Daniel Pipes- Contributor
Pipes is director of the Middle
East Forum, a member of the
presidentially-appointed board of the U.S.
Institute of Peace,
and a prize-winning columnist for the New York Sun and The
Jerusalem Post. His most recent book, Miniatures:
Views of Islamic and Middle Eastern Politics (Transaction
Publishers) appeared in late 2003. His website, DanielPipes.org,
the single most accessed source of information specifically
the Middle East and Islam, offers an archive and a chance
to sign-up to receive his new materials as they appear. [go
to Pipes index]
vs. 9/12 on 11/2
[Daniel Pipes] 10/29/04
"I can wage
a better war on terror than George Bush has." So speaks Senator
Kerry in the U.S. presidential campaign's final days, again
reminding voters that the key issue in this race remains as
it was a year earlier - deciding which candidate will better
protect Americans from terrorism.
As with so
many topics, the basic difference between Kerry and President
Bush is one of character, with the challenger repeatedly changing
his mind and the president sticking with one position.
Mr. Kerry adopts Bush-like terminology. For example, in September
2004 he talked about the war on terror being "as monumental
a struggle as the Cold War." When in this mood, he predicts
that its outcome "will determine whether we and our children
live in freedom or in fear."
times, however, Mr. Kerry dismisses the war and its importance.
In January 2004, after acknowledging that
the war on terror is "occasionally military - and it will continue
to be for a long time," he described it as "primarily an intelligence
and law enforcement operation." He has reiterated this point
about the conflict not really being a war several times since,
and most memorably in an interview earlier
to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not
the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance. As a former
law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution.
We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going
to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on
the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and
fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but
it's not threatening the fabric of your life."
As is his
wont, Mr. Kerry is inconstant. He one time pictures the war
on terror as a world-historical event like the Cold War and
another time it is small beer, comparable to prostitution and
Mr. Bush has since September 11 steadily argued for
the profound import of what happened that day. He has since spoken of "a
long-lasting ideological struggle" in which totalitarians use
terror "as a tool to intimidate the free." He sees the enemy's
goal as nothing less than a war to destroy America. Mr. Bush
is nothing if not consistent - some accuse him of stubbornness
- and he invariably assesses terrorism as the greatest challenge
of our time.
As for Mr.
Kerry's terrorism-as-nuisance idea, Mr. Bush impatiently says
he "couldn't disagree more" with it and comments: "Our goal
is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance.
Our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying
terrorists, and spreading freedom and liberty around the world." More
broadly, he says, Mr. Kerry "fundamentally misunderstands the
war on terror."
Mr. Kerry's camp also disdain the war concept. Richard Holbrooke,
touted as the Democrat's possible secretary of state, says that "We're
not in a war on terror, in the literal sense. The war on terror
is like saying ‘the war on poverty.' It's just a metaphor." To
which Bush replies, "Anyone
who thinks we are fighting a metaphor does not understand the
enemy we face and has no idea how to win the war and keep America
it comes down to a matter of personal experience. Asked how
9/11 had changed him, Mr. Kerry replies, "it
didn't change me much at all." In contrast, Mr. Bush stresses how
profoundly that day has changed his outlook and his sense of
purpose: "I made the pledge to myself and to people that I'm
not going to forget what happened on September the 11th."
As Fred Barnes
it, "George W. Bush is a September 12 person. John Kerry
is a September 10 person." The American electorate will make
a profound choice next week, deciding whether to turn back
the clock to the law enforcement model in place before September
11 or whether to continue with the war model in place since
It is a momentous
decision for Americans, indicating whether or not they take
seriously the mortal threat of Islamist terrorism. It is also
a verdict that Americans make on behalf of the entire civilized
world. That is why the stakes are so high. CRO
This piece first appeared in the New York Sun
2004 Daniel Pipes