Fearmongering from the Left
I tried to post this two days ago, but Blogger ate it for some reason, so here it is again. Robert Kuttner, editor of The American Prospect
, penned an op-ed for The Boston Globe Monday comparing our war on terrorism to the Cold War. Although his initial thesis seems a valid comparison, he quickly descends into alarmism and unjustified conclusions. Here is the end of his piece, with my comments interspersed.
"This new Cold War is barely three months old, and already the administration has done stunning violence to due process of law in the name of fighting terrorism."
Wow, stunning violence. That's a strong claim, but one assumes Mr. Kuttner will back it up in the following observations.
"Before Sept. 11, President Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox were on the verge of negotiating a significant liberalization of the immigration laws. Now we are facing the most severe immigrant crackdown since the quota laws of the 1920s."
If this is true, and no laws have been passed restricting immigration yet, Mr. Kuttner fails to explain why it is bad. He seems to be operating from a simple paradigm: immigration good, restrictions bad. That's his choice, of course, but wouldn't it be nice if he backed it up, even if only with a simple statement that he thinks restricted immigration is bad? After all, America has always moved from looser to tighter immigration laws, creating waves of immigrants then slowing the flow to allow the immigrants time to assimilate into American culture. Given the balkanization we've seen in America in recent years, couldn't a good argument be made that a temporary restriction on immigration would be better for the country in the long run?
"Attorney General Ashcroft, with scant regard for the Constitution, has lately backpedaled a bit on his Star Chamber courts."
Kuttner manages to make several errors in one short sentence. First, it has yet to be established that the military tribunals proposed by the Bush administration are, in fact, unConstitutional. And if the Attorney General is already backpedaling, as Kuttner claims, why should we be so concerned? Particularly since not a single tribunal has been convened yet.
"Some leaders of his own party, such as Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector, think he has gone too far. Even former senior FBI officials have gone on the record to declare that general dragnets are of little use in cracking terrorist cells, while they violate fundamental rights."
Of course, some Democrats think the President is fully justified in calling for military tribunals. Kuttner doesn't mention this, of course, because it doesn't support his argument, but the argument is no good to begin with. Some leaders of the Republican party disagreed with the President on his willingness to let vouchers be cut out of his education plan and his allowing the federalization of airport security workers. Kuttner didn't suggest the President was wrong to go against leaders of his party in those cases. As to 'senior FBI officials,' that's all well and good, but there have been no further terrorist strikes since September 11, despite the widespread belief al Qaeda had plans for follow-up attacks. There's no way to prove the FBI's detainment of so many suspected terrorists is the cause of this, but it seems premature to make blanket statements that dragnets are of little use.
"Plainly, there is no constitutional reason why the names of detainees cannot be made public and the charges against them specified."
Perhaps there is no constitutional reason, but there are certainly good reasons. The Attorney General has already explained he doesn't want the al Qaeda leadership to know which of their people have been picked up. This seems logical, although certainly there is an argument to be made in favor of releasing the names to protect the innocent. Kuttner once again doesn't bother to make that argument, however.
"Despite Ashcroft's tactical retreat, this kind of inconclusive war is likely to bring a narrowing of civil liberties and an increase in presidential police power."
Extraordinary claims normally require extraordinary evidence, and this should be one of those times. Kuttner, however, just says it's going to happen and assumes the reader will take him at his word. Based on the outcry already being raised about civil liberties and police power, however, it's clear the American people are unlikely to just sit back and allow such attacks without protest. Kuttner is stooping to hyperbole in a desperate attempt to bolster the case he hasn't bothered to make.
"One constructive piece of fallout from this cold war, like the last one, is that the American role in the world is now necessarily more multilateral."
Of course, Kuttner can't close without insisting on the wonders of multilateralism.
"Despite the skepticism of the right, this war cannot be won unless multilateral agencies and peacekeeping forces play a very major role. This was also true of the first Cold War, which compelled a somewhat isolationist United States to stake its security on such institutions as the United Nations, NATO, and international economic development agencies."
Once again, Kuttner puts out a theory without ever bothering to back it up with facts. The war in Afghanistan is nearing the endgame, and multilateralism has been a joke. This war has been won by American and British forces working with the anti-Taliban forces within Afghanistan. That's as multilateral as it has gotten. Yes, we'll look for a multilateral force to help clean up afterwards, but winning the war is going to be a generally unilateral task. Kuttner's interpretation of the Cold War is almost hysterically funny; we staked our security on the UN and NATO to win the Cold War? And all this time I thought our security was guaranteed by our nuclear forces, while our victory was predicated on our ability to outproduce the Communists. Sure, we used multilateral institutions where we could in the Cold War, as we will in this war. That kind of multilateralism, used to further our own goals, has always been a hallmark of US policy. What drives Kuttner crazy is that he can't force us to be more multilateral when it comes to undermining our interests with the Kyoto Protocol or the UN Racism Conference in Durban. And despite his 'arguments,' we'll continue to avoid that sort of foolishness.
The sad thing is, there are some good questions raised by Kuttner in his piece. But because he refuses to make a real argument anywhere in the piece, the questions fall by the wayside in favor of trying to score ideological points. All of us are poorer when people make such arguments, because the greater questions are left on the sidelines.