In the mid-1930s, France was confronted with the rising threat of Nazi Germany. While France had the power to crush the incipient menace single handedly, it did not, preferring to wait until it had assistance from Britain or the U.S. As Hitler took one aggressive step after another, France responded with appeasement. They also built the Maginot Line, an extensive security barrier on their border with Germany. They counted on this static defense to protect them right up to the moment when the German Army swept through Belgium, around the Line, and into Paris. So many lessons can be drawn from this historical example: the risks of inaction, the folly of waiting for allies to appear, the ineffectiveness of passive defense. Unfortunately John Kerry, despite the lessons of his French forebears, has learned none of them.
Consider John Kerry's comment that combating terrorism is foremost a law enforcement issue. This is how Bill Clinton, and to be fair pre-9/11 George W. Bush, treated terrorism, all while al Qaeda was perpetrating increasingly bold attacks and the U.S. was taking no serious action to disrupt their plans. That mindset is as discredited as the notion that appeasing Hitler was the way to reduce his aggressiveness. When he speaks of a "global manhunt," Kerry implies that that we can round up terrorists when they operate within the borders of hostile regimes like Syria and Iran. This is total nonsense. When the U.S. asked the Taliban to cough up Osama and company, they refused. We had to invade Afghanistan and drive its rulers from power before we were able to achieve the successes we've had, rounding up, by some accounts, 75 percent of al Qaeda leadership and closing a ring around bin Laden.
Accusing the Bush administration of moving too rashly, and without the aid of traditional allies such as France and Germany, suggests that a Democratic president would wait indefinitely for assistance that would never come. France, Germany, and Russia have had it in for us since the end of the Cold War. Events in the Balkans and relative power disparities have created an abiding resentment of the U.S. that would forestall serious cooperation in fighting terror, whether our President were a blunt Texan or a clean-fingernails Bostonian.
So what would John Kerry do as president? The modern-day equivalent of the Maginot Line. He would fork billions of dollars over to local governments for them to spend on homeland security. First, as an aside, does anyone doubt that local jurisdictions like New York and San Francisco will find ways to classify HIV awareness, themed puppet theater, and anti-Christian fecal artwork as homeland security measures? But even if some of the money goes to legitimate expenses, it is inefficient to have thousands of investigators traipsing around hoping to happen upon incipient terrorism. By the time local law enforcement comes on the scene of attacks it is too late, because the terrorists have already eluded federal authorities.
Unfortunately, that possibility is increasingly likely under Kerry's strategy, because like most Democrats, he soundly denounces the Patriot Act and its implementation. This sensible measure, in sum, allows intelligence and law enforcement agencies to cooperate, and provides them with the same tools for fighting terror that they already use against mobsters and drug runners.
Despite many successes in disrupting terrorist cells and attacks, the Patriot Act has provoked a truly bizarre uproar. The absurdity of whole books being written with titles like How the Patriot Act Is Repressing Dissent does not occur to hysterics like Kerry. Nobody can really provide a cogent description of how exactly civil liberties are being violated by the Ashcroft Justice Department, but, then again, vague screeching is much harder to refute than specific examples, especially when such examples do not exist.
George W. Bush and his administration know that the U.S. cannot duplicate the mistakes of pre-war France and hope to survive as a free society. Mercifully, terrorists have not struck on U.S. soil since 9/11. Ascribing this result entirely to coincidence requires an amount of chutzpah the whole Democratic Party combined just might possess. We may never know the relative roles the killing of al Qaeda members overseas, the fear of God the U.S. strikes in former terror-sponsoring regimes such as Libya and Pakistan, the vigilance and skill of the Justice Department, and other Bush initiatives all played in protecting this country. One thing we should know is that our country is at war, and to abandon any of these weapons, as John Kerry would have us do, is to court catastrophe.