"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." - Ferris Bueller

Monday, August 04, 2003
On Preemption:

Everything I need to know about dealing effectively with international conflict I learned from Jimmy Malone. Those of you schooled in the field of international relations my scratch your head and search your scholastic database for a biography on this individual. Save the effort. You won’t find him.

Jimmy Malone is a fictional character from the 1989 motion picture The Untouchables starring Kevin Costner and Sean Connery, among others. Connery plays the touch Irish cop Malone, a role for which he earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. If you haven’t seen the flick, watch TNT on a Saturday night – its normal weekend late night fodder.

The first piece of Malone wisdom is found in the church scene where Eliot Ness (Costner) meets up with Malone (Connery). During the exchange Malone asks Ness if he really wants to get Al Capone. Ness answers affirmatively and Malone imparts the following advice:

‘You wanna get Capone? I’ll tell you how to get Capone. If he pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital; you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way. That’s how you get Capone.’

Notice the lack of negotiation, compromise, and appeasement. Malone knew what kind of man he was up against. Capone was a thief, murderer, and in his own way a terrorist. There was no room for a negotiated settlement with him or his gang of thugs. One side or the other had to see its way to complete and total victory before any type of peaceful return to order could be accomplished.

So it is with terrorist organizations and rouge states. Ours is a world unfortunately governed by the aggressive use of military force. No, we can’t all just get along, light the campfires and sing kum-by-ya together. Those of you who believe such a world is possible, more power to you. Just get out of the way while those of us who must live and deal in reality get the job done.

You see, with freedom comes responsibility. In a scene shortly after his encounter with Ness, Malone meets up with an accountant who has taken up residence in Ness’ office. Malone, on his way to take out a distillery, gives the accountant a look and the following exchange takes place:

Malone: ‘Do you carry a badge?’
Accountant: ‘Yeah.’
Malone: (Shoving a shotgun in his face) ‘Carry a gun.’

The world of international relations is full of empty threats (political, economic, and military) that mean nothing. Why? Because everyone involved fully understands these threats are just that and will never come to fruition. Many nations carry badges, some carry guns. Few are willing to use those guns to back up what they say.

This is, in my opinion, what has changed with the ongoing War on Terror. For years, decades actually, terrorist attacks have gone unanswered for the most part. Sure, US officials, presidents, vice-presidents, secretaries of state and on down the line have threatened retribution for acts of terrorism perpetrated upon US citizens and interests. For example, the Iranians responsible for taking hostages at the Tehran US embassy have never been held to account, nor those militant Islamic terror organizations responsible for the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Lebanon.

The world had gotten used to hearing US rhetoric that was, for all intents and purposes, full of sound and fury but in the end signifying nothing. All that has changed now. We were attacked. Our blood was shed in our own back yard. It made *most* of us very angry – and we’re simply not gonna take it anymore.

It’s their turn to be afraid now. Their turn to run and try to hide.

Some question the rationale behind preemptive strikes against terrorist groups and rouge nations bent on the destruction of the United States. They say we have no right to seek justice and retribution against those who would do us harm. I have a simple answer to those who would question the justification of taking the conflict to the enemy, where ever they might be:


Here endeth the lesson.

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