Monday, May 10, 2004

The Golden Age of National Unity

My big question goes like this. Let’s say we “fail” in Iraq, whatever that means. To me it means that after we leave or flee or are driven out, Iraq is not a stable country with some form of participatory government (it’s never going to be Switzerland, but some kind of citizen participation.) Basically, regime change fails as a policy. Then there is an attack in the US – simultaneous explosions, a chemical attack, a dirty bomb. What do we do?

Some on the left will say, will say “do nothing”; that we deserved it, or that there is no one to retaliate against or that we can demonstrate our strength through restraint. Others, possibly including me, will hold signs saying "Bomb Mecca.” What will we do? The sane middle ground between capitulation and scorched earth will have been discredited. Clinton tried pinpoint strikes against a terrorist command center and Bush tried regime change. Both failed, so what’s next? If we can’t kill terrorist leaders with laser-like precision and we can’t reshape an Arab Muslim country into a stable, consensually self-governing one, then we are left with two even more terrible choices.

How easy will it be to resist the call to lash out against someone, anyone, when cesium-137 is spread all over downtown Chicago? (or the Mall of American was filled with nerve gas? Insert your own personal nightmare here.) And how hard will it be to devise a measured response? Think the country is divided now, after the next attack, the past year will be remembered as a golden age of national unity.

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