Monday, June 05, 2017


The Atlantic's David A. Graham writes:
... if there is one thing that it is safe to say terrorists want, it is to sow terror. It’s the definition of the term: political violence meant to seed fear and intimidation....

But though Trump pays lip service to wartime leader Winston Churchill—restoring a bust of the prime minister to the Oval Office, for example—he has consistently taken a different approach in response to attacks. Refusal to back down in the face of adversity is not uniquely British. Churchill’s American counterpart, Franklin Roosevelt, famously cautioned in his 1933 first inaugural address that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Trump is the panic president, bearing a radically opposed message: Fear is not only acceptable, but necessary. Rarely does one see a leader, much less the leader of a liberal democracy, actively embracing, even calling for, panic. But this is Trump’s response....
"Rarely does one see a leader ... actively embracing, even calling for, panic"? David, can we talk about the last few Republican presidencies?

In Ronald Reagan's first term, the United States invaded the small island nation of Grenada. It was a ridiculous little micro-war, but here's how Reagan responded to those who didn't regard Grenada as a threat:
Grenada, that tiny little island -- with Cuba at the west end of the Caribbean, Grenada at the east end -- that tiny little island is building now, or having built for it, on its soil and shores, a naval base, a superior air base, storage bases and facilities for the storage of munitions, barracks, and training grounds for the military....

People who make these arguments haven't taken a good look at a map lately or followed the extraordinary buildup of Soviet and Cuban military power in the region or read the Soviets discussions about why the region is important to them and how they intend to use it.

It isn't nutmeg that's at stake in the Caribbean and Central America; it is the United States national security.

Soviet military theorists want to destroy our capacity to resupply Western Europe in case of an emergency. They want to tie down our attention and forces on our own southern border and so limit our capacity to act in more distant places, such as Europe, the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, the Sea of Japan.

Those Soviet theorists noticed what we failed to notice: that the Caribbean Sea and Central America constitute this nation's fourth border. If we must defend ourselves against large, hostile military presence on our border, our freedom to act elsewhere to help others and to protect strategically vital sealanes and resources has been drastically diminished.
So if we hadn't invaded Grenada, America would have been totally helpless. Or pretty close to helpless. Something like that.

Reagan endorsed U.S. support for the anti-government Contras in Nicaragua a few years later by saying this:
Defeat for the contras would mean a second Cuba on the mainland of North America. It'd be a major defeat in the quest for democracy in our hemisphere, and it would mean consolidation of a privileged sanctuary for terrorists and subversives just 2 days' driving time from Harlingen, Texas.
They can drive to our borders in 48 hours! Hide the babies!

In the early 1990s, George H.W. Bush justified a war against Saddam Hussein by telling Americans that Saddam was literally worse than Hitler:
MASHPEE, Mass. (AP) -- President Bush suggested today that Saddam Hussein is more barbaric than Adolf Hitler and said he was ''more determined than ever'' to drive the Iraqi leader out of Kuwait.

... Bush, speaking to a GOP rally in an elementary school in this Cape Cod village, said Saddam's detention of some 300 Americans in Iraq and occupied Kuwait is ''in direct contravention of international law.''

''They have committed outrageous acts of barbarism'' Bush said of Saddam's forces.

He said Americans ''are held in direct contravention of international law. Many of them reportedly staked out as human shields near possible military targets, brutality that I don't believe Adolf Hitler ever participated in anything of that nature.''
In the fall of 2002, when Bush's son wanted to go to war with Hussein (and create a wedge issue against Democrats for the upcoming midterms), he eagerly reached for the panic button:
The Iraqi regime ... possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism, and practices terror against its own people. The entire world has witnessed Iraq's eleven-year history of defiance, deception and bad faith.

We also must never forget the most vivid events of recent history. On September the 11th, 2001, America felt its vulnerability -- even to threats that gather on the other side of the earth. We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat, from any source, that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America....

While there are many dangers in the world, the threat from Iraq stands alone -- because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place. Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are controlled by a murderous tyrant who has already used chemical weapons to kill thousands of people. This same tyrant has tried to dominate the Middle East, has invaded and brutally occupied a small neighbor, has struck other nations without warning, and holds an unrelenting hostility toward the United States.

By its past and present actions, by its technological capabilities, by the merciless nature of its regime, Iraq is unique. As a former chief weapons inspector of the U.N. has said, "The fundamental problem with Iraq remains the nature of the regime, itself. Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction."

Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the world. The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do -- does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?
Trump is a "panic president"? Yes, but he's hardly the first. Inducing panic is a proud Republican tradition.

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