IF YOU WATCHED LAST WEEK'S REPUBLICAN DEBATE, HERE'S SOMETHING YOU SHOULD READ
Sunday Dec 20, 2015
It’s still all about Dick Cheney. When it comes to the Republican approach to national security and terrorism, it is his philosophy that governs. As quoted in Ron Suskind’s book The One Percent Doctrine, here’s the ‘brains’ behind the invasion of Iraq (you remember that one—the worst decision in the history of U.S. foreign policy and the reason we now have ISIS):
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It was deeply disturbing to hear Republican candidates channel this Cheney-ite thinking during last week’s presidential debate (or just about any other time they open their mouths). Theyhyperventilated about how we should respond to terrorism—at least when it’s committed by Islamic radicals, because when right-wing Christian zealots commit such acts of murder the only response, apparently, is prayer.
Suskind elaborated further: “At this moment the Vice President officially separates analysis from action, allows for an evidence-free model to move forward, and says suspicion may be all we have to use the awesome powers of the United States.”
We heard Ted Cruz’s call for us to “carpet-bomb”—which, separate from the ethical and moral question of killing thousands of civilians whose only crime is to live in a place conquered by ISIS, military experts overwhelmingly dismissed as “unrealistic and counterproductive.” We heard Donald Trump’s call to simply end all Muslim immigration to the U.S.
What about the supposedly mainstream candidates? “Moderate” Chris Christie began his debate performance thusly:
Think about just what's happened today. The second largest school district in America in Los Angeles closed based on a threat. Think about the effect that, that's going to have on those children when they go back to school tomorrow wondering filled with anxiety to whether they're really going to be safe … I've fought terrorists and won and when we get back in the White House we will fight terrorists and win again and America will be safe.
Only in such a climate of fear can an approach like Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine make sense. Republican are trying to whip people into a frenzy, then convince them that only by taking extreme steps can their government keep them “safe.” And, of course, only Republicans have the you-know-whats to take those extreme steps because “political correctness,” blah, blah, blah.
Imagine what would happen in various everyday situations were the Cheney doctrine to be applied. A young man is in a bar and another man gives him a hard stare. If the young Cheneyite feels threatened and believes the probability to be at least 1 percent that the other man will shoot him, then he has a right to preemptively shoot him in "self-defense."
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As Paulos makes clear, the “response” to a potential threat might actually make us less safe than we’d otherwise have been. This reality, however, doesn’t penetrate Republican thinking—if one can call it that—which demands action now (dammit!) while rejecting things like analysis and evidence. After all, those are just obstacles effete intellectuals put in the way of what real men know is the correct “response.”
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The Cheney Doctrine assumes, wrongly, that there are two states of existence: We are either “safe” or we are not. The reality is this: Terrorism, even though it feels like it could happen anywhere at any time, is almost certainly not going to kill you or your family if you live in the United States. Take a look at all the terrible things that are more likely to befall Americans than being killed by a terrorist, and consider how we deal with those kinds of threats. Yes, you really are more likely to be killed by a lightning bolt. Knowing the level of the threat is necessary in order to properly assess the best response.