Thursday, July 14, 2005

London, Rove, etc.

It's been a while since my last post - I know there's nothing worse than an "occasional" blog, but I've been feverishly working on a number of projects that simply take priority over this. One of those is prepping a class on British politics that I'm teaching in Bath starting on July 25. Needless to say, I've watched coverage of the London bombings closely. I'm not by any means an expert on terrorism, so I have nothing original to say here. But, as someone interested in ideology and political culture, it just seems amazing to me that the bombers were home-grown, suicide bombers. Having grown up in Britain, how did they come to accept suicide bombing as a political tactic?

One of them, reportedly, studied religion in Pakistan and the others, of course, had become radicalized. I basically understand the radicalization part - we have radicals willing to kill for their ideology too (e.g., Timothy McVey). That's explained by some combination of psychological, religious, and/or socio-economic factors. But suicide bombing? Well, according to Professor Robert Pape, who has studied cases of suicide attacks worldwide since 1980 (and reports his findings in his book Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism), the basic goal of terrorists who are willing to kill themselves is "to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland." He claims that "every major suicide-terrorist campaign—over 95 percent of all the incidents—has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw."

For Pape, it's the homeland of the terrorist that matters. He has
"the first complete set of data on every al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from 1995 to early 2004, and they are not from some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world" including Iran and the Sudan. Instead, "Two thirds are from the countries where the United States has stationed heavy combat troops since 1990."

But this doesn't seem to explain the London bombings. The bombers might want UK withdrawal from Iraq, but that's not their "homeland" even in an ancestral sense. Whatever the cause, this is an ominous development.

(By the way, we can't ignore the role of our foreign policy in all of this. To say that it plays a role is not to say Bush or Blair are to blame for these attacks; just that our policy has consequences. As Pape says in the interview I link to above, "
The operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life." He points out that in Lebanon "there were 41 suicide-terrorist attacks from 1982 to 1986, and after the U.S. withdrew its forces, France withdrew its forces, and then Israel withdrew to just that six-mile buffer zone of Lebanon, they virtually ceased. They didn’t completely stop, but there was no campaign of suicide terrorism." And while we're at it, John Judis has a very interesting piece on The New Republic website about the need to change our strategy in fighting Al Qaeda.)

The other story to have developed since I last posted is "l'affaire Rove." My money is on Rove to survive this. Assuming nothing else comes out - like that Rove identified Valerie Plame by name to Robert Novak, for example - this will just be viewed as hardball politics. That's something people expect from politicians in general, Republicans in particular, and Karl Rove specifically. It's unseemly, it's borderline illegal, but it's not a threat to national security. Remember, people give the parties wide latitude to act in ways that they would not tolerate of the other party, depending on the issue. It's going to be hard to convince the average person that Rove - Bush's closest political advisor - would sacrifice national security for political gain. I'M NOT SAYING HE DIDN'T DO THAT, JUST THAT THE AVERAGE PERSON WON'T BELIEVE HE DID.

There's another reason Rove is still an odds-on favorite to survive. Republicans are, as usual, united in their defense of him. The culture of the Republican Party is one of loyalty and hierarchy. Their guiding ideology just doesn't embrace dissent as a value. On top of all this, President Bush hasn't shown a willingness to hold ANYONE in his administration accountable for mistakes. In fact, it's not likely that Bush sees what Rove did as a mistake in the first place. If Rove was eliminating a roadblock to Bush's march to war, and if the war was seen as necessary for national security (which inside the administration it still is, despite all the evidence to the contrary), then a little breach of national security for a much larger gain in national security was itself necessary. Ends justifying means and all that.

The bottom line is that I just don't expect to see Karl Rove leaving the White House anytime soon.


At 4:17 PM, Anonymous reaganrepublican said...

Sandy Berger got a pass on stuffing classified documents down is pants prior to exiting the National Archives. Why should Rove not be granted the same level of political "Teflon" coated treatment?

Unless there is some type of double standard, or twisted logic ... fair is fair.

At 8:41 PM, Anonymous Dale said...

I make no excuses for Berger, and agree that we should treat them both the same: neither should be allowed to hold another government job.

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