July 09, 2004

The South is a Desert

DOUZ, Tunisia – The sand gets in your teeth.

This is not the sand you know. Not the rim of pulverized granules of silicon and rock that ring the beaches of the world, nor the finely ground dirt of the Great Basin, the Mojave, or even the Chilean Atacama. This is liquefied earth. It swallows your feet. When the wind blows, your footprints last almost as long in shallow water. It forms into great rolling sand seas - ergs in Arabic – some that are bigger than France and where nothing lives.

The sand particles themselves are not like grains of sugar, but are the size and weight of dusty flour. That sand is everywhere. Between your molars and your toes. In your ears, your nose, in your bed, your shower, and your clothes. It pools in the corners of stairwells. Great tsunamis of it bury towns and villages whole until the wind turns fickle and uncovers them a hundred years later for tourists to marvel at on camel treks. You can climb a small dune and see shadows cast on sharply cut waves of orange toward the horizon, uninterrupted by house, tree, or rock. And to think: it goes on like that for hundreds of miles into Algeria. I don’t believe it, not really, not while looking at it. The mind reels. I need maps to see the truth of this place.

The heat in July is infernal – 120 degrees in morning shade. If you don’t wear a turban, a hijab, or a hat the sun will cook your brain. If you have no water the sun can kill in 12 hours. The desert is also a road killer, breaking the pavement to pieces and burying it in sheets of blowing sand. The ergs are separated by other kinds of seas, flat featureless plains of grit, gravel, and sometimes scrub, rippling with heat and yellow haze. Somehow wild camels manage to live.

Humans live in oases, impossible-seeming places where the subterranean water approaches the surface. Date palms survive and produce fruit here without irrigation. Their roots are unknowingly deep and thrive on water ten times too salty for people to drink. The swimming pool at our hotel is rimmed with a ring of crusted brown salt.

The oasis is infested with wind scorpions – or camel spiders – nasty things the size of my hand that urinate crystals and murder children. The government pays these same children to capture the scorpions with tongs and turn them in to the local hospital for destruction. I have not seen one alive, though I did hear a sound in my room at 3:00 in the morning and couldn’t get back to sleep again for almost an hour.

The contrast with the cities of the liberal Tunisian north is as stark as the contrast between the east and west. There are almost no women down here at all. Or, rather, they are veiled by the walls of their husband’s houses. The few who do venture out are swathed head to ankle in more layers of clothing than I wear when I ski on Mt. Hood in the winter. Some even cover their hands with gloves.

My wife Shelly says she feels like a zoo animal when we venture into town. There are many kinds of deserts.

The town of Douz is scorched, austere, and very Islamic. It’s the most conservative place I have ever been. Our hotel, inhabited as it is by Westerners, is a tiny liberal oasis where Muslim women let their hair out and Western women wear bikinis and sip from glasses of wine.

This is also the most multilingual place I’ve been. Every single person speaks fluent Arabic and French, and most seem to speak a third, if not a seveneth or eighth, language of their choice. English is on the menu, of course, though not everyone speaks it. A third of those I’ve met who don’t speak English do speak Spanish so I am still able to communicate. Their Spanish is always better than mine.

Breaking through the cultural barrier is easier than you might think. As provincial, conservative, and backward as this town is, the people of Douz somehow manage to have a cosmopolitan streak in them. They are remarkably open to, knowledgeable of, and curious about outsiders. No one has tried to convert me to Islam, but I have had to turn down invitations to dinner in private houses because – really – Shelly and I are booked solid. We have been more socially active here in the south of Tunisia than we are in our own city. The locals simply insist on it. Once friendships are made Shelly is no longer a zoo animal. She becomes “sister.”

If you fear Islam, if you feel threatened by the Middle East, you must come to Tunisia. The people here are our friends. They will tell you so the instant you leave the airport. Don’t be shy. Tell them you’re an American if that’s what you are. They put their hands on their hearts when they say “welcome.” In some ways, the south is no kind of desert at all.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 9, 2004 04:53 AM
Comments

Please ask the friendly Tunisians how they feel towards those Arabs committing genocide on non-Muslims in Dafur?

I would be interested in knowing their thoughts on the best way to stop this systematic slaughter?

Also, how do the Tunisans feel about France aiding the slaughter so as to maintain its flow of oil through TotalFinaElf?

Posted by: syn at July 9, 2004 05:13 AM

Be sure to check your shoes before you put 'em on. Spiders love small, dark places.

Posted by: Bryan at July 9, 2004 05:54 AM

The guy can write, folks!
Glad you're not squandering the mojo on tech writing, Michael. This stuff is good. Tell us more.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at July 9, 2004 06:17 AM

Fascinating description of the desert.Almost made me believe I was there.
I was altogether less enamoured of the "conservative" culture you also attempted to describe.I was always given to understand that Arab hospitality was legendary and you have certainly pointed that out in your post.But that aside,half the population by your own words are locked inside a cultural prison and you cannot convince me that your wife is really viewed as a 'sister' by the members of that town nor that they do not view her as some sort of exotic and essentially 'bad' stranger.I hardly think that 'cosmopolitan' is a particularly apt phrase to in any way describe 'the most conservative place' you have ever seen. I think it's important to separate the 'hospitality' from the essential nature of the culture before assuring everyone that fear of the ME is based upon faulty premises.

Posted by: dougf at July 9, 2004 06:24 AM

MJT -

It sounds like the rythm of the desert may be working on you; your writing style appears to have adopted a different pace. Not better or worse...simply different.

If you have the time, I highly recommend you follow one of your new friends through a day of chores or business...and the closer to the mundane, the better. It might take a formal request on your part, of course, since the rules of hospitality normally don't normally accomadate business (at least not directly leading to profit).

There is much to be admired about how business is done among the people of the sand. Remember that before there was ever oil, there were trading relationships spanning the mideast and north Africa that rival today's multinationals. They worked, too, and tied tribes and peoples together in mutually dependent networks based on supply and demand...and profit. Salt, rugs, food, metals, and intellectual property were serious commodities.

Make sure you and the wife check each other for the beginnings of rashes or other skin problems, especially on your feet, armpits, and nether regions. There are little beasties living in the sand that live only to find fresh meat to feast on. In my brief time in theater I saw probably a dozen men laid out with septic infections of what would have been nothing more than quickly-healed scratches back home. Hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, and bacitracin are your friends.

Safe journies, Michael.

Posted by: TmjUtah at July 9, 2004 06:51 AM

Any chance of driving over to Chad? There's some rebels holding a local Al Qaeda leader there, and Libya is threatening to bomb 'em if they don't get him by tomorrow (so they can probably silence him before the CIA can talk with him).

Posted by: V-Man at July 9, 2004 07:06 AM

Michael, you're a walking wallet. Of course they love you.

Posted by: David at July 9, 2004 07:24 AM

Can you explain how the wind scorpions are deadly? Because it seems that they are non-venomous, although evidently they do hurt a lot when they bit.

http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0407/feature5/

Human society in that region aside, the natural beauty does sound absolutely breathtaking.

And to syn: Darfur victims are Muslims, just not, you know, burqa-loving limb-chopping self-detontating ones.

http://www.religionjournal.com/showarticle.asp?id=1578

Posted by: Kelvin at July 9, 2004 07:51 AM

Michael, may I suggest you look into visiting the town of El Jemm where you will see a somewhat smaller version of the Coloseum and somewhat better preserved. Also there is the Kesserine Pass (Qasserine) site of the first major combat engagement between German and American forces of WW II that took place in February, 1943. Last but not least there is the WW II North African American Cemetery and Memorial near the present day town of Carthage. There are 2,841 dead buried in the cemetery.

Posted by: John Cheeseman at July 9, 2004 08:10 AM

Michael, excellent, excellent post. Thanks for taking the time from your holiday to feed us.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at July 9, 2004 08:56 AM

Imagine that, not everyone who wears a label is the same. Just because someone is an Arab or a Muslim, or even part of a more theocratic way of life, doesn't automatically mean that they are evil, that they want to kill Americans, or that they support Bin Laden.

I'm shocked... is it possible that Americans are tending to stereotype most of the Middle East, based on their own prejudices, not any sort of reality? Surely not.

Safe journeys Michael!

May Eris bless you and keep you in a silly state of mind,
May Discordia make your face shine with smiles,
May Chaos remind you of how silly it all really is,
May Reality flee before you,
May you have the knowledge of a sage, and the wisdom of a child.

Posted by: Ratatosk at July 9, 2004 09:02 AM

Geez, so much self-righteousness among the commenters. Let me just double Double++'s sentiments, especially the Thank You part.

Posted by: crionna at July 9, 2004 09:33 AM

Michael, I hope you're taking photos with an eye toward posting.

And to echo a theme, great writing. Thanks.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 9, 2004 10:10 AM

Ratatosk,

it's not those moooslims that we should worry about, it's those eeeevil christians who want to take away our freeeeeedoms that scare me!!!

Posted by: David at July 9, 2004 10:59 AM

Great post. Thanks for taking the time to share your visit with us.

Posted by: Rick W. at July 9, 2004 12:08 PM

Excellent writing on that one, MT. Your description of the desert and the sand made me want to take a shower.

Posted by: scott partee at July 9, 2004 12:56 PM

Imagine that, not everyone who wears a label is the same. Just because someone is an Arab or a Muslim, or even part of a more theocratic way of life, doesn't automatically mean that they are evil, that they want to kill Americans, or that they support Bin Laden.

Geez Tosk, that comment might almost be relevant, if Michael or anyone of any consequence had ever said such a thing. You never miss a chance to condescend do you?

Posted by: Eric Deamer at July 9, 2004 01:30 PM

But... but... I thought Bush has made the whole world hate us! Moore said so the other day:
"Are you proud that the rest of the world, which poured out its heart to us after Sept. 11, now looks at us with disdain and disgust?"
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/04/0704/070804.html

If the Tunisians aren't spitting on you, they must not have gotten the news about Bush.

Posted by: Cluehammer at July 9, 2004 01:41 PM

Wonderful descriptions - despite the harshness of the desert I've always been drawn to it - the open space, being able to see for miles and miles. It may be awful and waterless and full of nasty little poisonous animals but, as T.E. Lawrence said, it's clean.

I've read that all Muslims feel the need to convert unbelievers, and the tradtional way to do this is to be friendly, generous and open about their beliefs. (Genocidal jihad is mostly a Wahhabi thing.) It's kind of like the local Moonies in my college, who would offer free Indian cooking classes. We appreciated their generosity, and even though none of us converted, we had some nice meals and learned how to cook Naan.

Enjoy the rest of your trip!

Posted by: mary at July 9, 2004 05:27 PM

[neon sign:"sarcasm"] Michael, let me start by paying you a disingenuous compliment. Having said that, I must make this self-serving remark designed to create the false impression that your travel writing is some kind of ill advised political manifesto when in fact my actual goal is to help ensure that you do not enjoy your trip. Please be aware that you may be hit by a falling piece of satellite at any time, since the desert sand affords few structures behind which to hide. When people smile at you they do so out of spite, knowing that recently decommissioned European telecommunication satellite ECS-5 is veering dangerously close to the ionosphere and could plummet at any time, killing you instantly. Also, don't chew the bubble gum since it is full of spider's eggs. Don't mix the cola with the Pop Rocks they sell in that region, either, not if you value your health.[/sarcasm]

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at July 9, 2004 07:41 PM

Jeremy, you forgot to add a creepy comment congratualting the lack of ". . .irrational glorification of the Jews."

Michael, great post. Hope you have a great time.

Posted by: Sortelli at July 9, 2004 08:49 PM

Good report. THe world just kicks ass. THe humans ability to inhabit almost anyplace in this sometimes inhospitable world is fascinating.

THe America love us/hate us thing is interesting. Somehow we can all seperate groups and the individuals that make up those groups. I think the rest of the world puts us on a pedastal of greatness then throws rocks up at us. When they meet us face to face they are thrilled. Similiar to the way we treat celebraties and pop-culture icons in this country.

Posted by: Mark Hamm at July 9, 2004 10:43 PM

Well, I wish it was Tunisia with all the oil and spreading this version of Islam instead of Saudi Arabia and wahabism.

Posted by: Moonbat_One at July 10, 2004 12:43 AM

Robert,

what foreign policy is that?

Remember, they've been bombing us and killing us long before 9/11. And please don't say it's because we thwart democracy, because the jihadists don't care about democracy.

So what foreign policy are you refering to?

Posted by: David at July 10, 2004 07:03 PM

Trolls. Don't feed 'em.

No really; don't

No, you don't have le mot juste that will drive them off in a fit of embarassment. You'll just feed them

No, you can't use reason on them. You'll just feed them.

Let me conclude by saying, do not feed the trolls.

Posted by: Dave Ruddell at July 10, 2004 08:31 PM

Your Slovak based fan club offers up a huge Bravo! Since AIDs claimed Bruce Chatwin, the world's been in sore need of a great travel writer ... you could do it, if you chose.

Your descriptions of the sand. Fantastic. But to think, with nano-tech and solar panels, the desert might start to bloom in some 20-40 years, and be in danger in 80. Unless it costs too much.

Posted by: Tom Grey at July 11, 2004 12:23 AM

Mom again! I can't seem to contact you through
your email address...keeps coming back to me.
WOW! (that is MOM spelled upside down!) I continue to be amazed by your writing skills! Not
just from a Mom's perspective either. I can FEEL
the sand in my toes and teeth. Hey, I just read the Sunday Oregonian and a story in the travel
section by Ellen Barone is based on her visit to the Sahara Desert. I'll save the article, but I am sure that you'll hear about it anyway. You might click into her site...she is a travel writer
and photographer. I also can not get into your
site without first going to your old site...just a low tech MOM asking for advice. Will you be
home soon? Love to Shelly also!

Posted by: Gena Pegg at July 11, 2004 12:18 PM

Good write. I see little of politics in it and more reporting of a place time and thing. In that vein I'll enjoy a well written post and not drag this into some political agenda.

Keep it up.

Posted by: IXLNXS at July 11, 2004 01:32 PM

Robert,

clearly U.S. foreign policy offends your Leftist sensibilities, which is fine. What is not fine is that you assume jihadists hate us for the same reasons you do. It's a standard Lefty misconception, and nothing could be further from the truth.

They aren't "freedom fighters", they're religious fascists, and they'll cut your head off as soon as they'll cut mine off--- you Lefties have nothing they want, and singing kumbaya with them will only make them meaner.

Posted by: David at July 11, 2004 05:50 PM

DO NOT ASK THEM WHAT THEY THINK ABOUT DARFUR!!!

Or do, if you are so inclined. But wouldn't it be better as a tourist and a guest to not dredge up unpleasant and divisive topics? You don't know how your hosts will react. In my opinion, you shouldn't, for example, ruin a dinner party by starting an argument about Irael/Palestine.

Posted by: John in Tokyo at July 11, 2004 06:38 PM

David,

Robert is just trolling and trying to dig up hits for his blog. He tends to post the same garbage on multiple blogs. Ignore him.

Posted by: Big Brother at July 11, 2004 06:53 PM

Big Bro,

Oh, I've seen him all over the place. To be fair, I'm just trying to get others to ignore him, but trying to stop troll feeding is about as useful as arguing with trolls.

Posted by: Dave Ruddell at July 11, 2004 07:30 PM

Jeremy Brown --

the ECS-5 has been decommissioned about four years ago. (http://eu.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=1872)

Posted by: sombody at July 12, 2004 12:48 AM

Anti-MJT --

you wrote:
"The fascistoid calls for killing, hanging and nuking are off. No irrational glorification of Jews."

I have read every single blog entree for a year now, and have never witnessed such a thing.

If you insist on such a thing, please provide some evidence.

Posted by: sombody at July 12, 2004 01:02 AM

Anti-MJT --
you wrote:
"The fascistoid calls for killing, hanging and nuking are off. No irrational glorification of Jews. Instead excellence."

I have read every blog entree for a year now, and have not witnessed such a thing.

If you insist on such a thing, please at least provide some evidence.

Posted by: sombody at July 12, 2004 01:07 AM

...double post -- sorry.

Posted by: sombody at July 12, 2004 01:07 AM

David -- just for the sake of discussion and argument, Robert's point echoes the central thesis of Imperial Hubris, the book recently published by an anonymous high-level CIA operative.

In an excerpt in yesterday's Washington Post Sunday Outlook, this operative names the top six policies that the radical Islamists are fighting against:
U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis' thrall.

• U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula.

• U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

• U.S. support for Russia, India and China against their Muslim militants.

• U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low.

• U.S. support for apostate, corrupt and tyrannical Muslim governments.

I haven't decided where I stand on this perspective...I had largely rejected it when it was primarily being framed by leftists in the West, but that fact that this person is apparently an expert on radical Islamism and Al-Qaeda is making me think twice...

In any case, it's not just "trolls" making these and similar points.

Posted by: Markus Rose at July 12, 2004 06:53 AM

Markus,

valid points. But if it ignores the fact that islamists oppose those policies because they interfere with their stated desire to resurrect the Caliphate, then your analysis falls short.

Given islamist desire to resurrect an islamic empire to span the Umah, aren't such U.S. policies (such as you've mentioned) good rather than bad? They sound downright sensible to me.

The alternative is to give them what they want, in the short term, so that they can more easily achieve their goals in the long term.

Posted by: David at July 12, 2004 07:15 AM

David -- From what I have heard, resurrecting the Caliphate (and instituting hard-core Sharia law across Muslim lands) are Islamist goals that are NOT shared by the majority of Arabs or Muslims. The Islamists' opposition to the aforementioned U.S. policies, on the other hand, happen to be shared by a large majority of Arabs or Muslims who would otherwise disagree with their agenda.

We ought to consider whether changing SOME of those policies could help to marginalize radical Islamist thought in the Muslim world.

Posted by: Markus Rose at July 12, 2004 08:09 AM

Great post MJT, but living in Phoenix, I gotta ask: if it's 120 in the shade in the morning, what's the heat at midday?

Posted by: Brainster at July 12, 2004 01:57 PM

It seems Tunisia is good for you. Maybe you'll return a new man. A decent man. And the tunisian Arabs did it to you by simply being themselves. That's quite something.

And that could perhaps even influence your heard here. Particularly the character called David. Who knows?

There IS hope after all.

Posted by Anti-MJT at July 9, 2004 07:54 AM
*************************************************
What a blatant distortion of reality. The picture I get is Michael and his wife are being themselves. Americans. The Tunisians are being themselves, people who like Americans (contrary to popular legend) NEITHER is CHANGING the other.

Oh and it appears that the EUROPEANS are being THEIRSELVES as well treating all and sundry like-----, HMMM think I will let you back track to the descriptions of the differences. ;-)

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at July 12, 2004 05:02 PM

Marcus

>>>"• U.S. support for apostate, corrupt and tyrannical Muslim governments."

I agree; that's why ousting Saddam and democracy in Iraq are a good idea.

>>>"• U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan."

The Afghans aren't even Arabs, so if the Arabs have a problem with this, I guess tough luck for them. If pursuing legitimate U.S. interests is "radicalizing" Arabs, then tough luck. Re occupation of Iraq see my comments to your first point.

>>>"• U.S. support for Russia, India and China against their Muslim militants."

this means nothing. You would have us impose economic sanctions on those countries because Arabs support muslims extremists? If that's going to "radicalize" them, then it sounds like they're just going to have to bring it on.

>>>"• U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low."

We pay market prices for oil, the same as we pay for Mexican and Venezuelan oil. If that's "radicalizing" Arabs, then it sounds like yet more tough luck for them.

>>>>• U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula.

I don't think your mainstream arab has a problem with our troops in Saudi, plus, we already did remove them.

Marcus,

the consistent theme in your thinking is that WE should be trying to please THEM. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's THEY who should be trying to please US, or suffer the consequences (see toppling the Taliban and Saddam).

Posted by: David at July 12, 2004 07:20 PM

• U.S. support for Russia, India and China against their Muslim militants.
*************************************************
Had tea in the home of a Muslim in Bashkortarstan. The ladies attitude towards "those to the South who say believe as I say or DIE!" as she refered to them, would lead me to believe that SHE was grateful for any assistance at all against militant Muslims.

The problem is we are not doing ENOUGH things
to upset those perverted deseased scum. We need
more not less activity that stirs them up.

They make better targets that way.
You talked to anyone from the 'Stans in their homes lately Marcus good buddy?

Oh and India? Last I heard the Muslims were running a body count of 10 dead Hindus for everydead Muslim that is WITHOUT the Bengali Genocide of the generation ago taken into account.

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at July 12, 2004 07:31 PM

"Sir, Might I have more?"
Mom

Posted by: Gena Pegg at July 12, 2004 08:39 PM

Why it is quite simple merely give us examples from the archives here that demonstrate that Michael deserves your words being used to describe him?

"The fascistoid calls for killing, hanging and nuking are off. No irrational glorification of Jews. No stupid American brain damaged intellectual crap. Instead excellence."

Waiting is.

Posted by: Daniel Kauffman at July 13, 2004 01:24 PM

sombody: I would not hold your breath waiting, still one does wonder if the poster's claims his identity as Anti-MJT what blogs is he PRO?????

Yes that is a simple enough question. So what indeed blogs is this person for?

Posted by: Daniel Kauffman at July 13, 2004 01:36 PM

Look, Anti-MJT is a holocaust denier, no more, no less. Read his comments in the previous thread to know everything you need to know about him if the "irrational glorifcation of Jews" comment wasn't enough. He's a sicko. Do not engage him or give him a forum for even more of his bizarre beliefs, the hateful things he says are self-evidently wrong and bigoted. You won't be changing his mind and you don't need to worry about him influencing anyone else.

Posted by: Sortelli at July 13, 2004 05:42 PM

Sortelli writes, reffering to Anti-MJT: "...you don't need to worry about him influencing anyone else."

I wish that were true. Perhaps it is in this community, but not in general.

...

Thank you, sortelli, for relieving the true sicko that he is.

Posted by: sombody at July 13, 2004 07:30 PM

I agree with you that it's not true in general, but in the end we have to accept that people have the right to assert things that are false, and we just have to trust that people can tell the difference between truth and hate. There's just no way to engage someone in a debate who'se going to say that the holocaust never happened because Isreal couldn't name all six million dead Jews, and there's no way to catch them in their own twisted logic.

Posted by: Sortelli at July 13, 2004 08:48 PM

WARNING: Please do not feed the trolls. I do not have time to babysit them while on vacation. You will have to police yourselves. It is best to let the trolls enjoy the sound of their own voice and nothing more.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 14, 2004 03:17 AM

Polyezne idioti?

полезные идиоты?

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at July 14, 2004 04:03 PM

>>>"[A dying blind old man in a wheelchair. What a victory. Then I suppose you applaude the murder of Leon Klinghoffer as well? Another old man in a wheelchair. But jewish.]"

This exemplifies the idiocy of your illogic. It runs through your entire post.

Kinghoffer was an innocent dude on vacation, never hurt a fly, gets thrown overboard.

Sheik Yassin, also in a wheelchair, was a bloodthirsty murderer, the leader of a terrorist group.

But in your European "sophistication" (unlike us boorish Americans), you can't see the distinction. I'd help you with the Saddam/Sharon illogic as well, and all your other leaps of illogic, but why bother. We're not even from the same planet.

Posted by: David at July 14, 2004 07:03 PM

Hey, Fruitloop:

You put a terrorist in front of me, and he'll be dead.

Anybody else, I'll smile and wave. Anybody else.

Most of the people aligned with Islamofascism seem to be of Arabic or middle-eastern descent. Most of them. There are hundreds of millions of humans that are of that persuasion, and most of THEM are engaged in working for a living, attempting to raise families, and surviving. To presume the right to nail one or more to a wall because they LOOKED like the people who attacked my friends was asnine...and contrary to every moral or ethical rule I was taught as a kid in Texas.

We do face a lethal challenge spanning cultures, continents, and centuries. My earnest wish is that we keep the leadership we have and continue to pursue and defeat the individual enemy while at the same time injecting civilization into the mess that they breed in. If we back away now, we just raise the price we'll pay later.

We are fighting a surgical war. No, not because we are temperate or precise in our use of force, but rather because we are applying bandages and medicine even where we have done no harm. Where we have the option, we always limit our weapons to what will have the least effect on surrounding people and structures. What we are involved in now would be what a Marshall Plan following Patton's tanks would have looked like. One drawback to this strategy is that we can't point at a city blown down to bedrock as an example of what could happen when we are attacked...and it seems the enemy has embraced that omission as some sign that it won't happen.

If we do not defeat the enemy using these tactics before they do in fact kill millions of people or cities of ours, we'll have to turn back a page and settle this argument the way it was done the last three times that Islam attempted to take the world: wars of annihalation.

In an age of W88's, genemod viruses, and information warfare, we aren't going to settle for a Poitiers or Lepanto. They may have the ability to write a check for any weapon they want, but they can't manufacture the pen they sign it with. No matter how crushing a blow we deliver on any one battlefield there is no value in backing off until the system and regimes that foster the threat no longer exist. There will be no sanctuary. None.

That's a huge challenge. It's a good thing that Americans have always been up for that kind of thing.

Anti, the people in this country that pull the triggers are in fact the people who DECIDE when the trigger will be pulled and who the weapons will be pointed at. Unlike Europe or Canada, our electorate does in fact control government. Once a certain point is reached all the special interests, political hacks, party apartchiks, and other-wise unemployable suits that dance around our beauracracies and agencies will be shoved aside and we'll wage the war that we are capable of - and it won't be anything like surgical.

What a waste that would be. For everyone concerned...but the kind of scenario that would necessitate that response is avoidable only by confronting the challenge now.

I have to admit that it's refreshing entering an election cycle that presents clear choices. I just wish the stakes weren't so high.

Posted by: TmjUtah at July 14, 2004 08:05 PM

Dan K.

My Russian isn't perfect, but does that translate into "healthy idiots?"

Posted by: sombody at July 14, 2004 09:02 PM

useful idiots ;-) Ocheen dobre = very good

Posted by: Daniel Kauffman at July 15, 2004 04:10 AM
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Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn