A Peril Beyond Their Reckoning

Remember the ending of Braveheart, Mel Gibson’s fictionalized William Wallace bio? After Wallace was brutally tortured to death by the English, the film’s Robert I of Scotland (aka, Robert The Bruce) intones:

After the beheading, William Wallace’s body was torn to pieces. His head was set on London Bridge, his arms and legs sent to the four corners of Britain as a warning.

It did not have the effect that Longshanks planned.

I hesitate to ascribe a great deal of logical reasoning to the thugs who murdered Nick Berg. Barbarians commit such acts first and foremost because they want to, and offer up twisted justifications as an afterthought. That understood, Berg’s killers were undoubtably well-versed in Osama Bin Laden’s “strong horse” theory, nurtured by thirty-odd years of American withdrawls and second-guessing. By butchering an innocent man on camera, they probably sought not only to assuage their own blood-thirst, but also to pull a Saigon/Teheran/Beirut/Mogadishu (or Madrid?)–throw blood in America’s face and watch the ‘weak horse’ turn and trot away from the battlefield.

Time may well change perceptions and soften reactions, but one day on, Berg’s decapitation did not have the effect the jihadis planned.

Despite the newfound squeamishness of the American press, video and pictures of the murder have made the now-familiar end-around to the public via the internet, and the immediate response is not exactly “Let’s quit.” I offer up a few nuggets of anecdotal evidence, the first from a college professor (no, not Glenn Reynolds) posting late yesterday on a non-political message board:

We have moaned and groaned for weeks now concerning the prison photos. We have worried about our perception in the world. Today we were confronted with just whom and what we are at war. War is war and it is not pretty. But we should see it through to the very end, totally humble these people, then build them back up so they may actually give back to civilization. It worked on better societies in the 1940’s, and look at the Japanese and the Germans today. And the Arabic people are far less advanced than the afore mentioned nations. It is time to take the kid gloves off and get down to business. I am reminded of how Rome quelled rebellions and wars: with thousands of dead Jews, Britons, Gauls, and Germans. Worked for them, why can’t it work for us?

Not an appealing prospect, but I daresay this isn’t an unusual point of view in the US today. As others have noted, we hear a lot about the alleged volitility of the ‘Arab street,’ but to date, the ‘American street’ appears to be the group that is not only energized, but also capable of turning its anger into policy–deadly effective policy.

The writer also brings up a point that almost everyone, on every side of the war, has missed or avoided to date. We talk about how Germany and Japan were pacified, democratized, and enriched after World War II. We haven’t talked much about how they were utterly destroyed and broken first.

Consider this as well, from an email to Andrew Sullivan:

I’ve never really liked this war and my disgust for George Bush and his planning for this war is immeasurable. However, I agree with your piece “Insane Spin.” I am still fuming about the beheading of Nick Berg, and people throughout the world need to understand the contrasting images of that situation and the Abu Ghraib prison fiasco. The world needs to understand that we will get to the bottom of this problem no matter where it leads. In contrast, al Qaeda and it’s murderers flaunt this type of cruelty because they believe it will make Americans run away. In fact, it pisses us off and this type of crap needs to shown to the American people so that we all know who we are dealing with.

Taking matters to a disctinctly possible next level, there’s this, from James Lileks:

Simply put: if a US city is nuked, the US will have to nuke someone, or let it stand that the United States can lose a city without cost to the other side. Defining


22 Responses to “A Peril Beyond Their Reckoning”

  1. htom Says:

    They’ve confused our praying that it not be needed with thinking that we’ve forgotten Kipling’s The Grave of the Hundred Dead.


  2. annika's journal Says:

    The True Atrocities

    The true atrocities are being commited by our enemies, not by us. But i pray that they will yet know the terrible retribution that awaits them. We must remain strong.Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say…

  3. Mike M Says:

    Challenging the only country who has nuked another in anger to a contest over who can kill people in the most creative way in NOT a good idea for al-Qaeda and the Islamofascists.

    We try to be civilized and mindful of human life and suffering, but when things get serious the USA can fight dirtier than anyone else can possibly imagine…and we win.

    Minutemen fighting “indian style”?
    Sherman’s March to the Sea?

    Want to fill in the next blank? Turn Mecca into a glowing crater? Have al-Qaeda prisoners re-enact the end of Spartacus on the roads to Baghdad?

    I hope to God we don’t have to go there, but if their nihilistic culture forces our hand, we can and we will. And we’ll win either way.

  4. Mike Rentner Says:

    I think some are losing sight of the purpose of terrorism.

    In this case, Al Qaeda is not trying to make us back down. They are trying to rile us up. They want us to over-react. They want us to act strongly.

    Their theory, similar to the Bolsheviks and early communists, is that all the world of Islam needs is a sufficient amount of provocation to unite and destroy us. They believe if they are united that they can never be defeated. They can only be united if the US and the west attack them. That’s why they have been active in France too. It galls them that the west is not united in warring against them. By keeping out, however perniciously, France and Germany are preventing Islam from claiming that we are waging a new crusade.

    These murderers must be destroyed thoroughly and painfully. But their goal is the same as ours right now. They want us to escalate our war against them.

  5. DakRoland Says:

    One has to wonder if the Islamofascists have thought through their own war enough to realize just how much their own people would suffer if they ever succeed in killing tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans.

    Considering the number of innocent Iraqi civillians caught in suicide bombs and even specifically targeted recently, is there any wonder left at all that these animals even CARE about their own!? Seriously, if they think that they can succeed by killing children on buses, I really have to wonder if these bastards have any humanity in them to begin with!

  6. Johnson Says:

    The approach to these creatures must be multi-level.
    Conduct an active information campaign assuring non-combatant muslims that they are not the target, and guaranteeing them that if they turn militant they will be killed or captured.
    Where you can, draw them out in the open and exterminate them, as in Fallujah.
    Otherwise, go after them one by one, and either kill or capture them. Extract as much information from the captured as possible, and hold them indefinitely until it is clear they are no longer a threat.

  7. King Bass Says:

    All this talk of WWII, Germany, and Japan.

    My, aren’t we just the Greatest Generation II.

    Do you seriously believe that the nincompoops we have in charge now are capable of carrying out a mission in any way comparable to our success in WWII? Have they managed to demonstrate it so far?

    Until they have, quit trying to lionize the Bushies and yourselves with the laurels of WWII glory. The same goes for those who love the Vietnam and quagmire language. This “which is the more apt analogy: WWII or Vietnam?” argument is silly and embarrassing. It’s not illuminating; rather, it’s obfuscating.

  8. Johnson Says:

    As many have said, this is a long term war–a decades long war. If it lasts the entire century, I will not be surprised.

    Of course, you can always vote for John Kerry, let Kerry surrender, and the war will end quickly. Then you must learn to live under Sharia law, women must be content to be mistreated, and non-muslims must accept being dhimmi.

    It could be worse, the Soviets could have won the cold war.

  9. hey Says:

    whats worse, sharia or communism??

    as for the idea that we should be worried about alq uniting the arab world due to an over reaction on our part…

    a: you only lose when you’re side loses heart and you don’t use necessary means to quell the insurrection.. czars lost heart, us lost heart in vietnam despite the fact that we were winning… uniting against an overreaction doesn’t win, its in getting the other side so ashamed that they give up (also known as dems)

    b: they can’t win, period… people united yada yada yada, but they can and will be defeated, especially if we don’t give up… you only need so may nukes to win…

  10. H. D. Miller Says:

    Our first response should be the one the Israelis took after Munich: Hunt the killers and planners down like animals, kill them like animals and publicize the hell out of it.

  11. legion Says:

    Just a damn minute. Collier and Lileks both make an excellent point – one that I’ve seen made several times in discussions like this – and then completely ignore it.

    If something catastrophic did happen to the US – a nuke or bio attack or something that wipes out 6 or 7 figures of people – who would we retaliate against?

    That’s a showstopper question, people! It’s not something we can afford to delay thinking about until after the shit hits the fan; you can’t keep going down the ooh-rah let’s-make-this-war-a-REAL-war road until you answer that question.

    Here’s food for thought: Bin Laden pretty much bought the country of Afghanistan and used it as his base of operations like a Bond villain. That gave us a valid target to crush; if 9/11 had been a WMD attack instead of airliners, I have no doubt we’d have turned Kabul into a sheet of glass. But Bin Laden will never make that mistake again, and neither will al Queda. You can put the safeties back on the silos, General Ripper, we’ll never have the luxury of an obvious target like that again…

  12. Sigivald Says:

    Mr Rentner: Maybe. That is, maybe their goal is provocation and not “make the coward Americans give up”. It’s difficult for us to say with surety, as both are supportable interpretations.

    However, it should be noted that “doing what the other guy wants” is not necessarily akin to defeat. The other guy, after all, isn’t necessarily thinking very well. The Islamists want (at one level, see above) a holy war. We might, God forbid, end up being forced to give them one.

    The problem with that from their point of view – though they don’t seem to realise it – is that they’d lose, in a bloodbath the likes of which the world has not yet seen. (Thus my God forbid, above. Like Mr. Collier, I’d rather not see that, since I have a strange aversion to massive death and destruction.)

  13. Sandy P Says:

    Um, King Bass? Isn’t there a book out about the 13(?) generations since the founding of our country?

    Guess who the millenials are.


    Problem is, my tail-end boomer gen and the Gen X gen don’t have the experience the GG did, never having to grow up in a depression, contrary to what some might beleive the last 3 years was.

    But somehow I think we’re going to get a lot of practice.

  14. SDN Says:


    You are making a very large assumption, namely, that we would give a shit.

    I don’t. You see, I’ve read the Quran, and I understand it’s commandments WRT infidels like me (and probably you): death, slavery, or conversion. That makes it them or us. I pick us. I would start with Riyadh and work out.

  15. King Bass Says:

    Sandy P,

    What in the world are you talking about???

    Do you believe in astrology too?

    The people who come after us will decide if we’re GGII. GGI didn’t go around talking about how great they were.

    This is too stupid a conversation for me to continue.

  16. Yehudit Says:

    “Do you seriously believe that the nincompoops we have in charge now are capable of carrying out a mission in any way comparable to our success in WWII? Have they managed to demonstrate it so far?”

    A few recent examples:

  17. King Bass Says:


    When I said comparable, I meant “similar or equivalent,” not something like “able to compare and contrast, as in apples and oranges,” as you seem to have taken it to mean.

  18. Nato Says:

    I’ve always wondered about who we’d retaliate against if a WMD attack hit us. These Islamofascists just don’t care about retaliation. Unfortunately, there’s no other side to participate in a Mutually Assured Destruction game.

    Maybe, subtly, the US should let it be known that if a nuke or a bio-terror attack ever appears on our shores, Mecca and Medina would no longer exist. Maybe they value those sites enough to think twice. (I’m not sure) Sure it would piss off our ‘allies’ in Saudi Arabia, but who the f*ck cares?

  19. King Bass Says:

    Sure it would piss off our ‘allies’ in Saudi Arabia, but who the f*ck cares?Sure it would piss off our ‘allies’ in Saudi Arabia, but who the f*ck cares?</i?

    Maybe you can be Secretary of Defense!!!!

  20. Rocky Says:

    Glass mat the entire arena and start all over. The problem with that is those people are like cockroaches and some will survive. Then it becomes easy to pick off a few hundred than a few million. Either way, those stink monkeys deserve no right to live anywhere. And that includes here in MY COUNTRY….AMERICA

  21. King Bass Says:

    Glass mat the entire arena and start all over. The problem with that is those people are like cockroaches and some will survive. Then it becomes easy to pick off a few hundred than a few million. Either way, those stink monkeys deserve no right to live anywhere. And that includes here in MY COUNTRY….AMERICA

    Thanks for that insight into a conservative’s mind.

  22. A Likely Story Says:

    Truly at a loss for words

    Updated: Juliette has some of the most profound thoughts on death. Please read them. Updated 2: Zombyboy, Vodkapundit, La Shawn, and Patrick have some thought provoking posts, as well. I simply don’t know what to say. I watched most of…

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