Junkyard Blog takes apart David Corn’s response to Peter Beinart’s article on the Democratic Party and terrorism. Beinart’s thesis was that the Democratic Party’s inability to take terrorism seriously was costing them votes and cementing the idea that the Democratic Party cannot lead on national security issues. David Corn’s piece essentially proves him right:
To provoke argumentâ€”or in this case, counter-argumentâ€”itâ€™s useful to ask, how does the Al Qaeda threat compare to the threat of global warming? Or the threat of global AIDS? Or the threat of drunk drivers? AIDS and DWIers kill far more people than Al Qaeda has. Global warming could lead to death, disease and dislocation affecting millions. Al Qaeda clearly has considered attacks with the most deadly weapons that could cause horrific casualties. Could it pull off such a strike? Perhaps. But should that possibility alone be the basis of a new political reality? And how close is Al Qaeda to establishing a repressive Islamic state in greater Arabia? Should that possibility cause us to put aside other pressing issues?
If Corn doesn’t believe that a strike that could lead to the death of millions of people and the incumbent economic devastation that would follow shouldn’t be a priority for the government, he’s only serving to prove that the Democrat’s really aren’t serious about terrorism and national security. Just ask someone who worked in the travel industry about how the events of September 11, 2001 effected more than just New York and DC. The ripple effects were felt across the country and across the globe.
If you have to ask whether terrorism is serious enough to warrant attention above other issues, then you’re not sufficiently serious about it. Beinart, to his credit, understands this. So far the responses to his piece have only proved his essential thesis. Corn’s response spends more time bashing Bush than it does dealing with the war on terrorism.
One of the issues that the Democrats are going to have to deal with is the fact that for many Americans, the argument that Iraq was a “distraction” from the war on terrorism doesn’t hold. Now, this argument is a reasonable one, if wrong. One can make this argument without descending into raving moonbat territory, and it’s more thoughful than the usual “no blood for oil” canards. However, the question then becomes is it true? Was the war in Iraq really unnecessary and a distraction from the war on terrorism?
The answer is no. Afghanistan in the long term was relatively unimportant to al-Qaeda. It was a base of operations, but one born our of necessity rather than desire. It provided a geographically isolated area in which Qaeda troops could train, and a friendly government. However, once Afghanistan was no longer hospitable to al-Qaeda, the Taliban had been crushed, and a new government elected, does anyone honestly think that al-Qaeda would remain there? If all we did was concentrate on Afghanistan the real threat which lies in the Arab Middle East would remain just as dangerous as ever. Afghanistan was the side theatre, a necessary first step, but not the be-all-end-all in the war on terror as some would have us believe.
The roots of terrorism lie in the Middle East, particularly the Arab Middle East (and Persian Iran to an extent). The question is what do we do there? We can’t allow the status quo to continue. As tempting as it would be to start kicking everyone around, including the House of Saud, that isn’t really an option. Invading Iran or Saudi Arabia would certainly harm terrorism, but does anyone honestly think that US troops occupying Mecca wouldn’t be seen as an attack against Islam itself? Those who argue that we should have invaded anyone but Iraq aren’t making that argument as a serious policy prescription but a red herring.
Iraq is the geographic center of the Middle East. Saddam Hussein had plenty of ties to terrorism, including sheltering Abu Abbas, aiding Hizb’Allah and Hamas, allowing Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi plan the murder of US diplomat Laurence Foley from Baghdad, and other connections to terrorist groups including al-Qaeda. The CIA’s best intelligence indicated that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and the Bush Administration had no reason to believe elsewise. Everyone from Vladimir Putin to Hosni Mubarak had said the exact same thing. Saddam Hussein had been firing on our planes in the no-fly zones, shooting down our intelligence-gathering UAVs and clearly dodging the sanctions against him.
If we know that the only way to end the threat of terrorism is to change the conditions in the Middle East, why start another war when you’re practically already in one? Sooner or later the Hussein regime would have had to be dealt with, and if we were engaged in a major conflict elsewhere it would only make things more difficult for us. In terms of the larger strategy on the war on terrorism, Iraq was the next logical step.
By the polls and the results of the election, a majority of the American people believe this. Yet the Democratic Party, even sensible Democrats, keep wanting to argue that such a position is delusional. It’s taken as a given that the Iraq War was the “wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place” — an argument that ignores all the evidence to the contrary. At the very least it’s incumbant on the Democrats to suggest where the real war should be and what we should do — something that has yet to be done in any realistic fashion and certainly not something Kerry did during the campaign. Instead, what we’ve gotten from the Democrats have been more blanket condemnations of the Iraq war and the Bush Administration and little substance. Beinart understands that the Democrats cannot win unless they can realistically and effectively show that they understand this war — sadly, Corn’s response shows just how trenchant Beinart’s argument really is.