Friday, January 20, 2006

On Bin Laden, or Why knee-jerk reactions make you stupid

It's possible to agree with anyone. Osama bin Laden, Adolph Hitler, George Bush and I all agree that oxygen is good in air (not too much, not too little).

This is an obvious point, but one worth making. Bin Laden announced his truce, and Mike suggests some possible conditions.

To be heartlessly dreary, I think this list is a valuable mental exercise. There are items that, if we did them after such a demand, would be seen as "giving in to the terrorists" (withdrawing from Afghanistan). There are other items which, even if they happened, and even if the people who made the decision were aware of the demand, would not be seen as giving the terrorists a victory (canceling Family guy).

As Chris Matthews takes it upon himself to determine who sounds like bin Laden, it's worth asking if anyone cares.

Apparently, the statement makes some reference to polls which show declining support for the war in Iraq. Now ask yourself this question. If I know X is a jerk, and X dislikes Y, must Y be great? The answer is "no." Of course not.

So who cares that bin Laden talks about the declining support for Iraq. He also breathed oxygenated air. Must we go to an all nitrogen atmosphere?

The way you beat a terrorist is not by doing the exact opposite of what he wants. The way you win is by doing what you would have done otherwise.

Dr. Myers makes a coherent argument against the missile strike in Pakistan. You may agree with him, you may disagree. It doesn't matter. It's a coherent, thoughtful position. If your argument against it boils down to "Bin Laden/Zawahiri/underpants gnomes wouldn't like it, so it must be good," you have let bin Laden/Zawahiri/gnomes control you. And terrorism is about controlling other people's behavior.

And if you think bin Laden has never heard of reverse psychology, or the tar baby, you're crazy.

Does bin Laden want us out of Iraq? Probably not. He's getting lots of new recruits and drawing the US into the sort of fight that sapped the Soviets in their final days. He saw how well asymmetric warfare worked against the Soviets in Afghanistan and how well it's working in Iraq.

Maybe you disagree. Fine. I don't care what bin Laden thinks of Iraq. I want bin Laden to rot in a jail cell, and I want the US out of Iraq in an expeditious way, because I happen to think there are better ways to use our troops and to achieve our ostensible goals in Iraq.

SImilarly, the fact that I agree with Bob Barr and Christopher Hitchens about the illegality of the NSA snooping does not mean I think Snitch is right about Iraq, or that Barr is right about Clinton.