December 07, 2003

Pollyanna V. Cassandra: Neither are right

(a shorter version of this was published as a comment to this post over at Samizdata).

The battle that counts in the War on Terror right now is the US battle between Pollyanna and Cassandra over the heart of the US middle. Cassandra is trying to convince the US middle that all is disaster, that we must take precipitous action to pull out now and move straight to conferences and appeasement. Pollyana is all for staying the course because we're winning and that the military losses are insignificant. This is not the right terrain on which to seriously discuss the WoT.

The truth is that the losses are not insignificant. The truth is we should still stay the course. The problem with Pollyana (who dominates the right currently) is that the islamists and baathists who hear those words can take them literally and have as their lesson learned that they just need to up the casualty count until the losses are no longer insignificant to those cruel, heartless americans. Bathing America in a river of blood until they can't ignore it anymore is not a strategy we should be encouraging in our enemies.

What's needed is a third strain that says, yes the losses are significant. The pain is real. But we take the threat of these people seriously and in the end to accommodate them is to destroy our belief in equal rights under the law and freedom of religion. We hold these values so central to the meaning of our nation that we would be willing to fight to the last man to keep these principles alive.

This undercuts the enemy's strategy by changing the perceived stakes. There has been an unwillingness to lay this out to the people. Some are pessimistic that they would answer the call. If the pessimists are right, we are doomed. It's just a matter of how much blood will be spilled before the other side wins.

I can understand the reluctance to upgrade the perceived threat level. It makes it harder to restrain the overenthusiastic who want to nuke Mecca and make the rubble bounce. But not taking the goals of the islamists seriously enough is probably the worse threat.

Posted by TMLutas at December 7, 2003 12:02 PM