Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Meanwhile, 2500 years ago...

When Xerxes was irritated by the Athenians aiding the Ionian rebels, did he send a small expeditionary force to rough them up a bit? Did he ensure that his response was strictly proportional to the size of the insult he had received from Athens? Did he hire the minimal amount of Phoenician warships that he estimated would have a fair chance of beating the Athenian navy? No, he knew that the principle of war is to attack in strength at weakness. Thus, he went for massive overkill and amassed the greatest army the world had ever seen. Of course, all we remember nowadays is that the Greeks beat Xerxes. But that gigantic army of his crossed the Hellespont and marched all the way through Thrace, Macedonia, and Thessaly, almost all the way to Athens, without having to fight anyone*. Most of the Greek cities on the way joined him, because he was so obviously going to win. He made good all of his losses after Thermopylae by more Greek cities throwing in their lot with him as his army kept advancing to Athens. Which they trashed. So, leaving aside the fact that Xerxes then got whipped at Salamis, lost his nerve, and ‘redeployed’ out of Greece, I think his actions show the proper way the ‘War on Terror’ should have been approached.

It would appear, says Crackpot Neoconservative National Security Advisor Dr Clam, one bright sunny morning in October 2001, that there are certain countries which are state sponsors of terrorism of a jihadist stripe. These countries seem to be Libya, The Palestinian Authority, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Gosh, says the President, that sounds bad. What can we do?
Let us declare to all the countries on this list that they can either fight us, or fight with us in beating up the others, says Dr Clam. Then, let us amass a ground force of two million men and commence an attack on the smallest and weakest of the nations that has opted to fight us. If, after it is defeated, there remain nations that still want to fight us, let us move onto the next weakest. Et cetera.
My God! says the President. You are a lunatic.
Bwahahahahaha, says Dr Clam.

Hmm, that scenario didn’t quite end up at the place it was meant to end up, when it started. But it seems to me that we will still have to fight all of those people, or co-opt them to our side, or lose. It will just be a much more messy and drawn out problem.

Marco’s blog says that it is dedicated to solving the world’s problems, one at a time. At the moment I can’t think of any solutions to any of the world’s problems. I don’t know if I can carry on attempting to put together arguments as to why we should follow one course of action or another, when none of the alternatives I can think of are very good.
I may have to re-invent this blog as one dedicated purely to the line-by-line exegesis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


Marco said...

I don't know that it's as bad as all that. Fair enough, there is no effective action that the major powers for good can do at this point. The current situation is bound to "ripen" as in develop to a point where some action makes sense. Out of those countries mentioned, only Syria and Iran need now turn or be conquered. And perhaps the recent turn of events may drain their various resources enough to weaken their posture.

Dave said...

Quick response - probably not a retort - because I am supposed to be working:

The advantage that Xerxes had that the USA currently does not is that he didn't have to have it both ways: he saw a problem that could be dealt with using overwhelming force and dealt with it.

The US, despite its position of supremacy, is not capable of wholly unilateral action. It cannot realistically assert its will irrespective of international opinion. Oh, it can up to a point, which under Bush it has prodded and probed constantly, but there is a line it really can't cross.

Apart from any other considerations, America is in debt to its eyeballs - a concerted effort (coughsanctionscough) against it by a sufficiently appalled Rest of World Coalition can and would effectively destroy US economic power. Sure, the Middle East may be a vast, peacefully smoking ruin with a walled-off, shell-shocked and slightly radioactive Israel in the middle, but America won't be calling the shots any more.

Enter China, India, Russia and anyone else with a cheapish labour force and/or decent natural resources.

But screw it: if America and Israel want to break Syria and Iran, he's an idea - attack fucking Syria or Iran. The bloody Lebanese may be schmucks for letting Syria whack their democratically-inclined leader and allowing Hezbollah free reign to lob rockets wherever, but neither the US or Israel are exactly in a position to throw stone on that score. They don't appear to have done much to warrant attacks against infrastructure or civilians (or UN observers!).

Or maybe Bush could get Kofi to talk to Assad and make soimething happen. Git.

(Yeah, okay, that was a cheap shot, but he's still a dumbarse).

Dave said...

Hmm. That wasn't a quick note. Sorry.

Dr. Clam said...

I'm not sure the 'Rest of the World' would be sufficiently organised to implement sanctions, as opposed to gesticulating feebly, even if vivisection of Palestinian orphans were made a core plank of the 2008 Republican party platform. And I am sure that implementing sanctions would bring the whole world economy down in a shambolic heap that would make the 1930s look pretty good, so dependent is the Asian economic miracle on American markets and American food exports. But your basic point is correct, Unca Dave: the international climate is unfavourable for taking unilateral action. Thus I am unable to recommend any course of action at this stage, only put one into the mouth of someone back in that brief window of time when it might have been possible to implement it. You're right that a big reason Xerxes could go for massive unilateral force is because the only equivalent powers in the world would hear about it only months or years afterwards. I must go see if you've made any comments in Marco-land now!

Dave said...

I haven't, because my time is tightly constrained this week, but I will dash over there and say something insightful or provocative, as a partying shot before I head off.