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Monday, January 26, 2009

Our National Security: Theory Vs. Reality

From my perspective, President Obama is embarking on a very dangerous journey. What he wants to do is take away the very real benefits of former President Bush's tough anti terror measures in order to gain theoretical benefits like our moral standing in the world. The GWOT will not be fought in some theoretical world in which hypotheticals apply. It will be fought in reality. The terrorists want to blow us up. They want to kill as many Americans as possible as soon as possible. It is the job of our government, and those sworn to protect us, to stop them before the accomplish their tasks.

This means that when we capture a terrorist we want to find out as much as possible from them. In theory, everyone deserves civil rights. In practices, terrorists are our enemy in war and we need to find out as much from captured terrorists as soon as possible. The same rule applies to most of Bush's policies. In theory, we want to get a judge to give permission before listening to someone's phone call. In practice, we can't wait for a judge before spying on the enemy.

What liberal thought, that which President Obama occupies, would have us do is treat our enemy in war like a criminal. That is where their theories will meet the realities of war. It is exactly this theoretical world that John Kerry occupies.

In a season of transformational changes, these are among the most meaningful, because they send a powerful message that America's struggle against terrorism will once against honor some of the most cherished ideals of our republic: respect for the rule of law, individual rights, and America's moral leadership.

The president understands all too well that the threat our nation faces from terrorism is all too real. And we should all agree that sometimes, in the name of national security, it is necessary to make difficult ethical decisions to protect the American people.

However, I and many others believe that the use of torture and indefinite detention have not only tarnished our honor but also diminished our security.

In this global counterinsurgency effort against al Qaeda and its allies, too often our means have undercut our efforts by wasting one of our best weapons: the legitimacy that comes from our moral authority.

This is a very nice theoretical argument however it is useless in the real world. Where, I would ask, should we reach with our new found moral authority? Does Senator Kerry believe that Al Qaeda is less apt to attack us because we closed GITMO? If that's the case, why did they attack us at all on 9/11 given that none of these things were done yet? Will this new moral authority reach the Middle East where their methods make anything we do mild? Will it reach weak kneed Europeans? Does Senator Kerry really think that the Europeans haven't been aggressively helping us in the GWOT because GITMO is open?

Does Senator Kerry doubt that Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was broken when he was water boarded? Does he doubt that after breaking him we received invaluable information? Does he doubt that the information we received lead to the United States stopping attacks we wouldn't have stopped without having this information? This is the difference between reality and theory.

The President and Senator Kerry would have us believe that whatever information we don't get because we stop before we break terrorists will be more than made up with our new found "moral authority". The President and Senator Kerry would have us lose very real and tangible intelligence that we would get from doing what we need to do to break a terrorist for the very intangible idea of "moral authority". What's most disturbing about this argument is the idea that we struggle with moral authority against an enemy that flies planes into buildings, straps bombs on their persons, and looks to kill civilians because we have GITMO open and we waterboard when we have to.

This is a war, a very real war, and an asymetrical war. We have to be willing to do what is necessary to win the war. Treating terrorists like criminals means we fight the war with both hands tied behind our backs. Whatever we gain in "moral authority" we more than lose in very real lack of intelligence. In war, as in most things, I will give up something intangible, if it means gaining something tangible. Intelligence is real, and it is tangible, whereas "moral authority" is very intangible. I will gladly give up the latter for more of the former.

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