Imagine this WWII headline:
“Japanese attempt to fire a bullet at American forces. Republicans demand Roosevelt’s resignation”.
Now you’ve got a picture of the basic lack of seriousness and rationality associated with the right-wing claims, and the media’s stenography, about the Lap Bomber incident. The basic premise of the Cheneyites argument is that, while we are engaged in a worldwide war against an implacable and omnipresent foe, if one enemy footsoldier attempts one act of war anyplace in the world, it signifies that everyone in the administration has failed in their duty and must resign. Predictably, rather than pointing out that, when at war, enemies fight back and casualties can occur, the media swallows whole the moronic paradigm of risk-free, casualty-free global war as presented by Cheney and Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra.
The Republican strategy for exploiting politically the failed bombing attempt is conveniently outlined in Murdoch’s house organ for the right, the Wall Street Journal. While Rep. Hoekstra, in a direct mail appeal, calls the Obama administration and Democrats “weak-kneed liberals”, and Cheney clangs his familiar gong of inexperience and mushiness, the best Axelrod can come up with is to call it “unbecoming” of Republicans to exploit national security politically. WSJ notes that the White House has leaked to bloggers the fact that the Yemeni Al Queda leaders are former Guantanamo inmates released by Bush, and has also publicized some high-profile arrests, like the David Headley case. The thing that no-one dares do is question the basic premise that the US can be engaged in multiple shooting wars in the Middle East, while also using unmanned drones to target suspects in multiple countries where we are not officially at war (unfortunately slaughtering a few wedding parties in the bargain), without any cost or interruption to the daily security of Americans at home.
As illustrated by my fictitous headline, if Republicans really believed their rhetoric of war, it would be obvious that wars presume enemies, and enemies fight back. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if some intrepid journalist pointed out the fact that, in war, especially guerilla wars with no borders and no defined state actors, civilians are at risk, and that that is the price of “superpower” status and world policeman actions?
So can Obama and Democrats use this line of argument to bolster their case? Unfortunately, the answer is clear. Unlike the British, who, while thoroughly despicable in their conduct of colonial empire, at least kept the stiff upper lip when the inevitable casualties ensued, the American public, body politic and media is so fundamentally immature that the idea of war without sacrifice (except some poor anonomous farmboys and homeboys whose official portraits scroll by on the evening news) is accepted as the norm, and any hostile act shakes our republic to the core. Any politician who notes that empire has cost, that enemies have resources, and that hypocrisy and abandonment of our core principles, as demonstrated by our support of Israeli exceptionalism and torture for convenience, has a price, would be committing political suicide for stating what any mature advisor would consider obvious.
Would it have been a tragedy if that plane had been blasted from the sky? Obviously, as it is a tragedy that the Taliban has murdered an entire CIA station in Afghanistan. The greater tragedy is the fact that the solidarity in face of war that lead to the defeat of a far more dangerous and implacable foe in WWII has been abandoned by the Babbitts of the Republican right in their desperation to reclaim the right to undo our republic from within, as they have successfully done during every Repug administration in recent history. And the foundational catastrophe of our age is that the press, in its laziness and frivolity, accepts every shoddy premise put forth by the know-nothing caucus as if it’s a serious critique, without once noting that a lie is a lie, or that a failed party with blood on its hands from 9/11 to Iraq to Abu Ghraib to Palestine to the dismantling of our moral legitimacy and economic stability has little right to give lessons in war policy.