Monday, December 13, 2004

Back 2 Politics

Blogging on the road can be difficult for new converts to the trade, especially when deprived of a regular routine and adequate sleep... and so at such times the chaotic events of the ongoing revels overshadow daily political developments. Who knows whether people find my political musings more interesting than the madness of late-night adventures (what makes you think people are interested in either? -ed.) but in any case, it is time to return to politics and two commentaries on some ongoing developments from the past week. 1. Kerik, Lieberman, and Pataki - check out kos' thoughts on Lieberman returning to frontrunner status for Homeland Security. I agree that, according to these reasons, it seems a no-brainer. The only explanation for hesitancy on Bush's part? It must be loyalty speaking again - and the opportunity to reward a friend/colleague into the post that never spoke out against the administration. The appointment would certainly hurt the Democrats, so the news from Drudge that Pataki is working behind the scenes is welcome. As for Kerik, Kausfiles has a classic piece on the rise of the "magic nanny excuse" for withdrawn appointees (scroll down, although not before reading his pithy commentary on social security at the top of the post). You really have to love blogs for the ability to crib essentially what you wish to say without having to take the time to write it yourself... 2. Beinhart, Drum, and Goldberg - and of course I mean Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, and not Greg Goldberg, the famed goaltender of the Mighty Duck movies and #94 on someone's random yet hilarious list of the 100 Greatest Characters of Film. (visiters to the last link will take especial delight in the fact that Stanley Spadowski is listed at #82, Marty McFly at #59, Inigo Montoya at #20... you get the idea) Sullivan linked to this article by Jonah on the supposed "softness" of the Democrats on Terror, calling it a home-run for pointing out that major Democratic thinkers such as Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum still aren't pursuaded that the Jihadist threat is real and continuing. Now the article speaks for itself, as does the piece by Beinhart that has provoked the much-needed debate on the Left on the ability of Democrats to engage in this fight. If Tim is not just busy repairing broken windows or sending his resumes off to the Ukraine but instead simply awaiting some subject matter on which to blog, I would love to hear a separate review from his perspective. I would just like to deal with a narrower point. What Goldberg seems to be arguing (and Sullivan applauding) is that the time for debate on the very deadly seriousness of the "War on Terror" is itself the sign and symbol of liberal weakness. It harkens back to the "either with us or against us" rhetoric that simplifies the utter complexity of both the challenge and the enemy. Where the tragic death of one Dutch artist can only properly be regarded as a seismic earthquake of World War IV. Surely we can be tough on terror without favouring the complete overthrow of governments in the Middle East, the lawless detentions, the prisoner abuses... surely there are answers and responses that lie between the chasm of Michael Moore and George Bush. Absolutely the threat is "real and continuing" - does Drum ever really dispute it - but in comparison to what? There has to be a difference between real threats and overwhelming ones that is more than semantic. Maybe Team America is Sullivan's "best" movie of the year because he likes the absolutist terms that Spottswood's army uses to deal with terrorists? I think we can and should be able to discuss whether this threat is truly "overwhelming". Is it something that we need to wake up worrying about everyday? Does it mean our attention and resources must be marginalized when it comes to India-Pakistan and China-Taiwan disputes, or unrest in Africa and Central America? I think my frustration lies mainly in the following. Goldberg concludes:

"This is more than an academic point: "Sure, 9/11 was a wakeup call," Drum writes, but since we haven't been attacked as badly at home since, there's no reason to conclude that 9/11 was our generation's Pearl Harbor. In other words, if Bush hadn't done as good a job fighting the war on terrorism, Drum might be more convinced that the war on terrorism is worth fighting. Forgive me for ever thinking liberals couldn't be tough on the war on terror."
It cannot be as simple as that, can it? Goldberg's logic implies that no terrorist attacks are solely attributed to the success of Bush's superb job in fighting the war on terror, and that any attack is merely confirmation of the overwhelming threat we will continue to face. Sounds a lot like perpetual war to me, since how would we ever know when the threat has subsided? Forgive me for ever thinking that the extent of the Jihadist threat fluctuates over time, relative to other threats facing the security of the West. Not that I am calling on them to be colour-coded or anything. Just a simple recognition that it ebbs and flows and is not all-consuming would be nice.

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