SPEAKING THE SAME LANGUAGE….Matt Yglesias was listening to the talking heads on CNN read some viewer mail this morning:

One common trope was that the unspecified “they” we’re fighting in Iraq “knows only violence” or else “only understands force.” I know it’s a strange comment for a blogger to make, but I wonder where all these instant experts on the psychology of the Iraqi insurgency came from. America’s intelligence services don’t seem quite sure who “they” are, much less what the full scope of their knowledge is.

CNN’s armchair sociologists aren’t the only ones who believe this. Steve Coll, in Ghost Wars, reports the following from Osama bin Laden’s mentor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in 1998:

Like bin Laden, al-Zawahiri believed that it was time for jihadists to carry the war to “the distant enemy”….A key war-fighting principle, al-Zawahiri believed, was “the need to inflict the maximum casualties against the opponent, for this is the language understood by the West, no matter how much time and effort such operations take.”

That’s why they attacked the Twin Towers. Because everyone knows the only language westerners understand is force.

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