They All Look Alike Anyway

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The silliest—and most predictable—political spin from the UK airline plot is the newest version of the "Bush bounce." Once again we're told that the foiling of a terrorist act is going to redound to the benefit of the president, the Republicans, and the whole neoconservative family. But this week there's a new twist: It's going to murder (no pun intended) the Democrats, who have just declared themselves anti-war for now and for ever. The Democrats just benched Joe Lieberman, the party's most stalwart supporter of the Iraq war (and stalwart basher of Democrats who opposed the war). And we all know Iraq war = war on terrorism = freedom and America. It's the transitive property; look it up. Here's the shrillest example of the phenomenon, from Jules Crittenden in the Boston Herald.

All those security moms who thought they could go back to being soccer moms Security moms once more. They cast their feel-good votes Tuesday to express their distaste for violence. But that portion of the electorate that allowed itself to be briefly distracted by the bright shiny object Lamont was dangling in front of them—easy peace, all glittery and yours for the asking—are waking up from their gauzy dream this morning and remembering what Joe Lieberman stands for. Their security.

Imagine for a second people who think "Joe Lieberman stands for their security." Do they think Danny DeVito was the hero in "Twins"?

Daniel Henninger provides a counterblaste from the Wall Street Journal, the paper where Lieberman placed an angry editorial that inspired Lamont to run, that has more of the same.

Yes, we know; they support the war on terror but are merely against George Bush's war in Iraq. How does that work?

Last week before the Lamont victory, 12 members of the congressional Democratic leadership sent President Bush a letter urging that he start a phased pullout from Iraq, euphemized as a "redeployment," starting before the end of this year. But it is becoming increasingly fantastic to argue that Iraq, with its apparently limitless supply of suicide bombers, hasn't much to do with the terror threats manifest elsewhere.

Henninger might be releasing a national security secret here—the mind control abilities of Iraqi terrorists. So powerful are they that they pushed a gang of Pakistanis to plot a terrorist attack. What hath Saddam Hussein wrought?

Leaving aside the ghoulishness of praying for political bounces whenever terrorists are busted, this is all incredibly self-deluding. I like the way Steve Sailer put it: "What other possible solution is there for preventing fanatical Muslims from killing people in Britain and America than conquering the secularist regime in a country that didn't have anything to do with these plots?"

The foiling of a terrorist attack three and a half years after we supposedly trapped terrorists on Iraq's flypaper map should inspire some hard thinking about the success of that strategy. But it isn't. It's getting harder and harder to escape the conclusion that neoconservatives and Republican partisans care more about smashing the Democrats than protecting anyone from terrorist attacks.

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  1. Because we want the example of an Iraq choosing non-nutwadism and doing well.

    That slows the recruiting. “Hey wait a minute, Iraq is doing okay, how come we’re not?”

    Not to mention that Saddam is no longer in the midst of things, having been removed for a few years.

  2. “What other possible solution is there for preventing fanatical Muslims from killing people in Britain and America than conquering the secularist regime in a country that didn’t have anything to do with these plots?”

    Because clearly a secular regime would never allie itself with religous fanatics. I guess that is why the Bathists in Syria are mortal enemies of the Mullahs in Iran.

  3. I hope the Republicans keep up this line of argument waaaaaaaaayyyyyy past its expiration date, which seems to have been this spring.

    The public has already decoupled the Iraq War from the fight against Al Qaeda; in fact, they’ve finally come to realize that the Iraq War is stalling the fight against Al Qaeda, just as the Democrats said it would. The sort of law enforcement/intelligence operation that busted this plot is the Democratic/liberal alternative to the Iraq War, remember? The sort of thing John Kerry would do instead of going forth in a manly man manner and conquering third-party countries.

    By continuing to link the “we’re tougher, we fight harder, we defend America” line that has worked so well for them for forty years to the “Iraq is the war on terror” canard, the Republicans are undermining their superiority on national security, possibly for years to come.

    If they call the Democrats “weak on security,” and offer as proof the fact that the Democrats want to put more resources into direct anti-terror activities instead of Iraq, it just makes the public that much less likely to care the next time the Republicans tar someone as “weak on security.”

  4. I do have a question for the Democrats. Just what will you do vis-?-vis the Middle East if you win the White House? Surprisingly, few people will be impressed by simply Not-Being-Bush. Something different has to be proposed and done.

    The international consensus and sitting-at-the-table approach didn’t really work. I don’t blame us for 9/11, but one can hardly say that the Clinton administration did everything right, because 9/11 followed right on the heels of (and was planned during) all of its efforts. It seems to me that the Democrats must either suggest largely abandoning our meddlesome ways or propose a stronger involvement, perhaps even a larger military presence. There’s really no other option, because kinda sorta “engaging” folks over there while occasionally killing some people didn’t work and isn’t working. Leave or get serious.

    Of course, while I’m saying all that, I’m not really saying it about Iraq. We can plan to scale down our presence there, but we have to be prepared to deal with the consequences if the wrong guys win the civil war. We could very well end up with another Iran on our hands. To me, that’s a worse result than sticking, more or less, to the present course. We probably shouldn’t have gotten involved as heavily as we did in nation building, but we did. Now we have to figure out the best way to avoid making things even worse. We could (mostly) pull out with dire threats about returning. Maybe that would work. Maybe.

    The Democrats often act like there’s an undo button for the Bush administration’s mistake in invading Iraq. There isn’t. If they don’t get out of that mindset, there will be another GOP win in 2008, despite the ineptitude of the current administration.

  5. What other possible solution is there for preventing fanatical Muslims from killing people in Britain and America than conquering the secularist regime in a country that didn’t have anything to do with these plots?

    I don’t know why I bother, but . . .

    You are aware that Saddam Husseing was a stalwart supporter and financier of various Islamic terror organizations, right? That he famously paid bounties for every suicide bomber to detonate in Israel, and that he gave safe haven to terrorist bigs on the lam?

    I just love the “root cause” crowd when they complain about the Iraq war, because the Iraq war is nothing more than our best opportunity to address the root cause of terrorism by destabilizing the corrupt and dysfunctional Middle Eastern states and society that nurture and export terrorism.

  6. I may be slightly stupid, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how Scotland Yard foiling a terror attack is even remotely related to the Iraq War, Joe Lieberman, Ned Lamont, or soccer moms.

    Imagine for a second people who think “Joe Lieberman stands for their security.” Do they think Danny DeVito was the hero in “Twins”?

    That was the last reference I expected. Well done, Dave.

  7. By the way, joe, I largely agree that invading Iraq did weaken our focus and response in dealing with al Qaeda and terror in general. Kerry threw that idea around a bit, but it didn’t really take on a policy-level position for the Democrats. So if it became a central theme, with some sort of reasonable resolution for Iraq thrown in, that might be enough.

    But I have my doubts that the anti-war crowd will buy a major ramping up of our war against al Qaeda, which might actually mean more invasions and blowing up of things. And people. Once again, I think the Undo-Button elements of the party will be the problem. We must engage on all fronts (diplomatic, economic, military, etc.) or disengage. There’s really no other option as things stand today.

    Despite statements you hear otherwise, we could disengage and leave the problem to (mostly) Europe and Russia. And Israel. But we might not like the results of that, and it may be too late to stop the terror attacks against us, even if we do that. After all, showing weakness may just encourage the terrorists all the more. Who knows?

  8. “our best opportunity to address the root cause of terrorism by destabilizing the corrupt and dysfunctional Middle Eastern states and society that nurture and export terrorism.”

    Yeah, because destabilizing a society never leads to terrorism. When you create a power vacuum in a dysfunctional state that nutures and exports terrorism, it is always the good guys that fill that power vacuum. The terrorists see the vacuum and are abhored, put down their guns and become cobblers.

  9. Because clearly a secular regime would never allie itself with religous fanatics. I guess that is why the Bathists in Syria are mortal enemies of the Mullahs in Iran.

    It’s like I’ve been saying for years: al-Sadr would’ve been worse.

  10. The primary cause that foiled the current plot was a tip from Pakistan. Not as a fruit from the Iraq war or domestic surveillance. We have been tolerant of Pakistan despite their inability to control the Taliban at their borders and the possibility that OBL is hiding there.

    Despite war and domestic surveillance, diplomacy and tolerance saved the day.

    Can the Democrats frame it correctly and use it to their advantage? I have my doubts.

  11. Pro Lib,

    This Democrat says that, for one thing, we need to stop thinking in terms of “what to do about the Middle East.” Saudi Arabia isn’t Iran isn’t Lebanon isn’t Egypt isn’t Iraq. Lumping unlike things together was our greatest weakness in fighting the Cold War; it is behind the ongoing debacle in Iraq; and it has a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    1. Get off imported oil.

    2. Support democratization the way we did in Europe during the Cold War, and in Lebanon and Ukraine more recently, as opposed to the so-called democratization efforts we carried out in Vietnam during the Cold War, and Iraq more recently.

    2A. In places where democratization is coming about becaue of established policies of internal reform (as opposed to revolutionary movements or outside agitation), be very friendly in public, but keep some pressure on behind closed doors to prevent backsliding. Trade deals are a good carrot/stick to use in this instance.

    3. Don’t do anything stupid! Remember, no matter how bad things are, they can always get worse. This isn’t an invitation to paralysis, but to caution and careful planning. No more lauging off the possibility that a policy might cause regional destabilization. If I could, I’d trade what’s going on in Iraq right now for the return of the popular protests in Iran circa 2000, in a second.

    4. Announce a phased withdrawal from Iraq, coupled with support for an internal political settlement of the Iraqis’ making. (No more demogoguing amnesty for insurgents, fellas.) Declare that America has not intention of establishing permanent bases in Iraq. The American occupation is the glue holding the international jihadists together with the Sunni insurgents. As an added bonus, announce that the withdrawal will end, or be reversed, if certain conditions are not met. These conditions should be things that the Sunni/nationalist insurgents will be fine with, but which the jihadists cannot tolerate.

    5. Keep our troops where they are welcome – Kuwait, Kurdistan, Qatar, at sea, Diego Garcia. Supplement the “over the horizon” capabilities by having Special Forces and quickly-deployed units (Stryker Brigade, airborne/air assault units) on hand.

    6. Work as an honest broker and promote peace between Israel and Palestine (and Israel and Lebanon, at this point). Not only is this the best way to reduce the human, military, and political toll of these conflicts, but being seen as an honest broker will make our “soft power” efforts to promote democratization more effective.

  12. Joe: “…in fact, they’ve finally come to realize that the Iraq War is stalling the fight against Al Qaeda,…”
    &
    “…the Democrats want to put more resources into direct anti-terror activities…”

    In what country/region will this supersized anti-terror activity be waged?

    The definition of begeezes is coming more clear.

  13. Don,

    Where the United States engage in its first post-9/11 effort against an Islamist terror group?

  14. The answer, as we all know, is the Phllipines.

    To answer your question, Don, the United States should engage in each particular, unique anti-terror mission in the location that that particular, unique problem exists. Each of these episodes will be part of a global strategy.

    If I had to guess, I would say that the regions in which military actions will most commonly take place in will be Southwestern Asia, South/Central Asia, Southeast Asia, North Africa, and East Africa.

  15. That the Republicans are more interested in using the War on Terror for domestic political purposes than in winning it was made perfectly clear by the way they spent four years using security and military policy as a wedge issue even as they were sending American forces overseas to fight.

    People whose first priority is to win a war, like FDR, put their efforts into reinforcing national unity, not working to destroy it as a electoral tactic.

  16. I think I would award any political points associated with this event to the anti war crowd. It only proves their point that the Bush/neocon strategy of fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here is not working out so well.

    If I was a Republican, I would not want to base my political future on support for a plan to keep us safe that is clearly not working or brag too much about the nonexistent security they have been able to provide with two wars, the Patriot Act and NSA wiretaps.

  17. Joe,

    As you know, to operate in a region requires operating in a country. There are few if any (countries) in the areas you mentioned that would allow us free access to identify/isolate/kill their bad guys. We can in Iraq/Afgan because we control(?) them. Anywhere else is questionable.

  18. I rather think that both parties have overpoliticized our response to al Qaeda and our invasion of Iraq, but that’s consistent with the way we’ve behaved in the past. Political hay was made even during WWII. Still, it would help mightily if we’d agree on strategy while leaving the political battle at the level of tactics. No one in the world, not even the bad guys, can blame the United States for going after al Qaeda. Let’s do that on all fronts and stop getting distracted with “solving” the problem that is the Middle East. That can’t be done without a lot more effort than we’re willing to put forth, anyway.

    It’s too bad that the liberalization of Iraq has gotten off to such a rocky start. I opposed the invasion, but, once it happened, I was hoping that maybe we’d see a liberal government of sorts take root. That still could happen, but it probably will take a lot more time and blood to occur, if it does at all, and I doubt that it’ll look much like the government looks today. I once hoped that Iran would have an internal revolt and take on that liberal role, but that’s unlikely now. Our presence in the region seems to have backfired as far as Iran is concerned, with its leadership using fear of the United States to maintain its hold on the controls.

  19. Leaving aside the ghoulishness of praying for political bounces whenever terrorists are busted, this is all incredibly self-deluding.

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