Thursday, May 12, 2005

Robert Kaplan's much-discussed Atlantic Monthlyarticle, How We Would Fight China, is a fascinating read, though the title isn't quite accurate. The article has very little speculation on what an armed conflict with China would look like. The only real attempt to divine a Chinese strategy looks like is this:

...the Chinese are putting their fiber-optic systems underground and moving defense capabilities deep into western China, out of naval missile range—all the while developing an offensive strategy based on missiles designed to be capable of striking that supreme icon of American wealth and power, the aircraft carrier. The effect of a single Chinese cruise missile's hitting a U.S. carrier, even if it did not sink the ship, would be politically and psychologically catastrophic, akin to al-Qaeda's attacks on the Twin Towers. China is focusing on missiles and submarines as a way to humiliate us in specific encounters.

But this is right out of Victor Davis Hanson, isn't it? The Hanson thesis, among other things, holds that non-Western warmakers place enormous emphasis on symbolism. For them, the goal is the coup, the military "grand gesture" that disheartens and terrifies the enemy. The Chinese anti-carrier missiles seem to be the modern equivalent of Hanson's

War paint, tattoos, bare-breasted women, ululation, and an assortment of iron collars, chains, spiked hair, and occasional human heads and body parts hanging from the war belt are the usual requisites in any Western description, from Roman legions to the Spanish conquistadors, of fighting the Other. (Carnage and Culture, p. 117)

A single cruise missile hit on an American carrier would be disastrous--for the Chinese.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Interesting piece in frontpagemag.com about the average citizens who caught Zacharias Moussaoui before he could kill hundreds of Americans.

Prevost found Moussaoui reluctant to talk about himself but turned the discussion to an aircraft accident involving a flight carrying pilgrims to the hajj in Mecca. Casually, he inquired about Moussaoui being Muslim. An FBI affidavit takes it from there: "Prevost described Moussaoui’s reaction as being one of surprise and caution. … When he recovered, Moussaoui informed him that he was not a Muslim."

This is an example of al-taqiyya, the officially-sanctioned act of deliberate lying in order to advance the cause of Islam. Taqiyya was originally a Shia Muslim doctrine, born amid the intra-Islamic persecution that marked early Shiism, but over the centuries the Sunnis seem to have recognized its usefulness, and adopted it as well. There's a good critical thread on the practice at faithfreedom.org that explains the issues it generates.

The doctrine is fairly unique among religions. Christianity tends to regard all lying--even for the best of reasons--as a sin,, while the Baha'i Faith, which of course grew out of the Islamic tradition, explicitly forbids it ("...abandonment of Taqiyyah amongst the Bahá'ís was one of the distinguishing feature of the new religion from the Bábí era...Taqiyyah became one of the distinguishing features of the Azali-Bahá'í split.")

And, I think, the doctrine is spiritually corrosive. As several observers have pointed out, the Islamic world has traditionally been in thrall to the most bizarre and paranoid conspiracy theories. "In the aggregate," says Richard Pipes in his indispensible The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy, "the paranoid mentality creates a suspiciousness that impedes modernization in the Middle East." And conspiracies are nothing more than taqiyya writ large: I would argue that a culture which condones the lie creates an environment where the truth is suspect.

Monday, May 02, 2005


The following are excerpts from the interrogation of captured Iraqi terrorist 'Adnan Elias. Al-Iraqiya TV aired this interrogation on April 21, 2005.

Interviewer: Your name?

'Adnan Elias: 'Adnan Muhammad Elias.

Interviewer: Date of birth?

'Adnan Elias: 1984.

Interviewer: What education do you have?

'Adnan Elias: I got to 4th grade, but I don't know how to read or write.

Interviewer: What do you do for a living?

'Adnan Elias: I clean for the municipality.

Interviewer: To what group do you belong?

'Adnan Elias: The Ansar Al-Sunna, sir.

Interviewer: We tied (the policeman) up and blindfolded him, and then threw him into the trunk. Then we went to the house of the Emir. We untied his hands and eyes, and then punished him.

Interviewer: How did you punish him?

'Adnan Elias: We whipped him.

Interviewer: You whipped him?

'Adnan Elias: Yes, Muhsin did.

Interviewer: And you?

'Adnan Elias: I didn't whip him. I just stood there holding the gun.

Interviewer: Go on.

'Adnan Elias: They told us to take him to the house of Habib 'Izzat Hamu. We took him out there. We said to him: "Why did you do this and that… Why are you after us?" He answered: "It's out of our hands. We get orders." Then we were told to bring a knife.

Interviewer: You slaughtered him?

'Adnan Elias: Yes, sir. Habib 'Izzat Hamu got the knife. He slaughtered him, and when he was dead, he opened his shirt buttons and cut open his stomach.

Interviewer: Who opened him up?

'Adnan Elias: Muhsin, sir.

Interviewer: When a doctor performs an operation he wears a surgeon's mask over his nose and mouth.

'Adnan Elias: No sir, he didn't wear one.

Interviewer: He didn't wear one?

'Adnan Elias: No sir, he didn't wear one. He cut open his stomach and took stuff out.

Interviewer: What did he take out?

'Adnan Elias: I don't know, his guts.

Interviewer: Weren't you nauseous? Didn't you vomit?

'Adnan Elias: You mean Muhsin?

Interviewer: No, you.

'Adnan Elias: I was standing a little bit aside.

Interviewer: And he didn't vomit or get nauseous?

'Adnan Elias: No, sir.

Interviewer: What is he, Dracula?

'Adnan Elias: Huh?

Interviewer: Go on.

'Adnan Elias: Yes, sir. He opened him up, took stuff out, and put TNT and explosives inside. Then he sewed up his stomach with thick thread.

Interviewer: With thread?

'Adnan Elias: Yes. And a needle. He put the buttons back in place...

Interviewer: He buttoned him up.

'Adnan Elias: Yes, he buttoned him up. We were told to take him in the car near the square in Tel A'far. We threw him there and placed his head back on his shoulders.

Interviewer: My God!

'Adnan Elias: 15 to 30 minutes later they told his family to come and get their son. His father came with two policemen. They picked up the body and made no more than two steps – we were standing far away – Ahmad Sinjar pressed the button.

Interviewer: By remote control.

'Adnan Elias: The body exploded on them, and they died.

Interviewer: So his father and the two policemen died.

'Adnan Elias: Yes sir, and we took off.

Reading stuff like this, it's hard not to feel oneself channelling Kurtz from Conrad's Heart of Darkness: "The horror, the horror, exterminate the brutes."

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