Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dick Cheney: The Righteousness Resumes

The vacuous essence of Barry Goldwater's haunting words from his 1964 Republican nomination acceptance speech notwithstanding, not only is extremism in the defense of liberty a vice, but immoderation in the pursuit of justice is equally bereft of mindfulness. One need look no further than the execrable practices of the man in charge of the recently departed administration, Dick Cheney, and his puppet president, George W. Bush, to attest to these potent political truths.

One irony of the Bush-Cheney legacy may turn out to be the fact that their approach to the nation's post 9/11 security concerns was replete with impetuous expressions of bravado which yielded precisely the opposite reactions they were designed to elicit. The more confrontational and threatening the approach to Iran, the more intransigent and defiant Iran's posture became. The more the administration abused detainees, the more reason the detainees' ideological compatriots had to inflict abuses of their own. The more misguided the aggression in Afghanistan, the more resurgent, resentful and oppressive the Taliban became. In short, the Bush-Cheney solution has merely emboldened those it was intended to disarm.

In an interview with Politico, the former vice-president staunchly defended the measures taken after the attacks of 9/11, while at the same time questioning the wisdom of the new administration's less aggressive stance:

If it hadn’t been for what we did — with respect to the terrorist surveillance program, or enhanced interrogation techniques for high-value detainees, the Patriot Act, and so forth — then we would have been attacked again,” he said. “Those policies we put in place, in my opinion, were absolutely crucial to getting us through the last seven-plus years without a major-casualty attack on the U.S. . .

. . . I think there are some who probably actually believe that if we just go talk nice to these folks, everything’s going to be okay. . .

. . . They may be able, in some cases, to make progress diplomatically that we weren’t. But, on the other hand, I think they’re likely to find — just as we did — that lots of times the diplomacy doesn’t work. Or diplomacy doesn’t work without there being an implied threat of something more serious if it fails.

More than anything else, waging wars of dubious necessity, spying on its own citizens and torturing prisoners, etc., all reveal an ignorance of the more subtle demands of leadership as well as a failure of the imagination on a grand scale. Whatever sympathy the civilized world had for Americans immediately following 9/11, it is now painfully clear this reservoir of good will has been all but depleted. The perverse efficiency with which America's moral standing in the world was eviscerated in the ensuing seven years is nothing short of astonishing.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are no doubt relying upon history to provide a more sympathetic assessment of their official deeds than their present-day detractors, but the likelihood of such an agreeable verdict - for the moment - appears remote.

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