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September 05, 2004

Ongoing applied coherentism: Chechnya

Link dump:

Marcia Gessen, Chechnya, Slate, 9/4/04.

David Johnson and Borgna Brunner, Chechnya timeline: 1830-2004, Infoplease.

Beslan hostage crisis, Wikipedia.

Chechnya, Wikipedia.

Putin warns of security backlash, Guardian, 9/6/04.

This is not going to end well. Not least because no one has any interest in sorting out the relative contributions of Chechen nationalists, ethnic Arab mercenaries, al Qaeda jihadists, and non-al Qaeda jihadists.

Putin wants us to believe that the hostage crisis is entirely an al Qaeda operation. Bush wants to play the tough guy. Putin wants to drag America into his dirty civil war under the guise of the global war on terror. Although, the civil war might actually overlap with the struggle against international Islamic terrorists. At this point, nobody can admit that any Chechen nationalists have any legitimate grievances for fear of sending the wrong message. As Matt Yglesias notes:

It's easy to say "no compromise with terror -- we must kill the killers." At the same time, Russia already has taken a very tough line against Chechen separatists in the past, deploying significantly more brutality than the US or Israel does in its own counterterrorist operations.[...] But the other side of this issue is also right. If you respond to the slaughter of hundreds of children by trying to give Chechen separatists what they want, then you're opening a pandora's box of terrorism.

Maybe al Qaeda is tightening its grip on Chechnya as it did on Afghanistan. The group has a history of coopting struggles for national liberation. It's impossible to know. Maybe coherentism can help. Collect as much data as possible and see what hangs together... Hence the link dump.

I hope readers will submit links and comments.

Addendum: Ogged has additional commentary at Unfogged. Another rational but dispiriting analysis from Matt Yglesias.

Aggregation continues until morale improves: Mark Kleiman question's Gessen's claim that Al Qaeda had little to do with the hostage crisis; prompting Matt Yglesias to deliver his best post on Chechen nationalism and the hostage crisis so far. As Matt notes, there's no reason to assume that Al Qaeda incited hostility between Russian's and Chechens. It's just that Al Qaeda's MO is to seek out conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims and back the Muslim side.

The best strategy for Americans might be to promote secular Chechen nationalists at Putin's expense. (Allegedly Putin is our ally in the war on terror, but so far, he's done more to foment terror than to combat it, and he's already wheedling to embroil us in another factional conflict.) Suppose we offer him a deal: let Chechnya go on our terms, or we cut you off. What's he going to do, throw his lot in with Al Qaeda?

Facilitating the transition to an independent and secular Chechnya might be the best way to thwart Al Qaeda's interests in the region. In such a scenario, the nationalists would get what they want, thereby undercutting the incentive for future terror attacks. What's more they'd have the West to thank for taking their side against the militant Islamists and the Russian Federation. Al Qaeda would be left out in the cold. I have no idea whether this is a feasible solution or not, but it's an alternative to backing Putin or negotiating with terrorists. Kerry victory would be a major blow to Putin's authoritarianism and an opportunity to encourage a more pragmatic Russian approach to Chechnya.


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