"The national 'dialogue' over how the U.S. should respond to the threat of radical Islam is replete with claims and counterclaims about whether the Bush administration has violated the law by holding captured jihadist prisoners without trial, by intercepting al Qaeda communications without judicial warrants, by subjecting detainees to stressful interrogations, and so forth. In fact, almost all of this clamor arises from a basic dispute over whether the U.S. is -- or should be considered -- at war with al Qaeda and its allies, or whether it should address the threat of transnational terrorism as a law-enforcement matter -- as most of its European allies have done."I think this is right. Is our country at war? Even though many (and many more than a simply majority) in Congress voted in support of a yes answer to this question, for some reason many of our political leaders continue to hold forth in public as though we are not at war. The news industry, on the whole, seems to also act as though the country is not at war. As Rivkin and Casey argue, our political debate simply seems to avoid a serious discussion of this basic question. After our country was attacked it seems most of us understood the attack as an act of war and agreed the response was to be at war from our side as well. Should our country now call our war off? If any of our political leaders have decided we should call our war off, then I think they should be leaders and raise their voices for a debate of precisely that quesion. If instead the debate in our public square continues as it has, then my conclusion is that many are simply playing politics with questions of our national security, and while our armed forces are in harm's way. I suppose this should be expected since we are, after all, at the height of another political season.
I suspect, in this political season, that the voices of criticism and opposition understand we are indeed at war because others have declared war on our country and on us as individuals. I also suspect we would be much more effective in our war efforts if our political debate was simply more honest at this time. But, perhaps, such an honest debate is simply not an attribute, in general, of our system of political economy.