Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Grand narratives, grand insecurities

If Bush wins despite being completely incompetent at running this country, running the other country, and running the War on Terror, this will be a part of the explanation:

It's comforting to think that Al Qaeda might be as easily marginalized as a bunch of drug-running thugs, that an ''effective'' assault on its bank accounts might cripple its twisted campaign against Americans. But Americans are frightened -- an emotion that has benefited Bush, and one that he has done little to dissuade -- and many of them perceive a far more existential threat to their lives than the one Kerry describes. In this climate, Kerry's rather dry recitations about money-laundering laws and intelligence-sharing agreements can sound oddly discordant. We are living at a time that feels historically consequential, where people seem to expect -- and perhaps deserve -- a theory of the world that matches the scope of their insecurity.

I think that the terrorists (Afghanistan aside) can't be beaten by invasions -- they'll be beaten by winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim world, by using diplomatic measures to run more effective international policing, and by exactly the kind of alliance-building that Kerry has in mind. But the above would explain why the American people won't settle for simple and careful measures that will actually work.

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