Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"The Moral Imperative for Toughness"

On Monday, ran an excerpt from former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's new book, Never Again: Securing America and Restoring Justice (for the link to the book's Amazon page, click here). Ashcroft argues that the United States is likely to suffer another attack by al Qaeda, whose organization is now scattered around the world. He suggests that Americans can now expect a new type of assault, those directed at "soft targets" such as schools, shopping centers, and subways. Ashcroft says that so far the U.S. has prevented London- or Madrid-style attacks on the American homeland, but we should be ready for when the barbarians try again:

One simple but difficult principle provides the opportunity for the United States to achieve “never again.” That is: The will to win. The will to do whatever is necessary within the Constitution to protect America separates us from more death and destruction within our shores. It is the will to sacrifice, to persevere in the face of adversity and criticism just as generations of Americans did before us. It is no guarantee, but if we falter, grow complacent, or fail to do what we can, we give the terrorist network opportunities that, with time and patience, they will exploit to kill more innocent Americans.

A moral imperative for toughness exists if we are asking America’s young people to go out and stand in harm’s way, to risk getting shot, or to lay their lives on the line. Then we are not eligible to be “nice guys” who will take a soft and easy approach to the enemy when we realize what is needed to preserve American lives. When we ask for the lifeblood of the next generation of Americans in Afghanistan, Iraq, or on other fields of battle, the moral imperative demands we defend our freedoms with an unyielding mental toughness. If we lose our resolve, our will to win, by mistaking the tranquility of our daily lives for peace with terrorism, or caving in to propaganda campaigns built on a false sense of security, we will fail our moral obligation to young Americans who risk all to protect us.

These days my son Andy spends much of his time traveling in a rubber raft launched from a U.S. Navy destroyer. He crosses the divide between the huge ship and the suspected gun-running or contraband-carrying vessel and climbs aboard not knowing what threat to his life he is about to encounter in the theater of war. He does this not simply for the thrill of the experience but so we can live in safety and freedom thousands of miles away.

What sort of father would I be if I am unwilling to surveil suspected terrorists or ask probing questions of suspected terrorist detainees that might save the life of my son or thousands of other young men and women defending our liberty? Why should we send our young people into danger around the world in our fight against terrorism if we are going to coddle and succor terrorists in our own country? It would be a travesty if, because of our lack of moral resolve and the will to win, we turn our own country into a haven for terrorists that they no longer have in other lands.

The moral imperative demand toughness not simply on the next generation’s part but on ours.

Another aspect of the moral imperative for toughness is the recognition that America at its best represents the values of freedom and goodness, and the terrorists represent imposition and evil. Osama bin Laden and his ilk intend to dictate the conditions of a person’s existence; Americans believe that liberty and freedom are God-given rights. If we are truly endowed with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by our Creator, how dare we acquiesce in the face of terrorists, implying that we don’t care enough about those freedoms to defend them?...

We should debate the government’s powers to protect the American people, for their exercise will shape our destiny. We should understand that the debate and our decisions are choices with consequences of life or death for innocent Americans. Which authority under the Constitution, one that is necessary to hunt terrorists inch by inch hiding in our country, will we surrender to suit our sensibilities? If you’ve heard the taped cries of the passengers about to die on United Flight 93 as I have, you believe minor steps such as helping local police to detain immigration violators can have profound consequences in the lives of individuals and in the nation.
I admire Ashcroft's patriotic convictions and his resolution in standing firm against the terrorist scourge. I fear, though, that his style of leadership may be increasingly marginalized, especially if the scandal currently enveloping the Republican Party results in party losses in next month's congressional races, and if an antiwar Democrat is elected in 2008.

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