Thursday, June 29, 2006

Killing the Messenger

One accidentally side-splitting column from Heritage's Peter Brookes, and I'm suddenly gulled into acknowledging the ungainly, ongoing issue of this latest abhorrent act of sedition against our government at the behest of Bill "Vanzetti" Keller.

In Brookes' defense, he places the word "treasonous" in quotes, which suggests the sardonic. Or the illiterate. But far beyond the absurd false choice raised by Bush-partisan hawks, that between a society that can defend itself and a government that can explain itself, there is a true and crucial decision for the decider-in-chief and his advisers to consider, which the same officials have taken extraordinary pains to escape. An argument from the neoconservative position might be advanced that the jihadist menace is insurmountable if not for the possibility of abandoning the norms of an open society - if not, in other words, for the boon of the pliable, all-purpose crackdown. If the state is to sever all ties with obligations beyond militancy against enemies (the seeming aspiration of Brookes and fellow hawks), then recognizing good strategy in the maxim "know thy enemy" follows even more smoothly. The issue put to hawks is then this. Do bin Laden and his comrades expect the state apparatus of the Great Satan to shape-shift intractably into a blunt instrument of war, never again to handle certain other tedium - answering to its citizens, for instance? No, but that certainly is an ambition. And certainly the president has proven himself in the walking-and-chewing-gum category - and has a record-decimating budget to prove it. Then - for all's well that ends well - if an optimal war effort has sufficiently detracted from our government's ability to preside over an honest debate about a perfectly lawful program (in the case of the financing policy), or to bother with justifying a breach of a basic statute (as with warrantless wiretapping), does this expedite victory for our side? If spurring a discussion of a perfectly lawful policy by means of a perfectly legal "leak" of information through the press qualifies as an inducement to al-Qaeda, does it not give immense assurance to the enemy for those who prosecute this just war against terrorists to excoriate this rather mundane process of ordinary deliberative democracy? Prior to the matter passing into the realm of crisis, might not have bin Laden simply assumed that the United States was tapping his phones and monitoring his purchases? That the matter has been vaulted from process to crisis, by the hand of those whose impresive mental functions shape this war - doesn't this give greater aid and comfort to the enemy than, say, a news article about the policy? More pointedly, is what the war effort needs to the nursed back to health a maelstrom of seething hysteria issuing from the likes of Peter Brookes? Well, at least grant the point that the survival of the New York Post must surely assuage a few prominent theocratic barbarians.

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