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Clinton on Terrorism

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"Clinton on Terrorism"

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Guardian America launches today at last, spearheaded by a great Mike Tomasky interview of Hillary Clinton, in which he bores down and asks her some really good questions. This exchange is particularly noteworthy:

Do you think that the terrorists hate us for our freedoms, or do you think they have specific geopolitical objectives?

Well, I believe that terrorism is a tool that has been utilized throughout history to achieve certain objectives. Some have been ideological, others territorial. There are personality-driven terroristic objectives. The bottom line is, you can’t lump all terrorists together. And I think we’ve got to do a much better job of clarifying what are the motivations, the raisons d’ªtre of terrorists. I mean, what the Tamil Tigers are fighting for in Sri Lanka, or the Basque separatists in Spain, or the insurgents in al-Anbar province may only be connected by tactics. They may not share all that much in terms of what is the philosophical or ideological underpinning. And I think one of our mistakes has been painting with such a broad brush, which has not been particularly helpful in understanding what it is we were up against when it comes to those who pursue terrorism for whichever ends they’re seeking.

It sounds like you’re saying it’s not particularly useful when Bush and others say terrorists hate us for our freedoms?

Well, some do. But is that a diagnosis? I don’t think it’s proven to be an effective one.

She seems to have the right answer here, at the end of the day, but she’s very cautious about saying it. I wonder about this. It would be fantastic, of course, to have a president in the White House with a less addled substantive understanding of these issues. At the same time, I think it’s necessary at some point to seize the whole conceptual framework that’s been dominating debate in this country since 9/11 by the horns and throw it to the ground. Obama and Edwards have both shown far more inclination to do this than has Clinton (in part, obviously, because the exigencies of the campaign have forced them to) which is an important consideration in their favor.

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