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.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?
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. . . .
[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.