national opinion

Monday Column
Carol Platt Liebau

[go to Liebau index]

Latest Column:
Stopping the Meltdown
What Beltway Republicans Need To Do

Subscribe to CRO Alerts
Sign up for a weekly notice of CRO content updates.

Jon Fleischman’s
The premier source for
California political news

Michael Ramirez

editorial cartoon

Do your part to do right by our troops.
They did the right thing for you.
Donate Today

CRO Talk Radio
Contributor Sites
Laura Ingraham

Hugh Hewitt
Eric Hogue
Sharon Hughes
Frank Pastore
[Radio Home]

















Bruce S. Thornton - Contributor

Bruce Thornton is a professor of Classics at Cal State Fresno and co-author of Bonfire of the Humanities: Rescuing the Classics in an Impoverished Age and author of Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization (Encounter Books). His most recent book is Searching for Joaquin: Myth, Murieta, and History in California (Encounter Books). [go to Thornton index]

A Game of Cat and Mouse
Demagoguery in the Age of Terror
[Bruce S. Thornton] 1/22/04

Every election year I recall the fable about the mice that were being devastated by a ferocious cat. Facing extinction, the rodents called a meeting to find a solution to their problem. After much deliberation, a brash young mouse stood and said, "If the cat had a bell around his neck, we could hear him coming and save ourselves!" All the mice applauded and cheered the young mouse's brilliance, until an old graybeard stood and asked, "Who's going to put the bell around the cat's neck?"

The moral, of course, is that it is easy to find simple solutions to complex problems, but it's not so easy to make them work. As the Democrats congregate in Iowa and New Hampshire, we're hearing a lot of mice propose all manner of solutions to the complicated problems that they claim President Bush has bungled, particularly in Iraq.

Wesley Clark, for example, says Saddam Hussein could've been removed by indicting, arresting, and trying him. Even the New York Times wondered how that could happen without toppling the regime with force. After all, the capture of Milosevic that Clark touts on his resume only happened after a lot of bombs were dropped on Serbia. Howard Dean asserts he would bring in 100,000 troops from Muslim countries to replace our own. He won't name the nations presumably eager to participate in what their citizens consider an unjust occupation by Zionists and Crusaders.

Gephardt is fretting over how Bush alienated our allies because of his neurotic "unilateralism." So too John Kerry, who is toting around a book about the failure of alliances after World War I, and sneering, "These guys [Bush et al.] don't believe in history." This view ignores the simple fact that France, Russia and Germany in opposing U.S. action in Iraq were pursuing their own economic and national interests, not reacting to Bush's rhetoric or diplomatic missteps. And Kerry's analogy with 1919 is deeply flawed and ignorant of history, since we no longer inhabit a world of roughly equal military powers that need to be balanced.

The failure of France and Germany to create militaries commensurate with their global power pretensions means that the U.S. cannot depend on these "allies" when it comes to protecting American interests. The institutions of "multilateralism" beloved by liberals are merely the instruments used by European military pygmies to clip the wings of American military, economic, and cultural influence.

Lieberman, the best of a bad lot, repeats the media's favorite new narrative: Bush is bungling the occupation because of bad pre-war planning. The Atlantic Monthly has a long article by James Fallows repeating this charge, attended by such question-begging assertions that the occupation is a "debacle" and a "historic failure." Reasonable people might wonder if a mere nine months after combat ended is too soon to start evaluating the success or failure of a task as monumental as rebuilding a society devastated by tyranny, and bringing democracy to a civilization that has never known it.

Worse, this fashionable complaint about Bush's bad planning assumes that there was some good plan that would've worked better. All these presumed better plans, however, assume that the Iraqi insurgency is only a reaction to what the U.S. does rather than a response reflecting deep-seated beliefs to be acted on no matter what we do. In fact, the recent history of the Middle East demonstrates that those employing terror are acting on religious and ideological imperatives that have little to do with how mean or insensitive we are.

The fallacy inherent in believing that anti-Americanism or terrorism is a reaction to poverty, globalization, insensitive presidents, etc. is particularly obvious in Israel. Whatever Israel does, no matter how far it bends over backwards to placate the Arabs, a critical mass will still work for its destruction. Indeed, the evidence suggests that the "nicer" Israel is, the more accommodating it tries to be, the more terror and violence ensue. So too in Iraq. The insurgents and terrorists would still be attacking coalition forces no matter what magic "plan" was in place.

Certainly the U.S. could have done some things differently. The several months wasted last year in soliciting the approval of the United Nations merely allowed Hussein the time to destroy, hide, or export whatever WMDs he had left, thus giving Bush's critics an endless narrative about how he distorted intelligence evidence to justify the war. And once combat operations had ended, shooting on sight a couple of hundred looters might have cut down on the number of Iraqis plundering their own country.

But can you imagine the outcry from the Democrats and the media if either of these things had happened? The fact is that the administration's attempts at "multilateralism," along with its efforts to minimize civilian casualties and placate its domestic critics, arguably hampered operations and contributed to some of the difficulties we're facing. But the beauty of Monday-morning quarterbacking is that it always scores the winning touchdown.

In the real world, however, the unforeseen and irrational response and the bizarre contingency can't be planned for. How many Sovietologists foresaw the collapse of the Soviet Union? You can count them on half of one hand. Even fewer predicted the events of September 11. And who could've imagined that some Iraqis would so zealously cut their own throats by attempting to loot and destroy their own infrastructure?

In fact, perhaps the biggest mistake being made in the current war on terrorism is the tendency to ignore just how dysfunctional and irrational much of Islamic culture is. Most of our planning goes awry because irrational self-destructiveness is hard to anticipate.

We too readily assume other peoples are as pragmatic as we are. We can't imagine people destroying vaccines their children will need just to steal refrigerators, as has unfortunately happened in Iraq. We have to accept the deep-seated dysfunctions that plague much of Islamic culture and that will challenge our planning and policies. This, in turn, means that we must be braced for the dangerous and deadly unknowns that will compromise all our best-laid plans.

And we have to beware the arrogant mice touting their simplistic solutions to these complex problems. Politicians, of course, always promise pie in the sky, but we are at a point in our history where we have to be very careful in deciding to whom we will entrust our foreign policy. A retreat in Iraq at this point -- what every Democratic candidate proposes in one way or another -- would return us to the world before 9/11: A world in which the U.S. can be attacked with impunity because America's leaders fail to stay the course and pay the price necessary to convince our adversaries that the price of terrorism is too high even for fanatics.

copyright 2004 Bruce S. Thornton

Searching for Joaquin
by Bruce S. Thornton

Greek Ways
by Bruce S. Thornton

Bonfire of the Humanities
by Victor Davis Hanson, John Heath, Bruce S. Thornton

Plagues of the Mind
by Bruce S. Thornton

Eros: The Myth of Ancient Greek Sexuality

by Bruce S. Thornton





Blue Collar -  120x90
120x90 Jan 06 Brand
Free Trial Static 02
ActionGear 120*60
Free Trial Static 01
Applicable copyrights indicated. All other material copyright 2003-2005