Friday, November 16, 2007


The journalist Bernard Fall noted that the French, after Dien Bien Phu, had no choice but to leave Southeast Asia. America, with its vast military, financial, and technological resources, was able to stay because it had the capacity to keep making the same mistakes over and over. Our war against "terrorism" has been in many ways a domestic version of our Vietnam strategy. We keep making the same mistakes over and over because, until now, we could afford to. One of these has been to define the problem by its manifestations rather than its causes. This turns a resolvable political problem into a irresolvable technical problem, because while, for example, there are clearly solutions to the Middle East crisis, there are no other solutions to the guerilla violence that grows from the failure to end it.

In other words, if you define the problem as "a struggle against terrorism" you have already admitted defeat because the guerilla will always have the upper hand against a centralized, technology-dependent society such as ours. There is one way to deal with guerilla warfare and that is to resolve the problems that allow it to thrive. The trick is to undermine the violence of the most bitter by dealing honestly with the complaints of the most rational. - Sam Smith

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