The Case for Fear
Perhaps the most common accusation made against Republican politicians is that they rely on the “politics of fear” in order to frighten Americans into voting for them. Supposedly, the GOP uses foreign attacks on the country as reasons to vote Republican, and uses them to scare the American people into voting for the “party of national security.” This is supposed to represent a sort of moral failing of the GOP; that the Republican party uses terrorism as campaign talking point to attract voters.
They do. And there is nothing wrong with that—in fact, to do otherwise would be irresponsible. Anyone who does not realize that the world is (as it always has been) is a dangerous place simply has not been paying attention.
The threat of radical Islam has been in existence for decades. For a long time, it was unable to do much against America—its technological capabilities were simply not adequate. But the world is changing—military technology is becoming cheaper and more available to rogue nations. Were an Islamist terrorist group able to get even a small nuclear weapon, or tiny amount of smallpox virus, the damage that resulted could be unbelievable. Republicans tell people to be afraid of Islamic jihad—and people should be afraid.
(Although it should be noted that one of the most feared threats of radical Islam—the suitcase nuke—is not actually a threat at all. Nuclear weapons just cannot be compressed to suitcase size while remaining effective. Any real suitcase nuke would have an impossibly short shelf life, and would probably kill the person carrying it as well. The threat of radical Islam is dire enough without making up nonexistent threats).
China is another threat. It is not another Soviet Union—yet—but it’s trying. Its economy is booming, and it is expanding its military might. It has allied itself with the totalitarian Russia, and is encouraging its puppet state North Korea to attempt to get nuclear weapons. China cannot be considered an imminent threat (its economy is too dependant on that of the United States for it to be too aggressive), but it very well could be in the future.
The Democrat party has no coherent strategy for dealing with these (and other) threats, beyond the ever popular “talk to them and maybe they’ll go away.” Barack Obama’s entire foreign policy is built around the idea of simply talking to our enemies, a strategy which might not work so well on, say, Iran, which is governed by an irrational dictator. (And does Obama really think that “economic pressure and political isolation” will work on Iran? We’ve applied both to Cuba for half a century, and it hasn’t worked there).
The Republican party is not always correct on foreign policy either—it is possible to make a reasonable case that in hindsight, the Iraq War was a very bad idea. But they do at least realize that national security is an issue that must be dealt with, and have a coherent plan for doing so.
Were the Republicans attempting to exploit an irrational fear, then their tactics would indeed be despicable. But the threats they warn against are very real, and it is the Republican party that can best handle them. (Not so much because the Republicans have any special store of foreign policy sense, but rather because the Democrats have absolutely none).
Indeed, such “fear-mongering” has long been a part of conservatism. For years, conservative warned against the threat of Communism. William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, George Will, and the rest of the early conservative minds were accused of the same kind of “politics of fear” that contemporary Republicans are, and were rarely given attention until the election of Ronald Reagan. But they were mostly right, and so are Republicans today. There are real threats out there, and we should be frightened.