Topic: For policy wonks...
Quiet! You might embolden our enemies!
Let's go back to October of 2001 and listen to Richard Perle. This is from and interview on Nightline -
Thus we are where we are today.
Over at Hullabaloo Digby comments -
Well, yes, they believed this was the face of the new diplomacy. Thrown out the old way of doing things internationally, and flex some muscles. Folks will fall in line.
But the bastards aren't following in line. People are fighting back when they are not supposed to fight back.
And what is this about Bush "falling over with the vapors because Kerry's words might make the bad guys mad?"
Last weekend in Rhetoric: The campaigns settle on their preferred rhetorical devices for the final weeks you can find a discussion of the new attack on John Kerry, that support of John Kerry is support of terrorism. But what I missed there was the key word in the whole concept. That word is "embolden." And everyone seems to be trying to deal with that word as it is now used day in and day out in the speeches Bush delivers: the things Kerry says - that things aren't going well and we need to do this or that differently - embolden our enemies and undermine our good work. Bush is getting a lot of mileage from that single word.
Matthew Yglesias has discussed use of the word this at length, and he applies some logic to the matter -
And this on Bush -
Ah yes, armchair machismo.
The curious things here is how effective this is - asking each voter to channel his or her inner bully and feel good about pushing others around. Hey, it works. Read the polls. The internal numbers generally show that people feel Bush has driven the economy into near collapse with the tax cuts for the wealthy and the resulting deficits, that the job situation is awful, that he has no clue about healthcare or the environment, or even about basic science... and generally he's in way over his head - but they love how he sneers at the bad guys. That feels real good. We are an angry country and he has become the point man for our anger. That's good enough for the majority of those who will vote. That's what the polls show.
And Bush has directed a good portion of that anger at John Kerry. Kerry, by criticizing the execution of the war, and the war itself, is trying to make the bullies look foolish, and since we all buy into "the bully approach" as what must be done, and which also just feels so good, Kerry is attacking us all. So fight back!
Some don't buy it. This from Digby is shrill but an interesting counterargument -
Nietzsche? Just who are we using as models? Nietzsche mentioned this ubermenschen concept very briefly only in the prologue of Thus Spoke Zarathustra - thinking of Napoleon. And what Nietzsche wrote may have somehow led to the odd little Austrian fellow with the mustache. Oh my!
No. Let's not got there.
But in the end, this thrilling show of Big American Power has not snapped the bad guys out of their dream world. Actually it seems to have - note this irony well - emboldened them. As noted last weekend, the whole concept of threatening folks into a sniveling, fearful puddle of compliance just doesn't work very well.
To repeat - Think of the bully who has you cornered, grabs your shirt and sneers, "Okay, give ten good reasons I shouldn't beat the crap out of you right now?" An angry and frustrated American people can understand why playing the part of that bully is just plain satisfying, and relatively easy given our military resources - no one pushes us around. Hey, anything else is just too much of a bother, and kind of French.
But it is too bad that people who have been repeatedly bullied fight back in sneaky ways that make life hard. They just don't get it. Algeria in the fifties, Vietnam in the sixties, Gaza and the West bank now, Northern Ireland since 1688 - and so many other examples of the defeated and powerless just not accepting their worthlessness - make you wonder if this "prove to me you don't deserve a beating" stance really works.
It doesn't, but it's what we do. And one does not sense much change in the air.
And I guess all of these words above have also emboldened our enemies.
But that just doesn't make sense.
Our enemies should worry that we might suddenly change course, gather real allies, and suddenly shift from using any brute force at all to using crafty diplomacy (secret deals and back-door alliances and all the rest) and the soft power of making them look silly and us look good. If "the West" got all cooperative and sly and subtle? They'd be in trouble.
Lucky for them that will never happen now.