Peder D4

Discussion of politics and other odious things

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Free speech vs National Security

My previous post mentioned the Strib's desire to treat terrorism as solely a law enforcement problem. This past week saw a highly publicized court decision calling for a halt to the 'eavesdropping' program on the argument that it's harming the ability for journalists and professors to communicate with contacts overseas. The ability to get inside of enemy correspondence is crucial in any war. Moreso against terrorists who rely so much on camoflauge and anonyminity. This ruling makes a law enforcement approach much more difficult. So the Strib is unhappy with it, right? Of course not:
Federal District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of Detroit has ripped a yawning hole in Bush administration's claims that it can use warrantless electronic surveillance on communications between people in the United States and people abroad who have a possible connection to Al-Qaida. This is a big victory for American civil liberties, at least temporarily.
No explanation is made to bolster the constitutional arguments put forth here. The editorial even calls the judges reasoning brilliant. Well, the NY Times, no friend of the Bush administration, has an interesting article here (registration required).
Even legal experts who agreed with a federal judge’s conclusion on Thursday that a National Security Agency surveillance program is unlawful were distancing themselves from the decision’s reasoning and rhetoric yesterday.
They said the opinion overlooked important precedents, failed to engage the government’s major arguments, used circular reasoning, substituted passion for analysis and did not even offer the best reasons for its own conclusions.
I understand the desire to protect civil liberties. I share that desire. If I had a magic wand I'd roll back considerable amounts of government power. But this is a case of misplaced anger. There's a pretty good post about this from Andy McCarthy at NRO. He highlights some hypocricy in the arguments against. But his closing lines get at the heart of the problem.
So which is it? Is the TSP leak a big nothing that changed no one's behavior, or a bombshell that changed everyone's behavior? Evidently, it depends on which scenario the Left believes will damage the Bush administration more on any given day.
A large portion of the left believes that Bush is a more important opponent than any set of terrorists. Frankly that's shameful.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Tunnel Vision

Some time around 9/12 some of the Dem leadership went on TV and mentioned that missle defense system wouldn't have done anything to prevent 9/11. That's true, I thought, but somewhat beside the point. Armored divisions wouldn't stop people on jet-liners either, but scrapping them probably wouldn't make us any safer. I was reminded of that when reading this Strib editorial today:

Candidate George W. Bush loved to lampoon the Clinton administration's emphasis on law enforcement and the legal system as tools against terrorism. They were too wimpy for him; a good, strong military action against a terror-sponsoring state was more his kind of action. And so military action we got. In Afghanistan it was essential, but in Iraq it was not. There it has increased manyfold the number of terrorists targeting the United States and worldwide animosity toward it.

Meanwhile, patient, meticulous police work in Britain and elsewhere identified and monitored this plot by a smallish, nonstate group of criminal terrorists until the need to take them down became urgent.

The rest deals with the importance of policework and cooperation between nations. That's all important. No one disputes that. The problem lies in treating the situation as if that's all that's important. Larger terrorist orginizations require training camps. These are much harder to run without sympathetic nations. Weapon development requires the same type of hands-off space. Nations can also be essential when it comes to using large amounts of money. International terrorism relies on these types of places. They also provide a safe haven.

The only method of depriving these areas from terrorists is military or the threat of the military. Sanctions aren't effective. Scrutiny (like weapons inspectors) can have some effect but they involve a fairly high risk and their effectivness probably lessens with time.

In the 90's, we used an almost exclusive law enforcement approach. The result was bigger and bigger terrorist events. The Strib (and those who share the argument) need to explain their way through this. The drawbacks to a military approach are very real and limiting, true. But continued sneers at it's use won't do anything to raise the trust level of the left when it comes to defense.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What he said

(W)e are, alas, only at the beginning of the Global War Against Islamofascism. More than ever we need a wartime leader capable of uniting as much of the country behind him as possible. For whatever his pluses and minuses, Bush has been weak in that regard. Giuliani seems to have more abilities in that direction, although that is not to say it will be remotely easy for him. But as of this moment, there is no one else but Rudy with the vitae and the charisma to do it.
That's my impression, too. And the gravitas thing, too. One striking thing about Giuliani is that he seems to approach arguments like an adult. One incredibly off-putting element of the left over the last five years is the desire to tackle difficult questions with logic traps and childish name-calling. I can only hope that they abandon that soon.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


The last few days have brought about some absolutely stunning events regarding the media coverage in Lebannon. Today's helping is here. (I believe the story started on Sunday. Roundup here.) The upshot is that you simply can't trust any pictures you're seeing from there.
For the record, I don't believe that Reuters and other wire services are intentionally misleading people. I think they're just unaware of how Hezbollah uses the media for their own propaganda. They might also lack the man power (and cynicism!) needed to double check everything.
In our current war I don't know if traditional media can afford to maintain their pie-in-the-sky Olympian ideals. They may need to reset to more of a WWII mindset and pick sides.

Expansion of powers/Who gets the blame?

(Via Volokh) is this article from the WaPo. It regards a propsed ability of the administration to take over the National Guard in case of 'natural disaster of homeland emergency'. The measure is largely in response to the hammering that followed Katrina. Bush has been savegly attacked for the refusal to save New Orleans. The most common theme is that he just didn't care about the lives of black people. Almost unreported was the set of laws designed to keep the President from having control of the National Guard without direct permission from each state's governors. Permission that either wasn't granted in Katrina, or granted well after the fact.
I've got the feeling that this current attempt to fix that possible flaw will be reported, as it is here, as a desired expansion of power. Like many issues over security since 9/11 the Dems (with help from the media) have enjoyed setting up this kind of false choice. If something bad happens, it's because Bush didn't care/was incompetent/was on vacation. If any move is made to stop something from happening it's because Bush is power hungry/doesn't care about the Constitution/is just plain evil.
The opposition is never asked what the correct course of action is. Almost five years after 9/11 we still don't know what the Dem plan to shut down int'l terrorism is. Very sad.