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  What Would Daschle Do?
by Brian S. Wise
15 November 2002

Wondering what the Left would do if it were fighting Al Qaeda? So is the Left.

Reports the New York Times, “American intelligence agencies came under renewed attack in Congress today for failing to find Osama bin Laden, with the increasing certainty that he is still alive prompting senior Democratic senators to brand the effort to dismantle Al Qaeda as a failure.” In this case that means Tom Daschle and Bob Graham, the former having said, “We can't find bin Laden, we haven't made real progress in finding key elements of Al Qaeda. They continue to be as great a threat today as they were one and a half years ago. So by what measure can we claim to be successful so far?”

Easy there, Tommy. It’s not like George W. Bush is the first president to make a promise he wasn’t able to keep right away; remember that “The era of big government is over” stuff? America in its entirety is still waiting for that promise to be kept, so bring it down a little. And it’s not as though Al Qaeda as a whole hangs out at the moose lodge waiting for bin Laden to show up and pass out everyone’s instructions … it took years for Al Qaeda to spread out over the world and take the shape we currently understand, so it’s going to take more than carpet bombing some mountain ranges in a third world toilet country to end either Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden.

Thing is, Tom Daschle understands all of that. So why doesn’t he understand that when comments such as his are made – in front of other people, no less, and cameras! – he doesn’t do damage to the administration as it conducts its “war on terrorism,” just his party’s forward movement in general? And what, if the administration’s handling of the bin Laden matter is so inept, would the senior Senator from South Dakota recommend as the next logical steps for finding and killing Osama bin Laden? That sort of coherent strategy would have gone a long way in swaying undecided voters for the mid-term elections … four weeks ago, but still.

That’s just it: the Left doesn’t have a better idea. If you accept the beginning premise (that these movements against Al Qaeda represent a “war on terrorism”), then you must accept that it’s an unparalleled in the modern age of warfare. Unlike the Iraqis, Vietnamese, North Koreans, Krauts and Japanese, who, in representing their countries in wars against America, had the common decency to readily present themselves for shootings and bombings, Al Qaeda has given the American forces no suck consideration. Unusual battle tends to trouble those who are used to fighting conventionally, and so special provisions have to be made for an enemy that, for whatever its reasons, has the gall to operate in private, and who would rather be destroyed in glorious jihad than by Zionist-loving dogs.

People trust Republicans in touchy matters of foreign affairs and warfare because the Right is less likely to coddle the enemy than we are to seeking it out and destroying it, which proves infinitely more satisfying than arresting and trying them. (In this and future columns on the subject, “enemy” is being used to describe those who are most likely to victimize American citizens as they roam freely through the streets or, in the case of the Tragedies, at work.) No, I don’t happen to believe that if Al Gore were in office he would have taken the fight to Al Qaeda any less than President Bush has thus far, but there happened to be a liberal of greater stature than Gore in office for eight previous years who took no substantive actions against Al Qaeda despite the first World Trade Center bombing, the embassy bombings, the USS Cole (et cetera) which suggests the Right has the better idea on how to respond to terrorism in general.

Patience, Tom, we’ll get bin Laden. Rome wasn’t built in a day, either. The end of bin Laden isn’t a Republican mandate (and shouldn’t be), rather a policy that will outlive this administration if it must, and the next if necessary, to say nothing of the next and the next and the next. There will come a day when an American soldier or operative will put a bullet through bin Laden’s towel-encased skull, and we will celebrate his death, call him slippery and grieve again for those he ordered killed. But we will get him, just not on a timeline that’s politically convenient, that’s all.

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