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“The Only Way Victory Can Be Achieved”: Republicans Still Obsessed With Message-Sending

There was a weird little sidelight to the just-concluded mini-crisis over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which was that the American Action Network, a group allied with John Boehner, was running ads criticizing conservative Republicans for not supporting a clean DHS funding bill, even as Boehner was trying to win them over with a much softer approach. But what really struck me watching this was something about the message itself:

You may have noticed that when the ad says “put real teeth in immigration enforcement,” the image is of a Predator drone, presumably because we’ll be raining missiles down on people wading through the Rio Grande. Which is…interesting. But here’s the text:

“While the threats grow, conservatives in Congress want to beef up our security, enhance cybersecurity, and put real teeth in immigration enforcement. It’s the right message to send to our enemies. But some in Washington are willing to put our security at risk by jeopardizing critical security funding. That’s the wrong message to send to our enemies. Tell Congressman Tim Huelskamp to fund homeland security. Our safety must come first.”

This is a common argument, particularly when it comes to national security policy. “Sending messages” is supposed to be extremely important, and not just to friends and potential supporters, but to adversaries and enemies as well. Indeed, sometimes it seems that victory can be achieved if only we “send the right message.”

George W. Bush was particularly fond of citing the importance of proper message-sending. For instance, here are some of the things he said in the first debate he did in 2004 with John Kerry:

“[Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi] doesn’t want U.S. leadership, however, to send mixed signals, to not stand with the Iraqi people…I don’t see how you can lead this country to succeed in Iraq if you say wrong war, wrong time, wrong place. What message does that send our troops? What message does that send to our allies? What message does that send the Iraqis?…I know we won’t achieve if we send mixed signals. I know we’re not going to achieve our objective if we send mixed signals to our troops, our friends, the Iraqi citizens…The way to make sure that we succeed is to send consistent, sound messages to the Iraqi people…I think that by speaking clearly and doing what we say and not sending mixed messages, it is less likely we’ll ever have to use troops…But by speaking clearly and sending messages that we mean what we say, we’ve affected the world in a positive way…[Kim Jong-Il] wants to unravel the six- party talks, or the five-nation coalition that’s sending him a clear message…You cannot lead if you send mixed messages. Mixed messages send the wrong signals to our troops. Mixed messages send the wrong signals to our allies. Mixed messages send the wrong signals to the Iraqi citizens.”

Now I don’t mean to say that message-sending is never important. Adversaries and allies alike notice both what we do and what we say. But the idea that what matters in defeating ISIS is the message we send them is kind of crazy. There are plenty of reasons why it would have been a bad idea to shut down DHS, but it’s not like somewhere in Mosul a bunch of ISIS fighters would be watching CNN and say, “We were prepared to abandon this war, but this sends a message of weakness. The time to strike America is now!”


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect,  March 4, 2015

March 5, 2015 - Posted by | GOP, National Security, Republicans | , , , , , ,


  1. ” but it’s not like somewhere in Mosul a bunch of ISIS fighters would be watching CNN and say, “We were prepared to abandon this war, but this sends a message of weakness. The time to strike America is now!”

    Are you sure? They are if you listen to the DHS and the reactionary Republican Congress. Well I have a message I’d like to send DHS and The Congress and it runs; in abbreviated form; as follows: STOP obsessing over exaggerated security threats. STOP behaving as though we need to be on a high alert all the time or at all unless there is a specific threat (which our intelligence community will more than likely miss anyway) We are not fooled by the inflated state of fear that you and your ilk have created in order to herd us toward your Fascist ; uh, I mean Plutocratic Paradise. STOP pretending that 9/11 wasn’t the biggest boost to your future career prospects likely to ever occur in your life-time and that George W. isn’t your god and provider by virtue of his administration’s (Whoops! “failure”) to intercept the perpetrators of that event before they were able to miraculously carry out what was a; not very discreet; plot and prep. STOP pretending to be patriots and admit that what you really are is common thugs; brown-shirts.


    Comment by angrymanspeaks | March 5, 2015 | Reply

    • If you haven’t done so, YOU need to write a BOOK!! I think many, many people would look forward to reading your very wise thoughts on these and other issues!!!


      Comment by raemd95 | March 5, 2015 | Reply

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