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ON KILLING THE BAD GUYS (A defense of America’s most underutilized foreign policy option.)

In "April is the cruelest month" forum on April 28, 2020 at 11:30 am

In which WOOF’s editor in chief, Old Bugler, expresses his up-to-the-minute-if-frustratingly-excursive views on nothing but 100% guaranteed genuine news, mostly in the annoyingly officious third-person, as befits his station!   


In what follows, your limitlessly bloodthirsty senior editor intends a discussion of the comparative advisability of killing people–bad people, that is–despite the long dominant view that appeasement through negotiation and concession is invariably the more desirable course, commonly said to render long term fruits never achievable by violence. Your humble editor submits that policies based on this axiom routinely disappoint, while violent reactions to violent aggressions (when situations permit and diplomatic gains seem unobtainable) almost always prove effective at rendering troublemakers less troublesome, while resulting in considerably less retaliatory awfulness than is customarily predicted by diplomats, or their allies in the punditry. If pressed, your editor will cheerfully provide skeptics with a compendium of pertinent examples, omitted here because this article focuses on a particular instance in which brute force was effectively substituted for conventional statecraft. First, however, we review circumstances in which diplomacy, qua diplomacy, fizzled infamously. Besides highlighting the approach’s intrinsic deficiencies, we hope also to adumbrate the case for diplomacy’s unseemly alternative: Killing the bad guys.

Showtime at Camp David

Somewhat ironically, Clinton’s instincts failed to alert him to the reality that the guy with the table cloth on his head was just there for the photo ops.

President Clinton’s desperate yearning for a foreign-policy legacy more noteworthy than his bombing of a Saharan aspirin factory to distract national attention from Monica Lewinsky, drove him to convene Middle East peace talks at Camp David in July of 2000. Particularly gifted mnemonists will recall Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat traipsing through the Maryland woodlands, posing for photo ops with an effervescently confident Bill Clinton, and otherwise occupying the world’s time and attention toward no actual purpose. In reality, of the three leaders wandering those woods, Clinton alone nurtured authentic hopes for a meaningful outcome. Ironically, his disillusionment commenced in a flash of heightened optimism when Prime Minister Barak unexpectedly shifted to an unprecedented negotiating tactic–call it inspired acquiescence–and yielded to the entire roster of Arafat’s demands. But, then, Ehud Barak understood Arafat–Clinton didn’t.

Thanks for the food…

“Yasser, you keep fallin’ behind, there, buddy–is that .38 weighing your butt down?”

Certain that Barak’s surprise concessions guaranteed an historic breakthrough, an ebullient Clinton sought out Arafat, only to receive (however belatedly) his first object lesson in reasoning with maniacs. To Clinton’s dismay, the ill-shaven Palestinian glanced over the proposals, freshly reconfigured to accommodate his entire slate of demands, and promptly rejected them. At that moment, and for the first time, Clinton must have fully comprehended the absurdity of the entire conclave. The peace talks collapsed, leaving the New York Times to put the best face possible on the implosion, reporting that, “At the end of two weeks of marathon negotiations with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians, a visibly fatigued President Clinton announced today that they were unable to reach an agreement ‘at this time.”’ In reality, Clinton’s very real fatigue was ascribable to attempting the impossible: conducting good-faith negotiations with a psychopath. Clinton, a product of the progressive weltanschauung, naively endued Arafat with the traits of a statesman–but Arafat was never a statesman. To paraphrase the late Roy Rogers, he just played one on TV.  Clinton’s blindness to that fact denied him a vital tactical insight: Yasser Arafat wasn’t in Maryland to achieve peace and prosperity for the Palestinian people. He cared not a farthing for that. He was there for the prestige, the press coverage, the photo ops, and the free food.

On to Pyongyang!

Clinton pressed gamely ahead with a similar diplomatic effort, this time producing some immediate political benefits including an applausive Washington Press Corps, a legion of foreign correspondents indivisible in their admiration of Clinton’s geopolitical brilliance, and a cavalcade of stunning international optics.  But those optics, gripping in their day, are no longer replayed in celebration of what journalists once hailed as a foreign-affairs miracle. They are locked in the media’s black vault of non-events, together with sundry other embarrassments staining the progressive record.  And who today recalls the woman who single-handedly disarmed North Korea? Only a handful of occipitally gifted readers will recollect the celebrated tour de force of Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright–the woman who flew to North Korea during the denouement of Clinton’s presidency, and against all odds ended North Korea’s nuclear ambitions with a wave of her diplomatic wand.

Secretary Albright achieving peace in our time with North Korea. Wasn’t it Mike Heron who warned us about “smiling men with bad reputations?” Madeleine must have missed the memo.

In North Korea, Daddy Kim (aka: the late and largely unlamented Kim Jong-il) hosted a lavish dinner in Secretary Albright’s honor, plied her with a selection of fine French wines, and invited her to attend a mass propaganda event scheduled at Pyongyang’s sports arena (featuring graphics of missile launches, topically enough). Albright accepted, “fearing,” as the New York Times rushed to explain, “that rejecting Mr. Kim’s invitation would anger him.” A scattering of critics grumbled a bit, but Albright’s determination to preserve Kim’s mood bore fruit. A watershed concordance was reached guaranteeing a nuke-free North Korea in exchange for financial incentives aimed at lifting Kim’s economy out of the gutter. The appropriate documents were signed by the appropriate parties, the appropriate smiles and bows exchanged, and the press waxed appropriately effusive. The agreement sailed through congress, and America’s sanctions on the North were removed. All players hailed a dawning era of unprecedented international good will. Secretary Albright jetted home to bask in thunderous bipartisan applause on the Hill while newscasters ballyhooed her miraculous coup de mâitre. Major dailies hemorrhaged editorials in praise of Clinton’s foreign policy genius, and North Korea–its finances newly unconstrained except, of course, by communism–continued developing nuclear weapons.

Secretary of State Madeline Albright succeeds at not making Kim Jong-il angry.

The Chamberlain effect…

Chamberlain returns to England with Hitler’s autograph–at least TIME got some branding out of it!

The history of American foreign policy is strewn with similar burlesques. Most begin as well-intentioned leaps of faith, only to yield in due course to the unwelcome encroachments of reality. Truth be told, diplomats, as the record clearly indicates, are terrible judges of character. This helps explain why so many of their most optimistic endeavors shrivel into facsimiles of Neville Chamberlain’s infamous “peace in our time” misreckoning. But one needn’t summon the shade of Adolph Hitler to blindside the average diplomat; any garden-variety despot will suffice. Foggy Bottom’s elites, like so many jet-setting emissaries and not a few politicians, are reared in the tradition that negotiation is always better than confrontation, that discussions invariably signify hope, and, by extrapolation, any interruption of discussions automatically portends disaster. But one could argue, if one were of an incendiary bent, that diplomats have caused or prolonged considerably more human misery than they have averted, mainly because their pedigrees render them uniquely ill-suited to recognizing scoundrels.

“Nonpareil Diplomacy”

A little “fateful lightning,” now and then, is a useful option.

What subtle but enduring factor seduces one administration after another into near-canonical reliance on globe-trotting visionaries, even in situations that virtually cry out for the expedience of the mailed fist? Your editor calls it the mythos of nonpareil diplomacy, which he defines as the culturally embedded axiom that violence is justifiable only when prosecuted by oppressed peoples; that almost all oppressed peoples are oppressed by–or at least because of–us–in consequence of which America is karmically obligated to forsake violence and rely solely on diplomacy and/or foreign aid disbursements as instruments of foreign policy. A codicil routinely appended to the foregoing is that violence never solves anything anyway, so diplomacy is the only feasible means by which to achieve our geopolitical ends. The problem is not that this nonsense pops up periodically, befuddling our leadership until clarity is restored, but rather that it so pervades the establishment mindset that any departure from its precepts is met with horror–even authentic horror–by the dominant political culture, which almost never reacts authentically to anything.

A slaughter of scholars…

Muhandis’ professorial pursuits included supplying weapons to Hezbollah, organizing attacks on America and Saudi Arabia, creating his own armed Hezbollah militia, and commanding the 100,000-man Popular Mobilization Units…all with just a bachelor’s in civil engineering.

As a case in point, the LA Times virtually writhed in anguish upon learning that Iraqi paramilitary leader Abu Mahdi Muhandis, whom they called “a bespectacled man with the mien of a professor,” was blown to flinders shortly after greeting “his personal friend and longtime ally, Iranian General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force,” by the brute, Donald Trump. After exchanging hugs and (culturally appropriate) kisses at the Baghdad airport, the pair climbed aboard an SUV and, with a small party of associates, headed onto the highway. Seconds later, their SUV exploded, blasted by a missile from an American MQ-9 Reaper drone. But we are slightly ahead of ourselves.

The Times’s depiction of Muhandis as a bespectacled intellectual whose contemplative repose was brutally shattered by the trigger happy Trump, was a virtual homage, hearkening back to the now-infamous effort by the Washington Post to portray slain Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (finally killed in Syria during an October, 2019 raid by American commandos), as “an austere religious scholar with wire-frame glasses and no known aptitude for fighting and killing.” In fairness, the Post’s obituary may not be entirely ascribable to the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. A classic ISIS propaganda video depicts Baghdadi blazing away with his AK-47–until it jams–at which point he gawks dumbfoundedly at the weapon until a minion pops into the frame and clears the jam for him. In this sense, Baghdadi’s aptitude for fighting might fairly be judged wanting–he was always more of a big-picture butcher.

“Austere religious scholar” al-Baghdadi–who apparently wore his wire-frame spectacles exclusively in the company of Washington Post staff writers, shown here sharing a few scholarly religious thoughts, his trusty “Draco” Kalashnikov assault rifle to his right.

“The guy who could build bridges…”

Siam-Abdullahu-Abu-Bakr-Al-Baghdadi, austerely religious at last.

Mimicking the “Gray Lady’s” grief-stricken motif, NBC news found a moment to reflect upon the finesse with which Baghdadi “maintained a canny pragmatism as leader, melding a fractious mix of radical Islamist militants and former Iraqi Baathists and army officers into a powerful military force capable of overrunning cities and defeating Iraqi divisions in battle.” NBC omitted adding “the better to kill as many Americans as possible together with an endless array of Iraqis and anyone else they didn’t approve of,” but editing news for broadcast often results in the excerption of minor details. For balance, the network sought the views of William McCants, a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy who gushed, “He was the guy who could build bridges between the foreign fighters and local Iraqis.” One can forgive NBC a momentary tearing of the eye, then, upon learning that such a pillar of Islamic unity, finding himself cornered by U.S. commandos, elected to blow himself and at least three of his children to smithereens by detonating his bomb vest–a cannily pragmatic alternative, presumably, to despoliation at the hands of infidels. But America’s fourth estate barely had time to mourn its loss when still more distressing news arrived.

Bespectacled man explodes!

The above-mentioned incineration by “droning” of General Qassem Suleimani and his traveling companions, followed fast upon the the group’s supervision of attacks on America’s embassy in Iraq. Attacking our embassy was unarguably an act of war, since embassies are internationally recognized as the native soil of the nation they represent, but Iran previously ignored this detail in 1979 when it overran our embassy in Tehran and held fifty-two American citizens hostage for 444 days. They were released–instructively, one dares say–the moment Ronald Reagan relieved Jimmy Carter of the presidency. Even the Mullahs recognized that Reagan, unlike his predecessor, was not one to preoccupy himself with nonpareil diplomacy.

Abdul Reza Shahlai, whose drone seems to be running late.

On the Tuesday prior to being blown up, Muhandis and Suleimani supervised attacks by so-called “supporters of Iranian militias” on the US Embassy in Baghdad.  But this time, the embassy attack was decisively repelled, and the planners annihilated. Besides Muhandis and Suleimani, the American drone strike killed the no-less-egregious Brigadier General Hussein Jafari Nia, Major-General Hadi Terumi, Colonel of the Guards Shahroud Mozaffari Nia, and Captain Waheed Zamanian.​ ​Naming “unnamed defense officials” as its sources, CBS took solace in reporting that the “U.S. military unsuccessfully attempted to kill Abdul Reza Shahlai, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Yemen on the same day…” Perhaps so, but to paraphrase Meatloaf, six out of seven ain’t bad.

Acts of war…

Majid Takht Ravanchi explains how “military acts of war” are also “acts of terror” when your own guys get killed.

The Times of Israel offered an unvarnished description of the strike’s chief target, pegging Soleimani as “a deadly adversary [of] the US and its allies,” and “one of the most important power brokers across the region, setting Iran’s political and military agenda in Syria, Iraq and Yemen,” that agenda, of course, being the meting out of as much death and destruction as possible, whenever possible, wherever possible. But the only act of war recognized by the American liberal establishment–was Trump’s. The Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, gained overnight celebrity status by denouncing the drone strike. “Last night [the US] started a military war,” blurted Ravanchi, “by assassinating by an act of terror against one of our top generals. So what else can be expected of Iran to do? We cannot just remain silent. We have to act and we will act!”

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