ZenPundit
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
 
ON THE POLITICS OF NATIONAL SECURITY, "IT IS WHAT IT IS"

Courtesy of Michael Tanji of Haft of the Spear, a piece of Congressional semantic idiocy that is symbolic of a larger problem:

"The House Armed Services Committee is banishing the global war on terror from the 2008 defense budget.

This is not because the war has been won, lost or even called off, but because the committee’s Democratic leadership doesn’t like the phrase.

A memo for the committee staff, circulated March 27, says the 2008 bill and its accompanying explanatory report that will set defense policy should be specific about military operations and “avoid using colloquialisms.”

The “global war on terror,” a phrase first used by President Bush shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., should not be used, according to the memo. Also banned is the phrase the “long war,” which military officials began using last year as a way of acknowledging that military operations against terrorist states and organizations would not be wrapped up in a few years.

Committee staff members are told in the memo to use specific references to specific operations instead of the Bush administration’s catch phrases. The memo, written by Staff Director Erin Conaton, provides examples of acceptable phrases, such as “the war in Iraq,” the “war in Afghanistan, “operations in the Horn of Africa” or “ongoing military operations throughout the world.”

Because of course, prohibiting discussion of the strategic context of current military operations against Islamist terror networks itching to topple regional governments or kill thousands of Americans in 9/11 style attacks will make that threat go away. Political correctness for terrorism analysis!

Well, not really. What it is intended to do, I infer, is allow the new House majority to deprioritize, over time, the importance of fighting al Qaida type groups so as to make it politically easier to allocate legistative time and resources to those domestic issues that excite the liberal activist base. If you are a House chairman or Democratic presidential candidate, looking toward 2008, ideological spin is fun, substantive foreign policy, by contrast, is a major headache. Being the most hawkish Democrat on al Qaida is about as about as rewarding, in terms of winning influence within the party, as heading the Republicans for Choice Caucus would be within the GOP. It won't kill you politically, per se but being out of step with your party is more anchor than sail.

Now, I realize there are many Democrats and liberals who are passionate about America having sound and strong defense, foreign and national security policies. A number of them are on my blogroll because I respect and read their views. At the end of the day, however, a Democratic majority will reflect not their minority views or priorities but those of the Boomer activist Left whose formative experience was the Vietnam antiwar movement, the radicalized phase of Civil Rights protest and the Women's movement. It is they who dominate the Democratic Party, not the DLC or the "liberal hawks". Except when you have an overriding political concern from the public, or a Democratic president of Clintonian influence who can temporarily pull his party toward the center, you can expect the Democrats to govern like Democrats, not like Republicans Lite.

The same goes for the Republicans. Callimachus had an excellent essay about the nature of the Bush administration:

"Let's say it up front: GWB and co. are a bad lot; arrogant and embodying the most resistant strains of cultural conservatism and capitalism in American society. Blame it on Texas, if you need an explanation, as the historical magnet for the most exaggerated and aggressive characters of the old South.

They have a predatory mentality, a game-winning mentality. The executive branch is their team base, and they go out every day in eye black to compete with Congress, the Democrats, the courts, the media, and they play to win. Whatever tactics serve them against you, they will use, however shamelessly hypocritical it is of them. If they can slip one past you, they will. It's up to you to catch them.

None of which is illegal. None of which is cheating. It's football; it's courtroom, it's stock exchange, it's boardroom, all the places all these people came from. If you expect your federal government to be collegial, more concerned with process than results, don't elect these guys. And if you do elect them, expect the game to change. A chess match can degenerate into a brawl, but a chess match never breaks out during a brawl. "


George W. Bush and his administration are not liberals or bipartisan figures. They are not Jack Kemp style free-marketeers, Reaganesque small government types or even old Right, neo-isolationist paleocons like Pat Buchanan. Instead, they are basically the last Nixonians - centralizing, more partisan than conservative, hierarchical, national security oriented, big government Republicans, who aligned themselves primarily with moderate big business, the religious right and neoconservative intellectuals. Seldom have they reached beyond this base and, if anything, the Bush White House has retreated to ever more narrowly circled political wagons. They will govern from this precarious perch until their last days in office.

We are in a long war against a global insurgency of Islamist fanatics whether our generals are permitted to say that or not. The country needs a stronger, more vocal, middle ground...at least when we look beyond the edge of our shores.

Labels: , , , , , ,

 
Comments:
Because of course, prohibiting discussion of the strategic context of current military operations against Islamist terror networks itching to topple regional governments or kill thousands of Americans in 9/11 style attacks will make that threat go away.

Please, calm down. What you should infer from this change in language is an attempt to view the situation in different parts of the world as whatever they are, rather than all potential threats being linked together unjustifiably, which was the Bush mistake/strategy. Or are you saying his strategy is workable and should be pursued?
 
Hi Mithras,

No, I'm saying that reacting by abandoning strategic analysis - which is what occurs with compartmentalizing these conflicts into airtight geographic boxes - doesn't change the nature of the problem.

All of these conflicts have their local context and variables, and I agree that these should not be ignored or obscured. Neither should the transnationalist aspect, which is how you get Pakistanis in the Philippines, Arab Afghans in Chechnya and Northwest Africans in Iraq. Saudi money and Deobandi training fuel extremism in Indonesia, and so on.

Banning the terminology is a small thing but it sets a bad opening tone.
 
I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

Politicians make no difference.

We have bought into the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). If you would like to read how this happens please see:

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/03/spyagency200703

Through a combination of public apathy and threats by the MIC we have let the SYSTEM get too large. It is now a SYSTEMIC problem and the SYSTEM is out of control. Government and industry are merging and that is very dangerous.

There is no conspiracy. The SYSTEM has gotten so big that those who make it up and run it day to day in industry and government simply are perpetuating their existance.

The politicians rely on them for details and recommendations because they cannot possibly grasp the nuances of the environment and the BIG SYSTEM.

So, the system has to go bust and then be re-scaled, fixed and re-designed to run efficiently and prudently, just like any other big machine that runs poorly or becomes obsolete or dangerous.

This situation will right itself through trauma. I see a government ENRON on the horizon, with an associated house cleaning.

The next president will come and go along with his appointees and politicos. The event to watch is the collapse of the MIC.

For more details see:

http://rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com/2006/11/inside-pentagon-procurement-from.html
 
Mark-
What's going on here is the rhetorical uncoupling of the Iraq War from the rest of the enterprise. I agree that transnational links between governments and militant groups and among such groups should not be ignored. I just don't see how abandoning the phrase which lumped all threats together leads inexorably to "airtight geographical boxes" or justifies the charge that strategic analysis is being abandoned. It's just a label; new ones can be thought up.
 
Mithras is onto something here.

The public has turned away from Iraq, and because the Bush administration has so strongly linked Iraq with the GWOT (and the GWOT is linked so strongly with the unpopular figure of Bush), we run the risk that the public could come to believe that the GWOT is just another hoax dreamed up by the Bush administration.

As for the Democrats and national security, the trend has been for the last five years towards a kind of hawkish centrist liberalism represented by the likes of the Brookings Institution and magazines like the New Republic. I don't see that changing--the two leading Democratic candidates are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, whose antiwar rhetoric is something of a cloud that obscures their real enthusiasm for "muscular liberalism."

Of course, I don't necessarily believe that's the right approach way to roll back terrorism--I'm more of a believer in the "Great Capitalist Peace" of the New America Foundation fellows Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman's Ethical Realism but I think its important to recognize that there won't be that much of a seismic change in foreign policy as you might think.
 
On the issue of 60's hippies though, you might want to check out Paul Berman's new book on Joscha Fischer. It's an study on how 60's radicals and anarchists mutated into the 90's liberal establishment in Europe and America. W
 
The charge is justified by the lack of any new competing concept on the strategic level from the Democratic side; what has occurred is simply an attempt to ban the currently used terminology.

Aside from the fact that banning words being something that irritates me in general, the Democrats, if they are unhappy with GWOT, then they should be encouraging, rather than discouraging the Pentagon to engage in deeper analysis.

GWOT has, as ppl from across the political have observed, some problems. WWIII or WWIV, is in my view, counterproductive language. "Long War" is better in the sense that it it is realistic about the time frame and reminiscient of " Cold war" which was always seen as being multidimensional rather than purely military.

None however, address who we are fighting - non-state networks of radical Islamists - some who have passive or active state assistance
 
"The charge is justified by the lack of any new competing concept on the strategic level from the Democratic side; what has occurred is simply an attempt to ban the currently used terminology."

Getting rid of the misleading Cold-War era terminology is a step in the right direction, but as you're correct in saying it's useless unless it is replaced with another strategic concept.

This is for a different reason. The dominant national security Democrats do not mention anything about non-state actors because they, like everyone else, see terror through the distorting prism of the Cold War. They perceive the jihadist threat mainly as a monolithic conventional threat akin to that of the Soviets--read DLC chairman Will Marshall's writings and you get the picture that no one in the Democratic party is willing to think of terrorism as global, networked insurgency that can't merely be stamped out with tanks.

Why? Because the solution to such efforts--"smart power" (or if you want, Barnett's SysAdmin)--doesn't play to a public that goes wild for politicians declaring "wars" on structural problems like crime, drugs, and enjoys meaningless security theater. This is something common to both parties--a lack of strategic vision, determination to fight old battles, and pandering to a security theater-addicted public. People feel safe once they see soldiers patrolling the airport, but never think about what can be done to make sure we don't have to be afraid every time we travel.

The truth is that we don't have any politician--either in the government or out of it--who really gets it. And that's the way it usually is. Politicians aren't the ones to look for when it comes to strategy. All we can really hope is that the right ideas somehow filter into the right places. John Boyd never was Secretary of Defense, but his ideas did win the Gulf War.
 
"This is for a different reason. The dominant national security Democrats do not mention anything about non-state actors because they, like everyone else, see terror through the distorting prism of the Cold War. They perceive the jihadist threat mainly as a monolithic conventional threat akin to that of the Soviets--read DLC chairman Will Marshall's writings and you get the picture that no one in the Democratic party is willing to think of terrorism as global, networked insurgency that can't merely be stamped out with tanks"

I fear that to be the case.

One reason Tom Barnett appeals to officeholders across party lines is because he is not in that box.
 
Post a Comment

<< Home
Zenpundit - a NEWSMAGAZINE and JOURNAL of scholarly opinion.

My Photo
Name:
Location: Chicago, United States

" The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances as though they were realities" -- Machiavelli

Determined Designs Web Solutions Lijit Search
ARCHIVES
02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003 / 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 / 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003 / 05/01/2003 - 06/01/2003 / 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 / 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 / 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 / 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 / 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 / 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 / 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 / 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 / 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 / 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 / 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 / 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 / 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 / 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 / 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 / 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 / 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 / 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 / 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 / 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 / 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 / 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 / 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 / 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 / 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 / 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 / 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 / 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 / 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 / 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 / 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 / 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 / 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 / 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 / 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 / 11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007 /



follow zenpundit at http://twitter.com
This plugin requires Adobe Flash 9.
Get this widget!
Sphere Featured Blogs Powered by Blogger StatisfyZenpundit

Site Feed Who Links Here
Buzztracker daily image Blogroll Me!