Monday, August 30, 2004

Who said Bush knows nothing about nuance?

Aside from the Republican Nation Convention today, the other big political news was a few remarks that President Bush made during an interview on the Today show this morning. As reported by
Fox News:
Asked "Can we win?" Bush said, "I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the — those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."
I believe that there is a subtlety here that explains these remarks, and the subtlety involves the definition of terror that the President has adopted. One mindset is to view terror as primarily being a tactic that groups or nations can adopt against each other. Terror as a tactic is presumably relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of a formal military campaign, but the nature of terror as a tactic of infiltration also makes it a very messy type of warfare to control. A War on Terror in this context would be a war against those groups or states that employ terrorism against their enemies. In other words, it would be a campaign to build a global coalition to eliminate terror as a weapon of warfare.

On the other hand, one can also view terror as primarily being an ideological phenomenon that has been adopted by institutions whose ideology is compatible with infiltration tactics. The neoconservative idea that the war on terror is primarily against a spectrum of Middle Eastern fundamentalist insurgent groups that can cooperate or compete with national governments is an example of defining terror along these lines. In this conception, the War on Terror is a campaign to destroy the structure of terrorist organizations, capture or kill their leaders, and deter, reform, or destroy the state sponsors of terror.

Obviously these two mindsets are not mutually exclusive and they both will eventually be limited by the fact that the psychological phenomenon of "terror" is always going to play some role in human conflicts. To me, Bush's comments are simply an acknowledgement that, within the framework of terror as a tactic of violent conflict, it may simply be impossible to prevent terror from being adopted by a sufficiently ruthless and undeterable violent group.

Yes, I know that this goes against the grain of the traditionally bellicose Republican rhetoric. If it seems a little out of character for President Bush to say something nuanced, it also seems a little ridiculous for Democrats who view terror as primarily being a law-enforcement problem to start posing as Bush-style war-hawks if it means another chance for a good Bush bashing.


Blogger William said...

President George W. Bush, has as much nuance as I have tact. I lose more brain cells a year to radioactive decay than President Bush has ever used in his entire life.

Though, I must be honest, last night while flipping through the channels, I came across the Republican National Convention. I nearly became a Republican twice during that hour. The first time, I was enchanted by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger due to his explosive rhetoric. The second time, I nearly became a Republican if it meant I could get in Bed with President Bush's daughters (this is meant as a joke). Both moments passed and I am still a democrat, a centrist democrat, but one nontheless.

" A statesman is a politician dead fifty years."

11:28 AM  
Blogger Emily Watkins said...

On the few occasions I actually get some American news here, it's small snippets with Japanese sub-titles. I do remember hearing President Bush saying that, though I couldn't understand the Japanese commentary. That it seems to have caused such a stir puzzles me, because it makes a lot of sense. Terrorism as a tactic cannot be eliminated any better than can your plain vanilla homicide, though certain precautions can be taken to reduce the number of occurances of each. We might rub Afghanistan, Syria, any number of countries into the ground if we had to, but even if that were possible, we cannot undo the fact that any one of us could be a terrorist, if we wanted to be.

So, right, the subtlety was apparent to me from the very beginning. Why it wasn't to others (which I'm guessing it wasn't, if you felt, Joe, that this post was necessary) is a mystery.

10:06 PM  
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