Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Therapeutic View of Terrorism

In his Friday column for National Review Online, historian Victor Davis Hanson brilliantly lays into what he calls the "therapeutic view" of terrorism:

Mr. Kerry believes that we must return to the pre-9/11 days when terrorism was but a "nuisance." In his mind, that was a nostalgic sort of time when the terrorist mosquito lazily buzzed about a snoring America. And we in somnolent response merely swatted it away with a cruise missile or a few GPS bombs when embassies and barracks were blown up. Keep the tribute of dead Americans low, and the chronic problem was properly analogous to law-enforcement's perpetual policing of gambling and prostitution. Many of us had previously written off just such naïveté, but we never dreamed that our suspicions would be confirmed so explicitly by Kerry himself.

In the now-lost age of unperturbed windsailing and skiing, things were not all that bad before al Qaeda overdid it by knocking down skyscrapers and a corner of the Pentagon — followed by George Bush's commensurate overreaction in Afghanistan and Iraq that brought on all the present messy and really bothersome cargo of IEDs, beheadings, and promises of dirty bombs to come. The Taliban and Saddam were, of course, bad sports. But really, going all the way over there to topple them, implant democracy, and change the status quo of the Middle East? Tsk, tsk, tsk — well, that was a bit much, was it not?

Terrorist killing, like the first World Trade Center bombing or the USS Cole, certainly was not seen as the logical precursor to 9/11 — the expected wages of a quarter century of appeasement that started with the weak Carter response to the Iranian hostages and was followed by dead soldiers, diplomats, and tourists about every other year. No, these were "incidents" like 9/11 itself — "law-enforcement" issues that called for the DA, writs, and stern prison sentences, the sort of stuff that barristers like Kerry, Edwards, Kennedy, and McAuliffe handle so well.

This attitude is part of the therapeutic view of the present struggle that continually suggests that something we did — not the mass murdering out of the Dark Age — brought on our present bother that is now "the focus of our lives." We see this irritation with the inconvenience and sacrifice once more reemerging in the Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, and the New York Times: We, not fascists and Islamist psychopaths, are blamed for the mess in Iraq, the mess in Afghanistan, the mess on the West Bank, and the mess here at home, but never credited with the first election in 5,000 years in Afghanistan or consensual government replacing autocracy in the heart of the ancient caliphate.

This is the key issue in our election, the main difference between George W. Bush and John Kerry. When the American people vote on November 2nd, it will be a referendum between two distinct views of the War on Terror. The first set of beliefs is that the radical Islamist terror movement is an existential threat that must be forcefully confronted and defeated, for in an era of WMD the long term risks of inaction far outweigh the short term costs of whatever is necessary to achieve victory. The second view is that the jihadists are merely another transnational threat to be managed and contained, such as organized crime and drug lords. Or as Senator Kerry told the New York Times Magazine:

''We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance,'' Kerry said. ''As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.''

According to this interpretation, "(t)he war on terrorism is primarily an intelligence-gathering and law enforcement operation". Since the terrorists cannot be truly defeated, we should simply focus on mitigating and reducing the threat. Large scale uses of military power that risk inflaming Muslim passions and making America more unpopular in the short term are counterproductive and should be avoided at all costs.

Supporters of President Bush overwhelmingly subscribe to the first viewpoint. The majority of Kerry backers believe in the second theory. The relative handful who regularly read this blog will know that I share the Bush view, hence my strong support for his reelection. As to why, I'll leave it to Dr. Hanson to explain:

To all you of the therapeutic mindset, listen up. We can no more reason with the Islamic fascists than we could sympathize with the Nazis' demands over supposedly exploited Germans in Czechoslovakia or the problem of Tojo's Japan's not getting its timely scrap-metal shipments from Roosevelt's America. Their pouts and gripes are not intended to be adjudicated as much as to weaken the resolve of many in the United States who find the entire "war against terror" too big, or the wrong kind, of a nuisance.

Instead, read the fatwas. You hear not just of America's injustice in Palestine or Chechnya — not to mention nothing about saving Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo or Afghanistan of the 1980s — but also of what we did in Spain in the 15th century and in Tyre, Gaza, and Jerusalem in the 12th. The mystery of September 11, 2001, is not that it happened, but that it did not quite happen when first tried in 1993 during Bill Clinton's madcap efforts to move a smiling Arafat into the Lincoln Bedroom and keep our hands off bin Laden. Only an American with a JD or PhD would cling to the idea that there was not a connection between Group A Middle Eastern terrorists who attacked the WTC in 1993 and Group B who finished the job in 2001.

Please read the whole article:

The Therapeutic Choice


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