August 11, 2006 [LINK]

Politicizing the war on terror

If there is one consistent theme in all my blogging for the past four-odd years, it is that I respect honest differences of opinion over serious policy issues. Likewise, I shun ad hominem attacks on other people, and I emphatically renounce dogmatic positions of any sort. That is why it really burns me up when hyper-partisan bloggers like Joshua Marshall take to slandering Joe Lieberman for allegedly "claiming that any serious questioning of our policy in Iraq is a victory for the terrorists." That is a ridiculous misrepresentation of what Lieberman has been saying. Hell, I seriously question our policy in Iraq some times. Marshall is incensed that Lieberman said that an abrupt withdrawl from Iraq as advocated by Ned Lamont would signify a victory for the terrorists in England who were plotting to blow up airliners. For anyone who recognizes the psychological dimension of the broader conflict between the Islamo-fascists and the West, such a conclusion is self-evident. If you don't see the conflict in those terms, you will obviously reach a different conclusion. That doesn't mean that those of us who see this conflict with terrorism as a genuine global-scale war (not just as a form of organized crime) are bad people, however; it just means we are thinking and acting upon a different set of premises. Marshall's hyper-sensitivity to such criticism may reflect gnawing inner doubts about his position on these critical issues.

Again, I say this as someone who grants that some of the criticism of Bush's conduct of the war is valid, and who tries to be realistic about our prospects for a meaningful "victory." In the long run, it almost certain that the West and the Western values of freedom, modernity, and pluralism will prevail over the medieval theocrats -- but it might take decades before such a victory becomes apparent to most people. In the short term, we may find it in our interests to regroup and consolidate our position, "shrugging off" the burden of global hegemonic stabilizer until enough countries realize how valuable we have been to them in that role. That is basically what James Fallows suggests, as I noted yesterday. Ironically, those on the Left who demand a quick pullout from Iraq make such a move politically impossible. It is a hard-headed strategic question, not a sentimental patriotic one.

Perhaps all these polemics are a simple reminder of the point made by Halford J. Mackinder in his classic work on geopolitics, Democratic Ideals and Reality (1942):

Democracy refuses to think strategically unless and until compelled to do so for purposes of defense.

Unless more people in Joe Lieberman's party have the courage to stand up for what is right, you might as well replace the word "Democracy" in that sentence with "Democrats."