One of the brewing themes through Blue Blogistan is MSM’s casual assumption that the Democratic Party is too far left to be trusted on national security. This outrages folks like Atrios, who point out that most Americans want out of the Iraq war and are trusted more on that issue than the Republicans. The Moose generally retorts that the Democrats can never win unless the public trusts them to wage the war on terror: the left’s position on Vietnam consigned the Democrats to a lack of credibility on national security. And on and on.
At the risk of winning Wanker of the Day, I’d like to suggest that they are both right: essentially, US national security politics has become Israelized.
That phrase refers to the old saw about what the Israeli electorate wants from its government: a Labor policy carried out by Likud. Israeli voters recognized that Labor was right; that holding onto the territories was (and is) madness (both for strategic and moral reasons), and that ruling over millions of Arabs was not in Israel’s interest. But they never trusted Labor to actually do it properly without exposing the public to violence. That had much to do with Labor’s rhetoric than anything else. The one exception to this was Yitzhak Rabin, whose gruff manner and record gave him the title of “Mr. Security”. (As Labor leader, he never lost an election).
The same thing has happened to the Democrats. The public recognizes that the Democratic approach on Iraq is correct, and that we are going to have get out soon. But they don’t trust Democratic instincts on national security. They would prefer someone who is too willing to use military force to someone who is not willing enough. In short, they might not like George W. Bush, but they would rather have him than Jimmy Carter (who is the real culprit behind the Democratic image, not the Vietnam policy).
I don’t have an easy solution for this: the Republican solution would be simply to demagogue something. But I think that attacking Bush on energy dependency and obsequiousness toward the Saudis is the way to start. The general idea is to outflank the Republicans on what is erroneously called “the right.” The protest over the Dubai port deal was a prime example of this. Attack them on port security. Attack on body armor. Attack on the Bush administration’s fecklessness on securing loose nukes. Over and over again. A few more, and there might not be a problem