Peter Beinart has written an important article for the upcoming New Republic (this ones free to everyone). It outlines the steps contemporary liberalism needs to take in response to the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, by drawing parallels to how liberalisms shifted to face the threat of Communist totalitarianism.
Beinart argues that liberalism is split between the "soft" and "hard" wings. The Softs do not condone Islamic terror, but neither do they consider it much of a concern. Rather, the Softs see "the war on terror" as a construct created by the right wing to distract from other, more important goals (healthcare, working families, etc). The Hards, by contrast, are decidedly anti-fundamentalist. They recognize that Islamic fundamentalism is one of the gravest threats to liberal values around the world, and are thus deadly serious about stopping it and rolling it back. Hards are willing to use coercion and force to oppose the totaliterean ideals of al-Qaeda and its allies, while Softs are not. Unfortunately, while there is a powerful Hard Foreign Policy elite in the Democratic party, the grassroots (Michael Moore, MoveOn, etc.) is decidedly Soft. In order to show America that the Democratic Party is serious about security, power will have to be wrested away from the Softs and concentrated in the Hards.
At the same time, Beinart reminded me why the Democrats, ultimately, are the better party for tackling National Security:
"For [Arthur] Schlesinger...it was conservatives, with their obsessive hostility to higher taxes, who could not be trusted to fund America's cold war struggle. "An important segment of business opinion," he wrote, "still hesitates to undertake a foreign policy of the magnitude necessary to prop up a free world against totalitarianism lest it add a few dollars to the tax rate." After Dwight Eisenhower became president, the ADA took up this line, arguing in October 1953 that the "overriding issue before the American people today is whether the national defense is to be determined by the demands of the world situation or sacrificed to the worship of tax reductions and a balanced budget." Such critiques laid the groundwork for John F. Kennedy's 1960 campaign--a campaign, as Richard Walton notes in Cold War and Counterrevolution, "dominated by a hard-line, get-tough attack on communism." Once in office, Kennedy dramatically increased military spending.
Such a critique might seem unavailable to liberals today, given that Bush, having abandoned the Republican Party's traditional concern with balanced budgets, seems content to cut taxes and strengthen the U.S. military at the same time. But subtly, the Republican Party's dual imperatives have already begun to collide--with a stronger defense consistently losing out. Bush has not increased the size of the U.S. military since September 11--despite repeated calls from hawks in his own party--in part because, given his massive tax cuts, he simply cannot afford to. An anti-totalitarian liberalism would attack those tax cuts not merely as unfair and fiscally reckless, but, above all, as long-term threats to America's ability to wage war against fanatical Islam."
The Republican party has already proven itself to be a failure with regards to terrorism (and now knows it will pay no electoral price for its inadequacies). The Democratic party seems unready to take up the mantlepiece for itself. Which one will snap to its senses first? Only time will tell, but hopefully not too much of it.
UPDATE: If Beinart gave the how, Kevin Drum gives the why. His link explains that someone needs to explain WHY Islamic Totalitereanism is such a grave threat that justifies this mass purge.
I'd take a crack at it, but I'm braindead right now. Also, I'm going up to Princeton to judge the debate tournament there (my triumphant return, I won it my senior year of High School). So that will suck into my time ALOT this weekend.