The Bush administration has scuttled a plan to increase by 50 percent the number of criminal financial investigators working to disrupt the finances of Al Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist organizations to save $12 million, a Congressional hearing was told on Tuesday.
Twelve million lousy dollars! Holy shit! That's right folks: $1.5 billion to promote marriage is dandy, to say nothing of hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the rich, but $12 million to track down terrorist financiers breaks the piggy bank. All credible reports say that stateless groups like Al Qaeda depend heavily on an international network of financial supporters. The IRS possesses particular institutional expertise in finance. A serious strategy for attacking terrorism should give them funding and tap their resources, in cooperation with the FBI and the CIA and under the direction of the DHS.
I've realized that one of the recurring themes on my blog is that the Bush administration has never demonstrated any seriousness about attacking terrorism. Terrorism is a particularly vicious form of crime; terrorists must possess the classic criminal triad of "motive, means, and opportunity" as a prerequisite for committing terrorist acts. The Bush administration has shown no interest in any of these: they attack neither motive (by adopting a foreign policy less likely to win Al Qaeda converts), nor means (by tracking down the financiers, which according to credible reports include many Saudis), nor opportunity (by investigating the intelligence failures that made the attacks possible, or by increasing port security).
In other words, on national security, the current Republican Party leadership is a total joke.
Which puts the lie to the weird popular conception in America that conservatives are somehow "stronger" or "tougher" on national security than liberals. As far as I can tell, this attitude stems mostly from two factors. First, there are lingering grudges from the culture clashes of "the Sixties" --- "Those Democrats are the same long-haired hippies and peaceniks who protested against Nixon!" Second, and I think even more importantly, I think people have a reptilian-brain-stem instinct which tells them that muscular, aggressive rhetoric correlates with effective self-defense: "I am a lizard which raises my frill and hisses loudly at any challenge, therefore I will hurt people who try to hurt me, therefore you want me on your side." Of course, this instinct is completely obsolete in the modern world, when ingenuity, craftiness, and alliance-building are more effective means to self-defense than aggression. But primitive instincts persist, and too often prevail.