A reader writes:

You wrote:

"I don't think Clinton would resist [suspending civil liberties after another terror attack]. I think Giuliani would embrace it enthusiastically and be backed by Fox, whose creature he has been and will become. It's one reason I lean toward Paul and Obama. I think they are among the very few candidates who actually understand what civil liberty is." 

You are close, but not there.

We are in Iraq because of linkage assumptions post 9-11 that, even if correct, are subject to repetition if there is sufficient catalyst.

Sufficient catalyst means, of course, another domestic terrorist attack. You fear Guiliani/Clinton because you fear the end of American liberty in the aftermath of a truly horrendous attack, and rightly so.

I fear Obama/Paul, not because they too would suspend liberties, but because their inherent lack of aggression, their disinclination to use force pre-emptively, is more likely to create a situation that permits the horrendous attack, which then ushers in the new leaders who 'will keep us safe.' We don’t need nice people who will do the ‘right thing’. We need a man like McCain who will fight hard, cleanly but hard, and who won't flinch. The best defense against an attack is to attack the terrorists everyday, to kill them and to make their lives so miserable and so difficult that they are perpetually on the defensive.  Incrementalism, soft power, multilateralism, etc. will have the opposite of their intended effect when they are associated with a failure to prevent another attack.

I take the point, but I'm not sure that this definition of strength captures the subtler measures we need to take against an elusive enemy, while appealing to the populations that give them passive, and even active, support. If I felt Obama would lower our guard against Islamist terrorism, I wouldn't hesitate to back someone else. How we counter Islamist terror is the difficult question - and what I've learned from Iraq is that blanket warfare is not enough, and can even be counter-productive. The trouble is: so much of this war is conducted in the shadows and in secret and it becomes extremely difficult for average citizens or observers to be able to judge its efficacy.

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