An email has flooded in, commenting on my blog, from someone calling himself "Chipper". He says:
One thing I have noticed about people in general, especially the ones from around liberal cities such as San Francisco, LA, etc is that they have no grasp on reality. I read a couple of your drivelous slants on Bush. Do you think our nation is protected by handing our enemies flowers? The fact that you are able to state your opinions are made available by our soldiers blood and sweat. Bush believes that he is making our nation safe and so do I. The world is a better place that Sadaam Hussein is out of power.
In fact, I think have been pretty careful not to write anything too uncomplimentary about George Bush, as I think it is unedifying to move to a country and then spend all your time complaining about it. When I lived in London, it used to annoy me no end when people from other countries living there complained about the UK: I used to think: "if you don’t like it, then don’t live here." But I have felt able to oppose the war in Iraq because I am criticising my own country as much as my hosts. So perhaps Chipper has correctly perceived that I do not support the war. But moving along to the substance of Chipper’s points: a. There is no evidence that Iraq intended or threatened any harm to America; the current official justification for the war in Iraq is that Saddam Hussein was guilty of oppression and cruelty to his own citizens (which is true); but not even the US Government is now saying that the war in Iraq contributed to "making the US safe"; b. It is hard to argue that the US is safer as a result of its military action in Iraq. Both within Iraq, and internationally, the result has been greater hostility to American policies and people. c. As far as I can discover, Osama Bin Laden has never expressed any hostility to the way that Americans choose to live in the US. His hostility, and that of his followers, seems to be directed to the way in which the US acts abroad, particulary in the Middle East. If the priority for US foreign policy is to "make our nation safe" then it would be more effective, and cost fewer lives of Americans and others, to pursue different policies overseas; in particular, the US’s determination to put its own economic interests ahead of the livelihoods and rights of the citizens of other countries has contributed to hostility to America and thereby reduced its security. d. As is now becoming clear, the US is stronger when it acts with the backing of the international community, as expressed by the United Nations. If the US had been prepared to be a little more patient, to listen a little more and to help build an international consensus, there would have been a greater contribution both to the military effort, and to the subsequent reconstruction of Iraq. As a result, the cost to the US in terms of lives and money would have been less, and the operation would have been a success. So, since Chipper has asked, my answer is not that I think that the United States is "protected by handing our enemies flowers", but that the policies of the current administration, supported by the UK, has made the United States less rather than more safe; and that long term security for the US would be more likely to result from changes in US foreign and economic policies, and greater willingness to work in partnership with the international community, and not from the mere exercise of military power.