Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Issue of Deterrence Part 1: 9/11 and New Reality

In my last post, I referred to two Eject!Eject!Eject! posts about deterrence. I have said before that the issue of National Security and the War on Terror is the most important issue of this election. I think it's safe to say that in these posts, Bill Whittle agrees, though in them he frames the issue as being about the deterrence of further attacks and how each candidate is planning to do that. That is, after all, what security is. The posts are great and I recommend reading them in their entirety, but I will excerpt some highlights here from the first one:

Introducing the issue-
Watching the Presidential debates of October 1st, and the subsequent reactions to them, has left me once again with the sad realization that there are many millions of people who prefer a man who says the wrong things well over one who says the right things badly - and in the case of the first debates we are talking about saying very, very stupid things well and intelligent things very, very badly.

Now I don't mean stupid in a bad way. I fully credit John Kerry with the intelligence needed to analyze, dissect, and evaluate a position and without mechanical aid quickly and accurately use advanced trigonomic functions to determine the most popular position on a wide range of complex issues - a feat that requires a very quick mind indeed.

So it's not dumb stupid, those statements he made in the first debate. It's more of an entirely understandable, eminently defensible, very common fossilized kind of stupid that we saw from the Senator. It was the stupid of a man claiming to have new ideas and new plans based on shared assumptions and models that no longer apply to reality.

President Bush seemed stupid in comparison because he seems to only know three things in all the world - and it is our great good fortune that he is right about all three.

In a moment, we'll look at what both men said, and through a very specific filter: not their Aggregate Presidentiality, or their respective Molar Charm Ratio. We're going to look at what both men believe in respect to deterrence: whether their positions increase or decrease the likelihood of further attacks on the US.

This is sometimes how I feel watching the debates. As I see Kerry and Edwards recite the same wrong "facts" over and over, I whether they or their campaigns ever read anything. It amazes me that John Edwards would go up there and say "90%, 90%, 200 billion" even after the Wall Street Journal among others addressed the issue the week before. This emphasizes the role of the bloggers that I was just talking about: Kerry and Edwards sound good, but they are living in a kind of stupid non-reality that needs to be debunked for the benefit of the general public.

Next: The difference in a nutshell:
It all comes down to carrots (liberals) or sticks (conservatives). By the way: if you're in a rush and need to run, here's the spoiler: You can offer a carrot. Not everybody likes carrots. Some people may hate your carrot. Your carrot may offend people who worship the rutabaga. But no one likes being poked in the eye with a stick. That's universal.

I'm a stick man. I wish it were different. But part of growing up - in fact, the essential part of growing up - is realizing that wishing does not make it so.

Folks, it's time to reach down deep and get in touch with our inner adult.
Sometimes it's a bit of a sad fact that we have to be grown ups, but we have to be grown ups. I only wish life was as easy as it was when a bad day at school would be forgotten if only we had a hot fudge sundae.

He goes on to say that in today's world offering a carrot is refusing to see reality. But seeing reality is sometimes difficult:
Because I try to be a reasonable person. I don't fault the government for not preventing 9/11 only because ultimately the government is made up of ordinary people, and ordinary people, like me, could not fully imagine or grasp what we were seeing that day even while we were seeing it.

I tuned in when the first tower had just gone down. The first images I saw that morning were of one tower and a cloud of smoke. Funny, I remember thinking, I thought there were two World Trade Center towers. I was sure I had remembered wrong. I didn't see the tower go down. Skyscrapers don't just disappear.
We like to say that the world changed that day. What a ridiculous, self-centered thought. The world didn't change. Our illusions about the world changed. The scales had (mostly) fallen from my eyes in the years leading up to that morning. But many, many conservatives (as I define myself) were born precisely at 9:17 am EDT, when United 175 flew past the burning North Tower - an accident? - and exploded through the second, on the morning of September the 11th, 2001.

And everything we thought we knew about deterrence changed at 9:17 too - although I am sorry to say it hasn't fully sunk in on certain people.

Nineteen people - some barely literate -- killed almost three thousand of the most highly skilled and productive citizens on the planet. I told my Dad that morning I just saw our Pearl Harbor. He immediately replied, "No you didn't. After Pearl Harbor we knew who to attack."

He was right. That's the point of terrorism, of course. Deniability. 9/11 was an attack on the US by Islamicist fanatics, orchestrated by Egyptian strategists, staffed with Jihadists recruited from around the Arab world, and paid for largely by Saudi religious zealots. So why not launch an attack with elements of the Egyptian and Saudi air forces? Because within six hours there would have been no more Egyptian and Saudi air forces, and within six weeks, no Egyptian and Saudi governments, either. Our deterrence against conventional attack, or even nuclear attack from a nation-state, is so credible and muscular that such a thing has become literally unthinkable.

At this point our new reality sounds dreadful, deterrence seems impossible...doesn't it?
What we learned on 9/11 is that there are people out there who are not deterrable. Given the chance - given the weapons - these people will strike without any regard to consequences. The ultimate horror of a world enveloped in nuclear fire is just peachy keen with them if it will bring about the New Caliphate. We love death the way you Americans love life, they say. They are not kidding. They are serious. You can pretend otherwise, but that will not make it change. There are people who are determined to kill us for who we are and what we believe. They can not be deterred.

But they can be defeated. And the people they depend on for survival can be deterred.
He goes on to talk about the strong leadership of George W. Bush and the next post directly addresses things that were said in the debate. But I would add that if we look at their speeches in their entirety, President Bush continually talks about winning, about victory, about defeat of a worldwide enemy, and about overcoming. The only time John Kerry and John Edwards talk about winning, they talk about "winning the peace." They don't talk about victory over terrorism, or victory in Iraq. They talk about stopping terror but not defeating it. They may say there's no difference, but these men have been very careful about their word choices, and I'm concerned about what they mean by these words. How would the Kerry team stop terror if not by defeat? Might it be...the "carrot" of appeasement?

As President Bush said yesterday "I have a strategy of victory." That strategy is about defense of America and defeat and deterrence of the enemy.