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Tuesday, July 19, 20051121800200

Tancredo Is Right On Nuking Mecca (We Are Not At War With Islam)

"What Difference Do Nuclear Weapons Make?," by Max Singer and Aaron Wildavsky, The Real World Order: Zones of Peace, Zones of Turmoil, revised edition published 1996, pg 66.

"Revisiting Questions on Deterrence and Nuclear Terrorism," by Mark Safranski, ZenPundit, 22 November 2004, http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2004/11/revisiting-questions-on-deterrence-and.html.

"The Tancredo Blunder," by Hugh Hewitt, HughHewitt.com, 18 July 2005, http://www.hughhewitt.com/#postid1815 (from Captain's Quarters through private email).

Representative Tom Tancredo suggested that the United States destroy Mecca if there was a devastating al Qaeda attack on the United States.

“Well, what if you said something like — if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites,” Tancredo answered.

“You’re talking about bombing Mecca,” Campbell said.

“Yeah,” Tancredo responded.



Hugh Hewitt criticizes Rep. Tancredo, and is wrong on in almost every paragraph


I have been hearing from people who urge that Tancredo is just voicing the updated version of the MAD doctrine which kept the USSR at bay through the long years of the Cold War. That's silly. Destroying Mecca wouldn't destroy Islam. It would enrage and unify Islam across every country in the world where Muslims lived.


Wrong. The purpose of MAD wasn't to destroy the Soviet Union -- that would have been an effect, but not the purpose. The purpose of the Massively Armed Deterrent was to deter the Soviet Union.

More specifically, if the United States knew that al Qaeda had acquired a weapon, we would need a way to compel al Qaeda to give us that weapon.

To go one step farther:


Deterrence against clandestine weapons presents quite different problems from the traditional deterrence relationship with the Soviet Union, even if the analytic structure of deterrence is essentially the same. The deterrent threat is likely to have to be against the individual or small group [or their interests -- tdaxp] that is being deterred, not against a country.

...
It is really "compellence," rather than deterrence, that is needed to deal with the threat... [The United States] would need to be able to compel the threaten to reveal the location of the weapons so that they could be disarmed... Now the democracies need a threat against [the terrorist organization] that will prevent [the terrorists] from retaliating for his own destruction. For some [terrorists], it is hard to imagine such a threat.


So in truth, Tancredo did not go far enough. Not only should we be prepared to destroy what bin Laden considers most holy and special if he severely hurts us. We must also be prepared to do so to avert him from hurting us, or even defending himself, if the circumstances permit.

Hewitt goes on, still wrong:


Let me be blunt: There is no strategic value to bombing Mecca even after a devastating attack on the U.S. In fact, such an action would be a strategic blunder without historical parallel, except perhaps Hitler's attack on Stalin. Anyone defending Tancredo's remarks has got to make a case for why such a bombing would be effective.


Of course it would not grow our power or wealth to destroy Mecca. Of course a radiated Mecca would not be able to be used to preposition aircraft for future conflict. That's not the point.

Mark Safranski pondered this earlier:


No one knows though bin Laden reportedly told the BBC that he had acquired nuclear weapons for deterrence purposes which indicates:

a) That bin Laden understands the concept well enough, and

b) There is something he considers important enough to acquire nuclear bombs in order to deter America from some action.

The question is "what" ? My guess it is to protect Islam's Holy sites.


Hewitt's conclusion is right, at least

I want to be very clear on this. No responsible American can endorse the idea that the U.S. is in a war with Islam.

Of course not. We are at war with al Qaeda. It will be them we will deter and compel, even if there will be collateral damage to to an ancient multicultural temple and Christian church, long shorn of her decorations and venerations.


Elsewhere on the Blogosphere: Stones Cry Out conflates massive armed deterrent with mutually assured destruction. Power Pundit says an attack on measured cannot be a "measured and appropriate response" (whatever the circumstances? -- tdaxp). Point Five mocks hawks. One Hand Clapping started all this.

From the Hawk Right: La Shawn Barber decries weakness in the face of terror. Baldilocks sees nothing new in Rep. Tancredo's words. InstaPunk exhaustively defends the congressman. HCS and Gen both understand theory.



Update: Mark from ZenPundit adds his thoughts

Tancredo's hamhanded, off-the-cuff, bluster looks positively milquetoast next to U.S. nuclear doctrine under Jimmy Carter. The purpose of making terrifying, credible, deterrence threats is to NOT have to actually use nuclear weapons. If a nuclear bomb goes off inside the United States tomorrow, I can just about guarantee that we will use nuclear weapons in retaliation against probably more than one terrorist-supporting country. If we are bombed it will because our enemies disbelieved that we would retaliate, not because we are clear that we will.


Update 2: More thoughts from...
Riting on the Wall:
" the core critique (and there is a secondary critique below as well) here is that deterrence is, at root, a byproduct of rational actor theory. which is to say that all actors within a system will under all circumstances make rational decisions to maximize identified self-interests. these interests can be existential (which is the essential logic of mutually assured destruction) or they can fall to other categories: symbolic, tactical, strategic, etc. under normal circumstances, making a clear and credible existential threat to a defined action would deter such an action (in this case a nuclear strike on us soil) from taking place. all this is well and good under traditional understandings of rational actor theory, but i have to throw several wrenches in the works at this point."


ZenPundit:
In real-world nuclear deterrence logic as it played out in the era of brinksmanship through MAD, rational actor theory was not actually subscribed to by either superpower.


Update 3: While Sahhabh picks up the story, the Saudis have already started Mecca's destruction."

Comments

Tom didn't say "Nuke".

Posted by: Baklava | Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Apart from all this war strategy, there's also the tiny detail of the tens of millions of innocent people that would be killed if we nuked Mecca. Sacrificing innocents wouldn't be OK even if it did save the lives of others.

Posted by: Adam | Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A nuclear attack on Mecca would cost many factors of tens less lives than "tens of millions." A tactical nuclear strike against the Kabbah might kill thousands (or tens of thousands) in the initial blast. Probably an equal number from radiation poisoning down the line.

Of course, if you use a heavy iron weapon, and time the attack right, you can probably limit the fatalities to below a thousand.

Of course, the radicalizing effect this would have would be enormous. It would be an astounding self-inflicted moral isolation attack by the West.

Like with MAD, if we made the deterent credible, it is more likely we would never have to use it.

This raises an interesting question: what sort of attack can be credibly deter with this strategy? If we set the bar too low, the threat will be empty.

It needs to be something unlikely and terrible.

What if an al Qaeda biological attack takes a million American lives? Would the obliteration of the Kabbah be a "measured" response to the loss of 0.3% of all Americans? (Or the threatened obliteration of the Kabbah be a measured response to the capability to kill 0.3% of American lives in order to "compel" disarmament?).

Posted by: Dan | Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I'm not certain that Al-Qaeda style terrorists can be deterred. When we used MAD with the Soviet Union, it was effective because we were the only ones with nukes. If there was a WMD launch, we know who did it. If there is a terrorist attack, we don't. We thought Oklahoma City was radical Muslims at first. All Al-Qaeda would have to do after an attack is deny it and blame it on the KKK, the PLO, or some depressed teenager. There's also no way for us to verify disarmament- we're not even sure where bin Laden IS! And I really can't see the US actually using this strategy- is smacks too much of terrorism.

Pretending that the strategy does work, then we are choosing between the certain death of innocent people against the possible death of more people. The algebra changes depending on likelihood and timing. And this is also assuming that Al-Qaeda even has the capability for a large-scale biological attack. We only 'think' they were behind the anthrax scare.

Of course, I'm opposed to socialist moral algebra on principle. If the government can choose which lives to sacrifice for the benefit of which others, then its not a free government by any definition.

Posted by: Adam | Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Adam,

"I'm not certain that Al-Qaeda style terrorists can be deterred."

Nor am I. Mr. bin Laden's statement implies that he understands the concept but.. it's obviously foolish to go by his word alone.

" If there was a WMD launch, we know who did it. If there is a terrorist attack, we don't."

Indeed. al Qaeda's tradition of not claiming credit compounds our problems.

"And I really can't see the US actually using this strategy- is smacks too much of terrorism.

Pretending that the strategy does work, then we are choosing between the certain death of innocent people against the possible death of more people.

...

Of course, I'm opposed to socialist moral algebra on principle."

"[C]hoosing between the certain death of innocent people against the possible death of more people" is called "war." Calling it "socialist" degrades the language and confuses the issue.

"If the government can choose which lives to sacrifice for the benefit of which others, then its not a free government by any definition."

War is not always appropriate, but pacifism is not a strategy.

Posted by: Dan | Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Targeting civillians is murder and terrorism. Targeting the military or the government is war.

Posted by: Adam | Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Agreed, but there are targets that are neither civilians nor military:

installations

These can be factories, storage depos, propaganda centers, "morale" centers, etc. And in these attacks on installations there may be civilians who die -- "collateral damage." These accidental deaths should be avoided. But their existence does not make war "terrorism."

Posted by: Dan | Tuesday, July 19, 2005

You miss it big time. Bin Ladin and Al-Qaeda want first and foremost to rally ALL muslims to jihad. If their sites were bombed, they would win as ALL muslims would rally to jihad. Stupid, stupid, stupid idea. It would not be a deterrent.

Posted by: rick brady | Friday, July 22, 2005

Rick,

You are right that bin Laden might provike us into doing this, for the purpose of radicalizing Muslims.

That is the danger, and we should recognize it.

This is why our actions have to depend on what the enemy values. If bin Laden is trying to radicalize Muslims, we must not do this. If, however, he cares more for the Holy Places, then it would be wise to threaten it.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Friday, July 22, 2005

This is why our actions have to depend on what the enemy values. If bin Laden is trying to radicalize Muslims, we must not do this. If, however, he cares more for the Holy Places, then it would be wise to threaten it.

I disagree with you that threatening an attack on Mecca would deter bin Laden from attacking the United States. I agree with Rick Brady; if anything, threatening Mecca would make bin Laden more likely to attack us, since the US bombing Mecca would undoubtedly convince more Muslims that the US is anti-Islam, giving him more public support.

Posted by: Martey | Friday, July 22, 2005

Martey, good thoughts. bin Laden certainly talks like he believes in mutual deterence, but again, we can't trust our enemy. We just don't know.

Interestingly and somewhat relatedly, these two ideas:

1. "bin Laden could be detered or compeled by a threat to Mecca," and
2. "bin Laden would massively retiliate against an attack on Mecca"

are complementary. In the same way, the Soviet Union was detered by our nuclear weapons, but if we ever used them the Soviet Union would have massively retaliated, with catastrophic consequences for us.

Nuclear weapons are for having, not using.

The way to avoid using them is for our enemy to trust that we would use them.

Complex thinking indeed!

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Friday, July 22, 2005

We, the U.S., could form an international alliance, such as NATO or SEATO, that makes a precisely-worded statement as to the purpose of using the threat of bombing Mecca as a deterrent against any future islamic terrorist attacks in ANY of the member countries. The statement would need to be extremely clear that we are holding Mecca "hostage" not as a threat against all Muslims, or their religion, but that it would be purely as a deterrent to terrorists who claim to be ultra-religious "pure" Muslims.

This could have the residual effect of encouraging "moderate" Muslims who know extremists within their community, to turn them over to security forces, for their community's sake. If another attack DOES occur, it would further serve to show the world that these murderers aren't really religious Muslims at all, just islamo-fascists.

Of course the "moderates" would be outraged, but that's just too bad. Since 9/11 our president has bent over backwards to make it clear that it is not Islam that we are at war with, but these cold-blooded murderers. Even so, the Muslim community complains about our "war against Islam". You can't satisfy people who dislike you from the outset. Even the "moderates" seem to feel some affinity with their "Muslim brothers"; the terrorists. So to hell with them. Mecca may prove to be the ultimate deterrent.

Posted by: Jeff | Saturday, July 23, 2005

PS: Apologies for the terrible formatting on this page. Another example of blogspirit's shoddy new html editor.

The Metroplis Times has also seems to have been hit by the whims of a truly awful pseudo-wysiwyg editor (http://themetropolistimes.blogspirit.com/archive/2005/07/23/terrorists-and-innocents.html).

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Monday, July 25, 2005

Tancredo is great, he speaks the truth and the people know it!

Posted by: Jason from Michigan | Tuesday, July 26, 2005

While I do not agree with Rep. Tancredo's views on immigration, he is being attacked for speaking the truth here. Maybe it would be "politically wiser" to keep silent, but that doesn't take away Tancredo being right.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Let's nuke those moslem cockroaches and let's send them back to Hell where they belong.

Posted by: Mike Saunders | Friday, August 12, 2005

Mike

Considering that Muslims worship the same God, using the same name ("Allah"'s a contraction for al-Ilah, which is a literal Arabic translation of Eloha. "Elohim" in Arabic would be al-Ilaheen) I assume you are

a) a troll
b) misinformed
c) some sort of hateful pagan

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Friday, August 12, 2005

Luckily in britain we do not have idiots in political mainstream. As concerning the nuking of the muslim holy sites is preposterous and stupidity in the highest order.

It seems the only nation to have used nuclear weapons against civilians (the USA ) is once more thinking of attacking civilians in another nation.

How pathetic the US accuses of other nations being a menace to humanity, whereas in actual fact its the USA itself which is the true menace to world peace.

The Soviets were never as paranoid like the USA.

These anti muslim rhetoric is primarily for the sake of Israel and the right wing christian coalition

Western civilization

this is the one that enslaved millions of black people

destroyed the indigenous peoples of North and South America, as well as near destruction of people of Australia and New Zealand

Helped along the racist policy of the Aparthied Regime

Killed jews along the many centuries and then killed 6 million jews, 300,000 gypsies and countless more

Then to feeling guilty at this we took the land of the Palestinians and gave it to the Jewish people

displacing millions of Palestinians

We help tyrant regimes remember our ally saddam and hosni mubarak, King abdullah and our new friend Colonel gadaffi all run of the mill 'democracy loving folk'!

Before accusing other nations and peoples of tyranny and hatred, maybe you Americans should look to your past history and how many injustices have been carried out against the NATIVES of america.

Posted by: Robinson | Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Robinson,
I'm reminded of Paul in Ephesus. (Before you snicker at my religious story just bare with me). Paul denounced the worship of Diana in Ephesus. The shopkeepers heard this and got a crowd into a riot shouting how great their goddess was. When the mayor came and asked why everyone was yelling, no one could figure out why.

The moral is your "points" are seemingly random. Let's take a look:

"Luckily in britain we do not have idiots in political mainstream"
I wouldn't say Tancredo was "mainstream" on the Mecca issue. How about George Galloway, a member of your legislator, who openly supports the terrorists.

"The Soviets were never as paranoid like the USA."
STALIN, cough cough. And what about the Soviet paranoia that a free Hungry would turn away from Communism. The Soviets expressed their paranoia with tanks who killed the brave freedom lovers in Hungry. Note: Read "The cold War: A History through Documents" to read the Hungarians pleas for help in the west. I felt sick for days.

"These anti muslim rhetoric is primarily for the sake of Israel and the right wing christian coalition"
Those rascally Jews and Right Wing Christians. Do they wait for their Bishops and Rabbis for higher orders or do they meet in graveyards at midnights. Also, all the anti-US and anti-West rhetoric from Islamists doesn't help either.

"this is the one that enslaved millions of black people"
Slavery was/is horrible. The West, Muslim, and Eastern world all used slavery. But it was the West (with the UK leading the way) that abolished the horrible practice. The Muslim world still enslaves people.

"destroyed the indigenous peoples of North and South America, as well as near destruction of people of Australia and New Zealand"
It is truly horrible the effects of colonization had on once great cultures in the New Worlds. Intentional war and unintentional infection have taken their toll. However, the situation is much better now with sovereignty, aid, and cultural acceptance.

"Helped along the racist policy of the Aparthied Regime"
Yep, the Dutch in South Africa had horrible policies. Your point?

"Killed jews along the many centuries and then killed 6 million jews, 300,000 gypsies and countless more"
Yep, the Nazis were bad too. Your point? Also, don't forget the 20 million done by your non-paranoid Soviets and who knows how many by Red China and Pol Pot.

"Then to feeling guilty at this we took the land of the Palestinians and gave it to the Jewish people"
We? The Arabs were the ones who started the 1948 War, told the Palestinians to get out, and then denied them equal rights in the Arab countries. As of today, only Jordan gives the Palestinians the right to become citizens while all the other countries keep them in the camps and prevent them from getting jobs. Side note: I support a peace Palestinian state along side an Israeli state, the Palestinians refuse to give Israel the right to exist.

"We help tyrant regimes remember our ally saddam and hosni mubarak, King abdullah and our new friend Colonel gadaffi all run of the mill 'democracy loving folk'!"
Realpolik is a (female dog). In Uzbekistan we worked with a thug for his air bases but once in we are now working with pro-Democracy groups to the point where Uzbekistan’s government is getting nervous. Slowly but surely we are advancing democracy. The vote in Iraq has caused Lebanon, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia just to name a few to start the Democratic process once again.

"Before accusing other nations and peoples of tyranny and hatred, maybe you Americans should look to your past history and how many injustices have been carried out against the NATIVES of america."
The sins of our fathers way heavy upon us. We must work to right our sins as we are doing. However, just because we have tripped once or twice in the past does not mean we should not protect and advance truth and everything that is right now. Who can honestly say but those you are unjust that Iraqi Democracy is a good thing. As America continues to be the biggest charity giver ever in the history of the world (both by government and by the people) our impact on the world continues to become better and better.

Long live everything that is just and right!

Posted by: Catholicgauze | Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Robinson,

As Catholicgauze essentially asks, what is your point?

Or, more specifically, how does the litany you present help us in differentiating between competing courses of policy? All that you say may be right or wrong, but how is it relevant now in deterring a nuclear attack against a major city?

PS: Shlok Vaidya [1] jumps on the question!

[1] http://www.shloky.com/?p=764

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Saturday, August 04, 2007

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