Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Immigrants and terrorism

The WaPo’s Sebastian Mallaby argues that national security concerns don’t belong in the immigration debate. Aside from the fact that the evidence he adduces isn’t to the point, the logic of his argument could also be used to abandon all concern with airline security. After all, only an extremely small proportion of airline passengers actually want to use the jets as weapons.

Update: This WaPo article might be cited as evidence for Mallaby’s contention, but only if you ignore the "broken windows" theory of dealing with crime. Here’s the report on which the article is based, and here’s a description of the agency that’s supposed to administer whatever program comes out of Congress.

I’m willing to draw four conclusions. First, the federal immigration bureaucracy is not currently up to the ask of dealing with the enormous paperwork flow comprehensive immigration reform will generate. Second, rhetoric to the contrary, it’s unlikely that the culture of the immigration bureaucracy has changed all that much since 9/11. Bureaucratic cultures are notoriously resistant to change, so this isn’t surprising. Third, nevertheless, anyting that makes the agency better and enables it to identify potential or actual security risks more efficiently and effectively helps make the country safer. We’ll catch a few and deter a few more, which is, needless to say, a good thing. Finally, and most importantly, all this suggests that turning the terror threat into a "law enforcement" problem and going on the defensive is folly. By all means, enforce the law, but that can be only a part of what we do.

Discussions - 24 Comments

Joe, well said. I completely agree with your assessment.

Mallaby explains in his article why Joe’s objection (the airplane security comparison) is not valid.

It is good to ignore the “broken windows” theory of crime, since there is little evidence that it is true. The wikipedia article Joe cites provides some of the evidence.

Prior to Bush the USG response to terrorism, in both Republican and Democratic administrations, was almost exclusively a law enforcement response. Bush turned it into a military response on the assumptions that 1) terrorism was a state sponsorship problem 2) a democratic revolution in the Middle East would defeat al Qaeda-like terrorism and that such a revolution could be brought about by regime change that required the use of military force and 3) democracy will reduce terrorism. None of these assumptions was valid, although the third is apparently true in some respects. The consequences of the Bush approach to terrorism make clear that the military response does not work, confirming what the Reagan administration learned on a smaller scale. It is difficult to think of a useful way to use the military against terrorism.

It is not the case that the law enforcement approach to terrorism is a merely defensive approach.

David,

Did you read the series on which Julie posted here? If there is evidence of a pipeline from the Middle East to our southern border, why not do everything within reason to beef up our border security? We can disagree about what's within reason, and perhaps even about what the principal reasons are for caring about border security.

As for your other arguments, wouldn't you agree that Afghanistan was providing a safe haven for al Qaeda, and that various countries in the Middle East (including Saddam's Iraq) were (and some still are) providing material and moral support for terrorists, operating not only against Israel, but against the U.S. and other western nations? That we are unwilling and/or unable to impose a sufficiently high price for Iranian and Syrian support of mayhem in Iraq is surely part of our problem there, no? (I would also argue that "border security" would be helpful in that case.)

That doesn't mean that we should attack everyone who connives in a terrorist attack on us, but why should the military option be off the table?

I'm also not at all convinced that military operations against terrorist training camps, and so on, don't work, at least to the extent of making it more difficult for them to stage major attacks. And would you argue that it wouldn't make sense to use elite forces to capture and/or kill major players?

I read the series that Julie referred to. Well financed terrorists could easily use bribes to facilitate the entry of their personnel to the US but why do that when they can recruit people who can get visas to enter legally? The point that Mallaby makes is that we have to prioritize our spending or we will bankrupt ourselves trying to make ourselves more secure. Terrorists crossing the border illegally is a low priority.

State support for terrorism is a long-standing problem. Support by Iraq was never as important for terrorists as support by Syria and Iran, for example. Given that state support is not that important (it is useful to terrorists but not essential; they do fine without it), no one before Bush thought that it justified invading the countries providing support. Taking out the Taliban was fine for a number of reasons but the aftermath is always the really hard part. When you consider the aftermath, as you must, the use of military force for regime change to stop state sponsorship becomes even less justifiable.

In short, the military should rarely be used to fight terrorism because there is no evidence that using it works. Attacking terrorist training camps, for example, has little effect on terrorist operations. Such camps were not important for the 9-11 attack. As the case of the London subway bombing shows, attacks can be prepared in apartment buildings. There is little or no evidence that targeted killings of leaders is effective. Rarely a charismatic leader is so critical to an organization or movement that killing him will lead the organization to collapse. I don’t think that is the case with the al Qaeda movement. The Israeli example is complicated but on balance I think the evidence suggests that intelligence and police work have been more useful in that case than targeted killing. (Military occupation of Palestinian areas has been important for facilitating intelligence and police work.) Capturing terrorists is better than killing them because they can then be interrogated in hopes that they will provide useful information. But this is not a military operation, unless you are talking about capturing people in the midst of a battle or ongoing campaign, as in Afghanistan and Iraq. Outside of those circumstances (and, again, in the context of fighting terrorism those circumstances are not useful ones to be in) capturing is not a military operation or not necessarily so. The military provides logistics. The work is done by the CIA and the FBI.

David,

Which international terrorist groups have done "fine" without state sponsorship? I have no doubt that there are some, but haven't most had some level of state support (safe havens, financing, access to intelligence, documents)?

I agree that regime change may be so high-risk a strategy as not to be the basis of a general policy, but the willingness and ability to impose costs on states more or less capable of controlling their territories (that includes, for our immediate purposes, Syria and Iran) would surely make it harder for international terrorists to do "fine."

As for immigration, I take it as given that more bad guys get through than we catch. Since it takes only a handful to mount a successful terrorist attack, I'd rather catch them sooner than later, and I'd rather make them regard ways in as more difficult rather than less. The porousness, especially, of our southern border, stands as an open invitation to enter the country. We don't know how many so-called persons of interest have come in that way. I'm not arguing that we should pay any price and bear any burden hermetically to seal off our border with Mexico (even if that were possible), but substantially improved border security would surely compel our enemies to look elsewhere for a way in. I don't mean to focus entirely on the security of our southern border; a less cavalier attitude toward all kinds of entrants to our country in all ports of entry (obvious and non-obvious, legitimate and illegitimate) would surely make us safer.

But disrupting terrorist operations abroad also helps make us safer. That involves intelligence work, of course, but also military operations, if only to assist countries that would rather not harbor people out to harm us gain effective control of their territory.

I can't recall a time when terrorism wasn't at least a nuisance; I can't imagine a time when it will be anything less than that; I hope for a time when it will only be that.

al Qaeda, GSPC, IRA, the London bombers, the Madrid bombers, etc. The issue is not whether terrorist groups got or get support but how much it matters. I don’t see that it is essential or critical or even important. It is helpful but groups, like the three I just mentioned, get along fine without it. For example, drug trafficking supplies all the money that terrorists could use. Contrary to what is commonly supposed, there is even evidence that state sponsors have constrained terrorist groups. For other reasons as well, using state support or, even more so, relying on it is a sign of weakness in terrorist groups. The idea that state support is important or critical is left over from the days of fighting the Soviet Union. This is the perspective that the Bush II administration brought to office, since, I suppose, it was the perspective they had had when they left office 8-12 years before. They returned to office with it because they had never in their professional lives paid much attention to terrorism, as opposed to the Soviet Union.

Since state support is not that important, regime change, especially through military force, is not useful. The costs it imposes on the user, we should have learned, are so high that it deters the user rather than those it is used against. We have discovered that it diminishes the will and the ability of the user to deter other countries from doing things it doesn’t like. We used regime change against one of the least important state sponsors of terrorism and have diminished our ability to affect the policies of the serious state sponsors. It is hard to see how the distribution of costs from forced regime change puts pressure on Iran and Syria.

If the issue is terrorism, then investing scarce resources in border security is less useful (probably to the point of having no utility) than other investments we could make. There are more useful things to do with our counterterrorism money.

No question that disrupting terrorist operations whether at home or abroad makes us safer but that is best done through intelligence and police work. It is hard to find effective uses for the military in counterterrorism. This is true whether we do it or we help others do it.

I didn't think of immigration control dollars as counterterrorism dollars. Aren't there dollars available for the former that aren't available for the latter (assuming that, we're of course speaking of political funny money, that is, indebtedness)? I'm not convinced that money programmed for border security would take away from mone programmed for counterterrorism.

As for your examples of terrorists doing "fine," I'd accept the IRA during its heyday (though I wonder if it wouldn't have been called more of a nuisance), but wouldn't say that al Qaeda is doing as well as it was when it had the support of the Taliban. To the extent that Waziristan is a more or less safe haven because the Pakistani government can't control it, wouldn't a more effective government presence there make al Qaeda's life more difficult? Wouldn't it then be doing "less fine"? To the extent that establishing such control requires military action, wouldn't this constitute a military strategy that made terrorists' lives more difficult? (In other words, to the extent that safe havens are necessary, the effective projection of military power is a useful anti-terrorist tool.)

I also would have thought that "doing fine" requires the capacity to sustain operations over time, which doesn't, so far as I can tell, seem to fit the London and Madrid bombers (that is, the kinds of people who can organize their attacks in apartments, for whom effective police work is, I would agree, the best solution).

With all due respect to Professor Tucker, I think he overstates his case on this thread. First, Leftist terrorism declined quite sharply during the collapse of the Soviet Union (from the mid-1980s on), which belies the notion that state-sponsored terrorism isn't all that important. Iran's direct hand in creating Hezbollah in Lebanon is another case in point. While it's true that terrorist incidents don't have to rely on a sponsor, campaigns of terrorism typically do (of course, there are exceptions like the IRA, but a lot of its support came from the USA!).

Second, the "broken windows" theory of crime is important to public space, the perception of crime, and to certain kinds of crime. While it's true that a lot of academics would absolutely LOVE to shoot down the theory (in part explaining the evidence against the theory), I would take such "evidence" with a grain of salt. What is anarchy, after all, but the lack of an authority to exert order in public space? Disorder INVITES criminal enterprise...I guess we could debate whether weak states have harbored terrorists in the past, but I think I would win that argument. And since disorder on our border certainly doesn't dissuade terrorists, we should spend resources to change that.

As for terrorist bases having nothing to do with 9/11, as I recall all the 9/11 suicide pilots visited Afghanistan and were handpicked by Bin Laden. Terrorism, like all human activities, requires action space. Again, you will have incidents without established bases, training and recruitment, but campaigns are more difficult to pull off without territorial organization.

As for the military being no solution, it seems to have stopped the Barbary Pirates pretty well, yes? I think it has worked pretty well in Afghanistan as well, and (with more intelligent use), I think it could work in Iraq. But the real question is intel...whether you use (or underuse, I should say) CIA field agents and locals (as in Afghanistan during the 1990s), or military invasion in the same place ca. 2002, you have to know where to find these people. I think the sad truth is that a vast swath of the Iraqi people support this terrorism. That's why they can hide in plain sight.

And might I suggest that most the our current received wisdom on fighting terrorism is mostly based on our experience fighting Leftist terrorism, which I think is a whole different ballgame. The motivations are different, the end goals are different, the level of dedication is different, and the lethality is different. The fact is, NO ONE has yet found ANY foolproof way of fighting off jihadis...not us, not the Israelis, not the Europeans. To critize Bush for using the military in this situation assumes that the old ways were somehow more effective. For most Americans, I think, 9/11 proves that this assumption is a poor one. These Islamofascists have been attacking us on our own soil, on and off, since the late 1980s, and overseas since 1979 (if not sooner). If fighting in Iraq has attracting these jihadis to that country rather than America, I think Bush's policies have succeeded (even though he gets no credit for this, particularly among academics).

Immigration: there are lots of reasons to have secure borders; fighting terrorism is not one of them, contrary to the posting that started this thread.

State support: As I said, state support is helpful but not essential. The visit of some of the 9-11 terrorists to Afghanistan was nice, no doubt inspiring, but not critical to success. Most of the operation was run out of the Persian Gulf region (without state support). Some members of the Taliban actually opposed UBL’s operations (reported in the 9-11 Commission Report) fearing that it would cause them trouble, an example of the trouble that state support can cause terrorists. After the wall fell, East German documents revealed instances in which the East Germans restrained the groups they sponsored. Like the Bush administration both of you (Dain and Joe) are focused on non-essentials in fighting terrorism. That is unlikely to lead to success. Besides, one must take into account the adverse consequences of invading other countries. These make regime change with military power even less useful.

Al Qaeda is doing fine in Afghanistan, better all the time it appears, without the Taliban. Around the world, it is functioning effectively again as well, also without the Taliban. The larger al Qaeda movement is also doing fine and carrying out a sustained campaign without state support. Hezbollah did benefit from its contact with Iran but given the politics and demographics in Lebanon would have done well without it, if perhaps more slowly. To repeat, state support is not essential (consider the Tamil Tigers, as another example). It is largely a peripheral issue. Focusing on it, as the Bush administration and its supporters has done, is a distraction from the real work that is being done and needs to be done.

The military is effective against states and their organized militaries or substitutes (the Barbary Pirates; some members of the Taliban did fear US retaliation) but again state support is not that important, certainly now even less important than it was 20 years ago. For one thing, the development of technology is increasingly putting in the hands of smaller and smaller groups with fewer and fewer resources greater and greater power. (See comment on proliferation below.)

Ungoverned spaces and terrorism: SOme claim there is a connection between ungoverned spaces and terrorism and that the military is important for fighting terrorism because it can control or help others control these spaces but there is little or no evidence that terrorists come from those spaces and go other places to kill people. They have plenty of opportunity to kill where they are and typically don’t have the skills or resources to operate internationally. (Simons and Tucker, "The Misleading problem of Failed States," Third World Quarterly, 28(2007) 387-401.)

I won’t dispute Dain’s opinion about military force working well in Afghanistan and Iraq and that the broken windows theory is important. I will only say that I see no evidence to support either opinion.

The same could be said for the “fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here” claim. I think it is just as arguable that fighting them there will make it more likely that we will fight them here not because they will come from there or somewhere else outside the United States, although that might happen, but because it may radicalize people who are in the United States and have been here for a long time. We have already seen several examples of such radicalization. If we want to focus on something outside the terrorist group in fighting terrorism, more important than state sponsorship is the communities from which the terrorists come and from which they draw support. What might be called diaspora communities around the world and in the United States are more important to terrorism and therefore to fighting terrorism than doing away with state support.

I don’t see that Jihadism is that different from other forms of terrorism, contrary to Dain’s claim. Nobody has found a foolproof way to defeat any kind of terrorism, not just Jihadism. The legal approach and other measures we took prior to 9-11 did in fact work. As the 9-11 commission report and Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars make clear, it was failures of leadership that allowed the 9-11 attack to occur. We have done nothing since 9-11 (except invade Iraq and Afghanistan) that we didn’t do or couldn’t have done before that date. The only difference was the political will to do it. After the attack, it turned out that the key decisionmakers in the Bush administration were ignorant about what became the central issue of their administration and too arrogant, it appears, to learn. I think the record indicates that Bush responded better both before and after 9-11 to terrorism and the al Qaeda threat than members of his cabinet and their immediate subordinates but that over time the steadfastness that was such a great virtue became something close to a vice. This whole episode deserves the attention of a great tragic poet. Failing that, I await the reflections of Peter Schramm, who is something of a poet of politics.

While we wait, I will offer this pedestrian policy suggestion. The Bush administration argued, correctly I think, that the problem was not just terrorism but the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Given the difficulties of fighting terrorism, which we have only touched on, would it be better to focus not as the Bush administration has on fighting terrorism but instead on stopping the proliferation of WMD and preparing the US to withstand such attacks? (Don’t worry Joe, counterproliferation can be quite offensive and the military has a bigger role than in fighting terrorism; Dain--state support is more important in proliferation and for stopping it than for terrorism, at least for the time being). The preparation might even have a deterrent effect.

I am in law enforcement. Just exactly what good did Clinton's law enforcement policies regarding terrorism do?

It appears to make the situation worse and make the FBI, an organization traditionally dealing only with internal affairs, a quasi-CIA, international organization, which had extremely poor results (see the bombing of the USS Cole as an example).

In reality, fighting terrorism requires fighting it in law enforcement terms and in military terms, which, it appears, something that many of us in the United States are not willing to do.

Thank you for the debate. It has been an interesting read.

In response to David, it is true that state-sponsorship of terrorism is not essential, but much Leftist terrorism of the 1970s and 80s WAS, and that can be documented. It's the major reason for the dropoff in Leftist terrorism since the mid-1980s. It's also one of the reasons that Islamic terrorism is so much more dangerous -- no one reigns it in. Additiionally, while both forms of terrorism have tactics in common, the rhetorics/justifications differ, and that leads to different styles of terrorism. The Left is salvational, so massive civilian casualties are the exception -- such groups favored more targeted terrorism -- hijacking, assassination, bombing of corporate offices, and kidnapping. As Mark Juergensmeyer points out, however, religious terrorism is more apocalyptic, and its out-grouping is far more civilizational. Mass civilian casualties actually becomes a goal. Finally, unlike Leftist terrorism, where the goal is social transformation via modern state intervention, religious terrorism is reactive and anti-modernist. This matters because we are facing a far more zealous and deeply alien movement in Islamofascism than we have ever faced before (perhaps the Nazis and Japanese fascists compare somewhat, but even they shared our modernist assumptions). Can you imagine fighting 100 million John Browns? My point? If the military wasn't necessary in the past, it certainly will be in the future. Better to prepare them for this role in the here and now, before things get really dicey.

I'm not sure why David ignores the role of social disorder. Indeed, the whole notion of "broken windows" is the problem we are having in Iraq today. Every time a bomb goes off, it reminds the rank-and-file Iraqi that the terrorists control the public spaces...spaces needed for democratic governance. So, the common people pull back, they become less aggressive in pursuit of democracy and order, and the chaos continues. There is empirical evidence for this dynamic, of course...it is the essence of anarchy. Our border is simply a milder version of this...inevitably, someone will use our border to stage a major terrorist operation.

As for policing and a failure of political will in the 1990s, I agree. But policing cannot reshape the Middle East, and that is what is needed. For instance, we know that democracies are terrorist-prone...this has been established in the literature. The oppressive governments of the Middle East discourage terrorism at home, but that means it gets exported...to guess where? By forcing democracy on these people, we force them to confront their own demons. Bush isn't crazy...this reshaping is absolutely essential. He just hasn't done it very well.

I also agree with non-proliferation as a policy goal. Good idea...but only in conjunction with anti-terrorism. My own humble policy recommendation would be energy independence. It's the billions of Western (and now Chinese) dollars that prop up these dictatorships across the Middle East and, ironically, also fund these terrorist groups. Our nation would be a happier place without the oil dependency.

Dale -- If you think a terrorist attack discredits counterterrorism policies, then every such policy has been a failure and made things worse and always will. But if you are in domestic law enforcement, I understand your prejudice against the FBI.

Dale and Dain -- I cannot see any evidence, as I have said now in several different ways, that the military response to terrorism does any good. No one on this thread has presented any. The two most prominent uses of military force (the Libyan raid and the invasion of Iraq) hurt us more than the terrorists. People who tout the use of the military to fight terrorism do not, I think, really understand what the military can and cannot do. It would be better to focus the military on what it does well, than to have it focus on something that it cannot do well, which does not increase our security and actually undermines it. There is a huge opportunity cost in having the military take the lead in countering terrorism. That cost is likely to become increasing clear as time passes, especially if the military remains prominent in the fight against terrorism.

Dain -- you and I will have to disagree about the various characterizations of terrorism you offer. I think left wing terrorism was more complex and varied than you seem to (some of it was as apocalyptic as the most extreme religious terrorism). I will only say that left wing terrorism in Europe was in long term decline well before the collapse of the USSR and the Warsaw bloc. Contrary to the views of those at the time who believed that state sponsorship was decisive, left wing groups in other parts of the world continued to prosper after the demise of the Soviets and their allies in Europe. Islamofascism is modern. Jihadists are not traditional muslims, as far as I can tell. Khomeini preached a revolutionary doctrine. That is why calling them Islamofascists is appropriate. Fascism was really not a return to classical Rome. The Islamo version is not a return to the Islam of Mohammed and his followers. But even if it has the character that you ascribe to it, there is very little the military can do to help. I believe that making the military preeminent in our response will make things worse and I think the historical record supports that claim.

I don’t see any reason to believe that we or anyone else can reshape the Middle East. Thinking they could was the hubris of the Bush administration and it lead to predictable results.

Police vs military is a false dichotomy. A law enforcement approach is part of a strategy of multilateralism, sanctions, diplomacy, financial controls, etc. Having the military take the lead does not mean these other things don’t go on. It is a question of emphasis. I believe the evidence is that it is more effective to counter terrorism by not emphasizing the use of military force. This is a containment approach that takes time to work. For that reason, among others, while employing that strategy, we should put the greatest emphasis on countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including the use of unilateral military force, as necessary.

Of course militaries has been successful against terrorists before. Most people just don't know enough terrorism history. An example of successful military use against terrorists would be the Tupermaros of Uruguay, and another would be the Turkish military efforts against the PKK. In general, the military "card" fails when it pulls its punches. "Politically correct" military solutions don't work..I agree with you on that score.

You are quite wrong about terrorism against the West, which spiked between 1971 and 1989. If you don't believe me, check out Rand's terrorism database, which can graph it for you.

Islamofascism is recent, but its goals are distinctly anti-modernist (at least, if you can believe the rhetoric). I guess we can argue about this, but their pattern of killing (and the amount of it) tells us volumes about these people. They are not your garden-variety Marxist insurgents.

You are correct about military/civil police being a false dichotomy, which is why you shouldn't dismiss the military so airily. In every MAJOR campaign of terror, military services have been involved in counterterrorism. For my money, highly-trained "hit squads" are the most effective, but if caught they can cause quite a lot of embarrassment (e.g., the Munich incidents).

The fact is, I doubt anyone at the White House thought of the Iraqi invasion as a direct act of counter-terrorism, and the fact that the Iraqis themselves have not been particularly supportive proved a shock to the administration. Nonetheless, our being there WILL reshape the Middle East, but for the best? We can't say yet...no one can.

Did ya read my small post? I am not trying to be snippy, but I believe we need both a military and law enforcement approach and that is what we are doing.

Clinton's way was almost exclusively law enforcement and while it did nab us those that stuck the WTC the first time, it appears that it did nothing to curb or stop the escalation of attacks against us.

I don't hate the FBI, matter of fact, I believe all law enforcement agencies should work in concert to fight crime better. I just do not believe that the FBI was the best tool to use to investigate who bombed the USS Cole or the other attacks.

Dale -- Sorry if I interpreted wrongly your comment as revealing an anti-FBI prejudice.

Dain -- In addition to Uruguay, you should add Argentina, then it would be even clearer that for you destroying democracy is an effective way to fight terrorism.

The issue was not attacks against the West but state support for leftist terrorists. To repeat, contrary to what you said, leftist terrorism in Europe was in decline before the Soviet Union collapsed and continued in other places after it collapsed, suggesting that state support was not that important.

It is true than in many counterterrorism campaigns the military has been involved and if that is all you are now arguing for, no one could disagree but it is a trivial point.

I leave you with your interpretation of Islamofascism, highly trained hit squads and White House motives.

Sorry, but you are clearly in error about terrorism targeting the West in the 1970s and 1980s. Lots of Italian and Greek terrorism in Western Europe, for instance. I've seen the incident counts -- I'm not lying or exaggerating about this.

Actual military invasions to stop terrorism are pretty rare, and often in the context of incipient anti-colonial wars (e.g., Algeria). And I would agree we can question the ability of such large-scale invasions to end terrorism, but you said that "the military should rarely be used combat terrorism." (Comment 4) That was clearly an overstatement, and covering your backtracking by saying that military involvement results in destroying democracy is a red herring. The fact is, "policing" involves increasing restriction of civil liberties ("Big Brother" on every street corner in London), so I suspect that "destroying democracy" is a danger REGARDLESS of what strategy is pursued.

David, it's cool. I've worked with the DEA and done initial investigations that the Treasury Department followed up on.

In regards to Iraq ... are you sure our efforts in Iraq has hurt us more than the terrorists themselves because I do not see things that way.

Dain -- You persist in missing the point. It is not the level of attacks but the effects of state support that were at issue in the thread. Left wing terrorism did not rise and fall with Soviet support. It started in Latin America before the Soviets and their allies were supporting terrorism and continued there and elsewhere after they collapsed. Hence, it was not and is not critical. Other things are more important.

If you can't see the difference between what happened in Uruguay and Argentina and what has gone on in GB and the US over the past couple of years I can't help you.

Dale -- I have worked with a fair number of state and local law enforcement and some non-FBI federal law enforcement and I have found that there are usually strong feelings about the the FBI. I shouldn't assume they always exist.

As for Iraq, I hope that ultimately what Bush thought would happen happens but I thought (I was opposed to the invasion) and think that the odds are much against it. But our cause is just and we should always hope for the best.

Dain and Dale -- if terrorists were as visible as the targets on a conventional battlefield, then the military would be the best counterterrorism tool. Nobody in history has been better than the US military is at putting projectiles into targets but it has to be able to see the targets. Terrorists are not visible in that way. Terrorists only become visible with intelligence and police work. That is why those are key. Capturing is better than killing them, so we get more intel and make them more visible. The military is not good at any of this and, therefore, in my opinion, the use of the military in counterterrorism does more harm than good.

I understand your point, David, but I disagree. The military can be very good at COIN (Counter Insurgency). Today, we have the man who literally wrote the most recent Army field manual on counter insurgency in charge (Gen. Patreaus (sp?)) and the current plan is working, just not to the degree as expected or, possilby, not implemented to the fullest to achieve the desired result. The military can do COIN and has done many times in the past. However, and this is a very big however, COIN involves a lot more than just military operations. Since other parts of the administration will not or can not step in to fully put into effect COIN operations, the military is subsequently handling duty that is normally not considered military type such as rebuilding schools and handing out food/medicine and, yes, such duty is part of COIN and could be considered more important than miltary operations when in COIN mode.

That is the problem, David, how do you fully implement COIN with its heavy emphasis on non-military efforts when the military is the only organization that is able and willing to go to Iraq? You do not have the State Department in Iraq much, if at all, and a lot of COIN ops could be considered State's area of responsiblity. So, we have the current state we are in today with the military attempting to fully implement COIN. Also, fighting an insurgency takes time ... a lot of time and the results may be not as clear cut as we would like.

Regarding FBI and law enforcement in general ...

There is a lot of jurisdiction issues (egos) when you are dealing with LE agencies and the FBI can be seen, at times, as taking things over, so to speak, but, in my view, certain crimes require a cooperation that you normally would not do.

Dale -- I think COIN and countering international terrorism are different enough that I can't accept the argument about COIN as bearing much on the argument in the thread. The problem is the same in both cases, however: the terrorists or the insurgents hide in ways that defeat and frustrate standard military procedures. I believe that the historical record shows that the US military has had a lot of trouble adapting to meet that problem. The successes are few. As far as I can see, Iraq is not yet one of them.

Professor Tucker, you're a funny guy. Denying that the USSR or its proxies sponsored international terrorism defies conventional wisdom, which is too bad because the conventional wisdom is true. I suggest you check out RAND-MIPT's graph utility. Just uncheck domestic, then check line graph, 2-dimensional(NEXT), region (NEXT), and then Western Europe. Now tell me there's no peak there in the mid-1980s. More tellingly, do the same for Latin America.

And if your tastes run to the more analytically, there is even a (fairly nice) empirical piece that links Soviet-proxy sponsorship with international terrorism:

O'Brien, Sean P. 1996. "Foreign Policy Crises and the Resort to Terrorism." Journal of Conflict Resolution 40: 320-335.

So, to the extent that American defense expenditures during the Cold War contributed to the fall of the USSR, I'd say the military definitely has had a large-scale (i.e., strategic) role in counterterrorism. Does this matter today? I think so; a good bit of terrorism we experience in the Middle East is financed by Iran (and maybe Syria). Military and political pressures will help us dry up this latest wave of terrorism...but only if we have the will to do certain things (like play hardball with these state actors).

As for your last point, that intel and policing are more effective, I concur that that is the case in many different scenarios. But Islamofascism isn't a small social movement, and busting this or that cell isn't likely to influence the larger conflict (which has been brewing for a very long time). I guess I'm frustrated with experts such as yourself (and Scheuer) who fail to see the larger picture. We are dealing with a resurgent Islam, and saying that the "military makes it worse" doesn't really tell us how to deal with this problem.

In my view, our true problem is failure to understand the symbolic nature of the conflict, and our insistence on fighting it on rather genteel terms (and yes, even Abu Ghraib is rather genteel in relation to our enemy's culture). We've fought fanatics before, but I suggest we all review how we fought forces like the Nazis or the Imperial Japanese. Check out the "rules" obeys on Okinawa, for instance. You don't win against fanatics unless you adopt some of their..."zeal."

Dain -- After this I will let you have the last word, since that appears to you to count as winning an arument, an appearance I reluctantly conclude that is more important to you than anything else.

The issue we were discussing was not whether the Soviets or their allies supported terrorism or rates of attacks on the West or some other issue you will now propose, but how important state support was for let-wing terrorism. Nothing you have written for several posts has been relevant to that issue. Nothing has contradicted the simple fact that left-wing terrorism began and prospered before it received Soviet or other state support and continued after it.

As for another point in your post, I will only say that I agree with you completely that ICBMs are a crucial counter-terrorism tool and that our biggest problem is our lack of zeal to use them.

I accept your concession, but reject the sarcasm. Although I've fenced with others who claim that "having the last word" is uppermost in my mind, actually telling the truth is uppermost to me. I dislike distortions, particularly when they are so easily corrected with empirical evidence.

And my last post was completely on target. You've denied a drop in terrorism after the Cold War at least a couple of times, and I have given you the precious empirical evidence to support what I've said (and, of course, I note that you demand evidence while producing none yourself). You have likewise overstated some other positions, and (IMO) such attitudes are costing us the war. As I've grown to expect when "discoursing" with both liberals and libertarians, when you corner them all they have left is sarcasm and cheap debater's tricks.

So, thanks, it was nice correcting you. I apologize for not being one of your helpless college students.

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