It’s official. The terrorists are winning. They have achieved the one and only goal of terrorism itself: to achieve a political outcome based on the “terror” caused by highly publicized attacks on civilians.
Just days after Dagen McDowell of Fox Business blamed the San Bernardino shooting on Edward Snowden and the USA Freedom Act, Joe Scarborough called for “post-Edward Snowden legislation that stops this person-to-person encrypted messaging” on Morning Joe. He also said, “We’re going to have to give the CIA powers to interrogate these terrorists to see where the next attack’s going to come from.”
As the CIA has always had the power to interrogate anyone it wishes to, this can only be code for “torture.” Lest this be written off as the ravings of MSNBC’s token Republican, his Democratic guest agreed wholeheartedly. Scarborough had either the audacity or the cluelessness (it’s always hard to tell) to end the segment by riffing on a Bush/Cheney mantra, saying: “The world changed after Paris.”
Anything both Fox and MSNBC are trumpeting in unison can reasonably be assumed to be completely wrong.
Marcio Rubio is running a television commercial in which he says, “What happened in Paris could happen here.” He seemed prescient in retrospect following the tragedy in San Bernardino last week.
Whether radical Islamists want to kill us “because we let women drive,” as Rubio contends, or because of decades of nonstop political and military intervention in their countries is another story. Ultimately, one cannot solve this problem unless one understands what has caused it.
For the past fifteen years, the Unites States has tried to solve it with conventional warfare. It is accepted without question that, whatever else the intelligence community or other security apparatus are doing, waging conventional war on Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban or other Islamic paramilitary groups in the region is a necessary and effective way of deterring Islamic terrorism in the United States.
After fifteen years, it’s time to question that dubious assumption.
The answer has always been intuitive to me and I doubt I’m alone. Sending 140,000 soldiers to fight a conventional war in the Middle East does absolutely nothing to make it harder for two guys in Boston to bomb a foot race or a guy and his wife to shoot up a government building. How could it?
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told the Harvard Kennedy School Tuesday that Americans will be grappling with violent extremism for generations to come. If that feels like déjà vu, you’re not imagining things. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark O. Schisslersaid the same thing – in 2006.
Schissler was expressing concern at the time over wavering public support for a war that had already lasted longer than WWII. His concern was warranted. The Republican Party had just suffered a shellacking in the mid-term elections, largely due to public dissatisfaction with “neoconservative” foreign policy. They would lose the White House two years later for largely the same reasons.
American voters may have believed they “threw the bums out,” as Carroll Quigley might put it, but the foreign policy never changed. The Obama administration may have used different tactics, but it’s been even more interventionist than Bush’s. It’s certainly intervened in more countries.
Bush and the 2000s Republicans were called neoconservatives, but they weren’t. Their way of seeing the world is classic conservatism, straight out of Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes not only saw all individuals, but all nations, in a de facto state of war with each other, in the absence of some overwhelming external force “keeping them in awe.”
This was the inspiration for the British Empire, which sought to “civilize” the world by force of arms. It eventually bled itself dry, its biggest failures occurring on precisely the same ground the United States is bleeding on now.