- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2007

P resident Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address misconceived the terrorist threat, ignored history, and stretched national security beyond plausible limits. It championed a utopian agenda to free the planet of tyranny and violence, especially in the Middle East.

According to the president, if that mission fails, America’s security and freedom will be imperiled. The underlying message: The commander in chief must be armed to the teeth with maximum war powers until every opponent of liberty and every condition that provokes hatred is extinguished from the face of the Earth.

President Bush’s national security reasoning would engulf the United States in perpetual warfare around the globe. Yet no presidential aspirant for 2008 has questioned his terrorist-national security syllogism — an alarming silence.

The president maintained the war against terrorism “is more than a clash of arms — it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our nation is in the balance.” But al Qaeda sports no ideology like communism, fascism or anarchism worthy of the name, no more so than did the Barbary Pirates.

Global terrorists do not raise a philosophical challenge to Western civilization. They do not threaten the overthrow of the United States Constitution by force, violence or otherwise. They do not awaken mass rallies in America. They are not even a shadow of the pre-World War II German-American Bund or Communist Party U.S.A.

The president’s inflation of the terrorist danger to the Soviet Red Army or Hitler’s Luftwaffe risks transforming the nation into a permanent garrison state where executive power rules to the exclusion of Congress or the judiciary. What do the 2008 candidates think?

President Bush insisted that to prevail in the war against terrorism, “we must remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred, and drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and to come to kill us.” But experts are generally clueless as to what conditions breed terrorists, whose deviancy represents a minuscule percentage of the world’s teeming population.

The 19 referred to by Mr. Bush came from varied educational, economic and social backgrounds. Why they choose to become mass murderers is problematic. Osama bin Laden was born into a wealthy family. Several of the hijackers of September 11, 2001, were highly educated. Other terrorists have been ill-educated or economically deprived. Some are transformed by the sermons of the mosque or the teachings of madrassas. If every condition that contributes to terrorism must be extirpated to win the war, then the United States must conquer and occupy most of the world and usher in the Millennium.

President Bush elaborated that, “What every terrorist fears most is human freedom-societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their own hopes instead of their resentments.” The president had shared the same diagnosis with Congress shortly after September 11: “They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”

But if freedom is the condition that infuriates terrorists, then Mr. Bush is absurdly arguing that freedom must be removed to stop the terrorism, a variation of better Red than dead. Moreover, nonfree countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Russia have been attacked by terrorists.

In addition, just as crime can be defeated by apprehensions, prosecutions and punishments without curing every condition that makes crime more likely, terrorism can be stymied with detentions, trials and convictions without ending every condition that contributes to making a terrorist.

Mr. Bush further preached that, “Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies — and most will choose a better way when they’re give the chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates and reformers and brave voices for democracy.” But some people do freely vote to support malevolent parties or ideologies. Think of Hamas, Hezbollah, or the Iranian Revolution led by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. President Bush shies from forcing an election on Pakistan’s Gen. Pervez Musharraf because of fears the jihadists would prevail. Ditto for Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah. In Bosnia and Kosovo, United Nations or NATO officials are endowed with ultimate sovereignty because of fears popularly elected majorities would oppress minorities. In Iraq, Mr. Bush similarly forced a popularly elected Shi’ite majority to cede some power to Sunnis to avoid their complete subjugation.

Finally, the president announced as a national security imperative the transformation of the Middle East from autocratic to free societies, an objective evocative of President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points: “The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security, we must.”

But as the Iraq debacle demonstrates, the United States does not know how to create free societies in the region. Further, if Mr. Bush’s visionary enterprise is forgone and nonfree societies there are permitted to remain nonfree as they have been from time immemorial, the United States would not be threatened. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, the Persian Gulf states, and Jordan would remain nonadversarial.

Which presidential candidate for 2008 will distance herself or himself from President Bush’s thesis that remaking the world in the image of the United States is inseparable from national security?

Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and international consultant with Bruce Fein & Associates and the Lichfield Group.

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