September 11, 2004


Third anniversary (David Warren, September 11, 2004, Ottawa Citizen)

The Western world, in its post-Christian decadence, still does not comprehend the fire that burns in the souls of our adversaries. In the savage but not entirely unfair estimate of an Iranian correspondent, whose own life is in constant peril: "You were scared. But now you have eaten, and you have copulated, and you want to go back to sleep."

Not entirely fair, for while Canada sleeps, the U.S. continues its vigil. In Iraq, it is fighting, sometimes hand to hand in towns like Fallujah and Samarra, with gunmen of the same irregular army that struck it that beautifully clear morning in 2001. [...]

In three years, the U.S. has liberated 50 million Muslims from abject and murderous tyrannies -- has overthrown the Taliban and Saddam Hussein -- and created openings that would not otherwise exist for people in Pakistan, Libya, and elsewhere. Mention this to my media colleagues, and I can expect hoots of derision and eyeball-rolling. But if I mention it instead to the people I have communicated with daily on the ground in Afghanistan, or Iraq, I find that it is still considered a miracle, like the fall of the Berlin Wall.

What the U.S. does not know, though it try, is how to create an alternative, sane political order in any of these countries, to defeat the Jihad. For that is, finally, up to the people among whom the Jihadis have nestled. The alternative being "black glass" on an unimaginable scale.

The U.S. can, and probably will in a second Bush term, escalate the battle, join it on new fronts, and I hope, pull fewer punches. But on the third anniversary of 9/11, the full seriousness of the Islamist menace -- of the lethal ideology that is still spreading mind to mind through the Muslim world -- is not yet appreciated.

Over the coming decades, either "Islamism", or the West, will be destroyed.

It's the black glass fallback position, and our repeated demonstration throughout history that we're willing to go that far, that makes the war unlosable. But we're winning the war so quickly that such extreme measures seem unlikely to be needed. On 9-11 you wouldn't necessarily have predicted that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 11, 2004 1:42 PM

Well, both sides can lose. Black glass in the Middle East will be no consolation for black glass in America.

Posted by: pj at September 11, 2004 1:45 PM


we've never shown the "patience" to wait until we're black glassed though.

We're unilateral escalators.

Posted by: oj at September 11, 2004 1:53 PM


What is the "black glass fallback position"? What extreme measure is this? How are we winning so fast? just asking - Perry

Posted by: at September 11, 2004 2:05 PM

Mr. Warren is saying that push came to shove we'd just nuke tham all and be done with it. But we're changing regimes there so fast that it seems unlikely we'll even need to fight more than one or two set piece wars--maybe Syria or Iran, certainly Western Pakistan.

Posted by: oj at September 11, 2004 2:13 PM

We fight so "sensitively" now, regardless of Chenney's chiding, that we failed to destroy Iraqi army or even impose Marshal law. How are we to turn middle east to black glass with nukes if we can't do these things. You think this really a fallback position even if a nuke is detonated here? - Perry

Posted by: Perry at September 11, 2004 2:30 PM

Perry: Also known as turning cities into glow-in-the-dark parking lots.

Posted by: PapayaSF at September 11, 2004 2:30 PM

I believe "black glass" came from a haiku:

A new sun thunders into life.
Sand fuses.
And a black stone melts.

Posted by: ray at September 11, 2004 2:35 PM


The Japanese didn't hit us with a nuke, the Germans didn't firebomb our cities, the North Vietnamese never struck the homeland, the Confederates never marched to the sea. We don't fight fair--we escalate.

Posted by: oj at September 11, 2004 2:38 PM

I see you've been reading Victor Davis Hanson. Me, too.

Very, very selective history, that.

There's zero chance we'll be the first to use nukes, but the chance that Islam will is very high.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 11, 2004 3:09 PM

John Kerry shot himself in the butt so he burned down Vietnamese villages. It's how we fight.

Posted by: oj at September 11, 2004 3:13 PM


True, but, lacking many warheads and any missiles, they get to detonate one, maybe two in the US.

After that, the sun never sets on the American Empire.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 11, 2004 3:19 PM

Actually, it's not, Orrin.

Not that we've fought all that much, compared with most other societies.

We were in Mexico twice and didn't exactly leave it a smoking ruin either time.

We are just about the only country that sends civic development specialists along with the army.

That probably sends the wrong message to our enemies. Certainly it does when you're dealing with Muslims.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 11, 2004 4:33 PM

Yes, we rebuild them after--that makes us different too. But both flow from the same fact--democracies are terribly self-righteous.

Posted by: oj at September 11, 2004 4:39 PM

Michael - They may lack warheads now, but if we wait long enough, they won't in the future. The reality is that rogue terror outfits like Al Qaeda are only a minor danger compared to terror organizations that are the stealth-warfare arms of states (like Hezbollah for Iran). These groups can call on the nuclear resources of their states - and they are creating the capacity to build hundreds of nukes per year. And as we've seen from drugs and illegal immigrants, defense won't work - we can't stop suitcase nukes and terrorists from making their way into the country.

I don't think we'll ever see a single terrorist nuclear explosion. It will be a hundred (or a thousand) or none at all. 9/ll and our response proved something to our enemies: if you strike at the king, you must kill him.

Posted by: pj at September 11, 2004 6:46 PM


An interesting scenario. However:

°One hundred suitcase nukes won't "kill the king", but it will give whomever survives to become the President the domestic political support to nuke as many cities/countries as he pleases, wherever he pleases. It would take 10 - 20 suitcase nukes, for instance, to level NYC, and even then, most of the exurbs would physically survive the firestorms ignited by the blasts.

°Terrorists can't remove America's retaliatory nuclear threat, no matter how hard they try, although they could reduce it, if they expend a lot of their munitions to do so.

°Would any nation be willing to give control of 100 nukes to an outside organization ?

°Would any terrorist organization be able to transport and plant 100 nukes without any leaks or slip-ups ?

°No advanced nation could afford to ignore an organization that could plant and detonate 100 suitcase nukes. All North American, European, and most Asian nations would be at war with whomever supplied the nukes, and with anyone who looked like those who supplied the nukes, as well as anyone who was too friendly to those who supplied the weapons, pre-blast.
Therefore, America could turn Northern Africa and the Middle East into free-fire zones with impunity. Under such a scenario, Pakistan and India probably go at it, too.

It seems to me that the above factors make it much more likely that if America is ever nuked by terrorists, it will be a one-off by a splinter group that somehow managed to get a nuclear weapon.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 11, 2004 10:08 PM

Michael - You do a good job of arguing the other side, but consider:

1. The leaders of enemy states would not die in a massive US nuclear counterattack - they know when the attack will come and will be safely in underground bunkers. Their people would die, but they don't care about their people.

2. If their first strike took out our military as well as a hundred cities, we wouldn't have the capability to fight back conventionally and kill them.

3. The stealth nature of the attack, the stealth nature of terror sponsorship, and the stealth nature of nuclear proliferation, means that some guilty parties will remain undetected.

4. The path of nuclear proliferation:
- China gave Pakistan nuclear weapons and North Korea intercontinental ballistic missiles.
- Pakistan gave North Korea nuclear weapons and North Korea gave Pakistan ICBMs.
- Pakistan was giving Iran, Syria, and Lybia nuclear weapons.
- After 9/11 Pakistan and Lybia dropped out, and North Korea began supplying Iran and Syria with nuclear technology.
Isn't it a fair bet that China, North Korea, Iran, and Syria remain allied against us?

5. The enemy could still deter our reprisals. Having been hit by a mysterious 100-nuke attack, would a President Kerry truly want to fight against China, as well as the obvious enemies, knowing that China's immense nuclear arsenal would then destroy the remnants of the country?

6. If the U.S. fell, why would Europe fight? Isn't it obvious that they would go to China et al and seek the best possible deal, even at the cost of their liberty/sovereignty?

7. In answer to your question - would any nation give 100 nukes to terrorists - we can also ask, would China give nukes to rogue regimes like Iran, North Korea, Syria, etc., knowing that these weapons could someday be used against it if the nations turned. The answer appears to be yes.

Your post is a good start toward thinking about how we can deter the new threat of stealth nuclear warfare. But I think we have to do better than just hoping.

Posted by: pj at September 12, 2004 7:36 AM

What level of uncertainty, above 0, are you willing to accept if the outcome is a nuclear bomb in your city?

If it's 0, as it should be, then you have to act a certain way.

We are not acting that way.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 12, 2004 6:18 PM

Who would want to live in the kind of country where it even approached 0% given that it would not have been 0 in the USSR?

Posted by: oj at September 12, 2004 6:23 PM

Well, we sure don't live in a country where it approaches 0% now, so from your point of view, we've nothing to be concerned about, I guess

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 13, 2004 3:59 PM

No, we don't. They'll happen but we can deal with them.

Posted by: oj at September 13, 2004 4:05 PM

If there's a way to deal with it that precludes them from happening, let's do it that way.

There is such a way, but it's not appeasement

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 13, 2004 9:38 PM

There's not.

Posted by: oj at September 13, 2004 10:46 PM


1) The leaders of nuked nations might not die, but what's the point of being the leader of a glowing nation with no people ?

2) Their first strike can't take out the US military and 100 cities - My opinion is that they couldn't even take out our conventional military resources, but that's open to debate.
As I said earlier, suitcase nukes will not "take out" a city, they'd need multiple devices per large city, dozens in the largest cities.

3) Yes, immediate detection of the most guilty parties might be difficult, but: Your scenario depends on the stealth and competence of fanatics to place, undetected, without one slip-up, 100 nukes...
Farfetched, IMO.
Also, the mood domestically would be such that a guilty race would suffice. If you're Arab, say your prayers.

5) China has nukes, but no way to deliver them to mainland America. They can hit Hawai'i and the West Coast.
If the US decided to gift them with 700 nuclear warheads via ICBM, it's game over for them.
That will change over the next few decades, but for now, that's what they have to face.

There are many places in the US where the chances of getting nuked are zero, only slightly less than the chances of getting mugged.
Being a terror target is just another price to pay for living in a big city, like street crime.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 14, 2004 3:09 AM

>What is the "black glass fallback position"?

NECAP to all units, copy SAC, copy Looking Glass, Go Code follows, Go Code follows...

Malmstrom to NECAP, copy SAC, copy Looking Glass: All birds flying.

(USS) Ohio to NECAP, copy SAC, copy Looking Glass: All birds flying.

to NECAP, copy SAC, copy Looking Glass: All birds flying.

to NECAP, copy SAC, copy Looking Glass: All birds flying.

to NECAP, copy SAC, copy Looking Glass: All birds flying.

: Weapons exploded on-target.
: Weapons exploded on-target.
: Weapons exploded on-target.
: Weapons exploded on-target.
: Weapons exploded on-target.
: Weapons exploded on-target.
: Weapons exploded on-target.

Posted by: Ken at September 14, 2004 6:49 PM