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The use of nuclear weapons in the war against terrorism

"I fear the world will jump to the wrong conclusion that because I am in Atlanta the work is done. Far from it. We must kill three hundred thousand I have told you of so often, and the further they run the harder for us to get them." Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, 1864

As I expressed my opinions here in Abalawinfo about the question over the use of nuclear weapons in the war against terrorism, I presented several historical examples: the sacking of Jerusalem, the rapine of Magdeburg, and the burning of Atlanta. The purpose for mentioning these examples was to help me thread through the moral implications of using brutal weapons like nukes.

In particular, over the course of the discussion, Gen. Sherman was quoted twice. I have to admit that until now I was ambiguous over whether Sherman was a monster. I knew that there were certain visitors to Abalawinfo who would have a special hell reserved for the General, but in all honesty, I felt they endorsed a much more brutal scheme by encouraging nukes. Of course, I realize that my friends here are intelligent enough to recognize a trap, but still, I was interested in seeing at least one confront this issue head on. If Sherman was a monster, what are we when we adopt Shermanesque attitudes?

I don’t remember who took the position, and it actually may be an amalgamation of various opinions, but I especially disliked the option to use nukes to scare the ordure out of Taliban/Muslims/Arabs with a denotation in the desert. And I don’t favor the idea of toppling terrorist supporting regimes as an objective completed; something more is required.

Well, years ago, I read the Sherman quote about the need to kill three hundred thousand, but until now I never really understood it. To be honest, I thought the General went too far. I guess that sometimes you need to experience history to understand it, and I was helped along by George F. Will’s column "Gen. Sherman’s Advice."

Sherman meant that the South would not be truly defeated unless it were pacified. To pacify, Sherman estimated that three hundred thousand true Southern patriots would need to be removed.

I understand that terrorist supporting governments provide the best force multiplier for terrorists, but I don’t believe that this is enough. Eliminating terrorist governments in the here and now is insufficient. The politics are not static. With these radicals still hanging around, it is likely that in the future a new breed of terrorist supporting regimes would crop up.

I won’t estimate how many Islamic radicals need to be killed to accomplish pacification, but I remain clear as to how. The nuclear option risks too much in enraging the entire Islamic world as the Magdeburg conflagration enraged Protestant Germany. It is too imprecise. To get precision, you need troops on the ground. As Ann Coulter wrote, "we should invade their countries." We need to get them one bullet, one cruise missile, one daisy cutter at a time.

Of course, I’m all for exceptions. There is one concentration, one terrorist breeding ground of hatred. I’ve suggested using nukes in the Gaza strip, but I’m afraid no one took me seriously (and rightly so, since I was being sarcastic). In any case, the political realities suggest that this will never happen.

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