TCS Daily


False Dawn?

By Lee Harris - June 9, 2006 12:00 AM

Al-Zarqawi is dead. Widely seen as the mastermind of al-Qaeda's terrorist operations in Iraq, his demise has been hailed by President Bush as a ray of hope for that long suffering nation, even a turning point.

We can all agree that al-Zarqawi's death is no great loss to the world. Yet the doubt remains, Will his elimination in fact make any difference to the fate of Iraq? Will fanatics stop bombing innocent people while they are out shopping in their markets, or going to say prayers in their mosques, because al-Zarqawi is now dead? Will militias cease to behead those they regard as their tribal or sectarian enemies, because al-Zarqawi breathes no more? Will al-Qaeda shut down operations, because he is no longer there to inspire and to plot? Or will everything go on pretty much the same?

It would be a relief to think that by killing a single man we could end the reign of terror in Iraq, or, for that matter, in the world. We would love to believe that by finally getting our hands on Osama bin Laden that we could end the nightmare that began on 9/11.

Yet behind this thinking lurks a fantasy -- the same fantasy, it should be noted, that preoccupies the minds of dedicated conspiracy nuts -- the fantasy that somewhere someone is in control of everything. In this case, the fantasy that al-Zarqawi was in control of terror in Iraq gives birth to the hope that with his death, the terror will end, or, at least, begin to diminish.

For many of us, it is at least reassuring that someone is in control, even if we regard the person who exercises this control as a bad guy -- at least that way, if we can just bump off this one bad guy, we'll be home free. The source of evil in the world will, upon his demise, immediately dry up.

What is unbearable to many of us, on the other hand, is that the thought that no one is in control of events -- that events are simply spinning beyond the power of anyone or any agency to handle them, or even to predict them. The idea that mere anarchy has been loosed upon the world is perhaps of all fears the one that civilized people find most intolerable, for it means that there is no one who has the power to stop the forces of chaos and confusion from simply overwhelming us.

No one should mourn al-Zarqawi's passing. But it would be wishful thinking to imagine that by taking out this one man we have gained control of a situation that is no longer under anyone's power to control. For the situation in Iraq today is like that described in the last verse of The Book of Judges: "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

Yesterday in Iraq, one day after the death of al-Zarqawi, at least four men did that which was right in their own eyes: they set off bombs, and killed men, women, and children who had done nothing to deserve to die. They did not need al-Zarqawi's permission to blow their fellow Muslims up; they were acting on their own. They were fanatically convinced of the rightness of their acts.

This is the thing we must remember about fanaticism. If you are living under an orderly government, like the United States, there is a single man in charge, and he is the causal force that sets everything else in motion. The President gives an order, and everyone down the hierarchy of command obeys it without thinking whether he should obey it. It's his job to obey. Furthermore, no one at the lower levels feels at liberty to act on his own initiative -- that is not his job.

Fanatics, on the other hand, do not have jobs; they have missions. Fanatics do not sit and quietly wait for orders to come down to them from on high -- being fanatics, they take matters into their own hands, and carry out their own missions, with or without the stamp of approval of higher ups in the bureaucracy, because, among fanatics, there is no bureaucracy, and there are no higher ups. To have the authority to act, it is enough simply to be a fanatic. What more does a fanatic need to prove himself than to display his willingness to kill and to die for the cause? The fanatic does not need to take standardized tests, or to score high on merit exams. He just needs to be a fanatic.

Finally, because there is nothing more contagious than fanaticism, al-Zarqawi may well feel that he had accomplished his mission already. He did his part to sow the suspicion and distrust among neighbors that is an essential element in the spread of fanaticism.

Unless we can come to understand the logic of fanaticism, despite all its alien and repugnant qualities in our eyes, we will continue to see rays of hope in the Middle East where there are none. You can kill the fanatic; but you cannot kill his fanaticism. It has a life of its own, and a will to match. Worse, what is enough to make sober and prudent men change their minds works exactly the opposite on the fanatic -- it gives him renewed conviction. Thus, those who do mourn the death of al-Zarqawi will not see in his loss the end of their struggle, but only an inspiration to struggle all the harder. For them, al-Zarqawi is not dead; he has gone to collect his martyr's crown. He will now watch them safely from Paradise, urging them on, and inspiring them with his memory.

There have been too many false dawns in Iraq already. Let us at least wait a while this time before we start to crow.

Lee Harris is TCS Contributing Editor and author of Civilization and Its Enemies.

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41 Comments

too much fuss
Good article but it seems like many people agonize too much about this whole 'fanatacism' thing, as with all those questions in the author's second paragraph. We often hear that these islamo-fascists celebrate death, and are proud to die for their cause, etc. But then we notice that they actually hide away so as not to be caught. Why would they forfeit all those 72 cherry girls in heaven? Are they hypocrites, or NOT fanatics, or what? Also, years ago when the Royal Navy was fighting pirates, for example, did they agonize of the whole thing, or didn't they just hang the pirates whever they caught them? Same now, don't we just keep killing them off?

Power of one
An individual can have significant influence on the world, for evil or for good: Stalin, Pol Pot, Reagan, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Jesus, Bill Gates, ...
While I agree some hope for a king to take charge or hope that someone IS in charge, the reality is that we all have the power to change the world, if we dare to admit it to ourselves (for then we must be responsible).
In the case of killing people like Al-Zarqawi, his skills will hopefully not be matched in others for a while creating a leadership vacuum, disorganization and his followers searching for another king.

No Subject
Seems to me that the USA, for all the comparative orderliness of its government, is anything *but* under the control of one man. There are myriad sources of input and correction exerting their influence at any given time. By design and by the nature of democracy. And, yes, by definition the fanatics are hot-headed and prone to, uh, explode into action whenever they take a notion. But that hampers their ability to coordinate and execute mayhem on the scale they desire. Zarqawi may not be irreplaceable but the loss of his support, shall we say, would seem to severely stress the whole structure of insurgency in Iraq.

The fact that this is a fantasy is what should lead us away from war on terrorism.
‘Yet behind this thinking lurks a fantasy -- the same fantasy, it should be noted, that preoccupies the minds of dedicated conspiracy nuts -- the fantasy that somewhere someone is in control of everything. ‘

The fact that this is a fantasy is what should lead us away from war on terrorism. Terrorism is more like crime or even like automobile deaths. The idiot Bush has taken worst possible path. Better to use police means to punish those evolved. The terrorists have more in common with David Koresh and Jim Jones than with an organized country with an arm. They are also little threat. The threat from terrorism is even small compared to the threat from automobile accidents. If the terrorists should get control of a country, they then become an easy target.




What is forgotten...
is that the Z-Man was betrayed by people within his own network. When the level of paranoia rises amongst fanatics they will start feeding on each other.

That is the greatest victory: that Islamofascists can no longer trust each other by the ties of fanatic devotion. There members can be bought. There organizations can be infiltrated.

Let the scrambling and backstabbing begin!

9/11 the greatest auto accident ever?
Is it?

How head-in-the-sand can you get? Comparing a conscious act meant to kill as many innocent people as possible to an unintentional accident. This was the Clinton approach to combating terrorism which means no combating terrorism at all.

Your basic premise is to sit back and wait and then let the cops pick up the pieces. Funny that you think Bush is the idiot when you clearly outshine him in that aspect.

Yeah right...
If you are living under an orderly government, like the United States, there is a single man in charge, and he is the causal force that sets everything else in motion.Our military is under the command of a single man. But the rest of our country isn't. People don't need the president to tell them to wake up everyday and go to work. Criminals don't ask the president for permission to break the law. Neither our government nor our military would cease to function if the president died. This isn't a war we can win by knocking off one guy. This isn't a war they can win by knocking off one guy. This is a war that will be a lot of work and will be won not by one glorious battle, but rather through the daily grind of killing people who need to be killed until there aren't enough of them left to do harm. There are no shortcuts or substitutes. We just need to persevere.

State Sponsors
What to do about sovereign states who fund criminals or who operate criminal enterprises?

Duh!
Go to the UN silly! They are totally hard on those abuse human rights.

How silly!
Why didn't I think of that?

Will bombs continue to go off?
Of course they will, but your dismissal of the role Zarqawi played in Iraq does not jive with the reality on the street.

Zarqawi helped to provide the infrastructure that supported and trained those terrorists. That infrastructure is now severely weakend. It will be rebuilt, but that will take time, and there is no guarentee that the new infrastructure will be as solid and effective as Zarqawi's was.

Zarqawi also played the role of romantic figurehead who inspired people to go out and kill those they disagreed with. That inspiration is now gone. This will make it harder to recruit new terrorists and harder to raise money in other countries.

Was Zarqawi the be all and end all of terrorism in Iraq?
Of course not.
But he did play a major role, a role you dismiss way to lightly.

we have taken your route for the last 30 years.
It was an absolute disaster.
The jihadists have declared war on us.
As Bin Laden stated, Arabs respect the strong horse. As long as we tried to ignore the terrorists, or pretended they were people who needed arresting, the Arabs felt that we were weak, and ripe for the picking. And they were right.

The terrorists need to followed to their hiding holes. Any govt that supports them needs to be punished.

Nothing short of that will ever stop the terrorists.

another advantage
As soon as these guys start to believe that other members are selling out the group for millions, then the pressure to get out, and get yours, before someone else does grows exponentially.

Especially if that someone else, in the act of getting their share of the loot, might result in you getting killed.

No Subject
Yes, the government has many facets. And only one scapegoat, one man they blame it all on.

a mere point of order:
"...If you are living under an orderly government, like the United States, there is a single man in charge, and he is the causal force that sets everything else in motion. The President gives an order, and everyone down the hierarchy of command obeys it without thinking whether he should obey it. It's his job to obey. Furthermore, no one at the lower levels feels at liberty to act on his own initiative -- that is not his job. "

No, as a soldier I'm obligated to obey all LEGAL orders from the officers and NCOs appointed over me and to not obey and, in fact, to oppose, all illegal orders. In addition, I'm expected to know the difference.
By extension, as a citizen, I should obey just laws and oppose unjust laws. And know the difference.
good article, just the same.

patience is the key
Although it seems to fly in the face of PC wisdom, History amply demonstrates that the longer an insurgency is resisted, the more likely it is to collapse. Recent examples are the disappeared Communist insurgency in Malaya, the withering away of the Filipino insurgency under Aguinaldo, the disappearance of the Huk Insurgency in the same country, the Greek Civil War of the 1940's etc.

It remains to be seen if the American people have that required patience; they didn't in Vietnam, but as General Giap pointed out in his New York Times interview, it was close. After the Tet, he was sure that he had been defeated. The American media proved to be his great ally.

Herculean Task
In elementary school I heard the story of the tasks of Hercules--to clean out the stalls of Apollo's barn, etc. And one of the jobs was to kill the hydra, a five-headed monster who grew five more heads for every one Hercules chopped off with his sword. I don't know if I got the specifics right on the recall, but I know if you want to be Hercules you have to shut up and keep going and doing everything you can.

It won't help the fanatics' cause
Al Zarqawi's death won't eliminate fanaticism, or the fanatics' desire to kill the unbelievers. What it will do is cut off a major source of leadership, inspiration, and funding.


I predict the number of attacks will increase in the short run. Any plans that are in the pipeline will be pushed through to completion, if at all possible.


However, before too long, any large-scale plans that are far enough back in the pipeline will start to fall apart. They may be rushed to completion and botched, or they may just fail to happen at all.


Within a few months, I predict the Zarqawi-less fanatics will be making much smaller, and much more uncoordinated attacks. They will do less damage per attack, and they'll be more easily captured or killed after attacking.

What to do about sovereign states who fund criminals or who operate criminal enterprises?


If they are proven to fund criminals crush them as the criminal enterprises that they are or give them an ultimatum. We have all the power and options but trying to occupy countries is a stupid option and war terrorism is a loser. Even if you are choose to destroy the Talliban and Sadaam there is no reason to stick around once take them out of power. We should have left Iraq the day after we got Sadaam.

If elected governments support terrorism you warn them and then start to reduce their largest cities to rubble. All out war or policy methods none of this half stuff.







False Dawn
While all the things listed are true, we should not pass up an opportunity to celebrate the end of one of the most evil terrorists on the face of the earth. It IS a cause for celebration eventhough terrorism will continue.

Floccina's Comment - False Dawn
The only true idiot in this response is the author Floccina. This person must live in Hollywood with the other nut cases.

I suppose...
the example of WWI is unknown to you? You don't go in and destroy a country and then walk away. To leave a power vacuum without trying to better the lives of the citizenry is just asking for more of the same.

I find it amazing that people don't understand that democratic government makes a safer, more peaceful world. To say that the Iraqis and Afghans can't establish a democracy is racism.

So you believe that leveling cities of terrorist sponsors indiscriminately is smart policy while trying to build relationships with budding democracies is stupid? It is such a line of thought that makes me severely doubt your ability to judge the difference between smart and stupid. So very one-dimensional.

Burn Chicago again
With that logic the FBI should have torched Chicago again to rid it of organized crime. After all, the city was supporting Al, right?

Nelson - Nail on the Head
Nelson - I couldn't agree more with you. You've hit the nail on the head!

oh an BTW in case you did not know it the people of chicago...
...did not elect a government that overtly aided Al Capone so your example is inappropriate.


Also treating it a police matter does not mean doing nothing.

Lets just not pretend that radical Islam represents a world beating force.

Stupid Suggestion
Floccina seems to think that we have police in the Middle East who can just go and arrest bin Laden. The reason why this is a "war" on terrorism is because making war is the way nations discipline rougue states that are beyond the reach of the police. Just who is going to go and arrest the terrorists hiding out in Iraq, Pakistan, or Afghanistan?

Furthermore, you ignore the real impact and risk of terrorism. Killing thousands and taking out two of the largest buildings in the world, costing BILLIONS of dollars, interrupted our financial instutions, grounding our aircraft, etc., is hardly a small risk. And what about nukes? Leaving terrorism to grow will only make the day that they have nukes come that much faster.

I am continually amazed at people like Floccina who obviously don't have a clue as to how the world really works, and what terrorism is all about.

-Bob

- Let the Police Arrest Terrorists?
So, Floccina, the POLICE should be handling Bin Laden? The reaction to the destruction of the World Trade Towers is a police problem? I don't get it, hon.

"Stupid Suggestion"
Dear rfbodi -

Thank heavens you responded to Floccina as you did. When I read something like what Floccina wrote, I feel as if my head has spun around 360 degrees. Thank you, thank you, thank you for bring to her/his attention the real world situation. I couldn't agree with you more and hopefully Floccina will think it through and understand it.

After WWI the west did not just...
Leave the Germans alone they Germany.

Defensive action exist..
...You must admit that they could never do that again. They have been after use for a long time and this is all that they could muster. (a lucky shot at that)
And if they ever did arise to be a real threat we would have plenty of allies to crush them completely and be done with the problem.

I think that I understand Bush’s plan to democratize the middle east, I just think that less intervention would probably bring that about just as fast.

The main danger in Iraq if we leave is a Sunni -Shite civil war which in the worst case would draw in the other Sunni Arab nations on the Sunni side and Iran on the Shite side but maybe that war needs to be fought before democracy and peace can tale hold in the middle east.



The people of Iraq did not elect the govt of Iraq. The people of Afghanistan, etc.
...

you don't think they would try anything else?
...

They sure did...
leave them alone. After they took much of there industrial base from them, destroyed their economy, and humilated them. That left room for people to manipulate the German sense of pride which in turn came back around to bite Europe in the ass. A harsh lesson and one that we should keep in mind when you just want to carpet bomb a civilian population.

What do you base this on?
>"And if they ever did arise to be a real threat we would have plenty of allies to crush them completely and be done with the problem."

Where have you been hiding? Who are these plentiful allies you speak of? The only alllies we have are already with us.

that's the problem
they left Germany. They left it a broken, impoverished, and embarrassed state.

A situation which Hitler took full advantage of in his rise to power.

Floccina, you are forgetting a few things
"Better to use police means to punish those evolved." - You forget that the Jihadists declared war on us long before September 11, 2001. The Clinton Administration proved that police means were ineffective after the US Embassy bombings in Africa, the USS Cole bombing, etc.

"The terrorists have more in common with David Koresh and Jim Jones than with an organized country with an arm." - As evil as they were, they did not declare war on the United States.

"The threat from terrorism is even small compared to the threat from automobile accidents." - The statistical likelihood of getting killed by terrorism or an auto accident is not a measure of threat level. The odds of me dying in a car accident are much higher than getting shot by a gun, unless you get so offended by this posting that you say you are going to kill me.

"If the terrorists should get control of a country, they then become an easy target." - Did you forget that Al Qaeda and the Taliban took over Afganistan. Did you forget how Saddam Hussein took over Iraq and how he gassed the Kurds and did the things he is on trial for? Did you forget about Saddam's invasion of Kuwait? Do you have a clue about how many times Iraq violated the Desert Storm Cease Fire?

Dawn is certain if...
we are all willing to believe and work for it.

Here is a great comment by JFK in 1959:

"Last month, Pete Wehner, a White House strategist, sent journalists an e-mail drawing attention to a statement by John F. Kennedy -- then still Sen. Kennedy -- in 1959: "I believe if we can hold out for the long run there will be sufficient evolutionary changes in the Communistic system in Russia as well as in China to give us some hope of success. The 'magic power' on our side is the desire of every person to be free, of every nation to be independent.... It is because I believe our system is more in keeping with the fundamentals of human nature that I believe we are ultimately going to be successful, provided we have sufficient self-discipline and perseverance to maintain our own strength through a long, testing period.""

http://nationaljournal.com/rauch.htm





General Musings
Lots of good, informed posts on this thread. Some not, but the rest of you have done a wonderful job rebutting.

Is it going to be the "End" & all will be honey & ambrosia now that Zarqwi is dead? Of course not. I'd laugh @ the old media & the left who are treating this like an episode of CSI, where there is a resolution within a tidy hour, if there were fewer people who side with them.

It is a blow, no doubt. Great pointing out that he was ratted out by his own, this is a big thing. He was a very charismatic terrorist leader - I've read several articles that propose that, while he may be replaced, his "shoes" will likely not be refilled.

Do you not understand...
...the meaning of the word "if"?

And you Bill Clinton?

You folks show...
A lot of faith in a big Government action.

This is a democrat type of war. Destabilize and bring democracy

Ar you folks aware that there are Gasoline lines in Iraq...
...If there us anything that economists know, it is how to eliminate gasoline lines and yet we have gasoline lines in Iraq. Our socialist federal government is trying to duplicate it self in Iraq only with the restraining force of our history. They have instituted price controls in Iraq there are price controls, they tried to do the same thing in Germany after the second world war but Ludwig Erhard outsmarted them.





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