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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Failing By Their Own Standards

While I have been engaging in the blogospheric pie fight over the liberal hawks' approach to national security to some extent, I do think it's important also to engage in a substantive response to the the DLC on this. Kevin links to a very good article at Democracy Arsenal that challenges the DLC's overreliance on the military to solve problems. This is a huge issue, particularly in light of the threats we actually face.

I was actually quite stunned to realize that they had signed on so fully to the idea that the GWOT or the G-SAVE or whatever, is a military challenge when quite clearly it is something else entirely. After all we've seen from 9/11 to Bali to Madrid to London --- and our our ineffectual and impotent performance in Iraq --- you would think that even hawks would have done some tweaking of the old superpower handbook.

But they haven't. And they even went a step further, indicating that criticising the methods that the Bush administration has employed thus far is naive (or vaguely anti-American) when it seems to me that it is vital to publicly reject their approach in order to repair the damage. The Bush administration has employed some catastrophically bad tactics and methods that have destroyed our credibility and our moral authority --- two things that are essential in repelling terrorism, attracting allies and keeping foreign enemies from overreaching. And in squandering those things the Bush administration has created recruiting propaganda for the terrorists and probably ruined any chance the liberal hawks might have had to test their Wilsonian experiment in exporting democracy.

First, the Bush administration continues to this day to tell the entire world that our intelligence services are completely untrustworthy. By invading a country without provocation, failing to find the WMD which would have justified the preemption doctrine, failing to prepare for the post war and then blaming the CIA and the state departments for that failure, they are saying to the world that the greatest military power the world has ever known is entirely incompetent. It leads enemies to overreach and it leads friends to be wary of letting us take the lead.

The only thing that can set this right is to publicly hold the Bush administration accountable for its politicising of the war for its own ends. To hush it up is to make us less safe, not more.

Second, by using torture and humiliation tactics we have shown the Muslim world that we are uncivilized. This is not just a matter, as Will Marshall said, of us not being grown-ups and undertanding that bad apples will blow off steam. It is clear that these things were ordered at the highest levels. And, as it has been reported today in even greater detail than before, there was a huge amount of dissension within the military about using these tactics for a variety of reasons. The primary concern for them is that it puts our own troops in danger, both morally and physically.

Marshall says that we have no credibility on torture unless we also condemn the acts of the barbaric insurgency in Iraq. This is precisely the opposite of the truth. Civilized people take for granted that anyone who blows up innocent people is barbaric. It does not have to be individually condemned. The behavior of the insurgency is not our responsiblity. The tactics and methods of the US Military are. It is incumbent upon us to take specific note of our own people who do barbaric things and show the world that we condemn it in the harshest possible terms. We cannot hope to export our democratic freedoms and demonstrate their benefits unless we hold ourselves to this higher standard --- and exporting our democratic freedoms is what these liberal hawks so fervently believe we must do.

So, they are defeating their own stated purpose of keeping the country safe by allowing the Bush administration to get away with exploding the myth that US intelligence is virtually omnipotent and possibly emboldening would be enemies.

They are defeating their own stated purpose of defending the military, by refusing to stand with those within it who objected to the way the Bush administration ignored its rules and regulations.

They are defeating their own stated purpose of spreading democracy by refusing to demonstrate our system's higher moral and ethical standards to people who are skeptical of our power.

If we are looking to the DLC for smart thinking on national security, we'd better look elsewhere. In all these ways the policies of the DLC hawks have already failed even by their own standards.