A few highlights:
I was particularly intrigued by Drum's initial response to Beinart's cri de coeur: "What he really needs to write," harrumphed Drum, "is a prequel to his current piece, one that presents the core argument itself: namely, why defeating Islamic totalitarianism should be a core liberal issue." He continues later on: "That's the story I think Beinart needs to write. If he thinks too many liberals are squishy on terrorism, he needs to persuade us not just that Islamic totalitarianism is bad — of course it's bad — but that it's also an overwhelming danger to the security of the United States."
Okay hold that thought.
By my very rough guess, since 9/11 National Review Online and National Review have run probably 500 articles from serious scholars to folks like me on why the threat from "Islamo-Fascism," "jihadism," or whatever you want to call it is real, serious, and likely to endure for a very long time. We've come at it from every angle, too — from narrow arguments about weapons proliferation to deep, sustained, philosophical treatises about the Islamic or Arab worldview and our own.
If Drum needs another argument to be persuaded about the threat, he is flatly unpersuadable. Indeed, if Beinart could surf back on the space-time continuum, he could have used Drum's response as an example of exactly his complaint: that the Democrats don't care enough about fighting Islamic totalitarianism.
But that's not even the annoying part. For the last two years, the main thrust of criticism from Democrats has been that Bush hasn't been doing enough to fight Islamic terrorism. Drum was a big fan of Richard Clarke's book. Well, Clarke's book was a criticism from the right. Bush didn't do enough. The whole "wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time" mantra was shorthand for the argument that Iraq was a distraction from the real threat of Islamic totalitarianism.
So let me get this straight. The last two years of bleating and beating we've gotten from liberals — all the how-dare-yous and the Iraq's-a-distraction stuff — all of that was just a pose? You guys don't think any of it's a big deal after all? It was all just a way to smack George Bush around? How sad. How frick'n dishonest.
Drum does make thoughtful points and tangential arguments, but on the big picture he demonstrates the problem with taking his advice. One of his biggest and most longstanding objections to Bush's foreign policy is that the White House hasn't been bipartisan in its prosecution of the war on terror. As he says in his response to Beinart, "The Republican party has made it as clear as it possibly can that the war on terror is not vital enough to require either bipartisan support or the support of the rest of the world. They've treated it more like a garden variety electoral wedge issue than a world historical struggle."
Drum might be right that Bush has been too partisan, though I'm unpersuaded. But, by even offering this argument he in fact concedes that he doesn't think Islamic totalitarianism is a serious threat — because if he did see it that way, he wouldn't let a lack of bipartisanship get in the way...Think about it. If you think Islamic totalitarianism is a real problem, an existential threat, you write articles like Beinart's. You don't say, "Y'know, I could really get behind this twilight struggle if only the Republicans were nicer to Democrats." You don't bend over backward for fear of seeming like you're "taking sides." Or at least you don't if you love your country more than you love your party (or more than you hate George Bush). Meanwhile, how can you blame some Republicans for thinking Democrats aren't worth reaching out to if at this point they still need to hear more War On Terror 101 arguments?
This is more than an academic point: "Sure, 9/11 was a wakeup call," Drum writes, but since we haven't been attacked as badly at home since, there's no reason to conclude that 9/11 was our generation's Pearl Harbor. In other words, if Bush hadn't done as good a job fighting the war on terrorism, Drum might be more convinced that the war on terrorism is worth fighting.
Forgive me for ever thinking liberals couldn't be tough on the war on terror.