Kevin Drum in The Washington Monthly has an article that starts out talking about how the Democrats don’t want to discuss security issues. He points out that 38% of the Republican delegates to this year’s national convention mentioned security subjects, while only 4% of the Democrat delegates wanted to talk about them. He then goes on to list four topics that should be included in any serious discussion of the danger of Islamic totalitarianism.
So I figured, what the hell? It’s worth a post. It’s not like anyone will bother to listen, anyway. Kevin wants a Liberal to address these issues (which I’m not), and anyone else will dismiss my opinion since I don’t have a string of letters after my name.
1) Nuclear terrorism. Kevin has a few questions about this.
“How likely is it that a terrorist group could really acquire a nuclear weapon? And deliver it? And what’s the best way to stop it?”
That’s pretty easy to answer. Various hard-core groups of fanatics (Islamic and otherwise) have been trying to get their hands on a nuclear weapon since they were first invented in 1945. So far they’ve all failed.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s time for high fives all around while we turn our attention to more pleasant pastimes. Nations under the iron-handed control of dictators have been getting ever closer to being able to produce their own nukes. Many of these states support terrorist activities, either covertly or directly. If one of these countries manages to build a nuclear arsenal, the possibility that a terrorist group could get one rises.
So the answer is that it’s not very likely that a terrorist will manage to procure a nuke now, but the odds are increasing at an ever accelerating pace. Unless something changes, eventually it will become a certainty.
What’s the best way to deny nukes to terrorists? Make sure that the states which support terrorism can’t build them. If they won’t agree to stop any nuclear development programs, and if they won’t let inspection teams on their soil to make sure that they’re complying, then the options become rather limited.
2) Garden variety terrorism Kevin asks…
“Aside from the nuclear scenario, what’s the actual danger from terrorist groups like al Qaeda? 9/11 was due to luck and poor foresight, but now that we know the danger how much military harm can they really do to us? How much economic harm? And how likely is it?”
I’m not a bodyguard, instead teaching people how to defend themselves from violent attack. One of the many things that I tell my students is that the toughest part is keeping alert. You wait and plan and keep your head up, waiting for something that never seems to happen. And, of course, since criminals prefer to attack helpless people you’re helping fend off potential attacks by simply looking at everyone who walks by you.
But it wears you down. Eventually you drop your guard and, still, nothing happens. After awhile you realize that you haven’t bothered to go to the shooting range or the karate dojo in months, but since nothing’s happened you still don’t bother to go.
Then something happens, and even if you survive your life and the person you once were are destroyed forever.
That’s pretty much the way it is today. The odds of a successful, large-scale terrorist attack on US soil are remote simply because we’re all hyped up and waiting for it. But, inevitably, our attention is going to wane, funding for law enforcement with an anti-terrorism focus will dry up, and the oppurtunities to launch such an attack will multiply. Before that happens we have to destroy large, well funded, international terrorist networks like al Queda. If we don’t, then the odds of another 9/11 are too great to bear.
3) Expansionism. “Do Islamic extremists really have much interest in anyplace outside the Middle East? To the best of my knowledge, no Islamic country in the greater Middle East has ever invaded or shown the slightest interest in invading a country that wasn’t a neighbor. Is Islamic extremism fundamentally expansionist, like fascism and communism, or not?”
Islamic fundamentalists don’t really care about any place outside the Middle East, but it’s most definately a rabidly expansionistic philosophy.
den Beste wrote an essay about this very subject two years ago. I won’t presume to try and repeat what he so competently explained, so I’m just going to include the link and ask everyone to go read what he has to say.
4) Oil. “Nobody wants to talk honestly about this, but it’s obviously the reason we care about the Middle East in the first place and don’t care much about, say, sub-Saharan Africa — and therefore care about Islamic totalitarianism but not sub-Saharan totalitarianism.”
Kevin has a point here, but he seems to miss the big picture. It’s true that the presence of oil in countries that breed and support terrorist organizations makes us sit up and take notice, but the core issue here is that the resources that petrodollars bring to the terrorist organizations make them a threat. We care less about sub-Saharan totalitarianism because they can’t reach us, and they don’t have the means to significantly hurt us if they could.
To counter the way that oil drives our technology and economy, Kevin also brings up the usual Liberal solutions of conservation and alternative energy sources. This ignores the fact that alternative energy sources don’t produce the amount of power we need at anything approaching a reasonable expense.
He also seems unaware that conservation efforts and methods have advanced in leaps and bounds in the last 30 years but it’s still not enough. Nowadays having a small car that gets less than 30 MPG means that there’s something wrong with it. Anyone remember days when it was considered pretty good if a car got 12 MPG? I do. But I haven’t noticed a reduction in our dependence on oil.
So, anyway, there you have it. The only reasonable way that I can see to meet these challenges is to have a foreign policy identical to that of the Republicans. I think this is the main reason that the Democrats refuse to talk about it.