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Friday, February 08, 2008

So, The General Election Is Going To Be About The "War On Terror?"



Mitt Romney is out. John McCain is now the presumptive candidate for the presidency representing the Republican Party. And, as is natural, everyone will be playing kissy-kissy in the name of party unity. One thing that will help bring that about is to define what the general election is all about.

Governor Romney almost bowed out gracefully. By tossing in the notion that his continued candidacy might impair the "war on terror" he put forth a warning that Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama would "surrender" to the terrorists. Sen. McCain followed suit with similar observations.

The gist of this new drumbeat is that we cannot afford to "lose" Iraq. Like we "lost" China in 1949. If only we had.....what? It might be fair to say that there are those circumstances where the United States doesn't own anything to "lose" in the first place. Call me crazy, but it is arguable that the Chinese themselves had a lot to do with what happened in China.

The "war on terror" is similar to the "war on drugs" in several ways. It has no clear goal in sight, meaning an endless supply of unquestioning loyalty to the goal, which is redefined to match current political situations. And, the first casualty in such a "war" are the very freedoms and liberties that are only revoked from the very people who pose no threat in the first place.

It makes a great cudgel, though. That is, if you have no interest in (or interest in addressing) boring things like economics, disenfranchisement of citizens, healthcare, bloated government, and so on. President Bush used the GWOT very well in 2004.

But this is 2008. Some people might question how any national struggle can be maintained when the country is going broke. Lecturing those in Michigan that their jobs aren't coming back sounds like tough love. Maybe. It also sounds like someone who really doesn't have a grasp of economics. I'll offer this one for free: if a $20-an-hour job is exported, the governments' (fed, state, & local) tax base shrinks. The individual who then lands one of those valued "associate" nametags at Walmart will do the best they can. But the taxes they pay will be much less. Also, try not to lecture such people on pulling themselves back up by their bootstraps while pulling a Congressional salary. You may as well give swimming lessons in New Orleans.

"Compassionate Conservatism" has been revealed for what is is: cynical conservatism. And that applies to the GWOT as much as to anything else. For all the hope that our venture in Afghanistan would bear permanent fruit, the debacle in Iraq has to be transformed from one of those stupid moves into part of a justified expenditure of life and treasure. It is always easy to sound tough while sending someone else's son or daughter into the fire. It's also easy to turn your back on them when they return because "we have to show fiscal discipline."

For a man who dismissed critics of his ill-fated immigration "reform" bill last year, Sen. McCain is displaying a very selective view of national security. Americans are dying every day at the hands of criminals here illegally. Enforcement of existing law would put a stop to most of it. Sen. McCain might come to an understanding that American citizens and legal residents are not xenophobes just because they want the law enforced.

However, campaigns are like a house of mirrors at a carnival. Talking points and campaign themes can be made up out of whole cloth. The key is to keep banging that drum; truth has nothing to do with elections. Not when it comes to instilling fear.

For all the talk about Mitt Romney's Mormonism; for all the talk about Mike Huckabee's Christian one mentions the fact that the Global War on Terror has become a faith also.

What Senator McCain and Gov. Romney may discover this year is that at this stage there are not as many believers as before. Pat Buchanan believes that a President McCain will start more wars; that his administration will be an expansion of the Bush II initiatives.

We're all mortal. I know I'm going to die someday; that's a simple fact. It's much harder to accept the notion that my country may perish through neglect. To borrow from T.S. Eliot, I'd rather go out from a terrorist bang than die an economic whimper.
Cross-posted at

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Blogger Papamoka said...

McCain himself said that if we have to be in Iraq for 100 years then so be it. That alone speaks volumes on where he stands about the war of lies in Iraq.

Maybe Bush will give him the hotline number to Haliburton if he wins the election...

Great post Michael!

6:06 PM  
Blogger B.J. said...

Anyone who argues the war in Iraq was a great idea, give that person a copy of Bob Woodward's "State of Denial." The policy of Bush and, by extension, McCain, as we know, is FUBAR, but a reading of this book reveals just how FUBAR. I realize this post is about the so-called "war on terror," but McCain is going to continue the mantra that Iraq is the "central front in the war on terror." Will it work in 2008? 'Tis a frightening fact that this country will not elect anyone perceived as "anti-war." I pray I am proven wrong come November.

7:11 AM  

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