Ever since the news of the foiled alleged liquid-explosive multiple-airliner plot in the UK, I’ve been racking my brain trying to recall where I’d read that the primary approach to terrorism should be internationally cooperative police work, not large-scale military operations, but that this notion had been discredited. Here we seemed to have an instance of such police work—and who noted the fact that this “ridiculous idea” seemed to pan out? I mean, who in the US government or mainstream media said, “Well, contrary to conventional wisdom, this is how you deal with a bunch of criminals intent on harming civilans—you follow the clues and track them down before they can do their nasty deeds. We can’t help noticing that the British army, navy, and air force did not take part in this operation.”

I’m being disingenuous here. I recall perfectly well it was John Kerry who articulated the “police work” idea during the campaign of 2004. He was roundly ridiculed by Cheney/Bush and their enablers in the media— “John Kerry is a big pansy who doesn’t understand we’re at war,” etc. No, the problem was, I couldn’t seem to track it down (i.e., a few minutes of Googling left me high and dry).

Well, here comes (God forgive me!) George Will to the rescue. Here’s the relevant excerpt from his column:

The London plot against civil aviation confirmed a theme of an illuminating new book, Lawrence Wright’s “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.” The theme is that better law enforcement, which probably could have prevented Sept. 11, is central to combating terrorism. F-16s are not useful tools against terrorism that issues from places such as Hamburg (where Mohamed Atta lived before dying in the North Tower of the World Trade Center) and High Wycombe, England.

Cooperation between Pakistani and British law enforcement (the British draw upon useful experience combating IRA terrorism) has validated John Kerry’s belief (as paraphrased by the New York Times Magazine of Oct. 10, 2004) that “many of the interdiction tactics that cripple drug lords, including governments working jointly to share intelligence, patrol borders and force banks to identify suspicious customers, can also be some of the most useful tools in the war on terror.” In a candidates’ debate in South Carolina (Jan. 29, 2004), Kerry said that although the war on terror will be “occasionally military,” it is “primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world.”

Immediately after the London plot was disrupted, a “senior administration official,” insisting on anonymity for his or her splenetic words, denied the obvious, that Kerry had a point. The official told The Weekly Standard:

“The idea that the jihadists would all be peaceful, warm, lovable, God-fearing people if it weren’t for U.S. policies strikes me as not a valid idea. [Democrats] do not have the understanding or the commitment to take on these forces. It’s like John Kerry. The law enforcement approach doesn’t work.”

This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional. But perhaps such rhetoric reflects the intellectual contortions required to sustain the illusion that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism, and that the war, unlike “the law enforcement approach,” does “work.”

My, my, my. It seems only the delusional are left to support Cheney/Bush in their Iraq misadventure and their saber-rattling over Iran and Syria. The folks at Media Matters for America wonder whether we can expect vicious attacks on Will from the administration and the right-wing talking heads, questioning his love of country and his sanity. ( “Why does George Will hate America?” )

Don’t hold your breath. George Will is still basically on board with the “conventional wise men.” Billmon addresses (read: demolishes) the rest of Will’s article, which wasn’t germane to the point I was making and is standard Will fare.

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  1. Anatoly
    Posted August 25, 2006 at 7:32 pm | Permalink


    Sorry for leaving an off-topic comment, but I can’t find any email address on your blog pages. About that “dantist” thing in the Crooked Timber comments: I posted about it in my (Russian-language) journal, and one of my readers alerted me to the fact that “dantist” is found in the draft chapters for one of the first versions of Master and Margarita Bulgakov had written. The “rewritten chapters” are online, and you can search for “dantist” in there to find the word.

  2. Posted August 26, 2006 at 2:23 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Anatoly. Our comments at CT kept crossing one another. The “dantist” thing was driving me nuts, and I eventually found the rewritten M&M chapters your reader located. (Isn’t that Moshkov site wonderful?) But I’m glad to hear from you directly, and look forward to exploring your journal.

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  • Proverbs for Paranoids, 3: If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.
    Gravity’s Rainbow

    ‘Is it about a bicycle?’ he asked.
    The Third Policeman