George W. Bush Was Right: Treating Terror Like a Law Enforcement Problem Invites More Terror

The legacy of George W. Bush has fallen into disfavor of late, with large portions of the country having decided in retrospect that the war in Iraq was a bad idea (and the war in Afghanistan not worth fighting anymore). The received wisdom, even within the Republican party, is that substantial portions of the measures Bush put into place after 9/11 were bad ideas or sufficiently inimical to liberty that they ought to be tossed out.

Maybe these ideas have some merit; I don’t know. However, it seems clear that as between the Clinton/Obama approach of treating terrorism like a law enforcement problem, the Bush approach was much, much more successful than the Clinton/Obama approach. And before anyone goes all Trump on me and points out that 9/11 happened on Bush’s watch, I have to point out that Bush’s approach clearly didn’t change until that event.

As horrible as Orlando, and San Bernardino, and Fort Hood have been, the problem is that these attacks can get much, much worse. These attacks have involved relatively low levels of planning and weaponry (relative to what is hanging around the Middle East and in control of extremist or extremist-sympathetic governments nowadays). Already we are seeing an escalation in death tolls in these attacks even though the perpetrators have largely been self-directed radicals. It doesn’t take much imagination – or a very long memory – to know how much worse it can truly get in terms of domestic terror attacks.

Maybe there are benefits to the “cowering on our own shores” approach favored by Clinton and Trump (with the proviso that Trump at least alleges that would be cowering behind a partial wall on one of our borders, for whatever good that would do). Certainly the way the war in Iraq was waged left a great deal to be desired and the American public didn’t have the stomach for it at all. But it’s equally clear that Bush’s central premise – that we will either spend our future days aggressively fighting terrorists overseas or waging a pointless rearguard law enforcement action at home – was correct.

It really seems inevitable at this point, that another attack, equal to or worse than 9/11 is coming. You know it’s going to happen just based on the nonserious choices the two main parties in this country have put forth for President. The country has completely forgotten how we all felt that day. And when it happens again, we’ll all be sad and make stern faces and promise ourselves that we will never forget (again), but we will. Because this is apparently who we are as a people now.

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