Democrats & Liberals Archives

Cheney's Pipe Dream

Vice President Cheney laid out the administration’s post 9/11 foreign policy during his debate with Senator John Edwards. He said the United States,

  • had to go after the terrorists
  • had to go after state sponsors of terror
  • and had to stand up democracies in their stead afterwards.

As I mentioned, going after al Qaeda is something everyone agreed on. Our attack on al Qaeda and the Taliban government that supported them in Afghanistan was widely supported by the American public and our allies throughout the world. Even today there is strong international support for operations there.

While bin Laden and other top al Qaeda leaders slipped away, we still did some damage to the organization. Unfortunately, as Edwards pointed out, President Bush "made a decision to divert attention from that and instead began to plan for the invasion of Iraq," and al Qaeda has been allowed to rebuild and reorganize, and has already resumed operations.

During the debate, Cheney tried to connect Iraq with al Qaeda. That position is, of course, crucial to Bush's re-election strategy as well as a key selling point for their strategy to topple autocratic regimes around the world and replace them with democracies. If they can't keep up the fiction that Saddam Hussein was in some way connected to terrorists and 9/11, then the whole invasion and occupation of Iraq - and its attendant myriad of unintended (but not unforeseen) consequences - becomes a huge liability.

This administration's inability to acknowledge reality - regardless of why - does not bode well for our war on terrorism. Even after the CIA reported Iraq had no WMD, no WMD programs, and no al Qaeda connections Bush still says, "It was a risk - a real risk that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons or materials or information to terrorists."

But even beyond the fact that this administration is out of touch with reality, conflating terrorists and rogue nations is a critical strategic error in our war on al Qaeda. Terrorism and rogue nations are two very distinct problems with very distinct characteristics and very different solutions.

The fact is, rogue nations - even armed with WMD - can be deterred. They are geopolitical entities. They have territory and capitol cities. North Korea has not used WMD in 50 years because its leaders are not willing to disappear in a nuclear blaze of retaliation. Saddam did not use chemical weapons against US troops thirteen years ago for the same reason.

Terrorists, on the other hand, have no such restrictions. They cannot be deterred.

By embarking on this windmill joust to change the world, the Bush administration has lost focus on securing the United States against the next terrorist attack that everyone agrees is coming. As Edwards pointed out,

...there are things that need to be done to keep this country safe that have not yet been done. For example, three years after 9/11, we find out that the administration still does not have a unified terrorist watch list. It's amazing. Three years. What are we waiting for?

The Bush administration has also shifted intelligence and military assets away from destroying the terrorist threat to an attempt at building some mythical global utopia.

We went into Afghanistan [to destroy al Qaeda] and very quickly the administration made a decision to divert attention from that and instead began to plan for the invasion of Iraq.

When Cheney says, "We need to battle them overseas so we don't have to battle them here at home," he shows an amazing lack of understanding about the nature of the terrorist threat.

By saying the terrorists even have an "over there", it's clear that the administration is trying to apply a cold war nationalist strategy to a non-state terrorist organization. Al Qaeda is operating in sixty countries around the world - including the United States. Edwards rightly asked,

...the vice president talks about there being a member, or someone associated with al Qaeda, in Iraq. There are 60 countries who have members of al Qaeda in them. How many of those countries are we going to invade?

Dick Cheney's "strategy to win the global war on terror" is a utopian pipe dream that increases our very real vulnerability to terrorist attacks and diverts resources from destroying the terrorists. How can I trust the Bush administration to protect this country when they don't understand, or can't admit for political reasons, the nature of the threat?

John Edwards is clearly correct when he says it's a grave mistake to "take our eye off the ball, which are al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, the people who attacked us on September the 11th."

Posted by American Pundit at October 8, 2004 12:04 AM