Liberal vs conservative assumptions on national security

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The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and I have continued a pretty interesting debate, one that I'm sure we can both be proud of in our respective environs: Me, amongst my buddies in a typical afternoon of NASCAR, gunplay and mumbly peg. Him, down at the coffeehouse, amidst the angry poets, fuming clove cigarettes and doe-eyed hippy chicks.

Following is his response to this post on border/national security. It's pretty good, so I'll try to keep my interruptions to a minimum:

Well, it’s a good thing you know so much more than I do about issues of security, but you should stop banging your head on things, it might be affecting you.

1 re: economics and the reality of the border: the border is a reality for labor, not capital.

Sorry, this point goes right over my head, maybe because I was a religion major, but it strikes me as a faintly Buddhist notion, maya and all that, no?

2 On immigration: Crime rates in border communities have risen because of gang-led drug trafficking operations. Where I live there are undocumented workers yet not rising crime. I submit to you that it’s not illegal immigrants, but drug traffickers, who lead to rising crime rates. Yet the hr 4437 legislation has far-reaching implications which go well beyond removing drug traffickers and jihadists.

3 Don’t put words in my mouth. I did not imply that there is a “monolithic rational force” behind the issue, only that the immigrant community would be negatively affected by a terrorist attack. Do you disagree?

You sort of made it sound like the fact they would be negatively affected was a reason "they" would try to keep it from happening. Are we imagining a monolithic rational force...or is a monolithic rational force imagining us...

4 On terrorism: again, I'm not suggesting that the fact that another attack hasn't happened = it WILL NEVER happen. but it does tell us something about the effectiveness of our enemy. Jihadists have declared war on the US. In a war, enemies have to attack each other. You want illogical, how about saying we're at war when an enemy who, despite our horribly porous borders, has only attacked us once in over 10 years. You’ll be surprised to know that there is in fact an unambiguous definition of “terrorism” You may not want to discuss terrorist tactics, but surely you recognize that terrorism, as a strategy for fighting a war, depends on terrorizing a population by carrying out regular attacks in random places to create a perception in the population that no one is safe until the people lose their will to resist and sort of cave in. This definition fits for what is going on in Israel, and it applied to the situation in Bosnia, etc. But it does not describe the American experience during this, “war on terrorism” and you can't say the PATRIOT ACT saved us, because it's effectiveness in preventing terrorist attacks is negated by the fact that ANYONE can sneak into the country from Mexico, Canada, or Sea. Anyone can walk right in around the back, just a half a mile from the railroad track.

And do anything they want…

...I do appreciate a man who picks up on the oblique cultural references...

5 “Because something has not happened, therefore it will not (or is unlikely to) happen.”

What makes you think the sun will come up tomorrow? Is it that it’s never NOT come up, or is it based on some sort of idea about physics and the laws of motion? the fact that no jihadist has yet taken advantage of the border situation indicates that our enemy isn’t as organized or effective as some would like us to believe because if the jihadists had their act together they would have surely exploited the weakness in our borders by now. Can you think of one conceivable reason why a highly organized group with an international presence, and dedicated to the destruction of the US, would pass on the opportunity to sneak in and raise some hell, especially considering the goal of “terrorism” is to keep a population in fear. It there is a single jihadist cell in Mexico, or all of South America for that matter, why haven’t they seized the opportunity? You can’t just say, “I don’t know why, let’s not get in to terrorist tactics” that’s a cop out.

It makes me think there aren’t so many terrorists out there, and that the ones that are out there are ineffective in carrying anything out. But maybe they wait because they want to lure people in the US into thinking like that, yeah? Get us thinking that there aren’t so many of them out there after all. What advantage would that serve them?
Or maybe Bush is a right and they’re all tied up in Iraq and so they don’t have the ability to carry out an attack on the US. But if that’s the case, they don’t have an international presence, and are of no real consequence in the immigration debate.

I was not copping out, I just wanted to focus on other aspects of your argument for reasons of brevity in that post. Regarding THIS point, I think you are being a little sanguine in your assumptions about possible terrorist attacks on American soil. Not having suicide bombers hitting the TGI Friday's in Peoria every weekend could be perfectly consistent with a strategy more focused on big events.

My point is: Who knows? As the Buddha said, What is the sound of one hand clapping? (That was actually a pretty straightforward question - the answer is "very soft clapping." Try it by slapping your fingers against your palm and you'll see what I mean).

If we're going to make a guess about terrorist attacks, why not err on the side of caution? If we're blithely optimistic, sitting back trading wives and Cadillacs and diamonds, then if we guess wrong it's "fare thee well, Titanic, fare thee well."

You've stated your case well. We have some different assumptions about things but I respect your opinion and I think it is representative of what a good number of progressives believe.

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No Relation said:

Cool. I never knew that game was called mumbly peg.

Heh, yeah, only for the manly men, obviously.

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