Under Fire

Under Fire

Under Fire

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Aug. 19 2005 6:13 PM

Under Fire

Bloggers discuss today's failed missile attack on American ships in Jordan. They also debate possible Democratic strategies for Iraq and continue to chatter about 1984.

Under fire: Three rockets were fired at a U.S. Navy ship in Jordan this morning. The rockets missed their target but killed one Jordanian soldier. A group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the failed attack.

"The US Navy has not seen such an audacious attack on a ship since the bombing of the Cole five years ago," notes writer and editor Joseph Mailander at Martini Republic, a literary salon. "There's too little information here to even speculate as to the motivation behind the attacks," cautions defense hawk James Joyner at Outside the Beltway. "Certainly, the ongoing Gaza Strip pullout is putting an additional spotlight on U.S.-Israeli relations. Still, the U.S. is at war with Islamist extremists generally, so the timing may be coincidental."


A number of observers are contemplating the significance of a failed attack. "Should we maybe take a little comfort in the fact that this was the best they could come up with, and not something like a Cole-esque style of attack?" asks Venom, a commenter at The Jawa Report. Intelligence analyst Athena harbors doubts about the claim of responsibility and warns against Venom's response. "We shouldn't write this attack off because it didn't do much damage," she writes at Terrorism Unveiled. "It is al-Qaida strategy to put forth the same attempts until they are successful. … [I]f they have their sights set on disrupting the US Naval Fleet based in Bahrain, they may continue to try to do so."

Formidable conservative Ed Morrissey thinks the attack signals a strategic shift for the terrorist network. "What does that mean?" he asks at Captain's Quarters. "It could indicate that the terrorist network has depleted its resources for suicide bombers, at least outside of Iraq. That would show that the flypaper theory actually does play out as the Bush administration predicted. … Iraq may have worn down the flow and desire of potential suicide bombers, the only tactical weapon AQ has with an advantage over Western forces. If so, then AQ and its associates will shortly have to pull back and rethink their entire war effort." 

Read more about the attack in Jordan.

National security Democrats, blogging: A Nation essay recently traced a political fault line between hawkish, centrist Democratic leaders and the party's increasingly dovish base and has produced a blogging frenzy among liberals hoping to produce a coherent and effective national security strategy.


"The problem is that it's pretty easy to understand why none of [the hawkish liberals] are willing to embrace immediate withdrawal: not only do they genuinely not think it's a good idea, but they also know perfectly well that similar demands during the Vietnam war wrecked the Democratic party's reputation on national security issues for a generation," writesWashington MonthlyPolitical Animal Kevin Drum, who's genuinely flummoxed by the problem of Iraq. "The insurgency is not going to give up, the Army doesn't seem to have any kind of consistent commitment to using counterinsurgency techniques against it, we don't know for sure that they'd work anyway, and let's face it: the track record of major powers beating large-scale overseas insurgencies is close to zero in the past half century. So what's the plan?"

At NewDonkey, Ed Kilgore recommends two New Republic essays—one by Larry Diamond, one by Spencer Ackerman, which outline, respectively, the "glass half-full" and the "glass half-empty" perspectives—and calls for open discussion among Democrats on forging a third way. American Prospect wunderkind Mathew Yglesias says such a middle ground seems "elusive." He points to a strategy outlined by Diamond earlier this month at TPMCafe—that Bush should publicly disavow any plans to build permanent military bases in Iraq, announce a tangible but flexible time frame for withdrawal, invite discussions with Sunni political organizations, and reach out to an independent mediator to monitor those discussions. "The remaining hopes we have for Iraq are, in essence, things our troops can't accomplish," Yglesias concludes. "Only political compromise amongst Iraqi factions can achieve them."

Kilgore effectively seconds Diamond's proposal—pegging withdrawal to political achievements in Iraq rather than calendar dates—while adding two more elements: the renunciation of U.S. designs on both Iraqi reconstruction projects and natural resources. Not everyone agrees that humility is the best foreign policy. At Obsidian Wings, Von, a Midwestern attorney and a moderate, thinks any planned withdrawal is tantamount to surrender. He quotes John McCain: "The day that I can land at the airport in Baghdad and ride in an unarmed car down the highway to the green zone is the day that I'll start considering withdrawals from Iraq."   

Read more about Iraq.

Shelving 101 update: Today's NPR story about the "Ministry of Reshelving" has inspired even more bloggers to respond with glee to performance artist Jane McGonigal's call for people to reshelve bookstore and library copies of Orwell's 1984 from the fiction section to current events. "Frustrated with the world at large? Sick of the increasing intersection of reality with the most dystopian kind of fiction? Feel like doing something naughty but not really dangerous? Then perhaps you should consider joining the Ministry of Reshelving," encouragesBitch Ph.D.'s Elise. And some bloggers aren't content with stopping at 1984. "Animal Farm...I'd move it into Politics, Current events, etc....for the Republicans who supplanted the Democrats as big spends' and 'pork projects' and are the same entity now," comments aacheson on Metafilter.

Readmore about the Ministry of Reshelving; visit the Flickr page documenting its efforts.