Through the Looking Glass

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS….Matt Yglesias calls Andrew Bacevich’s op-ed in the Boston Globe today “brilliant,” and I want to dissent from that. The whole thing only takes a minute or two two to read, but here the two key paragraphs:

Throughout the long primary season, even as various contenders in both parties argued endlessly about Iraq, they seemed oblivious to the more fundamental questions raised by the Bush years: whether global war makes sense as an antidote to terror, whether preventive war works, whether the costs of “global leadership” are sustainable, and whether events in Asia rather than the Middle East just might determine the course of the 21st century.

….By showing that Bush has put the country on a path pointing to permanent war, ever increasing debt and dependency, and further abuses of executive authority, Obama can transform the election into a referendum on the current administration’s entire national security legacy. By articulating a set of principles that will safeguard the country’s vital interests, both today and in the long run, at a price we can afford while preserving rather than distorting the Constitution, Obama can persuade Americans to repudiate the Bush legacy and to choose another course.

My dissent isn’t because I think Bacevich is wrong. It’s because what he’s saying is so obvious as to be almost banal.

That is, it’s so obvious it ought to be banal. But even now, nearly seven years after 9/11, instead of framing the question the way Bacevich does — the obvious way — we still allow people like George Bush and John McCain to frame it their way. They’ve created a looking glass world in which they pretend that the rest of us are naive because we allegedly think terrorism is merely a law enforcement problem, and everyone sleepily nods along as if that’s a sensible way of looking at the question.

But it’s not. Bacevich’s common sense formulation is both obvious and correct. Maybe that makes it brilliant too. But if it is, Barack Obama’s job is to get us all to rub the sleep out of our eyes and turn it back into a banality. He’s got four months.