DE-FENSE

Bill Keller has an amusing piece on why defense is more important than offense, even though it’s less fun. Comparisons on the war in Iraq, the war on terrorism, and the Texas Rangers ballclub ensue. A snippet:

It is easy to find fault with the domestic war on terror, given its shortcomings and its silly excesses, too. (A civil liberties group, Privacy International, maintains a Web site listing idiotic infringements since 9/11, like the airport security guard said to have made a nursing mother drink three bottles of breast milk to prove it couldn’t be used as a weapon.) Hurray for cheap fun. Let’s understand, though, that making the country safe in the quagmire of democracy is really hard.

Even so, democracy is the quagmire we’ve got, and while the system does not jump to attention like a company of marines, it does respond to leadership of a particular kind. It responds to persistence, patience, compromise and a willingness to set priorities. (Terrorist-proof chemical plants, or tax cuts for the really rich?) These are the same qualities that will be required to convert the overthrow of Saddam Hussein into a genuine liberation of Iraq, and to apply our newly won credibility to the larger project of a liberated Middle East.

There are still those deluded souls who discount George Bush as a slacker and a tool of his political handlers. Some people never learn. It should be evident by now that he is a man of self-confidence, iron discipline and radical ambitions. But he picks his fights, and he has not put the personal muscle into the harder aspects of domestic security that he has put into waging war or cutting taxes.

Back when Mr. Bush ran a baseball team rather than the entire free world, he was famously an offense guy. He built the Texas Rangers a new ballpark with short distances to the fences, heaven for sluggers. He assembled high-scoring, crowd-thrilling teams. Boy, did those guys pound the baseball. They just didn’t win championships because when the playoffs came in October, they had no defense. The pitching and fielding that win games in bigger stadiums had atrophied in a park built for offense. Maybe there’s a metaphor here.

True. Plus, he traded Sammy Sosa.

FILED UNDER: Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.