Wednesday, November 01, 2006

On bipartisanship in the War on Terror.

Let me first explain my position on the War on Terror. I use that term because it is commonly accepted, even if it is not entirely descriptive or even appropriate for the struggle we face.

Whatever you wish to term it, I have no doubt as to the importance of the issue at hand. I believe liberal, western ideology is at "war" with a brand of Islamic fundamentalism which must be defeated. This is not a war of West vs Islam. I believe in many ways that the fundamentalists of the west are as much a danger to our way of life as the fundamentalists of Islam. I believe that most of the Islamic world are on the side of Democracy, or would be if we only acted intelligently in this struggle, because it is in their best interest to be so aligned.

This struggle if conducted intelligently would manifest itself militarily in the vanquishing of the Taliban who harbored Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. This military action would encompass the occupation and Democratic renewal of, and then withdrawal from Afghanistan. We ought to have had a Marshall plan type effort to make Afghanistan a true example of western ideals fused with Islamic tradition. I think it could have worked if conducted intelligently.

The War on terror beyond the military component in Afghanistan, nearly by definition, should be a police and intelligence community action. Having troops on the ground in Afghanistan doesn't detect the bomb on the airliner leaving New Delhi. Good police work and intelligence assets provide the tools to combat those threats.

There is a third component beyond military and police/intelligence that we need in order to succeed in this effort. Good diplomacy with strong alliances is crucial. If the U.S. approach to allies is to insist on following with no heed to their concerns, even in the face of overwhelming opposition and evidence that our approach is not or will not work, we are manifestly weakened in this struggle.

What it boils down to is that I'm on board with the need to win this struggle. I contend that the Presidents decision to conduct the Iraq invasion has devastated our cause in the War on Terror. When I hear the President describe Iraq as a central front in the war on terror I hear him reaffirm a horrible strategic mistake. Which brings me to the way this struggle should have been, and ought to be conducted from the domestic side.

What brought this issue home for me was watching Mike Barnicle and Pat Buchanan on Scarborough Country. Here is the exchange in question:
Barnicle: [T]he president of the United States, campaigning in Georgia and Texas, said the following, "However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this. The terrorists win and America loses."

What is the president saying there, that if people vote for a Democrat, that they're voting in favor of the terrorists, that they're not for America? What is he saying?


BUCHANAN: Now, you know, I may agree with Mike on this thing. Look, when you see what both sides are saying-we're at war. We got 2,800 guys dead, 20,000 guys wounded. There's no end to this in sight. How does the president of the United States who's commander-in-chief in a time of war unite the country behind a policy when he's going at them like that and they're coming back at him in the same way? And you see all these ads-all these ads are ripping us in half on a war about which we're at least supposed to be united that the United States should win or find some way out successfully.

SCARBOROUGH: And you know, Pat, you can't, as president of the United States and commander-in-chief, talk about politics ending at the water's edges, if you're going out and making those type of statements.
Lately I have noticed a sea change in the attitude of many principled conservatives to the Presidents approach to this issue in particular. This administration has made a political living out of demonizing what used to be called 'the loyal opposition'. For the President to flat out declare that if Democrats win, terrorists win and America loses is the final step on the rhetorical path he has followed since 9/11.

Having established my belief in the necessity to win the war on terror, you can imagine how frustrating it is for this to be happening from my point of view. The man who promised to be a uniter, not a divider, has cynically used the war on terror to deeply divide us along partisan lines. How can I and those who think like me ever be expected to rally to this President or his policies when he says stuff like this? This division is such that those who do not agree with the Presidents manifest blunders in the conduct of this war are declared to be anti American and pro terrorist. Only true died in the wool koolaid drinkers could think that being bull headedly wrong time and again is pro American. The inability to admit mistakes coupled with unchecked power in the hands of one determined to shape the world based upon idealism rather than realism has led to foreign quagmire and domestic schism.

The President and those who support him must realize the following truth. We are a democracy. As such, for as long as we remain a democracy, the leadership of this nation is subject to change at the will of the people. If the people change the partisan nature of that leadership it behooves all of us to have policies that can be followed despite the change because of the manifestly correct nature of those policies. Yet today we see policies that are obviously wrong headed rule the day at the expense of the patriotism of those who are bold enough to tell the truth. The only thing left is for this President to desperately cling to power by any means necessary with each election in order to continue that wrong headed policy. It is obvious that any sane approach would change course, so each election is devoted to scorched earth and the divisions grow.

We are not stronger for this. And it is not the fault of Democrats or liberals. Or principled conservatives for that matter. It is the fault of the neocon cabal that has hijacked the Republican party. This nation went through over 40 years of cold war with administrations from both parties, liberal, moderate and conservative each taking a turn at the helm. Can you imagine the turmoil that would have ensued if Eisenhower had blockaded the USSR, Kennedy had signed peace treaties and allowed normal relations, Nixon had invaded them, Carter had apologized and offered reparations, Reagan had set off an open air nuclear test in the Aleutian islands... I mean it would have resulted in chaos. (To be sure the various scenarios I lay out here are outlandish in nature but the point remains).

I can't see a way out of this predicament at this point. There is a base of roughly 30% of the country that is highly motivated and bitterly certain of the justness of their cause. There is no reaching them with any fact or logic that can open their eyes. As long as this base exists and the rest of us do not knuckle under to their point of view there will always be schizm in America. Quite frankly this base revels in the confrontation, division and acrimony.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who think the fervor and bull headedness of the left is just as damaging. I respectfully disagree, and in so doing I think I prove my point. For in respectfully disagreeing I do not call those who carry the opposite point of view anti American, pro terrorist Nazi's. Even if they do call me an anti American, pro terrorist Communist.

For what it's worth, I would call upon those from the political right who would unite us in the future to denounce the divide and conquer attitude taken by this administration. If they fail to do so, they can forget about having me jump on the bandwagon. We desperately need a bandwagon we can all hop on as we go forward in conducting the war on terror.

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