Why we’re stuck with the War on Terror

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Will

Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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14 Responses

  1. Avatar Tim Kowal says:

    FWIW, here was my response to this basic argument on Google Reader:

    Curse you all for making me come to Obama’s aid here, but it seems terribly cynical to suggest the bottom line here is the political casualties that would ensue if more American lives were lost through further terrorist attacks. I think even folks squarely against Obama in most regards, such as myself, will concede that Obama is genuinely trying to save American lives as an end in itself, not merely a means to his political objectives.

    Moreover, even conceding the sensitive politics of the thing, this still suggest you have to move slowly. One of the few things on which I agree with Obama (and which I confess I am a bit squeamish to admit in conservative circles) is his standing up to Israel and the settlements. Seems to me that backing off on our obvious over-the-top lavish support of Israel is the first step in solving any problems in the mid-east. And Obama’s already taking on a lot of water for that. Can you imagine if he also went dovish on the terrorists?
    . . . .
    I agree that the particulars are bewildering. That is, I completely understand wanting to continue to be aggressive on the “war on terror.” But this can’t explain how Obama has broadened the tools used to fight that war. The predator drones and assassinations have even hard-line conservatives worried, so it seems unlikely these choices are politically motivated.Report

    • Avatar Will says:

      @Tim Kowal, I have a fairly cynical view of politicians, but I’m not suggesting that Obama has embraced the Bush approach to counter-terrorism solely to get re-elected. I think his calculus is more along the lines of: “I can only do so much as president; changing our counter-terrorism policies would require a lot of political capital, and health care/the stimulus/[insert domestic priority here] is simply more important at this point.”Report

      • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

        @Will, Perhaps, but then why cross Israel? And why the assassinations that are making everyone queasy? If his actions are driven by political expediency, then these are some pretty big outliers to that theory.Report

        • Avatar Will says:

          @Tim Kowal, Has Obama “crossed” Israel? I think his approach to Israel is remarkably similar to his approach to terrorism: a rhetorical shift followed by precious few substantive changes.

          Other than Kevin Williamson at NRO, I can’t name any other conservatives who’ve expressed serious reservations about Obama’s assassination policy. I assume that the Administration thinks that taking the blame for a terror attack would be worse than rousing the ire of a few cranky civil libertarians on the Right.Report

  2. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    The last president to have had a successful terrorist attack against U.S. citizens on his watch was George W. Bush.

    After that, his popularity went through the roof.Report

  3. Avatar North says:

    Institutional cowardice is what I call it Will and I agree wholeheartedly that it’s the core driver behind Obama’s behavior on the WoT. If he doesn’t do everything that he can think of or that a neocon can make up to protect the US and so much as an exploding pop can gets through then he’s up shit creek.Report

    • Avatar 62across says:

      @North, could you elaborate on the institution being cowardly here?

      My take is that the “cowardice” is more wide-spread than any particular institution. The risks of another attack getting through would need to be understood and accepted by the nation-at-large before a President could decide to not do everything he could think of. I can’t imagine the neo-cons or the press being objective about the trade-offs.Report

  4. Avatar greginak says:

    It is a mistaken assumption that Obama ever claimed to be that far from the mainstream WOT views. He always said AFPAK was a “good” effort and he was very open to escalation. We can disagree that is the correct path, but he has not gone against his statements. Same on Iraq, he is following the SOFA we signed Bush signed with the Iraqis. Really nothing to surprising there. He never said he was against using the military. It’s only on civil rights that he has gone a different direction. That is a significant issue but he is pretty much exactly who he said he would be.

    As a matter of fact it takes believing the limbaugh/o’reilly chorus to see Dem’s as anything other then WOT supporters and pretty damn hawkish.Report

  5. Avatar Lyle says:

    We must have a war on terror to keep the masses scared. Fear is a great motivator, witness the news stories that x,y,z will kill you if you don’t watch out. Of course as Keynes observed in the long run we are all dead, but…
    The war on terror is needed to justify the expenditures to keep the military industrial complex fed (its like Audrey in the Little Shop of Horrors).
    Given that IMHO 9/11 was utterly preventable by 3 changes 1 the reinforced doors that were fitted after 9/11. 2 Pilots are not to emerge from the cockpit if there is trouble in the back, but rather stage as rapid an emergency landing as possible, using unusual attitudes in the process (within the capabilities of the air frame say a 45 degree bank) then 9/11 would have been stopped.Report

  6. So if you take the NYC approach to terror and keep what you’re doing quiet and an attack happens, you’re crucified. If you make people take off their shoes and ban liquids on planes and have all sorts of other pointless dances and are WAY out on the margins then you can always try to minimize the potential political damage by saying look we were extra cautious! We even made you take off your shoes! Sometimes shit just happens.

    Congratulations, we created another completely intractable political issue for ourselves in the vein of prison reform, the war on crime, and the drug war. Everybody who’s knowledgeable knows we need to cut back, and they also all know that it’s never going to happen because of penetrative selfishness and ignorance.Report

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