Terrorism is distracting America

PHOTO: John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee

John Kerry was right.

In 2004, Kerry said “We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives but they’re a nuisance.” He said he we had to contain it, so “it’s not threatening the fabric of your life.”

Bush’s response was predictably insulting, simpleminded and inaccurate. “I couldn’t disagree more,” Bush said. “Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance. Our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive.” As if terrorism was an organization that could be defeated and not a tactic, like assassination or kidnapping. And, of course, it didn’t matter that Bush had staked out a similar position to Kerry’s during a handful of previous occasions.

But I digress.

Last night I was reading over recent posts on Tony Karon’s blog when I came across one titled Honey, I Shrank the Superpower. In that post, I was reintroduced to the aforementioned quote by Kerry and struck by this:

The fading of Pax Americana in the wider Middle East is partly a product of Bush’s over-reach and over-reliance on force and the threat of force. But it is also a symptom of epic, economically-driven shifts — the rise of China and India, Russia’s resurgence and Europe’s steady expansion, to name a few — that have redefined the global power equation. […] The “war on terror,” as Kerry seemed to grasp in that much pilloried and quickly retracted statement, had distracted the American political class from reckoning with the impact of profound changes underway in the global order.

We’re off our moorings in America. Since we spend the vast majority of our foreign policy resources on the Middle East (Iraq in particular), we’ve become bystanders in the affairs of the rest of world. This tunnel vision becomes more unforgivable when you step back and view the full panorama that is the complete failure our Middle East policies.

Mired in Iraq, wasting trillions of dollars. Check.

Even more hard line party elected in the occupied territories of Palestine. Check.

Failed proxy war in Lebanon. Hezbollah seen as regional heroes. Check.

Iran stronger than ever, allied with Russia and China. Check.

Turkey striking the one stable part of Iraq. Check.

It was never realistic that we could remain the world’s sole superpower forever, and we still have a lot further to fall before someone else (or a group of nations) catches up. But how we spend our resources and attention now can make a big difference in whether we will decline gracefully or continue to plummet. We need to be talking more about how we’re going to address our massive debt to China. What we’ll do about ever increasing oil prices. How we can better educate ourselves to compete with China, India, Russia and the EU. Should we be playing more of a role in Kosovo? Is there anything we can or should do about Russia?

The world is changing. We should pay attention.

Flickr photo by ficusrock

One Comment

  1. Ian

    I haven’t commented on this thread yet cause, well, this is what I have been screaming for a long time now.