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January 30, 2006
Why Don't We Just Give Each Other A Big Hug?

John Arquilla, identified as a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey, CA, demonstrated an almost childlike naiveté in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday. He argues that Osama bin Laden sincerely offered us a truce, and that we should have gladly accepted it:

When the audiotaped proposal was made 10 days ago, the White House dismissed it out of hand. That was a politically logical move, given the need to appear tough on terror at all times. An image of strength and determination may be particularly important in the months ahead because Republican Party leaders have put security issues at the heart of their 2006 congressional election campaign strategy.

But there are reasons why bin Laden's overture should be carefully weighed and thoughtfully debated.

The moral imperative that should drive us is a sincere desire to end the long suffering of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Official figures suggest that 30,000 innocent noncombatants have been killed since March 2003 in Iraq alone. Many respected sources believe that this figure is grossly underestimated.

So if bin Laden were to call off his dogs of war, it would be a very good thing, saving lives by removing major elements in the insurgencies in both countries. Such al Qaeda withdrawals would sharply reduce the need for our forces to remain in these sad lands.

Peace would also prove a boon to our standing, both in the Muslim world and throughout the international community, where, after initial agreement with our attack on terrorists in Afghanistan, serious fissures erupted over the propriety (and legality) of our invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.

First, Professor Arquilla uses the "30,000" figure incorrectly. That estimate included all Iraqi casualties, including security forces and "insurgents" as well as civilians. Even were that so, however, the best estimates of casualties by groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for the containment policy on Saddam Hussein came to 5,000 civilian deaths every month, meaning that doing nothing except maintaining the failing status quo ante would have meant 180,000 civilian deaths by the end of next month. In this case, war saved lives, and lots of them. It also liberated an oppressed people from one of the worst dictatorships in recent memory. In the end, war turned out to be by far the most moral of the two choices between containment and liberation.

But that's not really Arquilla's point. He wants to have the US negotiate with Islamist terrorists for a truce, and he never even gives one indication that he understands the Muslim tradition of truce, or hudna. He says that we can always re-engage if the Muslims turn out to have given their word falsely, but in fact history shows that a hudna is always a false truce, a space in which the Muslim can rebuild his strength until he is ready to go back to war against the infidel. A radical Islamic fundamentalist would only offer a truce in the tradition of the Prophet, who used it as a ruse to ultimately capture Mecca.

Does Arquilla know this? He never even mentions hudna in his op-ed. Instead, he says that we should accept Osama's offer to build our standing in the Muslim world. Falling for a ruse would not build our standing with Muslims; it would make us look like illiterate fools and have them wondering if anyone in the United States ever bothered to study the Qu'ran before going to war against bn Laden and his band of radical Islamists. Someone should remind Professor Arquilla that we went to war on several fronts to protect Muslims from genocidal Serbs in the mid-1990s, and Muslims rewarded us with 9/11. They're not interested in the friendliness of infidels. They see us as a threat to be destroyed; they saw us that way long before 9/11, and they will continue to see us that way until we completely surrender or they die.

Arquilla looks at this conflict through the eyes of Western liberalism and expects both sides to have similar goals: peace, freedom, and friendship. The Islamists do not share those goals, and they never will. They only want total victory for Islam and are willing to martyr themselves and any Muslim in the vicinity to get it. The only reason Osama offered the hudna is because he's losing the fight and he needs breathing room to regather his strength and reorganize his network. Only an idiot would allow an enemy at war the opportunity to do that, and it seems rather disturbing that a professor at a military school would preach that as a desirable military strategy.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 30, 2006 5:32 AM

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» 'Give Bin-Laden A Hug' ? from Hyscience
He must have mistaken hudna, the Muslim tradition of truce (also known as a hudibiyya or khudaibiya, is a tactical cease-fire that allows Islamists to rebuild their terrorist infrastructure in order to be more effective when the "cease-fire" is called ... [Read More]

Tracked on January 30, 2006 6:47 AM


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