Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 23, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

GRAND STRATEGY....Instapundit quotes a reader asking a question today:

Anybody notice how many people are, almost simultaneously, berating George Bush for not taking out bin Laden, and berating Sharon for taking out Ahmed Yassin?

Snark aside, this is a reasonable observation. But you have to flip it on its head to see the whole picture:

Anybody notice how many people are, almost simultaneously, praising George Bush for seeing the big picture and not merely engaging in a bin Laden hunt, and praising Sharon for simply killing Ahmed Yassin without any hint of a broader strategy?

For anyone who's serious about this stuff, these questions deserve an answer:

  • Is it enough to simply build up homeland defenses and hunt down terrorist leaders? This is essentially what Sharon is doing.

  • Or is it necessary to also have a grander strategy of engaging the hearts and minds of the Arab world and spreading democracy? This is (allegedly) the strategy of the Bush administration.

I'm not sure you can have it both ways. If hunting down terrorists is enough, then Sharon is doing the right thing and Bush deserves criticism for wasting time in an unnecessary Iraqi adventure. But if long term success requires a serious effort to spread democracy and change local attitudes, then Bush's approach is defensible while Sharon is doomed to failure.

The United States is bigger than Israel, so the scope of our operations will naturally be bigger. But within our respective spheres, I have to believe that we're dealing with roughly the same problem and roughly the same kind of people. So what's the right strategy? Who's doing it right and who's doing it wrong?

POSTSCRIPT: If your goal is not to really think about the problem, but merely to demonstrate that both Bush and Sharon are right (or wrong), I don't have any doubt that you can do it. The English language provides great scope for this kind of thing. But rhetorical tricks won't change the reality on the ground and won't get the job done.

POSTSCRIPT #2: My opinion? I believe in the grander strategy, although of course it has to be done right. That, however, is a discussion for another time.

Kevin Drum 11:11 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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