June 10, 2004

Parable of the Ants

Steven den Beste tries really, really hard to make it really, really simple for the peabrains of Europe to understand the magnitude of the terrorist threat.

On the big picture, you are right that we have been far too complacent in Europe about Islamist terror cells, but things are changing rapidly now. Madrid has had a big effect and not a day goes by or islamists are rounded up somewhere in Europe, imams are expelled etc...
Speaking as an American, that's not very much. It's progress, I guess, but only in the sense that you have moved from "denial" to "making a deal": if we just crack down on cells, maybe it will be enough.

It won't be. It's a good first step, but the journey is a thousand steps.

Step 2 is to recognize that this is a war of aggression against you and the only way to protect yourselves in the long run is to get them before they get you. If you refuse to even try to get them then they will inevitably get you. It's only a matter of time.

Go read it. It's in language that even my 7th grade son could understand as far back as 9/12/2001.

However, to make it even clearer, let me tell you of the Parable of the Ants.

I have two cats. We used to have three, but the one who was the most cat-like couldn't stand the most recent arrival, and moved on to a family who actually lets him into the house, leaving the two who were more than a couple of standard deviations away from the mean for cat-like behavior to fend for themselves.

Cats being cats, they are quite finicky about what and when they eat. The eldest prefers dry food, while the younger prefers wet. Being an obliging owner, I provide both in reasonable abundance in two separate pans in the College garage.

Now, apart from the constant visitation of off-campus dogs and cats, the food is periodically invaded by ants.

Cats do NOT like to eat food crawling with ants. YOU try eating cotton candy crawling with ants without your fingers, and you'll get an idea of the distaste cats have about such a state of affairs.

Heretofore, I have attempted to deal with the ants by extensive spraying of the entry and exit points of the garage, along with spraying an interdiction zone around the food. This always succeeds.

For a time.

And therein is the problem: despite being clearly effective, such measures were temporary, wear off, and thus invite re-invasion of the feline food pans and a subsequent re-spraying of the area. Once or twice is okay, but sooner or later, the pesticide has to start having an impact on the animals whose food is being ostensibly "protected".

Three weeks ago, upon facing another invasion, it suddenly struck me how similar these ants were to Islamist terrorists in their persistence.

It also struck me how similar my response to the ants was to that of the Democrat and European response toward terrorists: Kill the invaders, then set up barriers to keep out the unwanted. Other than that, it was an unthanked and unappreciated attempt to live in peaceful co-existence with a pack of born marauders intent on eating my cats out of campus and hall. "Enough," I thought, "was ENOUGH!"

Even though these were not fire ants, I nevertheless hauled out the bag of Spectracide, spread it liberally where I suspected the home of the bastards may have been located, and watered the area down thoroughly.

No more ants in the cats faces.


Posted by ptah at June 10, 2004 01:08 PM

Man, that analogy is so flawed, I don't know where to begin ...

How about the fact that there is no real moral issue with killing innocent ants (e.g. ones that had other food sources and left your garage alone) along with the bad ones. I hope that you're not proposing we do the human-scale equivalent of your use of insecticide — carpet-bombing Riyadh, Teheran, Karachi, Cario, etc.

I'm hawkish on the War on Terror, mind you. So no need to convince me that it's necessary to be proactive against terrorism, and the EU is failing miserably on that front. I don't, however, think it's as simple as the "moral" of your story.

[READ the story AGAIN, Joe. I compared the ants to TERRORISTS. YOU'RE the one misunderstanding it and conflating terrorists with all Muslims. P.]

Posted by: Joe Grossberg at June 10, 2004 04:19 PM

Ah, flawed it may be, but 'tis a good satisfying Jacksonian metaphore. As General Curtis Lemay said "Iíll tell you what war is about. Youíve got to kill people, and when youíve killed enough they stop fighting."

Posted by: lgude at June 10, 2004 04:29 PM

"I hope that you're not proposing we do the human-scale equivalent of your use of insecticide ó carpet-bombing Riyadh, Teheran, Karachi, Cario, etc."

Only in extremis. And then I wouldn't carpet bomb them. I'd nuke'em.

That's the extremity we're trying to avoid, by the way, with efforts like Iraq, Afghanistan, and democratization. If we fail at those, and the terror attacks grow bolder, well, America won't put up with living as the Israelis do, afraid to send their kids to the mall for fear of Islamist whackjobs setting themselves off like gigantic, obscene cherry bombs.

So everybody - especially those living in the Middle East who aren't looking for a war of annihilation - had better hope we do succeed in our current efforts. Because the alternative - if we don't - is horrible. And the hope that the only nation ever to ever use the nuclear bomb in anger won't do it again if pressed to it is, well, wishful thinking.

Posted by: Bill Quick at June 10, 2004 06:07 PM

I think it's an apt analogy. The point is that some forms of prevention have only a short-term effect, and are much like putting pots and bowls under a leaky roof instead of going outside and fixing it. But, if we don't patch the roof now we'll have to do it in the rain.

Posted by: Stephen Borchert at June 10, 2004 09:05 PM

You got my point exactly right, Stephen.

Posted by: Ptah at June 10, 2004 09:39 PM

Quoth Neo: Whoa!

Fantastic analogy. And I agree with Mr. Quick. If these buttheads nuke an American city the cry for vengeance will be so loud I would not be surprised if we do take out Mecca or someplace like that. Just imagine Algore as president with as unhinged as he has become.

Posted by: Denny Wilson at June 10, 2004 10:12 PM

Your method of ant removal works pretty well, another, is to lay out bait, let the worker ants take it back to the nest and if it gets the queen, the colony dies.

You don't have to kill off every single ant, yourself, to exterminate the colony ;-)

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at June 10, 2004 10:45 PM

I like the idea Dan, but how do we get one of the "Worker" Terrorists to carry some poisoned bait back to the terrorists' HQ? ;-)

Posted by: AJ at June 11, 2004 01:16 AM

The thing about ants is you have to kill every last one before they give up. In most battles, if youhave to kill every single enemy before he breaks and runs, then maybe you should see if it's worth fighting at all.

Having to kill every enemy soldier pretty much indicates infinite morale where the other side does not break and run. Imagine the dude who stood in front of the tanks in China. That's the kind of enemy you do not want to face.

If we had to kill every one of them SOBs then carpet bombing mecca or riyadh would be a good idea. As it stands we only need to take out a few to show the rest that it's not really worth it.

Right now the social calculus is that it's ok to kill infidels. Part of that equation is based on the fact that there is no consequence in doing so. Blow up one thousand of the enemy for one of mine. Wow! Turn it the other way round and slowly it will not be worth the effort.

Posted by: PO'ed at June 11, 2004 02:27 AM

"The thing about ants is you have to kill every last one before they give up. In most battles, if you have to kill every single enemy before he breaks and runs, then maybe you should see if it's worth fighting at all."

In this case, freedom and civilization is indeed worth killing every single enemy islamo-fascist terrorist. Happily we probably wonít have to do so. Every militant group will tend to run out of people who are willing to die after enough are killed off. An example is the Islamic guard of the Ayatollahs in Iran, after enough were gassed, blown up, and machine-gunned down, there was a dearth of volunteers willing to fight the invading Iraqis.

Posted by: Jody Clukey at June 11, 2004 04:28 AM

Borax is as good as Baby Powder for the ants.

As for the analogy, Democracy is to Islamicism as Baby Powder/Borax is to ants. As it were. :)

Posted by: _Jon at June 11, 2004 09:16 AM

Bush's main strategic poison Trojan Horse in this war is the poisoned cheese that was taken back by the worker ants to the Queen: the alliance of Al Qaeda and the Baathists with the Liberal Western Left.

Posted by: Jennifer Peterson at June 11, 2004 06:11 PM

Jennifer Peterson, so your argument is that Michael Moore and Howard Dean will somehow destroy Al Qa'eda?

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at June 11, 2004 07:28 PM

On Nuking 'em all.

I think people are confusing a willingness to consider and carry through a course of action with a view that such a course of action is desirable.

Does America find it desirable to turn large areas of the Mid East into glow-in-the-dark parking lots? No.

In an extreme situation will we be willing to do that? To say 'To Hell with you, and here is an all expense paid one way express ticket to There?' Yes. We don't WANT to do such an act, in part because of the shear scale of horror that is likely that America will have to suffer before such an act becomes contemplatible. But if pushed to that point America will pull the nuclear trigger. We spent forty years staring at the Soviets, and they understood that it was no bluff, if they fired we'd make sure to take them with us. If the IFM manage to hurt us badly enough, we will consider them a threat enough to destroy by any means necessary, no matter how indisciminate. Will we regert and mourn the loss of innocent life? Yes, but if pushed to the wall that will not stay America's hand.

What level is needed for such an apocalyptic response? Author John Ringo occasionaly does opeds for the New York Post. Option Zero (on his website, http://www.johnringo.com/opoption.htm) was unpublished but goes into a hypothetical IFM WMD attack that could produce such terrible response. That is the point to the War on Terror, Afganistan, Iraq, and America's vigorous pursuit of such in the face of those who tell us we are wrong or arrogant. It's because it's not a choice of this or something more friendly, diplomatic, or cooperative. It's a fear that it's this, or maybe someday the choice of dying or killing on a scale never seen.

Posted by: Jeremy DuCharme at June 11, 2004 08:25 PM

I'm all for killing as many terrorists as possible (more and faster please), but I really only wanted to comment about your ant problem! :)

I had the same situation a few summers ago when taking care of my neighbor's dog while they were on vacation. After cursing the ants daily it finally occurred to me that ants don't swim. So I found an old frisbee (but any shallow container works), filled it with water, and then set the food bowl in it creating a moat around it. Voila! No more ants in the food ( but I seriously doubt if this would work on the terrorists).

Posted by: MB at June 12, 2004 12:15 AM

The Ringo article Jeremy points to is worth a look. But the link has a ) at the end and doesn't work as is. You can delete the ) from the URL once it is on your address line and then go there.

Posted by: Bob M at June 12, 2004 01:04 PM
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