Friday, October 31, 2003


I'm depressed.

Kevin Drum points us to a post by Michael Totten that warns that Democrats are the verge of implosion if they don't get with it when it comes to the war on terrorism. Essentially this means that we should side with Zell Miller and throw our support 100% behind George Bush.

Kevin puts it well I think:

Look, guys: if you think we ought to use military force to fight terrorism, I'm with you. But if you think we ought to use that same military force as part of a war of civilizations, count me out. Way, way out. That's not any kind of liberalism I'm familiar with.

And if you want to know why George Bush scares me — despite the fact that I wasn't wildly opposed to invading Iraq and very much hope that we can make the reconstruction work — it's because I'm afraid he agrees with Roger. He's too smart to say it, but I'm afraid it's there anyway.

And that's a brand of Kool-Aid I'm not drinking. You'll have to find yourselves another sucker for that particular poison.

Posters in threads to both Kevin and Michael's posts are talking about Democrats having their heads in the sand because they won't acknowledge that we are fighting this "war of civilizations". The problem with this argument is that it assumes that we are in a war that will, if not fought correctly, will result in the destruction of Western civilization.

Let me point out a simple fact to these people: in his wildest dreams Osama bin Laden could never achieve the kind of civilized destruction these people are imagining.

One poster pointed to this piece by Josh Marshall:

Unlike fascism or communism, militant Islam isn't a rising power, but a threat precisely because of its dysfunction and weakness... If it weren't for the fact that fanatical Islamist terrorists might get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, the sad fact is that few would even care. Of course, the fact that they could get their hands on weapons of mass destruction is a serious caveat. But it does place the issue in a certain context. It is a grave threat, but in a very specific, physical way--a threat to liberal societies but hardly the kind of ideological or political threat that great totalitarianisms posed a half a century ago. Islamist fanatics might destroy a whole city in the West, a catastrophic event. But they'll never conquer or subvert a country. And this is the heart of the difference. To paraphrase Arthur Schlesinger, Islamism is a danger to the West but hardly a danger in the West--or China, or Latin America, or anywhere else where Islam is not already the dominant religion...

Recalling those vivid images of the Twin Towers' collapse, it is uncomfortable to have to argue that someone is overstating the danger of radical Islam. Nevertheless, to confront the very real threat we face, nothing is more important than seeing that danger for what it is--not through the distorting prism of our grandparents' world. We have now toppled one of the worst regimes in the region. We have a foothold in the heartland of Islam. We have to decide how to proceed. Do we declare all-out war with much of the Muslim world or craft an approach more narrowly tailored to secure our safety and advance their freedom? Grandiose visions beget grandiose actions, which often end tragically. And grandiosity is a sin of intellectuals, too.

Perhaps it is something that isn't said because it sounds crass, but Josh has it right: the best bin Laden and his cohorts could hope for would be to level one or two cities. This is nothing compared to the fear of Armageddon that existed during the cold war when many people, myself included, seriously believed that the world would be reduced to a burnt-out cinder within their lifetimes. People who are scared of terrorism today yet did not live through those times have no clue what real fear is like. Yet we managed to survive that time without bombing all of our enemies back to the stone age.

The supporters of Totten's view seem to seriously believe that Democrats, because they oppose Bush's actions, want America to be destroyed by the bin Laden's of the world. It is that kind of rhetoric that depresses me the most. As long as we continue to interpret the actions of others through the presumption of the worst motives then we will never achieve any kind of political peace in this country (or the world).

Let's be clear about this: it is possible to believe that America needs to fight to protect itself while at the same time believing that the way George W. Bush is going about it is dangerous to the safety of the American people. Bush's fans want us to demonstrate that we are willing to defend America. But they seem to think that anything other than the way Bush is doing it is, automatically, a failure.

Only God is infallible. To suggest that people who criticize Bush are, by definition, opposed to protecting the well-being of America is to assert that Bush is infallible.

Do you believe that Bush is God?

Of course not.

Then why do you think he can't be wrong?

It's enough to make me wonder if there is any hope for us at all.


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