Saturday, November 29, 2008
The War On Terror
On this blog, and on my previous one, I've stated more than once that I think (although I didn't put it exactly this way) the central front in the "war on terror" is in the hands of law enforcement. In saying it, I also noted that John Kerry, when he ran in 2004, was laughed off the stage by the wingnuts when he said as much. From which, based on how often those voices have been wrong on pretty much everything including war, economics, and terrorism (as well as science, religion, energy, climate...), one might have instantly concluded that Kerry was absolutely right. Which he was, of course. Another blogger reinforces the concept.
I wonder how long the boys in the back room worked on the title. War on Terror. Given their affinity for style over substance, they must have taken a while to get it right. If your aim is to mandate unending war powers to a president while getting the populace to fall into line, you surely don't want a closed-ended moniker. We gotta give the guy permanent license, after all. Even "terrorism" could, conceivably, have an end-point. But terror -- TERROR!! -- who could argue that'll ever go away?
It'll be interesting to see what happens to the "war" (as opposed to the "wars") in the Obama administration. Even Donald Rumsfeld, at one time anyway, seemed a little uncomfortable with the name; so did others on the inside. I think it might take a while before Obama feels able to call it like it is. After a campaign in which he was cast as an America-hating, terrorist-loving, closet Muslim, for him immediately to point out the real nature of the response to terrorist threats would be to invite craziness from the right. But at some point one would hope it'll happen. For at least two reasons.
If we're engaged in a War on Terror, we'll never stop being a "nation at war." Which has been the engine for the Bush/Cheney takeover of government in which Congress, and the rest of us for that matter, have been complicit. ("I'm a war president.") And it's been a central justification for deficit spending way before Wall Street went South. We need to get real. When (if!!) we're able either to disengage or change the missions in Iraq and Afganistan, it'll need to be clearly stated: we'll always have to make significant efforts to protect ourselves from terrorism, but it'll not be primarily a military effort: not with invading armies, anyway.
Which gets to the meat of it: when (if?) the economy gets back on track, it'll be time to attend to gargantuan budget deficits. Nothing ought to be off that celebrated table. Angst ought to be engendered from both ends of the spectrum. Entitlements. And, for the right wing, military spending. This War on Terror, as ginned up and executed by Cheney/Bush, has been nearly the financial death of us. I hope Barack Obama will be able to address military spending; to do so, he'll have to make the case and convince the electorate what is and is not sensible in making ourselves safe. No military economist, I; but I'd say there are billions and billions to be saved.
[Update: The NYT weighs in.]