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Hullabaloo


Sunday, November 23, 2003

 
Action, Reaction


Jesse writes about Tom Friedman's latest intrepid foray into obviousness -- "the 2000's are the era of the Security Man," and points out the odd contradictory messages the Bush people push to maintain the sense of unreality about the "war" we are fighting.

But, the most amusing riff in Friedman's little Sunday epiphany is this gem:

We had to react, but we must stop overreacting. Terrorists win when they prevent us from enjoying and spreading our values. We defeat them not just by how we react, but by how we don't react.


That's so true. Overreaction is self-defeating isn't it? Especially when the perpetrators are trying to provoke an overreaction. You might even say it plays right into their hands.

Of course, Friedman and I disagree just a little on what constitutes overreaction. I tend to think its an overreaction to invade a country that had nothing to do with the terrorist attack just so that we could swing our giant manhood all over the mideast --- particularly when the aftermath of that little demonstration has illustrated to the entire world that we are not exactly omnipotent. And, when that act ends up creating even more terrorists, I can't help but think that such action might be a bit counterproductive to the cause of fighting terrorism. But, that's just me.

Tom thinks overreaction is when a "Security Man" for Colin Powell cancels a speech for security concerns. (I guess it never crosses his mind that Powell might have cancelled his speech for the same reason Junior cancelled his --- heckling concerns.)

I suppose that it was always understandable that Americans would react to 9/11 with shock, horror and a blind desire to hit back. But, it is usually believed that leaders, whether of men or beltway opinion, would set aside their emotions as quickly as possible and employ their rational minds to solve the problem and guide the country through the crisis. One might even say that this defines leadership.

Tom didn't agree with that. He said:

No, the axis-of-evil idea isn't thought through - but that's what I like about it. It says to these countries and their terrorist pals: "We know what you're cooking in your bathtubs. We don't know exactly what we're going to do about it, but if you think we are going to just sit back and take another dose from you, you're wrong. Meet Don Rumsfeld - he's even crazier than you are."

There is a lot about the Bush team's foreign policy I don't like, but their willingness to restore our deterrence, and to be as crazy as some of our enemies, is one thing they have right. It is the only way we're going to get our turkey back.


I'd hate to accuse Tom of overreacting, seeing as how he's against it and all, but that just sounded a little bit over the top to me. The administration, enabled by a totalitarian patriotic fervor, pretty much did as Dr. Friedman ordered. We defied the whole world and lashed out like a puerile, glass jawed bully, crazed with fear and anger.

So, it's nice that Tom has belatedly realized that "we defeat them not just by how we react, but by how we don't react" but he hasn't quite grasped the larger message yet. He seems to believe that the concept of overreaction applies only to the parochial trope that the terrorists win when we can't "enjoy and spread our values."

Sometimes, Tom, the terrorists win when we overreact and drain the resources actually fighting terrorism to invade a country that had nothing to do with terrorism and end up creating even more terrorists. It may not be in the same league as making Colin Powell cancel a speech he didn't want to make, but it sure as hell looks like a win to me.






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