Distinctions and Differences

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"Distinctions and Differences"

Greg Sargent had a great post on TPM Cafe making the case that the ’06 midterms vindicated the views of those of us who’d argued for strong Democratic counterattacks on the national security issue rather than those of the “duck and cover” camp. Ed Kilgore, however, correctly ripostes that you can’t chalk duck-and-coverism up to the hawks of the DLC. As Ed says, their outfit has long (and I mean long, going all the way back to “The Politics of Evasion”) called for more robust Democratic engagement with these issues.

The trouble, at the end of the day, is that though they have perfectly correct views on this meta-level issue, people in the liberal hawk neighborhood tend, on an operational level, to actually agree with George W. Bush about the bulk of the most important national security issues. Not that they’re secretly Bush-lovers. Quite the reverse. They hate George W. Bush with a passion. With, indeed, a passion so strong that I think it tends to blind them to the extent to which they agree with him. Most generally, neoconservatives and liberal hawks essentially agree that the key to combatting jihadism is to combine killing terrorists with a large-scale effort to transform Muslim societies. Mainstream liberals and many conservative realists, by contrast, think that you need to combine killing terrorists with an effort to address widespread Muslim political grievances.

That, I think, is the big conceptual debate about national security in this country, and lots of the leading figures in the Democratic Party are on Bush’s side of the argument. Nor should that fact be especially surprising, since upper-level professional politicians and professional political operatives all chose their partisan affiiations long before anyone especially cared about Islamist terrorism.

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