Friday, November 24, 2006

Response to Newt Gingrich; letter to Wall Street Journal

The September 7, 2006 Wall Street Journal had an op-ed piece by Newt Gingrich in which he encourages President Bush, in effect, to take the gloves and get serious about fighting terrorists. Apparently the commitment of a quarter-trillion dollars over the last five years, and the loss of nearly 3,000 American lives, has been the half-hearted work of a woos in the White House. World War III has begun, he declares, and we should do to the Muslim world what General Sherman did to Georgia and what Grant did to Richmond. My response:

Letter to the Editor
The Wall Street Journal

In reply to Newt Gingrich's editorial, "Bush and Lincoln," (editorial page, September 7): The threat to the U.S. is very real, something often dismissed by the Left. But trying to win hearts and minds with shock and awe is a losing proposition, too.

Something in our national DNA says that every challenge can be overcome with sufficient firepower. Even our social undertakings ring of the battlefield: War on Poverty; War on Cancer.... But that model has consistently failed to make the world a safer place or, incidentally, cure poverty or cancer.

Mr. Gingrich approvingly quotes Abraham Lincoln, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present... As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.” Amen. Firepower is the problem, not the solution. Defend ourselves we must, but we can’t bomb people until they learn to love us.

Our superior firepower, and the occasional wanton use of it by us or by our clients, is perhaps a reason the US has become a target of many. And they have learned how to use a tiny fraction of our firepower against us with crippling efficiency.

Lincoln had a subtle mind, and while appearing plainspoken he knew how to use feints within feints to bring people around to his way of thinking. That subtlety is what’s needed now.

We honor Mr. Lincoln not because he finally got a worthy general in Grant. But because even as the war wound down, he could bring empathy and magnanimity to bear as he did in his Second Inaugural: “With malice toward none, with charity for all… let us strive on to finish the work we are in… to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Tom Mahon
Walnut Creek, Calif.


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