Thursday, May 21, 2009

People In Washington Say Dumb Things

President Obama and former VP Cheney are speechifying in Washington today.

Obama is defending his administration's approach to national security and trying to make the previous gang's policies look dangerously unhinged.

In stark contrast, Dick Cheney is defending the Bush administration's approach to national security and trying to make the Obama gang look dangerously unhinged.

Before I really get rolling, I will make this observation about the new president's approach to the War on Terror. Fighting a war in Iraq with a second priority in Afghanistan has given way to a tidal wave of change and now the US is fighting a war in Afghanistan with the war in Iraq as a second priority. This is a tiny shift in priorities, not a bold sweeping change and is unlikely to win us any friends in the neighborhood. More on that later.

Back to the blowhards. Each of them spent quite some time today jacking his jaws into a microphone. Because this is (half) my blog and I don't care to provide a lengthy, nuanced comparison of each speech, (as if anyone would read it if I did) I'm going to cherry pick the dumbest bits of each speech and laugh at them.

Lets start with Cheney:

"It is much closer to the truth that terrorists hate this country precisely because of the values we profess and seek to live by, not by some alleged failure to do so."

"As a practical matter, too, terrorists may lack much, but they have never lacked for grievances against the United States. Our belief in freedom of speech and religion … our belief in equal rights for women … our support for Israel … our cultural and political influence in the world – these are the true sources of resentment, all mixed in with the lies and conspiracy theories of the radical clerics. These recruitment tools were in vigorous use throughout the 1990s, and they were sufficient to motivate the 19 recruits who boarded those planes on September 11th, 2001."

For someone who has been fighting radical Islam for as long as Dick Cheney has, its sad he hasn't a clue what motivates OBL and his buddies. Al Quaeda is not attacking the US because we have women drivers, porn, bourbon, prozac, the First Amendment and mini-skirts. AQ is pissed for these reasons (among others):
  • The US support a great number of unpopular Arab -and other governments - that opress Islamic fundamentalists.
  • The US tries like hell to keep the price of oil low.
  • The US supports Israel.
  • The US has troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.
  • The US has invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and has killed a great number of people there.

This is a crude and partial list, but the key element is that these are political concerns. Their images of the USA include strippers driving pickup trucks while drinking cocktails, and that makes us easier to hate. But its not why they started this fight.

Look back in history just a few years for more evidence-- jihad was declared against the Soviet Union not because they were oficially atheist and were nasty to the Muslims unlucky enough to live in the USSR, but only when they invaded Afghanistan.

But acknowleging this bleedingly obvious truth might mean asking uncomfortable questions about how much foreign oil we consume, and do we need a larger army or a smaller foreign policy, and if Israel could easily kick the shit out of any combination of Arab armies, do they really need $3 billion a year from Uncle Sugar?

Mr Obama, its your turn now. You are are just as blinded and ignorant as your political opponents.
Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.

So the record is clear: rather than keep us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it.
Obama could not possibly get this any more backwards. According to this line of reasoning, the jihadists who attacked the World Trade Center twice, blew a hole in the USS Cole, bombed the US Embassies in Africa, and killed our troops at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, only really get steamed when we capture them and put them in jail in Cuba. I don't think so. We'd be facing much the same situation if we put our captives in Gitmo, the Four Seasons, or nailed them to the wall in Leon Panetta's basement.

Lets be realistic. These folks believe we are waging a world-wide anti-Muslim campaign, and for good reasons or bad ones, we provide a lot of support for this line of argument. We provide a lot of counter arguments as well, but the removal of Saddam Hussein and long-delayed aid for Bosnian and Kosovar muslims is a weak counterweight to the piles of Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani bodies.

Admittedly we're in a tough spot. You can't fight a war in these places without occasionally hitting the wrong people, but every time we do, its a propaganda victory for our enemies.

It makes me glad I'm not the president, but if I were, I'd try a little harder to understand why our enemies are fighting.


Atom Smasher said...

I mainly agree. Both speeches, as I read those parts, are overly simplistic, just from two different directions. It's easy to say that being an ally of Israel shouldn't make us The Great Satan, but absurd to pretend that it doesn't. Likewise, if we are going to be such an ally (for instance), we'd better be prepared to twist a few arms in order to back our play.

Jack Nutting said...

I too, mainly agree. I do think that Guanatanamo needs to be shut down, but not because it increases external threats; rather, it increases internal problems, by causing greater cognitive dissonance for all of us. How else do you mix "land of the free" with "indefinite interment without any recourse"?

It's like smoking. Other people might complain about you smoking, but you really should quit smoking because it's bad for you. Keeping people locked away for years on end, without a trial or without even being charged of a crime, is bad for us.

Atom Smasher said...

Oh, I think Gitmo's great. A place we own that's not American soil so we can lean on non-citizens who aren't under the Geneva convention. It's perfect. And like Cheney said, these clowns were getting all jihady on our asses long before anybody thought of putting them in Gitmo.

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