The Butcher's Bill

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
If you don't read the blog New Sisyphus, you should. Today, not for the first time, he hit one out of the ballpark with a post entitled War Never Changes. Talking about the situation in Southern Lebanon, he puts his finger on what I agree is the deeper problem.

Since the beginning of the Islamic Terror age and especially since the attacks of 9.11 there has been a huge debate in the West on how best to win the war and deliver safety and security to our people. On the one side, the majority, are those who view the matter as a political question to be resolved through negotiated settlements on contentious issues combined with a law-enforcement approach to stem the worst of the terrorist backlash until those issues are resolved. On the other side, the Bush minority, the matter is viewed as a question of war, but a limited one designed to inject into the terrorist-supporting polity a dose of liberty and democracy that will, over time, open up enough space to allow an alternative vision of Islamic development which addresses Muslim grievances to develop.

And, a tiny minority, but growing, and heretofore almost completely shut out of the debate is the American Jacksonians whose view it is that ruthless, pitiless war must be waged until the Muslim ummah loses the will to fight. After that, we can talk.

Read his entire post. At the end of that post he talks about the butcher's bill that he fears will come due. Many of us, certainly those of us who look at the long slide into World War Two as a template for today's madness, share his fear that the butcher's bill just keeps growing as too many wish for September 10th to return.

At the End of World War Two, with Japan's cities bombed to rubble, her merchant and naval fleets sunk, her garrisons scattered and isolated, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki reduced by atomic bombs -- faced with all that the Emperor finally recorded a surrender tape. That night a group of officers attempted a coup, breaking into the palace and searching for that tape so they could destroy it and prolong the war. Such is fanatasim left unchecked.

Sometimes, trying to reduce Salafism to a human scale, I imagine bearded men and boys wandering up and down my street with AK-47s and the will to use them. How silent would I fall?

Regardless of how long, and how bloody this struggle is, the end will come when the consequences of allowing those armed men to swagger in the streets is much, much worse than the bullets in their guns. Do we want to pull a few weeds, or poison an entire field to rid ourselves of them? I am not optimistic.


Peter UK said...

The equation is that the Islamists are doing their worst now,within their capabilities,we are fighting with one hand tied behind our backs.This way we are allowing them to buid up their capabilities,when Iran obtains nuclear weapons all bets are off.
We may as well clean up now,rather than leaving a debt for future generations.

Barry Dauphin said...

Part of the difficulty with the Jacksonian position is that it is politically untenable unless it is in majority. It will take a fairly horrific scene (worse than 9/11) to move the majority of Americans to want to go for the throat and adopt a Jacksonian mindset. Another difficulty is the diffuseness of Islamofascism. It isn't a country (as was Japan) but a broader politico-relgious movement. Despite the attempts at a coup, the emperor could surrender and that would basically be the end of it, nothwithstanidng some diehards.

Yes, Iran is a major sponsor, but Iran will have to do something unequivocably egregious with their fingerprints all over it before the US public will want to unleash the dogs. Bush can do what he does, even though he suffers in the polls. Seeing thousands upon tens of thousands of Muslim casualties due to American bombs, etc. (like the Japanese cities or Dresden) on the news won't play until the public can definitively put an address onto an atrocity committed against us.

terrye said...

Is it either/or?

I tend to think that it will take time before we can know if representative government can work in the ME.... and it begins with the children who have been taught nothing but struggle for so long that the idea of fighting and dying does not dissuade them, but is in fact the natural order of things.

I saw a poll on Fox or somewhere which indicated that the majority of the Paliestinians do not believe they can win by blowing people up and kidnapping soldiers, but they support doing it anyway. Winning runs a slow second to killing Jews.

I think that democracy might be able to offer the people an alternative system for governing themselves other than the current state of affairs, the last man standing wins. But it will take time for any such system to be really successful. It must become as natural as language. Until then death and corruption will rule.

But that does not mean that we have to completely abandon the Jacksonian approach as a back up.

But law enforcement? I think not, these people are not drug dealers they are not even anarchists, they are fanatics on a mission.

And if they unleash something really nasty, well all bets are off is right.

KG said...

"I think that democracy might be able to offer the people an alternative system for governing themselves..."
Maybe. But the Palestinians freely elected Hamas so we have to conclude that they approve of terrorist methods.
Democracy isn't the answer. Diplomacy isn't the answer either.
Overwhelming, ruthless, pitiless force is the answer.

Peter UK said...

This has one similarity to a policing issue,zero tolerance.We are seeing a third world underclass behaving exactly as our domestic underclasses behave,they will escalate until we do take notice,it took 9/11 for you to sit up,we don't seem to have reacted to 7/7 as yet.
One thing is certain,their leaders do not like getting killed,none of them ever engage in suicide operations.In the background are shadowy figures who provide finance and logistic,these are state actors,these are the ones who should pay,

David Thomson said...

“And, a tiny minority, but growing, and heretofore almost completely shut out of the debate is the American Jacksonians whose view it is that ruthless, pitiless war must be waged until the Muslim ummah loses the will to fight. After that, we can talk.”

I have long argued that peace in the Middle East is impossible until the Islamic nihilists are either killed or jailed. They have no interest whatsoever in living a normal life. Only death and destruction satisfy their existential cravings. These thugs also intimidate the more moderate factions within their community.

terrye said...


I don't know that democracy is not the answer. Yes, they electred Hamas, and look where it got them. As long as these groupls are just the opposition they can always claim that they have a better idea, but if they are elected and it turns out they are completely incomeptent...well then people are forced to live with their choice. That is part of the process.

terrye said...


Yes, I think that even the mullahs, mad as they are have no desire to die. They don't mind other people doing it for them however.

Truth is... $15 a barrel oil would be better for everyone, including the people whose leaders are using that oil to oppress them and hold the world hostage.

ambisinistral said...


I agree the political will isn't there. None the less, mishandled the situation may esculate to WWII proportions. We don't want that. Us Jacksonians believe force applied early may prevent that from happening.

Pulling a punch is often times worse than throwing one, and a slap delivered with an immediate apology is worse than useless.

Early in the occupation a Bradley Fighting Vehicle was disabled in Baghdad. What Charles Johnson of LGF calls a car swarm formed, with civilians dancing around it in celebration. Two helicopters flew down the street and fired missles into it, and then shot up the crowd.

It got even more press than normal because a reporter from Al-Arabiya was caught on camera getting killed. Howls of protest naturally followed. The army spokesman responded by more or less shrugging his shoulders, and suggesting civilians should stay away from disabled American vehicles.

That was the end of that.

Compare that bit of cold bloodedness to the nonsense of wearing gloves to handle a Koran. If you want to knock the bearded zealots with the AK-47s down a notch, which is better? Do you pull your punch or put your weight behind it?

Luther McLeod said...

I admit to the temptation of a 'scorched earth' response. Or, A. Jackson, if one prefers. But let's not leave out Sherman nor Grant, nor LeMay nor Harris, nor Patton nor Eisenhower. When it comes down to it, if you enter into it, you fight to f*g win. All else is BS. And honestly, I see a lot of it.

As to political considerations, do it, then suffer the consequences. If majority is waited upon, it may well be to late.

Rick Ballard said...


Agreed. I have a notion that about half the disapproval number on the war is from people who would be cheered up immensely if the tactics of Scipio Africanus were applied at least a few times to see if they remained effective. Say Ramadi and Tikrit, just to pick two.

Islam means submission - give them something to make them feel comfortable when doing so.

Luther McLeod said...

Rick, I can't say much more without becoming, let's say, out of my league.

It just seems, too me, obvious. I learned it in boot camp in 65. If you take it on, you finish it. Quickly and deadly. You always charge into an ambush. The difference is, this is an ambush we willing entered into.

And yes, the more examples of how it could be, the better. In short supply though.

Barry Dauphin said...

Just to be clear, I wasn't offering a philosphical analysis of the wisdom of the Jacksonian position, but a political analysis (probably half baked). I estimate that "winning" the WoT by using the Jacksonian model won't necessarily be quick or as quick as would be necessary. Thus, the political consequences will have time to enter the system of checks and balances, possibly halting or neutering the approach. I believe at this moment, the only way a Jacksonian approach could have enough political traction to be feasible would be through swift, certain victory. Given the decentralized nature and diffuse quality of the enemy, I have difficulty envisioning what that would look like. But others may have a clearer image than me.

Luther McLeod said...

Barry, at the risk of being "out of my league". Your last comment was 'short' but an astute observation. Par for you.

Correct, the "Jacksonian" approach would well not succeed without "quick and deadly."

And that is the definition that would need attention.
Perhaps we see the problem as too diffuse. Too many tentacles for eradication.
But don't forget the myth of Medusa. Maybe just a few heads must be severed for the beast to die. Or, at the least, to become manageable without great violence.

Rick Ballard said...

It's chopping heads rather than smashing cities that will finally do the trick (although I do think that Ramadi and Tikrit should be expunged). Israel had a relatively quiet time while they were doing their "This Hellfire is Just for You" bit on Hamas leaders. The problem now is that the Pali cowards are carrying five year olds around like missile umbrellas. That can't last, which means we will be treated to some collateral damge pictures that will be fairly ugly.

The Pali's problem is that fewer people give a damn about Pali collateral damge every day. The terrorist's one page playbook doesn't cover what to do when the world yawns at Pali cries of outrage due to Israeli mistreatment. I believe that day has finally dawned.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Well, the Khobar bombing had Iran's fingerprints all over it, according to our former FBI director, but the Hollywood crowd and the Mainstream Democrats don't care a whit about the lives of a few soldiers. Deep in their new-Left hearts those soldiers are "the man"—the enemy. So it will take much more than an outrage with Iran's fingerprints all over it to cause the US to wake up.

MeaninglessHotAir said...


I'm afraid I'm inclined to side with kg here. Let's not forget that the German democracy elected Hitler. Democracy alone cannot be the whole answer and nobody pretended otherwise at the end of World War II, as rigorous regimes to ensure that no more Hitlers or Tojos were elected were put in place in both Germany and Japan.

terrye said...


My point is that they have to pay for voting for the wrong people. As long as hamas is just some group, they are immune, but once they are the government, well all bets are off as they say.

Knucklehead said...

Ultimately none of the three basic positions is capable of fully "solving" the problem.

The "negotiate" position is essentially a "dig in" and "permanently tough it out" (turn the other cheek forever) position. Just last night I saw some clip of some Hezbollah "leader" (yet another mullah or cleric of some sort) summing up how the salafists view the "negotiate" position. Use terror to force their enemy to stop fighting and, instead, negotiate. Then use terror to win more concessions through negotiation. Lather, rinse, repeat.

They view this as the method by which they can achieve their victory.

Unfortunately for the "West" we view "victory" as some limited set of goals. The goals of the salafists are unlimited. They don't want some things, they want everything.

So option 1, for the west, is like wagering that we can forever be the undefeatable giant who can absorb any and all blows the much smaller and less powerful opponent can dish out. Absorb contusions and lacerations forever and call that "peace" because, I suppose, we never have to die or kill.

I'd be interested to hear from someone who believes this is actually a long-term, sustainable position to hold. It is nice and "Christ-like" but should those of us who would prefer to not have to choose between being "early Christian" and dhimmitude be forced to follow this path?

In defense of this position there is, of course, some things which at least look like evidence. We are strong enough to suffer, for example, many blows just from natural causes and ordinary human failings which dwarf in both quantity and intensity. A single plane crash can kill more people than the Mumbai train murderers managed. Hurricanes/cyclones, floods, tornados, earthquakes... all these things taken together amply demonstrate that the western system is capable of absorbing enormous damage without crumbling.

This is, of course, beside the point for any number of reasons. Gaia did not use the success of Andrew to recruit Katrina. Natural disasters do, of course, strike the innocent and play havoc with economically important and vulnerable locations.

Unlike the salafists and despite what those who worship her believe Gaia does not have dark dreams of murder and mayhem, revenge and conquest. She does not conjure target lists or run training camps. She just is and all of earthy evolution is devoted to surviving her capriciousness. And for all the lethality of her capriciousness she gives far more than she takes.

We live with her quite well and have no real hope of living without her. Would anyone who is not a salafist make the same claim about the salfists?

We are, as far as I can tell, currently engaged in the second option. Wage limited war. Impose quite rigorous rules of engagement upon ourselves and fight against the salfists (and other forms of ruthless despotism) within those rules. Seek to create change within the portions of the world where salafism thrives and then do our best to successfully ride the bull each time the gate pops open.

The grand strategy here is, of course, to slowly but surely (and sometimes violently and brutally) deprive salafism of the soil, air, and water it needs to survive. It is an indirect approach intended not to defeat salafism by killing all the world's salafist but, rather, by making available to those who live in the societies where salafists thrive choices for the future which become, over time, clearly preferrable to a life of salafist jihad.

There is only generalized evidence that this strategy can work. And even if it can work it will be a long and painful process of five steps forward and four steps back.

Some say there is no evidence it can work and much evidence that it cannot. I believe that to be false. All human societies were once tribal. That is certainly true of the seeds of what is now the western societies. And they each went through phases of attempting to impose their "way" upon the "others" - the infidels. I see no good reason to believe, or at least hope, that the same will not prove true of the tribal societies that now make up the portion of the world in which the salafists currently survive.

This second option was the easier to set in motion because it was possible to gain sufficient public support. The great danger within it is that it is very difficult to maintain public support. The rules of engagement have to be, over time and for the long haul, so restrictive that waging the limited war is something close to invisible to the public who must support it.

The US if economically and demographically capable of sustaining the current level of limited war (and even a higher level) indefinitely. But those who oppose this second option of limited, long-term, indirect warfare against salafism are very much aware of the difficulty inherent in maintiaining the public support it needs. Crank up the wailing and gnashing of teeth about each of the four steps back while slathering fear, uncertainty, and doubt upon each of the five steps forward, while elevating every problem that exists outside of the "warspace" to crisis proportions and you have an almost guaranteed formula for undermining the one thing this second option requires to achieve whatever level of success it can achieve. That is, of course, public support or at least public indifference in the face of continuing government support.

The third option is, of course, "unlimited" war. That this will eventually be necessary is my personal "great fear". Oddly enough it also my strongest personal inclination. Somewhere along the line (and it was rather early in life) I came to the conclusion that when the stuff is headed for the fan one is ill advised to use those moments searching for cover, mop, and air-freshener. Everyone will be splattered and filthy and the room will be a stinking mess. One should use the moment to either flee or close the gap and join the fight.

The problem with the stuff and fan analogy is that unlimited war is not some smelly stuff splattered by a fan. Unlimited war means something very close to a complete alteration of the world as we know it. It means being a willing party to murder and mayhem on the grandest possible scale. Each side declares themselves on the side of "right" but ultimately only "might" matters. Unlimited war means beating your opponent into a bloody pulp who cannot continue; until he has only enough strength left to say, "uncle" and if he doesn't use that last bit of strength to say it he will die because you will continue to beat him.

As much as my personal inclination is toward that option I see it as an abyss that one is well advised to make several attempts to not peer into and many attempt to avoid jumping into. At the moment of victory the victor will be a viscious and bloody brute. What spectators will see will be a viscious and bloody brute. We should be prepared and willing to go there if we must but it behooves us to think long and hard before we do.

One last thing regarding unlimited war. Does it really produce the ultimate and permanent victory that is its goal?

Rick Ballard said...

It did with Carthage.

It won't work with Islamofascism though. My point about Irael's targeted execution of Hamas leaders is that it reiterates the tactics used by the Ottoman's for controlling the ME. When some minor despot stepped out of line he (and his family) were extinguished. If a rebellion got a little bigger, the janissaries were sent and the Carthaginian solution was applied.

Democracy in the ME is going to have a ruthless edge whether we like it or not. Islam requires the sword - it cannot continue to exist without shedding the blood of the powerless. 'Live and let live' just ain't in it - unless you've converted and submitted to Allah's local despot.

I believe that the status quo is going to prove to be acceptable to the US electorate. We'll see in November but "bringing the boys home" is not going to be the pivotal issue. In fact, there will be no pivotal issue.

loner said...

It did with Carthage.

It's reasonable to argue that the whys and hows of what happened between 201 BC and 146 BC, Major and Minor if you like, are what ultimately doomed republican Rome.

There's the question of what you're willing to do to yourself and a lot of the foreign policy and politics of the United States during the past sixty-plus years has revolved around this question. Thus far there is little evidence that the "road to empire" is in play and, barring a major catastrophe, I don't see it coming into play in the forseeable future.

Armagideon Time is only human.

The men who created the United States knew humanity and history.

But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

Later in The Federalist No. 51, credited to James Madison:

Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.

A lot people, including citizens, get no justice during Armagideon Time.