Saturday, August 04, 2007

I Am SOOOO Serious. No Really, I Am. I Swear.

If anyone stated their intention to blow-up the Vatican if the US won't leave Iraq, isn't that a terrorist threat that would justify tough actions on our part? The kind of thing that gets you "disappeared" into Eastern European CIA prisons that don't exist? Yet isn't that the exact equivalent to what whackjob Tom Tancredo is doing, when he says we need to explicitly state our willingness to blow-up Mecca if Muslims attack us? Civilians are just not considered valid targets, even if your own citizens have been attacked. And the use of threats against civilians to scare them is the very essence of terrorism.

But as I said in the last post, I think this is just more tough-guy posturing and not a real policy. Maybe Tancredo is as insane as he suggests he is, but I don't think so. I believe that a President Tancredo (god forbid!) would not actually nuke Mecca, were Muslim terrorists to attack us. I think he's just trying to send a message, similar to keeping the Nuke Pakistan option "on the table". As TPM noted in that link, a Tancredo advisor defended his statement saying it "shows that we mean business."

And that's one of the weird things about the rightwing foreign policy these days: It's ALL about sending messages. But it's not really about doing things or having real solutions. It's all about showmanship, marketing, and acting tough. Even our invasion of Iraq is expressed in terms of sending messages. Whether it was sending a message that America will unilaterally attack anyone we want, or sending a message that we won't back down from Al Qaeda; it's all about the message, not the actions themselves. Because leaving Iraq sends the wrong message, they won't even consider it an option and will attack anyone who does.

And it's not just foreign policy. This is exactly how they got into power and all they seem good at: Bullshitting other people into giving them the power they don't really have. But what they fail to grasp is that while domestic politics are largely perception-based (until it's time to pay the bills), foreign policy is not. No longer is it about fooling the rubes with sleight-of-hand and fake news. It's about BS-ing world leaders, most of whom only retain power due to their own intellect and cunning abilities. Even wackos like Kim Jong-Il will be surrounded by cunning people who understand how the world works. That's how they stay alive and in power. This is all just a game for people like Cheney and Rove. But when you work for a dictatorial madman, your life is on the line with every piece of advice you give. So you better be good at it.

And so their eternal bullshit and messaging just doesn't cut it in the real world. But they still fail to grasp this. Somehow, with Iraq still not going as they had fantasized it would, they still believe that messaging is enough. It's all about propaganda and acting tough, and they continue to insist that liberals are causing us to lose in Iraq because we send the wrong message. It's like reality doesn't exist for these people. It's all about perceptions. It's all about the message.

The Wrong Words

And I note this same thing from a Lieberman interview:
JL: I worry that whoever gets the Democratic nomination will have a hard time scampering back to assure people that they're prepared to take on the Islamist extremists and [any] other nation that threatens our security.
WS: Turning to another thing --
JL: They don't use that. You'll have to check it. But they don't use the term "Islamist extremism" or "Islamist terrorism" in the debates.

And so in Lieberman's world, the Dems are going to have a hard time assuring people we can handle terrorism, simply because they fail to use a specific phrase in their debates. It doesn't matter if they have good policies. All that matters is that they use the correct phrases. It's all about words for these people. And if Dems aren't willing to use those phrases, they're harming our policies and aren't serious. Somehow, they fail to grasp that they're the ones harming our policy, by making dumb threats they won't follow-up on and relying too heavily on phrases, rather than actions.

And of course, words won't stop terrorism. Nor are they intended to. Conservatives use these phrases as code-words to beat Democrats with. As Lieberman made clear, Dems will be attacked for not using the phrase "Islamist terrorism". But if they use that phrase, then they've already lost half the battle for defeating these nimrods and their dangerous policies. And that's the whole point. But while phrases like "Islamist terrorism" probably test well with American focus groups, it only makes Muslims distrust us more and can only make terrorism worse. Al Qaeda isn't afraid of American threats against Muslims. They're counting on them.

And in this case, I don't know which is worse: That we're scaring other countries into being more hostile towards us, or that they'll take us as empty blowhards who can't follow-up on our tough talk. And most likely, they'll do both. They'll feel threatened by us and not take our threats seriously. There's nothing worse than being known as a bad bluffer, and with Bush having exposed the limits of our military might, we're giving other countries every reason to defy us. And that's just bad policy.

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