of terrorism, because that is a crucial element in the equation. Yes, there are the occasional lefties that believe everyone is a victim and not answerable for their actions, but that is a minority. There are also wackos on the right who condone Timothy McVey's actions in Oklahoma. So lets leave the fringe elements on both sides out of the discussion. I personally, don't know anyone who condones terrorism (left or right). We all agree we must fight the war on terror. Where we do disagree is how to win the war on terror. What we (the left) do realize is that there is not terrorism without context (yes, the liberal "nuance" factor). Terrorists are not born, they are bred. We feel that trying to solve the root causes of terrorism is an essential part of the greater "war on terror," and that military action alone will never end this conflict. Whether you accept it or not, oppression is one of the many root causes of conflict. Throughout history, anytime there is a group of people who feel "oppressed," whether justified or not, they fight back. From the Visigoths against Rome to our own founding fathers against Britain, the feeling of oppression ultimately manifests in violence. Take, for instance, Chechnya. Most Americans think this is a problem that started more recently than it actually did. The fact is is that the Chechens and the Russians have been fighting for 150 years. The conflict has less to do with religion than self determination. Russia has waged a brutal war to subjugate the Chechens for over a century. Does this justify killing school children by Chechen terrorists? Absolutely not, but you can see the root cause of the problem. Military might alone has not cured the problem in Russia and Russia's actions in Chechnya makes our war on terror look like a day at Disney Land. You must look at the conflict in context and only then can you start to solve it. Russia can fight this war for another 150 years and never win. The only way to win this type of conflict through only military might is to kill them all. Not just the terrorists, but the children of the terrorists, the brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, first cousins, in-laws, next door neighbors, etc, and every single person who identifies with that group. Another example is the Palestinian/Israel conflict. The reality is is that people just don't wake up one day and decide to strap sticks of TNT to their chest and become a suicide bomber. There must be a convergence of many factors to create such hatred that one is willing to give up their own life to take the life of innocent people. You put a young man in a situation where outsiders occupy his home, he cannot find work, he sees no positive future for himself, has had a sibling or parent killed by an Israeli helicopter rocket, send him to a misguided Mullah and you are going to get trouble. Do these factors justify the means? Again, absolutely not, but unless you change the paradigm you will never change the outcome. Israel can occupy the west bank for another 40 years and never end this conflict. Are the Israeli's justified in defending themselves? Yes. Will the conflict ever end by military action alone? No. The problem is is that too many people do not see the great complexity of the situation. When Robert McNamara sat down with the former leader of the North Vietnamese many years after the end of the war, the Vietnamese leader explained why the US did not and never would win that war in the way the US was fighting it. They knew the US was much stronger militarily. The Vietnamese had been fighting the French for years before us. The French were much stronger militarily. Then they fought us. We were much stronger militarily. Strenght alone would not win that war. They had lost approximately 3.2 million people, and they were prepared to give up another 3.2 million. Not because they saw us as weak. They knew we were stronger. They knew they would lose a thousand of their own people for every one of ours. They fought because they thought they were fighting against oppression. The very interesting thing about Viet Nam is a one point, we did start to win that war. It was when we changed the paradigm. A large part of why the North Vietnamese were able to find support in the South's peasants was because of the feudal system of "land owners" and "tenant farmers." The communists were able to recruit soldiers because they were able to frame the war as a fight against both outsiders (France and America) and a fight against their own feudal system (Landlords). The economic situation was a root cause. Nixon was able to change the paradigm by changing the economic system, thus eliminating one of the root causes. No longer were the farmers serfs and servants to the upper class. Once this "oppressive" element was eliminated, the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong lost much of their support by peasants in the south. When this happened, the North could no longer fight the gorilla insurgency they had utilized for many years. Now they had to face the US man to man. In the face of overwhelming US military power the North conceded and signed a peace treaty. Both the US and the North knew that the war would rekindle once the US had pulled out, but this shows that thinking about the causes of a conflict can result in figuring out how to win (or at least win long enough to get out). The US can be gung-ho all it wants, but that will not make us safer in the end. "Strength" alone will never win the war on terror, we must also rid the motive. That is the liberal ideology and that is why we think we need to fight a smarter war.


Anonymous said...

I don't hold the view that you are more concerned about the plight of terrorists than our own people and I don't think most of my ideological cohorts do either. We just disagree on the grand strategy. Right now, my side is calling the shots but that won't always be the case. That is why I would prefer bi-partisanship in the war on terror. We cannot ever agree fully but I think it is important that once we have set a course for action, then it is incumbent upon the opposition to disagree in a civil manner and not lose sight of who the enemy is. I supported virtually nothing that the Clinton Administration did in 8 years, but I'll be damned if I would have taken to the streets to protest the Kosovo or Bosnian interventions (BTW, I think he was right morally but approached it incorrectly from a strategic viewpoint). Anyway, I enjoy the discourse and will blogroll you under loyal opposition. Don't forget to extend the same courtesy when my side is (hopefully many years from now) in the minority.


Dingo said...

Chris and I have been having a fairly good conversation, mainly on his blog. Not that anyone would probably care, but you can see it at:

To Chris, that's for your reply. When I posted this, it was in reply to a general observation, not specifically your blog. I agree with you that more must be done in a bi-partisan way. Unfortunately the fringe of both parties has hijacked our political system (and our safety). I recently posted a letter submitted to me by one of my friends regarding the split in our country and how it is really not as large as it may feel, but that the two party system benefits from making us feel father apart then how we really are.

Anonymous said...

And if you only read the far right, you'll think that it's a "war of might" "nuke 'em let Allah sort em out" kind of mentality that's on the right. It's not.

Most of us on the right believe that the way to "drain the terror swamp" is to foment a democracy in the ME. If we can get the people there to have free and open discourse, they will be less likely to fester in the background, placing all the blame for their lack of freedom on those of us who enjoy freedom.

That's why I support the Afghani and Iraqui operations, anyhow.

Dingo said...

Democracy is a start, but not an end within itself. We are the greatest democracy on earth, but we somehow grow our own domestic terrorists from time to time. More needs to be understood as to the problem. I think economics and education also play a large role in the issue. You put all three together and hopefully we will breed a tolerant society. Islam itself is not the enemy. One of the most tolerant societies on earth was the Moorish empire in southern Spain during the middle ages. Christians, Jews and Muslims lived together in peace and prosperity under the rule of the Muslims. Three things existed, self determination (relatively), good education and a prosperous economy.

As for Afghanistan. I agree with the administration's invasion. I have never argued otherwise. But if you bring Iraq into the picture, why them? Most of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. we continue to support Saudi Arabia, which is not a democracy and produces the terrorists. I still contend that the war in Iraq was Bush settling old scores.