Monday, August 6, 2007

More on Threatened Embassies

Just after posting about embassy security, CNN posted an article titled "Al Qaeda member: U.S. embassies prime targets." So I can't get away from the topic. (If you aren't in need of a political rant right now, feel free to skip this post, or maybe just read the second paragraph, which is mostly about architecture, not war.) The article gets right at why American interests are at such high risk. American Al Qaeda member, Adam Yahiye Gadahn says, "We shall continue to target you at home and abroad just as you target us at home and abroad," labeling American actions as the cause of attacks against America. Of course, responsibility for atrocities fall on the people who commit them, but can you imagine a world where America isn't threatened with attack but still has a domineering economic and military presence all over the world?

He calls our embassies "spy dens and military command and control centers -- from which you plotted your aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq and which still provide vital moral, military, material and logistical support to the crusade." Looking at the American and Egytian embassies back in my original embassy post, you can see how the architecture might support that idea. When the government hires architects to design such buildings, do they think about what the style says, the message it conveys? Certainly there's talk of "the rhetoric of architecture" or something similar in architecture school. It seems that the US government builds for function alone (that function being defense), oblivious that buildings say anything at all. Or maybe we do intend to look like we have "command and control centers" in every corner of the globe, in which case, why would we expect to be treated as anything but an occupying imperial power?

Gadahn makes a list of "legitimate" demands that are, of course, not going to happen. They remind me of Bush's speech to the Taliban before our invasion of Afghanistan. Gadahn says, that failure to take any one of the steps would be "considered sufficient justification" for continuing the fighting and killing, just as Bush said that the Taliban had to meet every one of our demands immediately, with no negotiation, or face war. The goal of these kinds of statements isn't to get the demands met. The goal is to continue or start attacking the other side, but to create an excuse: "see, we gave them a chance, but they gave us no choice."

Our reaction to these threats isn't to step back and meet terrorist demands. The US takes them as an indication of the need to keep fighting. Their threats aren't an effective deterrent, so why does Representive Tom Tancredo think that threatening to bomb Mecca and Medina will deter rather than provoke Muslim extremists? The answer, of course, is the inability to, if not empathize, at least understand that, despite cultural differences, if you take the labels off the sides, you can reverse the situation and see that the other side responds in the same ways we do, not as crazed evil lunatics. They are wrong, but in exactly the same way that we are wrong. Guns and bombs don't create peace or stability, and they don't get other people to do what you want in any but the most short term of ways.

1 comment:

SLC said...

Tom Tancredo shows us that representative democracy can fail, and fail miserably. I mean, really, who puts a guy like this into office? Do you think if I went up and punched him in the face he would be deterred from taking any retaliatory action?