Bush’s speech. When we listen to the contrast between hawks & doves (roughly republicans and democrats, especially as seen by matched pundits post-speech), we see them arguing past one another. As irritating as the democrats’ political spin may be to a hawk, the narrow & superficial approach is understandable if we assume, as many of them do, that this is only a “war.” Indeed, since it isn’t real, it is best analyzed as political ploy. Dots going back to, what, 1983 in Beirut and moving on to the German hostages today do not cohere to them. Nor do they read the fatwas, listen to the speeches in Iran or watch the celebrations in Gaza – these are not parts of one implacable foe. Hawks see a pattern; doves do not. That the doves’ arguments fall into the cheapest of partisan arguments arises from the fact that they do not see this as, well, important. So, they fall back on old cliches – speaking of offering peace rather than war without feeling a need to define who that peace would be with and how it would be accomplished. Bush recognized that difference, but made his own stance clear:
September 11th, 2001 required us to take every emerging threat to our country seriously, and it shattered the illusion that terrorists attack us only after we provoke them. On that day, we were not in Iraq, we were not in Afghanistan, but the terrorists attacked us anyway – and killed nearly 3,000 men, women, and children in our own country. My conviction comes down to this: We do not create terrorism by fighting the terrorists. We invite terrorism by ignoring them. And we will defeat the terrorists by capturing and killing them abroad, removing their safe havens, and strengthening new allies like Iraq and Afghanistan in the fight we share.
He further distinguishes between these two points of view.
He acknowledges “[t]his loss has caused sorrow for our whole Nation – and it has led some to ask if we are creating more problems than we are solving.” Then he describes how he believes that question should be answered:
That is an important question, and the answer depends on your view of the war on terror. If you think the terrorists would become peaceful if only America would stop provoking them, then it might make sense to leave them alone.
This is not the threat I see. I see a global terrorist movement that exploits Islam in the service of radical political aims – a vision in which books are burned, and women are oppressed, and all dissent is crushed. Terrorist operatives conduct their campaign of murder with a set of declared and specific goals – to de-moralize free nations, to drive us out of the Middle East, to spread an empire of fear across that region, and to wage a perpetual war against America and our friends. These terrorists view the world as a giant battlefield – and they seek to attack us wherever they can. This has attracted al Qaida to Iraq, where they are attempting to frighten and intimidate America into a policy of retreat.
The terrorists do not merely object to American actions in Iraq and elsewhere – they object to our deepest values and our way of life. And if we were not fighting them in Iraq … in Afghanistan, in Southeast Asia, and in other places, the terrorists would not be peaceful citizens – they would be on the offense, and headed our way.
Perhaps hawks see with paranoia, but I would suggest it is gravitas. More than that, hawks sense this is not a fight our children (weakened by our abdication of an elder’s responsibility to promote and protect our beliefs) should have to fight against an ideology that has in the meantime been strengthened not only by that abdication but by another generation’s madrassa training. Our opponents believe our children are better dead than free (at least free in the way we define freedom). But our belief is broad, too – we believe freedom is the right of the very people who find our use of it so offensive. Given the ballot, they may want to limit that freedom in ways we do not, but that is their choice. It is not too optimistic to assume they will enjoy that taste of freedom, besides they are far more likely to vote than shoot.
Irritated Update: Of course, the “other” side demonstrates another perspective quickly.
Less slanted later NY Times. Of course it does seem a little picky to complain that Bush took the concluding (and therefore resolving) lines from Longfellow, rather than the ones that, clearly, this writer prefers. (This is reporting?) Also, of course, they point to their own story, foregoing any reference to its relation to the book publication. This juxtaposition would be central to the discussion if the shoe were on the other foot.