Monday, May 19, 2008

Dirty Politics?

First, McCain states the obvious and says that Hamas would prefer an Obama presidency to his own.

Then, Obama calls McCain an old man who is “losing his bearings.”

Everyone gets angry and says the other candidate is being unfair and using “smear” tactics. They are both wrong.

Ahmed Yousef, chief political adviser to the Prime Minister of Hamas did say that his party liked Obama, and “they hope he wins.” McCain didn’t imply that Hamas would prefer Obama; their chief spokesmen said so. In fairness to Obama, he has said that he would be unwavering in his support for Israel, and has called them terrorists, but if the group does find Obama to be a better candidate for their ends, that should be something that matters in our political debate.

Obama’s stated willingness to step away form the hard-lined stance we have taken to totalitarian groups like Hamas will undoubtedly advance the goals of those groups. The consequences of a policy will advance some players in the game, and be a detriment to others. The Obama camp has been unwilling to address this fact, and has taken to calling this criticism “smear tactics” and “dirty politics.”

“Who cares what Hamas thinks, Obama has said he does not support their cause” you say? A president doesn’t have to be a ideologically connected to a group or an idea to put in place a policy that benefits them, even if unintentionally. The Obama camp needs to wake up to this fact, and not dismiss these points as irrelevant.

While it isn’t necessarily fair to say that McCain’s comments were the result of him “losing his bearings,” it is fair for the Obama camp to play up the fact that John’s an old man. Not just an old man, but one who suffered torture in a prison camp. I think it is completely fair for folks to question the ability of a leader to hold the highest office in the country when you are as old as McCain, and carry the weight of his baggage. It isn’t a major concern of mine, but I wouldn’t call bringing up these facts a “smear.”


Red XIV said...

"A president doesn’t have to be a ideologically connected to a group or an idea to put in place a policy that benefits them, even if unintentionally."

This is true. Which is why, despite being adamantly opposed to everything al-Qaeda stands for, John McCain advocates foreign policy stances of enormous benefit to them.

That should be considered far more important than whether a group that has never launched an attack on America and has never shown any interest in doing so approves of a candidate.

Roland Dodds said...

While in the immediate aftermath of the Iraq liberation, we did experience a boom in Al-Qaeda recruits in the region, you would be hard pressed to make the case that they have benefited form it at this point. By most accounts, the group is on the ropes in a fight that no longer places them at the center stage. At least not in the grand scheme of things.

I have always had a problem with the argument that fighting Al-Qaeda should be the utmost priority in the WoT, to a detriment of fighting other groups that share an ideology and control more minds and territory. This fight we are in is not against Osama’s group, but the entire theocratic and totalitarian set of movements in the Muslim world.

And the argument often pushed by Obama supporters and left wing democrats, is that by confronting these forces in the Muslim world, we are helping their recruitment opportunities. Well, by diverting our gaze from these problems for the last 50 years, the troubles still grew. We will surely lose battles in this fight, but stepping away form confronting these ideas head on will only prolong the fight, and allow the groups that push these ideas to strong arm liberals and democrats in the Arab world.

Anonymous said...

McCain’s policy benefited alQaeda? It looks to me like they have lost a lot of influence in the region since the war began.

Red XIV said...

Roland, the thing that lead to so much anti-Americanism in the Middle East wasn't us ignoring the region, it was that they saw us as constantly meddling in their affairs.

Also, al-Qaeda is not "on the ropes". The group known as "al-Qaeda in Iraq" is, but they're a separate group from the real al-Qaeda, the one that attacked us on 9/11. The real al-Qaeda is still operating in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border regions, mostly with impunity because US military focus is so heavily on Iraq.

And I have long had a problem with the notion that al-Qaeda shouldn't be our focus, and that instead we should be hunting down groups that never attacked us. That would be akin to if Roosevelt had responded to Pearl Harbor by going to war against China.

Roland Dodds said...

Some of the anti-Americanism is connected to our previous support for dictators in the region when we should have supported the democratic movements that could have removed them. But the “meddling in their affairs” argument doesn’t hold enough water. Clearly Baathists and Jihadists don’t want us involved in the ME, because it conflicts with their monopoly on power. And I for one, don’t care what those individuals think. I will not turn into a relativist because some totalitarians are angry about our support for fight against them.

And this argument overlooks the groups that have been calling for support from the Americans for years, namely the Kurds. They recognized that it was our “meddling” in the affairs of Iraq that saved off their slaughter on more than one occasion.

Since most of the countries in the ME are not democracies, and don’t have a free press, I also take all the anti-Americanism with a grain of salt. When they are representative governments, I will give their criticism more weight. But as it stands, the totalitarians in the region use anti-Americanism (and anti-Israel sentiments) to divert attention from their own governments.

As for our targets in the War on Terror, the way al-Qaeda has been conflated in the American media by our politicians is dangerous. The group is dangerous, and needs to be crushed, but it is not the largest Islamist group operating in the region, and not the only one that has attacked us or our allies. By making this just into a war on Osama’s group, we are willfully missing turning a blind eye to the other groups and nations that are just as dangerous, and are in fact better equipped and organized. We could kill every al-Qaeda operative tomorrow, and the fight that we are in will continue because it isn’t about them specifically.

And while Roosevelt did not invade China in WW2, he did declare war on Italy, who did not attack Pearl Harbor. He did so because they were allied with the very nations that did, and it was imperative to break the entire Axis power, rather than taking out the explicit group responsible.

Red XIV said...

Wrong. Italy, like Germany, declared war against us on December 11, 1941. Not the other way around.

As for the main subject, the current war...what other group has actually launched an attack on US soil? What other group has actually killed roughly 3000 American civilians?

The idea that we should wage war against a concept rather than focusing on the actual enemy who attacked us makes no sense. Remind me, how has the "war on drugs" been going? Declaring war on a concept is domestic propaganda, not sound strategic thinking.

Roland Dodds said...

Wrong. Italy, like Germany, declared war against us on December 11, 1941

This is only half true. The United States was already involved in the fight in Europe before the bombing of Pearl Harbor financially, and was throwing its support behind Britain, even though the Axis powers had not invaded our shores.

“As for the main subject, the current war...what other group has actually launched an attack on US soil?”

If you view this fight as solely a police action, where you need only arrest or kill the actual group responsible, then you are being willfully naive. We should hunt members of al-Qaeda, and we should fight the influence of groups like Hamas and the Iranian government. If you chose to believe that it is only al-Qaeda attacking us and our allies around the world, then you haven’t been paying attention the last few years.

And I can give you a recent war that was fought on ideas, and dealt with a nation that never attacked us directly: the Cold War. While there were physical players and nations representing these ideas, it was an overarching inspiration and philosophy that we were combating. Leninism isn’t even a ghost of a threat at this point, but that wasn’t always the case. It had its ups and downs, and we left with our hands plenty dirty, but the real end of the Cold War was the slow death of Bolshevism when the Union collapsed on itself.

And even if 9/11 never happened, if no American was ever killed by an Islamist or a totalitarian group in the ME, I would still support the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The Kurds may not carry American citizenship, but they are worth defending none the less.