Watching President Bush’s speech last night on Iraq, I had what Virginia Woolf termed a “moment of being” – a rare instance of clarifying insight so stark and powerful as to be cleansing. But unlike in To the Lighthouse, this moment was neither purifying nor edifying. It was plain terrifying.
Ok, maybe I’m just slow. But, every time for the last couple years when Bush said “we are fighting the terrorists abroad so we don’t have to fight them at home,” I’ve cussed and spat: “Stop insulting our intelligence!!!” We know Al Qaeda is a multi-headed hydra with cells in some 60 countries, including our own. Just because we are fighting jihadists in Afghanistan or Iraq doesn’t mean they cannot and will not attack us here. It’s not like 9/11 took a lot of men, or money, or was a high-tech attack.
But, last night, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, Bush and his team truly believe their own rhetoric. I can’t tell you what made me think this – his voice, his eyes, his expression – for they were the same old words all over, again and again. But last night it hit me: what if Bush really believes this inanity? OhmiGod!!
First, if Bush thinks we are made safe at home by fighting terrorists abroad, our Commander-in-Chief doesn’t understand the enemy we face. So, we’re fighting not just blind (bad intelligence) but dumb. That would explain why the Administration has talked tough about homeland security and done precious little to improve it. Silly me, I thought Iraq, the Administration’s vacuous rhetoric, and its failure to protect the most vulnerable (blue) states in the homeland were substantially a function of domestic politics. But maybe Bush is for real!
Second, if the Administration genuinely believes we must fight overseas to stay safe at home, we are in for perpetual war abroad. The only variable will be the front. Once we dispense with, or get driven out of Iraq, we will have to take the battle somewhere else.
Syria is the logical next step. The Administration is already laying the predicate – insisting Syria is aiding insurgents in Iraq, destabilizing Lebanon and continuing to threaten Israel. And, very importantly, Syria is a predominantly Sunni country. We are not waging war against Islam. It’s a war against Al Qaeda and what CIA Director Porter Goss called the “broader Sunni jihadist movement.” We can only keep fighting Al Qaeda and its affiliates on new fronts, if they can ally with Sunni brethren. That also explains why Iran – a real and urgent threat in the form of a terrorist regime soon to have nukes – gets a relative pass from the Bush Administration. It’s a Shia regime, and we aren’t in the business these days of fighting Shia, when we can look to them to fight Sunni for their own reasons.
Big oil makes the Saudis off limits. Jordan is our friend. But Syria is the next “low-hanging fruit.” A Luta Continua.