Saturday, October 01, 2005

Operation Iron Fisticuffs

Link to WashPost article

Tim: I have no idea why you picked this one. Oh, wait, I think I can guess: look at how mean we are, shooting all those innocent terrorists. How dare we try to stop the violence, when we can just let it spiral out of control?

Pat: Actually, I was just amused that we were calling it "Operation Iron Fist." Do we actually have to make everything we do sound evil too? What's next? Operation Dark Lord? Operation Widowmaker? Operation Babyslaughter? Like we're not already pissing off Iraqis enough with this shit, we have to go and start making ourselves sound evil too.

Tim: Pissing off...Iraqis? I believe you mean the terrorists we're bombing? I don't really give a damn how many terrorists we hurt the feelings of. As long as we're hurting them and we're hurting them badly, they aren't exactly able to hurt anyone else.

Pat: I'm pretty sure the town of Sadah and its surrounding areas has more than just "terrorists" living in it. And generally, I've found in my day-to-day life that the best way to avoid getting punched in the face is to not punch anyone in the face. I mean, sure, if some ass walks up to me and swings at me, punching him first is a good idea. But running down the street flailing your fists at random, striking men, women, children, dogs, whatever—that tends to lead to getting your ass kicked by an angry streetful of people.

Tim: Look, I don't deny that military operations hurt people. I don't deny that bombing towns makes people angry, and that anger can help terror recruiters. But at the same time, resentment runs generally high in the Sunni areas. Now, I'm not saying the average Sunni doesn't like us, because I think they do, but there is enough discontent to recruit at least support. If we don't try to dismantle the recruitment network, they'll spread discontent among the general populace, and make terrorists out of the discontent.

Pat: Don't talk down to me; I know full well that simply ignoring terrorism leads to terror. But there needs to be a distinction between fighting terrorists and fighting terrorism. Fixing utilities, lowering unemployment, spreading stability—these contain terrorism. Information warfare, low-key raids, targeted assassinations, good local intelligence—these fight terrorism. Bombing entire cities, huge armed incursions—these kill terrorists, but spread terrorism. Containing terrorism without fighting it is Sysiphian. Fighting terrorism without containing it is like playing Whack-a-Mole. And bombing entire cities after cordoning them off—that's like blowing at a pile of dust to clean your bedroom.

Tim: And don't talk down to me. If terrorists have a full-scale operations center, it has to be destroyed. You can't glad-handle the population of a town into dismantling a gunrunning ring themselves. If they have a military organization, it can only be stopped by a military operation.

Pat: Oh, come on. You know their organizations aren't like a damned business; you know as well as I do that any 'organization' they have is loose, informal, and hardly exists outside their own minds and relationships. You can bomb a town all you want, but a network is composed of people, not buildings. And their networks are both redundant and decentralized. Knocking out a few random people upsets the stability of a network only as much as removing a few strings would upset the stability of a spiderweb.

Tim: That may be so, but if you remove enough strands the web will fall. It's just a matter of removing strands faster than the spider can replace them.

Pat: On that, I agree with you. Still, the way to go about a spiderweb on a bookshelf isn't by setting all the surrounding books on fire and hoping the spiders don't scatter into the cracks when they feel the heat approaching.

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