Jewish World Review March 26, 2004 / 4 Nissan, 5764
Guy talkhttp://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Boy, was Patricia Ireland wrong.
Just a month after 911, Ireland, former president of NOW, complained about President Bush's "guy talk." Her quote was featured last week in the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web."
She said, "Guy talk may be speaking in black and white of good and evil." She said it included descriptions, such as "Osama bin Laden, wanted dead or alive." She said there was too much guy talk from "rich, white, able-bodied and apparently straight men."
And thank goodness for that. Guy talk has been our most potent weapon for fighting terrorism since 911.
Prior to 911, you see, America avoided guy talk of any kind. It was the era of the new-age sensitive male -- the Clinton era. We disdained harsh language like the words Reagan used in the '80's. How could a president be so boorish as to call the Soviet Union "the evil empire?"
No, the Clinton era was a progressive one. We chose our words carefully then to avoid offending anyone. We didn't know the meaning of "is" because we used language to obscure, not clarify, our alleged goals and ambitions.
So when fundamentalist Islamic terrorists attempted to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993, we didn't consider it an act of war. We considered it a crime, just like mugging or car theft. And as terrorists struck other targets around the world during that period, we didn't respond with force and fury; we targeted them with the limited legal and diplomatic means available to us.
And it's true that the Bush team took eight months to develop a new strategy to flush out bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Though their approach promised to be more comprehensive and results-oriented, the plan did not reach the president's desk until it was too late.
The truth is that before 911, there were only a handful of people using guy talk in reference to Al Qaeda. One of them was Sen. Bob Kerry, a former Senator from Nebraska. Last week, during the 911 hearings, he used guy talk again.
"I keep hearing the excuse we didn't have actionable intelligence," he said to Madeline Albright, who said the Clinton's people's hands were tied. "Well, what the hell does that say to Al Qaeda? Basically, they knew, beginning in 1993, it seems to me, that there was going to be limited, if any, use of military and that they were relatively free to do whatever they wanted."
Which is exactly right. Through our pre-911 actions, here is what Al Qaeda heard us say: do whatever you want. Sure, a few of you might get caught and get tied up in court. Or maybe a few missiles will be launched, in the dead of night, at empty buildings or abandoned terrorist training camps. But your losses will be minimal and America lacks any will to fight.
And so they struck us hard on 911.
It's true that we need to put politics aside and pinpoint all the reasons we allowed 911 to happen in the first place. We need to overhaul our strategy and approach to make sure 911 never happens again, and we've been working on that. But whatever we do, one thing is certain: guy talk better be a big part of our plan.
We used guy talk on the Taliban. We said they better turn over bin Laden or we would take them out. Used to our empty words, they blinked and we took them out.
We told Saddam Hussein he either complies with U.N. resolutions or we were going to take him out. He blinked and we took him out.
We told Mommar Khadafi his only future was to come clean. He heard us loud and clear.
Maybe if we had used more guy talk before 911 - maybe if we had backed our words with actions as we have since 911 - the World Trade Center would still be standing.
Maybe. All I know for certain is this: Hey, Patty, guy talk works.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
03/22/04: Kerry meets his master