May 29, 2005

Deadly Complacency

By Demosophist

In a recent column on the CEOs who have been "missing in action," Tom Friedman certainly points to one dimension of of our national risk assessment that could, all by itself, render us as helpless as an upwronged turtle. But although our CEOs are failing in their leadership roles the problems are, unfortunately, far deeper. There is, for instance, a significant minority of Americans who believe that its their mission to convince the rest of us that we really don't face a problem at all. The take of people like James Fallows, and Andrew Bacevich is that we're vastly over-mobilized in the current war. Indeed, their argument is that we're not actually at war at all, and the sooner we come to that realization the better. It's certainly true that, as Friedman observes, our CEOs aren't acting as though we're at war. But from the perspective of Fallows and Bacevich such leaders are the repository of realism and good common sense, because we aren't. Far from seeing this as our last real chance to exit a highway headed to catastrophe, by taking up the challenge of helping install greater degrees of freedom in the "repressive neighborhood" that's the nursery for terrorist cults, they're convinced that we aren't sufficiently nice to those tyrannical regimes. We should respect the oppressed by respecting their oppressors. In other words they respect the sovereignty of a nation even if it systematically tramples the sovereignty of every individual within its impious borders. People have accused George Bush of being naively Wilsonian, but he at least hasn't bought the notion that living under tyranny is a matter of national "self-determination." Would we use that principle to support a regime that decided to nuke itself, just to drag the rest of us along? Fallows and Bacevich hold that there's no problem as long as the curtains on those internal national dramas stay drawn. Is that so!

Meanwhile we have an administrative establishment who, although doing generally the right thing, not only refuses to mobilize the talent that America has at its disposal, but systematically rejects a pervasive desire by a huge and increasing number of Americans who want nothing more than to become participants in the effort. One recent book characterizes this is the "war of the one-percenters," because the price is being paid by only one-percent of the population. But another equally valid characterization might be that it's "the war of the rejected twenty-percenters" who are willing and ready to stand in the breech, but who are being told in no uncertain terms to find their "pause" buttons. "You're not needed. Go home. Take a nap."

To make matters worse, the left isn't slinking away in defeat. Instead they've decided to move their basis points of argument from unlikely to preposterous, no doubt on the theory that foolishness can be irresistibly fascinating to some people. Congressmen like Conyers and McDermott held ersatz-congressional quasi-hearings this week promoting the claim by some to have proved beyond a shadow of doubt that we do not have a left-biased media. If anything, they argue, it's right-biased. One discussant even went so far as to say that every single study arguing for a left-bias had been utterly disproved... so resoundingly in fact that no one would even deign to meet or debate him any longer, apparently out of a paralyzing fear of being intellectually humiliated by his superior proof and argument, rather than simply because they didn't want to be photographed in the company of a left-wing nut.

What I see seems ominous and disturbing. It's a trend of unspeakable complacency. Not only are our enemies, including our domestic masochists, up to all the mischief they can conjure... but our friends and supporters are being ignored or dissed, asked to hibernate while our leadership has decided that it needs no support or help beyond that which can be controlled on a very short leash, thank you very much. The last thing they're interested in is harnessing under-employed American ingenuity to do anything much. If the enemy were to attack us now with a nuclear or bio-chem "city-killer" they might run the significant risk of waking us up. So their best strategy is probably to actually lay low for the time being and wait until we've convinced ourselves that we, rather than they, are the problem....

Few seem to even think it odd that the Islamic Street can sit calmly while Sunni Salafists not only destroy Qur'ans, but the mosques that house them and the believers who read them... yet manage to erupt in murderous rage at the largely false accusation that we've mishandled a book or two. Does anyone really think it prudent or fruitful to appeal to the reason of this "public?" Or do we need to conceive an entirely different model of public diplomacy that isn't so... surreal? (One that even goes so far as to involve the public?) If the enemy manages to exercise a little patience right now, waiting quietly a few years to let this magic complicity with their cause slowly sink in, gestating within the most powerful civilization that has ever existed, a devastating attack on the US might one day have the effect they seek: to humiliate, demoralize and defeat us. But if so, we'll clearly need to do most of the work ourselves.

Unfortunately, we seem more than equal to the task.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and Anticipatory Retaliation)

By Demosophist at 11:54 AM | Comments |