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Common Sense and the Politics of Benazir Bhutto’s Death

I can’t say I’ve seen every bit of coverage of today’s assassination in Pakistan, but here’s a question I haven’t seen asked squarely: How did having 150,000 or so U.S. soldiers in Iraq (the supposed "central front in the war on terror") deter Benazir Bhutto’s murder by (apparently) al-Qaeda? The answer, of course, is not at all — and there’s an important lesson there that needs to be injected into our national political conversation.

As Matt Yglesias wrote earlier this afternoon:

. . . it seems to me that we desperately need to break away from the "trouble abroad, let’s turn to hawkier hawks!" mode of organizing our politics. After all, there was a strategic choice undertaken by the United States of America during the year 2002 to refocus our attention away from Central Asia and the Pakistan/Afghanistan area and toward the Persian Gulf. That was, of course, the "tough," "strong," "serious" thing to do.

Many readers (um, some? At least a few? Please?) will note that I’ve been beating this drum for more than two and a half years, writing about the basic distinction of bluster versus responsibility and the need to consciously rehabilitate and reclaim common sense as an approach for addressing policy issues, especially with regard to national security.

It’s vitally important that we not just roll our eyes as GOP pols and their brain-dead courtiers in the media try to orchestrate "conventional wisdom" that more boastful hawkishness is the answer to the problems boastful hawkishness has created, saying "how dare they" or "we expected that." We need to make clear, even to bedrock-stupid pundits like Andrew Sullivan, that talking tough for its own sake brings not safety or order, but chaos — as the events of not just today but the past four and a half years make abundantly clear.

We need to start asserting the value of thinking about what works, not just what sounds like the most macho response. How many more catastrophes do we need before we stop cleaning out the genuine experts from our government in favor of those who assert that they "understand the stakes" and make decisions "from their gut"? Those posturing phonies pretend that such claims make them more "authentic," moral, and tough… but they’re nothing of the sort. They are, however, authentically dangerous.

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Swopa has been sharing prescient, if somewhat anal-retentive, analysis and garden-variety mockery with Internet readers since 1995 or so, when he began debunking the fantasies of Clinton-scandal aficionados on Usenet. He is currently esconced as the primary poster at Needlenose (