Sunday, January 03, 2010
Belief that the bad guys are winning the War on Terror is now at its highest level in over two years, and nearly half of U.S. voters say America is not safer than it was before 9/11.
Personally, I think we are "safer" than before 9/11, but we are in danger of reversing hard-won progress in the global counterinsurgency against the Islamic terrorism. Why? Because messaging matters. While our current president's actual policies have not changed so much from those of his predecessor, the rhetoric is very different. Whatever the benign reality of Gitmo, it was useful that jihadis and their potential recruits believed that it was a Stygian dungeon where Christian women did slutty things to pious Muslims. Dispelling that belief and repudiating the other supposed barbarism of the Bush administration may delight the European chattering classes and American civil libertarians, but it will send a strong signal to the enemy that we will lack the stomach to do what is necessary to win.* Nothing helps an insurgency recruit more than the belief that victory is possible.
*Since Obama felt compelled to close Gitmo, he would have done better to say he was moving the detainees to U.S. federal prisons because the conditions for our regular criminals are so much more restricted and spartan. That would have weakened the impression that the president was soft on terrorism both domestically and among the terrorists, which would have been good for Obama politically (except on the left) and good for the country. The transnational left, though, would not have been satisfied with anything less than a condemnation of Gitmo, however much it reinforced the well-deserved perception among voters that Democrats are wimps and among jihadis that Americans are soft (at least when governed by Democrats).
CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.
With all due respect, the idea that TH and other Americans understand how the "message" of Guantanamo is playing overseas with the natives is ridiculous. Really, you have no idea.
And if this assertion were true (that fear of a torture dungeon would deter terrorists), one could only draw the conclusion General Petraeus did not know what he was talking about when he said photographs of detainee abuse at the hands of Americans would deal a particularly hard blow to U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and further endanger the lives of U.S. Soldiers. Or when he said in his Senate testimony such images could attract an influx of foreign fighters from outside Afghanistan and new recruits from within Afghan could materialize, as the new photos serve as potent recruiting material to attract new members to join the insurgency.
Defenders of torture would also be forced to disagree with General Odierno, when he said soldiers in Iraq would face a particularly serious risk to their lives and physical safety because of the release of such images, and that as the number of attacks against U.S. troops increase, incidents of spontaneous violence against U.S. forces, possibly including attacks from outraged Iraqi police or army members are likely.
It is ironic that whereas the peaceniks of yesteryear contributed greatly to our loss in Vietnam through internal political pressure, it is the hawks this time which put pressure on American political leaders to make choices which will lead to the unnecessary killing of American soldiers and our defeat.
My feelings are much more simplistic. I'm not particularly worried about how Gitmo "plays" on the Arab street...or now many new "recruits" a tough policy will engender.
The goal should be simple: kill or render harmless those who threaten your life.
If the goal is pursued consistently, sooner or later they will run out of recruits...or virgins.
They are NOT our friends.
...and they never will be.
squealer, those equivalences in paragraphs two and three are not exact. They may not even be that close. As to your speaking on behalf of world opinion in paragraph one, the Romanians I know, including my adult sons, would flatly contradict you. In general, whenever you are making a "that's ridiculous, you don't get it" argument, you will be wrong.
As to the polls, they have only political meaning. On 9-10-01 the American public would have said we were quite safe. On 9-12-01 it would have said we were very unsafe.
First of all, it's cute how you seamlessly merged mention of Guantanamo with photographs of detainee abuse. You know, since none of it occurred at Guantanamo.
As for the generals' statements, sum it up as: "it would be bad PR." What an insight.
"Really, you have no idea."
So confident, are you?
I had an enlightening discussion with an Arab in 2006 who was a Colonel in Saddam's Army. He expressed amusement that Americans got their panties in a bunch about Abu Ghraib because they themselves (Arabs in general, and the Iraqis in particular) routinely did worse things to one another, and they all knew it. He explained that the al Sadr rallies about Abu Ghraib were mere political stunts for cameras, not genuine expressions of revulsion. Later experiences reinforced this.
As a matter of fact, there was an uptick of 'defections' in Iraq following the Abu Ghraib 'scandal;' bad guys figured that if such frat boy antics by MPs were actually punished, then internment by the Americans must not be that bad, and they preferred to be captured by us and able to trade their information for better treatment than be taken by the Iraqi authorities or rival militias, which could be the same thing and in which case they could look forward to a screaming death (which many of them deserved).
All the Arab nations practice torture. Routinely. And not our pansy-ass, water in the face bullshit that you get all atwitter about. I mean real, hard core, electrodes, pliers, and drills torture.
Moreso, many of your enlightened brethren in Europe who pretend horror at the barbaric cowboy Americans do so as well. They're just smart enough to keep it a secret.
That you think naked pyramids and a tropical prison camp are some sort of horrific line crossing in an otherwise civilized world is laughably naive. Unfortunately, most Americans are in fact laughably naive. We consider the deliberate use of the FBI to spy on domestic political opponents for short term gain to be a gross abuse of power and possibly a government-toppling scandal. In most of the world (again, including more than a few 'civilized' European countries) that's called Sunday.
"it is the hawks this time which put pressure on American political leaders to make choices which will lead to the unnecessary killing of American soldiers and our defeat."
This is ridiculous, politically motivated hyperbole. If we are going to be defeated in Afghanistan, it'll be because of President Training Wheels and his amateur hour strategy, not some amorphous and sinister band of 'hawks' that 'pressured choices.'
Re: The Rasmussen poll
All polls have some bias. Rasmussen is skewed to those more likely to vote -- Gallup by comparison is more "man in the street." Over the years, Rasmussen has proven to be good polling. Rasmussen also tries to get at strength of feeling -- and so emphasizes "strongly approve" and "strongly disapprove." One metric it uses is to subtract the two.
Since taking office, Obama has gone from 15% "strongly disapprove" to 43% "strongly disapprove" so that he now has a "negative 18" score. Thus, the Rasmussen poll is showing something significant -- it shows that a very high percentage of those who disapprove of Obama believe so strongly. This decline is dramatic. Other polls don't pick up on this so much.
25% of Americans "strongly support" Obama -- this won't go much lower -- it's a hard core base of blacks, most unionized government workers and various kinds of lefties.
But we could soon see 50% of Americans "strongly disapprove" of Obama. This is driven by Democrat policies and the atmosphere of fear that's developed. What's odd is that many Americans still want to like Obama so that his personal popularity is still an asset -- but he's starting to lose that.
Obama won the election because he won independents 55% to 45% -- today, he'd lose the independent vote by at least 60% to 40%, unless the Republicans picked a bad candidate.