Posted by David Shorr
I would like to take this unusual opportunity to charge two fellow DAers with being too soft on some of the bunk that tries to pass for political (and constitutional) discourse these days. The conservative lines of attack have gotten unbelievably shrill lately. So bad that I'm almost ready to welcome this Hennypennyism from the Right -- AMERICA IS AT WAR! - PRE-9/11 MINDSET!!! -- rather than be offended by it. Frankly, the voting public should be offended by this stuff, because more than anything else, it's an insult to their intelligence.
Actually, I'll bet my bottom swing voter that they actually will be offended, or at least see right through it. For the simple reason that there is very little there; it is nothing more than a schoolyard game of who can beat up who. So Michael, I don't disagree with a word of your review of the relative merits of law enforcement versus military action in combatting terrorism. Except I no longer believe the Right is really making an argument for the military as a counterterror tool. Think about it, how often do we hear proposals from political leaders for how our military can and will win the war on terror for us. Should we're-fighting-them-over-there count as such an argument? Or is it really a last political stand for standing up to the bad guys, whatever bad guys, Al Qaeda, Iran, you know, bad guys?
Pre-9/11 mindset? Bring it on. In response, we should talk about a pre-Iraq mindset. I'd argue that America has learned something from difficult recent experience. Only those with a pre-Iraq mindset believe that the most important thing is to give sober warnings about the adversaries who want to harm us (is there another kind?) and melt them away with demonstrations of our strength and resolve. Only those with a pre-Iraq mindset believe the key is to lash out in some direction, any direction, with little thought to who they are, how they work, and what will work against them. Is somebody keeping track of how many different adversaries we've focused on in Iraq? Do we still believe that any action can be justified against terrorists, that nothing we might do undermines our own cause, that it doesn't matter how many new terrorists are joining the cause? For my part, I think the majority of Americans have a post-Iraq mindset.
Thank you, Adam, for noting some of the farcical elements of the response to the Boumediene decision. But let us linger a bit more on Justice Scalia's dissent. The opening section is a veritable catalogue of they're-really-out-to-get-us. My friends, this is not a debate about whether they're out to get us. Let it be stipulated: they are. The question of what to do about it is not part of the same question; it is a separate matter. Acknowledging the reality of the threat, which is undeniable, does not answer the question of how to respond. In fact, when treated that way -- as an automatic, unconsidered, contextless show of force -- it brings problems. What the terrorists do is their choice; what we do is ours. It's time to make the choices that stand the best chance of defeating terrorists, instead of making a spectacle of their evil. That is the post-Iraq mindset, and this debate will be won by seriousness over hysteria.