Keeping Our Eye on the Ball

Here’s a troubling post by Hugh Hewitt. I can’t find fault with his argument.

Here is a harsh political truth that most Republicans have avoided saying because they thought there was no sense in rubbing it in: If America is struck again today, this week, this month or anytime in 2004, it will be because the cancer of radical Islam grew too large during the presidency of Bill Clinton to be excised in the space of a few years.

President Bush has been reluctant to make this point because he is a gentleman, but there is a cost to that courtesy, which is the encouragement on the left of awful thinking about the nature of the enemy. Even as Churchill refrained, after taking office, from attacking the Men of Munich for their terrible misjudgments, so Bush has kept his quiet about Clinton, Berger, and Albright.

[. . .]

[The Democrats’ foreign-policy misperceptions are] madness, but of a contagious sort. A Dean supporter called my program last week to argue that Clinton had handed Bush an “action plan” on Osama that had not been implemented, proving that 9/11 and the terrorist threat was Bush’s fault. This is one of many stunning delusions that the advocates of the Democrats have embraced, the sort of self-deception that will end up warning the electorate of the fundamental disqualification of Bush’s opponent, whether Dean or another of the Democrats or even Hillary if she cannot resist the pressure upon her to run: They still don’t get it.

What is “it?” Simply this: There are tens of millions of people who want tens of millions of Americans dead. Their motivations may vary, and their ability to carry out their intentions are sometimes quite limited, though unfortunately quite capable in some segments of their numbers. There is no choice but to kill the competent among them first, and there are no international organizations that will do the job for us, and it is folly to trust such organizations to act in our place. The war will be along one, with many battles and casualties, but it cannot be lost except through loss of will. Time is of the essence. The obvious targets are not the only targets, and all the rallies on the Mall in the world won’t make the threat go away.

(Read it all.)

The famous “orange alert” may be a joke this time. But maybe not. We may eventually be attacked again. (Wretchard argues that now is as good a time as any for Al Qaeda to hit us, given that our recent successes probably put AQ in a now-or-never situation in which lack of success will kill their funding.)

The Democrats’ lack of seriousness about the radical Islamist threat makes it more difficult for us to take action.

14 thoughts on “Keeping Our Eye on the Ball”

  1. “The Democrats’ lack of seriousness about the radical Islamist threat makes it more difficult for us to take action.”

    It’s worse than that. Their only hope of beating Bush is if we suffer some violent setback they can blame on him. Their interests and al Qaeda’s overlap at the moment. Most Democrats don’t fall into this category. But Dean does. He has made himself the objective ally of Al Qaeda on purpose. He doesn’t give a damn about the truth, or the safety of Americans, or about anything except winning. Recall he said Saddam’s capture doesn’t make America safer. This line was not in the original draft of his speech. It was put in late in the process, after discussion. Why? For a specific political reason. It was not a throw-away line. It is Dean’s way of expressly placing a bet on a successful terrorist attack by Al Qaeda, which he can then use against Bush. Dean is that kind of guy. Low as dirt. I think he is so low the American voter will see just what type of dirt he is. We’ll get the chance to scrape him off our shoe next November.

    Wretchard’s post on Belmont Club is very convincing. Al Qaeda may be finding itself in a corner with funds drying up, and figure that a spectacular win is needed to regain momentum. An attack, or an attempted attack, soon, seems more likely than ever based on the overall situation. And if Ridge is right that there is specific evidence, then we may be in for something big. Al Qaeda is a rat in a corner, and if it comes out biting in a do-and-die Banzai charge, it could succeed in raising a lot of Hell and killing a lot of people.

    The only good part of it is this. WE are driving events. WE are scoring victories. THEY are forced to react, to respond, on OUR timetable, on OUR schedule. Which means they have less money, less time to plan, less everything. Which means that if they come out into the open, like the Viet Cong did in 1968, we will be able to destroy them. They have to hope that they can win it on the TV screen even as they die, like the Viet Cong did. I don’t think it is going to work. Osama is no Giap, even if he’s alive. His gang of child-murdering neurotics is nothing like the hard-edged legions of Vietnamese communists, among the fiercest and most skillful combatants who ever set foot on a battlefield. And unlike Vietnam, this war is not “optional” for us. Whether these delusional, skulking, suicidal mama’s boys score one or more further blows against us or not, the end is not in doubt. They are going to die. And they are going to lose.

  2. The only piece of comfort here for me is that I have been pondering the electoral aftermath of such an attack.

    For about one week, the American people may be enraged at Bush. “YOU were supposed to protect us!!!”, etc.” But the time will follow not long after that they begin to DEMAND answers of “What will you do?”

    ANd what will the Democrats do? Get the UN involved”? Spend more money so we can pick up the bodies faster after a third, fourth and fifth hit? More to the point, will they implement the Patriot Act times ten? Will they send the army to the borders and machine gun whoever tries to cross unauthorized? Will they racially profile Middle Easterners?

    They will…. or they won’t stand a chance. Period. And if they do…. well, they won’t be Democrats any more, least not as we all know them now.

    Quite the quandary. Hope for their sake and ours they don’t have to face it.

  3. I have great respect for “Wretchard,” but I cannot agree that a second 9/11 “would drop a mantle of weariness on the American people.” If the response to the first was shock, followed by decisive but discriminating action, the response to another attack will be blind rage: domestically, the incarceration of anyone who looks suspicious, by the hundreds of thousands if necessary; internationally, a war on much of the Muslim world, not just one or two isolated regimes, with the attendant militarization of the American economy. A second attack must be averted precisely because of what will seem like good ideas in its wake. In order to avoid acting out of desperation, we must not be rendered desperate.

  4. Here is a harsh political truth that most Republicans don’t want to hear because they don’t like you rubbing it in: The carcinogen that started the cancer of radical Islam was the Reagan Administration’s creation of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan and the long line of American presidents propping up corrupt regimes all across the Arab world. Not to mention that Iraq was the only country in the region that successfully, albiet brutally, repressed its own radial Islamist movement until it was attacked by the USA.

    To blame all the world’s current tragedies on Bill Clinton, is as lame as blaming all that is wrong with the world five years from now on George Bush.

  5. The carcinogen that started the cancer of radical Islam was Khomeini. His messianic radicalness made other competing sects feel that they had to be more radical in reponse.

    This thing has been building for 25 years and Reagan’s response in Lebanon and Clinton’s response in Somalia just fed the myth that if they kill 20 or more Americans and we would run.

  6. John, your comment is barely on point with this post, but we are such nice guys around here, and you are being civil about it and all, so here goes.

    The details about Reagan’s supposed complicity in the creation of what became Al Qaeda don’t really support your thesis. For example the CIA devoted its efforts to supporting indigenous Afghan fighters. It was the Saudis who recruited and paid for the foreign fighters like Osama, and these guys did not make as major a contribution to the anti-Soviet struggle as they like to claim. Anyway, in a war your enemy’s enemy is your friend. We armed Stalin to fight against Hitler because it made sense to do so, and we opposed Stalin almost to the point of war a few years later because it made sense to do so. You win the war you are in, and you deal with the mess after its over. The Cold War was a war, and the support of Arab dictators arose in that same context. But, getting into these detailed issues of fact will just cause us to descend into “I say”, “you say”. The remote causes of the problems in the Arab world can be traced back even farther than US support for corrupt Arab regimes during the Cold War. We could go back to the way the collapse of the Ottoman Empire was handled, or even the centuries of its decline, or the rise of Wahhabism 200 years ago. These are all remote causes, of historical interest. I’m more concerned with the more immediate causes of the current problem we face.

    No one is blaming all the worlds tragedies on Clinton. People are blaming a few specific tragedies on Clinton. Plausibly, they assert that the severe, persistent and escalating series of terrorist attacks on Americans during the Clinton administration, and the specific, articulated threats by Al Qaeda and others, were different in kind from anything we had faced previously. Also plausibly, Clinton’s critics argue that these attacks and threats merited a stronger, more consistent response from the Clinton administration. Clinton failed to act in a sufficiently focused and resolute way. Talking about Reagan, accurately or not, doesn’t rebut any of this.

    Walter Russell Mead’s review in Foreign Affairs of Rich Lowry’s book and Madeline Albright’s book is very fair, noting that Lowry may be too tough on Clinton but that:

    Albright’s riposte is surprisingly weak. She stresses accomplishments like the enlargement of NATO and victories in Bosnia and Kosovo but does not provide a closely argued defense of Clinton’s record on the Middle East and terrorism. She conspicuously fails to address the most damning charge: that long-term national interest was sacrificed in a vain quest for landmark diplomatic victories. In the long run, Albright and her former colleagues are going to have to present a more comprehensive reply to the charges of hubris and fecklessness now swirling about them. In the meantime, however, they can continue to point to the troubles of their successors as evidence that their own record, if not exactly Churchillian, is not without its strengths.

    “Hubris and fecklessness” is about right. And there will be no “comprehensive reply” in support of the Clinton administration’s foreign policy because it was always ad hoc, incoherent, and subordinated to domestic or political goals. This is what the historical record shows.

    Discussing the actions of Reagan, or for that matter, Nasser, Ben Burion, Kemal Ataturk, Lord Kitchener, Napoleon, Tamerlane, Saladin or Mohammad himself — all part of the remote background of the current Middle East and today’s events — will not change that.

  7. Buck, how could I have forgotten to add Khomenei to my list? Of course. And Muhammad Ali Jinnah belongs on the list of key figures. If Britain had not partitioned India, creating an explicitly Islamic state, the world would be a profoundly different place.

    Again, all very interesting — and none of it in any way excuses Clinton’s failures.

  8. Attempts at root-cause analysis are likely to be futile, but for those who just can’t resist, at least try to remember that once upon a time, there was a country called the Soviet Union. It’s been long enough ago now that lots of comments I read online seem to have been written by people who think that we did things like overthrow Mossadegh just for the hell of it, or because “big business” ordered it, etc. Quite a few things done in the name of the Truman Doctrine, of course, turned out badly. But the Cold War context — and the miniature version of it with revolutionary Iran in the 1980s — must be remembered in order to protect oneself from conspiracy theorizing.

  9. A second attack must be averted precisely because of what will seem like good ideas in its wake. In order to avoid acting out of desperation, we must not be rendered desperate.

    It would be ugly. You’d have to have massive retaliation against wahhabi institutions and support structures. Occupation of Saudi would probably be necessary as well as the total dismantling of madrassahs in Pakistan and other asian countries. What we’re doing now is kid-glove compared to what would happen after another attack. These people have got to realize that…

  10. On a related note, please check out Bruce Reed’s op-ed in Sunday’s Post.

    Mr. Reed has some good advice for the dems, sounding the same warnings as Lex: don’t be cheerleaders for Osama and Saddam, don’t hope for disasters.

    But what struck me about this op-ed is that other that “stop obstructing and stop wishing for bad news”, Mr. Reed has nothing to say about how the dems can help with the grave threats facing us; instead, it’s all bike-path stuff (prescription drugs) and vague banalities (“roll up our sleeves and get to work trying to give every American the opportunity to build a better life”).

    This, I think, strongly supports Lex’s observation about the dems’ lack of seriousness. At best, they just don’t have anything to contribute, at worst, they’ll actively and wilfully work against America, underminint the war on terrorism.

  11. Although I am about as well qualified as a military strategist and historian as Howard Dean, the Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker agrees with me. Khomeini started the war on terror and we will end it:

    While many view Sept. 11, 2001, as the start of the War on Terror, reality points to its beginning many years prior to that event. For some of us, it began 23 years ago in the Iranian desert at a place called Desert One. Like the eight Soldiers who lost their lives that night, today’s Soldiers, stretched thin in more than 120 countries around the world, sacrifice daily as they answer this nation’s call. But while the brutality, pain and suffering have remained constant, the support our Soldiers have received from a truly grateful nation has never been greater.

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