: Britt Blaser and I talked about war under the sun in San Diego and he reprises our conversation today after seeing my post, below, on the unseemly side of the 9/11 hearings. Britt writes:

I lobbied for this notion that we somehow need to separate one’s personal fate from one’s actions, that the battle plan must be consistent and smart, not hostage to a few casualties. I believe our nation’s battle plan is to live according to the Bill of Rights, even if it costs some of us our lives once in a while….

[He quotes my post below.]

This is where Jeff and I diverge in how to wage war well. Rage hampers your ability to function in combat, and we are in combat. One prevails by respecting the enemy, not in seeing him as inhuman. Further, I’m convinced that no one is soulless, though many on both sides are deluded by fundamentalist leaders and happy to kill in their personal quest for meaning. Just as our vets have been to Viet Nam and met and hugged and wept with their former enemy, someday Iraqis and Yanks will sit down in Baghdad over sweet tea and grieve for the lost days of their youth, seeking to maim each other.

In his comments, I replied:

We don’t disagree and we do disagree.

I certainly believe that the terrorists are soulless — just as I firmly believe that Hitler and his henchmen were soulless. Not recognizing that — not recognizing that they can stoop to depths we cannot imagine — only weakens our defense.

We do agree that we can sit down in Iraq over tea as friends. We can do that today. We liberated the Iraqis from a dictator; we are making friends on the street and online; we have every reason to be friends, especially if we get our act together and help build their democracy and economy.

And I certainly agree, as I said in my post, that there is value in reviewing mistakes so we do not make them again — but there is no value in fingerpointing at either the Bush or the Clinton administrations for perceived political benefit.

The truth is, as a colleague of mine said today, there is no political benefit in this. If you say that Bush dropped the ball then you have to say that more drastic action was necessary from both Bush and Clinton: We should have invaded Afghanistan long ago on our own, damn the political and international consequences; we should follow the Blair doctrine to preempt terrorism and tyranny before it can attack us and others and thus if we believed that there was the capability of weapons development, we should have invaded Iraq; we should invade North Korea… all that comes out of sniping at Bush for dropping balls.

I am no fan of Bush but I am no fan of turning 9/11 into political taffy.

We disagree about one more thing: I defend the Bill of Rights as strongly as the next patriot and I believe that we do not need to harm the Bill of Rights to defend our nation against terrorism, but we also do not need to be stupid.

I have no objection whatsoever to airlines handing over every bit of personal information they happen to gather about me, for example, if they do so for everyone flying and if we manage to catch the next terrorist. My rights will not have been violated but if I am killed the next time they strike, my rights and those of my children will most certainly have been violated.

We must know our enemy. We must fight our enemy. We must not fight each other as we fight our enemy, united.