How will conservatives -- who have claimed that critics of the Bush administration's terrorism policy and Iraq policy are emboldening terrorists, undermining national security, and hurting troop morale -- respond to George Will's August 15 column, in which Will wrote that the Bush administration "seem[s] eager to repel all but the delusional" regarding Iraq?
Wall Street Journal columnist Richard Miniter responds to this item below. *
Since the inception of the "war on terror," Bush administration officials and conservatives in the media have attacked critics of the administration's terrorism policy and Iraq policy, claiming that criticism of the war emboldens "the enemy," undermines U.S. national security, and hurts troop morale. For the most part, these attacks have been limited to liberals, Democrats, and the "liberal media" -- for instance, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly has attacked "a segment of the media" and the "loony left" for "trying to undermine the policy in Iraq for their own ideological purposes," and for "want[ing] the Bush administration to lose" in Iraq.
Media Matters for America wonders, then, how will these same commentators react to conservative Washington Post columnist George F. Will's August 15 column, in which he wrote that the Bush administration "seem[s] eager to repel all but the delusional" regarding Iraq, and in which Will asserted that the terrorism policy articulated by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) during the 2004 presidential campaign has been "validated."
Cooperation between Pakistani and British law enforcement (the British draw upon useful experience combating IRA terrorism) has validated John Kerry's belief (as paraphrased by the New York Times Magazine of Oct. 10, 2004) that "many of the interdiction tactics that cripple drug lords, including governments working jointly to share intelligence, patrol borders and force banks to identify suspicious customers, can also be some of the most useful tools in the war on terror." In a candidates' debate in South Carolina (Jan. 29, 2004), Kerry said that although the war on terror will be "occasionally military," it is "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world."
Immediately after the London plot was disrupted, a "senior administration official," insisting on anonymity for his or her splenetic words, denied the obvious, that Kerry had a point. The official told The Weekly Standard:
"The idea that the jihadists would all be peaceful, warm, lovable, God-fearing people if it weren't for U.S. policies strikes me as not a valid idea. [Democrats] do not have the understanding or the commitment to take on these forces. It's like John Kerry. The law enforcement approach doesn't work."
This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional. But perhaps such rhetoric reflects the intellectual contortions required to sustain the illusion that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism, and that the war, unlike "the law enforcement approach," does "work."
The official is correct that it is wrong "to think that somehow we are responsible -- that the actions of the jihadists are justified by U.S. policies." But few outside the fog of paranoia that is the blogosphere think like that. It is more dismaying that someone at the center of government considers it clever to talk like that. It is the language of foreign policy -- and domestic politics -- unrealism.
Is Fox News' Cal Thomas going to excoriate Will for "further embolden[ing] America's enemies who are betting that the United States is weak, morally corrupt and lacks the stomach for protracted conflict," as he did retired generals who called for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign? Can we expect National Review editor Rich Lowry to attack Will for "sounding like the grim reaper when it comes to the war on terror," and "decid[ing] to undermine another American war effort," as he did Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA)? Will conservative author and journalist Richard Miniter scold Will for "undermining the nation's unity at a time when we're at war," as he did former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, and former Vice President Al Gore?
Attorney and blogger Glenn Greenwald noted that "[w]e have a rule in our country that 'attacking the Commander-in-Chief during a time of war' helps The Terrorists and emboldens our enemies." As such, Greenwald observed that the spate of criticism from conservatives of the Bush administration over the recent Israel-Lebanon ceasefire means that "the Commander-in-Chief has a lot of new enemies and the [sic] The Terrorists have a lot of new allies."
Among the examples Greenwald flagged:
In addition to winning in Lebanon, Iran has the upper hand both in Iraq and in the contest over whether it will be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. If current trends continue, the Bush administration's project in the Middle East will require the same sort of expedient we have just seen in the Israel-Lebanon conflict: a papering over of what is essentially a failure.
Over at NRO's corner, John Podhoretz contends that this would mean the end of the [Israel prime minister Ehud] Olmert government. I'm tempted to suggest that our government, having seemingly lost its will to oppose (or even to let others oppose) our deadliest enemies, deserves the same fate.
Israel and the West surrender to Hizballah.
Terrorists and the U.N. win.
Attacks on the Commander-in-Chief and proclamations of American defeat are ubiquitous -- among the same group that insisted for the last five years that such attacks are dangerous and wrong and that talk of American defeat helps the terrorists.
Aren't terrorists going to be so happy to see that Americans are divided in this way? Doesn't it make us less safe for all of these people to be branding the U.S. as weak losers and to be glorifying the strength and power of our enemies? Don't these people realize that we're in a war and that weakening the Commander-in-Chief with such criticisms and declaring American defeat endangers all of us?
Richard Miniter sent the following response, taking issue with our reference in the above item to comments he made on the March 14 Hannity & Colmes. (We originally addressed those March 14 comments here, in which we noted that he had claimed falsely that when Democrats were in power, Republicans did not criticize the majority party's foreign policy.):
I see that media matters takes the same kind of cheap shots that it criticizes in others... You have taken my comments on Hannity&Colmes completely out of context. My point is that former presidents and vice presidents have a special obligation not to undermine the nation in war time -- not that columnists and others should not be free to exercise their constitutional rights. Many nations assume, rightly or wrongly, that former presidents still have some power and speak for the U.S., something which can make running a unified foreign policy difficult for the currently serving president. Columnists and others simply are not perceived the same way by foreign governments. That is why we have the tradition of ex-presidents sticking to bland statements on foreign trips. Surely this is not a hard distinction to grasp? Or are you so blinded by partisanship that you don't know a good point when you find it?