Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Politics of Fear

After decades of ignoring terrorist acts against our foreign installations and ignoring border and internal security we are attacked by Islamists using our own planes. What does this tell us? Does it say we have been caught with our pants down and need to pay attention to our internal and external security, or does it tell us we are faced with a formidable new enemy that is going develop sophisticated weapons, invade our country, and subjugate our people? Do we beef up our intelligence services, improve our cooperation with foreign allies, and rationally consider what caused the act and how to fight this new enemy, or do we embark on a quasi-religious campaign to demonize countries we think irresponsible and mount a conventional war of gigantic proportions to demonstrate our strength and ability to inflict massive damage on our enemies?

Unfortunately, in both cases, we did the latter, defining an axis of evil in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, mounting a shock and awe campaign of standoff warfare and then invading the first country in the axis of evil, Iraq. What signal does this send to the other two countries? Are they more likely to think we are just settling old scores with an old enemy or is this the first in a series of invasions of the three countries in the axis of evil? It would seem a rational response of the other two countries would be to fear an invasion by the world’s greatest superpower, particularly if the superpower continues to avoid direct diplomacy where real attitudes can be discerned, and continues to make threats of dire consequences if their instructions are not followed to the letter.

How can these countries keep from feeling boxed in and threatened if the world’s greatest superpower goes around the world rounding up support for sanctions or other aggressive actions against them? Are they most likely to give up their sovereignty and submit, or are they more likely to want to develop a nuclear retaliatory capacity to defend themselves, when they see that other nuclear armed countries are not as threatened by nuclear armed superpowers?

We continue on the path of force and fear, squeezing and squeezing the cornered rats, because we can, because we want to show them who is boss, and more realistically because of our own paranoid fear that they are a dire threat to us. Isn’t this a time to step back and ask ourselves what the real threats are? Certainly they have more to fear from us than we have to fear from them. Wouldn’t some serious diplomacy, one on one, go a long way toward diffusing the situation? Are we so prideful that we can’t explain to them the axis of evil thing was a mistake and that we are really not interested in invading them? Or is this just the politics of fear used by this administration to rally the Rambos to the polls in the next election?

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