Ted Cruz has a plan.
“We will utterly destroy ISIS,” he told an audience in Iowa Saturday. “We will carpet-bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out!”
The crowd cheered wildly. The fact that the Cruz plan is a stupid plan — unworkable, counterproductive, and crafted with all the strategic sophistication of a first-grader with a box of crayons — didn’t seem to matter.
It’s just nuts. Every military leader in this country understands that sustained “carpet-bombing” didn’t bring Japan, Nazi Germany and even North Vietnam to their knees, even though they all had industry, ports, military bases and other targets vulnerable to bombs. The experts also know that such an approach against an amorphous Third World movement such as ISIS with very few identifiable targets would be like trying to swat a fly with a sledgehammer.
Sure, the sledgehammer does a lot of collateral damage, but you accomplish nothing.
So why do it? Because if you swing a sledgehammer, you at least feel strong and manly doing so, and apparently that’s all that matters. It’s the same mindless, emotion-driven reaction that George W. Bush and his friends leveraged in the wake of Sept. 11 to get the country worked up enough to invade Iraq, a country that had nothing at all to do with that attack. Get people mad and fearful, and they become putty in your hands.
Speaking of trying to feel manly, Jerry Falwell Jr. also has a plan.
“I always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walk in and kill,” the chancellor of Liberty University told his students at a weekly convocation, patting the firearm stored not-so-safely in his rear pocket. “I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course, and let’s teach ’em a lesson if they ever show up here.”
Falwell did not expand his remarks beyond “those Muslims,” even though domestic terrorists kill just as many as do jihadists, and home-grown mass murderers on a spree have murdered many more. He also did not mention those gunmen who have acted out a deluded perversion of Christianity, such as James Kopp, John Salvi, Eric Rudolph, Paul Jennings Hill and most recently Robert Dear. Nor did he address the fact that without exception, societies that rely on privately owned firearms for personal security are the least secure societies on the planet. That isn’t an argument for confiscation, but it is certainly an argument for a sense of proportion.
Speaking of a sense of proportion, there’s Georgia’s own Erick Erickson. On Saturday, the New York Times published a front-page editorial calling for a renewed ban on assault weapons, among other steps, to deny terrorists both domestic and foreign their apparent arms of choice. Erickson proudly responded by taking a few potshots at the editorial — literally.
In other words, I suppose, the best retort to reasoned debate and to words that you don’t want to read is a few not-so-well placed bullets. That’ll show ’em. That’ll prove the critics wrong when they suggest that the rhetoric of the conservative movement is growing perilously close to legitimizing violence.
As I wrote the other day, the theory of the gun as a means of forcing political change is the theory of the terrorist.
I do not recall a time in my adult life when this country stood closer to the edge of irrationality, nor when the voices that ought to quell that irrationality have fallen so ominously silent. The Sixties — which I lived through as a child — had its own distinctive madness, but it was at least explainable in terms of the monumental social and political changes that we were trying to work through. And although fear certainly existed — and we had politicians willing to milk that fear — as a society we did not seem to want to wallow in that fear as we do today, soaking it in through every pore.
Let me put it bluntly: We’re acting like a bunch of cowards, and the type of bluster that we’re seeing from various quarters does not disguise the underlying panic that is driving it. In fact, the rest of the world must be looking at America and marveling at what has happened to a once-brave and optimistic people.
We were pushed into a humiliating hysteria by Ebola, which ended up killing exactly zero of those few infected here. We don’t dare to close Guantanamo because the thought of imprisoning aging al Qaida adherents in high-security prisons here on the mainland is supposedly more than our meek little hearts can take. Canada, a nation barely a tenth of our population, is accepting 25,000 refugees from Syria without controversy while American governors quiver at the thought of accepting a dozen. The U.S. murder rate is dramatically lower than it has been in living memory; our enemies, while fanatic, pale in deadliness and danger to those confronted by earlier generations of Americans.
Yet we’re acting as though we might all die at any moment if we do not surrender our constitutional privacy, treat all Muslims as suspected terrorists and arm ourselves against a threat that in truth we cannot accurately identify.
It’s dangerous, because once such fires are set no one knows who or what they might consume.