Monday, May 15, 2006

Footnotes From The War On Terror

Mark Steyn:
Last week, apropos the Moussaoui case, I remarked on the absurdity of victims of the London Blitz demanding the German perpetrators be brought before a British court. Melanie Phillips, a columnist with the Daily Mail in London and author of the alarming new book Londonistan, responded dryly, "Ah, but if we were fighting World War Two now, we'd lose."

And an interview with James Lileks by Hugh Hewitt:
HH: Speaking of hardwired for nonsense, listen to this:

Patrick Leahy: Are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with al Qaeda? If that's the case, we've really failed in any kind of a war on terror.

JL: Yeah.

HH: He goes on to say of course not...

JL: I know. I heard it. Exactly, because we all know that on 9/12, what President Bush said, I want you to collect as much useless information as you can and devote all of our resources to just looking at it. And then, putting out the little naughty bits that may be scintillating later, because that's what we're really all about. This is nonsense again, because what they're telling you, essentially, is that the Democratic platform is not to do any data mining, any sort of pattern matching. They want us to connect the dots, but they do not want us to collect the dots. The dots should apparently just walk up and volunteer, here I am. I'm a dot. And that's the extent of the War On Terror.
And then back to Mark Steyn:
It's certainly hard to imagine Pat Leahy as FDR or Harry Truman or any other warmongering Democrat of yore. To be sure, most of Pat's Vermont voters would say there is no war; it's just a lot of fearmongering got up by Bush and Cheney to distract from the chads they stole in Florida or whatever. And they're right -- if, by "war," you mean tank battles in the North African desert and air forces bombing English cities night after night. But today no country in the world can fight that kind of war with America. If that's all "war" is, then (once more by definition) there can be no war. If you seek to weaken, demoralize and bleed to death the United States and its allies, you can only do it asymmetrically -- by killing thousands of people and then demanding a criminal trial, by liaising with terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan and then demanding the government cease inspecting your phone records.

I yield to no one in my antipathy to government, but not everyone who's on the federal payroll is a boob, a time-server, a politically motivated malcontent or principal leak supplier to the New York Times. Suppose you're a savvy mid-level guy in Washington, you've just noticed a pattern, you think there might be something in it. But it requires enormous will to talk your bosses into agreeing to investigate further, and everyone up the chain is thinking, gee, if this gets out, will Pat Leahy haul me before the Senate and kill my promotion prospects? There was a lot of that before 9/11, and thousands died.

And five years on?

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