February 17, 2008

We Are Not Creating More Terrorists

According to the conventional wisdom in certain quarters, the war in Iraq is only creating more terrorists. As usual, the conventional wisdom is wrong.

Here is Iraqpundit:

It’s important to note that, whatever the raw numbers of jihadis in Iraq, they have been by far the most lethal aspect of the so-called “insurgency”; their aim all along was to foment a sectarian civil war among Iraqis, especially by slaughtering as many innocent Shiite men, women, and children as possible.

Gerecht’s second point is that the jihadis who have entered the country have not been embraced by the Iraqis. As he puts it, “the arrival of foreign holy warriors is deradicalizing the local population -- the exact opposite of what happened in Afghanistan.”


The percentage of Muslims saying that suicide bombing is justified in the defense of Islam has declined dramatically over the past five years in five of eight countries where trends are available. In Lebanon, for example, just 34% of Muslims say suicide bombings in the defense of Islam are often or sometimes justified; in 2002, 74% expressed this view.” In that survey, Al Qaeda’s reputation in the Muslim world had plummeted. To use Bin Laden’s own imagery, he had become the “weak horse” in his battle with the U.S.
Meanwhile, a brand new Muslim country declared independence today.
An outpouring of adulation for the United States — Kosovo’s staunchest ally in its quest for independence and the architect of NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign against Mr. Milosevic — was evident everywhere. Thousands of revelers unfurled giant American flags, carried posters of former President Bill Clinton, and chanted “Thank You U.S.A.!” and “God Bless America.”
Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 17, 2008 10:27 AM

"a brand new Muslim country declared independence today"

Yes, and after some consideration I have decided to support Kosovo's independence. (Serbia's choice of allies and Kosovo's attitude towards America and Israel contributed to my decision.)

But it will be interesting to see how the Muslim world reacts to a country that

a) was carved out of another country

b) and the result of occupation of parts of that country

c) has seen refugees leave the country who would probably be entitled to a "right of return"

d) and has the support of America and wins its wars because of that support.

I don't think the above really applies to Israel but it does apply to Kosovo.

And while I support Kosovo for the same reasons I support Israel, I will look forward to the Arab world showing their support for a fellow Muslim country without condoning occupation and the "refugee" problem.

Even funnier will be Syria's and Iran's reaction. Their great powerful ally is Russia, who has been handed a dismal defeat in Kosovo. Can Iran and Syria recognise Kosovo without angering Russia? Can they afford angering Russia?

Another aspect is that Kosovo's independence is a slap in the face of Islamic fundamentalists. An America-loving Muslim country that is in the international spotlight as such, that is allied with Turkey and friends with Israel is a terrible propaganda loss. Plus it supports the Europe-friendly secular elite of Turkey. The liberation of Muslim Kosovo is their victory, not the Islamists' and Kosovo appears to want to become a new Turkey, not a new Iran.

Posted by: Leauki Author Profile Page at February 17, 2008 11:12 AM

I am seriously tempted to pay a visit to Kosovo.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at February 17, 2008 11:57 AM

I think the serious concern re: Kosovo is one of precedent.

Unlike the other successor states of the former Yugoslavia (or those of the Soviet Union for that matter), Kosovo was not a constituent republic. It gaining independence may open the way for a number of other de facto states to claim formal independence such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia within Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan, and perhaps even Chechnya within Russia. The destabilizing potential of reinvigorating these separatist movements is concerning to say the least.

Kosovo's claim to independence is two-fold:
1) that Kosovar Albanians make up the majority population of the province and
2) that Albanians represent an oppressed national minority within Serbia (Alan Buchanan calls this a remedial right to secession)

Today's development in Kosovo has significantly lowered the bar for sovereign independence while potentially rewriting the book on existing sovereign territoriality. What impact this will have on other "oppressed minorities" seeking statehood with no prior modern history of independence like the Basques, Corsicans, Kurds, West Nile Bank population in Uganda, Ogaden Somalis, Turkish Cypriots, and Palestinians to name a mere few?

We should be concerned not only because today's development is likely to empower and legitimate violent secessionist movements (of which the KLA certainly was one prior to 1999) but because it opens the door to an a priori rejection of claims by existing states to these territories. Forcing Serbia to relinquish its most important cultural and religious sites (namely the ancient seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church) is one of the surest recipes for perpetuating rather than resolving the conflict. Imagine the results if the same were demanded of Israel with regard to Jerusalem.

Anyhow, that's enough from me in this venue. Bottom line, I am not convinced that because the population is generally pro-American, we should be particularly enthusiastic about this development.

Posted by: zellmad Author Profile Page at February 17, 2008 1:34 PM

Get real.
Enough with this reverting to past "realism" and a worry about artificial "stability."

The news out of Kosovo is good news for Americans on so many different levels.

Posted by: Joe Author Profile Page at February 17, 2008 1:45 PM

My concern Joe is that an independent Kosovo will undermine stability in ways that extend far beyond the Balkans.

Not to engage in a useless spitting match, but how precisely is an independent Kosovo good news for Americans? Just curious about your (or anyone else's) opinions.

Posted by: zellmad Author Profile Page at February 17, 2008 2:15 PM

Michael, you should certainly pay a visit there -- perhaps also to Rumania & Slovakia (Bratislava would welcome you!), a couple of the EU countries against the recognition.

For pretty much the destabilization reasons mentioned by zellmad -- in both countries, sizable Hungarian minorities next to Hungary might want to vote for secession.

And what is the reason to deny them their local majoritarian right?

Let's be clear, had the post WW I Sudetenland Germans been allowed to vote, they would NOT have been part of Czechoslovakia -- and they were successfully ethnically cleansed after WW II by the victorious Allies.

This is one of the few political areas where I disagree with my (mildly nationalistic) Slovak wife -- if the Hungarian Slovak majority (of some 60%, I would require a supermajority but this is obviously a subjective issue) wanted to secede, I'd support it.

But Slovaks remember how, from 1850s, there was Hungarian policy of forced assimilation, so that Slovak Hungarians were forbidden to use the Slovak language -- which forced assimilation was only stopped by the post WW I creation of Czechoslovakia with thousands of Czechs, Slovaks, Germans, Jews, and Hungarians, all having "nationalities" which might be different than Czechoslovak citizenship. (Not the Roma/ Gypsies tho.)

The Slovaks ask, quite rightly, should they be "punished" by their generosity in not forcing assimilation?

Should San Diego county be allowed to vote to secede from the US? It's not such an easy yes, when the incentives to force assimilation are taken into account.

Still, I support the yes on independence -- the correct size of gov't is the "city state", and we have bigger gov't because of bigger wars. Without the wars, the gov't should become more local and smaller.

It will be no surprise if the Slovaks push for more "Slovak language" in the Hungarian Slovak areas.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at February 17, 2008 5:12 PM

Today's development in Kosovo has significantly lowered the bar for sovereign independence while potentially rewriting the book on existing sovereign territoriality.

Not really. What happened in Kosovo was mostly a recognition of something that happened some years ago.

While I do not think it is a good idea for nations to define their citizenship as a matter of ethnicity and/or religion, I don't see this as being much of a precedent. Those who think achieving independence is a matter of writing things on paper and negotiating may disagree, but the reality is that without force backing what is written on paper, it does not matter what is on the paper.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at February 17, 2008 6:20 PM

I wish more people would read Iraqpundit. He's a terrific writer. I wonder if he was educated in America after the exile.

Posted by: lee Author Profile Page at February 17, 2008 7:04 PM

Edit: too many "r"s in terrrorists, Michael!

It looks like the fanatics were over-generalizing the enthusiasm of their close-up communities and associates to the wider population, which didn't similarly swoon over the prospects of bloody jihad and hob-nailed-boot Sharia. Imagine that!

Posted by: Brian H Author Profile Page at February 17, 2008 10:20 PM

"and Palestinians to name a mere few?"

Oh, that would be fantastic!

If the "Palestinians" would declare independence and stick to it, there would be great partying in Israel.

Israel has hoped that Gaza would do it but Gaza didn't.

Anyway, "Palestine" has already declared independence in the late 1960s (after rejecting such an offer from Israel) and nobody cared.

Problem is, if "Palestine" declared independence they would have to stop whining about the evil Jews and run their own country, without Israeli-provided electricity and health care.

"Palestinians" do not actually want that.

In fact many Palestinian Arabs don't much care for either the PLO or Hamas as recent news from Hevron suggests.

The situation in Israel is like the situation in Serbia, but as the Kosovars have no intention to destroy Serbia, Israel has no intention to destroy any Arab countries. But Serbia wants to destroy Kosovo and the Arab countries want to destroy Israel.

Posted by: Leauki Author Profile Page at February 18, 2008 1:43 AM

The percentage of Muslims saying that suicide bombing is justified has declined dramatically in the past five years

Naturally. The jihad is killing more believers than infidels.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at February 18, 2008 8:13 AM


I would think that the genocidal behavior of the Serbs towards their ethnic minorities would enter into the question of an independant Kosovo, and distinguish it from comparisons with Corsica and the Basques(along with the thus far mature and exemplary behavior of the Kosovars). Just as the Holocaust obviously weighed heavily in the decision of the United Nations to recognize the state of Israel.

The example of a Muslim country embracing the West (and Israel) would seem to have obvious symbolic benefits, although probably not much practical benefit. They're too far from the field to have any strategic value, and they are not Arabs. Mauritania is a Muslim country that has good relations with Israel, but there is not much practical benefit that I am aware of.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at February 18, 2008 10:11 AM

I have to take anyone who always uses the words Palestinian and Palestine in quotes with a grain of salt. These people tend to be extremists who cannot even bring themselves to admit that there is a distinct Palestinian culture, food and dialect of Arabic, even though anyone who has traveled to the Middle East is well aware of this fact.

As to Kosovo, I think it is a good move. I am interested to see what this move has, if any, on the religious community in Kosovo. Albanians are not known for their religious obervance, they are better known for their drinking skills.

Having spent some time in the former Yugoslavia in the late 1990s I can say that they share this with the Bosnian Muslims. It seems to me that Bosnian Muslims have become a bit more conservative in their practice of Islam since the end of the conflict. I put some of this off on Salafi NGOs from places like Saudi that operate in the area.

It will be interesting to see if the same thing happens in Kosovo.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 19, 2008 5:37 AM

"I have to take anyone who always uses the words Palestinian and Palestine in quotes with a grain of salt."

I put the word into quotes because

a) It's a name given to Israel by pagan Romans to erase the connection of the land with G-d. I consider the name "Palestine" anti-Semitic and anti-religious and hence try to avoid using it.

b) It is often used to refer to non-Jewish "Palestinians" only, and I feel it is wrong to use the word in earnest as long as it is commonly used in such a way. (It's like "German" to refer only to non-Jewish Germans and "American" to refer only to white Americans.)

c) It is often alleged that the PLO are somehow the continuation of mandate Palestine, which is not true and also ignored the fact that the mandate was called "Palestine (Land of Israel)", not just "Palestine".

I do not usually advocate political correctness, but I do find the current usage of the word "Palestine" offensive.

"These people tend to be extremists"

So what?

"who cannot even bring themselves to admit that there is a distinct Palestinian culture, food and dialect of Arabic, even though anyone who has traveled to the Middle East is well aware of this fact."

I believe there is a distinct Palestinian dialect of Arabic, but I understand it is also spoken east of the Jordan whereas the people in Gaza speak an Egyptian dialect.

As for a "distinct Palestinian culture", it has nothing to do with "admit". "Admit" presumes a fact. But anyone traveling the middle east now can hardly determine whether there really is a "Palestinian culture" distinct from, say, Jordanian culture (and, apparently, exclusive of Jews who lived in the same land).

If you know about "Palestinian culture", please point me to a mention of that culture from before 1967 where it is said that such culture is "Arab" as opposed to "of everyone who lived in Palestine including Arabs".

There is a distinct Israeli culture now. And I assume there was a distinct culture in the region before the 20th century as well. But whether that culture was "Palestinian" in the same sense the word is used today, I doubt very much.

British Palestine has so far spawned the countries of Jordan and Israel. If a third country should be born there, it needs a name. It is those who claim that exactly that one country of the three is somehow entitled to be "Palestine" that I would consider extremists. Why isn't Jordan or Israel "Palestine"?

Either way, "Palestine" has been invented by the Romans to insult Jews. That it is today considered "extremist" to put that word in quotes or not use it is in itself a sad development.

Posted by: Leauki Author Profile Page at February 20, 2008 8:45 AM


Have you ever been to "Palestine"? Anyway, anyone who has traveled in the area knows there is a distinct Palestinian dialect in Arabic. I guess you'd have to speak Arabic to know this. Do you speak Arabic?

I do, I can tell you that the Palestinian dialect from the West Bank IS different than the dialect spoken in Jordan. As a matter of fact Jordanians certainly DO differentiate between who is originally Jordanian and who is originally Palestinian. It is a fact of life in Jordan. Anyone who has spent any time in the area would certainly know this. As to the Arabic spoken in the Gaza Strip, it is still distinctly Palestinian. There is an overall trend towards the Egyptian dialect in the entire Arabic world; this has to do with the dominance of Egyptian music and television in the Arabic speaking world. This, however doesn’t make the Arabic spoken in Gaza any less Palestinian than it makes the Arabic spoken in the Gulf any less Khalijee.

To answer another question of yours, yes there has always been a distinct Palestinian culture that existed long before 1948. The word in Arabic for Palestine is "Phalasteen" and has been in use for hundreds and hundreds of years, certainly long before 1948. The word "Palestine" was not created by the Romans to insult Jews, it was simply a place name based on the people's who existed in the area BEFORE the Jews came to the land. If you have read the Bible you'd be aware of the Philistines whom the Israelites dispossessed when they came to the area.

The Israeli culture of today is an invented one and didn’t exist a hundred years ago, I say that as a person married to an Israeli and someone who has spent a vast amount of time in Israel. That culture was a distinctive Palestinian one made up of Jews, Christian and Muslim Palestinians. From local dress, to language and food, Palestinian culture has been distinct from it's neighbors long before 1948. If you want to get into things that have been invented to create a culture, this charge would certainly hold up better against current Israeli society, down to even Hebrew.

Hebrew, as a day to day spoken language, was dead before 100 years ago. It was nothing more than a liturgical language. It pretty much had to be brought from the dead and modernised for every day use. That is why it is called "Modern Israeli Hebrew".

In short Leauki, you have allowed your politics and your extremism to get in the way of facts. I suggest you read a bit more. If you do you might just drop a bunch of the nonsense you now hold as fact.


Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at February 21, 2008 6:31 AM

Yes, I have been in "Palestine". I studied in Haifa.

Naming the region "Palestine" after the Philistines (enemies of the Jews, as you say) was indeed a Roman thing. But those Philistines are neither the ancestors of today's "Palestinians" nor did they live in all of what (at that point) became Israel. It's also immaterial. They are long gone.

I agree with your Palestinian culture of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It is the modern time that "Palestine" is something (purely) Arab that I am objecting to.

I will ask you again to point me to a source that speaks of a distinct "Palestinian" culture that excludes Jews in the same way the term today excludes Jews.

My politics and (alleged) extremism have nothing to do with the facts. You are making up stuff and it has nothing to do with the discussion.

I did not say anything about the revival of the Hebrew language. I did not say that the term "Palestine" wasn't used in Arabic. I did not say that Hebrew was not a liturgical language for hundreds of years. I did not say that the Romans "created" the word Palestine.

I said the Romans invented "Palestine", the region, the concept, the idea of naming Israel after Israel's long-lost enemies.

And yes, indeed, naming a country after its enemies is racist. And insisting that the name be used forever is offensive to some. And it doesn't help to accuse others of ignorance in unrelated matters. What does my knowledge of the Hebrew revival have to do with whether the Romans named Israel "Palestine" to insult the Jews?

And, incidentally, the region Palestine included Transjordan. Why are they nor "Palestinians"? What did the Arabs traditionally call the eastern part of Palestine?

Maybe I am an extremist for refusing to use a word that is used in a racist sense.

And maybe that refusal somehow "proves" that I know nothing about the Hebrew revival. And maybe what I said about the Romans and Palestine can easily be changed by adding a word to mean something else.

All of that is irrelevant.

I simply explained why I put the word "Palestine" in quotes under certain circumstances.

A Palestinian (no quotes) is an inhabitant of Palestine.

A "Palestinian" (quotes) is an Arab inhabitant of Palestine.

Palestine (no quotes) is the region, i.e. Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, and Jordan.

"Palestine" (quotes) is one part of it (borders to be determined).

And the idea of naming the region such was to insult the Jews. And that just happens to be true.

Any more ad hominems from you or can we stick to the subject?

Posted by: Leauki Author Profile Page at February 22, 2008 6:28 AM

"The Israeli culture of today is an invented one and didn’t exist a hundred years ago"

And while we are at it. ALL culture is invented, that's what culture means.

I do wonder why you felt the need to list so many things that you claim I didn't know just to point out how ignorant I am.

If you don't know if I know about X and need to know for your argument, I suggest next time you ask. Don't make up stuff.

Posted by: Leauki Author Profile Page at February 22, 2008 6:33 AM
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