Thursday, August 26, 2004

Thaddeus McCotter

I watched the chairmen of the 9/11 Commission, Thos. Keane and Lee Hamilton, come before the House International Relations Committee this week (August 24, 2004). Lee Hamilton was brilliant. He definitely took pains to avoid partisanship and that emphasized the need for both parties to be unified in our opposition to the terrorist enemies.

But I was most impressed by Representative Thaddeus McCotter's statement. He's a Republican from southern Michigan. I thought his delivery was forceful. His statement follows:

First, thank you for your work. It's a particularly difficult year to be bi-partisan, but you managed to pull it off.

Um. Just a couple quibbles, because I'm sure that you get that all the time.

First of all, the use of the word "sanctuary" is apt, but I would have liked to also have seen emphasis on states that actively participate in the sponsorship of these terrorist organizations. I think "sanctuary" has a sort of passive connotation to it, when I think there are states that actively are involved with perpetuating terror.

Also, the "failed state" has kind of a connotation of exoneration. I don't think there's anyone who'd say that Nazi Germany was a failed state. I think it was an evil state. I think that "failed state" means there was a good, honest effort to tend to the needs of one's people, and it just didn't work out. I don't think that's the case with much of those states that we're dealing with.

Um. One of the things that I think we have to look at, and it's been touched on, is the fact that we're approaching this as if it's a solely political matter and I think that Mr. Hamilton touched on the fact that, in many ways, it's a theological matter -- that one of the reasons we're hated in the Middle East is our culture itself. We are infidels. We are not simply non-Muslims. We are people who lead good Muslims away from the true faith. In the mind of bin Laden, we are the greater danger.

That's why we are the Great Satan. It is not about what we did in Iran. It is not about what we've done in Iraq or elsewhere. It's the very fact that our existence, that our pluralism is a direct threat to their version of Islam.

That's why there is no emphasis on the nation/state that will be built if bin Laden were to be successful, or if the Islamic extremists were to be successful. They're not concerned with the nation/state. The first grave threat to them is the threat to their version of their theology. That includes our Arab allies in the Middle East.

In terms of the jurisdiction of this committee, I would just caution: Diplomacy is not a magic word; that nation/states have interests; and even amongst allies, those interests tend to collide sometimes just as much as they coincide.

And, particularly, with the French, we can look back to Richelieu to see what they're up to these days. It hasn't changed. So we can talk 'til we're blue in the face, but given our experience in the Cold War -- and again I use France because of their in and out of NATO... the DeGaulle years --- is that sometimes you can't do anything to get someone to go along -- especially if, in the past they believe that their problem is the number one problem for the United States (just like the Soviet Union was) and that a lot of American money and a lot of American blood will be spent to defeat the enemy regardless of their apathy or participation.

We've seen this before. And, in keeping with the Cold War theme, it just strikes me that we have to look at radical Islam as having arisen to fill the vacuum of the secular theology of Communism. It has a great appeal to the dispossessed.

And I think that your recommendations for "soft power" are necessary. The one thing that I would like to see (you talked about the Marshall Plan having complexities to it) is that we have to be sure that any soft money is accounted for and beneficially used. And I think it should start from a grass roots approach rather than a top-down approach that we've taken in Iraq. It has to immediately be felt at the grass roots level and have a tangible, palpable effect on these people. But we also (as Mr. Lantos pointed out) to protect the soft money and the possible impact at the grass roots, we have to have the military option to be prepared -- whether it be America's or others -- to defend those from the terrorists attacking them at the grass roots level.

In many ways, it would be akin to what Pablo Escobar used to do in Colombia in that any gains that the government would make, he would blow it up. He would terrorize people. He would threaten them with... you would either be bribed or you would get a bullet. We see this in Iraq today with the people that we're trying to recruit to defend their country, to build it. They're being targeted by terrorists.

In many ways, we have to make sure that any soft power is started at the grass roots level and is dispersed so that it makes it harder for the terrorists to aim at one particular target -- and also have the military option there to make sure that these people are a) able to defend themselves or b) that we might have to protect these gains or the ground from being taken away by the terrorists themselves.

But, all in all, I'd like to thank you for your work. I think it was a tremendous service to your country and, you know, best of luck to you in whatever you're going to do now.

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