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Tough Enough?

Ezra Klein's got this just right. The notion that a group of hardcore killers, willing and eager to detonate a nuclear device in an American city, would be impressed or scared by the "toughness" of a US president is absurd. Moreover, the idea that any American president would lack the toughness to stand up to a group of hardcore killers, willing and eager to detonate a nuclear device in an American city is absurd. The issue is not toughness, it's whether or not you have policies that would be effective in preventing hardcore killers from acquiring a nuclear device. That requires toughness in certain circumstances, but it requires much more than that. Sheer willpower and willingness to shed blood are not the be-all and end-all of effective anti-proliferation policy. They're not even the beginning.

October 20, 2004 | Permalink

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» Tougher Than The Rest from Shot In The Dark
What's being tough worth? Yglesias writes:Ezra Klein's got this just right. The notion that a group of hardcore killers, willing and eager to detonate a nuclear device in an American city, would be impressed or scared by the "toughness" of... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 21, 2004 6:27:24 AM

» Compare and Contrast from Crescat Sententia
The Uncivil Litigator (via the Slithery D and Amber Taylor): I've changed my mind and, as of right now, I am voting for President Bush on November 2. I have seen and felt the importance of acting decisively and swiftly... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 21, 2004 7:44:05 AM

» How art thee wrong? Let me count the ways from The Slithery D
1. Yglesias is being too limited in his conception of who is being deterred. "Hardcore killers," whatever that means on the margins, may not be deterrable. But state sponsors like [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 21, 2004 10:25:57 AM

Comments

Right and the assault weapon ban has kept assault rifles out of the hands of bad guys. That is why during the debate that Kerry was in favor of the law, then goes on to point out that the bad guys house the police broke into had an assault weapon. But wasn't that illegal?

Oh...I get it more policies makes the bad guys scared?

But what if the policies don't work? Will we need to pass a global test before we can use force. Or will blowing up a US city be enough?

Posted by: cash27 | Oct 20, 2004 3:15:55 PM

I am afraid that if Mr. Bush is president the bad guys will think that Mr. Bush - being such a devoted Christian - is going to turn the other cheek - just as the dogma requires. And they will attack. With impunity. IOW, Christianity will do us all in - as it did the Romans.

Mr. Kerry, OTOH, being, obviously, a phony Christian, is going to do whatever has to be done to stop them.

Yes, folks, think about it - this is a real possibility.

Posted by: abb1 | Oct 20, 2004 3:16:00 PM

But Bush will give all suicide bombers the death penalty.

Posted by: theCoach | Oct 20, 2004 3:25:01 PM

cash27: take a fucking valium and address the merits of the post. Mindlessly pointing out yet another of Kerry's alleged flip flops isn't getting us anywhere. The argument is that we're not going to be able to prevent a bomb from going off in one of our major cities by making these killers scared. Do you agree with that? I do. Scarying them is not the answer because these folks are crazed. It's like the old barroom truism: "That guy isn't very tough, but he's quick to escalate." Those are the scariest guys of all and no amount of bullshit macho posturing is going to prevent you from getting your ass kicked. The key is to recognize the crazies and neutralize them before they can do any harm. That's why you need good policies and competent people carrying them out. We don't have that right now.

Posted by: fnook | Oct 20, 2004 3:30:29 PM

Frighten voters, then pose tough.

Wanna bet that's not enough? Just wait for November 3.

As for the putative terrorists with the notional A-bombs, who cares?

Oh, and Cash 27 - you wrote:

"But what if the policies don't work? Will we need to pass a global test before we can use force. Or will blowing up a US city be enough?"

Presumably this means you're in favor of preventive strikes like the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq, the catastrophic 2005 air war against Iran, and the Indo-American Pakistan condominium of 2006.

None of which, or course, prevented the explosion of black-market Russian suitcase bombs in Washington and New York in 2007.

Are you deliberately missing the point?

Posted by: Dave L | Oct 20, 2004 3:37:55 PM

the real point is that Cheney isn't talking to the terrorists. He's talking to middle-age-white-guys who have huge DVD collections of action movies, who like to think that they're tough guys, but who never served in the military and couldnt fight their way out of a paper bag.

The republican base.

Posted by: rovdjur | Oct 20, 2004 3:38:48 PM

I would agree with most of what you wrote. I wasn't pointing out any flip-flop in Kerry. I was pointing out that policies without enforcement are just that, policies.

You can have as many policies and competent people as you want. But when the policies do not work, do you create more policies? Then more policies.

At what point do you use force? Does this argument sound familiar? It should.

Posted by: cash27 | Oct 20, 2004 3:41:54 PM

We're so damn tough we don't even need to interrogate A.Q. Khan or debrief the General's secret police who shut down his proliferation factory. I've looked into Musharraf's soul and I can see that Pakistani intelligence loves freedom.

Posted by: Handle | Oct 20, 2004 3:42:20 PM

I think it's not so much about policies but rather simple competency and common sense. It's not that difficult. And when you know it makes sense to use force - you do.

Posted by: abb1 | Oct 20, 2004 3:49:37 PM

This is another example of the primacy of will with this administration. It doesn't matter what your policies are. Or even if you have any. Or if they are effective. What matters is your purity of will.

Posted by: Brian | Oct 20, 2004 3:51:00 PM

Is there any indication, any at all, that the Bush administration will ever get tough with Putin?

Because it strikes me that leaning on him to crack down on loose nukes is one of the key pillars of a credible counterproliferation policy.

Posted by: praktike | Oct 20, 2004 4:01:27 PM

cash27, nothing you said made sense and you just mindlessly repeated talking points. You might be impressed with Bush's empty rhetoric machismo, but rest assured that the terrorists are not.

Posted by: Constantine | Oct 20, 2004 4:07:29 PM

I want to go on record - I think I know Rove's October Surprise. A few days before the election, Bush will uncover and disrupt a major terrorist plot to attack a major U.S. city. After the election, we will find out that the "terrorist plot" was ridiculously overblown and exaggerated.

Posted by: joe | Oct 20, 2004 4:11:18 PM

Fake toughness was 'Bring 'em on.' We all know how well that's worked.

I now realise that Cheney's just playing the Steven Den Beste card -- with executive experience and without the anime.

Posted by: ahem | Oct 20, 2004 4:14:29 PM

Short of a rapid and revolutionary political, economic, and cultural change in the Persian Gulf, the harcore killers are more likely than not going to acquire a nuclear device, because highly motivated people with ample resources, such as access to oil revenues, nearly always eventually obtain the technology they seek. Technology simply does not remain bottled up. What will then ensue is a global slaughter, although Americans won't do the bulk of the dying. It really will be exceedingly horrific, even for those mostly on the side of the slaughterers.

Kerry, as a long-time advocate of the status quo, is completely inadequate to the task. He literally has zero chance of success. Bush, for all his faults, is far more of a risk taker, in an era in which huge risk taking is required, given the post WWII doctrine of MAD is on the precipice of becoming completely obsolete. Frankly, the odds of avoiding a global catastrophe aren't favorable, regardless of the outcome on Nov. 2.

Posted by: Will Allen | Oct 20, 2004 4:21:39 PM

When in the next 2 weeks can we expect the terror alert level to be raised? We have to be on guard for an attempt to disrupt our elections, don't you know. A Republican trick or treat?

Posted by: Just Karl | Oct 20, 2004 4:21:57 PM

http://moderncrusader.blogspot.com/

As Michael Dukakis’ Lieutenant Governor, John Forbes Kerry authored an executive order saying the state of Massachussetts would refuse to take part in any civil defense efforts in response to a nuclear attack on America: Kerry: No Response to Nuclear Attack.

Posted by: Modern Crusader | Oct 20, 2004 4:34:43 PM

In a word: Brains.

Smarts.

Intelligence.

And a world view that is fundamentally reality-based.

Like I said in a word:

Kerry.

Posted by: Barry Freed | Oct 20, 2004 4:37:01 PM

"Moreover, the idea that any American president would lack the toughness to stand up to a group of hardcore killers, willing and eager to detonate a nuclear device in an American city is absurd."

Uh, right. That's why we liberated Cuba by military force back during Kennedy's administration, and recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation to this day; Because we can't be intimidated by hardcore killers with nuclear weapons.

OF COURSE we'd be intimidated. What are we, suicidal? Now, if they actually USED them, we'd get pissed, and nuke every place that we even suspected of harboring them, and throw in the places we simply didn't like on general principles. But the threat would certainly intimidate us. That's why every petty tyrant wants nuclear weapons: To deter us from "regime change". And deterence is just intimidation.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Oct 20, 2004 4:39:54 PM

"Kerry, as a long-time advocate of the status quo, is completely inadequate to the task. He literally has zero chance of success. Bush, for all his faults, is far more of a risk taker, in an era in which huge risk taking is required[.]"

I keep hearing people saying this, and I honestly don't understand it. What in Kerry's resume and public statements leads you to believe Kerry will not aggressively pursue and attack terrorists, or will not aggressively pursue new strategies to prevent the spread of WMD to terrorists? Kerry prosecuted organized crime and played the lead role in bringing down BCCI. He is vastly more experienced in hunting and disabling the types of enemies we now face than anyone in the Bush administration. He inspires people to believe he pays attention to intelligence and objective reality. He has publicly supported administration dissidents like Richard Clarke, who blew the whistle on the arrogance and obliviousness rampant among Bush's security regime that has led to the debacle in Iraq. He is, in short, tremendously more qualified than Bush to lead the nation in a Global War On Terror. This is not just knee-jerk Bush-hating; I sincerely do not comprehend why people believe Bush is more qualified than Kerry to fight this fight. Do you have any particular examples in mind? Please avoid reliance on GOP talking points, if possible.

Posted by: Handle | Oct 20, 2004 4:40:14 PM

Can we all agree on a single set of ground-rules?

It seems that folks who support Bush are inclined to believe that nothing he said/did before 9/11 matters because it fundamentally altered the world (for example his disdain for nation-building).

If you folks believe that, then you should also agree that Kerry's prior positions are off-limits unless you can pass what I would suggest is a very high bar: you have to prove that Kerry's world view was not fundamentally altered by 9/11 AND that Bush's was.

Alternatively, we can agree that everyone's worldview is constantly evolving and that events always have some impact, but that prior do bear evaluation as they will likely inform future behavior.

In that case Kerry supporters do have a lot of defense to play as evidenced by the Mass. position described above, but I'm not certain that Bush supporters have any less as they'd then have to somehow find a way to square Bush's stated committment to securing both Iraq and Afganistan and his stated antipathy to nation-building (although there is some evidence that what results is, well, what we've got: occupation-lite).

Posted by: tim | Oct 20, 2004 4:48:29 PM

That's why every petty tyrant wants nuclear weapons: To deter us from "regime change". And deterence is just intimidation.

This is very good, Brett, very Orwellian.

Deterence is Intimidation.

That's right - 'we' have a right to do a "regime change" anywhere 'we' want - and they intimidate 'us' by deterring 'us'.

This is good. Keep posting, I like it.

Posted by: abb1 | Oct 20, 2004 4:53:19 PM

America's richest and greediest Senator, John Forbes Kerry, says he is for regime change and he also voted for it. He must've been lying again.

Posted by: Modern Crusader | Oct 20, 2004 5:04:30 PM

handle, your post nicely illustrates my point, in that you also evidently believe that the point is to "aggressively pursue and attack terrorists"...or "aggressively pursue new strategies to prevent the spread of WMD to terrorists"... If only it were that simple. Short of a rapid political, economic, and cultural transformation of the region in which a large percentage of the world's most important natural resource lies, killing Osama Bin Laden (assuming he isn't already dead) or attempting to secure loose nuclear material is pointless, in that highly motivated people with ample resources will ALWAYS eventually evade whatever preventative measures that are pursued. Until and unless the Persian Gulf is changed in a revolutionary manner, the War on Terror (oh, how I dislike that term) will be about as successful as the War on Drugs, which is to say not at all. Kerry, whatever you may say about him, has shown nothing to indicate that he will pursue a revolutionary path. He is, like many in the Democratic Party, and not a few in the Republican Party, hanging on to a world that had disappeared.

Posted by: Will Allen | Oct 20, 2004 5:06:41 PM

Well, tim, Kerry himself has said that the events of 9/11 did not change his world view substantially.

Posted by: Will Allen | Oct 20, 2004 5:10:55 PM

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