March 24, 2004

Wrong Answer

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September 11, 2001, is getting a lot of attention lately. Earlier this month, Democrats criticized President Bush for referring to 9/11 in his campaign ads. This week, there are charges that Bush ignored the al Qaeda threat prior to 9/11. And there is the ongoing testimony at the 9/11 commission to discover what happened before that horrible day.

Democrats don't often bring up 9/11, but this kind of internalized examination of 9/11 is potentially beneficial to Democrats and presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry in particular -- not because of anything that might be discovered, but because it draws attention away from the question of what was the appropriate external, foreign policy response to 9/11. We do need to find out why our government was blind to the 9/11 plot, if that's really what the commission will uncover. But that is merely the defensive response to the prospect of another 9/11. The bigger question is what should be done offensively?

This is a question I do not think Kerry wants to dwell on publicly. He has made a few statements in this regard, but he either focused on multilateralism and his desire to be "full partners" with the U.N. or he focused on defensive measures such as first-responder funding.

I'm not convinced that is the answer to 9/11 that most Americans want to hear. Perhaps that's the reason Kerry's campaign ads stress his military record yet avoid mention of 9/11 and, lately, focus on his domestic agenda -- he doesn't have a good answer for how to offensively combat terrorism.

There's certainly much more that Bush should be doing to effectively combat terrorism (such as accelerating the demise of the Iranian theocracy and openly naming militant Islam as the enemy). But he has shown a willingness -- without U.N. permission and preemptively if necessary -- to take the fight to the enemy, to terrorists and their state sponsors alike. That's at least part of the right answer.

Recommended editorials:

Mark Steyn's latest column: We tried appeasement once before...

The inability of the [British government] to secure even the three highest-profile targets in the realm -- the Queen, her heir, her Parliament -- should remind us that a defensive war against terrorism will ensure terrorism. Tony Blair understands that. Few other European leaders do.

Daniel Pipes wrote in January: Democrats Unlearn 9/11.

Two months ago, the undersecretary of defense for policy, Douglas Feith, formally contrasted the pre- and post-9 /11 approaches: think back, he suggested, to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and to the attacks on Khobar Towers in 1996, on the U.S. East African embassies in 1998, on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen in 2000. When such attacks occurred over the last decades, U.S. officials avoided the term "war." The primary response was to dispatch the FBI to identify individuals for prosecution. Recognizing the September 11 attack as war was a departure from the established practice. It was President Bush's seminal insight, the wisdom of which I would say is attested by the fact that it looks so obvious in retrospect. Obvious for a while, yes. Now, key Democrats repudiate this insight and insist on a return to the pre-9 /11 dispensation.

The Ayn Rand Institute's Onkar Ghate wrote last July: Don't Blame Our Intelligence AgenciesóBlame Our Unprincipled Foreign Policy.

Whatever incompetence on the intelligence agencies' part, what made September 11 possible was a failure, not by our intelligence agencies -- but by the accommodating, range-of-the-moment, unprincipled foreign policy that has shaped our government's decisions for decades.

Posted by Forkum at March 24, 2004 08:06 AM
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