And the Discussion of Partisanship Continues (in a Different Form)
Let’s set aside the talk radio discussion for a moment, and move to the question of how to tackle the fact al Qaeda has released some propaganda hailing the Democrat’s win on Tuesday.
There are various ways to deal with this.
I would argue that the more analytical and reasonable approach is to recognize it for what it is, and what I called it above: propaganda. Al Qaeda currently sees Bush as the enemy and any defeat for Bush will obviously be greeted with glee. The notion, however, that al Qaeda actually wants Democrats in charge or even ultimately cares about or understands American politics is ludicrous. They are seeking to send signals to the faithful, and will take whatever they can get.
Let’s remember: during the Iranian Revolution, President Carter was the focus of ire from radical Islamists. It is natural for enemies of the US to focus on the most visible aspect of our power, i.e., the President. Given that Americans do this (i.e., oversimplify government as being the President), is it a big shock that foreigners would do so?
Still, we get things like the following for Powerline’s John Hinderacker:
But isn’t a reasonable starting point for that engagement the fact that the terrorists are delighted that the Dems have won, and are convinced that the Dems’ policies, as the terrorists understand them, will benefit the jihadis? Don’t the Democrats have some obligation to face up to the fact that the prospect of our disengagement from Iraq–and if that isn’t their “new direction,” then what in God’s name is?–is viewed with glee by the enemy?
Again: the degree to which that al Qaeda is “delighted” or “glee[ful]” is questionable. Again, what is the likely goal here? Clearly al Qaeda is looking for any victory it can muster in a war that is as much about propaganda and perception as anything else. And again: their target audience is not us, but rather those sympathetic to al Qaeda’s cause. Of course they want to cast the elections (and Rumself’s resignation) as a victory–it is essentially at no cost to them whatsoever. The CBS story linked above uses the appropriate verb for what al Qaeda is doing: taunting.
Further, we need to step back and think about how US government actually works when we attempt to assess what the Democratic victory actually means for US foreign policy.
This idea that the Democrats are simply going to capitulate to the enemy, and therefore they are themselves to be viewed as friends of the enemy is absurd.
There is also the fact, that despite a great deal of heated rhetoric in the last year, the truth of the matter is that the Congress’ ability to force the Commander-in-Chief to make radical changes to military policy is quite limited. We have seen this time and time again in the Twentieth Century, and we will see it again now. The Democrats are well aware that they cannot simply pull the plug of Iraqi funding while US soldiers are in harm’s way.
Will there be attempts to alter the course of US policy in Iraq? Yes–but dramatic shifts in the short term are unlikely. More to the point, if they do occur it will because the administration decides that the mid-term elections were a message from the electorate.
Ed Morrissey has a more reasonable response to AQ’s propaganda than Hinderaker’s. A key point made by Ed, and that comports with my thoughts above, is that there is no reason to take al Qaeda spokespeople at their word.
Some excerpts from Ed’s post:
Radical Islamists want to divide Americans in order to defeat us. They will play on our differences, stoking the fires of resentment and generating more hatred between us than we have against our enemies. AQ understands that the only way they can possibly beat the US is to get us to grind to a halt with partisan warfare at home, paralyzing our ability to fight them on the battlefield and sapping our will to put them out of business. This video is transparently calculated to give enough ammunition to both sides of the political divide to do that job. Besides, if we take Abu Hamza at his word about the Democrats, then we have to take him at his word about Bush as well, and about our troops.
The partisan sniping has ceased to be germane. We’ve already had the election, and the Democrats are in charge — and they will be for two years no matter what. Obviously, we will watch closely to ensure that they do not surrender to terrorism, but I’m not going to take Abu Hamza’s word that they will before their majority session even starts. They are Americans, and Americans put them in charge, and they have earned the right to show us how they will face the enemy now that they control the agenda. If they fail, I’ll be the first to castigate them for losing ground to the terrorists. However, I’m going to base that on their actions, and not on the word of a murderous thug who couldn’t care less whether their American victims are Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, or LaRouchists.
In fact, I think Ed overstates the degree to which this is even about disrupting US politics, but left the full comments for the sake of context.
In another post Ed elaborates:
I don’t take Abu Hamza at his word, nor Zarqawi before him. Al-Qaeda has made plenty of statements expressing delight that Bush continued to send American troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, enabling the jihadis to annihilate infidels much more easily. I didn’t buy that then, and I don’t buy this now. The Islamists have made a culture out of spinning massive defeats into sterling victories. If the wind shifted from the north to the east, these people would claim it as a sign of Allah’s grace on their jihad even if it blew half of them into the Persian Gulf. They lie for a living and a hobby. It’s the only tool they have to garner their benighted followers and convince them to die.
In fact, the more I think about, the more I wonder why anyone would take al Qaeda propagandist’s words seriously.
Of course, part of the answer is grounded in blind partisan loyalty that sees the Republicans as somehow the sole keepers of defense and security and the Democrats as the party of appeasers and cowards. Such a dichotomy is quite incorrect, but it does infuse the thinking of many.
The bottom line is that yes, there are policy differences between the two parties, but the choice not between victory and defeat.
It would help our public discourse (as well as the policy making process) if we were all mindful of that fact.
However, we need to get over such thinking if we are going to make real progress in terms of the appropriate response to terrorism.
[Cross-posted at PoliBlog]