Sunday, January 04, 2004
On his persistent claim that we are not safer because Saddam Hussein has been captured:
"A lot of the attacks are about putting words in my mouth that I never said. One of the attacks they don't bring up very often anymore is the Saddam Hussein thing, that it's not safer since Saddam Hussein's been captured because we now have 23 troops killed and we're having fighter planes escorting passenger jets through American airspace. I noticed that line of attack disappeared fairly quickly."
Frankly, I agree with the simple statement that "we are not safer since Saddam Hussein's been captured," or if we are safer it is purely a matter of conjecture. It is unlikely that the capture of any one person -- including Osama Bin Laden or Mullah Omar -- will make us "safer" in any quantifiable sense. Sure, in the long run it always helps to chip away at the enemy's command and control structure, but Arab and Islamic fascism has millions of adherents and (at least) thousands of activists, so it is unreasonable to expect that any one event will render us incrementally safer.
Unfortunately, Dr. Dean offers completely nonsensical evidence to support the proposition that the capture of Saddam has not made us safer. Casualties on the battlefield are the consequence of engaging the enemy, and can as easily be evidence of tactical victory as tactical defeat. Casualty levels prove nothing about the relative safety of Americans, but citing higher casualties as evidence of "less safety" suggests a lot about Howard Dean's bizarre sense of cause and effect.
More troubling is his view that we are less safe because fighter planes are escorting passenger jets through American airspace. Since the jets are not randomly there, but are shadowing particular aircraft, I take their presence to suggest that we are penetrating terrorist groups and developing specific intelligence about their intentions. While it is highly unlikely that any new intelligence bearing on transatlantic air travel derives from Saddam's capture, the fact that we now scramble jets to shadow particular commercial flights is almost certainly evidence that we are making progress against the enemy, rather than the contrary. Again, Dr. Dean's "evidence" proves the opposite, if it proves anything at all.
Fineman then asked Dean what he would do if he were command-in-chief:
"If I were commander in chief ... we've gotta get Osama however we can. If they have the opportunity to kill Osama, they have to do it. Bill Clinton signed that order in 1996 and I certainly support it."
That seems like a good idea. Somebody send the White House the link to TigerHawk so the President can get to work on it right away.
Of course, Dean is setting himself up here. First, he needs to explain how getting Osama will make us "safer" -- my own view is that his killing or capture would be a tactical victory in a long war, and nothing more. Second, by making the capture of Osama the sine qua non of success in the war on terror, he runs the great risk that we actually do capture Osama sometime in the next ten months. He has, in effect, set himself up to hope that we don't get Osama, just as he was clearly disappointed when we captured Saddam. Even George McGovern avoided creating the impression that he was rooting for American failure.
Finally, Howard F. asked Howard D. whether he had a deadline for the removal of troops from Iraq.
"Absolutely not. I think that would be a big mistake. To remove troops prematurely, Al Qaeda --which was not in Iraq, but is now -- will set up shop in Iraq and present an enormous national-security danger."
So exactly why is it a problem that we have attracted Al Qaeda to a place patrolled by 130,000 American soldiers? I can't think of a better place for them to be. Better Iraq than America, or some jurisdiction that is beyond our reach.