The Bush administration pursued a dual policy toward Islamic terrorism. In the short term, it relied on vigorous military and covert action against the terrorists and their allies. In the long term, it sought to drain the swamp that breeds terrorism by bringing democracy (and, thereby, modernity) to the Arab world. That second strategy was controversial, among conservatives as well as liberals. But, as I wrote in a series of posts going back to 2003, I supported it in part because no plausible long-term alternative was on the table. This post, for example, was written in March 2005:
The Bush administration believed that if the door to democracy and reform were opened in Iraq, much of the Arab world might follow. This was always a big gamble–one that we supported in part because, as we’ve often said, no one has proposed a competing plan to deal, long-term, with the problem of Islamic terrorism.
As we have also noted repeatedly over the years, to the extent liberals have articulated an alternative strategy, it always comes down to the same thing–sell out Israel. I wrote this, for example, in October 2005:
When pressed for an alternative to President Bush’s policy of vigorous military action against Islamic terrorism, the suggestion most often given by those on the left is to sell out Israel. They blame the terrorists’ antipathy toward the U.S. on our friendship with Israel, and argue that if America pursued a more pro-Palestinian policy, the terrorists would leave us alone. We have always thought this was folly, for a number of reasons.
We have consistently said that we oppose the Democrats’ Plan B because 1) it is dishonorable, and 2) it won’t work, any more than persuading the crocodile to eat the other guy first will work.
Here is my point: the “new policy” that President Obama is pursuing toward Israel is nothing more than an implementation of the alternative to the Bush administration’s policies that liberals have been promoting at least since 2003. It is not primarily the result of Obama’s personal antipathy toward Israel (although he does appear to feel such antipathy). Rather, Obama is implementing a longstanding liberal consensus on the Middle East; a consensus that flourishes, for example, inside the State Department. What we are seeing from the Obama administration–a policy of appeasing Muslim extremists by selling out Israel–is exactly what we should have expected from any Democratic administration in this period of history. The left, having rejected the Bush administration’s strategies of resolute military action and pro-democracy idealism, has no other policy to offer.
PAUL adds: In this excellent post, John assumes that President Obama is reacting to the same perceived threat of terrorism that President Bush did, only in a different way. Bush adopted something like the neo-conservative response to the threat; Obama is adopting the left-liberal response.
John may well be right. But it’s also possible that Obama doesn’t take the threat posed by terrorism nearly as seriously as Bush did — indeed, that he doesn’t consider terrorism very much of a threat at all. This view is just as much a part of the left-liberal mindset as Israel bashing is. It’s why liberals tend to view terrorism as a law enforcement issue; it’s why John Kerry inartfully compared terrorism to prostituion and illegal gambling and why others compare it to traffic accidents, on the theory that a certain amount of death is the cost of doing business.
If this is how Obama sees things, then Plan B is, for him, Plan A. In other words, the grave threat that other people see from terrorism provides Obama with the opportunity (the “crisis,” as Rahm Emanuel would put it) to strike a blow for “social justice” by assisting a group with whom he sympathizes — the Palestinians — at the expense of a state he dislikes — Israel.