Tigerhawk for President
Tigerhawk answers 20 foreign policy questions proposed by Rebecca Frankel of Foreign Policy meant for Sarah Palin. Tigerhawk writes, "I have taken the liberty of supplying the answers that I would give. Note that my answers are not necessarily the best for somebody trying to win an election." His answers, besides being lucid and sane, are reminders how commonsensical such answers can be when you are not being asked trick questions. The problem politicians often face when answering a question is not how to give the right answer -- any reasonably intelligent person can do that -- but how to give the acceptable answer. Success in Washington consists, not of knowing where the solutions are, but of understanding where all the sacred cows are hidden. And a politician will be accounted both wise and statesmanlike not if he actually does something but succeeds in completing four years as President without challenging a single shibboleth. Consider Tigerhawk's answer to question number 1:
1. In a broad and long-term sense, would you have responded differently to the attacks of 9/11?
The attacks of September 11, 2001 were hardly the first attacks of al Qaeda's war against the United States. That war began literally in 1996, when al Qaeda declared war upon us. Its geopolitical roots, however, date from our long failure to respond to radical Islamist aggression, whether Sunni or Shiite. That failure, which dates from the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 and Hezbollah's attacks on us in Lebanon in 1983, established over a period of two decades and presidencies of both parties that the United States would flee from radical Islamist aggression. We needed to send a different signal, that attacking the United States is extremely perilous. If I had been in charge in 1979, I would have retaliated. If I had been President in 1983 when Hezbollah slaughtered our Marines in Lebanon, I would have retaliated (as the French did). If I had been President in 1993, I would have retaliated for Mogadishu and the first attacks on the World Trade Center; in 1996 I would have responded to Khobar Towers instead of waiting for even more proof that Iran was behind the mass murder there; in 1998 I would have responded comprehensively to the destruction of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, even at the risk of casualties to Americans; and in 2000 I would not have rejected retaliation for the attack on the USS Cole because I was afraid of offending Yassir Arafat. So we had to hit back hard and comprehensively at some point or radical Islamists would have continued to attack us. It is a great tragedy that no president chose to change the rules until then.
It is an answer that captures not only the stated reasons for many of the actions in the War on Terror, but also the unstated reasons. It is an answer the kind of which you might hear at a thousand water coolers, and therefore the more unutterable for that. But why can Tigerhawk say what a politician can't? Bill Buckley hinted at the answer when he said, "I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University." That is because any of the first two thousand names in the Boston phone can give a commonsense answer to questions. What the "two thousand faculty members of Harvard University" know that the average Joe doesn't is what not to say. And that is a far more valuable skill. The modern secret to success is illustrated by story told about Hell. It is said that when one of the newly damned arrived at the gate of the netherworld he heard a gale of whispering, but he could not make the words out. As he came closer he saw an endless vista of suffering souls immersed nearly to their nostrils in excrement. Then he understood what they were whispering and moreover, why. The damned were saying, "don't make waves. Don't make waves."
Next question, please.