Michael Totten

We Cannot Fall Apart (Updated)

Dick Cheney is selling poison in Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa – Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday warned Americans about voting for Democratic Sen. John Kerry, saying that if the nation makes the wrong choice on Election Day it faces the threat of another terrorist attack.

As if we don’t face the threat of another attack now. Who knew we were so safe? Not me.

“It’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we’ll get hit again and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States,” Cheney told about 350 supporters at a town-hall meeting in this Iowa city.

I don’t need to tell Dick Cheney that terrorists want to hit us again no matter who sits in the White House. But I would tell Dick Cheney, if I were his advisor, that this line of argument is crude, obnoxious, and has serious backfire potential built into it. He is explicitly saying no terrorist attacks can get through if he and George W. hold the White House.
We all know this is b.s. and I shouldn’t even have to point it out. It is not possible to deflect every potential attack. We could turn the United States into a totalitarian fortress and attacks would still get through.
If Dick Cheney is prepared to lay the blame of a future terrorist attack on both a Kerry Administration and even the voters (!) then his administration needs to accept the blame for terrorist attacks that occur on its watch. And that includes the attack on September 11.
I do not blame the Bush Administration for the attack on September 11. Nor do I blame the Clinton Administration. Nor will I blame a possible future Kerry Administration if it comes into being. Nor should anybody.
In The Art of War Sun Tzu famously told how to defeat an enemy’s leadership: “When he is united, divide him.” On that note I’d like to revisit an essay Lee Harris wrote for Tech Central Station on the second anniversary of September 11, 2001. He concludes:

The greatest damage that Al-Qaeda could possibly do to us is not to destroy our buildings or even to murder our people; it is to lure us into abandoning our sense of national unity at the very time we are most in need of it. 9/11 was not our fault, nor the fault of our leadership, of either party. Nor will the next 9/11, if it should come, be our fault, or the fault of those who might happen to be in power, and again of either party.
[…]
[N]one of us may not know for sure what we should do, we can all be absolutely positive about what we shouldn’t do, and that is, we cannot fall apart. For if we in the United States fall apart, who in the world will put us back together?

UPDATE: It looks like Cheney’s quote was snipped in the middle of a sentence. And the AP reporter used a period instead of ellipses to hide that fact. Here is Cheney’s complete sentence:

Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again, that we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we’ll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind set if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts, and that we’re not really at war.

That is a lot less inflammatory. The AP ought to be smacked for that. Will they run a correction? I’m runing a correction since I relied on their crappy reporting, so I certainly hope so. (Not holding my breath.)
I still think Cheney is wrong. John Kerry has said he will respond to any attack on the United States, and I believe him. Why wouldn’t he? He is not a peacenik.
What worries me about a Kerry presidency isn’t that he won’t fight back but that he doesn’t have any strategy that isn’t reactive. We could fight terrorism tit-for-tat forever. Bush has his eye on both pre-emption and root causes while Kerry doesn’t.