Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:36 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:36 | SYDNEY

Romney hyperventilations


Sam Roggeveen


8 February 2008 09:19

Here's Mitt Romney’s announcing his withdrawal from the Republican presidential nomination race:

I disagree with Senator McCain on a number of issues, as you know. But I agree with him on doing whatever it takes to be successful in Iraq, on finding and executing Osama bin Laden, and on eliminating Al Qaeda and terror. If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.

American bloggers have focused on the rabid partisanship of the remark, equating a vote for the Democrats with a vote for Osama bin Laden. But let’s also spare a moment to reflect on the bloodthirstiness of it – Romney could have added just a single word to this paragraph (‘…finding, trying and executing…’) for a veneer of due process, but he apparently couldn’t spare it.

And it’s all so counterproductive. As The Washington Post's William Arkin points out in relation to Bush’s State of the Union, hyping the terror threat just does the terrorists’ work for them:

Every time the president mentions al Qaeda in Iraq, he is advertising a brand. Al Qaeda's success from the very beginning has not just been the appeal of Osama bin Laden's description of Islam under attack, nor even the abundance of angry, dissatisfied, and driven men; nor has it necessarily even been anti-Americanism. The success has been a macabre form of his success and the hope it suggests. When U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were attacked in 1998, bin Laden's first spectacular and a follow-on to his fatwa that declared war on the enemies of Islam, volunteers flooded in. Young men who had never even heard of bin Laden were captivated: someone was striking back in their name.

Why these young men are fighting, not just in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but in Europe and Somalia and the Philippines and elsewhere is so complex. The president insists on framing the battle as freedom versus tyranny, but as my friend Fred Kaplan writes for Slate, "Does he believe what he's saying? Does he believe that the violent battles for power in these lands really come down to freedom vs. tyranny? If so, no wonder this government has had such a hard time getting a handle on these dangers, much less trying to engage them."

By conferring such power on al Qaeda, by framing a bigger battle between healthy nations and a marginal terrorist organization, the president is mightily adding to the al Qaeda mystique. We are successful enough to pin down hundreds of thousands of American forces, many terrorists and would-be terrorists think. We are responsible for all of those deaths and injuries against the world's greatest army. We are the centerpiece of the president's State of the Union address, they must happily observe.