FIGHTING TERRORISM….Over on Winds of Change recently I left this comment in response to Michael Totten:

Serious people understand how complex this problem [i.e., terrorism] is and how many different things need to come together for us to win. The unserious ones are the people who think that a bigger military is going to do the job.

Sending the marines in is easy and feels good. But if you’re really serious about winning the war, you need to go far, far beyond that.

Michael replied, “Yes I very much agree that we need to go far beyond using only the military.”

But today, via Matt Yglesias, I see that Michael has a TechCentralStation column in which he explains his skepticism about the Middle East “road map” and suggests a different approach:

The first phase should be simple. Terrorism must be punished. And anti-terrorism must be encouraged. The Palestinian Authority should be given one last chance to eliminate terror. And if the PA refuses, the U.S. must do the following:

  • Classify the Palestinian Authority as a terrorist organization.

  • Declare “regime change” in the West Bank and Gaza the official United States policy.

  • Support to the hilt every anti-terror operation by Israelis short of war crimes.

The first phase would not be complete until the enemies of peace are defeated, deported, imprisoned, or killed. These include Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It may also include the Palestinian Authority.

Since all it would take for the PA to fail its “one last chance” is a single extremist lunatic, I think we can take it for granted that Michael’s alternate plan would quickly come into effect ? and he knows it. And while Michael does say that there would be subsequent phases in which we would dictate the terms of a Palestinian democracy, that only comes later. In the here-and-now, there’s little question that his plan relies entirely on a massive application of military force, and the followup depends on a continuing military presence as well.

So back we come. It’s one thing to simply disagree: perhaps hawks like Michael think fighting terrorism is primarily a military operation and perhaps I don’t. But why say that you agree that we should “go far beyond using only the military” and then write a lengthy piece in which you advocate a solution that includes nothing else?

I keep running into this problem when I engage with hawks. I’m moderately hawkish myself, but that doesn’t make me blind to the reality that massive military force is neither practical nor sufficient to solve the problem of terrorism ? unless you’re advocating a war of total annihilation. Most hawks say they aren’t, and claim that of course they understand that there are important non-military aspects to this fight and that I shouldn’t make a straw man of their arguments. But when they put words to paper, all I ever hear about are plans for massive military reprisals if terrorism doesn’t stop right now.

If Michael thinks the solution to Palestinian terrorism is a replay of World War II ? all-out war followed by a lengthy occupation in which we impose a system of government and dictate national boundaries ? fine. But let’s not pretend that’s anything but a purely military solution, OK?