Thursday, July 13, 2006

You might be surprised to hear that I read something absurd on the internet!

Occasionally, I like to read a few right-wing blogs. Don’t worry: I don’t do this because I sympathize with their point-of-view or because I want to broaden myself or anything noble like that. Once in awhile, I check them out to see what the current conservative cause du jour is, but usually I’m just looking to fulfill my daily kitsch quota. The right-wing sites are fascinating to me. Relentlessly partisan themselves, they’re always griping about someone else’s bias. Cocooned in their infallible ideology, they get a kick out of painting their opposition as robotic, talking-points-mouthing drones. Angry on a daily basis about some new affront to conservatism, they nonetheless accuse liberals of being the unhinged ones. It’s weird and exhausting. I can’t see how they can keep it up day in and day out.

Once in awhile, however, I read something that stands out for me. Usually it highlights one of the wacky traits of contemporary conservatism in such a jaw-droppingly spectacular fashion that it can’t be ignored. To that end, I present you with “It’s Time To Get Serious” from the “Anti-Strib” blog, a local website dedicated to hatin’ on Muslims and giving us namby-pamby tax-raising Al-Qaeda coddlin’ liberals the sharp end of the stick. Please go and read it.

Are you back? Good! As you probably noticed, the article was essentially a “hell yeah” to an article on another Minnesota right-winger blog that was, in itself, a “hell yeah” to an op-ed in the New York Post. This is the “Russian Nesting Doll” mode of internet discourse. The point of it all is that we’re not doing enough to kill terrorists. We need to stop with all this wussy catch-and-imprison business, because all that does is give the New York Times the rhetorical ammunition to undermine our national security. To paraphrase Conrad, we ought to exterminate the brutes.

Now, this strikes me as not-very-sound reasoning, but before I explain why, let me confess that have at least a little sympathy for Mr. Rambix. International terrorism is an awful thing. It would be better if we didn’t have to deal with it. I can understand the longing for a Jerry Bruckheimer world where we can simply send a platoon of Rambos into the Middle East to rescue our way of life once and for all. That isn’t going to happen, though, and since it isn’t going to happen many people opt for a kind of magical thinking. Why can’t we just kill the bad guys?, they ask, and the answer that they usually find helps to comfort them.

That answer is, of course, that we can’t because “half of America, the MSM, and many of our lawmakers are not serious about the “War on Terror”. A messy foreign problem thus becomes an easy, black-and-white domestic issue. If liberals would just get serious about the War on Terror, if the New York Times would just stop stabbing Bush in the back, we would win. For conservatives of this stripe, terrorists are the enemy they don’t understand and aren’t comfortable with. They’d much rather duke it out with their fellow Americans, the detested liberals. That way the debate can be on their terms, fought with the tried-and-true rhetorical tools they’ve grown so adept at. With this in place, they don’t have to know many actual facts about the history of the Middle East, the capabilities of our intelligence services and military, and the current conditions under which the War on Terror is being fought. They can simply imagine that all that tangled business will just work itself out if their ideological adversaries stopped being so adversarial.

And let’s parse that proposal a little further. Putting aside it’s moral dubiousness, how would this “kill ‘em all” policy even be possible? What information would we gain about possible terrorist plots if all we did was summarily execute them? While the New York Post asserts that “few [terrorists] have serious intelligence value...”, how exactly would we know that if we just shot them on sight? How would we know they were a terrorist to begin with? Or should we just kill anyone who fits our “terrorist profile”? That they hold this proposal out there as a way to avoid further embarrassing human-rights scandals is amusing in a sick sort of way. Furthermore, how will this end terrorism? Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the whole martyrdom angle hold a lot of appeal for terrorists these days? Do they seriously think that potential terrorists will be deterred by this “become a terrorist and we’ll kill you!” program?

The sad and scary truth is that there’s a lot of terrorists out there. There are only going to be more in the years to come. We can’t slaughter our way into an golden age of peace and security. Terrorism shouldn’t be thought of as a discreet group of evildoers that we can just kill into oblivion but as a sociohistorical phenomenon, one we’re still learning to deal with. Conservatives like to caricature liberals as hippie-dippy types who think that we can end terrorism by being nice to extremists. While I know of no actual, flesh-and-blood liberal who thinks like this, I’ve read plenty of right-wingers who have their own feel-good fantasies about the War on Terror. Put their starkest form, those fantasies all say pretty much the same thing: our civilization is the only thing standing in the way of saving our civilization.