Scare Them back Posted by: Dale Franks
on Saturday, August 19, 2006
John Dickerson presents what he calls "a better response to GOP fear-mongering" when it comes to National Security.
The question the Democrats should be asking is whether Bush's policies are inspiring the people who want to kill us. Since Republicans argue that if you elect Democrats, more Americans will die, it's logical for Democrats to ask whether continuing the current policies will cause more American deaths. Were the London plotters captured last week hyper-motivated by Bush's policies? The idea is to shift the debate from whether the Democrats would do a better job if they were in charge to whether giving them some control—a majority in one house of Congress, for starters—might lessen the degree to which George Bush and his Republican majority represent an ever-better recruitment tool for extremists.
This question derives from a central one that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asked in his famous October 2003 memo: "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?" In the short term, the answer seems to be no. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Shiites recently participated in an anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah. At the very least, the three-year presence of U.S. troops does not seem to have diminished that impulse of extremists, a lack of gratitude about which George Bush apparently expressed concern at a recent meeting. The administration's push to implant democracy in the Middle East was supposed to improve the ratio at the heart of the Rumsfeld question, but the premise seems every day more shaky. An uptick in the number of jihadists produced by aggressive U.S. action in Iraq might have been tolerable if there were signs that democracy might take hold some day, if not now. But in the face of increasing violence, Americans don't seem to think this is going to happen. Reality suggests they're right.
I dunno if that's a PR plan that'll work. Things are a bit more complicated than that.
Let's step into the wayback machine.
One of the primary reasons that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor was that the Roosevelt Administration placed an embargo on all sorts of goods for export to Japan, such as petroleum, and metals, which were vital war materials the Japanese needed. The Japanese felt that the US was practicing economic warfare against them by trying to strangle their economy. Similarly, one of the reasons that the Germans declared war on the US—apart from their Axis treaty responsibilities—was that the US NAvy was escorting supply convoys to Great Britain, and had been engaged in undeclared naval warfare with Germany for eight months.
By Mr. Dickerson's reasoning, the Roosevelt policies made Americans less safe, and, ultimately provoked a war. But that is a pretty simplistic analysis, and to present it, you have to ignore the history that led up to those decisions on the part of FDR.
In the pacific, the Japanese had invaded China, performing any number of atrocities, large and small, along the way. They were implementing an aggressive, imperialist politico-military strategy for a decade prior to Pearl Harbor. Similarly, the Germans had run roughshod over most of Europe. Roosevelt's policy decisions weren't provocations. They were responses to the provocations of the Japanese and Germans.
Roosevelt could surely have delayed America's entry into WWII at the very least. He simply could've shut off support to China's Chiang Kai-Shek. He could've kept the Japanese Imperial Forces well supplied with scrap Iron and crude oil. He could've refused to push for Lend-Lease with Britain, or provided American merchant ships, which needed US Navy protection, to send supplies to England.
As a result of Mr. Roosevelt's decisions, America was made "less safe". For a few years anyway.
So, sure, from a certain point of view, George W. Bush has made us less safe. There are more Islamists who want to kill us. But, again, to the extent that Mr. Bush is inflaming the Islamists, it comes after a long series of terror attacks that culminated in 9/11. Mr. Bush's policies are a response to that attack, not something that came out of the blue, to surprise us all.
Moreover, Mr. Rumsfeld's question is a bit naive. Once you attack an enemy, the traditional response is for them to increase their recruiting. In most cases, unless you're killing a lot of the enemy, their recruiting measures will always out strip any desultory killing you engage in on occasion. Attrition is, in many ways, a useful metric for full-scale war, but not so much in a low-intensity conflict, where military engagements are the exception, not the rule. This is especially true when your operations are limited to a relatively small geographic area, and recruiting takes place safely throughout a much larger region where your forces are not operating.
You can't physically prevent such recruiting in that case, and most potential recruits, having little first-hand knowledge of the conflict itself, cannot be easily deterred from recruiting.
But, I suspect that the Democrats would be right in assuming that, for the most part, the electorate won't be exposed to any deep analysis of Mr. Dickerson's argument.
I seem to remember America and American interests around the world being attacked by islamic terrorists (like Osama Bin Laden for instance) quite regularly while Bill Clinton was running around NOT making the islamists mad. Other than NOT being attacked in 5 years we are clearly less safe now ;)
While I’m as doubtful about our Iraqi adventure as anybody these days, a U.S. foreign policy run by Democrats is still not the answer. As bad as things are going in Iraq the Democrats still don’t have a better answer. Islamo-fascists can’t be reasoned with and are emboldened by appeasement, which they interpret as weakness.
A small historical point:
By Mr. Dickerson’s reasoning, the Roosevelt policies made Americans less safe, and, ultimately provoked a war.
No doubt that’s true. FDR certainly did all of this under-handedly because the American public was dead set against getting involved in a war in Europe. Inviting a naked attack was the only way to change public opinion, FDR was a crafty manipulator of public opinion if nothing else. Whether this was "right" or "wrong" is up for serious debate. A sober look at the results of WWII shows that we simply chose a communist menace over a fascist one. Getting involved in other people’s wars usually involves such choices. Would we have spent the next 50 years and trillions of dollars fighting a cold war with the Nazi’s and Japanese if things had gone differently? Who knows. WWII is always used as the example of a "perfect war" one in which America was entirely right and just (even though we had to ally ourselves with a mass-murdering dictator in the process). It’s not that simple, nor is it that simple today.
In the end, sometimes war is inevitable and putting it off just makes it worse. If we ended the war on terror tomorrow it would still have to be fought somewhere down the road, against a stonger and emboldened enemy. We are witnessing this in the Israeli-Islam conflict. Each new cease-fire and "peace" agreement just puts off the inevitable. Historically conflicts only end when there is a clear winner and a clear loser. THAT’S the lesson to be learned from WWII. The other lesson was that the French can’t be trusted.
And strawmen arguments aren’t the answer either. Democrats don’t believe in "reasoning with Islamo-fascists." They believe in fighting them. Just more intelligently. Is the Iraq war really contributing to the stabilization of the Middle East and the repudiation of Islamofascism? Obviously not in the short term. But I don’t see it helping in the long-term either. If anything, the longterm victors are Iran and Islamists in other Muslim countries who would love to try some of that democracy serum and boot out the Musharrafs and Mubaraks of the world. Maybe in the VERY long term the Islamists will run their course and moderation will prevail. But who knows how long that will be, and how many acts of terrorism they will foment in the meantime. At some point you have to face reality: the current approach in Iraq is making us weaker.
Where are the Islamofascists? Everywhere. But the most lethal are where they were in 2001 - along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. I’m not saying we should invade Pakistan. But we could be doing a hell of a lot more to stamp out Taliban-type groups in the Pakistani mountains.
And strawmen arguments aren’t the answer either. Democrats don’t believe in "reasoning with Islamo-fascists." They believe in fighting them. Just more intelligently.
Elrod, the problem many of us had was that the Democrats fielded a 2004 presidential candidate that very much projected the image that you’re calling a strawman. And, it was what got him the Dem nomination. It may be that he actually had a plan for fighting, but he didn’t communicate it successfully if he did. His plan seemed to be:
Leave Iraq -> ??? -> Win!
Nothing seems to have changed since then. Democrats are pushing that same idea for 2006. That’s why I don’t think the argument is a strawman. It’s a reasonable perception of the Dem message. If that perception is incorrect, the Democrats need to do a better job of communicating the correct message — but honestly I believe that’s the exactly correct message because they believe it can get them elected.
Well, if we do manage to democratize Iraq, at least they’ll change their collective minds every four to eight years. Should help level the playing field some.
They want to kill us. They have the means to kill us. They have already killed some of us. They won’t be talked out of killing us. They will keep trying to kill us until we’re all either dead or subjugated.
I am completely baffled how anyone - even a politician - can make a that a partisan issue. As if the Islamists care whether they’re killing democrats or republicans.
I’m critical of this Democratic weakness as well, Scout, but part of the problem is that a whole variety of programs that would genuninely help win the GWOT, one small piece by one small piece, nevertheless in no way immediately guarantee that no further attacks will occur. Dropping bombs on stuff offers an illusionary guarantee that the problem is being solved, directly, immediately. That’s very hard to fight.
As a democrat, I would turn the economic and political screws to our quote-allies-unquote in the ME who are not making progress towards democratization. I would be making deals - and not hiding it - with whtever Islamic militants are genuinely willing to run their own lands instead of blowing us up on ours. I would be breaking the Israel/Palestine impasse in a big way. I would be demanding Kashmiri self-determination and immediate democratization in Pakistan. I would be sending hordes of volunteers across the Middle East under heavily publicized "American Friendship Corps", passing out cheap laptops and medical supplies.
And I would continue using Special Forces, law enforcement, CIA assets and predator drones to disperse, destroy, and imprison anyone making plans to blow up Americans.
All of these things would help drain the poison from the ME regional environment. All of them help reduce the likelihood of future terrorist attacks in ways that are hard to quantify. None of them, sadly, guarantee it.
Most of the indvidual ideas I’ve proposed here are very hard for a Democratic candidate, especially a cowardly one, to propose in a presidential campaign, "Hey, John Kerry wants to fight terrorism by handing out laptops! HAHAHHAHAHAHHAH!" Soft power programs are easy targets for mockery, and so they don’t even make it to the table. It’s sad.
What we have already learned, though, is that the US military can not guarantee a lack of future terrorists attacks through bombing runs and ground invasions of regimes we don’t like. That seems to be all the the Republicans are offering. Who knows, maybe by 2008, that will be clear enough to make some space for an actual hearts-and-minds campaign to be proposed in detail without being lambasted from 15 sides at once as delusional appeasement.