Robert Reich’s latest column in the American Prospect attempts to outline a pragmatic approach to fighting terrorism (reader-submitted link). Here’s a juicy quote, taking both the left and right to task for their hardline positions:
Here’s where America’s political and intellectual left and right seem incapable of reasoned debate. Much of the left is still bemoaning America’s Cold War support of anticommunist dictators–the shah, Mobutu, Somoza, Greek colonels, Korean generals, Pinochet, Marcos, Armas, the mujahideen–and our nation’s gruesome record advising them, training their death squads, schooling and equipping their torture specialists, and helping them squirrel away their vast wealth. Given this history, the post-September 11 effulgence of American flags, patriotic hymns, and “freedom and democracy” bromides offered by American politicians strikes many on the left as dangerously ahistoric if not downright hypocritical.
The right dismisses this sordid history as irrelevant to the current crisis and accuses anyone on the left who dwells on it as “blaming America” for terrorism. Both sides are wrong: the left for suggesting that this history should make us any less determined to fight Islamic extremism and the right for assuming that this record has no bearing on why much of the third world is hostile toward us. Of course, we must proceed against terrorists with full force. Yet it’s also important to understand that our checkered history has shaped the understandings of many poor nations whose cooperation we need in order for that force to be effective and many of the world’s poor who are both attracted to radical fundamentalism and repelled by American bullying.