Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Stability and Iran

Takeyh at the Christian Science Monitor claims that the international community need not fear Iran. My belief is that Takeyh has made a very simple mistake, that of confusing a dictatorship with a stable democracy. If Iran had the requisite democratic institutions providing stability, we wouldn't be worried about it's pursuit of nuclear weapons. Takeyh's take on it is that we don't need to worry about the problem, because the current oligarchy does not have the same goals as Khomenei.
Personally, I think it would be more convincing, if their goals had managed to be retained through the transitions of power which have occurred since the revolution. At least then there would be some claim of stability.
Iran's future is only a roll of the dice. Should Khamenei die, who's to say what the future of Iran will bring? That's one reason we are concerned about their nuclear program.

What is terrorism?

A long time pet peeve of mine has been the mischaracterization of terrorism. Terrorism is the use of force to achieve a political agenda by attacking and intimidating civilians.
Pretty much all attacks intended to cause civilian damage are terrorist acts.

Any attack against a military target is likewise not a terrorist attack. Claiming otherwise is to cheapen and blur the antipathy with which everybody should regard terrorism.

An insurgent in Iraq attacks coalition and Iraqi military targets. A terrorist in Iraq attacks civilian targets which have no ostensible military objective.

Analyzing some of our own history, we can discriminate such attacks in ways which the media commonly overlooks:
WTC bombings (1994): terrorism
USS Cole bombing: act of war
Beirut barracks bombing: act of war
Khobar towers bombing: act of war
Various suicide bombings in Israel: terrorism
7/7 UK bombings: terrorism
Madrid train bombings: terrorism
9/11 attacks: terrorism
IED attacks on coalition forces in Iraq: act of war

Some acts can get a little bit murky. For example, the bombing of US embassies in Africa was targetted at African civilians, yet was also targetted against US government/military control structures. Act of war? Yes. Act of terrorism? Yes. Fortunately, most actions are much more easily distinguishable.
In some cases, there also appears to be confusion between what is a terrorist act, what is an act of war, and what is a war crime.

Insurgents in Iraq who fire at US soldiers from crowds of civilians are not employing terrorism. These insurgents are using particular guerilla tactics which are expressly forbidden as war crimes. Is it a war crime for the enemy to blend in with a crowd of civilians? No. But if they launch attacks from a vantage point at which a retaliatory strike must compromise civilians, that is a war crime.

For the most part, these issues have clear tests by which their legitimacy or lack thereof can be established. The media in the US needs to do a better job of educating people and classifying attacks both by and against the US more accurately.

How does this work?

I'm referring to how suicide bombers manage to be captured. Just yesterday, a terrorist with a VBIED was captured driving into the green zone in Baghdad. I've read several accounts of such events, but haven't been able to ascertain whether the arrest is due to a change of heart on the part of the would-be bomber, other whether the military has some unpublished non-lethal technology available. (Note: the story to which I am referring is contained in the image caption, not the main article.)
Either way, capturing a would-be terrorist suicide bomber is more than twice as valuable as killing one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Policies and Principles Addendum: Intended Audience

Posts will be written for a reasonable, skeptical audience. This is part of the overall policies and procedures in the effort to reduce rhetoric and focus on the substance of ideas expressed.
Nobody from a view more centered than the far extreme wings of society should immediately tune out due to blatant posting bias.
Again, the ideas have to stand on their own merit. Address events and opinions from a dettached view.
Taking issues far more seriously than your opposition is the most direct route to victory. Let them run their jokes, sarcasm, and slanders. At the end of the day, people respect those who take themselves and others seriously, whether they agree with them or not.

Policies and Principles Addendum: Cheap Shots

This is the first of what will probably be many addendums.
No cheap shots or side attacks are allowed. Examples of such side attacks would include such things as referring to 'Reuters' as 'Al Reuters', or to 'GW Bush' as 'Bushitler'. If you have a legitimate criticism of such an agency or person, state or link to that criticism directly.

Policies and Principles

I'm going to set out a few principles for this blog, regardless of whether or not anybody ever reads it.
Real political opinions are hard to find. It's often difficult to separate the opinion from its surrounding irony, sarcasm, invectives, and other literary devices.

The purpose of this blog should be unadulterated, serious political opinions. These articles should not be exciting to read, and they should not be written in any kind of a persuasive manner. The ideas presented here should stand on their own. If other blogs should wish to reference these ideas, and/or dress them up in whatever persuasive rhetoric they wish, that is their perogative. But language-based incitement of emotions does not belong here.

This policy reflects the fact that serious political opinions do not require audience manipulation, and to resort to cheap tricks like rhyme and meter cheapens the ideas proposed.

We are extremely serious about our political positions, and we must treat them with the utmost respect.

Perhaps there is better language for this policy. If so, it will need a rewrite.

Go CBS!

The relevant articles are linked everywhere already. Dan Rather and Mary Mapes have continued to develop pseudo-conspiracies aimed squarely at those who helped them regain their integrity. This may sound like a strange portrayal of the relationship between CBS news and the conservative bloggers who brought them down over faked GWBush service records, but it is a pretty accurate one.
Personally, were I to publish such false data, I would be thankful to those who corrected me, and ashamed of my lax verification procedures.
Of course, in most cases, situations such as this are not so simple. Rather et. al. have attempted to turn the debate around by claiming that even though the documents are forged, the accusations are truthful. To address this, most reasonable people would expect proof. This proof has never been offered. There has been proof presented which raise questions about GWBush' service records, but none which claim to answer those questions.
Dan Rather, if I'm ever so lucky as to have you read this, please stand up, thank the various bloggers who set the record straight, and just go on with the work you have done before. 60 minutes has had a good track record of accuracy, and I'm certain you've been part of that. We all screw up, and even if it's with the best of intentions, it deserves acknowledgement of those who set the record straight.
While many cases of mistaken journalism are replete with murky facts, the facts in this case are clear enough, that the charade of blaming the whistle-blower should stop.

PS: If anybody can find sources showing that Rather has shown respect and gratitude to those bloggers involved in correcting his story, I would appreciate the link and link to it here.