I had some fun with this post yesterday, postulating that Osama Bin Laden would feel right at home blogging at Daily Kos. It’s silly, of course. The confluence of interests between radical jihadist kooks like OBL and the Democratic left has more to do with talking points than ideology. Once a Democrat is in the White House in 2008 and the left controls Congress, the leaders of the party (and, presumably, the netroots) will be confronted with the exact same situation that a Republican would be faced with if he should, despite all the signs, win through to victory and grab the presidency.
That situation boils down to one, overarching reality: We are at war. We have been at war for 30 years. If the netroots want to parse the definition of war or even try and pretend that this is not so, it hardly matters. Radical Islamists believe they are at war with us. They believed it before there were netroots, before there was an internet. And they will continue to believe it no matter who is president, no matter what foreign policy we espouse, and no matter what their apologists and appeasers here and abroad would have you believe.
This then, is The Long War – a struggle against an ideology that threatens more than our complacency, more than our sense of security, and more than the illusions we have of our invincibility. It is a war against the secular, nebulous, undefinable freedoms we enjoy in the west versus the dogmatic holy writ of the Koran and those who warp and twist its teachings for their own murderous ends.
How big a threat is the global jihad being waged against the United States and the west? I agree with the left that the threat should be kept in perspective. I do not agree with the left when they attempt to minimize it.
Fred Thompson’s take on OBL and The Long War is just about right:
“Bin Laden being in the mountains of Pakistan or Afghanistan is not as important as there are probably al-Qaida operatives inside the United States of America,” Thompson said.
Bin Laden is considered the man behind the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. The former Tennessee senator and actor argued that “bin Laden is more symbolism than anything else. I think it demonstrates to people once again that we’re in a global war.”
Thompson said the al-Qaida leader and the Iraq war must be seen as part of the larger war on terrorism.
“It’s one that bin Laden and people like him are heading up and we need to catch him and we surely need to deal with him, but if he disappeared tomorrow we still have this problem. If Iraq disappeared tomorrow, we’d still have this problem,” Thompson said.
GOP presidential candidates jumped on Fred’s “symbolism” statement like starving dogs who are tossed a slab of prime rib:
“He’s more than a symbol,” McCain told ABC News when asked about Thompson’s comments. “He’s motivating and recruiting using the internet as we speak. He’s a threat. He’s a threat.”
McCain said bin Laden poses an enormous threat to Americans because of his ability to communicate, motivate and recruit people who are dedicated to the destruction of the U.S.
“It’s very important that we get him. I’ll get him,” McCain said.
Another Thompson rival, former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., suggested the al-Qaeda leader is a real threat.
“Osama Bin Laden is the face of evil,” Romney said in a statement reacting to the bin Laden tape. “His stated goal is conversion by compulsion, the surrender of liberty to terror and the abandonment of the foundations of a free society.”
The last two National Intelligence Estimates have made it clear that al-Qaeda – the parent organization that planned and executed the 9/11 attacks as well as other operations against our citizens and interests – is a shadow of its former self. Their financial networks are shattered. Their cells have been smashed in city after city, country after country. Their leadership caught or killed – except Osama himself who even Romney admits is a symbol, being “the face of evil.” What McCain, Romney, and other candidates are doing is what the Bush Administration was accused of doing for the last 6 years; ratcheting up fear of al-Qaeda and terrorism in order to score political points with the public.
Al-Qaeda may be smashed but, as the NIE’s made very clear, they have spawned dozens of smaller, less capable, but very deadly offshoots such as al-Qaeda in Iraq and Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon. Their connections to the “old” al-Qaeda may be more spiritual and ideological in nature. But that doesn’t lessen the threat they pose to the US and the west, given that they are plugged in to a loose but very real network of jihadists worldwide who share conduits for funding, arms, and even expertise in the planning and execution of terrorist attacks (the 7/7 London bombings are an example).
It is impossible to look into the mind and hearts of men and glean important truths. Inevitably, our perceptions regarding the actions of others are colored by our own biases, our own prejudices. I have no doubt that on occasion, the Bush Administration has stooped to using the tactic of deliberately overstating the threat of terrorism in order to scare people into voting Republican. Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has said as much. But to extrapolate from the political use of the terrorism issue to the idea that The Long War is some plot to establish a permanent Republican majority is just plain daft.
The Long War is as much a part of politics in America as social security, welfare, health care, or any other issue. This can’t be helped anymore than the Democrats can help their time honored tactic of scaring old people into believing that if they elect Republicans, their social security benefits will be cut, or even disappear. In a free society, all public matters become political matters. We created a political world so that there would be a framework where decisions on national issues like war and peace could be discussed by the representatives of the people. It should not surprise us or disappoint us, or anger us that The Long War would be affected by the political tug of war between those who jockey for power in Washington.
The threat is real, it is serious, and has the potential (given the fact that someday it is a dead certainty that terrorists and WMD will marry up in a nightmare few liberals seem willing to confront) to destroy our society. Jihadists may not invade and take over the White House. But a couple of nukes detonated in American cities will accomplish most of OBL’s goals. Far beyond the damage to the cities themselves would be the resulting chaos, refugees, economic catastrophe, and the probability that our response would be to nuke a target of choice – even if that target had little or nothing to do with the strike itself. Choose your nightmare scenario to follow that action.
Fred Thompson’s response to OBL’s statement shows that there is at least one Republican who gets it. Romney, on the other hand, wishes to fall back on playing the fear card in order to score political points. It’s time we moved a little closer to the moderate left on the issue of The Long War and begin to place the struggle in a realistic, historical context that will beget policies that give us the opportunity to confront the threat without allowing politics to either diminish or exaggerate it.
It may not be possible given the current state of the political culture in Washington. But it would certainly start us on the road to defeating the terrorists, thwarting their designs, and perhaps even allow for the recognition that we fight the ideas of jihad with other, more powerful ideas; that freedom is better than slavery, liberty is better than tyranny, and knowledge is better than ignorance.