The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Friday, August 11, 2006

The politics of the UK bomb plot

The story still dominates news sites and the blogs, of course, and coverage of the domestic ramifications is largely disappointing. Greg Sargent notes that many news outlets are portraying the story as a potential "big win" for the GOP, helpfully repeating the Republican talking point that only their party is interested in keeping the nation safe.

Glenn Greenwald spends more time looking at right-wing blogs than I could stomach and finds just what you'd expect-- endless arguments that the story justifies every White House policy out there, from torture to warrantless wiretaps, and proves (this time for sure!) that Democrats want the terrorists to win.

At Slate, Fred Kaplan points out in an article I highly recommend something very obvious that's being ignored in most other press accounts-- the UK's successful efforts to foil the plot through law enforcement, intelligence and international cooperation, represent a strategy that's largely been forsaken by the White House.

There's a broader lesson here, and it speaks to the Bush administration's present jam throughout the Middle East and in other danger zones. If the British had adopted the same policy toward dealing with Pakistan that Bush has adopted toward dealing with, say, Syria or Iran (namely, it's an evil regime, and we don't speak with evil regimes), then a lot of passenger planes would have shattered and spilled into the ocean, hundreds or thousands of people would have died, and the world would have suddenly been plunged into very scary territory.

It is time to ask: Which is the more "moral" course—to shun odious regimes as a matter of principle or to take unpleasant steps that might prevent mass terror?

One article is noteworthy for doing something we always expect from journalists but so rarely see these days-- pointing out a pertinent fact (in this case dismissing Cheney's straw man argument) rather than just repeating talking points. Bonus points for acknowledging the GOP rush to make political hay of the story.

On Wednesday, Cheney had suggested that Democrats believe "that somehow we can retreat behind our oceans and not be actively engaged in this conflict and be safe here at home, which clearly we know we won't, we can't, be," he said.

While some Democrats have opposed some steps in the war on terrorism, and more and more are calling for a withdrawal from Iraq, no major figures in the party have called for a wholesale retreat in the broader conflict.

But Bush's Republicans hoped the raid would yield political gains.

"I'd rather be talking about this than all of the other things that Congress hasn't done well," one Republican congressional aide told AFP on condition of anonymity because of possible reprisals.