The nameless one
Marc Shulman at the American Future noted:
All of today’s lead editorial in the New York Times, written as a preview of this evening’s State of the Union address, is devoted to the domestic economy. Absent are any words about Iraq, Iran, the NSA, etc. Go figure.
Over in another part of the blogosphere, The New Editor was wondering about the same thing in the shape of a strange omission in Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel's game plan to take back Congress from the Republicans. It quoted the Chicago Tribune's account of the proceedings:
But Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the leader of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, found himself fielding spirited questions at a breakfast meeting late last week as he laid out his ideas on how Democrats could seize control of Congress from the Republicans. When the Illinois congressman didn't include national security in his top five talking points, a man raised his hand and his voice.
"Can I give you a piece of advice?" said Ford Huffman, a Columbus attorney. "They obviously believe it's their winning issue. Why can't we get out in front with it and say there's not an issue about security? Every American believes in securing America."
Emanuel tried to answer the question, asserting his eagerness to challenge the White House, but said he does not believe national security should be a political issue. As Emanuel spoke, Huffman turned his head and told those sitting around him: "It sounds like we are trying to dodge the issue. People are going to say the Democrats are being wussies." ...
"How do we get our message out?" asked Ann Hughes, a Columbus resident who said she is frustrated by the Iraq war and infuriated that the Bush administration is so skilled at guiding the country's political debate. "It so easily gets portrayed that the Democratic Party is negative, and the issue agenda gets controlled by the Republicans."
After Emanuel answered her question, he ticked through a list of five key themes he said the party should push this year: health care, education, energy independence, technology and fiscal discipline.
It was national security, though, that his audience returned to again and again. ...
As others echoed similar concerns, Emanuel buttoned and unbuttoned his dark suit. He shifted the weight on his feet and shook the ice in his water glass. He gently disagreed that he had avoided discussing national security, pointing out that he wanted to avoid the trap of being forced into a defensive posture over it by Republicans.
"I don't think that's dodging," Emanuel said. "My interest is not to play politics or say how we can make politics out of national security.
"When it comes to security," he added, "Democrats will not play second fiddle."
It's tempting to think the omission of national security from both the New York Times and Rahm Emmanuel's presentation is no coincidence. Defense has become the third rail of liberal politics. Touch it and you die. At a time when headlines are dominated by the Iranian nuclear weapons crisis, Hamas' election to Palestinian Authority leadership and a clamor to punish Danish cartoonists for daring to depict Mohammed, it has become imperative to studiously ignore the front page and go straight to the funnies. National defense on the Democratic platform has assumed the status of a black actor in a 1940s movie. It has become the Invisible Man.
There's no percentage in talking about national defense. Attempts to produce a war fighting strategy in the manner of Joseph Lieberman will bring the Kos gang in against you. But taking an explicitly antiwar position is unlikely to play well either, at least with the electorate, as the excerpt above suggests. The only alternative is to deny the existence of any sort of war, except maybe in the fevered imagination of the President; and that if one is discovered to be in progress, it will always be possible to feign surprise and declare the "Democrats will not play second fiddle."
But anyone looking for straight talk will have to go far to find it. In the State of the Union speech, America remains at war with a faceless collection of tyrants and terrorists, who despite their indubitable existence, persistently escape being categorically named. But we are given hints.
And one of the main sources of reaction and opposition is radical Islam -- the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death. ...
Tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran. ...
America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources -- and we are on the threshold of incredible advances.
It's a ghastly charade game in which the viewers are invited to guess the right answers after watching the mime. Neither Rahm Emmanuel or President Bush can bring themselves to articulate what they must suspect. Maybe Ralph Peters has the right insight: the answers are not spoken because no one can think them. Like a rationalist confronted with a demon in whom he does not believe and yet with which he is manifestly grappling -- the elites fight -- against that whose name they have forgotten. Peters talks about why it is impossible to recognize our adversary.
The angry gods are back. .... A paradox of our time is that the overwhelmingly secular global media--a collection of natural-born religion-haters--have become the crucial accomplices of the suicide bomber fueled by rabid faith. Mass murderers are lionized as freedom fighters, while our own troops are attacked by the press they protect for the least waywardness or error. ... One of the most consistently disheartening experiences an adult can have today is to listen to the endless attempts by our intellectuals and intelligence professionals to explain religious terrorism in clinical terms, assigning rational motives to men who have moved irrevocably beyond reason.
We suffer under layers of intellectual asymmetries that hinder us from an intuitive recognition of our enemies. ... Despite the horrors we have witnessed, we have yet to take religious terrorists seriously on their own self-evident terms. We invaded a succession of their tormented countries, but haven't come close to penetrating their souls. ... Security-wise, we have placed our faith in things, in bright (and expensive) material objects. ....Again, our intelligentsia falls woefully short. The most secularized element of our society--educated to avoid faith (or, at the very least, to shun enthusiastic, vigorous, proud, and public faith)--our professional thinkers have lost any sense of a literal paradise beyond the grave. But our enemies enjoy a faith as vivid as did our ancestors, for whom devils lurked in the undergrowth and paradise was an idealized representation of that which mortals knew. We are taught that we should never underestimate our enemies--yet, we underestimate the power of his faith, his most potent weapon.