Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Who says John Edwards doesn't get it?

Me, I guess. Wow. I was shocked when I read this:

Edwards: Move Past 'War on Terror'
"NEW YORK (AP) - Democrat John Edwards Wednesday repudiated the notion that there is a "global war on terror," calling it an ideological doctrine advanced by the Bush administration that has strained American military resources and emboldened terrorists.

In a defense policy speech he planned to deliver at the Council on Foreign Relations, Edwards called the war on terror a "bumper sticker" slogan Bush had used to justify everything from abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison to the invasion of Iraq.

"We need a post-Bush, post-9/11, post-Iraq military that is mission focused on protecting Americans from 21st century threats, not misused for discredited ideological purposes," Edwards said in remarks prepared for delivery. "By framing this as a war, we have walked right into the trap the terrorists have set—that we are engaged in some kind of clash of civilizations and a war on Islam." "

Also posted on DCAT, just for kicks.

This video will be all over the internet soon. Edwards had pledged unity previously.

Full text of the Edwards speech: here


dcat said...

Here's what I wrote over at dcat:

Steve --
I don't know -- I think this is mostly rhetorical and semantic. I hate this "he doesn't get it" construction of debate that has come to dominate the blogosphere. It implies that the speaker or writer does get it and there is a level of all-knowingness to it that I find offputting and even dangerous.

That said, if he is going to make this sort of statement, Edwards now has to take a much more serious approach to his own foreign policy -- he needs to outline what it is that he believes. Frankly the idea of a war on terrorism was always a very sloppy construction and the Bush administration has used it for ideological ends, but the threat from the radical Jihadists is a serious one and Edwards now needs to show that he understands as much. Thus I think you hit on an important point, which isn't really whether Edwards "gets it" on a "war on terror" that has hardly beewn waged especially well, but whether Edwards "gets" foreign policy as a broader conception. I think the burden is now on him to prove that he does.

In other words, it seems to me that Edwards needs to show that he sees this as a matter of how the issue is framed, which I can agree, not whether or not there are real threats in the world, which I do not see as being up for discussion.

I like Edwards as a domestic policy guy. I'm not convinced that he is the right foreign policy leader in a perilous world. And I fear that he is trying to position himself as the foreign policy outsider to appease a base that really ought to be the last group of people setting the foreign policy agenda.


Paul said...

Mmm, tough break for him that this also came out today:

I will agree that 'terror' was the wrong thing to declare war on. But Edwards' comment was about framing our actions as a 'war.'

"By framing this as a war, we have walked right into the trap the terrorists have set—that we are engaged in some kind of clash of civilizations and a war on Islam."

Uhh, what exactly would you call what we are in, Senator? If not a clash of civilizations (21st century Enlightened Western vs. 7th century barbarians) or a war on *radical* Islam (Again, what religion do all those suicide bombers practice?)

Paul said...

BTW, check out the comments on that link. Incredible. Some people have already posted that they think this is a Bush conspiracy. I bet I know how they spend their 11 am to 12 pm hour: watching the View.

dcat said...

Paul --
Though I think you make a lot of sense, the fact is that edwards is right -- we are not in a war on Islam. We are, as you note, in a war on "*radical* Islam." But there is a huge difference. Edwards was right in what he said about not being at war against Islam. You are right that we are at war against radical Islam.

Furthermore, I think it is a bit reductionist to simply make this a clash of civilizations. It certainly is reductionist to assert that we are fighting against 7th Century barbarians. We are fighting against 21st century barbarians. And yes, we are at war, though we may actually be at multiple wars.

I have no idea what "The View" has to do with any of this. But yes, there are crazy commenters afoot over there as at all sorts of websites both left and right. (And center.)


Paul said...

It probably is reductionist, but when people say they want to destroy America and Israel and establish a new caliphate, they are, in essence calling for a return to the 7th century. So, in my opinion, we are fighting people who want to return to the 7th century in the 21st century.

I think it's tragic (maybe too strong a word) that our government can't admit to what we are at war against. I like how John Stewart phrased it on his show (or maybe it was his book) that after declaring war on terror "next week the president promises to wage war on that bastard ennui."

The view comment was just to lighten things up. It was a reference to Rosie's rants to the 9-11 truth crowd.

Also, in the GW post, I did stretch your 'stupid' comment too far. Sorry. But I will say that you have a way of making me feel like a five-year-old sometimes with the way you argue. Anyway, it's nice to get in discussions with a person who has a much different view of America and the world and who also doesn't pull out the "Bush lied, kids died" crap.

Robert C. said...

We are engaged in a clash of civilizations. Edwards isn't making a distinction between radical and moderate Islam. If anything, he's intentionally blurring that distinction for rhetorical purposes.

dcat said...

Paul --
I'm down with you and me having detente!

Yeah, I agree, of course that our enemies are antimodernists, and as an unrepentant modernist (both anti- anti-modernist and anti-postmodernist) I understand the threat that poses. At the same time, I want to give Edwards the benefit of the doubt in terms of this being a profoundly complicated issue. It's not that I think he is right -- I do not. But that I don't want to assume that this is somehow a deep reflection of some sort of character failing on his part, or that he is an idiot, or that he does not get it.

The reality is that I'm not certain I see a single candidate, left or right, Republican or Democrat, who I right now trust to be able to carry out a rigorous foreign policy that at the same time restores (in my opinion) much of what this administration has cost us in terms of our international credibility and our moral compass (and this has little to do with whether to go to war in Iraq but rather with how) AND who can handle domestic policy. And I'm not talking about simply people who agree with me -- liberal-left on domestic policy, hawkish liberal centrist on foreign policy -- but rather I am talking about people who would place principles over politics, policy over point scoring. Sometimes the politics and the point scoring are necessary, of course, but it seems that our politics are nothing but that now.

With the exception of Obama (who might be my ideal candidate in 2016, but whose epiphenomenon has to be attirbutable in large part to a Reaganesque ability to inspire in a race where no one else is able to do so) I see myself, and most Americans settling yet again in 2008 for two candidates we have to convince ourselves to support. I have never had the opportunity to vote for someone I was 100% behind in a presidential election. Say what you will about the mythology of Robert Kennedy and forget for a moment his actual politics (or substitute reagan for kennedy if you prefer) -- it seems to me that what he (they) represented was a level of hope in politics that we have lost. I'd love to get that back again. I just wonder if in today's climate it is even possible. For me, Obama might represent at least that much.