Safety vs. Freedom

As George Bush departs the presidential stage, he leaves behind many detractors and one rather large accomplishment that they either ignore or undervalue.

Since the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, not one terrorist has been successful in attacking America. Not one Islamic terrorist, not one domestic terrorist. In the days following 9/11, nobody would have believed that more than seven years later, the terrorists would have struck out.

There are a lot of reasons for that. First, Bush created a whole separate battlefield for the Islamic extremists to fight. That battlefield was in their backyard, in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Second, the Bush administration did everything it could to find out what the bad guys were doing. They eavesdropped on them, they spied on them, they wiretapped them, and in some cases they may have tortured them. In the days following 9/11, most Americans would have been happy to have these Islamic nut-jobs slapped around a little bit to find out where al Qaeda would hit next, whether they had nuclear or biological weapons and who they had in our backyard. Look how many people cheer on Jack Bauer on the popular Fox series “24.”

But now, seven years later, the fever has broken. People don’t fear the Islamic terrorists anymore. Bush has been almost too successful in keeping American safe. Now he is being accused of overreaching, of going overboard, of neglecting the Constitution, of taking too much power. He is being accused by his own people of condoning torture. Congressional Democrats (who were fully briefed on what the White House was up to) are now condemning the aggressive nature of the Bush offensive.

Now that we are safe, promoting freedom seems to be a much more important imperative for the media elite.

The irony, of course, is that the Bush doctrine was mostly aimed at keeping New York, Washington, Chicago and other big cities safe — places that are inhabited by the president’s harshest critics. Bush’s biggest fans reside largely in rural areas, places that few terrorists would find reason to attack.

In time of war, civil liberties become optional. This happened during the Civil War, World War I and World War II. Both LBJ and Richard Nixon took certain liberties with civil liberties during Vietnam. During the Red Scare in the 1950s and even at the beginning of our Republic, when John Adams passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, the first thing to go is personal freedom to say and do what you want.

Only in peacetime do governments find the luxury to promote freedom. Bush is leaving office doing his best to protect the American people during war. His problem is that most people think, subconsciously, that we are at peace. For most Americans, the fever broke several years ago. Bush never understood that disconnect between his worldview (largely framed by 9/11) and the worldview of the rest of us (who have largely moved on from 9/11) and as a result, he is being condemned for going overboard in keeping America safe.

So, Mr. President, thanks but no thanks seems to be the attitude (according to the polls) of the vast majority of the people. Thanks for keeping us safe, but no thanks for sacrificing our freedoms.


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