Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Debating Terrorism In South Carolina

At the Democratic Presidential debate in April, 2007 in South Carolina, moderator Brian Williams asked the candidates "Do you believe there is such a thing as a 'global war on terror'?" Not surprisingly, Hillary Rodham Clinton, always anxious to prove that a woman can be as tough on the "bad guys" as a man, shot up her arm, and Senator Obama followed suit.
John Edwards did not. Later, he would explain "it's been used to justify a whole series of things that are not justifiable, ranging from the war in Iraq, to torture, to violation of the civil liberties of Americans, to illegal spying on Americans."
Of course he's right, and when an Administration spokesman told Mike Allen of Time "'war on terror' is what I think resonates most with the country," the cat was let out of the bag, the political origin of the phrase laid bare. Further, not all "terror" is "terrorism." Merriam-Webster defines "terror" as "a state of intense fear," not unlike my last encounter with a roller coaster, but accusing Six Flags of being a terrorist organization would be a little much.
But I'll dispense with semantics, so as not to be accused of fondness for "nuance," which was not helpful in 2004 to candidate Kerry, though perhaps the "nuances" helped him dominate the incumbent in three consecutive debates.
The real problem with Edwards' charge that Bush's "war on terror" is a "bumper sticker slogan," as he explained to the Council on Foreign Relations, is that it is merely a bumper sticker slogan. Think diversion of soldiers from Afghanistan to Iraq paving the way for a resurgent Al-Qaeda (the global Al-Qaeda, not AQI). Think an anti-satellite weapon successfully tested by the world's largest nation, by its Communist regime, as part of arguably the most rapid expansion of armed forces in the world. Think supporting an immigration policy bringing delight to GOP corporate paymasters while further endangering national security. Think 5% (5%!) of the cargo entering our ports being inspected- and trying to turn port security over to the United Arab Emirates. This Administration is as devoted to a war on terrorism as it is to the concept of open government. (O.K., a little more.) The GOP is vulnerable to a charge that its leadership, and its Stepfords in Congress, have done little to make Americans feel safe. This is a potent political argument, far more so than convincing Americans that this crew has endangered civil liberties- which to most people is an abstract concept. And in a time when the Secretary of Homeland Security can raise the "threat level" arbitrarily (we've been down that road before) to yellow, red, or whatever the political requirement of the time is, beware of the whispering campaign characterizing supporters of Constitutional rights as "effete," out-of-touch, or failing to "support the troops." Moreover, if this country is hit before the next Presidential election with another terrorist attack (and given how terrorist organizations have prospered under this Republican President, they may want another), Democrats cannot allow themselves to be portrayed as the party that embraced "rights" at the expense of "security."
Sure, this assumes that the GOP would present simplistic, narrow-minded, distorted arguments. Uh-oh.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand why democrats always make this argument about how the war on terror is bogus and yada yada yada.

I'll start off by showing that I agree with much of what democrats tend to argue.

I admit that the phrase "war on terror" is not semantically correct. I admit this because I admit that terror or terrorism, like murder or adultery, can never be completely wiped out because it is not a physical group of people, but the actions or means employed by people.

And yes, I admit that such a war is difficult to define and cannot be won in the sense of conventional wars.

But let's look at the facts of what we are doing, policy-wise:

1. The Al Qaeda terrorist organization and the United States are engaged in conflict throughout the world. They are continually working to attack us, and we are continually working to disrupt and destroy them. So let's call it the "war on Al Qaeda" right?

Wait a second...

2. We are also engaged (in mostly covert ways) against other terrorist organizations, from hamas to small sleeper cells throughout the world. These are not nations, but are widely dispersed networks that share a desire to disperse terror, but may differ in ultimate goals and believes. So I guess we could call it the "war on fundamentalist islamic guys who use terrorism against our forces?"

Sure, I suppose we could. But I think the "war on terror" is an easier name to say and remember. The administration has set the policy of the war, but just because people disagree with these policies does not negate that fact that we are engaging islamic terrorists in war.

I don't see how you can deny the existance of global war on terror just because you disagree with Iraq or other actions that have been justified by citing the war on terror. Of course the war on terror can be used as a bumper sticker slogan, like, oh I don't know, the phrase "war on the middle class." Still, this does not mean it does not exist.

I believe that the president has set policy defining what the war on terror is, but it must go further. It must be clearly defined, in terms of top priorities, etc, etc. Our debacle in Iraq is partly a result of this looseness of definition regarding the war on terror.

I do not believe Edwards is stupid or is unpatriotic. But I was very disturbed to here him say there was no global war on terror, whether it be that he truely believes it, or he is just appealing to the far left, anti-war base. I suggest he ask our soldiers, our intelligence community, and even our enemies, whether they think that a war on terror exists or is just a front for oil or imperialism or whatever he chooses to believe. He can believe that the war is a front "to justify a whole series of things that are not justifiable," but he has it wrong. Bush has done unjustifyable things in the name of this war (just as others have done during other wars), but the fundamental nature of the war as being in existance to combat terrorists who desire to attack us should not be in question. The democrats continally talk about getting out of Iraq and focusing on Al Qaeda. Well, they are still engaged in the war on terror if they do this. But, If Edwards chooses to continue with his view that it is just a slogan,
you can bet his soundbites will come back and hit him hard.

You know, this fussing over a name is ridiculous. I suppose that because WWI and WWII didn't really involve the whole world,we should go back and change their names...

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