Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


The Test of Our Age or a Bumper Sticker Slogan?

By Shawn Healy
We have watched with fear as London dodged a bullet (literally a nail and gasoline-filled car bomb) and Glasgow was subsequently, and successfully attacked. While the immediacy of 9-11 has gradually faded into our rear view mirror, recently undermined plots at Ft. Dix and JFK Airport are constant reminders that terrorism is no longer confined to the Middle East.

Most Americans go about their daily business with few interruptions to routines ingrained well before 9-11. We don't have a legacy of terrorism like the British, although we have been subject to periodic attacks both homegrown (Oklahoma City bombing) and imported (the 1993 World Trade Center attack). 9-11 was a sea change of sorts as our government was fundamentally reorganized (Dept. of Homeland Security), law enforcement authorities were provided with more encompassing power (the ever-controversial Patriot Act), we initiated two wars under its auspices (Iraq and Afghanistan), and air travel became more complicated with passenger screening, liquid bans, even racial profiling.

There remain fundamental disagreements, however, about the nature of the ongoing terrorist threat and the appropriate response. Rudy Giuliani, "America's Mayor," and a leading contender for the GOP presidential nomination, considers "Islamofascism" the test of our generation. Echoing President Bush's initial response to 9-11, he prefers to "play offense" with international terrorists, to fight them overseas to prevent attacks on the home front. This pro-choice, thrice-divorced New Yorker leads the pack in national polls largely because many on the right consider terrorism the overarching issue in the coming election.

John Edwards, the former Vice Presidential candidate and current contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, suggested in a recent debate that the "war on terror" is little more than a bumper sticker slogan. Beyond calling for the immediate withdrawal of American troops in Iraq, Edwards contends that we are less safe since 9-11 on account of misguided and mismanaged wars and an overall failure to combat the issue through law enforcement vehicles, not extra-constitutional means like Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay.

The fundamental question of our continued involvement in Iraq brings all of these issues to a head. Regardless of how one feels about the justification for entering the war, we can all agree that Iraq is in a state of civil war. Will an immediate or phased withdrawal force Iraqi leaders and its military to rise to the challenge and enforce a so-far elusive peace? Or will it lead to bloodshed on the scale of genocide and provide a fertile training ground for international terrorism? Recently departed British PM Tony Blair and President Bush argue the latter, but newly enshrined successor Gordon Brown may bring at least a partial retraction of this position. The entire field of Democrats who would replace Bush universally adopt the former position.

The success of the Democratic Party in the midterm congressional elections last fall serves as one indicator that the American public is arguably closer to the Democrats on this issue, and the coming presidential primaries and caucuses, with the general election to follow, will provide second and third opinions coinciding with the seventh anniversary of 9-11.

Across the pond, Blair's Labor Party has waned in popularity as he stood by his American brethren, and Brown's assumption of the mantle provides a two-year test run of staying the course or scaling back in Iraq. British voters will follow with a verdict of their own in 2009.


Post a Comment

<< Home


Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at