On What the Liberal Answer to Terrorism and Iraq Should Be

A discussion/debate between Katrina vanden Heuvel and John Ikenberry on what the liberal response to terrorism and the war should be. Ikenberry:

One group [of liberals] is what she calls the “beltway crusaders” – center-right Democrats who want to wage a global battle against jihadism and Islamic fascism, updating and recreating the liberal anti-communism of the Truman and Kennedy years. These folks essentially buy the Bush administration’s argument that jihadist terrorism is the overriding security threat facing America. The challenge for Democrats is to convince the public that they can do a better job of waging this global struggle…What is the other side of this liberal debate — and is there any hope of finding common ground?…

I can think of three types of liberals who agree that terrorism is the fundamental national security issue of our time – but who deeply disagree with the Bush approach to the problem. (1) Some liberals think that terrorism is the big threat but argue that the sources of terrorism are not directly related to despotism in the Middle East or even really situated in that region. We should be worrying about alienated cultural-religious groups in Europe (and Canada) and not developments in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran. (2) Other liberals think that terrorism is the big threat but that doing what the Bush administration is doing in Iraq and elsewhere is actually making the problem worse. In effect, we need to get out of the Middle East and reduce our “footprint” in the region, while we need to also push much harder for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. (3) Still other liberals think that terrorism is the big issue but argue that the solutions run in the direction of much more ambitious and intrusive international monitoring, enforcement, and regulatory mechanisms – in effect, it requires a revolution is arms control, disarmament, and WMD technological inspection regimes.

The final group of skeptics actually get off the bus first. (4) They don’t think that terrorism is actually the preeminent threat facing America. It is a problem but the danger is that an obsession with this threat makes it more likely we will miss other looming threats and challenges. The challenge for American national security is to “end” the war on terrorism and rethink threats, opportunities, principles and strategies.