micah holmquist's irregular thoughts and links

Welcome to the musings and notes of a Cadillac, Michigan based writer named Micah Holmquist, who is bothered by his own sarcasm.

Please send him email at micahth@chartermi.net.

Holmquist's full archives are listed here.

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Sites Holmquist trys, and often fails, to go no more than a couple of days without visiting (some of which Holmquist regularly swipes links from without attribution)

Aljazeera.Net English
AlterNet (War on Iraq)
Alternative Press Review
Always Low Prices -- Always
Another Irani online
antiwar.com (blog)
Asia Times Online
Axis of Logic
Baghdad Burning (riverbend)
BBC News
blogdex.net ("track this weblog")
The Christian Science Monitor (Daily Update)
Common Dreams
Daily Rotten
Democracy Now
The Drudge Report
Eat the Press (Harry Shearer, The Huffington Post)
Empire Notes (Rahul Mahajan)
frontpagemag.com (HorowitzWatch)
Guardian Unlimited
The Independent
Information Clearing House
Informed Comment (Juan Cole)
Iranians for Peace

Iraq Dispatches (Dahr Jamail)
Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation
Iraq Occupation and Resistance Report (Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice)
Mr. Show and Other Comedy
The Narco News Bulletin (blog)
The New York Times
Occupation Watch
Political Theory Daily Review
Press Action
Project Syndicate
Raed in the Middle (Raed Jarrar)
The Simpsons Archive
Simpsons Collector Sector
Technorati ("search for mth.blogspot.com")
United States Central Command
U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Iraq
War Report (Project on Defense Alternatives)
The Washington Post
Wildfire (Jo Wilding)
wood s lot
www.mnftiu.cc (David Rees)

Blogs that for one reason or another Holmquist would like to read on at least something of a regular basis (always in development)

Thivai Abhor
As'ad AbuKhalil
Ken Adrian
Christopher Allbritton
Douglas Anders
Mark W. Anderson
Aziz Ansari
Atomic Archive
James Benjamin
Elton Beard
Charlie Bertsch
alister black
Blame India Watch
Blog Left: Critical Interventions Warblog / war blog
Igor Boog
Martin Butler
Chris Campbell
James M. Capozzola
Avedon Carol
Elaine Cassel
cats blog
Jeff Chang
Margaret Cho
Citizens Of Upright Moral Character
Louis CK
Les Dabney
Natalie Davis
Scoobie Davis
The Day Job
Jodi Dean
Dominic Duval
Steve Earle
Daniel Ellsberg
Tom Engelhardt
Lisa English
Barbara Flaska
Brian Flemming
Joe Foster
Yoshie Furuhashi
Al Giordano
Rob Goodspeed
Grand Puba
Guardian Unlimited Weblog
Pete Guither
The Hairy Eyeball
Ray Hanania
Mark Hand
Hector Rottweiller Jr's Web Log Jim Henley Arvin Hill Hit & Run (Reason) Hugo Clark Humphrey Indri The Iraqi Agora Dru Oja Jay Jeff Lynne d Johnson Dallas Jones Julia Kane Blues Benjamin Kepple Ken Layne Phil Leggiere Brian Linse Adam Magazine Majority Report Radio Marc Maron Josh Marshall Jeralyn Merritt J.R. Mooneyham Michael Scott Moore Bob Morris Bob Mould Mr. Show and Tell Muslims For Nader/Camejo David Neiwert NewPages Weblog Aimee Nezhukumatathil Sean O'Brien Patton Oswalt The Panda's Thumb Randy Paul Rodger A. Payne Ian Penman politx Neal Pollack Greg Proops Pro-War.com Pure Polemics Seyed Razavi Rayne Simon Reynolds richardpryor.com Clay Richards Mike Rogers Yuval Rubinstein
Steven Rubio
Saragon Noah Shachtman Court Schuett The Simpsons Archive Amardeep Singh Sam Smith Soundbitten Jack Sparks Ian Spiers Morgan Spurlock Stand Down: The Left-Right Blog Opposing an Invasion of Iraq Aaron Stark Morgaine Swann Tapped (The American Prospect) tex Matthew Tobey Annie Tomlin Tom Tomorrow The University Without Condition Jesse Walker Warblogger Watch Diane Warth The Watchful Babbler The Weblog we have brains Matt Welch
Alex Whalen
Jon Wiener
Lizz Winstead
James Wolcott
Wooster Collective
Mickey Z

Friday, April 25, 2003
World War IV

This may surprise some readers but I don’t think the Bush Administration’s “war on terror” has been a complete failure. There is still a threat and I certainly believe that a non-interventionist foreign policy would be the best protection, but U.S. President George W. Bush and friends have gone after al Qaeda –the only terrorist group that has the intentions of harming the U.S. and has shown that it at least had the ability to do so with great impact- with significant success and likely prevented at least several terrorist attacks against the U.S. And to the surprise of many including “micah holmquist,” they have done so without resorting to a police state.

While this is certainly impressive, it should be noted that the “war on terror” has not been solely about al Qaeda. Just nine days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks which marked the beginning of the “war on terror,” Bush was already talking about a war with “terrorism” as if it represented it was some sort of unified threat and not a tactic that could be employed by various groups with various intentions. True, Bush did focus on terrorism as growing out of Islamic fundamentalism –which hardly represents a unified entity itself- but the ultimatums were dressed in universal terms. “We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” Bush said in this speech before Congress. “From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”

If you doubt the universal nature of this “war on terror,” just look at the arrest last week in Iraq of Palestine Liberation Front leader Abu Abbas in Iraq. The U.S. military and Secretary of State Colin Powell have claimed this to be a significant step in the “war on terror” even though whatever else you can say about him, it is dead wrong to say Abbas was tied to Islamic fundamentalism or even much of a threat to anybody.

Even a war against “terrorism” is any and/or all forms was not ambitious enough for Team Bush, which also made the “war on terror” into a war for some level of U.S. control of weapons of mass destruction. In his January 29, 2002 State of the Union speech, Bush famously, and infamously, said states like Iran, Iraq and North Korea “constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists… We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction.”

As I argued in January 22's “The U.S. shouldn’t be preventing Iraq from possessing or developing weapons of mass destruction,” the Bush Administration was so successful on this front during the run-up to what would come to be known as Operation Iraqi Freedom that it was able to create a debate where Iraq merely possessing or trying to develop weapons of mass destruction amounted to a threat to the U.S. No evidence of intentions of using these weapons was needed. Now that victory has been achieved in Iraq, the U.S. is continuing to use this logic with regard to North Korea. “The issue for us,” State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said on Monday, “is how to achieve a verifiable and irreversible end to North Korea's nuclear programs.”

The problem with both of these angles of the “war on terror” is that they are unachievable.

The Cambridge International Dictionary of English defines “terrorism” as “(threats of) violent action for political purposes.” This has gone on throughout recorded history and will continue for at least the foreseeable future. A myriad of causes, goals and justifications can lead to terrorism and can be done by both large groups and a single person. It is for this reason that unlike say a war against communism or fascism where victory is achieved by denying state power to adherents of that ideology, a successful war against terrorism means defeating any and all individuals with the right skills and motivations. In other words, in a great big world, it can’t be done.

A war against weapons of mass destruction being in the wrong hands suffers from a similar problem. Neither the knowledge that weapons of mass destruction –which is to say biological, chemical and nuclear weapons- can be built nor the knowledge and materials necessary to build weapons of mass destruction will be disappearing and, in a world where military strength is likely to remain valued, this means that there will always be a risk that groups and states that the U.S. does not want to have weapons of mass destruction will obtain them by building them, or obtaining them from one of the myriad of countries that U.S. to not trying to deny these weapons to. For instance, France has nuclear weapons and while it is difficult to imagine France attacking the U.S. or aiding those who do want to attack the U.S., things can change. It is already to surreal to hear Powell saying, “…we have to take a look at the relationship. We have to look at all aspects of our relationship with France in light of [France’s opposition to the U.S. taking over Iraq].” (And this is to say nothing of the possibility, however remote, that so long as the U.S. has weapons of mass destruction, it is possible that these weapons will fall out of the control of the U.S. Or that countries will actually increase their interest in developing weapons of mass destruction as a means of discouraging a U.S. attack.)

It was perhaps a mistake, albeit a deliberate one, for me to have called the impossibility of the U.S. winning on either of the two fronts of the “war on terror” a “problem” as it is not altogether clear if the Bush Administration sees things that way. The eagerness of at least some members of the Administration to use the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as a launch pad for unrelated actions –even if you believe that the now deposed government of Saddam Hussein was in some way connected to September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, you would have a hard time arguing that North Korea was connected-indicates that they want a series of wars and perhaps that they would be more than happy to see the “war on terror” become the norm.


I bring this up in light of a question raised by Saragon in response to my April 9 entry "Stream of consciousness rant about the war." Saragon wanted to know what I thought of the idea that the U.S. is engaged in worldwide war, that began on September 11, 2001 and/or was merely epitomized by that day- and that Iraq is merely a theater in that war against a broader set of opponents than merely al Qaeda. This idea has been popularized by John Hopkins professor Elliot Cohen, hawkish writer Norman Podhoretz and former Central Intelligence Agency directory James Woolsey, all of whom have labeled this conflict "World War IV." They say that this war will be more like the Cold War ("World War III") than World War I and World II because it will be a protracted conflict. Neither Cohen, Podhoretz or Woolsey seem particularly interested in the fact that the "enemy" in "World War IV" isn't clearly defined -isn't terrorism, terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, totalitarianism, authoritarianism or some combination of these "enemies"- whereas the enemy in the Cold War clearly was the Soviet Union and the countries allied with the Soviet Union, but it seems like an important point to me. Without a clear enemy, new and previously unrelated targets can be picked up along the way, which may in fact be the point.

The Bush Administration has officially expressed many points of this argument -most notably in last September's "National Security Strategy of the United States of America"- but has not adopted all of the terminology.

To the extent that the Bush Administration acts like they are in "World War IV," and they do act very much like is the case, the U.S. is fighting "World War IV." A country with a military as powerful as the U.S. military has the ability to start wars with just about anyone it wants and justify it in any it wants. In that sense, the U.S. is involved in "World War IV." However, it is mistake to entertain the popular notions that the U.S. is anything but the aggressor in this conflict..