Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Wiping Away the Spittle over Tancredo

This discussion over at Baldilocks' place helped solidify the crux of the recent nastiness over Rep. Tom Tancredo's statements on possible terrorist WMD attacks.

I think both sides have engaged in far too much emotional decision making. At least some who defend Tancredo do so on the basis of a desire to "lash out" in the event of a WMD attack, regardless of whether such a response would be useful. Most on the other side have responded with pure emotion to what is perceived as thoughtless violence.

What is needed, then, is a purely reasoned examination of the proposal to determine whether it is valid.

The most reasonable formulation of Tancredo's proposal that I have yet heard is the destruction (or possibly, the defilement) of the Ka'ba in Mecca as the proper deterrent. I refuse to discuss nuclear strikes on Mecca or widespread destructive bombing. I have not heard anyone argue convincingly for those responses.

In order for this proposal to make sense, we must consider two premises:

  1. An effective deterrent to radical Islamic terrorists directly attacks that which they hold most dear.
  2. Destruction of the Ka'ba would devastate those Muslims* who threaten the safety, security, and independence of the Western world.

The first premise may be open to debate but is generally accepted. Sun Tzu argues that seizing that which your opponent holds most dear is vital to taking control of a situation. Furthermore, the history of war has demonstrated that those who fail to observe and match the strategy of opponents lose. Talk of not descending to the level of one's enemy is LOSING talk. All who win will match the enemy's strategy, though not always the enemy's tactics. I do not expect much disagreement here but would welcome reasonable arguments.

The second premise is where the action is. Is the Ka'ba "precious" to fundamentalist Muslims? What evidence is there for it? What evidence is there against it? Does it break down along theological lines? If so, which ones? If so, what significance do they posess? In short, would the destruction or defilement of the Ka'ba be a credible threat?

We desperately need reliable answers to these questions before coming to a conclusion about the proposal. Am I going to offer these answers? No chance—I'm not that smart and I'm not that dumb. But I would like to hear from people who are in a position to know.

* This would undoubtedly devastate many others as well. But that is a different question.