Monday, October 02, 2006

Poisoning The Well With The Enemy's Propaganda

Fascinating quotation from one of the President's speeches from last week:

"You do not create terrorism by fighting terrorism. If that ever becomes the mind-set of the policymakers in Washington, it means we'll go back to the old days of waiting to be attacked -- and then respond...Some have selectively quoted from this document to make the case that by fighting the terrorists -- by fighting them in Iraq -- we are making our people less secure here at home. This argument buys into the enemy's propaganda that the terrorists attack us because we're provoking them."
There are a couple of points that deserve discussion.

First, of course, is the strawman -- on the one side, there is Bush's policy: fighting terrorism, while on the other side is his politcal opponents' policy: not fighting terrorism, and the other side is, of course, putting forward the pollyanna suggestion that by not fighting terrorism, the terrorists will just go away. Of course, they won't so don't listen to those silly opponents of the President.

Ummmm...and just who is saying don't fight terrorism? No one is saying don't fight terrorism and no one is saying that fighting terrorism in itself causes more terrorism. What the other side is actually saying is that fighting terrorism badly, as the administration's policy has done for the last several years, does increase terrorism. Indeed, it seems the opposite of irrational to contend that it is a bad idea to continue to fight terrorism badly in the same ineffective way when all of the evidence and best analysis by the top experts are telling you that you are fighting terrorism badly and it is causing more terrorism. It is certainly true that if you've shot yourself in the foot, one way to stop the pain is to keep firing at it until you no longer have a foot to hurt. I'm just not so sure it is the best way to ease the pain.

The second point is the use of the phrase, "the enemy's propaganda." This is a classic example of what we call in logic "poisoning the well." The idea is to attack someone else's position while avoiding talking about the actual merits of the position altogether by associating it with something undesirable or insulting. The position in question, that the war in Iraq has -- contrary to every insistance by the administration -- made us less safe and not more safe has recently been supported by the National Intelligence Estimate, a document compiled by the intelligence apparatus of the US government. In order to avoid talking about the point, one for which there is now good reason to believe, it is easier to draw attention away from it by labeling anyone who considers it to be a dupe of the enemy. Instead of winning the argument, the attempt is to simply kill the argument off.

What they don't want to talk about is that Bush has done more for radical Islam than Osama bin Laden could have ever dreamed of. The neo-con foriegn policy has obliterated the Muslim moderates -- look at Iran that had a reformist government until W came in with his wonderful "axis of evil" attitude and cut them off at the knees. Everything the fringe said would be true and the rational center thought was nonsense suddenly came to be. bin Laden was seen as a wacko with his far out claims that the US would invade an oil rich Arab country and take it over. He was the Islamic Pat Robertson, not taken seriously by the majority until we actually did exactly what he said we would, and suddenly the credibility of those who could save the Middle East was shot to hell and the majority said to the extremists, "I guess you were right."

Liberals are not soft on terrorism when we say, "if you want to stop the fire, quit pouring gasoline on it, you moron." Conservatives have not listened when liberals have called for real measures to actually defend ourselves like port security. The idea that we are namby-panby idealists in wonderland is BS. The real efforts of homeland security under the conservatives have been incompetent and shameful, most of all when much of it reduces to nothing more than a public relations campaign. If you try to spread "democracy" by destroying anything that would contribute to the actual infrastructure of a stable society capable of supporting actual democracy, then you will not be taken seriously and you will generate more and more desperate and more and more violent resistence. And that is a bad thing.