March 30, 2004

Grassland v Grain Land

One of the greatest foolish stories of the vegetarians is that if we would just convert the range we devote to raising meat to grains, we would easily feed the world. The truth is that there is a great deal of land that is not fit for growing grains but only grasses, and if it weren't for the use of them for animal fodder, they wouldn't be of any use at all. And when animals are fattened for slaughter, they eat grains that are designated unfit for human consumption, not poisonous, just not good enough for us.

This sort of division of resources where some believe that with a wave of the hand you can repurpose resources that simply aren't naturally useful in their new role is something that dilettantes and superficial analysts advocate in many different fields, not just in food politics. In fact, if you look closely, you can see this in the War on Terror.

The accusation of Iraq as a distraction from the War on Terror is an example of this sort of thinking. We have two major types of resources, law enforcement/intelligence resources and military/intelligence resources. The things that each of these resources can do are important and useful to the cause but they don't do the same thing. One is grassland and one is grain land. You don't send in the FBI to get rid of Saddam and his checks for suicide bombers, you send the army. But the army would have largely been useless in nabbing Khalid Sheikh Muhammed in the back alleys of Pakistan. You can chew gum and walk at the same time if you realize that you have to divide your task list between things that need doing and for which LEO are the answer and things that need doing and for which the USAF are the answer. You then work off of both lists simultaneously.

The nature of military operations (beyond very small and temporary covert operations) is to grab attention and headlines. You never can ignore a division crossing a border. But it is quite easy to ignore, or never even notice database sweeps looking for cell phone SIM cards, telephone tracing, forensic financial backtracking, and a dozen other things that are catching us islamists every day. And even when successes occur, it is wise not to advertise them too much so as to use the identity of the captured to obtain the maximum amount of intelligence from people who try to get in touch with him.

So it is understandable that some fail to see the quiet operations and think that all that is going on is the noisy military work. But faulty observation leads to mistaken analysis and embarrassing predictions. There is also a partisan motivation for ignoring the quiet, patient, law enforcement component of the War on Terror. If both approaches are being pursued and reaping successes, challengers are stuck in a quandary. They don't want to be a me-too candidate but anything else than me-tooism is simply irresponsible when the war's being handled right.

Posted by TMLutas at March 30, 2004 03:00 PM