October 11, 2004

Would Kerry reconceive the insurgency in Iraq as a problem of organized crime too?

There is a lot of focus today on Senator Kerry's statement, which appeared in the NYT Magazine yesterday:
"We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance ... As a former law enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life."

CNN.com reports that the Bush campaign is building an ad around that quote. Much of the commentary, quite understandably, focuses on the question whether Kerry would fight the war on terrorism forcibly enough. That was my initial take on the article when I read it Saturday night. But let me raise another question, coming at Kerry's mindset from a different direction. Kerry's defeatism about the war in Iraq has long troubled me. He makes statements indicating that he thinks we've become mired in an unwinnable mess. But if he is willing to perceive the war on terrorism as a chronic crime problem that must be dealt with but also accepted as part of everyday life, why not reconceive the insurgency in Iraq the same way? Iraq has a serious organized crime problem, which should not be overdramatized as a war, but lived with and dealt with through persistent and effective law enforcement. I realize he's unlikely to say this now, because it is in his political interest to spread woe about the mess--to use his word--in Iraq, but if his prosecutor's mind really does think in terms of organized crime for the war on terror, why not for Iraq?

No comments: