July 14, 2004
Terrorist logic and the November electionsBy James Arlandson
This final installment in the series of three articles argues that there is an evil and deadly terrorist logic, designed to influence the American elections in November. The articles take the form of examining a series of logical premises.
The first article, premises (1) and (2), and conclusion (3), argues that terrorists have a better chance of winning and fulfilling their ultimate goal against Kerry and the Democrats, if they are elected in November, because they are weak and discordant.
The second article, premises (4) and (5) and conclusion (6), argues that Bush and the Republicans are strong and united, so the terrorists will have a worse chance of winning and fulfilling their goal if Bush is re—elected.
Can the terrorists influence the American elections, so that their weaker enemy is elected and their stronger enemy is toppled from power? Surely the terrorists believe they can. Recent alerts seem to have a serious tone, judging from the front page of the New York Times. Based on their success in affecting Spain's elections, there is every reason to believe in the possibility of a serious terror effort prior to our November elections
So the logic of the terrorists continues:
7. We terrorists believe that if violence causes the Iraq War and the global war on terror to be ineffective for our strong enemy Bush, then he will probably lose the election in November, which would entail a victory for our weak enemy Kerry.
8. We will keep up the violence in Iraq and anywhere else —— and perhaps strike the US —— so Bush's leadership in the war on terror will be ineffective.
9. Therefore, our strong enemy Bush will probably lose the election, which would entail a victory for our weak enemy Kerry.
If we add up all of the premises and conclusions in the three articles, (1)—(9), the terrorists can draw this grand (though twisted) conclusion:
10. Therefore, we terrorists will have a better chance of winning the war and fulfilling our goal with a Bush defeat (our strong and unified enemy) and a Kerry victory (our weak and discordant enemy) in November, and our violence can bring about these election results.
Fortunately, this latest argument, though logically valid, following the same modus ponens form used in the first and second articles, has an easier chance of being contradicted, since it involves political calculations on the part of the terrorists, as seen in the word 'probably.'
This last round of premises can also be defended as easily as the first six:
7. If violence causes the war to be ineffective for Bush, then he will probably lose in November.
This premise will be elaborated the most thoroughly, since this is the heart of the terrorists' political calculations.
Terrorists watch CNN and al—Jazeera, so they monitor Western elections, as seen in their action in Spain's 3/11. Before the elections, Spanish conservatives supported the Coalition in Iraq, and the socialists opposed the Coalition. The terrorists committed violence in order to topple, the stronger enemy, in their eyes, and to send the weaker enemy into power.
And they succeeded. The socialists were swept into power and recalled their troops. The terrorists must have been ecstatic, for their war influenced an entire nation. Their twisted logic —— premises and conclusions (1) through (6) ——was fulfilled.
It would be foolish, a priori, to assert that the Iraq War has been waged flawlessly. All humans are flawed, so some of their actions in the war are flawed. But the press, which is hard to distinguish from the political opposition nowadays, seems hell—bent on forcing the Administration to apologize constantly for any failings, beyond the obligatory admission that the Administration could have done a few things differently, though not going into detail. The press seems to hold up a standard of near—perfection, and train their camera on any shortcoming they can find.
No reasonable person can deny that the constant barrage from the news media gives the appearance that the war is going ineffectively (though it is actually not, in the big picture). On Thursday, June 24, a series of coordinated car bombs killed sixty—nine people in Iraq. On Saturday, June 26, terrorists walked into small political gathering and opened fire on people. Nine were killed. In the past months, terrorists slaughtered Nick Berg, Paul Johnson (in Saudi Arabia), and Kim Jung—il. They will slaughter others, especially a woman, if they can kidnap them.
However, rarely do the media report the good news. They did not, for example, report, 24/7, the smashing of the Muqtada al—Sadr brigade by the First Armored Division, but instead focused their attention on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
They did not report, 24/7, a BBC poll that said a majority of Iraqis are better off now under the Coalition than under Saddam. This poll was from the BBC, which opposes the war.
However, the Administration appears by its public posture to accept, wrongly, the press's standard of near—perfection, so the Administration may be showing the slightest weakening of resolve.
Richard Armitage, deputy Secretary of State, testified before the 9/11 Commission that the situation in Iraq is worse than expected. Paul Wolfowitz, deputy Defense Secretary, said the same thing on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews.
Senior members like Colin Powell seem to acknowledge that 'obviously' the situation is worse than the Administration had hoped or planned. He should refuse to acknowledge any more than that —— and truthfully, too —— because the stakes are so high. Fortunately, he fills his interviews with the positive facts on the ground in Iraq, so admissions of flaws in the Iraq War are kept to a minimum.
Sometimes even the Commander in Chief gives hints of weakness as he echoes Powell's sentiments, though, thankfully, the President has not wavered substantially, his relative strength. Apologies show only weakness to Islamic evil—doers. He must also refuse to admit that things are 'obviously' going badly. In truth, despite the bombings and beheadings —— sad as they are —— things are going quite well with the 24 million+ Iraqis; the polls bear this out. To Bush's credit he says more often and more clearly that he will not be deterred from his mission in the face of violence from a few thugs and assassins.
8. The terrorists will keep up the violence and perhaps strike the US again.
This premise does not need to be elaborated thoroughly, given the news reports and the Spanish elections, referred to in premise (7). Violence is keeping a steady pace now, and it will probably get worse, regardless of the turnover of power on June 26. The main purpose of the violence in Iraq now is to influence the November elections in America.
Will the terrorists strike America before November? What are their political calculations? Will violence sway the American voter? No one can know for sure.
But it should shock no one if the terrorists struck America, so no one should put any spin on their purpose other than what clear and simple logic says: the terrorists intend to topple by violence their strong enemy Bush, and usher in their weak enemy Kerry, in a replay of Spain's elections.
Therefore, Kerry must issue a specific proposal to combat terror, beyond an irrelevant guest editorial in the Washington Post about Iraq, beyond his observation that terror is a law enforcement matter, and beyond his call to weaken the Patriot Act. His strategy instead seems to be to pose as the anti—Bush candidate. If Bush is the war—time President, Kerry is the peace—time candidate. If Bush plays up the war on terror, Kerry plays it down. Kerry is playing a dangerous game, for he is (unwittingly) sending a signal of weakness, as the Spanish socialists did.
9. Therefore, Bush will probably lose, which would entail Kerry winning in November.
Though this conclusion follows logically, it does not have to follow in reality, if the majority of American voters see through the terrorists' purpose and are not swayed by the violence. They can negate the consequent. Here is the negation:
1. If A, then B
1. If terrorist violence makes the war ineffective for Bush, then he will probably lose the election. (If A, then B.)
It does not take a professional logician to see how discouraged the terrorists would become if they hit us with their best shot(s), but failed to get their desired election results, and thus had to confront their stronger enemy, George Bush, for another four years. Thus, his (and our) war on terror would actually be effective in the eyes of the terrorists. This would be the reverse of the Spanish elections.
10. Therefore, a Bush loss and a Kerry win in November implies that the terrorists can win more easily, and they can cause these election results by violence.
This conclusion does not have to come true, either, if the American voters have wisdom to negate the consequent.
Personally, I trust the majority of American voters to follow good and sound logic, not terrorist logic, and to elect the stronger leader to fight an evil enemy, regardless of any violence, unlike the Spanish voters.
But that does not absolve Kerry from coming up with a strong and clear plan to combat terrorism, which would signal all terrorists that their attack on the US before November would not change the aggression with which either Administration would strike back.
Yet, despite Kerry's unwillingness to provide such strong leadership, my confidence in the American voter has some support. A recent poll shows that Bush's job approval rating, even after a lot of over—reported bad news in Iraq and under—reported economic good news in the US, remains around 50%. This is far higher than Carter's and (the senior) Bush's numbers around this time in the political season. Bush's re—election is therefore quite probable.
I have written these three articles because of the conversations I have had with academics (one got so irate, he lost his temper and yelled, even across campus; he later apologized); because of the anti—war, anti—Administration bias in the media (see premise (7) in this article); and because of the distortions from Democrats and the Left, like Ted Kennedy's wild assertion that the Abu Ghraib prison abuses equaled Saddam's tortures and mass murders in that same prison, and Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11. And now Kerry has condemned the Iraq War, in his Sixty Minutes interview last Sunday, the ultimate signal of weakness and discord.
Given the high emotions, distortions, and shrill language, I decided to use simple logic, because of its clarity and rhetorical force, and each premise has been backed up with solid evidence. Sometimes seemingly complicated events and motives, like the violence of the terrorists and the Iraq War, can be boiled down to their essence with clear thinking and sound reasoning.
All of America, whether some like Kennedy, my academic colleagues, and Michael Moore realize it or not, needs the President to succeed in his monumental project in Iraq, as he is clearly doing in Afghanistan, for the sake of the freedom of the globe and the prosperity of many civilizations, for the sake of the freedom and prosperity even of his political opponents.
Jim Arlandson (Ph.D.) teaches introductory philosophy and world religions at a college in southern California. He has also published a book, Women, Class, and Society in Early Christianity (Hendrickson, 1997).