The Best Case is That... We're Cowards?
There has been an argument, famously lampooned on the absolutely genius Colbert Report, that in essence says, "Fight the terrorists there, not here", regarding Iraq.
Now, this argument should be laughed out of any serious person's mind and consideration. It is a sign of total desperation, an absolute smokescreen. First of all, the argument takes advantage of the coincidence (and that is what it is) that there have been no mainland terror attacks post-9/11 (aside from the anthrax scare, Reid, etc.) Why can we be certain it is a coincidence? Because terror cells don't attack on a set timetable of any kind. Consider the most famous al Qaeda actions of the 90s: Participating in the war in Bosnia on America's request, the USS Cole and the first WTC attack. Only one occured on American soil during Clinton's entire presidency, and it was a failure in a way 9/11 wasn't. How this history proves that Bush is fighting terrorism is beyond me. Yes, no attacks have been made on the United States; instead, al Qaeda is seemingly with impunity attacking European nations writ large, including Spain and Britain (assuming the British subway bombing was AQ-involved). In fact, terrorist attacks have increased during the Bush presidency across the world. (By the way, that conclusion was reached by a no less august authority than the State Department, which would be just SLIGHTLY friendly to Bush: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/28/AR2006042802181_pf.html ) In fact, during 2005, attacks increased fourfold.
The assumption of the "Fight them there, not here" argument is a few-fold: First of all, that we're actually "fighting them" ; second, that al Qaeda is the only Muslim or Arab terrorist organization that could ever exist and that its membership can never grow or alternately is growing; and, third, that this strategy has somehow increased security for the world or America. But all assumptions are stupid and uncontroversially so.
The first is very clear: While some high-profile al Qaeda members have been captured, Osama bin Laden is famously at large, and in terms of actually undermining any real capacity of al Qaeda to prosecute attacks, the Bush administration has done virtually nothing. To be fair, it is very hard to bomb a loosely-tied affinity network that ranges from Indonesia and the Sudan to the entirety of the Middle East into submission... only that's exactly what the left and liberals have been saying to no rebuttal for six years. The way to deal with non-state criminals is police work. The few states who we are confident have actually been funding or have had funders in their borders, such as Germany, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, have obviously not been victims of US bombing, and with the exception of Germany have been attempting to be allies in the US war on terror. Remember: al Qaeda is an American-created phenomenon, and its funding, membership and training come from a shadowy set of institutions that are all US-created or attuned and backed.
The second is even less controversial. New and old organizations aside from al Qaeda are being formed or exist, such as Hezbollah, which has been scarcely harmed whatsoever (in fact helped) by the war in Iraq and the Israeli bombing campaigns. Recruiting by radical Islamist organizations has skyrocketed since the Iraq war, and radical Islamist groups are very clearly saying that the war in Iraq has been a boon to them. Indeed, the best way to think of the conflict is a cycle of reinforcing barbarisms, to borrow another left writer's brilliant phrase. Every al Qaeda attack causes Americans to back even more reactionary candidates, who in turn prove al Qaeda's statements about American policies and people right through violence and strutting and thereby increase the power of al Qaeda and similar groups. It's a cycle of violence where only the crazies win. So while some are indeed fighting the "infidels" in Iraq, and thereby costing American taxpayers money, American soldiers their life and sanity, and military families their sons, daughters, husbands and wives, others are using the new level of recruitment
Remember: There never was a suicide bombing in Iraq before the US invasion. Whatever the terrorist status of Iraq (pretty obviously none, since the groups like Ansar al Islam that the US argued were terrorist links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were actually in US-controlled regions and had no substantial connections to AQ anyways) before the invasion, it is obvious to any reasonable observer that its status has become much more dangerous.
The lynchpin of the argument is that, since terrorist activity has gone up in Iraq, it must have gone down everywhere else. This assumes a constant of terrorism. Actually, the Bush administration has increased terrorism EVERYWHERE, giving them a new arena to fight in in addition to (not at the exclusion of) the old.
And the third is also clear: North Korea has possibly tested a nuclear weapon, Iran is becoming more dangerous, and proliferation and terrorist threats to everyone have increased. There is no single provable improvement in American security since the war in Iraq and several obviously harms.
All of the above was just because I can't resist debating stupid arguments ad nauseum. Luckily, it's a ploy that American voters aren't buying, precisely because it is so transparently laughable. But there is something very disturbing (though funny in a very dark way) about the argument's logic.
What it says is that we are willing to sacrifice at least 30,000 lives (by Dear Leader Bush's admission) and more likely 400,000 to 800,000 lives (see the new John Hopkins/Lancet report), invade a sovereign country and depose its leader in violation of basic tenets of international law, all to turn their innocent people who have never (regardless of the crimes of Saddam Hussein) done anything to Americans, Europeans or indeed much of anybody into flypaper so that they, their loved ones, and our soldiers can die, all so our comfortable lives on our "city on the hill" need not be confronted or disrupted.
What the Republican Party is loudly saying, hoping people don't hear it, is that Americans are craven cowards who, far from saving another people or liberating them, are in fact using them as human shields. Their own argument, said in smarmy and self-righteous tones, proves only their utter inability (or unwillingness) to question their racist, classist privilege. They hope that American voters will not understand this, and further will not notice this position's utter incompatibility with the notion that we are liberators (a claim that itself requires a full blog post to summarily dismiss) fighting out of sheer generosity and not out of lurid oil desires and geopolitical considerations. Now consider just for a second how antagonistic to authority our "liberal media" must be: Which talking head have you seen utter this elementary point of logic derived from the Republican's very own arguments? Has Alan Colmes or Bill Mahr confronted their Republican opponents? Have you seen any of our vigilant Democratic Senators do so?
If Americans vote in Republicans in 2006, they will be proving to the world that they are indeed the type of cowards who would use others as proxies for their own security, or at least the type of fools who can't call their ruling party on such backhanded compliments. Obviously voting Democratic won't prove to the world that America has had a change of heart, nor will it accomplish anything of real value in the long run. But it will be a marginal improvement.