[SPORK] The Sum of all Fears: Reaction of the Muslim "Street"

Jeff Bone jbone@deepfile.com
Tue, 25 Mar 2003 10:51:30 -0600

On Tuesday, Mar 25, 2003, at 09:48 US/Central, Russell Turpin wrote:

> Jeff Bone:
>> We are, of course, continuing to lose ground in the war that actually 
>> matters, the PR war for the hearts and minds of the Muslim street.
> I suspect what comes after the war will make
> more difference than what is happening now.

Yes, yes, you've made that claim before.  You're missing the point:  a 
victory must make ALL the difference to make ANY difference.  Consider 
Bin Laden:  we wouldn't be in the same boat today if our behavior and 
actions during and post-Gulf War '91 had been different.  Policy has 
repercussions, regardless of victory.  To illustrate how easy it is for 
all this to backfire, let's again consider the very tame recipe for 
disaster, "a teaspoon of terror."

some largish pissed-off part of a population
a tsp of flour each

(I'm going to keep saying this until folks get the fact that no matter 
how superior our military capability, perception and policy matters 
even more:  in the context of a tightly interconnected real-time 
economy and society, asymmetric war is an extreme danger.  
Determination and the desire for retribution are the ultimate weapons;  
this was the lesson of 9/11.)

If the bar is that low for wrecking massive havoc on the US economy, 
population, and system of government, then does it *matter* that 
history is written by the victors, or that the reaction may cool over 
time, or that the reaction is generally positive among *most* of the 
people ?  It doesn't even take very many pissed-off people to do 
something like that.  Do you really think that victory will be so 
compelling that it will actually change the attitudes of *all* the 
enraged people in other countries?

And I fear that the above is a best-case scenario, a scenario involving 
an essentially pacifist point of view.

To a large extent, that kind of danger will always be unavoidable.  You 
can't please all the people all the time.  But surely most thinking 
people can grasp the fact that the more unpopular the policies, the 
more the risk of pushing a critical mass of people over the edge, 
entailing something like the above or worse.  Those who say "it doesn't 
matter that this was so wildly unpopular, because 'those people' didn't 
like us anyway" are being recklessly naive.  Furthermore, we've got 
concrete evidence of the kind of backlash we can face, from 
specifically the population that we're most impacting now, for 
specifically the kind of thing we're doing now:  Gulf War '91 --> 9/11.