Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, April 16, 2007

Pushing Emotional Buttons For Peace

Driving back from a client meeting a few minutes ago, listening to the horrible news out of Virginia Tech, I passed a grey minivan with a particularly awful bumper sticker disgracing its rear bumper. Here it is:

The driver was a 30-something woman who looked "Orange County liberal." In other words, her hair wasn't dyed blonde and cut stylishly, her clothes weren't bright and well tailored, and her makeup was minimal. Not exactly one of the Real Housewives (who all vote GOP).

What is it with the Left and sloganeering? We on the Right are so inept at it that a while back Bookworm ran a contest to see if we actually could sloganeer with the best of the Lefty jingle-writers. (I, ahem, happen to have known the winner for quite some time. I'd link you, but that was back in her Blogger days and the link to her old site's not working.)

Of course you know the answer to why the Left out-slogans us; it's always the answer for differences between the left and the Right: emotions versus analysis.

Lefties love a slogan like "War is Terrorism" because it is so emotion-laden. They don't just dislike war, as Conservatives do, they hate it with a passion. That passion makes them incapable of seeing any good in war ... much as my Incredible Wife from time to time is incapable of seeing any good in me. Fortuantely, she's a Conservative, and her moments of emotion pass so we'll be happily marking our 25th anniversary later this year.

This particular slogan is particularly attractive to the Left because it defiles our commendable rejection of terrorism by making it morally equivalent to war. Doing that must wash our little minivan driver's synapses with great gobs of seratonin, since it earns a double emotional whammy: It makes her feel good and it makes we analytical souls feel bad.

She has made America and its leaders no more moral than al Qaeda and its leaders. Quite a feat for three words to pull off.

"War is Terrorism" also serves her purposes well because it places blame for 9/11 on us, not the terrorists. If war (the first Gulf war, in this case) is unjustifiable, then striking back at the warrior is not unjustifiable. As such, the bumper sticker is a bit stealthy, letting her say the unsayable, but not directly. Should she be confronted on the point, she has the choice of reacting emotionally, or like France.

It doesn't matter whether Saddam had it coming for invading Kuwait and supporting terrorism. After all, he didn't start a war. He merely invaded a country. We did the truly bad thing, starting a war, because we challenged him, so we are the bad guys and it is our actions, not Saddam's, that cannot be justified.

That's quite a lot of emotional power packed into three words. And being Conservatives, our reaction is to bury this bumper sticker's emotions in a carefully analyzed and researched blitz of words.

We see that the differences between the two, war and terrorism, are profound and center on innocents. Terrorism deliberately targets them, the more the better; war concentrates on those that can harm your side, which necessarily means not targeting innocents and focusing instead on military, infrastructure and leadership targets.

One could argue that Hitler's war was in fact an act of terrorism, but technically, the argument fails because words have definitions. Morally, however, Hitler's actions are at least equivalent to terrorism; terrorism raised to a very high level.

Defensive war is entirely another story. In a traditional defensive war, the goal is to destroy the invading troops who, because they are invading, by definition are not innocents. If part of doing that means launching attacks against the attacker's homeland, that could be terrorism if the attacks deliberately targeted innocents. But again, most nations realize that such attacks are neither defensible or strategic; it is better on both counts to attack the nation's head, not its citizens.

Dresden? Hiroshima? Yeah, every argument is complicated. Hiroshima is easy to explain: It was basically a military factory town, and something had to be done to stop the suicidally intense Japanese. Dresden to some extent is explainable by the inexact technology of the day, and our morality is proved by the care and expense we take to fight clean wars today. It was also, like Hiroshima, meant to be a back-breaker, a will-killer that would shorten the war. Did it work? Perhaps. Would we do it again? Never.

As I drove by our liberal emoticon, I noticed that the door of her minivan was bashed in. Could it have been the deliberate act of an angry Conservative, suddenly yielding all analytical insticts in an uncontrollable rush of emotions?

Highly unlikely. It was probably just another example of lousy Liberal driving.

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