Wednesday, July 13, 2005

"There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact."
- Justice Robert Jackson, 1949.

Marc Schulman and Dave Schuler, two bloggers for whom I have the greatest respect for the thoughtful and serious way they approach the momentous issues of our time, have jointly zeroed in on the most troublesome issue facing the United States, Britain and the West: How does a Democracy effectively fight an enemy who can recruit our own citizens to commit atrocities and still remain a democracy ?

At the American Future, Marc Shulman has had many fine posts on this quandry since the London bombing but one that touched a nerve with Dave was entitled " The Enemy Within"( I also strongly recommend reading Marc's latest-"Three British Op-Eds" and "A Deadly Double-Standard" ). A post that dealt with the left-wing British newspaper, The Guardian, coming to the belated realization that the War on Terror might be someting more than a public relations exercise by ambitious Straussian neocons. An excerpt:

"The realisation that Britons are ready to bomb their fellow citizens is a challenge to the whole of our society. One security source I spoke to yesterday, before the police revealed their findings, presciently guessed that the culprits were "a UK group, home-grown, having bypassed al-Qaida training camps". He reckoned they would have drawn on the pool of young Muslims so disconnected and disenfranchised that they are easy prey to the extremist sermons heard in some mosques, to the wild, conspiracy-theory packed tapes sold outside and to the most fire-breathing websites. The proliferation of that material represents a deep challenge to British Islam; that disconnection and disenfranchisement is a challenge to Britain itself."

This in turn provoked a response from Dave at The Glittering Eye that he characterized to me as a " lament", a post entitled "The limits of diversity; the end of " E plurbus unum"?". I am loathe to excerpt Dave's post for fear of distorting his point about our own internal divisions over the nature of the enemy we face (hint- go read it all) but here is the crux of his response to Marc:

"“We hold these truths to be self-evident…” These words are from the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence and demonstrate that our republic was founded on a consensus. Or, as Chesterton put it, it was founded on a creed. This consensus included the notions of unalienable rights, popular sovereignty, consent, constitutionalism, separation of powers, morality, and limited government. But the consensus also included the concept of natural law and a belief in the role of reason in human affairs.

...The recent terrorist attacks in London raise yet another challenge to our society. As more is learned about the nature of the perpetrators of the attack a picture emerges of young men in such profound disagreement with the fundamental values of the society in which they found themselves that all they asked of it was its destruction. And their own.

...Can we reasonably doubt that this kind of anger exists here as well?

I don't honestly know if our society can survive the rising level of anger that I'm seeing from all sides: left and right, Christian and Muslim. But I equally don't know if our society can survive the abandoning of the notional diversity that's been a key factor in our society for all of my lifetime, at least. Can we accept in our midst people who simply don't want the things that the American consensus requires? But what kind of society will be left if we abandon “E pluribus
unum”? "

What is to be done ?

Is the choice to treat an army of apocalyptic sociopaths and fanatics hell-bent on our destruction as misunderstood criminal defendents ( ACLU, Amnesty International) or to incarcerate hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslim Americans in camps ( Daniel Pipes, Michelle Malkin) in some reprise of Japanese Internment ? Or to surrender to Islamist terrorism by withdrawing from Iraq and breaking our alliance with Israel ( antiwar Left and Right) and let the totalitarian New Caliphate rise if it can ?


The choice is to fight with the realization that war is not the same state of affairs under the Constitution as is peace and that any reluctant concessions to *common-sense* requirements for victory and security must be, as with the Civil War, WWI and WWII, temporary measures. It means abandoning only hubris and paranoia alike. We can, in fact, lose this war and there is an Islamist fifth column among us but their numbers are very, very few and they are here largely due to our own laxity, foreign radicals who should have been kicked the hell out of the consular office the moment they scribbled on their VISA application.

The vast majority of Muslims in the United States of America are loyal and patriotic citizens or resident aliens hoping someday to join us. A tiny number of violent Islamists swim among them like Mao's fish in the sea, much like Soviet bloc spies once swam amongst millions of Eastern European immigrants. The CPUSA once had hundreds of thousands of members who worked fanatically for the interests of the Soviet Union, infiltrated Communist spies into Cabinet Departments, the White House and even stole the secret of the Atomic Bomb.

And we survived.

We survived by adopting intelligent Counterintelligence and COCOM technology control policies even when fellow-travellers shrieked " McCarthyism" from the pages of The Nation or The New York Times. We survived because we neither lost our heads over Berlin or Cuba nor gave in to the voices counseling and later, demanding, appeasement of Soviet aggression. We survived because we triangulated our main enemy and peeled away his most powerful potential allies. We survived because we didn't shrink from fighting fire with fire and subverting the enemy's own empire by plaguing his puppets with anticommunist guerillas and insurgents. Finally we survived because all the weaknesses of an Open Society still leave us with far, far greater dynamism and resilience than the most militant ideological-nightmare states.

If we keep our nerve, the most likely result of the war is that History will write that the Mullahs accomplished nothing with their jihad but to tread the same path as the Commissars and the Gauleiters to their doom.
Thanks for your inspirational post. In the end, I'm as confident as you are that we will prevail, as we always have.

What I worry about is what we may go through before we reach Churchill's "sunny uplands." As Dave records in his far less upbeat post, we are a divided country. Most notably, the unity we felt in the first few months after 9/11 has evaporated.

It seems more than likely that the only way unity will be restored is for another terrorist attack to occur here. Would a subway bombing that takes a few hundred lives be enough? I'm not sure. 7/7 was a wake-up call for the Brits, but, having suffered more than 3,000 deaths on 9/11, a 7/7-style atrocity might not have the same effect here. If not, then the restoration of unity would require another act of catastrophic terrorism.

And, if that's what's needed, our history suggests that we would be rapidly transformed from an America in which roughly half of the population is, to a greater or lesser degree, in favor of appeasement to an America united in its call for blood. That's what happened almost instantaneously after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

I, for one, wish to avoid an America that lusts for blood almost as much as an America that appeases an enemy intent on its destruction.

So, my friend, I'll throw the ball back into your court: how can we regain the unity we need to fight this war effectively without first absorbing another blow on the scale of 9/11 -- or worse?
Hi Marc,

Thank you much. We're fundamentally in agreement because I fear that we're not going to turn things around in time before another act of catastrophic terror does it for us.

You've posed an extremely difficult question and one that relates to Dave's concern over our own internal divisions.

In the election of 1940 the GOP was smelling blood. FDR had been challenged by his own Veep for the nomination to a controversial third term and the president had damaged himself with the Court-packing scheme and his farsighted but deeply unpopular Quarrantine Speech. The U.S. had recently instituted conscription to rebuild our toy Army into an actual fighting force - something Congress would reauthorize only by a single vote.

Wendell Wilkie was the Republican nominee and he understood America would be at war relatively soon regardless of who won the election. He also understood that the isolationist wing of his Party were a pack of dangerous fools, antisemites and Nazi-sympathizers and that if he ran on an isolationist platform, their hands would be greatly strengthened.

So he did not. Instead Wilkie supported a pro-Allied foreign policy and it cost him the election. But it saved the country from even greater dangers, perhaps even defeat.

Would that happen today ? I hope so but I'd have to lay odds against it.

The Democratic Party has a nihilistic wing deeeply influenced by the New Left and the Vietnam War experience. I'm not talking about everyone who thought Iraq was a bad idea but those ppl who accept the revisionist critique that America is itself a bad idea.

They are the isolationists of our time and they have to be neutralized and discredited and shorn of influence. Fundamentally, this is a job for Democratic moderates and pro-war liberals to fight to take their Party back but the GOP has to help. This means the needs of partisanship has to be sacrificed sometimes to bolster the figures of reason in the other party. It means recruiting responsible Democrats into a new " Vital Consensus" the way Liberals and Conservatives once closed ranks against Communism.

We may be running out of time but we need to try nonetheless.
We have a problem now that we did not have then: the candidate of a Party is picked by the Party's membership at large via primaries. There is no opportunity for "wiser heads" to prevent the choice of the best demagogue, so we generally get the best demagogue. This was not true in 1940, when the candidate was generally chosen by the State heads of the Party, plus the power brokers at the national level.

This is especially true on the Left, for some reason, possibly because the Left seems out of ideas these days: all of their fights have been won, and they seek to hold ground and extend their power carefully. In other words, they've become deeply conservative in the classical sense of the word.

But it may not be a lost cause: it's possible that a series of small attacks, on the scale of London, would suffice to unite us. It's also possible that a disastrous failure on our part would unite us, in the other direction. In neither case, though, does unity seem possible without great pain.

Excising a cancer is like that.
hi Shriek,

Very well said. Your analysis of the intellectual exhaustion of the Left and its reversion to a reactionary, defensive, crouch is spot on.

Another important difference in party nominations back then was that each party had a liberal and a conservative wing rather than being split into a liberal party and a conservative one as is the case today.

Moreover, the conservative wing in the Democratic Party was extremely powerful, due to the tendency of Southerners to keep re-electing their legislators effectively for life.
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