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Monday, February 2, 2009

Our National Security: Theory Vs. Reality II

(H/T to Little Green Footballs) President Obama recently made a remarkable and very dangerous proclamation about GITMO.

President Barack Obama said in an interview aired on Monday he worried that detainees freed from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, might resume attacks on the United States.But he told NBC News that closure of the prison was a matter of upholding U.S. values and law, and that a failure to do so would ultimately make Americans less secure.

"Can we guarantee that they're not going to try to participate in another attack? No," Obama said. "But what I can guarantee is that if we don't uphold our Constitution and our values, that over time that will make us less safe. And that will be a recruitment tool for organizations like al-Qaeda."


I have to make the very best judgments I can make in terms of what's going to keep the American people safe and ... what's going to uphold our Constitution and our traditions of due process," Obama said. "And what I'm convinced of is -- we can balance those interests in a way that makes all of us proud but also assures that we're not attacked."

So, what President Obama is saying is that he is willing to sacrifice the real safety America will lose by releasing dangerous terrorists so that we can have the theoretical safety of "upholding our values".

There have been 62 former residents of GITMO that have wound up back on the battlefield to kill Americans. President Obama is willing to see more and even increase those numbers. The President is willing to do this because the real safety we give up by keeping these folks locked up is worth less, in his mind, than the theoretical safety we get by leading "with moral authority".

President Obama appears to have decided to fight the GWOT in the theoretical world. The President has decided that theoretical protections created by intangible concepts like "moral authority" are worth more than keeping our enemy locked up when we capture them. Unfortunately, the GWOT won't be fought in a theoretical battlefield but a real one. You cannot win a war if you don't do everything possible to eliminate the enemy. If you release those that you have captured so that they do battle with your own soldiers again, that is no way to wage a war. Moral authority or not, unless you fight a war in reality rather than in theory, you simply are not going to win.


wilhitjb said...

I think what Obama is saying is very sensible. Look at it this way: the last administration did things its own way for 8 years, and systematically dismantled our Constitution in the name of "protecting" us from some mysterious phantom terrorist mastermind who's going to blow us all up by crashing thousands of airplanes and blowing up nuclear bombs and releasing tigers and lions into playgrounds and filling the air with the stench of a billion cow farts. How did they protect us? We have the PATRIOT Act, FISA, NSA spying, airport "security," the suspension of habeus corpus (a legal "tradition" that's older than this whole country), and all kinds of law enforcement officials treating fellow citizens like cattle -- and hey, if the citizens don't like it, they go on a "no-fly" list, get tazed by cops for "resisting," have their homes raided for a few pot seeds, and the list goes on. How is that protection? What is this "real" safety you're talking about?

While our illustrious government is putting on a delightful stage show, claiming to employ effective tactics against an imaginary enemy against whom we can't possibly win, who's protecting me from the government? Who's profiting from making us live in fear that our loved ones may have to endure a terrible stench, or die in the name of Allah Akbar, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Jesus Christ: the Musical Jew from Down Under? And what gives us the right to take away another human being's right to a speedy, fair trial? Remember this mantra: "Innocent until proven guilty." Inalienable rights are just that: inalienable. To say that anyone who isn't American doesn't deserve the same fundamental rights we all (supposedly) have is to say that anyone who isn't American isn't a human being. And we wonder why people want to blow us up.

Close Gitmo. Stop being terrorized by terrorists. It's the only way we can "win." And frankly, I'd rather risk incarceration or death by a terrorist's hand than that of my own government -- and right now, I'm glad that we're taking strides to restore some of the freedoms we've lost.

mike volpe said...

talk about living in a theoretical world. The only reason that you say you would rather be incarcerated by the terrorists than our government is because you've not been incarcerated by either. If you ever were caught by the terrorists, I can assure you that you would likely rather choose just about any other fate than the one you were in.

You know scant little about history, less about the Constitution, and nothing besides the talking points you are fed. I assume that when you say the Constitution, you mean like when FDR dismantled it with the rendition program, the Office of Censorship, and forcing autos to stop making cars and force them to make war parts.

Dismantling the Constitution, like when Lincoln suspended habeus corpus and instituted martial law. Dismantled the constitution, like when Woodrow Wilson created the Creel Commission to spy on war opponents among other activities. It is also dismantling the Constitution like when LBJ instituted the draft during a police action.

Unless you are willing to condemn every President that served during war time, you have no credibility to speak on this matter.

wilhitjb said...

No, the "only reason" I say I'd rather be incarcerated or die at the hands of terrorists than my own government is because, at least that way, my own government isn't the enemy.

The whole point of my last comment is to demonstrate that the real enemy here isn't some guy who shoots a rocket at a building; it's the people who destroy the very institution our country was founded upon to "feel safe" from the inside.

You want to know the difference between prior wars and the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, and any other war against words from the dictionary? In the wars you cited, we had clearly defined enemies (one country's terrorist is another country's freedom fighter -- how do you propose to change that attitude?) and objectives, and clearly defined conditions for victory or defeat. Explain to me how the War on Terror fits the definition of a "real" war.

mike volpe said...

That's nice rhetoric however you didn't address the other destoyers of our freedom, FDR, LBJ, Woodrow Wilson, and Abraham Lincoln. Like I said, you have scant knowledge of the Constitution, less of history, and you know nothing other than the talking points you are fed.

FDR set up an office of Censorship. That's right. If you were in the media, you couldn't write an article without that article being approved by FDR. Lincoln suspended habeaus corpus and thus, folks could be put in jail and not charged. Woodrow Wilson set up an office that would go through people's mail. This is what Presidents have done in war time, but you only have fury for Bush. You seem to think he is the enemy. In reality, by your logic, every President during war time was the enemy.

wilhitjb said...

I don't condemn a president's use of his war-time powers when they're used in an effort to end the war more quickly, more cost-effectively, with less bloodshed, and so on. What Wilson, Lincoln, and FDR did was because it needed to be done to advance the campaign and win -- and, correct me if I'm wrong, those rights were restored when the tangible threat was eliminated.

There is no tangible threat in the War on Terror. There is no victory condition. There is no indication that this war could end tomorrow or in 100 years. You cannot treat the War on Terror like any other war, because it's not a "real" war. If you can explain to me how the War on Terror IS just like any other war, I'd gladly listen. I just don't see it.

mike volpe said...

I don't speak gibberish. If you don't think that Al Qaeda is at war with us, then that is your problem. They flew planes into buildings and killed thousands as an act of war. that was enough for me. You seeme to have a new definition of what war is, however I live in reality not in your little world of theory.

wilhitjb said...

If a random terrorist act is an act of war, what do you call domestic terrorism? Should we do to domestic terrorists what we've done in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Do you think, MAYBE, that our disproportionate response to the War on Terror is the reason we're breeding more terrorists overseas? What would you do if some foreign country invaded your soil to further its own interests, and in the process destroyed your home, your power plants, your hospitals, your transportation, and everything else that made up your livelihood? Whether you like it or not, we have to treat people with the same respect and dignity we would expect for ourselves.

Go ahead and tell me I live in a fantasy land, but until you can prove to me that I'm wrong using a cogent argument that doesn't consist of "I don't speak gibberish," and accusing me of knowing "scant little" about history or the Constitution, then I stand by my position. So, again, please explain to me how my definition of war differs from the norm and how the War on Terror fits the definition of a "real" war.

mike volpe said...

A random act of terror? Are you serious? A random act of terror that just happened to kill over 3000 people. How many random acts of terror are you comfortable with? I don't treat domestic terrorists any differently from Al Qaeda though they don't have the organization that Al Qaeda has.

I assume that when they bombed a hotel in Jordan, that was also a random act of terror. I assume that when they strap bombs to their vests and blow up subways those are also random acts of terror.

It is really scary that there are those that think like you do.

wilhitjb said...

Yes, I said "random act of terror." What else could it be? Is there a schedule of acts of terror I can refer to in order to predict when and where the next one will occur? No amount of spying, checkpoints, searches, profiling, or watch lists will effectively predict all attacks.

I'm not comfortable with any attacks, but in my little fantasy world, reality is that they happen. The Obama administration seems to be taking a measured, reasonable approach to these threats, whereas the prior administration acted stupidly and irrationally. Note that I said "seems," since it's still too early in his administration to measure the effects of such decision-making.

How much did we lose when the WTC fell? 3,000 lives and a few billion dollars. How much have we lost in response to 9/11? At least a trillion dollars and twice that number of soldiers. At least. That's not a measured, reasonable approach. Objectively speaking, of course.

I'm still waiting for you to answer my questions from before, by the way.

mike volpe said...

We lost one million jobs in the three months following 9/11. Our economy spun into a recession largely as a result of 9/11 though it was perpetuated by other things like the internet bust and Enron et al. That said, that was only one act of terror. Are you saying the attack on the USS Cole was also a random act of terror. The twin bombings on our embassies I assume were also random acts of terror. The train bombings in Spain were also random acts of terror. The bombings in the Tube in Britain were also random acts of terror. The bombing of a nightclub, a hotel, the hotels in Mumbai. These were all also random acts of terror. How many random acts will be enough for you?

Al Qaeda declared war on the U.S. in the mid 1990's. They held a press conference for media to announce their intentions. We didn't take them seriously and eventually 9/11 happened and before that several random acts of terror outside the U.S.

wilhitjb said...

I think you're saying they aren't random because they were premeditated attacks carried out after much planning. I'm not looking at it from that perspective, but I understand how it could be viewed that way.

I'm not sure how many times I need to repeat myself until it sinks in, though: ATTACKS HAPPEN. They will always happen. It's not a question of "how much is enough." It's a question of how much needs to be done to maintain some reasonable level of safety (and sanity). I don't see how it would be impossible to achieve a reasonable level of safety by respecting both our rights and the rights of others. I don't see how it would be impossible to make our point in retaliating against terrorists with targeted, well-thought attacks (that were provoked) versus invading and destroying whole countries. How does that make us better than the terrorists?

Yes, we'll have our bloodthirsty killers. We'll have people who use human shields. We'll have people who torture. We'll have all kinds of delightful types to deal with before the next generation takes over, but we need not become them to beat them at their own game.

mike volpe said...

First of all, good debate so far. Second, attack don't just "happen". that is not an acceptable policy. We do not accept Americans dying because of terrorism and no country should. Attacks happen because of a breakdown in intelligence. Such a position is just not acceptable. You cannot say we will need to live with a certain amount of terrorism in our lives. That is not acceptable. That is a frightening position.

Ted said...


wilhitjb said...

I have to say I agree with you that just accepting terrorism is irresponsible policy; however, I don't think it's realistic to approach preventing terrorist attacks from an all or nothing standpoint. I noticed that you work in mortgages, so I imagine you have a lot of experience dealing with markets and securities and all that happy stuff. Does your firm have a lot of contingency plans to deal with fraud, operating and investing losses, data loss, and so on? Usually those plans are in place because sometimes that stuff happens. It's unacceptable in that it shouldn't happen, but nevertheless. And yes, I realize I'm comparing human lives to mortgages, but I think you'll find the parallel uncanny.

The only option I figure we have is contingency planning. I still think these sorts of attacks are inevitable, but we can minimize the damage by handling the aftermath "properly." That is, efficiently, with coordinated decision-making through all echelons. We need to think about minimizing the casualties, instead of letting the losses balloon, like we have these last years, in our response.

Finally, I am enjoying this :) On another note, I saw in your profile that you're located in Chicago. I actually just moved here a few months ago.

mike volpe said...

Well, what I will say is that the terrorist threat is real. It isn't acceptable to say that it happens that terrorism goes on.

After 9/11, there were no more attacks on our soil. It didn't just happen. President Bush made a commitment to stop all further attacks and they stopped. Now, the new President has rolled back most of the infrastructure that was in place that stopped these attacks cold.

As for fraud, most fraud can be stopped if the broker wants to. The problem, until recently, is that the industry turned a blind eye to it.

wilhitjb said...

I'm not convinced that Bush's infrastructure stopped the attacks cold. Granted, the attacks on our own soil have stopped for now (minus domestic attacks, such as school shootings, anthrax-filled envelopes, and various conspiracies), but I think the effect of Bush's commitment was just for the attacks to occur elsewhere. I'm not sure the former president's commitment bears a causal relationship to a decrease in attacks on American soil. If you have some numbers there, I'll take your word for it. But as far as I know, the number of terrorist attacks worldwide has not decreased in the last decade (or ever).

mike volpe said...

That's a silly position. First, there have been attacks outside of the U.S. for years. Al Qaeda had all sorts of attacks outside of the U.S. for years in the 1990's. Like I said, the USS Cole, the Embassy, Saudi Arabia were all attacked in the 1990's by Al Qaeda.

The reason that Al Qaeda attacked outside of the U.S. but not inside is because they couldn't attack us inside the U.S.

wilhitjb said...

It's not a silly position. I just stated that I'm not convinced the level of attacks has decreased WORLDWIDE, and you effectively just confirmed my point by citing all kinds of attacks.

My question to you is, since bad things happen in my little fantasy world, how do you propose to stop ALL terrorist attacks? What's so frightening about my position?

mike volpe said...

Of course, it is a silly position. President Bush was President of the United States of America not the world. He is not responsible for the security of other nations. They have their own governments for that. The bombings in London were ultimately the responsibility of the government of Britain not the government of the U.S.

In fact, that terrorists attacks went on world wide but not in the U.S. speaks even more highly of the job the President did. Furthermore, had attacks stopped worldwide you would have likely said that this meant that we aren't in a war. In any case, you would have created an anti Bush position.

Formulating a strategy to crush terror is not something you can do in a comment. It is a multi pronged strategy that involves a lot of things happening all at once. I do think that ultimately despots must be replaced with democracies. Once people have a representative government those are environments in which terrorists don't flourish. So, we have to confront governments like Iran and Syria and ultimately they will have to be replaced with Democracies. Saudi Arabia and Egypt will hopefully transform themselves into Democracies on their own.

It takes a coordinated effort of intelligence gathering. Ultimately, you need to make it impossible to be a terrorist. Terrorist must have no friends, no allies. They must have no way to get money, to phone, to move around.

polarik said...

How hypocrtical can Obama and his supporters be when Obama is not Constitutionally qualified to be President. He spent over $800,000 in legal fees fighting to prevent the relase of his vault birth certificate, and is still fighting its release.

What a fraud!