A Better Way To Do Things
This morning a user on YouTube left a comment on my profile at that site. The comment was short and said something close to ‘like terrorists everywhere, anybody but John McCain.” I don’t have the comment because I deleted it. Later I watched a speech by Robert Kennedy and reflecting upon it and speeches by Barack Obama I wrote the commentator the email below. The reason I am posting it here is because it is an example of the effect that Barack Obama has already had, on me, on public discourse, and on this nation. It is evidence of leadership by example.
I am writing to you because of your comment that you left on my YouTube profile to the effect that terrorists would desire the election of anyone but McCain. I had deleted your comment, thinking that it was just the sort of thing one has to deal with on such an open and anonymous forum as this. A while passed and as I was watching some old historical footage in which former leaders of the United States called on us to come together that I realized that I could do better.
I disagree with your point of view. To focus exclusively on your point I think that the policies of the Bush Administration, and those advocated by John McCain do not help us to defeat terrorists. Specifically, I think putting a standing army in Iraq, a place where there was no al-Qaeda presence to begin with has only delivered a target around which terrorists could gather, to practice and improve their techniques, and continue to erode our image around the world. The erosion of this image is not an insubstantial thing. We rely on the good will of other nations to exercise their best efforts to arrest terrorists within their own borders. It is because of good will that the British help to catch terrorists in London. The war in Iraq is forecast to cost us 3 trillion dollars and Professor Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate economist, has argued that it is one, if not the cause of our current financial weakness. The way to fight terrorism is not by putting a standing army, at great cost in an irrelevant battlefield and in doing so remove a counterbalance to Iran. A fraction of the cost of this approach could have been spent on infiltrating terrorist networks, on developing our intelligence capacities and allies on the ground in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The war in Iraq has not shown America’s strength to the world, in fact it has shown how America can be antagonized into a weak position. I think it is important to understand that al-Qaeda wanted the United States to put an army on the ground in the Arab world. You don’t have to take my word for it. Here is what John Brennan, head of the National Counterterrorism Center said: “al-Qaeda’s strategy has been to bleed the U.S. into bankruptcy and to continue with the same approach will have severe consequences for U.S. national security.”
To win this fight, we must use our head and not just our muscle. To move, as the enemy wants you to move, is to concede to his strategy. If you reflect upon the history of guerilla warfare, from the Boer War in South Africa to the conflict in Northern Ireland, infiltration and not a standing army is the best way to defeat a terrorist organization. A terrorist group attacks a standing army and then disappears into the civilian population. The army strikes back, civilians are killed and the ranks of terrorist organizations are swelled. Infiltration removes the opportunity of the terrorist organization to score points in the media, to point to civilian casualties. Infiltration puts the terrorist group on the defensive and cripples them from within.
This is not some hidden insight. I remember discussing this with my history teacher decades ago. That the Republican party failed to appreciate that they were in effect, being goaded into an ambush on an epic scale strikes me as being an example of extraordinary bad judgment. It was a bad judgment that came at a horrible price to American soldiers, the lives of thousands of innocent people and to the image of the United States in the minds of people all around the world. The administration that made this mistake has shown itself unfit to rule. John McCain voted in favor of this war and in doing so showed that he too is unfit to lead. Barack Obama was against this war because he anticipated how it would play out. That’s judgment, and its the judgment we need.
I understand if you continue to disagree with me, but I hope you respect that I have taken the time to explain my point of view respectfully to you. You and I should be able to talk about these things as two people working together to build a democracy. I am doing this because the example of Barack Obama has shown me that just because we have different points of view we don’t need to be disrespectful to one another.
Have a good day and whichever way you decide to vote, please vote. “