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The Next Attack

Kevin Drum wonders what, exactly, it is that hawks are afraid John Kerry won't be tough enough to do. On a related point, I'm wondering what either man would do if we face another major terrorist attack. After 9-11 we had a fortunate confluence of a public desire for some retaliating with a logic means of retaliation -- topple the Taliban. I imagine that after another attack people will still feel, on a gut level, like we ought to retaliate, but there really won't be anything to be done. Just as Australia and Indonesia didn't respond after Bali, and Spain didn't respond after the Madrid attacks, if someone blows up Grand Central Station there's not really going to be much of anything we can do in response. A lot of people, myself included, would find that pretty unsatisfying on an emotional level, but it's hard to see any reasonable policy options.

You're going to have, meanwhile, a certain group of people trying to blame Iran for anything that happens, but they're not actually going to have been responsible, and no president who gives a damn about his re-election (or his brother's presidential campaign) would get us embroiled in something like that. At least I think they wouldn't.

July 15, 2004 | Permalink


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» Grand Central and Kitty Dukakis from Winds of Change.NET
Well, I tip my toe back into blogging (and reading blogs), and I find that Matt Yglesias has once again written the thing that makes me go "Huh?" today.I imagine that after another attack people... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 15, 2004 8:40:25 PM

» Flashback to Post-9/11 from Half the Sins of Mankind
All these conservative talking points about Kerry's being soft on terrorism (pop quiz: which candidate is favoring a resource-heavy war against a non-terrorist opponent?) are making me nostalgic for the conservative talking point after the terrorist ... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 17, 2004 4:49:41 PM


Apropos of absolutely nothing:
James Lileks has praise and advice for MY --

"Listened to Hugh. He had Matthew Yglesias on. It's not the token lib slot; Hugh has lots of liberals on the show. Matthew is the liberal blogger who replaced lib-blogger Joshua Marshall. I have to confess that I didn;'t read his blog much before he was on Hugh's show, but now that I've heard him for a few weeks I can only conclude that he is more interested in truth than partisan advantange, and hence has no future in politics. He was presented with several chances to spin on behalf of his party, and he declined them all in favor of stating his honest opinions, several of which I agreed with, or at least admired on their own merits. It makes Hugh’s center-right audience want to read his blog, as indeed I expect they do – if only to see what the other side is saying. Marshall, on the other hand, always sounded peevish, arrogant and condescending. I never understood that. You have the chance to speak weekly to the enemy camp, and you adopt the tone that confirms their worst suspicions. Note to people who do radio interviews with hosts who hold divergent opinion: be of good cheer. It goes a long way.

Someone please take Mr Yglesias aside and suggest that he leave Washington now. I mean, now! Forever! People with his qualities either turn into something they hate, get shivved hard in the kidneys by their friends for transient gain, or end up as gray pale wonk-nerds puttering around the offices of magazines that sell 17,000 copies but consider themselves influential because a President was photographed holding an issue 16 years ago. Go! Go now! Flee! The best you can hope for in DC is to be a modern-day Walter Lippman. Newsflash: NO ONE REMEMBERS WALTER LIPPMAN. Except the people who want to be remembered as the modern-day Walter Lippman.

It's odd, but it's true: I never felt more disconnected from this nation than when I lived in its capital."

Posted by: PG | Jul 15, 2004 8:00:33 PM

Shorter Lileks: MY could have a great career as the next Alan Colmes!

Posted by: Rob | Jul 15, 2004 8:09:09 PM

I suppose the policy response could be to reinstate the draft and just pave the Middle East. You would have to make the public case that there is simply no other way to prevent future attacks, but I don't think it'd be a hard sell.

Posted by: niq | Jul 15, 2004 8:14:39 PM

If there is another Islamist mega-attack, the pressure to do something to the Saudis would be enormous. An unholy alliance of some of the neocons, M Moore and the fact that the Saudis do indeed have something to do with Islamist terror would move it up agenda pretty quick.

Not that invading SA would be a good idea...

Posted by: Otto | Jul 15, 2004 8:17:31 PM

"they're not actually going to have been responsible".

A future perfect was also spotted at Calpundit (= Political Animal) just now. Must be their mating season or something.

Matt, if you choose to flee DC and join Lileks in Fargo, I can give you some helpful tips about how best to enjoy life in North Dakota.

Posted by: Zizka | Jul 15, 2004 8:29:32 PM

He won't make them feel good by unleashing scads of counterproductive manichaean rhetoric.

Posted by: praktike | Jul 15, 2004 8:32:59 PM

Man, the innocence is heart-breaking. What was it, a million dead Viet-Namese? Why do you think I have been so hawkish? We are not Spain. We have, without particularly strong cause, spending trillions on the military after winning the cold war.

Some on the right have told me the destruction need not be massive. We would simply demand basing rights and full support from every Arab League country, and go from there. We would not depend on the Saudis to take care of the terrorists in their country.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 15, 2004 8:33:24 PM

We would not depend on the Saudis to take care of the terrorists in their country.

shooting gallery!

Posted by: Troy | Jul 15, 2004 8:38:49 PM

Stop picking on NYC. I work and live within 10 blocks of GC Terminal (not Station). What's the biggest building in Sugarland,TX?

Posted by: Wren | Jul 15, 2004 8:49:58 PM

Dammit..exactly the answer I was going to put in KD's comments. Now what?

Posted by: DonBoy | Jul 15, 2004 8:52:14 PM

Death to the Chingers and don't forget to recruit your younger, beloved brother.

Posted by: FuseTender 6th Class Bill | Jul 15, 2004 11:17:18 PM

We would be dragged into a war with Pakistan. We would not invade right away, but we would demand publicly that Musharraf "get serious" and allow us to go into Waziristan openly. This would create Musharraf's crisis, in the old Greek sense of the word. His gov't. would either survive or die.

Depending on how horrific the attack, we could also demand that he neutralize the Islamist elements of the military and intelligence services, the existence of which, God help us, would have to established by our probably reliable intelligence. Actually, it might not, because a number of them might sense their moment and come out of the closet. They would certainly have a political base.

Musharraf would probably go with us, because he doesn't have a future anyway with the Islamists around. This would be IT; Musharraf and the secularist Pakistanis would either survive or not, the governments of Mubarak, the Saudis, Abdullah would either survive or not. Who knows how it would play out. But either politically or on the merits, there would be no way out of our demanding large-scale incursion rights in western Pakistan, and possibly no way out of demanding Musharraf deal with his Islamists.

Posted by: Sean Flaherty | Jul 15, 2004 11:22:23 PM

That's a pretty good, although sad and discomforting, point. Unless there's some clear indication that the hypothetical terrorists are affiliated with a particular state, there really isn't anything we can do.

Posted by: Brian | Jul 15, 2004 11:43:35 PM

The thing to remember about the Taliban though, is that they were making odd moves before September 11. There was plenty of noise in the progressive press about the terrible plight of women as well as the schools set up by the mullahs in refugee camps.

Does anyone remember the taliban using a giant, ancient statue of buddha carved into a cliff wall as target practice for missiles? These folk were crying out for attention.

I don't really see Iran and Syria doing the same thing, though I suppose if someone shot off a missile at one of those heathen pyramids or that sphinx thing, someone might notice.

That, and Colin Powell giving the Taliban $43 million dollars for "poppy eradication"

Anyway, I don't see the same level of progressive distraught in any part of Iran and Syria. I thought something was going to come to a head after they blew up Buddha, but didn't know what, and wasn't too sorry to see the Taliban go.

However, if you are in the plains of Asia, and have no natural barrier like the ocean to protect you on at least one side from onslaught, I could maybe see that the Taliban might have been better socially than what the Northern Alliance was up to.

Also, we haven't armed and abandoned anyone else from the cold wars of the 80s besides Afghanistan and Iraq, have we?

Posted by: kt | Jul 16, 2004 3:00:45 AM

If there is another large attack, Iran is likely to become the target. It is widely reported that many Al Qaeda leaders are there, in the custody of Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

Posted by: mitch | Jul 16, 2004 3:56:29 AM

What's the biggest building in Sugarland,TX?

The old Sugar refinery is pretty big. Abaondoned now. Also, worldwide engineering company Fluor Daniels has a big office building in Sugarland.

Bear in mind that Delay's district also includes Clear Lake. NASA has some big buildings.

I expect an invasion od the Federally Adminsitered Tribal Areas (FATA) will lead to a big mess. And may not achieve much -- the terrorists in question probably aren't there.

Best to hope the GWB is on the job, and that no additional attacks will ever occur. I think that's the most likely outcome as well.

Posted by: Ikram | Jul 16, 2004 8:01:48 AM

If Kery wanted to prove he was tough, he could stand up and get shot at for his country. Oh. Alternatively, he could fly in circles over Texas.
THe GOP knows the exact truth value of their contemptible macho crap, which contributes to my opinion of today's GOP. I'll take them out back and fight them over it, just name a time and place, bud.

Posted by: John Isbell | Jul 16, 2004 10:13:03 AM

What a bunch of optimists. The U.S. always has a short list of countries to attack next. For 30 years countries without trees have been high on the list, after the military concluded that the trees in Vietnam were the root of the problem.

Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran are currently at the top of the list. The choice would probably be made on the basis of every factor EXCEPT whether the target was actually involved in the terrorist attack on us.

On the world stage today, the U.S. is the angry abusive drunken spouse, trying to hold captive a world that wants to leave us. Read your daily paper for a week and you'll see a story that shows how much reason is involved in the actions of such people.

Posted by: serial catowner | Jul 16, 2004 11:19:03 AM

But I think the point is, even if whoever is President DID decide that, say, Syria needs to be taken down, the question is, quite literally: you and what army? We're scrounging for every spare soldier we have to pacify Iraq, and still don't have enough even for that. If the solution is to start drafting people like me, we're really screwed.

Posted by: chilly | Jul 16, 2004 4:15:06 PM

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