The left hasn't learned a damned thing from 9/11

Every once and a while over the last few years, I have come very close to saying to hell with it and tossing George Bush and the Republicans over the side. That's when the left comes to Bush's rescue and proves all over again why even allowing them to get a whiff of regaining power is extremely hazardous to the collective health of the west not to mention the personal safety and well—being of hundreds of millions of people.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

The problem with liberals isn't only Bush Derangement Syndrome. If that were the case, they would be easy to dismiss. The ragamuffins who mindlessly mouth their hatred of all things Bush and the intellectual dilettantes who enable them have become caricatures, cardboard cutouts of a political opposition. They are as relevant to the political debate in America as a flight of quacking ducks.

The real problem with serious leftist critiques of the Administration is that they actually get some things right — but start from the cockeyed premise that America's response to 9/11 has made things worse.
I sympathize with some of these critiques on a couple of levels. The choices made by the Bush Administration have indeed sharpened sectarian tensions between Shias and Sunnis in the Middle East, provided fodder for radical Islamists to preach their vision of Holy War against the 'Crusaders,' given Iran an opening to acquire influence in the region, and threatened the stability of the corrupt, autocratic regimes who are sitting on top of about 20% of the world's oil.

All this may be true to one degree or another. The problem with these critiques is that they fail utterly and completely to address in any sane or rational way what else could have been done in response to 9/11.

Despite this, I'm talking about the curiously myopic notion advanced by liberals that if only we had done exactly the same things to prevent terrorism after 9/11 as we had done before, none of the problems brought about by going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq would have happened. The belief by the left that the Clinton/Albright law enforcement approach — treating terrorists as criminals — could have been sustained in the face of bin Laden's massive success on 9/11 shows that liberals have learned absolutely nothing from that event and indeed, continue to downplay its significance or ignore it altogether.

For example, to say that Iraq was an 'elective' war is correct. But by struggling to effectively refute the idea that our liberation of Iraq was the next logical step in the war against the Islamic radicals, their criticism only points to the overarching problem with all serious liberal analyses of the War on Terror; either 9/11 for all intents and purposes didn't happen or we have 'overreacted' to that seminal event.

This is the 'We are doing exactly what Osama wants' critique which may be satisfying on a political level in that it makes for an excellent—sounding riposte to Administration arguments. But deluded enemies often wish for disastrous confrontations. Think of the Japanese militarists who pushed for a knockout blow with the Pearl Harbor attack. They wanted war, but they didn't suspect our strength of resolve.

Osama's learning the truth of the old infidel saw: be careful what you wish for.

By any yardstick, bin Laden has been hurt and hurt badly over the last 4 years. His ranks have been thinned considerably. His financial resources have been targeted relentlessly (one of the most underreported successes of the war). His operatives have been killed or captured in dozens of countries. According to recent polls, his popularity has waned considerably throughout the Muslim world. The fact that he himself is still alive and kicking (we think) is almost irrelevant. I say almost because obviously, killing or capturing the maniac would be a victory of sorts. Whether our liberal friends would recognize it as such is doubtful even though they themselves, by their criticism of the Administration for not capturing him, have set the destruction of bin Laden as a major benchmark in judging the success of the war.

But beyond what we've done to him, are we really doing what bin Laden 'wants' or are we doing what he predicted would happen?
The proof is in the pudding. As a terrorist, bin Laden may be a mastermind. But as a strategic planner, he is an utter failure. While predicting some of the reactions in the Middle East to American countermeasures against terror, he failed to see a host of other, more detrimental outcomes which are in the process of making his dream of a worldwide Islamic Caliphate less probable and in fact, a pipe dream.

While bin Laden foresaw the overthrow of the old order in the Middle East as a result of American policies, the forces at work to affect change are not of his making or choosing. In fact, they are the antithesis of what he desired. Even with an ascendant Hamas on the West Bank and a powerful Hizballah in Lebanon, radical Islamists are being either contained or defeated elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt, and even Syria. And the admittedly dangerous situations in Iraq and Lebanon — where sectarianism threatens the tiny steps made toward democracy — nevertheless ignores the huge opportunity to deal bin Laden's dreams a death blow from which he could not possibly recover.

Where the left correctly sees chaos and confusion, there are also tidal historical forces at work that regardless of what kind of governments emerge in Iraq and a Lebanon, are going to change the face of the Middle East to the detriment of bin Laden and his plans. In the short term, he may gain from the violence and despair wrought by both the resistance of the old order and his al Qaeda minions. But in the end, he loses due to either the emergence of a new kind of Arab nationalism friendly to democracy and democratic countries or a new kind of hybrid government with a justice system based mostly on Sharia law but also containing elements of western democracy like freedom of the press and tolerance for secular political parties.

In the end, bin Laden may indeed have 'wanted' the kind of response from America to 9/11 but I doubt very much he's sitting in his cave gloating.

Don't tell that to Simon Jenkins of the Times Online. Jenkins has written a scathing critique of the Bush/Blair Axis of Evil. And while making some salient points (many of which I outline above), Jenkins analysis suffers from a breathtaking naiveté that more than 4 years after 9/11 sounds almost quaint in its old—fashioned, ostrich—like tendency to belittle the impact of 9/11 as well as criticize the American response to it:

On any objective measure, terrorism in the West is a trivial crime. True, New York and London saw outrages in 2001 and 2005 respectively. Both were the outcome of sloppy intelligence. Neither has been repeated, though of course they may be. Policing has improved and probably averted other attacks. But incidents genuinely attributable to Al—Qaeda rather than domestic grievances are comparable to the IRA and pro—Palestinian campaigns. Vigilance is important but only those with money in security have an interest in presenting bin Laden as a cosmic threat.

Indeed if ever there were a case for collective restraint it is in response to terrorism. The word refers to a technique, usually a bomb, not an ideology. A bombing is an anarchic gesture calling for police and medical services. It becomes a political weapon only if publicised and answered with hysteria. A killing is so staged as to cause over—reaction, violent response, mass arrests and a decay of civilised values. Bin Laden's intention in 2001 was to portray the West as scared, emotionally vulnerable, over—reactive, decadent and careless of liberal values. The West has done its damnedest to prove him right.

Every liberal canard about the War on Terror is contained in those two paragraphs. Despite the rest of Mr. Jenkins' article which accurately sums up many of the problems engendered by our response to 9/11 (sans his statements about 'latent authoritarianism' in democratic leaders), his only alternatives — 'restraint' and 'policing' — precisely proves my point: That the left has learned nothing from 9/11 and that following the lead of Jenkins and others of his ideological ilk would be extraordinarily dangerous.

For at bottom, the 'alternative strategy' being pushed by Jenkins and most of those on the left is one of reaction — waiting for the terrorists to strike before committing ourselves to countering them. In an era where weapons of mass destruction are becoming more widespread and easier to manufacture and/or acquire, this policy is not only suicidal, but morally reprehensible. It condemns hundreds perhaps thousands of innocent people to death all in the name of a simpering kind of internationalism, a belief that most countries are on the same page when it comes to combating terrorism.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many countries — Russia and China come to mind immediately — that would not be averse to seeing a catastrophic attack on America. Mr. Jenkins and his reactive strategy would make such an attack more likely by several degrees of magnitude. I daresay that Beijing especially wouldn't mind seeing America severely weakened as it would probably mean affecting our ability to block their designs on Taiwan and establishing economic hegemony over the rest of East Asia.

September 11, 2001 has become a date that marks a great divide in American politics. The fact that we are arguing about its significance more than 4 years later should not be surprising given the polarization of our politics. But what is surprising is that the only conclusion the left seems to have drawn from that awful day is that everything the Administration has done after it has been wrong headed and only made the situation worse.

That's not much of a critique. But given the paucity of ideas coming from liberals about how to stop the terrorists from destroying us, maybe it shouldn't really surprise us after all.

Rick Moran is a frequent contributor and is proprietor of the blog Right Wing Nuthouse 

Every once and a while over the last few years, I have come very close to saying to hell with it and tossing George Bush and the Republicans over the side. That's when the left comes to Bush's rescue and proves all over again why even allowing them to get a whiff of regaining power is extremely hazardous to the collective health of the west not to mention the personal safety and well—being of hundreds of millions of people.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

The problem with liberals isn't only Bush Derangement Syndrome. If that were the case, they would be easy to dismiss. The ragamuffins who mindlessly mouth their hatred of all things Bush and the intellectual dilettantes who enable them have become caricatures, cardboard cutouts of a political opposition. They are as relevant to the political debate in America as a flight of quacking ducks.

The real problem with serious leftist critiques of the Administration is that they actually get some things right — but start from the cockeyed premise that America's response to 9/11 has made things worse.
I sympathize with some of these critiques on a couple of levels. The choices made by the Bush Administration have indeed sharpened sectarian tensions between Shias and Sunnis in the Middle East, provided fodder for radical Islamists to preach their vision of Holy War against the 'Crusaders,' given Iran an opening to acquire influence in the region, and threatened the stability of the corrupt, autocratic regimes who are sitting on top of about 20% of the world's oil.

All this may be true to one degree or another. The problem with these critiques is that they fail utterly and completely to address in any sane or rational way what else could have been done in response to 9/11.

Despite this, I'm talking about the curiously myopic notion advanced by liberals that if only we had done exactly the same things to prevent terrorism after 9/11 as we had done before, none of the problems brought about by going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq would have happened. The belief by the left that the Clinton/Albright law enforcement approach — treating terrorists as criminals — could have been sustained in the face of bin Laden's massive success on 9/11 shows that liberals have learned absolutely nothing from that event and indeed, continue to downplay its significance or ignore it altogether.

For example, to say that Iraq was an 'elective' war is correct. But by struggling to effectively refute the idea that our liberation of Iraq was the next logical step in the war against the Islamic radicals, their criticism only points to the overarching problem with all serious liberal analyses of the War on Terror; either 9/11 for all intents and purposes didn't happen or we have 'overreacted' to that seminal event.

This is the 'We are doing exactly what Osama wants' critique which may be satisfying on a political level in that it makes for an excellent—sounding riposte to Administration arguments. But deluded enemies often wish for disastrous confrontations. Think of the Japanese militarists who pushed for a knockout blow with the Pearl Harbor attack. They wanted war, but they didn't suspect our strength of resolve.

Osama's learning the truth of the old infidel saw: be careful what you wish for.

By any yardstick, bin Laden has been hurt and hurt badly over the last 4 years. His ranks have been thinned considerably. His financial resources have been targeted relentlessly (one of the most underreported successes of the war). His operatives have been killed or captured in dozens of countries. According to recent polls, his popularity has waned considerably throughout the Muslim world. The fact that he himself is still alive and kicking (we think) is almost irrelevant. I say almost because obviously, killing or capturing the maniac would be a victory of sorts. Whether our liberal friends would recognize it as such is doubtful even though they themselves, by their criticism of the Administration for not capturing him, have set the destruction of bin Laden as a major benchmark in judging the success of the war.

But beyond what we've done to him, are we really doing what bin Laden 'wants' or are we doing what he predicted would happen?
The proof is in the pudding. As a terrorist, bin Laden may be a mastermind. But as a strategic planner, he is an utter failure. While predicting some of the reactions in the Middle East to American countermeasures against terror, he failed to see a host of other, more detrimental outcomes which are in the process of making his dream of a worldwide Islamic Caliphate less probable and in fact, a pipe dream.

While bin Laden foresaw the overthrow of the old order in the Middle East as a result of American policies, the forces at work to affect change are not of his making or choosing. In fact, they are the antithesis of what he desired. Even with an ascendant Hamas on the West Bank and a powerful Hizballah in Lebanon, radical Islamists are being either contained or defeated elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt, and even Syria. And the admittedly dangerous situations in Iraq and Lebanon — where sectarianism threatens the tiny steps made toward democracy — nevertheless ignores the huge opportunity to deal bin Laden's dreams a death blow from which he could not possibly recover.

Where the left correctly sees chaos and confusion, there are also tidal historical forces at work that regardless of what kind of governments emerge in Iraq and a Lebanon, are going to change the face of the Middle East to the detriment of bin Laden and his plans. In the short term, he may gain from the violence and despair wrought by both the resistance of the old order and his al Qaeda minions. But in the end, he loses due to either the emergence of a new kind of Arab nationalism friendly to democracy and democratic countries or a new kind of hybrid government with a justice system based mostly on Sharia law but also containing elements of western democracy like freedom of the press and tolerance for secular political parties.

In the end, bin Laden may indeed have 'wanted' the kind of response from America to 9/11 but I doubt very much he's sitting in his cave gloating.

Don't tell that to Simon Jenkins of the Times Online. Jenkins has written a scathing critique of the Bush/Blair Axis of Evil. And while making some salient points (many of which I outline above), Jenkins analysis suffers from a breathtaking naiveté that more than 4 years after 9/11 sounds almost quaint in its old—fashioned, ostrich—like tendency to belittle the impact of 9/11 as well as criticize the American response to it:

On any objective measure, terrorism in the West is a trivial crime. True, New York and London saw outrages in 2001 and 2005 respectively. Both were the outcome of sloppy intelligence. Neither has been repeated, though of course they may be. Policing has improved and probably averted other attacks. But incidents genuinely attributable to Al—Qaeda rather than domestic grievances are comparable to the IRA and pro—Palestinian campaigns. Vigilance is important but only those with money in security have an interest in presenting bin Laden as a cosmic threat.

Indeed if ever there were a case for collective restraint it is in response to terrorism. The word refers to a technique, usually a bomb, not an ideology. A bombing is an anarchic gesture calling for police and medical services. It becomes a political weapon only if publicised and answered with hysteria. A killing is so staged as to cause over—reaction, violent response, mass arrests and a decay of civilised values. Bin Laden's intention in 2001 was to portray the West as scared, emotionally vulnerable, over—reactive, decadent and careless of liberal values. The West has done its damnedest to prove him right.

Every liberal canard about the War on Terror is contained in those two paragraphs. Despite the rest of Mr. Jenkins' article which accurately sums up many of the problems engendered by our response to 9/11 (sans his statements about 'latent authoritarianism' in democratic leaders), his only alternatives — 'restraint' and 'policing' — precisely proves my point: That the left has learned nothing from 9/11 and that following the lead of Jenkins and others of his ideological ilk would be extraordinarily dangerous.

For at bottom, the 'alternative strategy' being pushed by Jenkins and most of those on the left is one of reaction — waiting for the terrorists to strike before committing ourselves to countering them. In an era where weapons of mass destruction are becoming more widespread and easier to manufacture and/or acquire, this policy is not only suicidal, but morally reprehensible. It condemns hundreds perhaps thousands of innocent people to death all in the name of a simpering kind of internationalism, a belief that most countries are on the same page when it comes to combating terrorism.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many countries — Russia and China come to mind immediately — that would not be averse to seeing a catastrophic attack on America. Mr. Jenkins and his reactive strategy would make such an attack more likely by several degrees of magnitude. I daresay that Beijing especially wouldn't mind seeing America severely weakened as it would probably mean affecting our ability to block their designs on Taiwan and establishing economic hegemony over the rest of East Asia.

September 11, 2001 has become a date that marks a great divide in American politics. The fact that we are arguing about its significance more than 4 years later should not be surprising given the polarization of our politics. But what is surprising is that the only conclusion the left seems to have drawn from that awful day is that everything the Administration has done after it has been wrong headed and only made the situation worse.

That's not much of a critique. But given the paucity of ideas coming from liberals about how to stop the terrorists from destroying us, maybe it shouldn't really surprise us after all.

Rick Moran is a frequent contributor and is proprietor of the blog Right Wing Nuthouse