Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Centrism and the Threat of an "American Hiroshima"

Marcus Cicero has an amazing post, on both Donklephant and Between Hope and Fear, titled "Sitzkrieg's End." He has bestowed a name, analogous to and as potent as "Cold War," on the paradoxical waiting game we're playing with the jihadis:
The rules of M.A.D. -- all or nothing -- gave us a false sense of safety during the Cold War. In an all-or-nothing world mired in a vast global political struggle, each side could attain relative normalcy. Normal life was disproportionate to the high stakes of the nuclear standoff -- and we got used to it. All those layers of morality we built over that blinding apocalyptic core of immaculate annihilation could work a lot of miracles, providing that the promise of destruction was mutual, and total.

It turns out the Cold War amounted to an entire half century of having it all, creating nominal safety. The nothing part of M.A.D. -- Armageddon -- never came to pass. And so we did indeed create a playground of prosperity: Shopping malls, freeways, cheap global travel, and the Internet; the plethora of things, rock-n-roll, the rise of socialism and multiculturalism; baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet. We got very used to that. Three generations grew up in the soil of transparent global war.

M.A.D. conditioned us to have our cake and eat it too. But today's WMD perils are unlike the days of M.A.D. In the Cold War, we could depend on the rationality of our adversaries, the Soviets. We could mutually agree on something, heinous as it was. . . .

Since 9/11 we have enjoyed the seemingly endless dawn of Sitzkrieg -- a period of declared emergency, but undeclared war. Our malls remain open, and gasoline flows freely. The housing market is hot. Mobilization for war is something we read about. But now there are multiple indications that terrorist nukes are either here, or coming, or in the making. Perhaps this is a long way off; perhaps it's hearsay; perhaps it is close at hand. . . .
Now our adversary is nihilistic and irrational, and mass destruction has become much more possible precisely because it is not total. Cicero's question is: are centrists tough enough to take this on -- tough enough to do what's necessary to prevent at least some of it (like cracking down on the Mexican border), tough enough to keep a reeling post-attack society from careening into extremism?
[I]f we want a meaningful definition of centrism, it should be something that can withstand the shocks of catastrophic terror. . . . It must work with the realities of our time, even if they're cataclysmic.
If not, our principled and reasonable moderation is nothing but a luxury of these fat, queasy times, and will be blown away by the blast wave of the first smuggled nuke. A must, must, must read.


At 4:43 PM, Blogger Sam Nicolas said...

“Centrism is based on moderate politics.”
If by this he means that Centrism is merely a moderation, or contrived consensus, between extreme liberal and conservative views, I must disagree. The Middle has specific viewpoints. The views are, in fact, the majority views. What is lacking is leadership for, and artful articulation of, the views.

“A centrist majority relies on politics that accompany the safety of a reliable monopoly of power, and the wealth it creates. ...”
I have a hard time buying into the concept that perilous times bring out the worst in us. Will the Middle majority abandon its principles, abandon common sense, abandon morality, abandon the lessons of time and history, because of 9/11, WMD, Kim Jung II, China’s sabers or Iran’s irrationality? No. I say that if anything, these are the things that make the Middle stand up and be counted! It’s situations like these when we just don’t have time to listen much to the wacko’s on the far left and the far right, but instead search for bright and courageous leaders for the common sense of the Middle.

Sam Nicolas

At 8:01 PM, Blogger Tom Strong said...

Spot-on, as they say.

Sam, I hear and agree with your first concern, but I think Cicero is arguing against such a contrived consensus. He specifically says "But if we want a meaningful definition of centrism, it should be something that can withstand the shocks of catastrophic terror."

As for the other concern, I'd say that perilous times bring out the best AND the worst in us. He got unfairly raked over the coals for it, but Tommy Franks' comment last year that another 9/11 would lead to military law in the US was bracingly honest, and something we need to be prepared for.

It seems very likely to me that there will be more 9/11s, and possibly worse. While I'm willing to endure the militarization that may follow, I'm not willing to see the US move away from democracy as a result.

At 11:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our porous borders make this doomsday scenario inevitable because American growers and the others who make their profits off cheap labor run both parties and fixing the borders is not in their interest.

At 11:36 PM, Blogger AubreyJ said...

We can shut down all the boarders, build a fence like our friends in Israel, almost strip search everyone that comes into this great country of ours… Yet if the terrorists want to get us… They will… We can throw all the money in the world into trying to secure every single public place in the States… but if they want to do major damage to us… They will… Our President has this one right. We have to stop them over there, before they come to our country and try to KILL US. All the fancy words and mile long statements will not change this simple fact.
Great post Amba.....


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