At the last Democratic debate, moderator Brian Williams asked the candidates a “Show of hands question: Do you believe there is such a thing as a global war on terror?” Hillary Clinton’s hand shot up, Barack Obama shifted nervously then slowly put his hand up. Noticably absent from the candidates with hands in the air was Senator John Edwards who stood firmly with his hands at his side. Of course Joe Biden and Dennis Kucinich’s hands both remained at their side, but the two of them have been against the rhetoric of Global War on Terror for some time, John Edwards is very new to cause.
Edwards is so new to the cause, in fact, that at that time there were still references to the Global War on Terror on his website, including the position that “winning the war on terror requires wisdom and moral strength, as well as military might.” He has also made references to the War on Terror in speeches, including a reference from his campaign blog in September:
To win the war on terror, we must preserve our moral authority to lead the world. If we are to succeed in spreading democracy abroad, we must defend the fundamental principles of democracy at home.
John Edwards also made reference to the War on Terror in 2004 in the Vice Presidential debate, saying:
Someone did get it wrong. But it wasn’t John Kerry and John Edwards. They got it wrong. When we had Osama bin Laden cornered, they left the job to the Afghan warlords. They then diverted their attention from the very people who attacked us, who were at the center of the war on terror, and so Osama bin Laden is still at large.
He has always had a nuanced view of the War on Terror, and while he may have accepted the term, he often criticized the simplicity of it, calling attention to the differences between a war in Ira and a war in Afghanistan, in the same debate he challeneged the Vice President saying:
Our point in this is not complicated: We were attacked by Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden.
We went into Afghanistan and very quickly the administration made a decision to divert attention from that and instead began to plan for the invasion of Iraq.
And these connections — I want the American people to hear this very clearly. Listen carefully to what the vice president is saying. Because there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11th — period.
Edwards’ nuanced view of the Iraq war is consistent with him not raising his hand at the Democratic presidential debate, he may have always used the terms, but he also always had an appreciation for the nuances. Edwards commented on his opposition to the term “war on terror” in Time Magazine:
This political language has created a frame that is not accurate and that Bush and his gang have used to justify anything they want to do. It’s been used to justify a whole series of things that are not justifiable, ranging from the war in Iraq, to torture, to violation of the civil liberties of Americans, to illegal spying on Americans. Anyone who speaks out against these things is treated as unpatriotic. I also think it suggests that there’s a fixed enemy that we can defeat with just a military campaign. I just don’t think that’s true.
And he explained in a speech:
It is time for us to quit kowtowing to these people. We have to say what we really believe. Now, are there really dangerous people in the world? Of course there are. We need to be smart and aggressive and intelligent, use intelligence – did I say dangerous people? – we have to use intelligence to fight them and stop them. Everybody recognizes that. But the one thing that’s been proven beyond any doubt as a result of what’s happened in the last six years is raw power alone will never make you a leader. You actually have to have the moral authority.
The only thing that has changed is that John Edwards wont use the phrase “global war on terror” anymore, but the percieved shift in position and the shadowy deletion from the website of all references makes this a bigger story than it really is. Edwards’ opinion hasn’t changed since 2004, but he is becoming emancipated from the bonds of the Senate and the political winds have shifted in his direction since then.