Civilization’s Fragility V – We’re now back to Hitler’s V-bomb

Note from November 2007: This was originally posted on a blog of mine that was hosted on Blogger. I’ve since imported that blog over here to C Good’s Things on WordPress.

I was originally going to write a post on some articles I’d seen in the local newspaper. But then I read Friday’s OpinionJournal entries, and found some much more interesting information there.

Specifically, I liked the article “Katyusha World”, dated Friday, July 28, 2006, part of Daniel Henninger’s Wonderland series of columns. In this column, Henninger talks about the new class of very short-range ballistic missiles, or VSBM’s, that are becoming a bigger and bigger part of conflicts today, and which are also proliferating madly.

Regarding the current conflict between Israel & Hezbollah in Lebanon,

The Hezbollah militia has decided to use unguided artillery Katyusha
rockets like bullets. They fired more than 1,500 of them this week at Israeli
population centers. Hezbollah is believed to possess longer-range missiles made
in Syria and Iran for which Israel also has no defense. They would simply land
and explode.

To me, this sounds an awful lot like the bombs Hitler was developing for England just shortly before he was defeated by the Allies in World War II. Except the modern ones are a lot better than the ones created in the 1940’s:

Mr. Rubin [Uri Rubin, former head of the Arrow ballistic missile-defense
system] shared with me an unpublished paper he wrote with Dan Hazanovsky on
“The Emerging Threat of Very Short-Range Ballistic Missiles,” or VSBMs. In times
past, the world worried about huge, Soviet-style missiles. Mr. Rubin says
smaller, free-flying rockets are now evolving into relatively sophisticated and
accurate ballistic missiles, “thanks to the steep decline in the cost of
accuracy–the falling prices of onboard inertial and satellite navigation
systems, the availability of cheap, commercial grade, high-speed computing power
and low-cost control systems.”

And both the new & the old bombs had the same base rationale: come up with something that can’t be anticipated, can’t be guarded against, and that will totally demoralize the civilian populace.

Henninger made a couple of very good auxiliary points too:

Historically the Democratic Party has committed itself to suppressing the
development of anti-missile technologies. This opposition dates to the
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. During the Cold War, when the enemy was
the Soviet Union, opponents of missile defense opted for the policy known as
mutual assured destruction, or MAD. Sens. Biden, Levin, Kerry and Kennedy all in
recent times have spoken out against missile defense. The party’s platform in
2000 opposed “an ill-conceived missile defense system that would plunge us into
a new arms race.”


As Robert Kaplan pointed out in the Journal last week in his review of
“Terrorists, Insurgents and Militias,” the biggest strategic problem today isn’t
past notions of big-power miscalculation but new rogue regimes whose ideology
means they “cannot be gratified through negotiations.” Absent any in-place
protection against the missiles described here, “defense” means either an
Israel-type counteroffensive, nuclear retaliation or–the Democratic
preference–open-ended diplomacy, cease-fires and negotiation. None of these
suffice. Widely available tables showing the proliferation of missiles listed by
nation boggle the mind. Put simply, in terms of post-launch, we are behind the

We are heading toward two election cycles amid a world unsettled by
missile threats–in the air or on the brink. To the specter of North Korea and
Iran delivering WMD by long-range missiles, now add Katyusha-like strikes from
very small rockets and missiles. Come 2008, we may see a Republican candidate
who understands these issues running against a militarily ambivalent Democrat
who has to learn them, like an unguided rocket, on the fly.

Henninger also points out that in response to worries about terrorist threats or attacks by neighboring countries, France has stated they will not hesitate to use nuclear bombs in retaliation, and Japan would likely arm itself with nuclear bombs if necessary to defend itself.

On a side note, Friday’s columns also included a featured article titled “Time to Talk; Diplomatic jujitsu could help create a new Middle East,” by Leslie H. Gelb. The damned thing was nearly incomprehensible. The U.S. can’t expand ourselves militarily any more than we have, so therefore we should threaten to do so. All-or-nothing force hasn’t gotten us anywhere (which is not what I’ve heard, but okay), so we should negotiate with troublemakers & terrorists instead, and the same leaders who supposedly can’t get anything accomplished with all-or-nothing force CAN be trusted to not be fooled at the bargaining table. And negotiating (and therefore recognizing) Hamas & Hezbollah is a good idea, and such a splendid way to be a friend to Israel in their time of need.

Gelb feels strongly about resolving the situation in the Middle East, but I can’t follow his logic at all.

Anyway, I decided to write a letter in response to the article. It’ll probably get edited and cropped before being published (if it ever does get published), but here it is in its original form.

I’ve grown to love reading the OpinionJournal not just for its content but also for how that content is presented. Articles that appear in the OpinionJournal always seem well-written both linguistically and logically, and along the way I’ve learned a lot of history too.

Sadly, I cannot say that of Friday’s Featured Article, “Time to Talk; Diplomatic jujitsu could help create a new Middle East,” by Leslie H. Gelb (

In the beginning section Gelb states the continued assault by Israel into southern Lebanon is creating a “rising tide of Arab anger”. Then he argues towards the end that if the U.S. began negotiations with larger regional troublemakers, such as Iran & Syria, we could include threats of air attacks against their military stations & oil depots, and “cross-border raids”. And talking about negotiations with Iran, he wants to avoid “Washington making the kind of public threats that serve mainly to rally public opinion behind Iranian leaders”.

So we should avoid making threats that rally the Iranian populace around their leaders, and the Arabs getting mad about Israel being in Lebanon is bad so we should avoid that too. However, threatening air strikes & cross-border raids against Iran & Syria won’t have that same effect and is a good idea. What?

But Gelb says these threats are okay to make because during the same negotiations we’ll also be offering economic aid, and encouraging our Arab friends to do the same.

Which sounds great, except aren’t the Palestinian territories & parts of Lebanon well-known for economic blight & incubation of radical terrorist groups precisely BECAUSE of the graft and general mis-use of funds that come with terrorist groups like Hamas & Hezbollah? And isn’t there a huge problem in the international Muslim community with radical Wahhabist mosques popping up in unexpected places, most of which are traced back to Saudi Arabian sponsors and many of which sprang up in places where there was lots of Saudi Arabian economic aid?

And then there are Gelb’s statements (all of these within the same paragraph) that (1) Mr. Bush must restore our military credibility in the Middle East, (2) the prevailing view in the region is that Mr. Bush can’t & won’t take strong military action in other parts of the region because we’re still dealing with Iraq & Afghanistan, and (3) even if Mr. Bush DID want to do open up a new military operation in the Middle East, “Congress and the American people” wouldn’t allow that, so (4) we’ll put NATO into southern Lebanon to handle it all.

So, we go to the negotiating table with a number of parties, some of whom — Iran & Syria –change their story repeatedly and don’t do what they say NOW, and have so far gotten away with it; and the rest of whom — Hamas & Hezbollah — are organizations whose entire strategy is flouting the accepted rules of warfare; look up the definition of terrorism, and then look up the Geneva convention rules and why those rules were created in the first place, and look at the differences, and that should tell you a lot about how trustworthy Hamas & Hezbollah are likely to be.

We’re going to make heavy-handed threats that everyone we’re talking to will assume we don’t mean. And they’ll be right, at least until 2009, because the current Bush administration couldn’t follow through on these threats even if they wanted to. If, or more likely when, these wonderful negotiating partners call our bluff, we’ll bail out and send in a multi-national force in our stead to hold south Lebanon, but no more than that.

And exactly how will THAT “restore America’s military credibility”?

Finally, and in addition to all the illogic documented above, WHAT is the rationale for using the term “jujitsu” in the subtitle for this article? There was not one martial arts reference in the entire rest of the article(!!), just a lot of advice about how we should negotiate in good faith with leaders who have broken their words before, and during these negotiations we should make some threats that everyone knows we can’t follow through on by ourselves. Somehow that’ll restore our reputation and bring peace to the region, even though any martial artist would tell you that trusting those who are untrustworthy and bullying people with empty threats both lead to disaster.

I agree with Gelb’s goals: get the Middle East sufficiently stable and prosperous that the rest of the world can quit worrying about whose turn it is to babysit it each decade. But I do not see how we’ll get there from here if we follow the steps
he advocates.

-Camille Good
Portland, Oregon

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