Terrorist Havens

Good essay on “terrorist havens”—like Afghanistan—and why they’re not as big a worry as some maintain:

Rationales for maintaining the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan are varied and complex, but they all center on one key tenet: that Afghanistan must not be allowed to again become a haven for terrorist groups, especially al-Qaeda.


The debate has largely overlooked a more basic question: How important to terrorist groups is any physical haven? More to the point: How much does a haven affect the danger of terrorist attacks against U.S. interests, especially the U.S. homeland? The answer to the second question is: not nearly as much as unstated assumptions underlying the current debate seem to suppose. When a group has a haven, it will use it for such purposes as basic training of recruits. But the operations most important to future terrorist attacks do not need such a home, and few recruits are required for even very deadly terrorism. Consider: The preparations most important to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks took place not in training camps in Afghanistan but, rather, in apartments in Germany, hotel rooms in Spain and flight schools in the United States.

In the past couple of decades, international terrorist groups have thrived by exploiting globalization and information technology, which has lessened their dependence on physical havens.

By utilizing networks such as the Internet, terrorists’ organizations have become more network-like, not beholden to any one headquarters. A significant jihadist terrorist threat to the United States persists, but that does not mean it will consist of attacks instigated and commanded from a South Asian haven, or that it will require a haven at all. Al-Qaeda’s role in that threat is now less one of commander than of ideological lodestar, and for that role a haven is almost meaningless.

Posted on September 21, 2009 at 6:46 AM50 Comments


Brandioch Conner September 21, 2009 7:51 AM

The problem is that the government and media in the USofA are focused on the Hollywood version of the Fortress of Evil where the Evil Mastermind controls his worldwide Network of Evil.

Or “Axis of Evil”.

Instead, look at the real requirements for training for different attacks.

Yes, learning explosives usually requires some space where the cops aren’t going to arrest you.

But learning how to shoot takes nothing more than a regular firing range.

We need to lose the Hollywood version before we can make progress in reducing terrorism.

Tom Welsh September 21, 2009 7:56 AM

Pity this wasn’t realised before – rather than after – killing tens of thousands of people to assert control of Afghanistan.

Certainly genocide that is the consequence of carelessness and ignorance is different from deliberate, calculated genocide.

Trouble is, I can’t figure out whether it is better or worse morally. And before anyone jumps down my throat for that assertion, think it through. Which is really worse: hating someone so much you want to wipe them out, or being so utterly indifferent to their existence (and human dignity) that you simply don’t notice whether you kill them or not?

Toby September 21, 2009 7:58 AM

This ignores two points. Firstly, prosecuting wars in terrorist havens turns ordinary citizens into accidental guerillas. Hence, fighting in Afghanistan might not have the desired effect of preventing Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist haven but might instead have the opposite effect of turning Afghanistan into a terrorist training ground with real life NATO forces for combat practice. (The same argument of course applies equally well to Iraq.)

Secondly, nothing’s ever as smiple as that. By fighting a war in Afghanistan (or wherever) it is possible that NATO forces create a distraction that sucks energy away from the cause of carrying out terrorist acts on the soil of NATO countries. So while fighting these wars might help recruit terrorists, it’s equally possible that these same wars help prevent these newly recruited terrorists from causing terror on the Western homelands because they’re too busy fighting for their own homelands against the NATO forces.

Of course, one need only believe they are fighting for their homeland in order to be co-opted into the service of a savvy terrorist organisation. This is made much easier by the presence of foreign troops.

Mike B September 21, 2009 8:04 AM

I think it does make a difference that certain terrorist leaders know that they have a place where they can flee to and live openly. It also boosts their own cred that they can thumb their nose at the great powers and make them appear impotent to do anything about it.

While Afghanistan seems to most people like a shithole, the extreme Taliban Government is just the sort of world these people want to live in. Just like agents for communist governments were recruited by showing off “socialist paradises”, such a terrorist haven would function in such a capacity today.

To deter terror the international community should take a page from the playbook of organized crime. Basically if you engage in terrorist you’re dead, your family is dead and anyone caught standing in your vicinity is dead, no exceptions and no sanctuary to hide in.

mcb September 21, 2009 8:12 AM

The makes the important point that the (justifiable) punitive expedition against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in 2001/2002 is not the same “war” we’re fighting now.

As for havens, whether Al Qaeda needs one or not they appear quite comfortable in northern Pakistan these days.

Clive Robinson September 21, 2009 8:17 AM

When are people going to wake up to the simple notion that the “war on terror” has little or nothing to do with terrorists but the then POTUS and his cohorts trying to “buy the US economy out of recession”.

War is general good for the US economy and quite often the economies of the combatants. Lot’s of money goes into circulation and other industries pick up on this.

A previous US President pulled the US out of one of it’s worst recesions simply by building infrastructure.

It would have been better if the previous POTUS had emulated him and not sided with his war hawk cronies.

neb September 21, 2009 8:20 AM

This article clearly identifies the new terrorist haven: the Internet (of Evil), as well as, to a lesser extent, flight schools and hotel rooms. For the safety of all Americans, these dens of terror must be exposed. We must also turn off the Internet and cell phones, or the terrorists win.

(Disclaimer: I didn’t actually read the article, but I assume this is where it’s going, as it seems the natural conclusion.)

no one September 21, 2009 8:36 AM

Can we at least keep our politicians from hearing this line: “…international terrorist groups have thrived by exploiting globalization and information technology…”

Also, Clive, FDR tried to pull the US out of recession by building infrastructure, but failed miserably. It was World War II that did it.

Brandioch Conner September 21, 2009 8:48 AM

@Mike B
“To deter terror the international community should take a page from the playbook of organized crime. Basically if you engage in terrorist you’re dead, your family is dead and anyone caught standing in your vicinity is dead, no exceptions and no sanctuary to hide in.”

Yes, because nothing fosters love and admiration quite like mass executions.

“It also boosts their own cred that they can thumb their nose at the great powers and make them appear impotent to do anything about it.”

And who is so insecure about themselves that it matters what some nobody in some 3rd world disaster says about them?

billswift September 21, 2009 8:58 AM

@Tom – I agree. I have long held that terrorism and even accidental killings should be punished harder than first-degree murder and political assassination, as a deterrence factor. You can reduce the risk of becoming a victim of the latter 2 crimes by not being an asshole, criminal, or politician, the first 2 are more random and need more vigorous dissuasion.

@Clive – the fallacy that war is good for an economy is just a special case of the “Broken Window” fallacy.

@no one – It was the relaxation of controls after the war that did it, not the war. Part of the problem of the Great Depression was a surplus of industrial capacity (no one was buying because of a lack of confidence), so to some extent the destruction of German and Japan capacity helped, but it was not a primary factor.

Carlo Graziani September 21, 2009 9:07 AM

The essay appears to conflate two different meanings of “Haven”:

(1) Remote hidey-hole, where terrorists can more-or-less effectively conceal themselves from being apprehended;

(2) Government-sponsored/approved sanctuary, where the resources of a national government are deployed for protection, training, arms, organization, communications, etc.

Stipulating that sense (1) is not a threat commensurate with the U.S.-led NATO response in Afghanistan, it is nevertheless the case that under the Taliban government, the Al Quaeda organization benefited from a type (2) haven. That is to say, the official Afghan government in effect was sponsoring hostile paramilitary operations against the West (and against Arab governments regarded as Western allies). An invasion and long-term nation-building/stabilization program is absolutely an appropriate response to this sort of behavior.

I believe that it is probably too ambitious to regard “stabilization” as meaning “turn into a new Switzerland”. I would be perfectly satisfied with leaving behind a government that was every bit as corrupt and inefficient as befits traditional Afghan expectations of their own national governments. But the irreducible conditions for Western troops leaving is that a national government capable of defending itself should be in control of it’s territory, and hostile to the Islamist movements that it’s predecessor Taliban government actively supported.

Failing that, we’d probably have to invade again in the not too distant future.

Yorick September 21, 2009 9:09 AM

To deter terror the international community should take a page from the playbook of organized crime. Basically if you engage in terrorist you’re dead, your family is dead and anyone caught standing in your vicinity is dead, no exceptions and no sanctuary to hide in.

Because that’s been working ever-so-well thus far.

IMO, the correct prosecution of this entire business is as a police action – enforcing the laws of the land – and involving anything much heavier than an APC was a terrible, terrible mistake.

paul September 21, 2009 9:35 AM

“To deter terror the international community should take a page from the playbook of organized crime. Basically if you engage in terrorist you’re dead, your family is dead and anyone caught standing in your vicinity is dead, no exceptions and no sanctuary to hide in.”

I call bullsh*t. Organized-crime gangs that survive are actually quite a lot smarter than this, precisely because they need the cooperation of their communities to survive. But it does work pretty well as a justification for the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon.

To get a sense of how important “safe havens” are, it would be useful to know how much effort terrorists spend on security for their core leadership (as opposed to the field agents, who are almost always going to be in hostile territory). It might be that the GWOT, by forcing terrorists to adopt an ad hoc, decentralized “franchise” style of operations rather than a top-down approach where most/all planning and orders originate at a central headquarters, has diminished the importance of “safe havens”.

On the other hand, if you make that argument you could also argue that from an intelligence-gathering standpoint you would prefer to have leadership and planning concentrated in a safe haven somewhere, because at least you know where to concentrate your resources.

uk visa September 21, 2009 9:40 AM

There’s nothing more effective than ‘collateral damage’ to inspire the next generation of terrorists/freedom fighters.
Ask yourself how you would react if the forces of a foreign country bombed/shot/shelled your family… even if it was in the name of delivering democracy to you.

Swashbuckler September 21, 2009 10:08 AM

Interesting, but it doesn’t address one point.

Sure, you can find SOMEONE to work on a plot, but how does an org find the BEST people to work on a plot? It seems to me that a centralized training facility would help “the cream rise to the top” so to speak.

Sisifo September 21, 2009 10:12 AM

Well, the article makes some good points, but we shouldn’t dismiss safe heavens. In Colombia, for example, the government gave the FARC guerrillas a safe heaven–the size of Switzerland–from 1996 to 2000 (for peace talk purposes). The FARC then used it to keep their hostages and plan their military operations leading to the highest number of terrorist activities and kidnappings in Colombia for several decades.

Michael Ash September 21, 2009 10:13 AM

If you think war is good for the economy….

Imagine large numbers of busy factories churning out the implements of war. People working hard to build gleaming tanks, airplanes, rifles, artillery, all the machines of modern fighting. These are shipped to ports, where they’re loaded onto brand-new ships, crewed by the cream of society’s young men. These ships, filled to the brim with all of this fancy equipment, leave harbor and head out to sea. Once out of sight of shore, charges carefully arranged in the holds of the ships blow holes in their sides and sink them, with their crews still on board.

This is pretty much the equivalent of a modern overseas war. Does this astounding waste sound like something that’s actually GOOD for the economy?

Topol September 21, 2009 10:32 AM

“By utilizing networks such as the Internet, terrorists’ organizations have become more network-like, not beholden to any one headquarters.”

But to be successful in the long-term, such organizations must plan for network disruptions — even more so when disruption of a supporting network is a goal of the larger network. “Havens” become part of contingency planning.

Nomen Publicus September 21, 2009 10:40 AM

Strange as it may seem, most people do not want to live in a near desert with little or no infrastructure (clean water, sewage processing, phones, roads, schools, hospitals etc.) That is why most people don’t.

Britain, USSR and now USA have attempted to control Afghanistan by force and failed. Perhaps it’s time to try another idea – drown the country in infrastructure (clean water, sewage processing, phones, roads, schools, hospitals etc.) Ignore corruption, ignore the religious fundies (who will object to everything anyway) and treat the locals as what they are, survivors of a disaster.

A Different Clive Robinson September 21, 2009 10:42 AM

The “wastes” of modern war have to do somewhat with the so-called ethics of modern warfare. Countries like Afghanistan can be completely destroyed using a single bombing mission. Quick and inexpensive if you have no morals.

BF Skinner September 21, 2009 11:18 AM

no one “It was World War II that did it.”

Isn’t war spending just Keyesian government spending by a different name.

@ Clive “Countries like Afghanistan can be completely destroyed using a single bombing miss”

Perhpas that’s why Rumsfeld and the last administration lost interest there? Spending a million dollar cruise missle to blow up a cluster of tents is hard to justify on a cost benefit basis.

An example of a control costing more than the thing controlled?

Mat September 21, 2009 11:23 AM

Havens may not be particularly important to people who are strictly terrorists. However, havens are very important to militias or other militants who need places to stockpile weapons and train soldiers. Sometimes the line between terrorists and militias can blur, especially in Africa.

Deron Meranda September 21, 2009 11:30 AM

uk visa: “There’s nothing more effective than ‘collateral damage’ to inspire the next generation of terrorists/freedom fighters.”

And we all know how that turned out for Japan and Germany…. truly the hotbeds of religious-extremist terrorism today because of what the “evil” US did to them. I think perhaps your theory of what motivates terrorism is profoundly incorrect.

Brandioch Conner September 21, 2009 11:35 AM

@Deron Meranda
“And we all know how that turned out for Japan and Germany…. truly the hotbeds of religious-extremist terrorism today because of what the “evil” US did to them. I think perhaps your theory of what motivates terrorism is profoundly incorrect.”

Rather, your understanding is limited.

Both Germany and Japan were aggressors prior to the US invasions and occupations. And they knew they were aggressors.

Pray tell, who had Afghanistan invaded?

Michael Ash September 21, 2009 12:01 PM

The reason the utter destruction of Germany and Japan did not lead to unrest is because the destruction was so thorough, nobody was left to resist. Terrorism, military resistance, anything of that sort has at its core able-bodied hot-headed young males. If you simply kill all of them, nearly to the last man, then nobody is left to put up a fight.

Compare Germany in WWII with WWI. Both involved Germany being an aggressor, being stopped by the allies, and being defeated. But in WWI, German’s defeat was fairly hollow, and left a lot of discontented young men to rise up, re-militarize, and start a new war. Germany’s defeat in WWII was complete and thorough, leaving no question as to who had won and who had lost, and nobody was left to dispute it anyway.

Clive Robinson September 21, 2009 12:42 PM

@ Moderator,

We appear to have to “Clive Robinson’s” posting this PM(UK time).

I’m the “Clive Robinson at September 21, 2009 8:17 AM”

Not sure who the “Clive Robinson at September 21, 2009 10:42 AM” is.

First off anybody who thinks,

“Countries like Afghanistan can be completely destroyed using a single bombing mission. Quick and inexpensive if you have no morals.”

Is obviously not conversant with even the best of modern warfare weapons, or the Afgan terain…

Secondly to be blunt people have waged war in Afganistan for centuries and every dog of war that has tried to take it over has been sent away with their tail either between their legs or shot off.

The Rusian’s were reputed to have tried significant chemical weapons and FAEs against the non urban civilians and it got them nowhere.

Admitadly the US Government where “suposadly” supplying weapons and training certain factions who may well have come from Saudi.

But the simple fact is even without outside support certain parts of the Afgan nation appear quite capable of defeating well armed and trained troops with little more than 19th centuary weapons.

If their main cash crop was not the Opium Poppy I suspect most of the world would rather put a wall around the country and let them get on with it.

You cannot just give democracy and human rights to a people, they have to want them and see that they are worth having and understand the responsabilities that go with it.

In most parts of the world this has ment the people uprising in one way or another and fighting to keep the hard won freedom.

Thirdly I do not belive a country can just arbitarily buy it’s way out of a recesion by opening the treasury doors. But others clearly do and have done in the past.

The current recession was a long time comming I was predicting it back in the late 1990’s. My reasoning at the time was based not on money but “hours of work” for comparable trades to get comparable goods from previous times.

To put it simply, how many hours did a bricklayer have to work to buy a house in the 1950’s and in the 1990’s.

It was fairly obvious that finances where out of kilter. Further manufacturing in general was in decline and moving abroad.

Real wealth is based on adding value to an item by transforming it in some way to improve it’s utility to others (Iron ore + coal giving iron and steel).

Usually this is by the application of energy of some form over a period of time (work).

However utility can be increased without changing a good, that is a ton of coal underground has the same energy worth as it does at the pit head but it’s utility is greater. Likewise transporting a good to a consumer increases the utility to the consumer. In both cases utility is added to the good by the application of energy over a period of time (work)

Monetary wealth however is illusiory, based not on utility but on how fast the money moves, essentially it is the engine of inflation as buying at one price and selling at another does not increase utility in any way.

Therefor to buy your way out of a recesion requires that you not only increase utility but do it in an area where it is needed to increase utility further to produce goods for a valid market.

Therefore it is possible to do by simply creating a valid and sustainable market…

It is not apreciating this that gives rise to the notion of “war being good” in anything other than the short term. During a war there is a valid market for munitions however the market is not sustainable unless you have another war to fight…

PackagedBlue September 21, 2009 1:12 PM

I’ll bite on this blog article.

Afghanistan is a happening place.

The gallant people of Afghanistan, could use our help and support, not our polluted words.

Descent into Chaos, by Ahmed Rashid, is a good book, copyrighted 2008.

The subtitle is also important. The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. Enough written here.

Moderator September 21, 2009 1:18 PM

“Clive Robinson” at 10:42, I’ve changed the name you posted under to avoid confusion. If by chance this is a real name collision, please add a middle initial or something. Thank you.

David September 21, 2009 3:24 PM

Simple economics. Terrorists have limited resources (fortunately), and they have to use them effectively. If they can get a terrorist haven without too much trouble, they’ll use it. If they become more trouble than they’re worth, because of pesky drones, cruise missiles, and US armed forces in general, they’ll do without.

Concentrating on denying terrorists havens is something like protecting commercial aircraft: it’s useful in its own way, but the terrorists will adapt.

Tom Welsh September 21, 2009 3:54 PM

I am reading Dornford Yates’ thriller “Blood Royal”, written in the 1920s. Most of the action takes place in a small German-speaking principality bordering on Austria. Servants of a duke, in the course of a succession dispute, burn an ancient castle to the ground by pumping gallons of petrol over the walls and setting it alight – knowing full well that people and horses are sleeping within.

So what has that to do with this thread? I could not help noticing that Yates refers to these deeds as “frightfulness”. That word, sometimes used humorously and sometimes with dreadful seriousness, was often used to translate the German “schrecklichkeit” – subsequently associated with Blitzkrieg and the bombing of cities. The Germans also spoke of “Panzerschreck” to describe the sheer terror that infantrymen felt when confronted with approaching tanks.

Thus, schrecklichkeit is a very similar concept to our “terrorism” – with just one salient difference. Whereas today “terrorism” is reserved for outrageous violence by non-State groups, “schrecklichkeit” was mainly practiced by states themselves, through their armed forces. Isn’t that an interesting evolution of language?

While our armed forces protect us against terrorists and strike back at those terrorists by carrying fire and the sword to foreign lands, they themselves cannot be accused of “terrorism”. But they most certainly are practising “schrecklichkeit”.

Do “terrorism” or “schrecklichkeit” ever work? Yes, sometimes. But throughout history, people have made fatal errors in both directions – sometimes by using too much violence, and sometimes not enough.

Doug Coulter September 21, 2009 3:55 PM

Whether war is good for (surely only ever the winners) economy compared to no war is always going to be debatable. The consequences of no war might be worse, or not — and you’re really choosing the lesser damage, perhaps.

This war (or set of them) is, I’m pretty sure, bad for the US economy in general for a couple of reasons, even if we “win” it. Or declare that we did.
(and where I say US here, I suppose I should say NATO, though we’re the bulk of it, though maybe not per capita, I don’t know the numbers)

Technically, we so overmatch the enemy in this case that we’re even canceling advanced developments that require innovation and making dirt cheap bullets and drones instead — and using more humans than predicted to follow the bad guys in the midst of the “innocent” populations. That’s not good for the economy. And, in a time where we need our economy working as hard as possible per person. We’ve put our best and brightest, most honorable people out of the country to fight it, when they could be here, doing something productive for us, buying homes (remember there are extra just now and that’s causing its own set of troubles) and so forth. For every soldier (for once, we can admire them without liking their orders, thank heavens) there are several contractors abroad as well — it adds up to a heck of a lot of people. And they spend a lot of that money over there, instead of here. Does that help us? Does their absence help us?

I’d rather have them here, improving society by good example — we need that.

I see this one as an economic loss, frankly, and am not too fond of some of the motivations either — a war on terror is war on a technique many thousands of years old, and likely to never die, which in this case confers more power on the power hungry on all sides. And oh yeah, was there a really good moral reason to take on a country instead of the small group of trouble makers?

I dunno, I’m just a dumb professional investor when not playing engineer, and I’m not seeing this economic benefit — that was some other conflict, perhaps. You don’t see most defense contractor stocks zooming — a few go up, but nothing special compared to a lot of other fields.

Even winning WWII, one I happen to approve of, didn’t help our economy as much as just leave us the last man standing in the midst of the destruction of the other industrial countries, so we had an easy time out-competing them. As far as absolute good from that — I think the moral reasons were plenty enough, but that plenty of just plain bad happened to far too many good people even in that one.

In that case, though it doesn’t somehow justify that badness, it surely would have been a lot worse if we hadn’t gone to that war, for more people, in the longer run.

Even in these times of high unemployment, there are always good jobs for the honest, hard working, skilled types — just the kind we voluntarily sent away. Though I’m sure it’s not universal, the companies I know that had to do layoffs used it as an excuse to mostly cut the low productive, bad attitude, over-entitled sinecure types — not the best (but of course they all make some mistakes).

At least that’s who applies when I post for employment opportunities here. I’d hire some vets over all of them, and can’t wait for the chance to.

I guess my problem is that I don’t have a popular conspiracy theory, I’ve worked in the government, and frankly, they aren’t that smart or that good at keeping a secret, but do tend to cover their butts and increase their power whenever they can get a little more — it’s like a ratchet, always one way.

And that’s any government, we’re not special, it’s just plain old human nature.

Jon September 21, 2009 4:54 PM

@ Swashbuckler: “Sure, you can find SOMEONE to work on a plot, but how does an org find the BEST people to work on a plot?”

There are no bonus points on offer for succeeding with style or agility. You don’t need the best. You just need someone lucky enough or good enough to succeed. Or lots of someones, in the expectation that eventually one of them will make it.

McCoy Pauley September 21, 2009 8:24 PM

It helps a lot if you understand that the word Afghanistan means “Huge Outdoor Testing & Development Facility” in both Corporationese AND Bolshiespeak. Wanna keep makin’ them Flash Gordon weapons systems, ya gotta show folks that they can “produce”.

billswift September 22, 2009 3:37 AM

The problem seems to be confusing guerrillas’ need for a haven for military training and logistic support and terrorists’ use of a haven, more for convenience and morale support. Sisifo’s post explicitly (either ignorantly or deliberately, I can’t tell) confuses the two – describing FARC alternately as guerrillas and as terrorists.

kangaroo September 22, 2009 8:39 AM

I just hate it when people start throwing out informal (and highly questionable) assertions (“fallacies”) as if they were logical errors.

The “broken window fallacy” is simply a parable — not a fallacy in any formal, significant way. It’s highly questionable when you move from a simply analyzable system (the local shopkeeper and neighborhood), to large scale interactions where you encounter a whole new level of behavior; what is intuitive at a local level, suddenly show new behaviors.

This is the equivalent of trying to predict human behavior from a few genes. This is the fallacy of multiple scales.

Whenever I hear “you are guilty of fallacy X”, where X isn’t a formal error of logic, I immediately tune out. If you can’t be bothered to make a proper analysis of a given condition, but instead rely on pithy aphorisms and generic metaphors, I don’t see why anyone would take the argument seriously.

Matt from CT September 22, 2009 9:11 AM

Also, Clive, FDR tried to pull the US out
of recession by building infrastructure,
but failed miserably. It was World War
II that did it.

Neither one of you are correct.

Long answer short, the original “Great Depression” had ended on a strict economic basis by March, ’33. Before FDR’s 100 days were over or any of the New Deal programs could’ve possibly come into play.

There was a second, milder downturn in ’37/38.

Neither the New Deal or WWII was necessary to end the Great Depression, despite the popular lore that developed.

That said, the actions of the Hoover administration which laid the foundation that FDR built on, the change from an agrian to industrial workforce, and then WWII which limited consumer spending (and thus increased savings dramatically), all did contribute to changing our economy dramatically.

The America of 1950 was far more dynamic and economically expansive then it would have been had it only been a recovery back to the economy of 1925.

Matt from CT September 22, 2009 9:24 AM

Even winning WWII, one I happen to
approve of, didn’t help our economy as
much as just leave us the last man
standing in the midst of the destruction
of the other industrial countries, so we >had an easy time out-competing them.

1) Hindsight is 20/20 and I suspect most people who say “I don’t like this war, but WWII was good…” back in 1939 would’ve been in the considerable number of Americans who did not want to enter that war.

2) The impact of WWII on the U.S. economy wasn’t simply last man standing, although that helped.

Between lack of resources / frugality of the 1930s, war bond drives, rationing, and industrial commissions which limited the manufacture of consumer goods during WWII, we built up considerable personal savings.

Some of that “savings” effectively took the form of deferred compensation like the GI Bill.

So in the late 40s we found ourselves with a lot of pent up demand for housing, for babies, for consumer items.

But we also had a lot of savings, and don’t underestimate the importance of savings in providing the confidence for people to start a business or go to college. Or to tell their boss something isn’t a good idea, or be willing to go on strike.

Wages started to stagnate once consumer debt loads got so high people were no longer willing to take risks, afraid instead of how they’d meet the next bill that was due.

The importance of savings to our pyschology is more important, IMHO, then it is economically. We had that personal savings coming out of WWII; we don’t today.

BF Skinner September 22, 2009 9:42 AM

@Brandioch Conner “who had Afghanistan invaded”

A just war need not be dependent on overt aggression by a state. The right to go to war with Afghanistan depended on the Taliban’s actions as the state government.

If a state refuses to take action against it’s own people who injure another state or people then the injured state is justified in taking it’s own action.

The Taliban could have kicked Al Qaeda out. That is what was requested of them. They refused. By harboring them the Taliban was claiming them as theirs.

subpatre September 22, 2009 11:57 AM

Billswift’s differentiating between guerrillas and terrorists is an artificial distinction without meaning.

Havens (harbors, shelters) are not needed by terrorists, but obviously make many operations easier for terrorists. Rifle practice may be commonplace in many countries, but combined fires (grenades, rifles, machine guns, mass movements, etcetera) is not common; it will be detected and investigated. Bioweapons can be made clandestinely, but field testing cannot. Etcetera.

Skinner’s point is that a nation incurs liability (as a haven) when it knowingly allows its occupants to attack or cause damage to other nations. That is because national sovereignty of the sheltering nation makes it hard, often impossible, for injured nations to ‘arrest’ individuals harming their citizens or interrupt operations abetting the injury of their citizens.

Simplified —not necessarily the perfect definition— allowing people to plot, practice, and carry out attacks against other people in other nations is an act of war. The ‘measured response’ is in reply to nations or failed states that may not be capable of adequately policing their own land.

Brandioch Conner September 22, 2009 12:55 PM

@BF Skinner
(I think you missed the implications of that name)
“A just war need not be dependent on overt aggression by a state.”

The difference between Germany/Japan and Afghanistan is that Germany/Japan had invaded other countries.

That is why there was not an upswing in “terrorism” in those countries after our invasions.

Whether YOU see it as a “just war” or not is immaterial.

Peter E Retep September 22, 2009 1:05 PM

In this era of distributed e-comm,
what happens in a haven needn’t stay in the haven,
but can redistribute and happen anywhere.

BF Skinner September 24, 2009 6:53 AM

@Brandioch Conner ‘YOU see it as a “just war” or not is immaterial”

It wasn’t just me. Or do you not recall the large-scale diplomatic and personal support for that invasion? The massive yawn of indifference from the Moslem world, even from Iran who couldn’t be called a US fan and should have worries about a war on the other side of their border?

War isn’t a mass anarchy there are rules.
The UN charter allows for states to defend themselves against attack. Not only had Al Qaeda attacked their history showed they’d attack again. States in war are also allowed to attack allies. The Talaban was by their own actions are very obviously Al Qaeda allies.

States have duties to each other some by treaty some by realpolitik. It’s why the US and it’s coalition went into (invaded?) Kuwait to kick out Iraq. Kuwait couldn’t act in it’s own defense. Did we invade Kuwait? Was this an act of aggression or did we respond to aggression with sufficient force? The Kuwaities would probably not have seen the US as an invader. Iraq certainly did.

So yeah a just war.

Does it chew up civilians and other non-combatants? Sure. That’s why it’s a horror and should be avoided. But we don’t have a world order. States on this planet are soveriegn and are going to disagree to the point of violence. (just wait until the water wars start)

BF Skinner September 24, 2009 6:56 AM

@Peter E Retep “happens in a haven needn’t stay in the haven”

Yeah you can download all the how-to’s from Jihad wiki you want…But to get good you need materials and room to practice in, places to blow things up.

A kid in the DC area is up on charges of “hoarding bomb making supplies”. The local laws don’t allow for it. Farther west were spaces are more open say Oklahoma or Texas you might get away with it.

Brandioch Conner September 24, 2009 11:21 AM

@BF Skinner
“Or do you not recall the large-scale diplomatic and personal support for that invasion?”

Let me explain this to you again.

It does not matter what the INVADER believes.

What matters is what the people in the country being invaded believe.

And every time an innocent civilian is killed, another “terrorist” is created.

And when they finally drive the invaders out, those “terrorists” will be hailed by their countrymen as “freedom fighters”.

John Waters September 25, 2009 9:17 AM

Another thing no one else seems to be considering… What constitutes an Afghan or Pakistani terrorist? “Taliban” has come to be used as a general term describing a pissed off Pathan. The Pathan are a proud and independent people, and many of them resent the fact that they do not have a proper homeland (The “Pashtunistan” movement). Some are Islamists, some are gangsters, some are just no good criminals, some are highwaymen, most are just hard working God fearing men that want to put food on the table and be left alone. The Pakistani and Afghan government, who do not have the pashtun-in-the-street’s best interest in mind, throw the term “Taliban” around so freely that the face of the Pashtun and the face of the Talib are smudged together as one.

What we need to do is openly and without prejudice identify the factors that are increasing discontent among the rank and file Pashtun. Zahir Shah understood this, which is why there was so few problems during his reign… The Pakistanis and Afghan govt, and by extension the ISAF with whom they confer, clearly do not understand this.

David R Tribble October 15, 2009 6:14 PM

I’m curious. How many terrorists who have actually been identified as suicide bombers or arrested for plotting to blow people up came from or visited Afghanistan?

If a significant number of them did, it would seem that securing Afghanistan really would be a valid concern to anti-terrorism efforts.

Talbot Earl December 18, 2009 2:10 AM

A safe haven provides critical mass and a breeding ground for lessons learned.

How important can a dedicated training ground be? – (Not to relate the two groups themselves):: “There are two locations which turn men into Marines: the Recruit Training Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina, and the Recruit Training Depot at San Diego, California.”

If Safe Havens weren’t critical they wouldn’t be over there dying to carve them out.

The US saw a native gov’t installed and left NATO in charge given UN Impetus:

“70.000 troops coming from 43 countries, including all 28 NATO members.”

“NATO’s main role in Afghanistan is to assist the Afghan Government in exercising and extending its authority and influence across the country, paving the way for reconstruction and effective governance. It does this predominately through its UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force.” {deployed since 2001}

As hobbled as the effectiveness of the US forces has become (satisfying lawyers and an enemy willing to sacrifice civilians and live among them) – NATO hasn’t gotten far enough into its mission.

Mexico is a sad example where corruption and lack of attention to festering evil is a great disservice to humanity – drugs and corruption – without so much overt international input from IRAN and the specter of Al q’da or the Taliban.

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