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The not-totally-crazies next door

Last week, my colleague Paul had a great deal of fun exposing some of the sillier and more irresponsible things being posted over at Wizbang Blue. It did a lot of things, but the main consequence for me was to get me to meander back over there and give it another look -- and found a couple of gems amidst the dross.

Our own Paul (who I have referred to in private as our "designated asshole") had a bit of fun with their Paul (Paul S. Hooson), but lately he's written a couple of pieces that are worth a look or two.

First, he discussed the demographic profiles of the terrorists we're fighting. As Hooson noted, the would-be bombers in Great Britain were well-educated, middle-class or better young men.

I would quibble with Hooson's describing this as a new development, however. The most successful terrorists have not sprung from poverty and squalor and deprivation (Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi excepted). Khalid Sheikh Mohammed attended two American colleges, earning a degree. Mohammed Atta was also a college graduate, and Osama Bin Laden was born into one of Saudi Arabia's most wealthy families.

Poverty hasn't bred terrorism. Poverty has bred grunts, spear carriers for terrorism. The most dangerous ones have come from the middle and privileged class. The biggest threats to us have come from what we would consider the "average" Muslims.

Hooson's piece is valuable because it shows that this observation is starting to finally take hold.

In his other piece that I think noteworthy, Hooson notes some rather interesting developments going on in Venezuela -- more specifically, some deeds being carried out by its strongman, Hugo Chavez. Hooson notes that Chavez is expanding his ties with Russia, seeking some very advanced (and expensive) military hardware and seeking stronger ties.

Hooson goes into quite a bit of detail, but he doesn't take the final step in his analysis. He talks about how Chavez is hoping to "imprint" US-Russian relations. I'm not quite certain what he means by this, so I'm going to take his evidence and pull my own conclusions.

There has been a lot of talk about a potential revival of the "Cold War" between the US and Russia. Bellicose bellowings about missiles and missile defenses, disagreements about dealings with the Middle East and other portions of the world, accusations of the FSB (the KGB in its new name) assassinating "enemies" in England and elsewhere, and all sorts of other incidents show that while the US and Russia talk about being the bestest of buddies, there is still a lot of tension. (And it strikes me as an odd little coincidence that the nations are headed by a former KGB officer and the son of a former CIA director.)

Well, a lot of people are nostalgic for the days of the Cold War. The current situation doesn't have the spectre of nuclear holocaust hanging, like the Sword of Damocles, overhead, but the world was a much simpler, much more comprehensible place. The threat of terrorism might not be as extreme as ICBMs, but it's far more present. In brief, the world made a lot more sense back then.

Chavez is apparently one of those people, and he's recalling the days when Latin America was one of the battlegrounds between the East and West. He seems to be remembering the days when simply being staunchly anti-American was a guarantor of a flow of blessings from those who opposed America, and he's hoping to tap into the largesse. He's not so crazy as to ally himself with our new enemies, but instead is trying to hitch his star to our old foes -- in the hopes that the tensions will exacerbate themselves.

In brief, Chavez is trying to become the new Fidel Castro or Daniel Ortega -- and he's picked two fairly safe role models, as Castro is still in power (when he's not dead or "mostly dead") and Ortega not only survived his fall from power, but last year was re-elected to the presidency of Nicaragua.

I find myself hearing, of all things, lyrics from Billy Joel when I see things like this happening: "The good old days weren't always good, and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems."


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Comments (33)

You forgot Hugo's lovefest ... (Below threshold)
kim:

You forgot Hugo's lovefest with Ahmadinejad.
==========================

heh- suck-up lol... (Below threshold)
Paul:

heh- suck-up lol

The good ol' days were down... (Below threshold)
Paul Hamilton:

The good ol' days were downright awful -- take it from one who can remember duck-and-cover drills and seeing my mom weep uncontrollably during the Cuban missile crisis because she was certain that the entire world was about to die.

The threat of terrorists is no picnic, of course, but those of us who spent years on end with the vision of Khrushchev with his finger on The Button have a little higher threshold of fear than can be triggered by some klutz in Glasgow with an SUV.

Yes, Paul, and after the pe... (Below threshold)
kim:

Yes, Paul, and after the peak paranoia we also had MAD, mad as it was, and Polaris missiles out the kazoo. Those with their fingers near the big red button were not crazy, as this present foe is.
====================================

Of course, he could not hel... (Below threshold)

Of course, he could not help but to take a stab at the current administration and anyone who might even possibly support a fraction of it... So, yeah, there might be some useful stuff in there - so long as you go in with waders and blinders.

I am headed back to Managua... (Below threshold)
Mitchell:

I am headed back to Managua at month's end with my Nica wife for 2 weeks. I follow Nica events closely, and I can tell you that Chavez, and his new pal M. Achmadenijad (whatever), are trying to use Nicaragua as the Soviets did against us in the Cold War.

It won't work, though. Fully 62% voted against Ortega; he only won the election because the old Samoza party's corrupt party boss threw his support behind a 35% cut off for election, to save his ass from jail (he'd embezzled $100M from Nica Treasury, the scum).

Anyway, Ortega will cause the economy to decline because investor have little confidence in him, naturally, and he doesn't know how to govern, only how to agitate, and play the populist--funny, he has a fleet of Mercedes . . .

So, Chavez is useful to the extent he can funnel money to the Sandinistas to buy votes and influence. However, Chavez has a history of welshing on commitments, so I believe Ortega will not get as much mileage from the "Bolivarian Revolution" as he thinks.

It appears that Ortega may suffer from some mental condition like bipolar disorder, or something strange. His public pronouncements are often contradictory and disjointed. The oppo parties, including Samoza party, are now more aligned.

More misery for my Nica friends, but I don't think Chavez and Ortega will get control a la the glorious '80's that our Wizbangbluers dream about--oh, for the good old days of socialist dictators!

Kim, we were all told at th... (Below threshold)
Paul Hamilton:

Kim, we were all told at the time that the Soviets were mad. They were "godless Commies" who were willing to destroy the world in order to advance their own agenda. They were all indoctrinated from birth in crazy ideas. They all were willing to die for the cause.

So, again, all of this is nothing new.

Yes, there are terrorist madmen who are willing to blow themselves up on the off-chance they'll take a few innocents with them. But obviously these folks aren't too clever, and it's the cool-headed ones with the plans that you have to watch out for, not the half-wits who only seek an opportunity for a sloppy death.

It would be tempting to loo... (Below threshold)
Robert the Original:

It would be tempting to look at this doctor fiasco and dismiss the whole thing as impotent. Syringes? WTF?

I mean you ask a guy how to ignite gas and he's going to say: "Inject 50 cc's of nitro straight into the tank"

This is just about as goofy as it gets, I'm sure glad they're not my doctors.

Then you think about Iran and the nukes, and you know that one day soon, it is going to be worse than the Cuban Missile Crisis.

"Gems admist the dross?"</p... (Below threshold)
Dave A.:

"Gems admist the dross?"

Methinks thou hast committed a mixed metaphor. Thus is "the monkey in your court" to do better next time.

:)

"Kim, we were all told at t... (Below threshold)
Ben:

"Kim, we were all told at the time that the Soviets were mad. They were "godless Commies" who were willing to destroy the world..."

No, Paul, we weren't. I was around back then, and we were told that the Soviets were just as scared of dying in WWIII as we were, and so things like "Mutually Assured Destruction" and the "Hot Line" were realistic. We were told that the Russians were committed to an evil ideology, but they were strategists- a nation of chess players- who believed in an Earthly victory, not Heavenly glory. In fact, the term "godless" should clue you in to the fact that no Russian, as far as we were told, was looking forward to an eternity in paradise in return for his efforts in WWIII.

The real danger is one of two scenarios: 1) You CAN get a real psychopath on top of a shakey structure like an Islamic nation- and you get a Jonestown outcome writ large. Or 2) The inner circle becomes as self-deluded as Japan's was in WWII: Japanese naval officers wargamed the Midway battle, and produced realistic results, but their leaders decided they were too pessimistic and that Japanese skill and bravery would change the course of the battle, so they resurrected the sunken carriers and over ruled the results of the wargame. When the actual battle was fought, it went much like the wargame. In the same way, a nuclear armed Iranian leadership might conclude that the morale weakness and cowardice of the United States would cause the US to come to terms once a pre-emptive attack hit us hard enough.

In neither scenario do cold war measures like the Hot Line or Mad based deterrence make any sense. THAT is the why things are different now.


Ben

Right Ben, wrong Paul; the ... (Below threshold)
kim:

Right Ben, wrong Paul; the whole premise of MAD was that they were not mad.
=================

It illustrates why you are ... (Below threshold)
kim:

It illustrates why you are deluded now, though, Paul; beautifully. You were brainwashed then and you're brainwashed now. C'est juste.
==================

Kim, we were all t... (Below threshold)
Kim, we were all told at the time that the Soviets were mad. They were "godless Commies" who were willing to destroy the world in order to advance their own agenda. They were all indoctrinated from birth in crazy ideas. They all were willing to die for the cause.

I was around then, too, and no, this is not what we were told. It sounds like you're just making stuff up to support your rhetorical point.

But there are some legitimate Cold War/WOT parallels: both conflicts produced dunderheads in the West who claimed that (a) there really isn't a threat and (b) if there is, it's all our fault, anyway.

The threat of terr... (Below threshold)
The threat of terrorists is no picnic, of course, but those of us who spent years on end with the vision of Khrushchev with his finger on The Button have a little higher threshold of fear than can be triggered by some klutz in Glasgow with an SUV.

I wonder if you would have this perspective if you had happened to be waiting in the Glasgow terminal when the SUV hit.

Kim, I was a *child* back t... (Below threshold)
Paul Hamilton:

Kim, I was a *child* back then. It was innocence, not delusion. And I think my assessment of the nature of the threat of terrorism is pretty accurate. Your mileage may vary.

Muse, the attack was almost completely ineffective. If that was supposed to be an example of the "threat" of terrorism, color me unimpressed. And in just a few days, it seems we caught all the people involved. Now, THAT is impressive.

Muse, the attack w... (Below threshold)
Muse, the attack was almost completely ineffective. If that was supposed to be an example of the "threat" of terrorism, color me unimpressed.

Fine, but this is all just Monday-morning quarterbacking. It's very easy to say tut tut, why is everyone so upset after the fact, after the extent of the would-be terrorists' failure had been revealed, because it's easy to pontificate about such things when you are in possession of knowledge you couldn't possibly have known at the time.

Again, I wonder what your reaction would have been if you had been standing there when it happened. Would you have a given a Bruce Willis-like smirk of disdain and sauntered away from the wreckage muttering "stupid amateurs" under your breath?

If the 9/ll plot had been discovered beforehand and stopped, or if passengers on all of the flights that day had prevented the planes from reaching their intended targets, would you now be holding that up as proof that the terrorism threat is exaggerated?

Excellent answer Ben @1:31.... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

Excellent answer Ben @1:31.

Paul was just trying to draw immaginary parallels to the current situation to justify his desire that the islamofascists be allowed to declare that they've defeated the US in Iraq.

No matter how you try to spin it, that is the real consequences of what those on the left desire to happen.

Jay, I deeply appreciate yo... (Below threshold)

Jay, I deeply appreciate your balanced and constructive feature here. I promise more serious pieces on foreign policy at Wizbang Blue where I really feel more comfortable as a writer than other areas.

Thank you for also pointing out some shortcomings in my features where I might have carried it to some further conclusion as well. This is a very constructive suggestion, although the open end does get the reader to think about what they think.

The very best to you and all here at Wizbang.

Muse, the point that I'm tr... (Below threshold)
Paul Hamilton:

Muse, the point that I'm trying to make is that the threat of destruction we face from the terrorists is much, much, much less than the threat we faced from the Soviets. Is there a chance that individuals might be killed in terrorist acts? Absolutely and every life is important so we need to strive to defeat the terrorists all the time. But we all were literally minutes from destruction all the time back in the 60s, 70s and 80s and that's the difference. If the Cuban missile crisis had blown up, it wouldn't have been 9-11, it would have been worldwide Armageddon.

The odds of a terrorist attack on my street is zilcho, so being rational about it, for me, right here and right now, there is no realistic terrorist threat. That's just a fact and waving the Glasgow attack in my face is just irrelevant. Again, that does NOT mean that we shouldn't be working to stop terrorists, but we need to keep the threat in proportion.

OTOH, if the nukes started flying back in the Cold War era, I would have been affected by it personally. In a full-scale exchange, I would have been killed along with probably the entire population. And when you have both sides on hair-trigger alert 24/7, that is something to really be afraid of. The stories of how close we came on many occasions are just now coming out, and even if both sides wanted to avoid a nuclear conflict, a computer glitch or the misreading of a natural phenomenon could have triggered an attack.

Both sides from the Cold War still have their nukes, but that sense of the finger being on the button isn't there any more and so, for me personally, here and now, I feel much less threatened that I did back then.

P. Bunyan, I don't give a f... (Below threshold)
Paul Hamilton:

P. Bunyan, I don't give a flying f--- what the terrorists say about us and I sure don't believe that they should be the ones determining our foreign policy, which is what you seem to suggest in your note. The ONLY standard we should use is whether the best likely outcome justifies the losses we are suffering. I believe we passed the tipping point of that standard long ago so now we can save face or save lives.

That's a very easy choice for me.

Kim, dude, why the hell do ... (Below threshold)
you know who:

Kim, dude, why the hell do you always resort to personal attacks? So you don't agree with Paul Hamilton, big deal.

You really seem to be lacking in your people skills.

I think you are just a nasty rotten person. No wonder you spend so much time on Wizbang, nobody else wants to spend time with you.

I know people like you. You always have to have the last word, you always have to be right. You always have to remind yourself that you are worth something. That you are not an underachiever, or stupid. I think you feed that need right here.

When you put someone down, its makes you feel better about yourself.
And save your bullshit response, I'm not coming back to check this post.

It illustrates why you are deluded now, though, Paul; beautifully. You were brainwashed then and you're brainwashed now. C'est juste.
==================
Posted by: kim at July 5, 2007 01:43 PM

You are simply wrong, Hamil... (Below threshold)

You are simply wrong, Hamilton. The magnitude of destruction in the Cold War was greater but the chance of it was not. Of course, so long as the Democrats undermine the administration's ability to deal with Iran, we will soon find that terrorism bears a nuclear threat too.

Ah, the extravagant evanesc... (Below threshold)
kim:

Ah, the extravagant evanescence of the sock puppet. Paul was wrong; correcting him is not a personal attack.
================================

I guess a threat has to hav... (Below threshold)
kim:

I guess a threat has to have the power of the 'state' behind it to frighten him; it could be he's glad the State of Iraq is no longer in the hands of terrorist sympathizers.
========================

Look, I happen to enjoy tal... (Below threshold)
kim:

Look, I happen to enjoy talking with Paul Hamilton. But his 'it was innocence, not delusion' is one for the ages.

I maintain that childlike ignorance still informs his worldview. It's just that now he is the Sadder, Budweiser, Boy.

Now, about your unconscious irony, ykw. Got any more diary entries?
===================

To make the allegation a li... (Below threshold)
kim:

To make the allegation a little less personal, there is a whole class of people who believe they were brainwashed as 'innocents', but now are sadder, but wiser. What's sad is the degree to which they are still brainwashed.
==========================

kim, that kind of describes... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

kim, that kind of describes Fred Thompson still brainwashed about the top figures of the present Republicanadministration doesn't it .
Thompson declared in a June 6 radio commentary that Libby's conviction was a "shocking injustice . . . created and enabled by federal officials" rather than sadder and wiser


Even as he quizzed Butterfield during the hearing, Thompson said later, he believed the tapes would exonerate Nixon. So he saw no problem in pressing for their release. It was after Thompson heard Nixon incriminate himself on the tapes that Thompson finally decided that Nixon was a crook -- and stopped being a Nixon apologist.

Steve, you are sadly ignora... (Below threshold)
kim:

Steve, you are sadly ignorant about the miscarriage of justice the Fitzgerald prosecution represents. Bush commuting Libby's prison term was perfectly predictable, because it is the best way to allow his appeal to proceed and justice to be done in this case.

If you can't listen to anyone else about this, listen to Alan Dershowitz.
===================================

I'm so glad you brought up ... (Below threshold)
kim:

I'm so glad you brought up the Plame case. What an example of deliberate and accidental disinformation and what a lot of unintended consequences and collateral damage.

Joe Wilson is a liar. You know that, don't you? Now. What deduces logically from that fact? Is that what you believe? Why, or why not?
======================================

Val Plame is a liar, too. ... (Below threshold)
kim:

Val Plame is a liar, too. She now has three different stories, on record, for how her husband got sent to Africa for the CIA. This was his fourth trip for them, mind you.
================================

This really is an excellent... (Below threshold)
kim:

This really is an excellent example of brainwashing. You believe the standard meme; well the truth is that Joe Wilson Lied, and People are Still Dying. His public pronouncements before, during, and after the invasion are evidence of either cowardice or treason, and I'm expecting Libby's appeals or discovery in the civil case to demonstrate which. I'd like, much more than you, to know the origins of the yellow cake forgeries, and how they came to be used in the disinformation from part of the CIA before the war. That was Val Plame's part, you know.
================================

And Steve, go take another ... (Below threshold)
kim:

And Steve, go take another look at your crackpot analogy. If you can see the flaw on second glance, take a second glance everytime. If you can't, you have my condolences.
====================================

My original comments kim we... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

My original comments kim were wiped away by this new system; anyway in brief; with a couple of the links still remaining, the first on the apellate court, Republican appointed judges turned down Dershowitz 's this was a political decision to stay out of jail...Libby represented strongly Marc Rich for 18 years and congratuated Clinton on Rich's appeal, what Clinton said was one of the two worst decisions of his presidency..the other being Rwandha..Is this a pardon you agree with?




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