October 17, 2004

Why I'm Supporting Dubya

The Centrality of Iraq

The impending election, in large part, turns on whether the American people believe George Bush or John Kerry is better suited to be Commander in Chief whilst prosecuting something we've come to call the global war on terror ("GWOT"). Now fundamental to all this, the big 800-pound gorilla in the room, is the Iraq war. Some individuals believe the war in Iraq and the GWOT are one and the same--Iraq an integral part of the wider war--and that we remain right to have gone in. Others believe Iraq was always destined to be a massive blunder--not only distracting us from the real war on terror but also, tragically, actually worsening our position in the GWOT by further poisoning relations with the Islamic (particularly Arab Muslim) world. Still others accept that the Iraq war was a necessary part of the GWOT but that it has proven a net negative given strategic blunders in theater.

The pessimists make a strong case that the war was a bad idea. Over 1,000 American servicemen and women are dead. Many thousands more wounded. Britons, Poles, Italians and other coalition countries have lost personnel. USD $120B, and counting, has been spent on the war effort. The cost in blood and treasure has been dear--and it looks set to keep mounting for a good while yet. Not to mention the cost to Iraqis. Yes, they have been freed from a bloody tyrant. But perhaps well over ten thousand Iraqis have perished since the war began. Suicide bombings are daily events in certain beleaguered Iraqi cities. Fallujah is controlled by fanatical terrorists and avowed fundamentalists. I've lost track of how many new Iraqi police forces have been massacred at recruiting stations. Lately, suicide bombers have taken to infiltrating the Green Zone itself-the very seat of interim Iraqi and coalition power--killing American nationals on their own front doorstep in brazen fashion.

Put simply, the U.S. has failed in providing basic security through wide, critical swaths of Iraq. And, consequently, reconstruction has severely lagged. So Iraqis can be forgiven musing whether the previous brutishly imposed order might not be preferable to the near chaos that reigns in parts of the country today. So, one might fairly ask, and to put it bluntly, how can I support the man who dragged us into this bloody mess, this foolhardy adventure--what might well potentially prove to be the worst foreign policy blunder for America since the Vietnam War.

A small vignette. Sometime in late 2001, I was having lunch with a couple attorneys in Washington DC. One of the lawyers, who will remain unnamed, is a smart pro who knows well the ins out and out of the Beltway and has lots of Pentagon and Middle East experience. Talk quickly turned to Iraq. My lunchmate had recently been over at the Pentagon talking to people. War-planning, he told me, seemed underway. 'Can you believe they are really serious about it' was basically the vibe he was giving off. They're gonna go into Iraq! Crazy! Do they have a clue what they are getting themselves into?

Were such skeptics right all along? And were the very smartest of the elites who were pro-intervention snookered or clueless (I'm thinking of the Ken Pollacks, Andrew Sullivans, Leon Wieseltiers, Fareed Zakarias). Well, now about two years out--we have a better sense of what Iraq has wrought. No rosy-colored lens over here at B.D.--I've mentioned the difficulties we face above. But let's also look at the positive side of the ledger. The Battle of Baghdad didn't cost the lives of 3,000-5,000 G.I.s. Saddam was unseated with blitzkrieg speed. There were no massive refugee flows. The conflict didn't spill over into neighboring countries. No conflagration tantamount to civil war has occured to date. The Turks haven't gotten too panicky about Kurdish de facto deep autonomy (yet). Iran, in deep meddle-mode to be sure--has not full-blown scuttled developments in the Shi'a south. In the region generally, the House of Saud has not been replaced by UBL adherents--and no U.S. troops remain in Saudi Arabia. Pakistan and Egypt remain, on the whole, pretty stable. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict grinds on-but the Iraq war hasn't worsened the moribund peace process in any significant manner.

All this aside, and most important of all, Iraq is (if in tortuous fashion) moving towards elections come January. We do not yet know if certain parts of the Sunni Triangle will be able to participate in the voting. We can be fearful of the perils of a crude Shia majoritarianism emerging through the ballot-box--especially if many Sunnis are denied (or simply cannot) vote. Kurdistan remains, in many ways, the sleeper issue--we shouldn't forget it too can explode given Turkey's interests there. And yet. As with Afghanistan, it appears a somewhat viable election may occur in Iraq shortly--a country that had been under the yoke of a brutal, neo-Stalinist thug for three decades. This would be an historic accomplishment by any standard, would it not? One we could be proud of--provided that the election, at least in large part, was viewed by a large majority of Iraqis as enjoying a real imprimatur of legitimacy.

Why We Went In

B.D. supported the war in Iraq mostly on traditional realist grounds. Post 9/11, I believed that Saddam posed a uniquely worrisome threat. Unlike N. Korea and Iran--Saddam had started two regional wars and had used WMD against his own people in odious fashion. Perhaps he was not a madman, but he certainly was a volatile strategic blunderer (more than the Mullahs in Teheran and more than Kim Jong Il). To be sure, we had a massive intelligence failure, but the DCI told the sitting President that the case that Iraq had an active WMD program was a "slam dunk." Did Cheney exagerrate the nuclear angle? Yes, and he should have come more clean during the postmortem. But did POTUS purposefully lie to the American people on the WMD issue? I don't think a judicious examination of the evidence bears that out.

Regardless, and after 9/11, I was concerned that Saddam, inspired by UBL's dramatic success in New York, would transfer biological or chemical weaponry to a terrorist group like al-Qaeda. Was I a simpleton or a hysteric to have been so concerned given Saddam's unique track record sketched above? Given a decade of obstruction and obfuscation--flouting well over a dozen U.N. resolutions since 1991? Given that the U.K. and U.S. were involved in military operations there through the 90s? Given that the avowed policy of the Clinton team was "regime change"? Well, no, I don't think I was.

But there is more than all this, of course. 9/11 was what Hegel might have called a world-historical event. There was something prima facie epoch-shaping that happened when those two Towers crumbled to the ground. Expressions of regret poured in from all over the world. Even the Mayor of Teheran extended condolences to Rudy. Saddam, of course, extended no such regrets. But why should he have? After all, while not reportedly sharing any collaborative, operational links with al-Qaeda--he was (to a fashion) linked to them in esprit--given his use of chemical weaponry against his own population, his support to the families of suicide bombers in Israel (a cheap propaganda ploy, but revealing nonetheless of his view of how to reward those who might purposefully go about massacring innocent civilians), his harboring of Abu Nidal and other terror-masters in the past.

Nick Lemann has an interesting New Yorker piece in the current edition (of which more in another post) entitled "Remember the Alamo--How George Bush Reinvented Himself." In it, he quotes Richard Haass (formerly Head of Policy Planning at State, now President of the Council on Foreign Relations). In a revealing passage, Lemann asked Haass why we went to war in Iraq:

I will go to my grave not knowing that. I can't answer it. I can't explain the strategic obsession with Iraq--why it rose to the top of people's priority list. I just can't explain why so many people thought this was so important to do. But if there was a hidden reason, the one I heard most was that we needed to change the geopolitical momentum after 9/11. People wanted to show that we can dish it out as well as take it. We're not a pitiful helpless giant. We can play offense as well as defense. I heard that from some people. Of course, some would say that Afghanistan was enough. There are two what-ifs. One, what if there had been no 9/11--would it have happened? I think the odds are slightly against it, even though some people were for it. Two, what if we knew there were no weapons of mass destruction? I'd say no. But the urge to do this existed pre-9/11. What 9/11 did was change the atmosphere in which decisions were made. The only serious argument for war was weapons of mass destruction. [emphasis added]

Lemann portrays Haass as a mega-Iraq war skeptic--which I'm not so sure is the case. Like many of us, of course, Haass is dismayed by the dismal post-war planning. But, even if Haass is skeptical, there is something to this argument of regaining "the geopolitical momentum." Not like some mammoth, clumsy, wounded animal lashing out blindly at all comers. But in purposeful manner, in terms of attempting the hard, generational task of moving the Middle East towards modernity (the epicenter of the radical terrorist threat we face). Given a confluence of factors too lengthy to go through in any more detail here--Iraq became the place where that effort was launched. Now we must determine who between Kerry and Bush can best lead us forward from this difficult and so important place we find ourselves.

The Existential Stakes

Today, we are at war with radical Islam. Not Islam writ large, mind you. Not all Arabs either. There is too much tut-tutting about all those towel-headed Mohameds in large swaths of the right blogosphere. I find such rhetoric repulsive and worthy of our worst racist tendencies. But, that said, we face a mortal enemy in the face of radical Islam. Its tentacles are spread in far-flung fashion; from Jakarta to Casablanca; from Bali to Madrid. Those who killed 3,000 in New York on 9/11 are only too happy to kill 3 million at their first opportunity. We can, unfortunately, not yet be confident that the 21st century will be less bloody than the 20th.

A few days after 9/11, Andrew Sullivan wrote:

THIS ISN'T TERRORISM, IT'S WAR: Besides, this enemy is not simply a band of thugs, but several regimes that aid and abet these people and have celebrated this atrocity. These regimes have declared war on the United States, and it is time we repay the favor. The precedent is not the Sudan under Clinton or even Libya under Reagan. Under Clinton, these regimes were encouraged. Under Reagan, they were scared, but, under Reagan, they had not yet launched this kind of war. Now they have - even daring to target one of the citadels of our democracy: the White House. This is the most grievous declaration of war against America in history. What Wright hasn't absorbed, I think, is that we are no longer fighting terrorism. We are at war. And we are not at war with any old regime or even a handful of terrorists. We are at war with an evil that will only grow unless it is opposed with all the might at our command. We must wage that war with a ferocity that doesn't merely scare these monsters but terrifies them. Merely murdering bin Laden is a laughable response. If this new war can be waged with partners - specifically Russia, NATO, China - so much the better. But if not, the United States must act alone - and as soon as we can be assured of complete success. There are times when it is not inappropriate or even immoral to use overwhelming power merely to terrify and avenge. Read your Machiavelli. We must shock them more than they have shocked us. We must do so with a force not yet seen in human history. Then we can begin to build a future of greater deterrence. I repeat: we are not responding to terrorism any more. We are at war. And war requires no restraint, simply massive and unanswerable force until the enemy is not simply defeated but unconditionally destroyed. To hesitate for fear of reprisal is to have capitulated before we have even begun. I don't believe Americans want to capitulate to anyone. The only question is whether we will get the leadership now to deal with this or whether we will have to endure even worse atrocities before a real leader emerges. [emphasis added]

Now three years on, that question remains as critical as it did back then.

Bush's Record

George Bush, in my view, understands the nature of the evil we are combating. He understands it deep in his gut, to his very core, and this is why I will be voting for him in November. To be sure, I am voting for him with many reservations (of which more below); but I am confident and, indeed, proud of my vote because Bush's intellectual firmament has grasped this essential truth.

A few days after 9/11; Bush movingly went to Ground Zero and rallied a nation. This was critical to our national fabric, and I will always honor him for it. To be frank and more revelatory than I may like on this blog--I still get emotional when I remember that day. To the grotesquely cheap Mooreian attacks regarding the "My Pet Goat" readings at the Florida school--I say remember the moment Bush grabbed that megaphone and rallied a profoundly wounded nation.

Bush then proceeded to go about methodically gaining Pakistan's vital support in the fight against the Taliban--through the hugely admirable efforts of Colin Powell. Next, Bush swept the Taliban from power--denying al-Qaeda their key state sanctuary. Kerry now trots out the Tora Bora meme-that we let UBL get away because we "outsourced" the effort to local Afghans. This is a risible argument, as any serious observer well realizes. The Tora Bora mountain range is massive--and even if we had sent in many tens of thousands of our troops (as if Al Gore would have done so; a laughable notion as well)--there were myriad escape routes. Not only that, as recently pointed out in an op-ed in the WSJ, local tribesmen might well have taken up arms against us in the foothills before we even got to the die-hard al-Qaeda fighters--should such a massive insertion of U.S. fighting forces have occured. And, besides, we are not even sure UBL was even in Tora Bora during that time frame. No, more realistically, better to conclude: thank God Bush was Commander in Chief during the Afghan operation rather than Al Gore! Can you imagine a Les Aspin type planning such an operation?

Out of the rubble of Ground Zero and through the advent of Afghanistan--the Bush doctrine was born--the policy that states that nations that harbor terrorists would be held just as culpable by the United States as the terrorists themselves. Afghanistan, of course, was the wholly uncontroversial enunciation of this doctrine--and Iraq the much more controversial one. But, whatever you make of Iraq, can anyone now deny that the U.S. takes the threat of terror with the utmost seriousness? Have we not proven that we are not a paper tiger? That we will fight valiantly and hard in pursuit of our security and our values? This too, is part of Bush's record--no matter how often it is poo-pooed by cynics who think this is all dumb Simian-like macho talk that doesn't matter. I'm sorry, but it very much does. To deny this is to deny reality.

Of course, there is much that is troubling about Bush's performance during his first term. Front and center, in my view, was the fact that we never sent enough troops into Iraq to create secure conditions. From this, many troubles stemmed. Massive looting. Huge resentment of an occupier that couldn't (some there, given to conspiracy, think purposefully wouldn't) stabilize the country they occupied. And, of course, Abu Ghraib--a deep stain on our national reputation that floored me.

(Note there is a dirty little secret about Abu Ghraib that often passes unmentioned. I recently spoke to a former U.S. diplomat who travels to the Middle East often. I asked him about the impact of Abu Ghraib there. To be sure, it didn't help. But the sad reality is that many Arabs, so accustomed to their myriad mukhabarat-style secret polices and organs of repression--weren't, finally, that shocked by Abu Ghraib. The real issues that infuriate Arabs, make no mistake, are 1) their frustration with the repressive polities they inhabit, with the attendant atrophied economies and 2) the perceived humiliation born of the Arab-Israeli conflict).

In short, Bush's record has been mixed--but he gets the existential stakes at play. I would only vote for Kerry if: a) he got the stakes too and b) assuming "a", that I thought he would prosecute the war in materially more effective fashion. I don't believe either.

Kerry Doesn't Get the Stakes

I don't believe, in his gut, Kerry believes that we face an existential challenge with regard to the war on terror. How else to explain the now famous quote in the Matt Bai article:

We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance,'' Kerry said. ''As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.'

Or, in the same article, we are told that Kerry told Bai that 9/11 didn't change him. Look, I'm not one of those crazies who caught the fever after 9/11. We all know some of these people. A switch kinda clicked upstairs and it's all gung-ho, jingo off to Mecca we go--us against a billion Muslims. But I do believe, as I said earlier in this post, that 9/11 was a world historical event. It sure changed me. It quashed the Fukuyama end of history thesis (the resurgence of nationalism in the Balkans had gone some way towards doing so already, in my view). It heralded the beginning of a new, perilous era. You're effing right it changed me. How about you?

There's more, of course, re: why I'm dubious that Kerry gets the stakes. Put aside whether Allawi's speech to Congress was vetted by the White House. It was a moving, important speech nonetheless. And Iraq is the most important conflict we face now--a critical component of the generational challenge we face to modernize the Middle East--so as to reduce the pool of prospective fanatics who will adhere to a radicalized Islamic vision. But Kerry denigrated Allawi's speech--all but calling him a liar. I'm sorry, but that's just not serious. Actually, it's worse than not serious--it's immensely irresponsible and, yes, dangerous.

Kerry also suffers from something of a Vietnam syndrome. I, like Robert Kagan has written, believe that Kerry has a deep distrust and suspicion regarding exerting American power overseas. He voted against Gulf War I, for Pete's sake (Saudi oil supplies likely to be controlled by Iraq!?! Hey, who cares!). His disregard for such a vital strategic interest has been replicated when confronted by humanitarian tragedies too. See his vote against 'lift and strike' in Bosnia (Laura Rozen would like you to forget it). Kerry says he would never send our boys into war unless it is absoutely necessary. Well, what is absolutely necessary Senator? Really, what? Too little, in Kerry's worldview, I'm afraid.

Nor am I persuaded that Kerry, tactically, will prove more impressive than Bush (even if, for argument's sake, we assumed he got the stakes). Again, from the Bai article:

We need to engage more directly and more respectfully with Islam, with the state of Islam, with religious leaders, mullahs, imams, clerics, in a way that proves this is not a clash with the British and the Americans and the old forces they remember from the colonial days,'' Kerry told me during a rare break from campaigning, in Seattle at the end of August. ''And that's all about your diplomacy.''

When I suggested that effecting such changes could take many years, Kerry shook his head vehemently and waved me off.

''Yeah, it is long-term, but it can be dramatically effective in the short term. It really can be. I promise you.'' He leaned his head back and slapped his thighs. ''A new presidency with the right moves, the right language, the right outreach, the right initiatives, can dramatically alter the world's perception of us very, very quickly.

''I know Mubarak well enough to know what I think I could achieve in the messaging and in the press in Egypt,'' Kerry went on. ''And, similarly, with Jordan and with King Abdullah, and what we can do in terms of transformation in the economics of the region by getting American businesspeople involved, getting some stability and really beginning to proactively move in those ways. We just haven't been doing any of this stuff. We've been stunningly disengaged, with the exception of Iraq.

It's always like this with Kerry, isn't it? I know Gerard. And Jacques too. We get along! There will be a summit. I've got a plan! We'll agree it amidst all the cheery summitry. Paris, perhaps? Adoring crowds will crowd the Champs for a glimpse of me! Yes, we'll all get along better if I win. After all, I know what really makes key leaders tick. How to get things moving. And we need to "do" better diplomacy. Oh, Hosni and I are buddies too--so Middle East democratization will go swimmingly should I win--even if I pull our boys out of Iraq to remedy that noxious backdoor draft thang.

Let's be honest with ourselves here, OK? Kerry has shown astonishingly little by way of real, viable policy alternatives. He's brought almost nothing new to the table. To be clear. His NoKo policy is a replication of the failed Clinton policy. The only difference between Bush and Kerry on Iran policy is that Bush will play a bit harder when it gets to the U.N. and, if Kerry wins, John Bolton won't be around to bitch about it all. On Iraq, it's all: I'll reconstruct better!; I'll train better!, I'll run the elections better! and so on. Would that Kerry had, rather than signal retreat, told us he would send more troops if needed to decisively signal to our foes we will not abandon our effort there. Instead, it's the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time.

How about the critical Arab-Israeli conflict? Kerry has big, bold plans, I've heard! Look, would I prefer that Bush more loudly proclaimed that Gaza first didn't mean Gaza last? That talk in Israeli political circles that a Gaza withdrawal means the U.S. will let the Israelis keep hold of the West Bank be more staunchly hushed? Oh, maybe. But it's an election year. And Sharon needs to get rightist Likudniks on board--so give him some breathing room to at least pull off Gaza. Our bright Ambassador to Tel Aviv (Dan Kurtzer) and Asst Sec of State for Near Eastern Affairs (Bill Burns) are admirably plugging away--trying to at least have a symbolic withdrawal from some West Bank settlements take place concomittantly with any Gaza withdrawal. Such linkage could then be used to spearhead some forward movement on the roadmap later on. The peace processers are still at work.

Would John Kerry handle this differently? There is talk of a special envoy, perhaps Clinton (who flubbed Camp David II by not backstopping with Fahd and Mubarak re: how far Arafat could go on Jerusalem concessions). Should we again cheapen the Presidential coin with late night poring over map sessions around the empty pizza delivery boxes? More 15 hour days at Sheperdstown? No folks, Kerry offers nothing compelling on how to resuscitate the peace process. Indeed, he (and, most theatrically Edwards, during his debate with Cheney) disingenuously play the 'we will be better friends to Israel than the Bush team' card.

Let me also say this. A Bush II will not be a Bush I repeat. By that, I guess, I mean that we are not rushing into Iran or Syria. The neo-cons, of course, have lost a lot of street cred. Bush might be stubborn and not wont to admit mistakes. But he's not an idiot. He knows, say, a land war in Iran would be folly. And he knows he has gotten a lot of bogus advice from the Pentagon. Bush is a hard competitor, indeed he's ruthlessly competitive. Above all, he's a survivor. He will be getting advice from a broader swath of advisors in his second term, I trust.

The Kerry team? Holbrooke would be strong--but the sub-Holbrooke swaths of Foggy Bottom, I fear, would be weak. Despite the major errors in the post-war planning of this Administration, I have more faith in the foreign policy aptitude of a Bush II team than a Kerry I. You can disagree, but I think you'd be wrong--even if you think Susan Rice and Jamie Rubin are the greatest things since sliced bread.

Substance Over Form, Please!

Finally, a quick point related to the below from Dan Drezner (explaining why he will likely vote Kerry):

Given the foreign policy stakes in this election, I prefer a leader who has a good decision-making process, even if his foreign policy instincts are skewed in a direction I don't like, over a leader who has a bad decision-making process, even if his foreign policy instincts are skewed in a direction I do like.

Boy Dan, you couldn't be more wrong in my book. This line of argument might have flyed in the 90's--but I think it's a dangerous outlook in the post 9/11 world. Perhaps if the policy making process were fatally flawed--I'd agree. But any occasional NSC breakdowns in brokering a coherent policy on Iran, NoKo, the Arab-Israeli peace process--while they have bothered me much over the past years--I must nevertheless conclude that such issues pale in comparison with the specter of a commander-in-chief who would view terror as something merely constitutive of a "nuisance" to be managed in routine fashion.

This isn't just semantic nit-picking. Kerry has hinted (often without realizing it), and too often in my view, that he would go back to the days that terrorism was treated as basically a law enforcement issue. He and his supporters will vehemently dispute this, of course. But, if you read between the lines, there's a lot there to make you strongly suspect that to be the case. In my view, that's just not acceptable in a post 9/11 world. And, more important, it shows a fundamental misunderstanding about the existential stakes at play given the long-term nature of the struggle we face against radical Islam.

This isn't just a matter of "foreign policy instincts." It's a matter of core conviction regarding the nature of the struggle we find ourselves in. About the broad direction that American foreign policy will move in vis-a-vis responding to these very real challenges during the next so critical years. Give me, even with flawed policy execution, a leader who gets the stakes deep in his gut--above one who will have a better process (which, incidentally, I doubt) but has shown (repeatedly) a worrisomely sanguine view of the perils we face at the present hour.

P.S. Drezner also writes: "If Bush gets re-elected, he and his team will view it as a vindication for all of their policy decisions to date. Whatever groupthink occurred in the first term would pale besides the groupthink that would dominate the second term."

Does Dan really believe that a Bush victory will have Doug Feith feeling "vindicated" so that group-think would prevail via some Libby-Bolton-Feith axis? Er, I think not. Nor do John Negroponte or Zal Khalilzad, I suspect. Regardless, some of these folks, I'd wager, aren't even going to be around in a Bush II.

MORE: Kerry's Senatorial work is being trotted out to make him appear almost eerily prescient re: the perils of non-state actors in terms of the terror threat. Matt Bai's piece is an (inadvertently) humorous example:

More senior members of the foreign-relations committee, like Joe Biden and Richard Lugar, were far more visible and vocal on the emerging threat of Islamic terrorism. But through his BCCI investigation, Kerry did discover that a wide array of international criminals -- Latin American drug lords, Palestinian terrorists, arms dealers -- had one thing in common: they were able to move money around through the same illicit channels. And he worked hard, and with little credit, to shut those channels down.

In 1988, Kerry successfully proposed an amendment that forced the Treasury Department to negotiate so-called Kerry Agreements with foreign countries. Under these agreements, foreign governments had to promise to keep a close watch on their banks for potential money laundering or they risked losing their access to U.S. markets. Other measures Kerry tried to pass throughout the 90's, virtually all of them blocked by Republican senators on the banking committee, would end up, in the wake of 9/11, in the USA Patriot Act; among other things, these measures subject banks to fines or loss of license if they don't take steps to verify the identities of their customers and to avoid being used for money laundering.

Through his immersion in the global underground, Kerry made connections among disparate criminal and terrorist groups that few other senators interested in foreign policy were making in the 90's. Richard A. Clarke, who coordinated security and counterterrorism policy for George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, credits Kerry with having seen beyond the national-security tableau on which most of his colleagues were focused. ''He was getting it at the same time that people like Tony Lake were getting it, in the '93 -'94 time frame,'' Clarke says, referring to Anthony Lake, Clinton's national security adviser. ''And the 'it' here was that there was a new nonstate-actor threat, and that nonstate-actor threat was a blended threat that didn't fit neatly into the box of organized criminal, or neatly into the box of terrorism. What you found were groups that were all of the above.''

"Immersion in the global underground". Heh. Is that in Davos? With apologies to Mr. Bai--but this whole part of his article reeks of B.S. Contra Richard Clarke, I don't think John 'Nostradamus' Kerry was "getting it" in '93. This all smells like inspired spin to make Kerry seem like the right guy to go after all those non-state actor meanies. Don't believe the hype. The apercu that terrorists need money, regardless, isn't particularly breathtaking. And from investigating BCCI to prosecuting a war against al-Qaeda--well, they're different kettle of fish entirely. Relatedly, the argument that the Bushies are still Politburo-watching and state-actor obsessed is just bunk. Certainly, it's now a moot point post 9/11. No one in the Bush administration can be accused, certainly at this juncture, of ignoring the perils of non-state actors. Oh, note, pace Clarke, that groups like al-Qaeda are both terrorist and criminal groupings (certainly let's never be accused of putting things in overly neat boxes!). So, er, make sure you've got process servers ready too in case court summons need to be served up in Wazirstan...I'm being facetious, of course. But I think you get my point.

UPDATE: Dan Drezner (whose post reminded me how to spell Richard Haass' name--I always drop that second "s"!), remains "unconvinced" that "Bush's foreign policy has been a greater success than commonly thought, and [he's] not convinced that [Bush] would ever be able to recognize the need for policy change." But hey, he's a tad more concerned about Kerry's "bad foreign policy instincts." Progress!

And blogger Eric Martin, who often keeps me on my toes, takes me to task too. His thoughts are well-worth reading.

STILL MORE (and with apologies for the simply ridiculous length of this post): David Adesnik, my first blog-friend (on the basis of a quick coffee in my London offices many moons ago!), looks set to vote Kerry. I won't pretend that Drezner and Adesnik's likely votes for Kerry don't give me pause--they are two of the very brightest foreign policy minds in the blogosphere. But I think Drezner, among other things, is too caught up in process; and I think Adesnik is overly generous to Kerry re: the latter's commitment to democracy.

After all David, this is pretty thin gruel you serve up, no?

Finally, I believe there is an ethical core to Kerry's foreign policy that can be put into the service of democratization. In the 1980s, Kerry's concern for human rights led him to denounce Reagan's support for anti-Communist rebels in Nicaragua known as 'contras'.

Indeed David--in the very post announcing Kerry as his likely choice--is forced to concede in the very next sentence:

Like his fellow Democrats, Kerry failed to recognize that the price of abandoning the contras was the destruction of any hope for democratic reform in Nicaragua. On a fundamental level, liberal Democrats opposed American intervention in other nations' domestic affairs, even if those nations were being held hostage by Communists.

Le plus ca change David. Kerry and Co. (ie, broad non-Lieberman swaths of the Democrat party), in my view, do not truly care about whether Iraq becomes a democratic polity or not. Now, of course, you might argue that Bush is so 'in the bubble', stubborn, clueless, and divorced from reality that--even though he might care more about forging democracy there--it doesn't mean squat on the ground because he's incapable of addressing reality square in the face.

But balancing Bush's worrisome tendency to be something of a 'Propellor President' (as Sully puts it); against Kerry's lack of true committment to forging democracy in Iraq--well, I come out on the Dubya side of the fence. Not least because I think that Bush is capable of staring reality in the face and making mid-course policy adjustments. Indeed, he has repeatedly done so in Iraq (Fallujah, Brahimi-brought-on-board, how Sadr was handled, ditching Garner for Bremer, empowering Negroponte and State over civies at the Pentagon, and more).

Posted by Gregory at October 17, 2004 10:26 AM
Comments

Thank you. This expresses so much of what I feel. I really wish a few more people(like Andrew) would be more realistic with Kerry's history and more willing to concede that Bush is trying to correct the mistakes that have happened. Your article sure makes a compelling case for it.

Posted by: Mark at October 17, 2004 03:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It seems that if you repeat a phrase often enough, it becomes accepted wisdom. I've heard everyone (BD included) say that Bush "understands" or "gets" the stakes in the GWOT. I see no such evidence. Victory in this war requires diplomatic deftness and, above all, ideological subtlety, because we must convince the Islamic world's moderates and fence-sitters that we are on their side and that they are on ours, that our goal is to promote their aspirations, not impose them. As I see it, the invasion of Iraq has made the lives of the moderates and fence-sitters immeasurably more difficult, now and far into the future. Military power must play an ancillary role (Army SF is essential in this regard); currently in Iraq it is killing people and breaking things as fast as we are trying to rebuild them. We must reserve military power for terrorists, not innocent city-dwellers in Iraq. (Killing innocents is most assuredly not our intention, but it is an outcome of our policies in Iraq and the fact that we have placed the Army and Marine Corps in an impossible bind; the more innocents who die as a result of collateral damage, the more we radicalize former neutrals -- neutrals whose favor we desperately need.)

The problem with the Bush approach is its Cold War nostalgia: states determine everything, Great Power politics will decide all, et cetera. (Witness their obsession with missile defense!) Al Qaeda has shown that it does not need states, only individuals within states. The Bush people do not grasp this difference. I think Kerry does, but I'll reserve judgment.

As for North Korea, as much blame lies with Republican conservatives in Congress and the South Korean government as it does with Clinton and North Korea (the former's refusal to fund the light-water reactors as just one example). Clinton essentially admitted that the AF outcome was flawed, but he also did declare, and kept the U.S. military on notice, that the reopening of Yongbyon and the reprocessing of the spent fuel rods would mean that the "red line" would be crossed and the U.S. would strike. That kind of ambiguity kept North Korea off balance and forced them to travel the underground, HEU route. (The difference between plutonium and HEU is akin to that of buying a new car straight from the dealership, or going to the junkyard and building the same brand new car from scratch). The Bush Male Crush Posse at National Review and elsewhere calls this "kicking the can down the road", but to quote Matt Hooper dressing down Quint in the movie "Jaws": "You got any better suggestions?!" They would have done nothing differently, or if they had, then Seoul would now be a barren wasteland and many thousands of American troops would be dead. The goal in Korea is to avoid that outcome. Bush has done it so far by making the situation only more unstable.

Kerry understands that nuclear proliferation is the civilized world's highest security priority. Surely he can improve on W's performance in this arena, which amounts to nothing more than saying, "We will not allow rogue states to get nuclear weapons -- that is until they get nuclear weapons." I grant you tha Pakistan is a supremely difficult issue, but tossing out blatant lies about how A.Q. Khan has been "brought to justice" brings little comfort.

As always, BD offers smart, provocative thoughts. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: TT at October 17, 2004 04:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with BD and his case for Bush.

I have listened to Kerry and what I hear is Carter/Clinton era speeches. That frightens me!. If Kerry gets elected, he will have combination of Carter and Clinton personality and characters back to the White House and that will set America 25 years back and not forward. I have not heard any new ideas and/or philosophy from that group regarding the post-cold period. They just don't get the new world danger! Kerry compares this war to Vietnam and that show his depth of his vision. The danger is real, I and many people who lived in the Middle East have felt it for many year and I hope American people will take it seriously too. I believe Bush Inc.'s vision is the right one, it may not be perfect but it is a huge leap from where we have been for the last 20 years. We have to get out of the cold war mentality and use new strategy when dealing with new world danger, Islamo-fascism.

Kerry does not understand Middle East the same way Carter did not get it.
Iranian revolution was hijacked by Mullahs thanks to the Carter administration. Democrats at that time did not have the insight to Islamic movement mentality that had started in Egypt 5 years prior. Carter thought the Khomeni was a "Gandhi like" character that can be negotiated. The revolution started by mostly intellectuals and some communist movement student but ended with Mullahs . Iranian people, to this date, believe that America had a hand in pushing the religious group forward. Iranians were not at all fanatic Muslims and the nation was in a shock when they saw the Islamo-Fascist took the control and there were Arabs everywhere guarding the Mullahs during the first 6 months of revolution. Remember PLO's Arafat was the first foreign leader visiting Khomeni. People couldn't understand what was happing. Some foreign hand was involved since it happened too quickly. Carter used the same strategy as he used in Afghanistan and his strategy is to blame for this Islamic Jehad that we have now. If Carter had used "real force" in freeing hostages, the Islamic regime in Iran could not have survived this long. Carter kept thinking he should negotiate. F*(&$ negotiation is not a strategy!!!! Muslims never understood what negotiating is , let alone do it. Carter keep insisting on something they could not understand. Iranian were laughing at America and how powerless Carter was during the hostage crises. Kerry reminds my of Carter in many ways when he talks about how he would handle the terrorism differently!! If you don't use aggressive methods nothing else works with Muslim Fanatics.
If Bush loses, there will be dancing and Joy among the Fundamental Muslims around the world and Islamic terrorists will be more encouraged to proceed with their goals again. If Bush wins, they will see that he is being backed by his own people and American force will become real to them. Remember, Islam--fascist fear power only and I think Bush's strategy of supporting democratic movement across the world with tying the foreign aid to the human rights record is a good start. We need to give him a chance to get it done.

Sorry for the long comment, but as a Middle Eastern woman, I passionately think American foreign policy is finally getting IT with Middle East and I hope they will not lose the one man that changed the direction. Kerry wants to please the world and wants to negotiate and wants to wage a sensitive war. These are all Carter/Clinton language which Arabs and Muslims laugh at. Lets protect the American image by voting the right guy! Remember, if Kerry wins, he will use the same people who helped Clinton, Carter to form their disastrous foreign policies and that should make you worry.

Regards to all,
A Middle Eastern woman for Bush

Posted by: frieda at October 17, 2004 05:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, I think you're mistaken if you think that Bush Round II would empower smart, reasonable people like you.

Remember, it was Dick Cheney's allies in the administration who are responsible for this. Bush didn't fire them, nor did he hold anyone of consequence's feet to the fire for this. Donald Rumsfeld is, apparently, the best Secretary of Defense America has ever had. Two of the leading candidates for Secretary of State are apparently Pauls Bremer and Wolfowitz, neither of which inspires a modicum of confidence. A third option is Condi Rice, who is chronically incapable of getting different agencies working towards a common policy. Rick Sanchez is getting his fourth star. Barbara Fast got promoted. The general who dreamed up using MPs to help "set the conditions" for interrogations in Guantanamo was sent to fix the problems in Iraq. A toadie has been put in charge of the CIA, not to fix our intelligence problems, but rather to ride herd on the groans of dissent coming out of Langley. And the man who wrote that "the power to set aside the law is inherent in the President" got rewarded with a plum judgeship.

I don't think any of this bodes well for a second term.

Posted by: praktike at October 17, 2004 06:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

B.D. is, as always, awesome. But I'll restrain myself in praising this excellent posting, and instead move on to a couple minor points.

I think Dennis Ross would be a good choice (and a more likely choice than Bill Clinton) for U.S. envoy for promoting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. B.D. is correct, in my opinion, that the Kerry-Edwards ticket has appealed to the AIPAC vote -- but the Clinton-Gore ticket appealed to the AIPAC vote in 1992, and then adopted a non-AIPAC policy once in office.

Posted by: Arjun at October 17, 2004 07:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm surprised the news media hasn't paid more attention to the last campaign in which John Kerry sought a new political office. That was in 1984, when Mr. Kerry, then Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, ran for the U.S. Senate.

In that campaign, Mr. Kerry adopted an extremely irresponsible position opposing the Reagan Administration's military buildup. I don't know whether that alleged John Kerry 1984 campaign flyer (the one in which the Kerry campaign decried increased military spending and specifically proposed slashing or eliminating spending on several important weapons systems) is a fake document designed ex post facto on Microsoft Word. However, to my knowledge (please correct me if I'm wrong) nobody has ever denied that this was an actual John Kerry 1984 campaign flyer.

However, after John Kerry was elected to the U.S. Senate, he voted for most military spending bills.

Here's the moral of the story: John Kerry's campaign rhetoric in 1984 was irresponsible, but once he was elected to office, his actions were responsible. He panders as a candidate, but he acts responsibly as a public servant.

It is my hope (and if I'm wrong, it's too late, because I already voted for Mr. Kerry) that Mr. Kerry's actions as U.S. President will be better than some of his campaign rhetoric as candidate for U.S. President would suggest.

Posted by: Arjun at October 17, 2004 08:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I hope I can get a transcript of Bob Schrum on Meet the Press today, because his statements contained a good example of what I mean when I complain about the Kerry campaign's irresponsible rhetoric.

Mr. Schrum complained that warlords were ruling large sections of Afghanistan and that Afghan heroin production was skyrocketing. Then he noted that the Bush Administration was bragging about new schools and about Afghan women's participation in the election. Then he contrasted these efforts with the Bush Administration's alleged lack of interest in schools and women's rights right here at home where we belong in the good old United States of America.

Mr. Schrum, how incoherent (and deplorably demagogic) can you get??? Is the Bush Administration paying too much attention to Afghanistan, or too little? You can't have it both ways!

Posted by: Arjun at October 17, 2004 08:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thirty years of American foreign policy had clearly demonstrated that America was a muscle-bound but irresolute and uncommited superpower. America was the professional boxer who could be taunted at will by street punks because "it would be criminal for the professional to strike an amateur". The half-measure foreign policy of the US was seen as weakness.

Saddam's Iraq gave every Islamist, warlord, drug runner and criminal organization in the world hope. Saddam stood up to the US and the international community for 12 years and nothing of substance happened. Saddam saluted America and the world with his middle finger. This defiance emboldened Islamists to the point that they believed they could attack the WTC, the Pentagon and the Whitehouse or Capitol with impunity. What would the US do? Lob a few cruise missiles and bitch?

Bush and associates got it right. Removing the Taliban and killing Al Qaida was a necessary tactical decision. Deposing Saddam was a critical strategic move. It signaled that America considered this war an existential issue, that America was willing to commit blood and treasure and that America would no longer ignore terror enabling states just because they were small or weak and America was a 600 pound gorilla.

Arm chair generals can sit and muse about the tactical failures with near perfect hindsight. What is important is the strategic decisions. Bush and company excelled in this regard.

Kerry is just too desparate to get elected and has been on the wrong side of almost every issue for thirty years. His actions have demonstrated that he has no core convictions, except uncertainty. He just doesn't trust America, or Americans for that matter. For Kerry, tis better to trust the UN, France or anyone else when it comes to policy matters.

I'll vote for Bush because Kerry would get me and my family killed.

Posted by: lugh lampfhota at October 17, 2004 10:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm a 4th generation Democrat, and I agree with you - Bush is better than Kerry.

But... are you paid by the word?
'Cause you write like the Dickens
(who WAS paid by the word).

The case is very simple:

The Jihadoterrorists declared war on us.
We either fight back or lose.

Kerry is - and has been HIS WHOLE LIFE - a dove:
he was for the nuclear freeze; and he opposed to EVERY new weapons system; and opposed to EVERY intervention of the USA from Vietnam to Iraq 1991. (Saddam would still be in Kuwait if Kerry had his way!)

He ONLY supported Clinton's Serbian War because Clinton was a Democrat. His 2002 vote FOR the Iraq 2003 War WAS LIKEWISE AN ABERRATION.

Everyone who believes - as I do - that we must fight back -- that the world changed on 9/11/01 -- MUST vote for Bush.

What is more: there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in Kerry's ENTIRE SENATE CAREER that demonstrates he is a leader on ANYTHING. There is not a single law or resolution of any import with his name on it.
AND: he's NEVER EVER HELD ANY leadership position in his Senate Caucus. I guess his fellow Senators never thought much of him as a leader.

KERRY: a mediocre Senator, and a DOVE trapped in a 9/10/01 fantasy.

BUT IT GETS WORSE: his domestic policies are PRE-REGANITE --EVEN PRE-CLINTONIAN - he actually favors higher taxes and a bigger government role in the economy, and LESS free trade.

Kerry is as WRONG for 2004 as he was from 1966-2001.

Kerry: the wrong candidate running in the wrong place, for the wrong job, at the wrong time.

Posted by: dan at October 18, 2004 12:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A well articulated, evenly balanced and conscientiously and intellectually cohering summary of all the most salient concerns.

There have been learning curves that were insufficiently grasped and mistakes in some planning (especially so, however, when viewed with the advantage of hindsight), AG and post-war planning most obviously. But when all appearances indicate the President gets the existential threat, short and long term, when he seemingly senses the epochal shift and corresponding need for realignments and when he fundamentally rightly assesses the overarching, long view (the need for a shift in the geopolitical center of gravity or "momentum") while J. Kerry seemingly does not, then, if it even needs to be said, that is absolutely pivotal and basic. That is the crux of the matter, especially so at this still relatively early stage in the overall War on Islamofascism (with concomitant global problems such as N. Korea, potential augmentation of WMD proliferation and access, etc.), likely to be a decades long conflict, according to most assessments.

In contrast with Sullivan more recently, Drezner has always appeared to be an honest broker. Yet in this instance the inescapable impression is one of a far too facile rationale, almost to the point where it sounds more like an ad hoc contrivance than an attempt to fully come to terms with what is more important vs. what is less important, both long term and short term, while balancing out the realist vs. idealist motivations within that overall scope.

Posted by: Michael B at October 18, 2004 01:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"George Bush, in my view, understands the nature of the evil we are combating."

The why the hell is he so weak on terrorism and our national security? He was weak in Afghanistan, letting the bad guys get away, he's been equally impotent in Iraq.

This guy was desperate to get us into Iraq, and he's managed it terribly. I can't trust him to keep us safe, not one bit.

I'd rather roll the dice with Kerry then be guaranteed more profound weakness from Bush.

Posted by: Skip at October 18, 2004 03:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It seems to me that the term "existential threat", is being thrown around very loosely. Biological and chemical weapons don't fit the bill. Nuclear weapons do, but there was not one piece of credible evidence that Iraq was going to acquire any. A general threat from terrorism/Islamofascism? Saddam-al Qaeda links have been discredited. Special forces were diverted from Afghanistan to prepare for the Iraq war. I think it is narrow-minded to say that the fear produced from our military ousting of Saddam outweighs the hatred produced from such a large deployment in the Middle East. Besides, how much fear is there now that our military is over-extended?

I also think that "geopolitical momentum" is a empty term. What does that really mean? It seems to me that we have weakened our position vis-a-vis Iran, a genuinely growing nuclear threat. Our military is now much less of a threat to Iran now, and the chaos of Iraq gives Iran an opportunity to expand their influence.

Posted by: Eric Slusser at October 18, 2004 04:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have to agree with an earlier comment; I frankly don't see any evidence that Bush "get's it" when it comes to terrorism and security. being resolute is fine, but to resolutely pursue a strategic blunder like invading Iraq absolutely disqualifies one from leadership in my book.

If the goal of the Iraq adventure was to "change the geopolitical momentum" I suppose that has been accomplished, but unfortunately the change has not been to America's advantage. We have gone from a world where "we are all Americans now" was the overwhelming reaction to 9-11, to a world where America is isolated and increasingly held in contempt by even former allies. The GWOT cannot be successfully fought by America's overstretched military alone.

John Kerry does appear to understand what's at stake far better than Mr Bush.

Posted by: A Hermit at October 18, 2004 04:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I read on praktike's weblog (which is extremely interesting and informative, but a little hard to find) that almost all al Qaeda experts believe that the invasion of Iraq was of benefit to al Qaeda (presumably in terms of popular support, which leads to recruitment and refuge).

I believe that these experts are correct. I'll even agree with the Democrats that the invasion of Iraq has therefore made us "less safe" than we were immediately prior to the invasion of Iraq. (Sorry, I won't buy the argument that we're less safe than 3 years ago. Remember Afghanistan, formerly an al Qaeda terrorist sanctuary?) However, 1) this does not prove that the Iraq invasion was inherently wrong, or that it was a fatal distraction from the war on al Qaeda terrorism. To paraphrase what Vladimir Lenin said about the New Economic Plan, sometimes you take one step backwards in order to take two steps forward. We're asking whether we're safer because it's election time, but shouldn't we also be asking whether we WILL be safer 20 or 30 years from now?

And 2) even if the Iraq invasion was inherently wrong, it still doesn't make any sense to abandon the mission of stabilization and democratization. Such an abandonment would obviously strengthen al Qaeda recruitment far more than the invasion of Iraq ever did! I don't believe that Mr. Kerry wants to abandon that mission. (If he does, then I made a mistake when I voted for Mr. Kerry on Thursday.) Still, when Mr. Kerry campaigns on a claim that the President's policies will lead to a draft, one has to wonder, how does Mr. Kerry think his policies will be any different in that regard? What exactly does Mr. Kerry propose to do differently in Iraq that will make a draft less likely under a Kerry Administration than under a second term of the Bush Administration?

Posted by: Arjun at October 18, 2004 04:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wait. No candidate in history has ever accurately represented his foreign policy views in an election (exhibit A: President George "we must pursue a more humble foreign policy" Bush). What's more, on the whole, I'm not convinced whether Bush or Kerry wins matters on foreign policy. Just look at Vietnam -- Nixon was elected on his "secret plan to end the war," and nothing changed.

With that in mind, how can you ignore the horrendous domestic record the President has established over the last four years, his lack of any new policy proposals, and his seeming obliviousness to any adverse economic conditions in the country?

Posted by: right at October 18, 2004 04:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Because Bush is so stupid, your worship of him has turned your brains to mush.

Let's talk about how Kerry's record will help us predict how he will lead if elected. To even engage in this line of thought is ridiculous. Look at Clinton from 1992 to 2000. If a person from 2000 were to tell a Republican in 1992 that Clinton would sign a welfare reform bill, put 100,000 cops on the street and sign DOMA, that person would be laughed at.

Do you honestly think John Kerry wants to be crushed the way Bill and Hillary were mercilessly crushed in 1994?

Do you not think Kerry as a 60's and 70's liberal learned from the crash and burn of liberalism throughout the 90's

Bush and the congressional GOP are behaving like liberals circa 1978. Just because they didn't study history doesn't mean Kerry didn't.

Conservatives in 2004 defined themselves throughout the 80's and again during the 94 revolution, long before anyone ever heard of Bush.

What is so laughable is how suddenly you have to be lock in step with this guy. Suddenly anything said from this administration defines conservatism.

500 billion prescription drug plan? 400 billion deficit? 120 billion and 1000 dead on a now discredited war 6000 miles away? What is this? How did these become attributable to a Republican administration and congress.

The GOP has failed miserably. It is time for a long vacation in the country. You need to think about how you went from 1994 to 2004.

Support Kerry because Democrats have learned their lesson the very hard way.

Posted by: Ken at October 18, 2004 04:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I completely agree with BD and will be voting for Bush because I do think he understands the stakes: Civilization versus medievalism. Our very survival is at stake. The terrorists only understand force and will take Kerry's "more sensitive war" on terrorism as carte blanche to blow up as many hotels and nightclubs as they see fit whenever they see fit. Personally I don't want the average street cop being in charge of dealing with terrorists. I want our powerful destroy the enemy with all due haste.

I don't see the need for "ideological subtelty" as TT suggests. On 9/11 we had war declared on us and it is not our job to be psychologists worrying about convincing the moderate Islamic fence sitters that we're on their side. After an unprovoked attack on the U.S. at Pearl Harbor we didn't waste breath with idle chatter toward moderate Japanese offering endless apologies for whatever we did wrong to deserve such an awful unprovoked attack on ourselves. We fought a bloody war and then incinerated 150,000 of them which brought a fast surrender. This new war, the GWOT, has no such visible enemy to incinerate. The stakes are high and the terrorists are willing to pay with their lives and I wholeheartedly think we should oblige them.

Posted by: Scott at October 18, 2004 04:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

errata:
line 6 I left out the word "military". "I want our powerful MILITARY to destroy..."

Posted by: Scott at October 18, 2004 04:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

1. Um, try cherry picking the Matt Bai article a bit more why don't you?
2. This is the best we can do to rationalize the atrocities we've committed in Iraq? "Hey, it's sad, but they're used to it?" Yikes! I beg of you to think of the implications of that moral equivalency (aside from it's convenience to your argument).
3. More post-facto reasoning: "Unlike N. Korea and Iran--Saddam had started two regional wars and had used WMD against his own people in odious fashion." But surely Iran and 'NoKo' (cute) have started wars, surely committing crimes against their own people in a fashion, odious or otherwise. Since when has the argument been "WMD against their own people"?
4. The Andrew Sullivan/Shock-and-Awe the terrorists plan isn't really working out is it? Two years, 1,000 plus Americans dead, more Iraqis, and EVERY DAY the Osama bin Laden gains converts. 75% of a few dozen Al Q. leaders circa 2001 (as per Rice on Meet the Press) dead says nothing of the undoubtedly expanding contingencies worldwide. Our imperial hubris is the best advertisement for terrorists.
5. Why do G.W. Bush's three years as a 'War President' garner such weighty significance, as if the years prior have evaporated? Shall we measure a half-baked Kerry bill from 1987 with G.W.'s drunken '80s as a whole? Try to remember that this guy was a joke--he couldn't even hold down a cushy board of directors job. And you are mining Kerry's past? I will not be wowed by W.'s on the job training, and Chaney's ventriloquism.

What a cult of personality he's pulled upon the public! He "understands it deep in his gut." Oi, your elaborate arguments spin upon such a tenuous pivot! The gut! This is where critical thinking, reason, and decency reside? John Kerry will surround his gut with thoughtful analysts and reasoned thinkers, not the lapdogs and yes men W. has. I love the microscope we've placed upon Kerry, as if we've seen a window into his soul, and the W.'s goes only as deep has his Billy Graham-strong armed conversion. Read the Times Mag today. Think twice. This guy is dangerous, messianic, and, I hate to say it, dim. You guys vote for the guy who thinks he's Moses, I'll pick the one like Paul.

Posted by: RW at October 18, 2004 05:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why do I come away from this posting feeling certain that both you and your regular patrons love to read and reread your writings swooning over the sheer force of the logistics of your command of the English language? How very clever you are in that regard. How disappointing then to find that with all those words, your argument is undermined by it's ultimate reliance upon faith rather than facts in supporting your conclusions. Hmmmmm? Just like George and the gang's.

And what about GW's domestic policies in a second term? What about the Court? Tell me more please. What does your crystal ball, guiding light or whatever it is you are relying upon as the foundation of your rationale for your voting decision speak to you about that if Dubya were to be granted a second term?

I know details merely details. They're like facts, so messy. Why even bother?

I've decided to follow your lead, but upon asking the question and shaking my Magic 8 ball, I got the reply, Don't ask again, VOTE KERRY!

Posted by: Dave at October 18, 2004 05:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This post is intriguing. Especially intriguing is the sub-rosa tension which I sense within it:

1. You believe that the "Bush Doctrine" makes sense.
2. You are dubious that George Bush is capable of effectuating the Bush Doctrine.
3. You have not yet admitted the second, even to yourself.

Posted by: David Sucher at October 18, 2004 05:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As a resident of New York City, I have a very personal stake in the defeat of murderous Islamic extremism. So I don't think that this is a frivolous discussion, and I appreciate your intelligent argument. However, I couldn't disagree with your conclusions more.

I thought that conservatism was supposed to be suspicious of human endeavor, due to its unintended consequences (thinking about, say, Edmund Burke). And no endeavor has more unintended consequences than bombing and killing and occupying. Not that it should never be done -- I'm not a pacifist -- but given that World War One led to World War Two and the Holocaust or that the mere stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia inspired Usama Bin Laden's jihad, shoudln't prudence and planing and skepticism be watchwords for military action? (Colin Powell seems to understand this, at least).

With this background, reviewing what Bush has wrought, I find a chaotic Iraq with factional fighting, increasingly sophisticated armaments, a failed state with the potential to be a haven for terrorists, and attacks on American forces multiplying, not weakening. I find your catalog of things that could have gone but didn't to be cold comfort.

The Bush Administration's airheaded Chalabi-inspired optimism about post-war Iraq, its privatization mania that threw Iraqis out of work, and its willful alienation of the world have made the "post"-war situation immeasurably more difficult and dangerous than need have been.

What good is it to "understand the stakes" if you can't do the job?

Posted by: honestpartisan at October 18, 2004 05:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm sufficiently sure Kerry won't win I'll focus only on the case for Bush.
The question is whether we're safer today than we were when Bagdhad fell.
We know that sanctions had worked, Saddam's power had been greatly reduced from it's already low levels. We know that he had no nuclear program in progress. The danger Iraq presented was very much less than the danger from North Korea and Iran.
We know that Afghanistan's prospects are dicey still, and presumably could have been improved by the allocation of resources diverted to Iraq.
We know that Iraq has been so badly mismanaged that equipment useful in the construction of nuclear weapons has disappeared on a massive scale. Granted, it's not equipment that couldn't be stolen or purchased elsewhere. Yet it's true to say that under U.S. occupation Iraq has served to further the nuclear capabilities of unknown enemies more than it ever did in Saddam's day.
We know that Iran seems within a few years of acquiring nuclear weapons, and that Iraq, under any likely regime, will feel impelled (existentially, one might say) to acquire its own.
Most important, we know that the Islamist threat has scarcely diminished. "Loose nukes" have received second-priority attention and resources, yet they represent the capability Islamists most strongly desire. The ranks of Islamists have been increased by resentment against American conquest and occupation of an Arab land. (Bush apparently intends Americans to stay indefinitely at a dozen bases in Iraq, though I admit this presence seems to me unlikely to prove satisfactory to any likely regime.) And their ranks have also bourgeoned from the unexpected vulnerabilty of Amerian troops to continued attack and their inability thus far to suppress the insurgency. Indeed, today the extent of American control is sharply reduced from what it was when Baghdad fell. This apparent weakness seems bound to hearten Islamists and encourage them to join the jihad.
Djerejian thinks Bush has somehow signalled the U.S. is not a paper tiger. Whoever for a moment thought it was? Its capabilities are nonpareil and well known. But compare the perception of those capabilities before April 2003 and after the downward spiral of events to the point they've taken us today, where Americans can venture into several cities not at all and nowhere without appreciable risk. Who could suppose America is more feared or respected by its worst enemies today than then?
Djerejian hopes that somehow the administration will improve its performance in a second term. We can't know whether it will or not. We do know it could scarcely do more to increase the danger of attack than it has thus far.

Posted by: Worried at October 18, 2004 05:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Probably the single best argument in favor of voting for Bush I have yet seen. Yet, I remain unpersuaded. Essentially, the argument comes down to this: despite their monumental tactical mistakes (evident for all to see), we are to trust this same group, again, because the "street cred" of the neocons will stop them from pursuing another major land war?

I have to agree that Kerry's foreign policy instincts are questionable. But where I disagree is that high-level strategy should trump tactical competence. It really doesn't matter how correct or incorrect the strategic instincts of Bush might be if his administration persists in its head-in-the-sand policy of not questioning its past decisions and failing to pay attention to reality [B.D. deleted link here--i'm clueless how to fix and i'm told it's made the comment thread hard to navigate..apologies!] Bush II will not only be more of the same, but if he is reelected, he will no doubt see this as vindication --- and go forward with even more head-in-the-sand tactics.

I agree that the stakes are very high here, perhaps higher than Kerry realizes (though I think you are completely mischaracterizing the 'nuisance' quote --- note that he is not the first to use that language ... Republicans have used it as well). It is precisely because the stakes are so high, however, that we can't afford to have this incompetent bunch in office any longer.

Kerry will be forced to clean up the mess in Iraq ... and with a set of military and foreign policy advisers who actually do pay attention to reality, they can't do a worse job than this Administration has done so far.

Finally, one point about the strategic question of whether we should have gone into Iraq in the first place --- since the WMD threat of Saddam was evidently bogus, I have to say your one remaining argument that this was a good idea, i.e., that we needed to "prove" that we can go on the offense --- strikes me as extremely weak. We were, prior to the Iraq war, the single undisputed military superpower in the world, feared by everyone --- we had won the Gulf War and the Kosovo war from the air, primarily, losing very few troops. We appeared nearly invincible. And now? Everyone knows that 90% of our army is tied up just trying (so far unsuccessfully) to pacify one country. We don't look nearly as fearsome nor nearly as invincible. Further, we could have used Afghanistan as our last major offensive war --- and success there would simply have bolstered our status in the world. Given the huge costs, politically, financially, and in lives, of this war, I can't see the "we needed to prove we were macho" argument as being remotely credible. We do need to be on the offense in this war, and the stakes are very high --- but we don't have unlimited resources. We have to attack judiciously. That's a central tenet of the realist approach --- I can't see how this war satisfies a sensible set of realist criteria for going to war.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 05:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

These are some of the clearest, strongest, most cogent arguments on BOTH sides I've seen. A couple of small points:

-- Greg, you say "Saddam was unseated with blitzkrieg speed." But there is evidence in the Duelfer report and elsewhere that the rapid capitulation, followed by insurgency, was planned, that we were somewhat suckered. (I wrote a post on this, "Shock and . . . Aw, Shucks," that links to a story on the evidence.) The Baathists knew very well that they could not fight the U.S. military toe to toe. They also knew Iraq much better than we did (those of "us" who knew something about it were not listened to), and knew how to go underground and really sabotage the reconstruction phase, especially given our light commitment of troops.


-- Scott says "civilization vs. medievalism." But if you read Ron Suskind's article in today's Times Magazine (he's admittedly no objective source), you may see it more as two forms of medievalism duking it out. I worry a bit about the possible subliminal apocalyptic Christian strain in Bush's policy. If we succeed in planting a seedling of democracy in the Middle East, great. But if we fail, and the Middle East becomes a conflagration . . . hey, that's what the Bible said would happen, and it means Jesus is on the way. It's a fail-safe position that would indeed tend to make you less concerned about the consequences of mistakes.

-- The trouble with turning the GWOT into a conventional war is that, while it's much more satisfying -- at least we can DO SOMETHING visibly strong and scary -- the people we're killing are mostly not the hidden people who want to kill us. (Some of those people have been found by intelligence, international collaboration, and special ops, not by smart bombs.) That may indeed make even more people want to kill us. Self-fulfilling prophecy. There's also the problem that the people who want to kill us don't care if they die. How effectively can you terrify someone who doesn't fear death??

All that said, I still don't know who I'm voting for (and I'm voting in Florida, so it matters). But when I want to mull over the stakes, I'll come here to do it. Thanks to all.

Posted by: amba at October 18, 2004 05:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If one of the goals in Iraq was to shock the enemy/terrorists and change the global dynamics of terrorism, I don't think that has happened. Saddam is in shock (probably already was from the looks of it), not Al-Qaeda.

Even if we establish a "democracy" in Iraq, I still don't see the hatred and anger subsiding that is generated by Fundamentalist Islam.

The post 9/11 worldwide compassion (also from moderate Muslims) towards the U.S. was an opportunity to try to combat the hatred behind terrorism at its roots. Instead we tried to lop of its head and replace it with a new one.

9/11 changed many attitudes towards international military action. I feel that the Bush-team has shown an extreme and damaging attitude. I believe that Kerry and the Democratic leadership has changed as well. Holding them to prior 9/11 votes seems unfair. I don't see where the Democrats have proven they don't understand the stakes. They have only voiced that stopping the growth of terrorism needs a long-term, realistic plan. We don't need plans/actions that are based on generating soundbites to win the next U.S. election.

Posted by: Nat at October 18, 2004 05:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A thoughtful post with lots of interesting comments. I'd like to explain a post 9-11 world argument against the Bush administration, although it will take me a while to set it up.

There have been many studies from the field of risk assessment theory that show how people are horrible at assessing risk. In general, people greatly over-estimate the risk of emotionally-heavy events (e.g. being murdered in your home, your child getting poisoned candy at Halloween) and greatly under-estimate the risk of emotionally-neutral events (e.g. heart disease).

I bring the concept up for a few reasons. One, it explains why the Bush administration made the case for war that either were based in emotion (e.g. Iraq has significant contacts with al Qaeda/the implication that Iraq was responsible for 9/11) or rational arguments made in emotional terms (we don't the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud). They wanted to play on how emotion causes people to over-estimate risk, which in turn would increase the support of going to war.

Considering that they chose to make these arguments rather than one of a few more truthful but less emotional arguments, I don't see how anyone can argue that they didn't consciously try to mislead people and play on people's inherent weaknesses in reasoning. Now, you can argue they were right to do this because the ends justifies the means, but to say they didn't mislead people (even if was for a good purpose) doesn't hold up.

The second reason I bring the idea of risk assessment up is that it is the criterion that
*any* policy, from terrorism to health care, should be judged by. The primary question should always be, "With our limited resources, how can we do the best job reducing the risk the country and its citizens face?"

In this vein, there are a few questions critical to judging the administration's success against the war on terrorism. One, "Were the lives and resources spent in Iraq most effectively used there?" Two, "Was invading Iraq even the best way to improve our security, as opposed to invading another country like Syria or North Korea?" Three, "Was everything done to lessen security risks on other fronts, from guarding our ports to negotiating/pressuring other countries with WMDs?" And four, the most basic question of them all, "Did invading Iraq make America more or less safe?"

Just to touch briefly on the last question, let's say Saddam Hussein had some WMDs that are now gone. That means we went from Saddam Hussein possibly having WMDs along with the potential to give them to terrorists vs. the WMDs now spread across several countries and in the hands of terrorists because of the lack of post-war planning. In my eyes, that makes us less safe.

My general point is that people who think the Bush administration mismanaged the war on terrorism, like I do, answer "No" to some or all of the above questions. It's much more complex than one side realizing we're in a post 9-11 world and the other side living in a fantasy land.

We can talk about the necessary of understanding that we are in a war against Islamic fundamentalism, but having that understanding *does not* automatically lead to a set of policies that will improve the security of America.

And Gregory, this is the weak part of your argument that I think you realize on some level. You depart from reason and move to hope when you think that President Bush will change who he is, admit his mistakes, and modify his handling on the war on terrorism if he gets re-elected.

There is nothing in his character or history to suggest that he will do this. It's one thing not to admit mistakes in public, but if you don't do it in private, that is a clear sign that you think you are doing nothing is wrong.

If the war on terrorism is your main issue, and you believe that what a man did in the past is a good predictor for the future, then you have to assume that Bush will handle the war on terrorism in the next four years just as he handled it the first four years, and that Kerry, because of his experience in Vietnam, will be extremely hesitant to use military force.

If you still think Bush is the way to go, that's fine, but it's important to realize that by far the most likely scenario is that Bush II will be just like Bush I. For me, that makes the choice for Kerry clear.

Posted by: Jason at October 18, 2004 05:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

An outstanding, cogent piece.

Some notes of interest:

Your analysis of Kerry's foreign policy instincts are indeed correct - his campaigns repeated statements to the terrorists that "we will find you and kill you" strikes one as more bleating protestation than resolute statement. You can usually tell a mans intentions, if you let yourself hear it. From a sensitive war on terror, to prevarication on Iraq, to his "nuisance" remark, Kerry is what he is - a passive, dovish plutocrat.

Important too in your discussion visa vie Israel/Palestinians, is that the Bush White House has done that which is the first step to any solution in the region - declared Yasser Arafat persona non grata. No lasting regional peace can be sown with Arafat at the table. He is boith vile and corrupt.

And in Iraq, you note what most do not - that for every problem the coalition faces, there are two that we don't. There were projections of everything from a murderous siege of Baghdad to the mass dehydration of the populace. This does not excuse a failure to respond to the challenges that arise, but the backbiting presumption that all difficulties in war should be both infinitely forseeable and preventable betrays a grand ignorance of military campaigns in general, including the United States (An Army At Dawn is an excellent read for anyone wondering if we've ever had similar problems in war).

No further truth need be known than this - the enemies of liberty and the West knows full well the battle against them has been joined at last - and they doubt not in the least that GWB is willing to wage it against them even to the ends of his own political costs.

Posted by: MEC2 at October 18, 2004 06:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I posted this on the previous page, but it bears repeating for those reading this discussion. The eminent conservative realist John Mearsheimer has come out for Kerry, "with enthusiasm", despite having voted for Bush in 2000:

http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewPrint&articleId=7602

Regarding the last post with respect to "infinitely foreseeable and preventable" --- I think this completely misses the point. The problems we are having in Iraq were foreseen by many, including many in the government who attempted to plan for them, only to see their "pessimisstic" plans set aside.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 06:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

TT,

We don't need to convince Islam of anything, we need to get in their stone age face and kick their ass. They only understand force. That's why they started to get all giddy with their stone age violence with eight years of liberal shit in the White House. They know better now. Their only hope is Kerry.

Posted by: Alexander at October 18, 2004 06:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One of the most troubling aspects of this election is the overly simplistic framing of the Iraq issue as the following: Bush sees this as a war/ Kerry sees this as law enforcement.

While this may be true to a certain extent in terms of the candidates' rhetoric, the problem with this formulation is that it glosses over the reality of what is going on in Iraq and what has been going there since the invasion phase ended. Despite what Bush "says" he is doing in Iraq or how he "thinks" we should fight the war, his record in Iraq proves that he is just not up to the task.

It's not just the looting and the failure to secure the borders or send enough troops. This president has shown that he is NOT willing to use overwhelming force to destroy the enemy. For over a year and a half, it is Bush who has been fighting the insurgents in Iraq as if this were a law enforcement venture, going door to door and all that. Long, long ago he should have cordoned off the hot spots and bombed them into oblivion. But Bush was scared of the political fall out, what with the inevitable civilian casualties that would have attended such action. But if Bush was never prepared to use overwhelming force, he should have never sent our troops there in the first place.

I honestly believe (but sincerely hope I'm wrong) that Bush has irreparably damaged our ability to win democracy in Iraq because of his timidity with respect to the overwhelming use of force. It is for this reason that I'm voting for Kerry - I know he won't do any better - but I want to send a message to the Republicans that troops should not be sent to fight if they have to fight "sensitively." Maybe in four years we will get a more realistic Republican president.

Posted by: d. diaz at October 18, 2004 06:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with the Bush endorsement as well but I'm a bit stunned that someone so informed could think that WMD was the only prime reason for going into Iraq. I would offer three reasons.

1) WMD production capability. Enough said, if Wal-Mart is out of stock you know they will have it tommorrow. I think the same could be said of Saddam. He was out of stock, not out of business
2) The MAP. Look at it! For sheer logistics, taking the fight to Al Qaeda, where is the most strategic point on the map, the ancient map of Islam? Overlay the old trade routes and tribal alliances on the current map of the USA forces also overlayed. Iraq is the center square on Al Qaeda's logistica and strategic map.

3) Oil and the Saudi cooperation. So long as the Saudis had the oil card to play they were going to fall in line on their own time. Post Iraq war that card no longer exists in the manner it did and they have drastically come our way as a result.

The Saudi oil card is probably the essential card that had to be eliminated to apply maximum pressure to our enemies in the war on terror.

The Iraq war was essential to winning, dare I say surviving the war against Islamo Facists.

Posted by: Vanyogan at October 18, 2004 06:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The WMD argument is spurious. The UN was prepared to set up indefinite intrusive inspections, something we could easily have insured would occur.

The map --- this isn't a land war. Al Qaeda needed a small number of recruits armed with box cutter knives they could have bought at Staples. Unless our plan is to turn this war into a conventional war, I can't see any sensible strategic argument for occupying Iraq (ignoring the obvious fact that Iraq was probably far more difficult to traverse by terrorists before the war than it is now.)

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 06:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And, regarding the Saudis --- they were already preparing to make moves towards democracy before all of this blew up. In fact, the Iraq war has angered the Saudi population so much that it is dubious whether this war has in any way moved them towards us --- if anything it has been a wash. Further, they are hardly likely to be scared of us invading them right now --- we're bogged down in Iraq.

The realist arguments in favor of this situation I think are practically nonexistent, barring a great deal of rationalization, as far as I can tell.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 06:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If this is a war and can never be "law enforcement" who are we invading next? You can't have it both ways, claiming in one sentence that Bush Act II won't be the same as Bush Act I and in the next that it must be all war all the time and law enforcement has nothing to do with it.

I'm always amazed at those who criticize the Kerry statement about returning terrorism to the point to where it's a nuisance and not a major threat. Is there a large populace out there delusional enough to think that this virulent strain of Islamic fundamentalism is going to be completely wiped out to the last fanatic any time soon? That was the point of Kerry's comment no matter how much the Republicans try to twist it. Kerry's goal is to crush them to the point where a nuisance is all they can be, an admirable goal given the real world versus Republican macho fantasies.

And lastly, I have no words adequate to express my outrage at your saying that the Bush Administration's policy making decision isn't "fatally" flawed. It's been fatal to hundreds of our soldiers who might not have died if Bush's policy decisions hadn't completely ignored everyone who really knew anything about Iraq when it came to postwar planning. Tell their parents and loved ones that Bush's planning had no "fatal" flaws. And we have years yet for more of our people to be killed by the terrorists that Bush threw Iraq's doors open for.

Posted by: Jim at October 18, 2004 06:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To be fair, Jim, the mere fact that soldiers have died isn't in and of itself an indication of a fatally flawed decision-making process. If the prosecution of this war had been competent, soldiers would have still died. It isn't the fact of Americans dying that makes this situation disastrous --- it is the incompetence with which this war on terror has been prosecuted thus far. These soldiers are dying unnecessarily because of bad intelligence, willful suppression of contrary points of view, lack of planning, strategic and tactical errors, and overreach.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 07:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wow Greg, it seems like you got linked from somewhere not very ideologically friendly. :P

Posted by: Cutler at October 18, 2004 07:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Forgot to add:

Good post.

Posted by: Cutler at October 18, 2004 07:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I came here via Andrew Sullivan --- as I said above, the argument here is the best I have seen for voting for Bush, since it at least acknowledges the many disasters in Iraq so far. Couched in realist terms --- I have become an increasing admirer of the realist position, over time (though I still have my differences with the realist camp). I simply think that realist arguments militate against a vote for Bush... as Mearsheimer's endorsement of Kerry indicates (not to mention the opposition to this war of the Cato Institute).

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 07:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Extremism in defense of Western Civilization is no vice.

Bullshit. 19 nutjobs with knives. Roadside bombs, exploding sneakers. In 25years the oil will be pumped out and they can go back to trying to keep sand out of their creases.

While W's crusade tries to convert the heathens to democracy, the rest of the world grows stronger. The real war, as Nixon pointed out, does not involve any islamo-blah blah.

Indians out-sourcing IT. All production to China. A third of the world's population is about to eat our lunch, and we are cursing and ranting about who is going to keep us safe from ragheads.

Round up the loose Nukes. Take out whatever high value targets Iran and NorthKorea offer. Not surgical strikes either. Boots on the ground, pirate the material, data, personnel if need be.

Sounds extreme? Extremism is Roves's "Armies of Compassion", in a campain of revengo-liberation. Wildly flailing at some punk that got in a good punch. Holy rollers in Humvees driveby his family while leaving leaflets about democracy. Shock and Awe may rally the faith-based. Flag-waving, god-fearing rapture, the intoxication of simple-mindedness, it's a vice, wait for the hangover.

In 50 years, maybe we get again by another islamo-whamo. Maybe the garden of eden sprouts in Iraq. Maybe the Chinese, Indians and Europeans profit from our spasm of extremism.

Maybe the world didn't change on 911. Maybe the extremists just grabbed the wheel.

============================

Posted by: JPO at October 18, 2004 07:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


BD--

Lucid as this seems as a whole, your argument collapses into vague handwaving at the most crucial moment, which is this paragraph:

"But there is more than all this, of course. 9/11 was what Hegel might have called a world-historical event. There was something prima facie epoch-shaping that happened when those two Towers crumbled to the ground. Expressions of regret poured in from all over the world. Even the Mayor of Teheran extended condolences to Rudy. Saddam, of course, extended no such regrets. But why should he have? After all, while not reportedly sharing any collaborative, operational links with al-Qaeda--he was (to a fashion) linked to them in esprit--given his use of chemical weaponry against his own population, his support to the families of suicide bombers in Israel, his harboring of Abu Nidal and other terror-masters in the past."

I've read this paragraph three times, and the bottom line seems to be that Saddam was linked to Al Qaeda because they are both bad guys. But it's just not true that if X and Y both hate us, they must be allies. In fact, that assertion is pretty close to a definition of paranoia.

Saddam was a secular dictator in the mode of Stalin. He had no interest in Islamic fundamentalism, and was as brutal toward fundamentalists as toward anyone else who got in the way of his survival. The assertion that Saddam was connected to Al Qaeda was not only false, it was never even plausible.

GW Biush is a direct and urgent threat to the national security of the USA, for one simple reason: he has destroyed his credibility by "crying wolf." The next time an urgent threat arises, and the US needs to rally the world, who can blame our allies for responding with suspicion, seeing as how this man has already misled them?

Even if a leader were convinced of the need to join our next coalition, how would they build domestic consensus so long as Bush is leading? Bulletin: Our cloest allies are democracies, and that means that the opinions of their people matter. Republicans like to vilify Chirac and Schroeder as devious game-players who were trying to protect their advantages in prewar Iraq, but the truth is much plainer. Huge majorities of the European, Australian, and Canadian people express strong distrust of Bush, bordering on revulsion. So long as Bush is in office, their leaders will have to surmount this huge barrier to come to our aid.

Bush's eagerness to unite the world against us is reason enough to vote for any halfway competent and halfway honorable alternative. I cannot imagine that Americans woudl consider re-electing a president who is viewed as pathetic, if not dangerous, whenever he stepped outside our borders.

Sincerely, JW

Posted by: JW at October 18, 2004 08:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"George Bush, in my view, understands the nature of the evil we are combating. He understands it deep in his gut, to his very core, and this is why I will be voting for him in November...I am confident and, indeed, proud of my vote because Bush's intellectual firmament has grasped this essential truth."

Good to hear you're in touch with W's very core. That's quite a talent.

Oh, and if your writing style weren't so sophomoric and wordy, you'd get your point across much better.

Posted by: TrueFan at October 18, 2004 08:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Reasons for war shouldn't subtle and nuanced. If it's not obvious to most people, it's probably the wrong war. Having to write 2,000 word defenses of a war a year and a half after it started, shows the "why" was never obvious to half the country and most of the world.

The more you write the less the rest of us get it. We are invading the middle east -a huge risk- these "meta" reasons people float are bullshit. You and others float them because this president never appeared to settle on a reason and was certainly never able to articulate a compelling reason -not to the converted- but the skeptical. That's a massive failure of leadership.

Your "hey it could be worse" list makes it real obvious why we should never have gone.

Posted by: jason jonez at October 18, 2004 08:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The map --- this isn't a land war. Al Qaeda needed a small number of recruits armed with box cutter knives they could have bought at Staples. Unless our plan is to turn this war into a conventional war, I can't see any sensible strategic argument for occupying Iraq (ignoring the obvious fact that Iraq was probably far more difficult to traverse by terrorists before the war than it is now.)"

A naive statement, at best. There is no more strategic position in the Middle East from which to base and project American force. And, the purpose of basing is not to have to project, but to have the capability of projecting without getting a hall pass from Jacque, Hans, Tayyip, Bashar, Abdullah, the mullahs, etc. And, it has been extremely effective: Qaddafi gives up nukes, Assad cooperates in limiting Al Qaeda passage through Damascus and closing Syrian/Iraqi border, Saudi's have staunched the flow of money from Wahabis to Al Qaeda and are attacking Al Qaeda within SA and US troops & planes sit on all sides of Iran (literally).
Furthermore, the heart and soul of Al Queda lie within Saudi Arabia: its Wahabi imams incite hatred and ignite terror as tools to rid themselves and their believers of the Arabian sense of inferiority and impotence that underlies radical islam. That is the root cause of "terrorism" and our presence next door greatly enhances our ability to pressure the rational realists among the Saudi elites to take the necessary actions to choke of Wahabi financing and recruiting for Al Queda. And lest anyone forget, should any of these Islamic radicals inflict severe damage upon the Saudi oilfields, the resulting depression would make the The Gread Depression look like a day at the beach.

In summary, yes, geography still matters (and always will)!

Posted by: Jim at October 18, 2004 08:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Realists have had enough time to wreck the U.S.'s standing in the world. The whole concept simply amounts to waiting for the breeze around us to change-- in inherantly defensive and reactionary posture. The left used to despise the policy of "so and so is a S.O.B.- but he's our S.O.B-- it ain't us he's butchering"

The US does no one, especially itself, by denying the obvious position it holds in geopolitics. The Arab (and Persian) world is dystopic, a cultural crisis that cannot come to grips with the modern world. Don't fool yourself into thinking the Jihadists are acting rationally by mistaking tactics for a coherent worldview. What exists in the Arab world bears very little resemblence to Arab culture. For example, the literacy rate hovers around 20% for a people that saved classical thought and mathematics from oblivion.

The realists (i.e. the left) are the ones content to ignore this so long as the oil flows. One post said that we need to make the situation safe for moderates. How? By negotiating with their oppresors? By chewing it over with Europeans, less than a hundred years removed from their adventures in imposing borders and demanding concessions.

You take for granted the power of a free press, and society and its necessity to establish non-hostile and reasonable communication between east and west. The "arab street" isn't mad about any specific policy decisions that people in the State department debate over; they're mad that Jews have hijacked the US and are conspiring to threaten every muslim boy's manhood and banish the teachings of allah forever. Its a society that has no room for advancement, no empirical education, and encourages a literalist interpreatation of its sacred texts that serves up recruits. Its a society that has twisted the meaning of sacrifice, so as to give death cults a significant spiritual place in it. Free societies encourage the introspection needed to correct these trends.

For all the talk about how awful Iraq is now, I'd bet that it is the most pro-american Arab state going. Egypt has gotten billions in foreign aid each year for over twenty years, yet the venom spit at the US in its state run newspapers would make Nazi's blush.

You realists are souless because you are essentially saying the war is a bad idea because its hard, and entails risks. Well, that includes anything tht is worth doing, but never mind. You have offered nothing but cliches and banality masked as "progressive" and insightful thought. Sure their has been errors, but I can point to hundreds during WWII that cost ten-fold the lives (civilian and military) yet it remains the only politically correct war. My point is the choice is never good vs. bad in these situations, wars need to be judged in context and you keep inserting a context that is 35 years old. The point of Iraq was to alleviate an unsustainable situation and use it to transform the region. If you don't think a transformation is necessary, then its a valid argument, one should actually attempt to make it instead of bitching in hindsight and playing semantic games or trucking in conspiracy theories. If you don't think its possible, than one should admit it, instead of pretending that were it not for GWB or "arrogance" we wouldn't be in the situation in the first place. I might agree with those arguements were it not for the fact that there are WMD floating around, and they could very well end up with someone who sincerely believes that he's fulfilling G-d's wishes by obliterating millions of Americans. Maybe that's overwrought but why leave something like that up to any degree of chance? thats the lesson of 9/11. The worst that could happen is not broken alliances, rather it is an appocalyptic chain reaction. Would we have ever stopped Khan's nuclear blackmarket if not for Iraq?

Posted by: Jeremaih at October 18, 2004 09:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Easily the best coverage on both candidates:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/choice2004/


and the best method applied to averaging of polls:

http://www.electoral-vote.com/

Posted by: Carter at October 18, 2004 09:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Very nice write-up, although long. Its a good thing ive got plenty of time on my hands to read through it.

My thoughts are a bit more partisan than yours but I can appreciate the struggle you have gone through to come to your conclusion. For me, the mind boggles as how someone, anyone, can remain undecided this late in the game. What will you find out about our President, or Senator Kerry in the next two weeks? We know where both men stand by now. We have had our President in office for the past four years, if you don't have a feel for what he will do over the next four years then you havn't been paying attention. In 2000 me and my wife voted for George Bush because we didn't want four more years of Clinton administration types running this country. We didn't like George Bush because we are conservative and he is not.

Now that four years have gone by our minds have changed considerably. Our love and admiration has grown for the President over these past four years. He does lot's of things that we do not like. We don't like his stance on Immigration, Education, his fiscal policies, etc. But one thing trumps all of that, the GWOT.

Kerry won't offer me much more than our current President does concerning the conservative issues that we care for the most. In that regard, we would almost rather have a President Kerry than a President Bush because then we would have gridlock, which is a good thing. But it is only a good thing when we are talking about peacetime. Not war. Now is a time for war, a time for strong men with strong convictions. John Kerry is not that man.

This is the one, clear difference between these two men.

If you do not believe in the GWOT, or if you think it is overstated and it doesn't concern you, it seems clear that Kerry should be your vote. If you do believe in the GWOT, don't kid yourself about Senator Kerry, the President is your man and you know it.

So why are people still undecided? It baffles my mind.

Vote for the President if you want to stick a thumb in the eye of our enemies. Vote for Kerry is you think our enemies are humbled, not coming back for a long time, and want gridlock. Pretty easy in my book.

Posted by: Eric at October 18, 2004 09:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>A naive statement, at best

To the contrary --- what is naive is the notion the neocons had that the Iraqis would cheer us in the streets the moment we rolled in with our tanks. The idea that there are no costs associated with a military adventure, only benefits --- that's naive to the extreme.

>There is no more strategic position in the Middle East from which to base and project American force

Really, think about what you're saying here. What can we do now more effectively than we could have done before? The majority of our army is either preparing to go to Iraq, in Iraq, or recovering from being in Iraq. We can't even sustain the troop committments we have now in Iraq, much less expand into other nations. And, even ignoring that basic reality, what would we actually do with this "base" in Iraq if we wanted to "project" power into Saudi Arabia? Invade? Occupy Saudi Arabia? If the costs of going into Iraq have been huge, it boggles the mind to think of the costs in that case.

If, on the other hand, we're simply talking about bombing or otherwise intimidating Saudi Arabia, we could have done that perfectly well, before the war. Might have been a tad inconvenient, but hardly impossible. Keep in mind that, before this war, as I said already, we were getting the reputation of having a formidable, unbeatable military --- now, however, we look weak, bogged down, unable to easily hold even Iraq, much less "project" power elsewhere.

I don't deny there have been some benefits to the war --- how could there not be. The question really is, are these relatively minor benefits worth the huge cost? The fact that Iraq is now a land of chaos, a breeding ground for terrorists at a scale far exceeding what it was prior to the war? A giant recruiting poster for Al Qaeda? A symbol of our weakness militarily?

My argument before this war was the costs would outweigh the benefits; I think events have validated my view.

Jeremiah, your post is incoherent. Foreign policy realism is a position traditionally held by conservatives, not progressives. I wish you'd at least read up a little on the subject before writing here. I myself am neither in constant agreement with progressives, conservatives, realists, or otherwise --- I see value in arguments on all sides, more so in some cases than others. Ultimately I would say I have a realist set of instincts, leavened with a bit more patience for proactive use of force than they typically advocate --- but in this case, I am in agreement with the (conservative) realists. I think their arguments are by far the most cogent, and the realists, for the most part, are against this war, both tactically and strategically, this blog notwithstanding.

What you do not realize here, Jeremaih (sic), is that this war has aided our enemies, not deterred them, by any objective measure. I will leave the reasons why as an exercise for the reader.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 09:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A response to Eric:

I happen to agree that our number one priority is the war on terror, and I also happen to think that George Bush has fought a weak, unfocused, inept, poorly planned, horribly executed war thus far. My vote for Kerry is not a vote for a weaker war on terror --- to the contrary. I will vote for Kerry because he will prosecute the war on terror far more strongly than Bush has.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 09:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When it comes to foreign policy and corresponding candidates, fundamentally, This thread, and America, is split between those who feel 9/11 changed THE world, or those who think it changed OUR world, ( i.e. just simply introduced us to a geo-political reality as everyone else already knew it, a.k.a. "welcome to the club, America!") (For the record, I think the former position, a GOP talking point favorite, is pretentious, obnoxious, and consistent with that certain brand of arrogance and self-center'dness that Americans are infamous for.)

It's been said that it is not the Physical Terrorist Act that acheives the terrorist's goals, it is OUR OVER-REACTION to terrorism that acheives their goals. Tommy Franks said in an interview said that the subsequent political reaction to another 9/11 scale attack could concievably destroy our democratic process, and the constitution. frighteningly concievable i'm afraid, given the American People's track record, and the fact that our Govt is permeated with right-wing reactionaries. Brings to mind that Ben Franklin Quote.

simply put, 9/11 was a horrible abberation, a rip in the fabric of history, that should have never been allowed to happen. On 9/11 alone, there were more than a dozen opportunities where the attacks could have been easily minimized, if not completely thwarted, if only SOP was followed by our government. instead, we're thrust into, and forced to accept some radical neo-conservative machiavellian, imperialistic doctrine as our new reality that would have been considered outrageous only a few years ago. Haven't the past three years felt like some kind of nightmare?

and now we're stuck with academics trying to rationalize the outrageous with a straight face. Sure, such historical events cause paradigm shifts. But how much European History do you have to read before you truely realize the past is prologue?

Reading Suskinds' article in the Times mag (in addition to Woodward and Suskind's Paul O'neill Book,) just re-affirms what i've suspected about Bush all along. He's a through and through idealogue, a messianistic one at that--making war in the middle east, fighting extremists on the opposing end of the spectrum.

Why do you think Bush "Gets it"? I suppose its because he's on the same mental wavelength as our enemies, cept he's touting the Christian brand, and is thankfully constricted by the checks and balances + political constraint of American democracy.--If you look at the man's Psychology however, and that of his evangelical base, they are complete Theocratic Totalitarians at heart. They've got no use for Israel, or Jews for that matter, other than as a facillitator of the End-Times and Rapture. Feh! Auntie EM, There's no place like home.

Like Suskind, I'm a reality-based kind a' guy.

In case you have'nt guessed it yet, Kerry, all the way.

Posted by: Jordan at October 18, 2004 10:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To Mitsu,

You do not have to respond to everyone on here. We get it, you are for Kerry.

At least you are not undecided. Ick!

Posted by: Eric at October 18, 2004 10:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

and by far the best and more true comments on this page is the following excerpt from a post above by JW:

[BEGIN EXCERPT]

BD--

Lucid as this seems as a whole, your argument collapses into vague handwaving at the most crucial moment, which is this paragraph:

"But there is more than all this, of course. 9/11 was what Hegel might have called a world-historical event. There was something prima facie epoch-shaping that happened when those two Towers crumbled to the ground. Expressions of regret poured in from all over the world. Even the Mayor of Teheran extended condoences to Rudy. Saddam, of course, extended no such regrets. But why should he have? After all, while not reportedly sharing any collaborative, operational links with al-Qaeda--he was (to a fashion) linked to them in esprit--given his use of chemical weaponry against his own population, his support to the families of suicide bombers in Israel, his harboring of Abu Nidal and other terror-masters in the past."

I've read this paragraph three times, and the bottom line seems to be that Saddam was linked to Al Qaeda because they are both bad guys. But it's just not true that if X and Y both hate us, they must be allies. In fact, that assertion is pretty close to a definition of paranoia.

Saddam was a secular dictator in the mode of Stalin. He had no interest in Islamic fundamentalism, and was as brutal toward fundamentalists as toward anyone else who got in the way of his survival. The assertion that Saddam was connected to Al Qaeda was not only false, it was never even plausible.

[END EXCERPT]


I am a true to life actual republican, now former republican as of a few weeks ago, a decided, turned undecided, turned democrat, and actual survivor of 9/11. My father was an elected official and I have a nice little doctorate on my wall, so I figure I can throw in my two cents here.

You fellas seem to often refer to dubya's gut and instinct as you speak of the core of understanding you think this man has. Faith does not make a decision correct - facts are needed too.

Faith and resolve are most awesomely important gentlemen, but far from the full arsenal of weapons needed for making world desicions and or delegation of said world desicions.

Saddam and the Bathists were bad, and supportive of general chaos as it relates to terror, but Saddam was no Jihadist, no central point of an idealogy of hate that must and will be defeated.

As for Kerry and how I view the present race it comes down to who's been there, on the ground as it were, no matter what you believe about what happened to either man 35 years ago, or his present policies rhetoric or record. One man knows war from the inside out. Having been certain that I was dead on that day in Sept I simply now can appreciate what it means to put one's life on the line and what that says about a man's character, elected or not you can't take that away from Kerry. He went into harm's way when he did not have to. The question of who is a tougher man is laughable to me. One went, one didn't.

That's why I am baffled by anyone who feels GW will make them more secure. Please. That's not a GW sentiment, that's a party sentiment.

I get on a subway everyday to work and I think about spain everyday, everyone does from time to time to be certain as they look around the subway cars watching for horror, watching and watching ready to defend to save lives right here right now. My work is here but sometimes I think, wow, to live somewhere else in America, to have safety again like I used to feel.

We are on the domesitic frontlines here unlike any of you elsewhere, just after sept 11th, everyone was an american, now, we don't know where america went, in this city of many a foreigner one can easily taste the distaste for our interventionalism. "We live on Earth" they say, "not ON America."

The Bathists were bad to be sure, but they're not on my mind when I ride the R train to work.

Gentlemen, 9/11 has been hijacked by quite a few of you and my fellow former party mates. I'm speaking out now to take it back for those it actually happened to first hand.

I love stubborn, I love texas swagger and grit and howdy. I love this country and wearing my boots in the city. I love simple.

But we do not live in a simple world. Pres Carter was Stuart Smally reincarnate and Clinton dodged Vietnam like Bush. I voted for Reagan, he could 'tawk.' I voted for Bush 1, he like Kerry had been there and done that. Bush 1 was from Texas AND Mass. He had the experience of war and tact.

Don't try to tell me Bush 2 has tact. Yes, sometimes, even during war, in those media traversed rooms of tough talk that follow photo ops leaders talk to one another and take full advantage of one another's weaknesses.

Through out history, just as many wars were won and lost in the confines of civilized conversation as were won and lost on the field of battle. Both method's always play a part. And if we can all agree that terrorism is a problem for all people that walk the earth, then why the f-U? to possible allies? I'm no warm and fuzzball, but how does that help kill terrorists????

Who's you're money on? I'll take the smart guy who's been there and done that rather than an fanatical understudy - any time anywhere.

Brains and braun, a man who's actually been fired on and fired back, personally so, just like GW's father. Smart and tough.

It's simple, just like GW's dad, Kerry personally killed more enemy and got better grades than Bush.

Posted by: Carter at October 18, 2004 10:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

It's not just that --- it's that I think it's rather bizarre that many think all opposition to Bush is because we think he's being too aggressive in the war on terror. It's quite the contrary --- many of us argue that the problem is he's weak and unfocused, as I've argued above. I believe the war on terror is far more important than I think Bush does; I think this war in Iraq comes out of a neocon strategy which is only tangentially related to the war on terror (as can be seen by position papers the neocons issued many years ago, long before 9/11, in which they argued that we should use Saddam as an excuse to invade Iraq for other reasons.)

Mitsu

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 11:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You quote with approval Andrew Sullivan's call to wipe the terrorists out massively, then you explain why this wouldn't have worked in Afghanistan.

Posted by: John Wendt at October 18, 2004 11:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I too came here via Andrew Sullivan whose blog I started reading on recommendations from contributors to Kevin Drum’s blog --- and I also find that the arguments stated here are the best I have seen for voting for Bush. I am grateful for the enlightenment.
However, I strongly disagree with the B.D. assessment that “Kerry doesn’t get the stakes.” I am convinced that the pragmatic Kerry view, which (as reported by Bai in last week’s NYT Magazine piece) is based on empirical observation, analysis, study and reason “gets the stakes” far more effectively, and above all more dependably, than does the Bush’s faith-based doctrine that is based on instinct and not reason (according to this week’s NYT Magazine piece by Suskind). I am afraid Bush’s “instincts” do not inspire confidence in me, as they have gotten us into the disaster that is now Iraq. What assurances are there that Bush’s faith-based “true-beliefs” and “instincts” will not lead us into another disastrous, mis-guided adventure? Moreover, importantly, most of the world and its leaders have “no confidence” in the Bush “instinct.” And we desperately need the confidence and cooperation of all the nations of the world in order to win the war on terrorism – and, to succeed in IRAQ. It is a reasonable assumption that Kerry will more easily get international cooperation for that fight, as the voice of the peoples of the world and their leaders speak clearly on this. In overwhelming numbers, the rest of the world prefers Kerry over Bush as leader of the strongest nation. THEREFORE, MY VOTE GOES TO KERRY.

Posted by: ERIKA at October 18, 2004 11:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu,

Look, I sympathize with you, I really do, but you aren't getting it. It doesn't matter why you are voting for Kerry or why Kerry is better than Bush. The undecided voter is a myth, a fraud, a smoke screen.

Andrew Sullivan's mind is made up no matter how much he tries to convince people to the contrary. There is nothing he is going to learn in the next two weeks that will make any difference on how he votes. The campaigns right now are not trying to sway undecided's in this election like the media would have you and I believe. They are trying to get everyone who will vote for them to get off their butts and get out to the polls. People are voting all over the country right now. Not Nov 2nd, but right now.

The more people Bush and Kerry can get off their butt and out to vote the better their chances. While it is nice that we get explanations of why someone is voting for Kerry or for Bush it really has no effect on anything. When Andrew Sullivan finally writes why he will vote for Kerry, no one is going to have a light bulb brightly lit over their head saying, "Yeah! Ive made up my mind! Andrew is voting for Kerry so i'm going to also!" The same goes for these dumb newspapers. Should any of us really care what the New York Times thinks, or the Chicago Tribune? Of course not, we can make up our own minds.

So my point to you was, alright already. We know you are voting for Kerry, is there really anything else left to say? No matter how many times someone repeats the Bushhitler meme, or calls him shrub, or BUSHLIED PEOPLE DIED, its not going to change people's votes. Even if the argument gets more clever than that.

This election has been going on for more than a year. Minds are made up. We aren't going to find out anything new in the next two weeks that we don't already know. Although we may learn, once again, that Bush got a DUI 30 years ago the weekend before the election. That doesn't change minds though, it simply depresses the vote.

Its all about getting out the vote now.

Posted by: Eric at October 18, 2004 11:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I guess I'll have to disagree with you there, Eric; this election is sitting right on the razor thin edge and there have been noticeable shifts in the polls over the last several weeks --- if there were no undecided voters, how could Kerry's and Bush's numbers have fluctuated so much after the conventions and then after the debates? This election could well come down to 1% or even perhaps .1% of the vote in a few key states --- so arguments do matter, reasoning does matter.

I am writing here because the arguments presented here are more evidence-based than most of the arguments I have seen thus far in this political season --- on both sides --- thus, it seems worthwhile to continue a discussion in that vein here. It's refreshing. In a year with the electorate so evenly split, it could well be the force of ideas that shifts the balance or affects turnout.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 12:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu,

I'll let you in on a little secret. The reason the polls are all over the place is because the polls are meaningless. They are always wrong. After each election (And now as a pre-emptive tactic, prior to the election) they explain away why they were wrong.

"We didn't think about Soccer moms" or "We didn't calculate in the Nascar dads" or "We missed the Security Mom's" etc.

The polls have no idea who is going to win this election. If there is one thing you can take to the bank, it is that the polls are dead wrong.

Posted by: Eric at October 18, 2004 12:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Actually, traditionally, elections with incumbents tend to be a bit more predictable than others. In any event, it is certainly plausible that the polls are right and this election is very close. In which case --- these sorts of debates may still make a difference, even at this late stage.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 12:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

“Kerry now trots out the Tora Bora meme-that we let UBL get away because we "outsourced" the effort to local Afghans. This is a risible argument, as any serious observer well realizes. The Tora Bora mountain range is massive--and even if we had sent in many tens of thousands of our troops (as if Al Gore would have done so; a laughable notion as well)--there were myriad escape routes. Not only that, as recently pointed out in an op-ed in the WSJ, local tribesmen might well have taken up arms against us in the foothills before we even got to the die-hard al-Qaeda fighters--should such a massive insertion of U.S. fighting forces have occured.”

This is all fine and dandy, but this not the opinion of military analysts. Barry Posen of M.I.T makes this point rather bluntly: “Tora Bora was a disaster, universally acknowledged as such, and never explained. …. Using drones and a bunch of mercenaries and bombs in a cordon operation. We couldn’t have done a worse job.”

Of course the Bush administration recognizes this and that is the primary reason they have remained silent on the issue. They are not anxious to engage in a debate that they would loose. The only defense they have going for them is the hypocrisy defense offered by the National Review’s Richard Lowry. http://www.nationalreview.com/lowry/lowry200410080840.asp

“And, besides, we are not even sure UBL was even in Tora Bora during that time frame.”

Why are you repeating this obviously false Republican talking point? The administration said he was there before it became inconvenient to say so. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A62618-2002Apr16?language=printer Taliban prisoners have said he was there (http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0304/p01s03-wosc.html) and in audio tape Bin Laden himself said he was there. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2751019.stm

“Out of the rubble of Ground Zero and through the advent of Afghanistan--the Bush doctrine was born--the policy that states that nations that harbor terrorists would be held just as culpable by the United States as the terrorists themselves. Afghanistan, of course, was the wholly uncontroversial enunciation of this doctrine--and Iraq the much more controversial one. But, whatever you make of Iraq, can anyone now deny that the U.S. takes the threat of terror with the utmost seriousness? Have we not proven that we are not a paper tiger? That we will fight valiantly and hard in pursuit of our security and our values? This too, is part of Bush's record--no matter how often it is poo-pooed by cynics who think this is all dumb Simian-like macho talk that doesn't matter. I'm sorry, but it very much does. To deny this is to deny reality.”

One of the myths frequently trumpeted by the Bush administration is that Libya decided to disarm because of US actions in Iraq. The fact of the matter is that negotiations were underway before the administration announced its intentions with regard to Iraq. However, what gives lie to Bush’s spin is this: Some 6 months after Baghdad had fallen, a ship bound for Libya was intercepted; on board were nuclear components. http://slate.com/id/2103989 “If Qaddafi was trembling from the great display of American power, his fear didn't stop him from continuing his quest for black-market nuclear gear.”

Iranians too are far from intimidated by the Bush Doctrine. Since the invasion of Iraq they have cracked down hard on reformers, stepped up efforts to produce nuclear weapons, grabbed a British patrol boat patrolling in Iraqi waters, and have involved themselves in Iraq in major ways.

The simple fact, which everybody recognizes, is this: There is a major gap between what the Neo Conservatives say they want to accomplish, viz., regime change in Syria and Iran and what they can accomplish, i.e., just scrapping by in Iraq. This is definition of a paper tiger.

“Kerry also suffers from something of a Vietnam syndrome.”

He certainly does. My biggest worry should Kerry win is not that he will mishandle the war on terror. He could not possibly do a worse job than Bush. Rather, my biggest worry is that Kerry will be reluctant to use force where necessary in Iraq.

Posted by: koby at October 18, 2004 12:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's great that by living in London you can support Bush for his foreign policy & not have to deal with his domestic policy.

Posted by: roacher at October 18, 2004 02:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The WMD argument is spurious. The UN was prepared to set up indefinite intrusive inspections, something we could easily have insured would occur."

This is fantasy. Apparently the oil food food scam by-passed your news desk. It was a scam run by Saddam and the fantasy allies Kerry wants to befriend with USA tax dollars. IE: Schlumberger, with board members Jamie Gorelick and John Deutch. Good grief...
Reference Schlumberger Board of Directors: http://investorcenter.slb.com/ireye/ir_site.zhtml?ticker=slb&script=2260

Posted by: Vanyogan1@netscape.net at October 18, 2004 02:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The topic of "connection" between Saddam and Bin Laden has bobbed to the surface in several of the posts above, some excerpts of which follow:

"Saddam was a secular dictator in the mode of Stalin. He had no interest in Islamic fundamentalism, and was as brutal toward fundamentalists as toward anyone else who got in the way of his survival. The assertion that Saddam was connected to Al Qaeda was not only false, it was never even plausible."

"Saddam and the Bathists were bad, and supportive of general chaos as it relates to terror, but Saddam was no Jihadist, no central point of an idealogy of hate that must and will be defeated."

I'm surprised that anyone can still repeat this cant with a straight face. Did Stalin commission a copy of the Koran to be written in (purportedly) his own blood? How "secular" is that? Saddam was out to do exactly what Bin Laden is trying to do: create a new and resurgent Arab nation that can reclaim the glory of the Arab/Islamic world's golden age. For all the supposed internationalism of the jihadi cause, it is still just a vehicle for pan-Arab chauvinism.

The difference between Saddam, the libertine, "secular" dictator and Bin Laden, the radical Islamist terrorist is a difference in marketing strategies. In Saddam's later years he clearly recognized the importance of rebranding himself as not just the Fuhrer of the Arab Volk, but also a pious Muslim conqueror. He realized that Bin Laden's pan-Islamic message was catchier than the warmed-over Nasserism that the Iraqi tyrant had relied on for decades.

I'm therefore disappointed that even Belgravia Dispatch can only articulate the flimsiest "connections" between Saddam and al Qaeda, as in this sentence: "he was (to a fashion) linked to them in esprit--given his use of chemical weaponry against his own population, his support to the families of suicide bombers in Israel (a cheap propaganda ploy, but revealing nonetheless of his view of how to reward those who might purposefully go about massacring innocent civilians), his harboring of Abu Nidal and other terror-masters in the past."

The ideological affinity between Saddam and Bin Laden is more than just a shared appreciation for nihilist violence. They each embody a different version of the Arab fascist tradition, and their two approaches converge not in some meeting in Prague that probably never happened, but in the toxic effect they have each had on the Arab political environment.

Jihadi Islamist terror and Baathist totalitarianism are two threads of the same fabric: pan-Arab fascism. The one thing that Arab dictatorships have in common is their tendency to subordinate their citizens' political needs to some supra-national cause, whether it's the Arab nation or the Islamic umma. Fascism, even though it comes in thirty flavors, is still the only political choice available in the Arab world, and fighting for a pluralist, democratic Iraq is the best way for the US to overturn that squalid political status quo.

Posted by: Matt at October 18, 2004 02:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This entire endorsement rests on: regaining "the geopolitical momentum." ... in purposeful manner, in terms of attempting the hard, generational task of moving the Middle East towards modernity (the epicenter of the radical terrorist threat we face).

Who do you think we are? We're not responsible for moving the Middle East toward modernity. Most American don't give a damn about committing to a such a monumental task (supported with equally monumental arrogance). And this epicenter is constantly shifting.

No. Let the kings and warlords and mullahs scratch in their miserable sand. Screw them and their oil. Finding a way to turn on our heels, thumb our noses at their oil, and stay out of their faces while rebuilding our economy -- now THAT'S a purposeful, hard, generational task that can change geopolitical momentum... one that would move US toward modernity.

Posted by: Orrin at October 18, 2004 02:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One of the unfortunate traits of American presidential politics is that much of the last half of a President's first term is spent trying to get re-elected and decisions both good and bad are made with that goal in mine. Hopefully if Bush is re-elected and feels unencumbered by another election his decisions will be guided more by the urgency of the moment and the danger we face rather than the mood of the electorate. And hopefully then he will take the gloves off with the Islamists and baathists when and where necessary.

Posted by: Harry in Atlanta at October 18, 2004 02:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In rereading the lead essay, "Why I'm Supporting Dubya," I find that I have some trouble understanding exactly what is being said. Not everything is as clear as it should be. I hope someone will clarify.

1) B.D. says: “Today, we are at war with radical Islam.” What do you regard as “radical Islam”? Where is radical Islam practiced? Is it a political or nation based belief system? How many parishioners are there? Are all practitioners of radical Islam terrorists by definition? What breeds practitioners of radical Islam? How is radical Islam defeated? How will we know the war is won?

2) B.D. says: “I don't believe, in his gut, Kerry believes that we face an existential challenge with regard to the war on terror.” I don’t understand the term “ an existential challenge.” Therefore I cannot assess either Bush’s or Kerry’s views in that regard. What the “existential challenge” in the war on terror?

3.) B.D. says: “It's a matter of core conviction regarding the nature of the struggle we find ourselves in.” So, what IS the nature of the struggle, in your opinion? Clearly, our struggle is not war in the conventional sense of hostilities between distinct political entities, such the Second World War, or the Viet Nam War, or the Civil War, or even the Cold War. – As has been pointed out, in the strict sense “War on Terror” is a misnomer – like war on poverty or war on drugs -- because “terror” or “terrorism” is a weapon; it is not an entity. We are at war with AL QUIDA certainly, but it is a wider war. Perhaps, “radical Islam” is also an entity against whom our nation could be at war in the conventional sense. If so, that entity has not been defined.

Posted by: ERIKA at October 18, 2004 03:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I never saw such a collection of articulate idiots. The US position in Iraq is hopeless, the military and the economy are gutted, the constitution in peril, and nothing effective has been done to deter actual terror attacks.

What will you say when the collapse comes? How will gut feelings help you then?

My fear re Kerry's "Viet Nam syndrome" is that he will fight on when he should pull out. Either defeat or pulling out, with either Bush or Kerry in charge, may spell the end of constitutional government.

It was probably over in November 2003. It was most certainly over in April 2004.

Posted by: sm at October 18, 2004 03:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, my, there's an awful lot of "it" that ain't being "got".

Deciding that the world changed on 9/11, whether by executive, media or pundit fiat, doesn't make it actually so. It seems to me that the world "changed" to fit a pre-existing perception in the mind of GWB and this has been cleverly manipulated to further certain agendas.

Terrorists have been hijacking planes since the 1960's. I don't recall wars being launched over this and the world certainly didn't change.

In Europe we improved our security systems so as to make this more difficult and it's been a long while since it happened. The 9/11 hijackers simply took the tactic a step "forward" by expanding and actualising the range of possibilities that a hijacked plane could represent - ie using one ( or four ) as guided missiles. This still doesn't represent an epochal shift in the real world. All it tells us is that these terrorists are nastier, more committed and more dangerous. Degree, not kind, is the issue here.

Bush's declaration of war on terrorism seemed at the time, and still seems, an hysterical overreaction. I'm not suggesting that taking the appropriate action in Afghanistan wasn't justifiable - giving the Taleban an ultimatum to cease and desist from supporting Al Qaeda and then dismantling that regime when it failed to comply was all fair enough. The Afghan war was really a police action writ large though. And once it's over, it's over. Hence the rush to war in Iraq? - it would have been more difficult to justify if the action in Afghanistan had reached a real conclusion.

When the Oklahoma bomb went off Clinton didn't declare war on the various militias that preach armed resistance to big government. The FBI went after the perpetrators and that was that. The groups that spawned McVeigh and Nicholls are still around, still preaching the same ideology and are probably better armed. I'm surprised that Bush hasn't retroactively decided to disband and outlaw these groups as part of his war on terror; maybe Karl Rove told him that they usually vote Republican.

The problem with the "War on Terror" is that it is an empty slogan; and it's capable of being used to justify just about any kind of action that the wielders of the slogan see fit. It provides great cover for a variety of agendas.

Invading Iraq had nothing to do with combating terrorist threats to the USA. Sadaam didn't threaten the USA and in 2003 was in no position to project power beyond the 2/3 of his country that he actually controlled. He doesn't seem to have even been interested in further adventurism. Leaving aside the ludicrous WMD debate no realistic assessment of Iraq suggested that there was a cause for concern. This is amply attested by the public statements in 2001 of, among others, Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell. Iraq didn't change on September 11th. The perception of what an administration could get away with, however, did.

I always find it amusing that defenders of the war cite Sadaam's invasion's of Iran and Kuwait as a reason for ending his regime. It elides the fact that the US ( and other countries ) gave Sadaam significant moral, material, monetary and military support in this endeavour. When the tide on the battlefield turned against him we assisted him with the development of chemical weaponry to even the playing field against the numerically superior Iranian forces. When Sadaam gassed the Kurds at Halabja we tried to pin the blame on the Iranians, and when that failed to hold water we just ignored it and carried on backing him. Only in Bush's fantasy world can we justify an invasion of Iraq by condemning Sadaam for acts that we at the time supported as a matter of national policy. The sheer self-serving hypocrisy involved in this does not go unnoticed. But I don't think that Bush gets that. The rest of the world, however, does. And it's one of the prime drivers of anti-American sentiment that translates into terrorist support and recruitment.

Bush doesn't get how we got into this situation and that makes him uniquely unqualified to deal with it. It requires an honest reckoning of past foreign policy errors for progress to be made. It often strikes me that a lot of US foreign policy is simply grudge driven. If you can't beat them or impose your will on them then fuck with them, however dumb it may be, until you win. The US has been doing that with Cuba, Iran, North Korea, for a long time now. It hasn't been a successful policy.


In 1976 the 1953 coup against Mossadeq would have been judged by the US a success, by 1980 it had proved to be a failure. In 1987 supporting Sadaam was a success, by 1992 that was a failure too. In the 1980's helping to create the Mujahideen in Afghanistan was a successful policy. In 2001 it appears to have been madness.

It's easy in fantasy land to conjure up threats. Some threats are real. After all, there was an anthrax attack in the US....using the US military's own strain of anthrax. Not a foreign power supplying shadowy terrorists with the wherewithal to mount devastating unconverntional attacks, but a shadowy episode involving Americans using American bio-warfare agents to attack Americans in America. In the real world a president would move every stone to uncover what happened. In the fantasy world of Bush it doesn't seem to have ever happened at all. So off we go hunting non-existent weapons in the hands of a non-existent threat because he could have passed these non-existent weapons to groups that he had non-existent ties with in the pursuit of non-existent intentions to attack the USA. And while we're in the looking glass world we omit to deal with what's real.
Bush doesn't get it.

Posted by: dan at October 18, 2004 03:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


An interesting argument, but wholly flawed at it's core.

#1 - Bush's inability to truly grasp the GWOT is evident in the fact that he was not worried about Bin Laden after the Taliban were removed from Afghanistan. His own words reflect a pre-9/11 view of war more clearly than any public official has voiced to date.

To Bush, this is still a land war - it's about nations and leader - missing the boat of idealogy completely. This fact was proven by the propaganda leading to Iraq and the mess it's been turned into.

#2 - The Bush Doctrine pre-dates 9/11. It was just called the Wolfowitz Doctrine then, and then was considered vastly extremist for the modern world. The Bush Doctrine is about creating safety via an American Hegemony. If you don't know that, you should read about it on various Neocon sites under "Pax Americana". This isn't conspiracy theory - it's public policy.

#3 - Bush and his administration have shown a clear inability to effectively run a war. From Abu Ghairab to Fallujah, to the lack of body armor and GIs refusing to go on missions - this guy has proven that the only thing he's capable of is getting us farther into trouble.

Posted by: uglyamerican at October 18, 2004 04:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You state early in your piece that some believe that the Iraq war has had the effect of "worsening our position in the GWOT by further poisoning relations with the Islamic (particularly Arab Muslim) world." But this characterization of what the critics are and have been saying really misses the central point of their critique. What Brent Scowcroft, for example, said before the war was that an invasion and occupation of Iraq would be a major stimulus to recruitment for al Queda and similar groups. An adversary nation can use conscription to build its armies; but jihadist groups, which are stateless, must depend on making emotional and intellectual appeals to persuade young people to join their suicidal armies. As such, to a far greater extent than is necessary in wars against nations, the propaganda war (or, as some would say, the "hearts and minds" issue) is absolutely vital to success.

There were a number of scholarly studies before Gulf War II that made clear that Gulf War I was an important stimulus to the formation of bin Laden's organization. (See, e.g., Tibi). It was not difficult to forsee that a second war against Iraq which sought regime change -- and which was not provoked by anything like Iraq's invasion of another country -- would be an even greater stimulus to the growth of jihadist groups. Rumsfeld's leaked memo of last year recognizes that the central question in the war on terror is whether the rate of recruitment of Islamic terrorists exceeds the rate at which we are killing terrorists or deterring new recruits. I think the Iraq war has ensured that, by this criteria, we are losing the war on terror.

Your analysis of the wisdom of the war uses vague and useless terms like geopoliticial "momentum" to justify it. It ignores the cogent pre-war arguments of Scowcroft, Eagleburger, and even Pollack (a proponent of war) that for a variety of reasons, Sadaam was extremely unlikely to transfer a chemical or biological weapon to bin Laden, and that a mere possibility of this kind of transfer was not sufficient to justify all of the known and unknown risks and costs of war and occupation. But the most telling omission is your failure to even consider the extent to which our action in Iraq has stimulated the growth of jihadism in a way that may take a generation or more to reverse.

Posted by: Stefan at October 18, 2004 04:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Only thing I would add is that flyed sb flown.

Posted by: helper at October 18, 2004 04:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You are a fool.

That's my gut feeling.

It's fine if you choose to deceive yourself, but don't add to the mistake by sharing your illogic with others. Shame on you.

Posted by: epoh at October 18, 2004 04:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What I found most interesting about this incoherent defense is that at no point did you give a single logical reason why GWB is the better leader.

I can't recall ever hearing a single lucid argument emanate from the President’s lips explaining the deceptions that got us into Iraq. I have not heard a single viable explanation of how Bush would further prosecute the war to defeat terrorism.

Terrorism cannot be defeated. Terrorism as a tactic is as old as the world itself. Reducing the use of the tactic of terror to a nuisance is something everyone in the world should be striving for... and, if you believe you can achieve the reduction of the use of terror as a tactic at the point of a gun you are very very sadly mistaken. Again, Bush has never given a single viable explanation of how he further prosecute the war to defeat terrorism.

Throwing around gross suppositions like "Kerry doesn't get it" is absolutely absurd. Such statements fall under the same tired rhetoric we have been hearing from the Republicans for four years. Kerry will approach this problem differently, but to make some asinine generalization that he lacks the intellectual ability to grasp what is at stake is baseless nonsense. There will never be another President who is weak on defense or afraid to use force when necessary. Period.

Bush didn't begin to "get" anything until after the towers fell. He didn't get anything more until the families of 9/11 forced him to allow a bipartisan committee to investigate. He hasn't said anything in the past four years that have led me to believe he "understands" how to lead this country. Sound bytes do not translate into strength and intelligence, they rally the ignorant.

As long as Bush is in office, our allies will never support us. We have one major ally on our team in Great Britain. Have you considered how precarious our administration's arguments will be if Tony Blair is not reelected? If you have been paying attention to world news, you know Blair's reelection is in jeopardy.

Your assertion, and the assertion of many Bush supporters, that Kerry will not be able to convince any of our former allies to support us is also ridiculous. Until someone from the White House tries to reestablish dialogue with the allies we have depended on for decades, how do you know the efforts will be a waste of time? Seems to me that 9 times of 10, the words "I'm sorry" go a long way to resolving personal conflicts. Like it or not, any sort of reconciliation will make a big difference. We need our allies.

Lastly, voting for a man because he looked good shouting into a bullhorn is utterly shameful. Taking advantage of a perfect photo opportunity does not qualify a man to be President of the most powerful and misguided country on the planet. Besides, I am willing to bet the bullhorn was Carl Rove's idea in the first place.

Posted by: Pburton at October 18, 2004 04:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What's the deal with the type on your page extending all the way across the screen and not reflowing to browser window width? My eyes can't find the line to continue on when I finish reading a line! Either make your layout flow to window width, or make it a fixed width that is narrow enough to read easily.

Posted by: Plantin at October 18, 2004 04:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,
Just wanted you to know I liked your piece. You seem to have attracted every Kerry supporter currently online!
Yes, 9/11 changed the world - people can't seem to see the difference between terrorism and catastrophic terrorism. Here's hoping the polls showing Bush uo 6-8 points are correct.

Posted by: Jean at October 18, 2004 05:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Stefan

GWI was important for Bin Laden, but not in the way that you imagine. When Sadaam occupied Kuwait, Bin Laden went to the Saudis and offered to raise a force, based on the Arab Afghan contingents that he was allied with, to expel the Iraqis. His offer was declined. He then watched from the sidelines as the Saudi government allowed the basing of a US-led army to kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait. By all accounts he was rather piqued by this and it can be credibly argued that his conflict with the Saudi ruling family dates from this point. Obviously this could have been mitigated at the time had the US forces withdrawn from Saudi Arabia after the war had ended. One of Bin Laden's key policy objectives after all has been the withdrawal of US forces from Saudi. This only happened once Iraq had been invaded.


However, a more significant recruiting tool was the cancellation of the Algerian elections in 1992. Apart from sending thousands of radicalized Algerians into the hands of the Jihadists, it also emphasised that attaining power through legitimate political means was pointless. The democratic option was closed off. I think this is an important point. If free and fair elections were held in any middle-eastern country they would return some kind of Islamist majority, from Morocco to Iraq. It's also one of the reasons why they don't happen. For some reason this fact never gets mentioned in the western media...I can't think why.

Clearly the current occupation of Iraq is a recruiting boon for the Jihadists. A failure to hold proper elections, or annulling results that don't conform to the US's policies will of course exacerbate this.

Posted by: dan at October 18, 2004 05:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The very fact that jihadists are being drawn to Iraq is a postive, something that escapes the babbling liberal mass. You get them in one place where you can effectively exterminate them.

Posted by: Paul at October 18, 2004 05:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

--I will vote for Kerry because he will prosecute the war on terror far more strongly than Bush has.--

With what/who Mitsu?

And prosecute is an interesting choice, isn't that part of the difference?

Don't forget, some of the problems we see now could have been mitigated if the frogs didn't interfere w/Turkey. Where was the 4th ID again?---

As to some of W's domestic policies? Revolutionary. I love them.

---

--Kerry will not be able to convince any of our former allies to support us is also ridiculous. --

Frankenreich has already said no. UN asked Australia unofficially to protect them in Iraq, Howard said no. Let's see what some of our other allies say, after all, it is for the UN.

Do you have the exact same set of friends you started out with in life?

Posted by: Sandy P at October 18, 2004 05:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Where to start....
That 9-11 was an aberration which could have been prevented and thus kept us out of this PNAC/ Neocon wet dream. Nuts, to put it succinctly.
Had the bad guys been stopped on 9-11 (for, possibly, Carrying Knives While Muslim), they'd have tried something else. To imply that failing 9-11 would have turned them into philatelists or something equally benign is silly. As long as they exist, they need only succeed once. And as long as they exist, they will keep trying. The passive defense, if even a skosh short of perfect, would fail.
And if we'd stopped 9-11 and congratulated ourselves that nothing more need be done, the bad guys would have had time to fix up something worse.
Looting? Damn, what a stupid thing to complain about. How dumb do you have to be to think the looting was a function of inadequate preparation?
To stop looting, you need four guys in front of whatever you want to safeguard. If it transpires that they will not shoot, they will be overcome by sheer exuberance of the looters. Thus, looting. If they do shoot, there will be lots of dead Iraqis, and we'd be hammered (perhaps this was the hope of those complaining about looting) for killing people to protect a furniture store. We don't do that in South Central. Why in Baghdad? And once it becomes clear that the Americans are willing to kill huge numbers of people to protect moldering produce, the looters simply go someplace else. How many troops would it take to protect every someplace else in Iraq? Clue, here, guys. For things to go right, it takes a whole lot more than 99.99% of the population to not do that kind of stuff. The Symbionese Liberation Army kept LA hopping, and there were never more than about a dozen of them. Once you get some thousands rioting and looting, the choice is to acquiesce, or to kill in large numbers. And both make headlines that the opposition to the administration extant will use against it.
Intrusive inspections? Fine. Let some platoon leader face a bunch of Iraqi Republican Guard troops at a building supposedly housing some WMD. After the fight, it turns out that Saddaam had changed it to a daycare center, but cleverly let the US think it was a nuke storage facility. The Americans started a fight to kill kids? Yum yum. SH has already done this kind of thing, understanding western media.
Given that France and Russia and China were on the take, as well as on the Security Council, how long would the sanctions have worked, or the intrusive inspectors have lasted?
Hasn't anybody been paying attention?
To say that SH and the terrorists wouldn't work together because SH was a secularist and the bad guys.. yadda yadda is also silly. By that reasoning, Churchill and Stalin couldn't possibly have cooperated during WW II. I have this vague notion that maybe they did. It also ignores the evidence--see Duelfer for starters.
OBL is on the death list, presuming he's not already dead, for crimes committed. That he's running, presuming he's not already dead, is nice. It keeps him from doing his planning thing. We'll get him, eventually, if we haven't already gotten him. But the emphasis on the fact that we haven't gotten him is suspect. If we had, no doubt the complainers would figure out that there was something wrong with that. Maybe too many resources devoted to getting one guy whose best days had gone. OBL's supposed freedom isn't a real concern. It's a tool to beat Bush with. What are you going to do once we get him? Have you planned for that?
WMD? Pharmaceutical factories culture bugs. It's what they do. If somebody had a half pound of some nasty bug stored away, it wouldn't take much, once the axis of the bribed had their way and things were relaxed in Iraq, to start pumping out the nasty stuff. Pesticides are chemical weapons. The antidote found on your can of Raid is atropine, the same issued to the troops for use in case somebody gets a belt of Sarin and starts doing the funky chicken.
And SH may not have needed a nuclear program. He might have been able to buy the kit from A Q Khan, if not a dozen heads ready to go. Keep in mind that the Manhattan Project need only be done once. For the next guys, it's a matter of following the directions in the manual. All of which means less time, less expense, and, most of all, less footprint for snoops to stumble across.
Somebody needs to be paying attention.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 18, 2004 05:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BD, you are spot on! Civilization is only robust if its defenders are willing to take a stand. Appeasers cannot stand up to the threat we face.

Posted by: Sansun at October 18, 2004 05:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So, when will America attack the HQ of terrorism - Iran? The clock is ticking... The Mullahs will soon have nuclear weapons targeting Israel and the Western world. I would advise all my friends in America to vote for Bush if I knew that he would keep his promise of April 21: "Iran will be dealt with." For more on this issue, read my post, Got Mullahs on November 2?

Best Premises,

Martin Lindeskog - American in spirit.
Gothenburg, Sweden.

Posted by: Martin Lindeskog at October 18, 2004 05:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

re: dead Iraquis / Americans

Saddam murdered 300,000 in 24 years of rule..(conservative estimate)

if you're right and 10,000+ died in the 18-19 months , the rate of violent death has probably DECREASED as compared to the 24 year average (i.e. about 12,500 per year)..

1,000 dead American soldiers, while painful and regrettable, would not by any historical standard be considered an unduly high price to pay to win a war.

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at October 18, 2004 05:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan,

I agree with you that the post-Gulf War I basing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia was a major recruitment tool for bin Laden. But I think the literature indicates that the fact of the U.S. having waged Gulf War I was also a rallying point. (See, e.g., Bassam Tibi, The Challenge of Fundamentalism). The 43-day bombing campaign in Iraq was extremely severe (more bombs dropped on Iraq than were dropped on Germany in all of WWII), and caused a large number of civilian deaths. And the war was widely seen by Arabs not as an attempt to repel an unjustified invasion, but rather as an attempt to protect Western oil interests. And, finally, the decisiveness of the U.S. victory was a source of Arab humiliation, and humiliation is one of the themes that is stressed by many analysts, including Bernard Lewis. I am not saying we should not have fought Gulf War I, but simply that the effects of that war on the development of militant Islamic fundamentalism should not have been ignored in the run-up to Gulf War II.

Another post suggests that the Iraq War and occupation is a positive because it has drawn all of the jihadists in one place, where they can be killed. This is very simplistic. First, jihadism is a worldwide movement, with a strong presence in Pakistan and Southeast Asia (including Indonesia, Malaysia, parts of the Philipines, and southern Thailand), and parts of the former USSR. Our actions in Iraq are reportedly stimulating recruitment in those parts of the world, and it is absurd to suggest that members of terrorist groups in those countries are all packing their bags and moving to Iraq. Rumsfeld would not have asked whether we are killing or deterring terrorists at a greater rate than new ones are being recruited if he really believed the facile notion that any increased recruitment is irrelevant, because any new recruits will come to Iraq and be killed.

Posted by: sbherpel at October 18, 2004 06:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BD is right, except in saying that Afghanistan was non-controversial. Before we ever invaded, anti-US protestors were picketing the White House. Every op-ed page in America ran articles by our ever-prescient Middle East experts warning us that the Islamic world would rise up in revolt, and streets would run red from Indonesia to Egypt were we to invade. But soon the "they'll like us when we win" principle took hold and everybody shut up. Now we're told that any president at all would have done the same. Don't believe it.

Posted by: Ron at October 18, 2004 06:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As Stefan rightly points out, Iraq has not made us safer. Even a 1997 Defense Department report drafted after the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia found a correlation between the U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States.

September 11 was the most deadly, tragic, and visible sign of theAl Qaeda threat. We discovered on 9/11 that we had lived in a false sense of safety, but not that we were suddenly less safe than before. The pre/post-9/11 mindset is one of capture by fear, and acting accordingly. not an essential remaking of the world order. The question is what will make us safe again? Or safer than we have felt since 9/11.To be frank, I don't think anyone knows yet. But it seems clear we are not.

Perhaps Kerry is too focused on alliances. But Bush is too focused on his messianic, freedom will end terrorism view of the world. There needs to be a debate in the administration- a reasoned look, a new policy, what are we really fighting, what weapons are in our arsenal in addition to but beyond armored Humvees and desert combat. Not a debate in the press, on blogs, with this new genre of political books. And this debate does not, will not happen in a Bush administration. And to me, that is dangerous.

Posted by: Enlightened at October 18, 2004 06:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I checked out the quote "Bookmark this Guy" -- Seattle Times on your front page. That was lifted from a blogger at the Seattle Times. You misrepresent the support of the Seattle Times.

Posted by: daniel robinson at October 18, 2004 06:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

OTAdministrivia: Could somebody turn the long URL in Mitsu's comment (October 18, 2004 05:38 AM) into a link? It breaks the layout (makes this page a-screen-and-a-half wide) in Mozilla. (And you might want to consider enabling linking in comments to avoid this in the future.) Thanks!

Posted by: Old Grouch at October 18, 2004 06:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just like all other Bush apologists, you and the pro-Bush people on this post need to find such empty rhetoric to justify a vote for Bush. He has made such huge mistakes that no clear case can be made for voting for him, but since agendas must be maintained, those who support him will torture themselves intellectually to find some rationale for their support. Facts are tough things, when they can come out into the light:

over 1000 US men/women killed, for what? Geopolitical momentum? Look, if that is what we wanted than at least we could have had an open debate about that before the war.

Bush's policies are OK because they have not led to the total destruction of the middle east? (wow, great standard, let's apply that to domestic policies as well).

look, stop the spin, stop the mental torture and just admit that you want Bush because you have "faith", no explanation needed.

The concept that Kerry will be weak in this GWOT is a joke. How can you compare Kerry's record pre-911 if you don't also compare Bush's? Bush was not too exercised about it pre -911, he let the concerns languish, more concerned about missile defense. why does that not disqualify him?

as for the terrorist "nuisance" concern, is it your position that you "want" every day for the rest of your lives to be about fighting terrorism? it may be that such a thing is necessary, but as a GOAL? I don't know, but for me, my goals would be raising my kids, watching the Bears play, going for a run, taking a walk with my wife, and on and on. I would only hope that we could make fighting terrorism be a nuisance, not the centerpiece to our everyday life.

I read your piece and posts by those that support it and shake my head sadly that we now live in a world where your views gain credence.

Posted by: steve at October 18, 2004 06:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Winning wars means taking risks. We won WW2 by taking risks early, before the American industry got on board and started out producing every other nation. Midway was a risk, Coral Sea was a Risk, Guadacanal was a risk. We risked because we had to make the enemy react to what we were doing as opposed to reacting to what they are doing.

This is what Rummy, Bush et al get. Iraq was a way to turn the tables, get them thinking about what we can do to them,

Kerry might be the most risk averse candidate (other than Jimmy) that I have listened to - its abot summits and allies and the UN and get on board the crazy train or whatever. Bush 1 lost in Iraq because he played it safe. We had the elements in place to destroy Saddam and really set the ME going in a different direction but it was risky and it was above the mandate and the status quo.

Here is the 20/20 question - if Iraq was the wrong place or whatever. What was the next logical step in WOT after afghanistan. I don't think afghanistan provided enough of an object lesson to the world about American power. So what next? Make it a law enforcement issue but allow the same festering poverty, misery and oppression to continue.

Bush has spoken to the need to transform the middle east, his father's failure in 91 came home to roost in 2001. To his credit he risked his political future on the fact taht we could change the dynamics in the middle east. And they have changed, We have been negioting with Libya forever, Libya capitulates, etc. Because America risked alot and payed (and continues to pay) a high price we are making progress. That is enough for me

Posted by: Kevin at October 18, 2004 06:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Anyone who thinks that Kerry's record supports the notion that he'll prosecute a "stronger war on terror" is looney and self-delusional.

He's got a 30 year record of opposing the projection of America's power in its interest. It is completely correct that a few months of rhetoric doesn't erase decades of wrong decisions and blame America first knee-jerk liberalism.

The man will say anything to be elected, what he will do after elected is up for grabs. There is the possibility he's suddenly made a sudden tranformation to hawk, but there's little evidence to support it. Those who think there is are simply grasping for straws in order to justify their vote.

Posted by: Cutler at October 18, 2004 06:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The "gut" reaction to September 11th -- the urge to retaliate by killing, in particular -- will not be our best compass for the post-9/11 world. Our enemies let rage and hatred guide their actions. We would do better by reason.

The hegemonic military strength that allows the United States to remove non-nuclear regimes at will is also a great liability. Used improperly, it only validates radical Islam's rhetoric about an omnipotent, imperialist America.

The war on terror may be won the way the Cold War was won, through military coercion *and* political-economic example. Or it may be won through something altogether new. But force alone will not do the job.

Have the conflicts in Northern Ireland and Palestine ever proved otherwise?

Posted by: Trevor Quinn at October 18, 2004 06:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The "gut" reaction to September 11th -- the urge to retaliate by killing, in particular -- will not be our best compass for the post-9/11 world. Our enemies let rage and hatred guide their actions. We would do better by reason.

The hegemonic military strength that allows the United States to remove non-nuclear regimes at will is also a great liability. Used improperly, it only validates radical Islam's rhetoric about an omnipotent, imperialist America.

The war on terror may be won the way the Cold War was won, through military coercion *and* political-economic example. Or it may be won through something altogether new. But force alone will not do the job.

Have the conflicts in Northern Ireland and Palestine ever proved otherwise?

Posted by: Trevor Quinn at October 18, 2004 06:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

thanks for the (mostly) polite and many thought-provoking comments underway on this thread. As my honesty is being impugned by one of the comments, and if you're really curious (I pray you have better things to do with your time!) click on search, type in "Seattle Times", and check out the post "We Get Mail." Short version: A senior 20 year veteran at the Seattle Times explicitly permitted me to use the "Bookmark this Guy" blurb on behalf of the paper writ large. As I said, all deeply unfascinating. But just for the record. I was planning on updating the blurbs anyway...this lame attack jogged my memory! Anyway, sorry for this OT mundanity...but there we are. Keep commenting away!

Posted by: greg at October 18, 2004 07:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm absolutely tired of this repeated mantra that the war in Iraq has produced a "recruting boon for the Jihadists". The recrutment of Jihadists has been occurring for some fifty years, and it has been the perceived weakness of this country, the "Paper Tiger", which incidentally was a reference to our country by none other than Bin Laden himself, that eventually led Al Qeuda to the assumtion that America wouldn't have the political will, nor the Civilised World, to declare a war against it in all of its forms. Inaction of the United States is what encrouged 9/11. The problem that many on the left have in understanding this, is the nature of the pre-9/11 mindset that John Kerry, and his supporters, cannot let go.

The hope for Democracy in the Middle East in that it will eventually provide an alternative to coming generations of Arabs--that this generation can have a political voice finally. That there are more productive means of effecting change as an alternative to strapping a bomb to himself/herself to become a matyr. Democracy will prove the be the greatest weapon against terror, and the terrorist know it.

This enemy we face isn't getting its motivation from our actions in the Middle East. This is a Fundamentalist mindset. In the minds of the terrorist, they've been at war with us since the 9th century. They believe that Western Civilization should have never happened--that Islam should have been the rightful foundation of the civilised world, not Chritianity. The terrorists want the United States to abandon the Middle East and Isreal, any rational person knows that U.S. can't and won't, --this is why Jihadists have been joining the ranks of Al Qeuda.

The more we understand the enemy the more it becomes evident that WMD in terrorist control would make 9/11 look small to what may come next. It should give none of us any comfort that WMD stock piles were not found. That should be and indication to all of us, that the war in Iraq wasn't rushed into, but not started soon enough. It may be very likely that Saddam's WMD have been on the black market for years. If you can buy a Russian submarine on the black market, what do believe the terrorist already possess. The enemy is becoming more safisticated, we don't need, nor can this country afford a President who believes that this threat can be redused to a nusiance. 3,000 dead in NY is a horrifying reminder of this

Posted by: Dano at October 18, 2004 07:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"-- Greg, you say "Saddam was unseated with blitzkrieg speed." But there is evidence in the Duelfer report and elsewhere that the rapid capitulation, followed by insurgency, was planned, that we were somewhat suckered."

This is ludicrous. What a brilliant strategy - Saddam surrenders to win! Is it part of the plan that the insurgency will rescue Saddam and put him back in power? Is there no end to outlandish, improbable theories for events which can be explained much more simply? I think the Masons might be behind the whole thing too - in conjunction with the secret world shadow government of course.

Posted by: David Andersen at October 18, 2004 07:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just as Iraq is serving as a "Jihadist magnet" with us now fighting "holy warriors" from about 30 different radical groups, it looks like your excellent essay is serving as a "Kerryite magnet"... ;-)

I'd like to point out two ironies of this discussion:

1. Those being critical here of the "Bush Doctine" or "Wolfowicz Doctine" or whatever you choose to call it are only reinforcing a key tenet of that doctrine. If, in our democratic society, we cannot sustain the public will to agressively defend ourselves, we're certainly not likely to go causing trouble in the "neighborhood"...

2. The criticisms of how the Iraq campaign was been prosecuted and the "too few troops on the ground" complaint is largely because the 4th Infantry Division was prevented from the planned invasion route through Turkey, down through Kurdish terrority, cutting off the escape route for Saddam and his Baathists. If that plan had been followed, rather than derailed by France threatening Turkish entry into the EU, the initial military action would likely have had far different results. The Iraqi Army would have been caught in a pincers movement and forced to either fight or surrender, rather than just "fade away to fight another day." The Baathists (including Saddam) would not have been able to flee back to safe havens around Tikrit. There would also have been more boots on the ground to guard weapons caches and to prevent looting. But, given the widespread bribery and corruption of the Oil for Food program of arms sales, documented in Duelfer's report, this French action isn't surprising, as they tried to hide their continued arms sales. So much for diplomacy and rapproachement with the UN, especially France and Germany. the key points of how Kerry's foreign policy differs from Bush's. Many of the current problems in Iraq stem directly from this corruption of the UN -- yet it is supposed to be a key part of Kerry's solution.

Finally, I find parallels between the Kerryites' thinking on the GWOT and their thinking on the economy. We can no more go back to pre 9/11 than we can go back prior to the "dot.com" bust and the exposure of all the "cooked books" of Global Crossing, etc. Reality may "suck" but denial is self-delusion...

Posted by: Kent at October 18, 2004 07:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There's an epidemic of shortsightedness among many commenters here.

Look, if you aren't thinking in terms of decades, you don't get it.

If you think tactical mistakes invalidate strategic objectives, you don't get it.

If you think there's ANY possibility we could lose this war except by a failure of our own will, you don't get it.

If you don't see the impossibility of negotiating with an enemy whose only term is "you must die," you don't get it.

If you think we can EVER get back to "where we were," you don't get it.

If you think defense rather than offense, reactive rather than proactive, you don't get it.

If you can't see the importance of a real democratic republic in the heart of the Middle East, and the long-term implications of that fact, you don't get it.

Wake up, people. This enemy is real and wants one thing above all else: destruction. YOUR destruction. MY destruction. The destruction of my five-month-old son. The destruction of everyone YOU love. The destruction of everything we, as people who have grown up in liberty, take completely for granted.

If I thought Kerry would do a better job in this WAR, I would vote for him. But that's entirely unlikely. It's not "faith" that makes me say that--I have listened to Kerry's speeches, studied his record, watched him at all three debates. I don't think he gets it, at least not as well as he should.

Bush is far from perfect. Mistakes have been made. But too many Americans can't see the forest for the trees.

Posted by: Michelangelo at October 18, 2004 07:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

On any random inauguration day, all American citizens should wish that the new President will be the best the nation ever has seen.

We are a nation at war against those who have done harm to the nation (9/11) and seek to do greater harm.

That wish for the best President went up by an order of magnitude on 9/11. Sadly, we have seen far less than that and there are reasonable reasons to suggest that George Bush is the worst President since Warren Harding (worse than Hoover, the last to lose jobs during his Presidency in the lead up to the Great Depression).

We are a nation with a President who, with rare exception, has been making decisions that fly in the face of objective information and that are fundamentally weakening the nation (debt, environmental status, structure / strength of military, governmental accountability -- you name the case) and are providing paths toward strengthening our foes.

Rather than "finishing" Afghanistan well and using it as a tool to 'win' many who might have provided comfort (and support) to our adversaries, George Bush rushed us into Iraq. With an assertion that we would be greeted as liberators, the requirement to prepare for the day after was thrust aside. With the failures to secure the victory, we are fostering an ever greater number of adherents to the belief that it merits suicide to kill Americans.

Make no mistake about it ... George Bush has driven us down a dangerous path and there is no real indication that the shoddy basis for decision-making would change if he holds onto the White House.

Kerry -- for all his weaknesses -- makes clear his willingness to have an open door for discussions with his political foes (friendship with McCain to point). His advisors include many with real experience on the battlefield -- including the battlefields of terrorism.

While John Kerry is not necessarily who I would have chosen as my candidate, this is not a question of a choice between two evils. George Bush has shown that he can take the nation down a path that will make it weaker, less pleasant, and more dangerous for my children. We need to get off this track before we are totally wrecked -- Kerry is the only choice to avoid that wreck!

Posted by: A traditional -- troubled -- conservative at October 18, 2004 07:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Trevor Quinn, a few questions:

1. How do you reason with enemies who let rage and hatred guide their actions?

2. Was our reaction to 9/11 a retaliative urge to kill, or attempting to stop the threat at it's doorstep before it comes to ours again?

3. What would you have done post 9/11?

4. Provide 3 clear examples of American imperialism post WWII. This would be where the United States exercises long-term political, military, or economic domination over another country.

4. What is the "something new" which may win the war on terror? Your statement has no weight.

5. Is it the Palestinian/Israeli conflict's inability to resolve via force possibly due to political restrictions place on Israel by the United States? In other words, if we got out of the way and stopped restricting Israel’s actions, would it end quickly?

Posted by: David Andersen at October 18, 2004 07:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, good stuff. You are right, just as Podhoretz:
Its simple.

We are at war with an implacable foe, murderous Islamofascism.

It will take at least one, perhaps two generations to convince all Muslims that we are unflinchingly resolute and will not give in to the fanatic's sick fantasies and that the very survival of Islam depends upon its rejection of violence and domination over others.

Talk is cheap. Power is the only thing that convinces a people ruled by the tyranny of the mullahs.

Bush gets it, Kerry does not.

Posted by: Skeej at October 18, 2004 07:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"With the failures to secure the victory, we are fostering an ever greater number of adherents to the belief that it merits suicide to kill Americans."

Proof, proof, proof, where art thy proof? This is one of the more ridiculous themes floating around today, supported by absolutely nothing.

Posted by: David Andersen at October 18, 2004 07:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

""With the failures to secure the victory, we are fostering an ever greater number of adherents to the belief that it merits suicide to kill Americans."

Proof, proof, proof, where art thy proof? This is one of the more ridiculous themes floating around today, supported by absolutely nothing.

In response:

Up to and including 9/11, how many suicide terrorist attacks killed American citizens?

In Iraq, how many of the >1000 U.S. military dead, the hundreds of other foreigners dead (incl U.S. civilians), and how many 'friendly' Iraqis have been killed by suicide bombers?

Posted by: A traditional -- troubled -- conservative at October 18, 2004 07:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"It will take at least one, perhaps two generations to convince all Muslims that we are unflinchingly resolute and will not give in to the fanatic's sick fantasies and that the very survival of Islam depends upon its rejection of violence and domination over others."

Clearly not "all Muslims" are terrorist. One of the U.S. foreign policy establishment's greatest problems since at least the Iranian revolution has been a total misunderstanding of the nature and role of Islam in politics. The U.S. has never been able to differentiate between the rise of political Islam within a country and the rise of a version of political Islam that provides a specific, concrete and direct threat to the U.S. national strategic interest. Graham Fuller stated well in 2002 Foreign Affairs article that political Islam in its broad sense is, "the belief that the Koran and the Hadith have something important to say about the way society and governance should be ordered.” [I should add here thats hardly different than the prevailing view that the Bible teaches lessons that should inform our domestic policies].

Understanding the attraction of al Qaeda ideology would be aided by reducing the reliance on the poular stereotypes of Islam and understanding the true meaning of Jihad. The debate on both sides would be improved by reading more and stereotyping less.

Posted by: Enlightened at October 18, 2004 07:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If you want to see what capitulation gets you, you need look no farther than Spain. This enemy doesn't just gage the relative strength, or weakness of a particular Adminstration, nor could it logically suspect weakness in light of the Bush doctrine, but it also gages the will of the people of this country. If the terrorists senses that American sentiment can be changed by another attack, you will have another attack. Let us hope whether we get Kerry, or Bush after this election, that we never repeat the mistakes of the past, and appear weak to an enemy that would love nothing better than to believe that are will can ransomed, and bought through the coersion of terror.

Posted by: Dano at October 18, 2004 07:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Speaking as a Democrat who has already voted for John Kerry 4 days ago (as well as a straight-party Democratic ticket for other offices), I think that B.D. is a valuable source not of hard-core conservatism, but of hard-core integrity, hard-core eloquence, hard-core intelligence, and hard-core wisdom. If you want proof of B.D.'s integrity, just scroll down to the previous posting.

And no, B.D.'s posting was not "too long".

Posted by: Arjun at October 18, 2004 07:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I worked in WTC Tower 2 and I can say without a doubt Bush has no idea how to fight terrorism. He had Rumsfeld begin planning a war with Iraq in February of 2001. He truly believes that moving forces into the middle east and forcing democracy on the region is the best plan. He is a zealot though, and dangerous because of it. There is no doubt in my mind that the neo-cons want to go after Iran and Syria and try to control the region. They have said as much themselves. So while I do not know exactly how Kerry would stand in the face of adversity, I know that he would think about the whole situation, listen to many sides of argument and gather information before acting. I do not have confidence that Bush would consider the consequences of his actions (example, Iraq post war planning) and will bull, head first, deeper into the region with his convictions as his guide. Declaring freedom and democracy as the cure to the world's ills (which again, I think he truly believes) is way too simplistic view of world politics. He and his administration either do not understand, or do not care, and either case is basis enough for me to vote for the other guy.

Posted by: sloan at October 18, 2004 07:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I enjoyed your thorough review of the Bush Administration's policies on terrorism and Iraq and am glad for your subsequent endorsement of President Bush. I did have one question. Could it be that the number of troops initially kept lower than needed just in case WMDs were used against our troops either in Iraq or in Kuwait? You want all your forces gassed, nuked or germed in the initial assault. It doesn't explain the failure to reinforce when the war began to look like a "slam dunk." Although they still could have been hesitant to send in troops even after we reached Baghdad, fearing that we had been suckered into a trap. It could also be that the planners expected an extended campaign and anticipated reinforcing later and when things went so well so quickly they were a bit flumoxed. I'm sure Napolean would have done things differently at Waterloo if he had known more. I'm just speculating here - I have no military experience but I think its worth considering.

Posted by: Andrew in VA at October 18, 2004 08:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wow, the comments in this thread are quite heated!

>thinking in terms of decades

I will admit that those of us who think that the Bush Administration is doing a terrible job cannot with certainty predict what will happen thirty years down the line. However, we can see that their predictions of what would happen one month or one year out have turned out to have been completely naive. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, et al, were predicting an easy win, dancing in the streets, we'd start to withdraw within a few months, etc. To say it hasn't turned out that way is a terrific understatement.

I believe their predictions of an easy success stemmed from a fundamental lack of understanding of the cultural and political situation in Iraq, as well as a blindness to conditions on the ground. Keep in mind that President Bush was apparently surprised to learn that there were two different groups, Sunnis and Shiites, in Iraq, as late as months before the invasion. These people were woefully unprepared for what we were going to find there.

Now, it seems to me that to trust that these same people who turned out to be nearly 180 degrees wrong about what would happen in Iraq over the course of the first year --- to trust that they have some sort of incredible foresight to know how this is going to play out over the course of decades --- it seems to me that this is rather silly. I can't see any reason to think they have some sort of masterful knowledge of the region that would work over 30 years when they can't even predict what's going to happen a month out.

It is not as though the mistakes they have made tactically were unpreventable blunders. They made a slew of mistakes despite being warned by a wide array of experts both inside and outside government. I don't mean merely the decision to invade --- I mean the decision to downplay the risks, to avoid planning for the occupation, to give Defense the responsibility for reconstruction management instead of State, etc., etc. This has been ideologically driven from the get go.

I think this is why John Mearsheimer and the Cato Institute and other proponents of realist foreign policy are so aghast at what is going on in Iraq.

Regarding Kerry, I agree that his foreign policy record is somewhat questionable. However, he at least has demonstrated a willingness to learn (which some people call "flip-flopping.") More importantly, however, he will bring into government a new set of people who are much more evidence-driven than the current crop who suffer from what Dan Drezner calls "groupthink." I can't see how they can possibly do worse than the current crew.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 08:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I found this article as a result of a link at Instapundit. I think I had previously visited here, but can't be sure. In any event I found both the article and the comments thought-provoking. I agree that Kerry doesn't "get it" -- he doesn't even come close. He simply flails away with anything he thinks can politically exploit the frustration that an impatient American people -- used to all dilemmas being resolved in 60 minutes and without real blood -- might feel.

My sense is that Bush may not believe what he is selling however. He is pursuing the Iraq approach as a laboratory experiment, but one which is truly a last resort. I believe that most Americans do not understand the role of 'radical Islam' within Islam, because Americans (with the exception of evangelical Christians) do not any longer understand religion as a life-changing, life-driving force. For most Americans, religion is an 'add-on' (if anything at all), kind of like the 'sport package' which can be added on to the new car.

Several of the comments here have spoken of Islam being 'hijacked' by 'radical Islam'. That, while widely held (and even overtly stated on occasion by the President), in my view misses the point. Keep in mind that if any of the American preachers of the 19th century (or evangelical preachers of the first half of the 20th) were to miraculously appear in our midst, our MSM would unanimously describe them as 'fundamentalist' and/or 'radical.' And that they would be. They would be that, however, only in that they would be calling those who (in America) loosely call themselves or their peers 'Christian' back to the fundamentals of their faith.

Now to Islam. Islam, as with most pagan religions, is fundamentally a very materialistic religion. If you please 'Allah' with your faithful fulfillment of legalistic obligations, he will reward you with material, tangible success both here and in the hereafter. If you are not receiving that degree of material reward, you have but two possible explanations: (a) the whole scheme is bunk OR (b) you haven't been faithful enough.

Thus, one can imagine the deep angst and frustration in muslim lands with their current backwardness and impotence. They live in squalor (despite unprecedented natural resources) and they consistently lose wars. This is not new. It is clear now (and has been for some time) that their religion, which overtly promises material prosperity, is not delivering as promised.

Some like Ataturk have reached the conclusion (I think the right one) that the way out of this frustration is to create 'secular' states (thus marginalizing the dogmas which hold the muslim people back) and overtly seek modernity and westernization.

The 'fundamentalists' or 'radicals' (as our MSM and even Bush would style them) simply think that the way out is to redouble their efforts to be 'good muslims'. From their view, the problem is a lack of adherence to the legalisms of the muslim scheme. (Primarily, of interest to us, is to kill all the infidels -- ahem, us.)

Bush's theory -- and I stress it is a theory -- is that democratization (or 'liberty' as he likes to style it) will set the muslim people on the road to freedom from the religious dogmas which have so long held them back -- and thereby obviate the need to kill all the infidels. If pressed, he would cite Ataturk's product, modern Turkey, as the example of what democracy can do to mohammedanism. I would like to believe that that result can be transplanted, but the jury is still out.

So, my view is that the neocon thinkers around Bush -- and Bush himself -- felt Iraq was the best candidate in the middle east for the experiment. It had had 'secular' (read baathist) leadership for a couple of generations, had one of the most educated populaces in the middle east, and had a diversity of muslim views which would help prevent (if managed properly) the dominance of any one view -- thus leaving room for a new 'relaxed' view ('leave the infidels alone -- you may soon be one of them') brought about by pressures for modernization.

Bush is betting that freed of SH, Iraqis will glom onto democracy as a way to give lip service to the old traditions of Islam while moving as quickly as possible away from its tenets and into modernity.

If he is right, he will be viewed by history as the pivotal and most visionary figure of the 21st century. If he is wrong, we can settle in for the 'clash of civilizations' -- truly a clash between light and darkness -- and all of the unhappy circumstances that flow from it.

I will vote for Bush because we will all be better off IF his experiment in Iraq succeeds. The alternative is a hundred years' war with the evermore intense followers of Islam, trying (increasingly) desparately to make it 'work.' To paraphrase an old slogan, let's give democracy in moslem lands a chance. It may be our last one short of war to the last man, woman and child.

Posted by: BB at October 18, 2004 08:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Up to and including 9/11, how many suicide terrorist attacks killed American citizens?

In Iraq, how many of the >1000 U.S. military dead, the hundreds of other foreigners dead (incl U.S. civilians), and how many 'friendly' Iraqis have been killed by suicide bombers?"

What's your point? When we take the fight to the enemy, we necessarily expose ourselves to higher risk.

In answer to your question, I am not sure of the exact number, but there have been quite a few American citizens killed by suicide bombers in Israel (suicide bombers whose families were handsomely rewarded by Saddam Hussein).

Posted by: Michelangelo at October 18, 2004 08:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If Iraq is the place where that effort to transform the middle east was launched. Isn't it important that we win there? If Bush understands that stakes, why is he doing such a piss poor job of it? Can your hope of another Bush term looking any different from the last 3 and a half years, that you charitably call mixed, really hinge on Doug Feith feeling shame? That slender a reed?

This whole tortured explanation translates to nothing more than: I can project my own feelings about fighting radiacal islamists onto Bush's words and actions if I squint hard enough. Bush's constant disingenuousness about his motives for the war leave many serious thinkers free to pretend that he really agrees with them, and thats why he "gets it."

Posted by: Retief at October 18, 2004 08:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The only thing that Spain tells you is that sophisticated electorates won't accept being blatantly lied to by their governments in pursuit of an unpopular policy.

If Aznar had said from the beginning that Madrid was perpetrated by Al Qaida and that 190 dead Spaniards was a price worth paying for the invasion of Iraq...which would make Spain safer in the long run...his party would still have lost.

Elections are won and lost on the efficacy of incumbent government policies. Clearly Aznar's policy of supporting Bush on Iraq did not work; the Spanish electorate judged him on a failed policy, a failure which he was desperate to cover up by insisting that it was ETA wot did it, honest.

Invading Iraq for trumped up, Quixotic reasons has done nothing to stem the rise in AQ type terrorist attacks. By this standard Bush's prosecution of his "war on terror" has been flawed and misguided to say the least. Americans are still fearful, and as one poster has pointed out, he didn't spend his time worrying about Saddam on the subway; any more than Europeans worry about Iran going nuclear.

Posted by: freeloader at October 18, 2004 08:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I will admit that those of us who think that the Bush Administration is doing a terrible job cannot with certainty predict what will happen thirty years down the line. However, we can see that their predictions of what would happen one month or one year out have turned out to have been completely naive. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, et al, were predicting an easy win, dancing in the streets, we'd start to withdraw within a few months, etc. To say it hasn't turned out that way is a terrific understatement."

This is true, however, there were other predictions made (civil war, Turkish interference in the north, >10,000 American dead, etc) which were equally naive.

We must also keep in mind that the situation in Iraq *as a whole* is tremendously better than what is reported regularly in the news, and that Rumsfeld et. al. predictions concerning the sentiments of the Iraqi people were generally accurate.

One of "Murphy's Laws of Combat" goes, "No plan survives first contact intact." I think that applies quite well in Iraq. I don't think the mistakes we've seen and difficulties encountered on the ground are anything more than what happens when any large organization has to respond to a situation that's changing too rapidly. There were things that proper foresight could have prevented, but then again there were things nobody could have foreseen, and other things where the completely unexpected occurred.

Posted by: Michelangelo at October 18, 2004 08:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>experiment

Yes, it's always possible this "experiment" might work. But, the much more likely outcome is that it will fail, massively, and meanwhile increase our liabilities as well as bog down our military, reducing our tactical and strategic options, for decades. Further, I find it rather strange, as I argued above, to attribute some sort of masterful decades-long foresight to a team that ignored basic things like securing dual-use nuclear equipment, providing sufficient troops for security during the occupation, or planning for the reconstruction phase.

Regarding the larger strategic vision, I submit that the strategy we are attempting to use has been tried many times in history and has failed every time. The following article by Jack Snyder illustrates the problem from a realist perspective:

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2751/is_2003_Spring/ai_99377573/pg_1

to quote him:

-----------------

Typically, the preventive use of force proved counterproductive for imperial security because it often sparked endless brushfire wars at the edges of the empire, internal rebellions, and opposition from powers not yet conquered or otherwise subdued. Historically, the preventive pacification of one turbulent frontier of empire has usually led to the creation of another one, adjacent to the first. When the British conquered what is now Pakistan, for example, the turbulent frontier simply moved to neighboring Afghanistan. It was impossible to conquer everyone, so there was always another frontier.

Even inside well-established areas of imperial control, the use of repressive force against opponents often created a backlash among subjects who came to reassess the relative dangers and benefits of submission. The Amritsar massacre of 1919, for example, was the death knell for British India because it radicalized a formerly circumspect opposition. Moreover, the preventive use of force inside the empire and along its frontiers often intensified resistance from independent powers outside the empire who feared that unchecked, ruthless imperial force would soon encroach upon them. In other words, the balance of power kicked in. Through all of these mechanisms, empires have typically found that the preventive use of force expanded their security problems instead of ameliorating them.

As the dynamic of imperial over-stretch became clearer, many of the great powers decided to solve their security dilemmas through even bolder preventive offensives. None of these efforts worked. To secure their European holdings, Napoleon and Hitler marched to Moscow, only to be engulfed in the Russian winter. Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany tried to break the allies' encirclement through unrestricted submarine warfare, which brought America's industrial might into the war against it. Imperial Japan, facing a quagmire in China and a U.S. oil embargo, tried to break what it saw as impending encirclement by seizing the Indonesian oil fields and preventively attacking Pearl Harbor. All sought security through expansion, and all ended in imperial collapse.

-----------------

We do need a long-term strategy, but I don't think the Bush team has one. I think they're flailing, without the ability to predict events either in the short or the long term.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 08:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>other predictions

Sure, there were other predictions, most of which were made by the far left. I certainly didn't lend any credence to those predictions. I mean, one could justify almost any bad judgement by saying, "well, there's a crazy homeless man who predicted the world was going to end yesterday, and that didn't happen, so, you know, who knows ... predictiom is hard!"

The issue here is who is likely to bring people in who have at least a semblance of good judgement. These guys literally deride "reality-based" thinking --- as Ron Suskind pointed out: "The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"

You can ignore reality for a few weeks when you have the world's most powerful military at your command. The problem is, eventually, reality will come back and bite you. Hard. And it won't let go.

I'd rather get some people in there who believe in paying attention to reality.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 08:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Typically, the preventive use of force proved counterproductive for imperial security..."

If the US were an empire, you'd have a point in posting this excerpt.

But it's not.

This war was not started by us, but it will be finished by us. We are not defending some far-flung empire because we don't have one. We are ensuring our defense by practicing offense.

The war in Iraq is not some independent operation. It is part of a much larger strategy. That it was fought at all shows me the Bush team is not flailing, but rather that they also think in terms of decades.

Posted by: Michelangelo at October 18, 2004 08:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

All those brains you have (and thanks, you are the first pro-war person I've seen who seems realistic about both pre- and post-war hysteria), and you still come to the wrong conclusion.

Iraq:
Both of Iraq's wars of aggression were encouraged by the United States. In Iran, Brzezinksi had been calling for anyone to invade. In Kuwait, Glaspie had told Saddam that we really didn't care. Overlooking this is throwing your whole case away.
For the record, I knew that Saddam had no weapons. I quit my (160K+/year) job the day the war started. I simply factually knew that most of the claims were untenable, and that a few of the rest were so highly suspicious as not to deserve any merit without some proof. None appeared.

9/11:
One point, to start, is that Bush didn't "rally the nation" a few days after 9/11. All of Bush's post 9/11 pronouncements deeply offended me.

We did screw up massively in Afghanistan. We refused to show the evidence to the Taliban, so they refused to hand OBL over. I've not been to the Hindu Kush, but between our Infrarad+nightvision capabilities, it is hard to imagine a 6'4" guy walking out. As for Gore, I think that he would have stopped 9/11. Combine the facts that Ashcroft told Clarke he didn't want to hear anything more about terrorism, and the wildly different responses of the Clinton administration to the millenium attacks and Bush's response to the Aug 6th PDB, and I sense that at least Gore would have been trying.

The Bush doctrine is a fraud. There are terrorists in Miami, does Bush care? Heck no, he'd rather have the expat Cuban vote. There are terrorists in Brooklyn, does Bush care? He was actually supporting that side in the Haiti fiasco. The Bolivian Government wants their former President, living in Miami, for killing his own people. Does Bush care? Time will tell, but you can safely place your bet on No. Bush only cares about a certain kind of terrorist. Ergo, its rank hypocrisy.

Iraq proved what the terorrists wanted to prove. That the US hates brown Musilms who sit on oil. The Algerian Independence War was fought by bus-bombings. Every time the French would say "We are all one, all French!" and every time a bus blew up, the French would shake down the brown Algerians, and not the white French. Every time. It was predictable. And guess what the non-committed Algerians learned? That the French were a bunch of liars.

Guess who won that war?

By placing so many stakes on the outcome of Iraq, an effort which can not succeed in the long term as currently proposed, Bush has doomed America.

I also agree with Drezner to the extent that a victory for Bush in 2004 will be, to Bush, another sign from the made-up god of the christians.

That all said, you were the most lucid of any conservative bloggers I've read. Congratulations.

I'll be back.

Posted by: Josh Narins at October 18, 2004 08:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>If the US were an empire

I suggest you read his whole article. It is purely a realist-based discussion of the flaws of a particular military and security strategy. It doesn't matter that we don't call ourselves "an empire" or that we don't have the "desire" to subjugate other people indefinitely. The issues he raises are independent of that.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 08:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

With all do respect to freeloader, to suggest that Aznar would have lost the election regardless of the Madrid train bombings is niave at best, and is stated with an apparent disregard of the facts. It is clear that by all appearances Aznar was going to be re-elected. But, you merely need to ask yourself, being sufisticated as you are, why the bombings to begin with? Why Madrid? The attack wasn't random, it was done for no other purpose than to punish the Spanish for their governments participation in Iraq. I don't doubt that there was strong sentiment against the war in Spain, but you've got to admit that elections, even in this country, have been won or lost because of the emergence of a sudden event that influences perception.

Posted by: Dano at October 18, 2004 08:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

(But I would also point out the Bush aide who was quoted calling ourselves an empire! Though I don't think that view necessarily represents the whole Administration, it is clear that some there do see that we're essentially pursuing a strategy that is quite similar to strategies employed by empires historically. A strategy that has never worked in the long term, and certainly has failed spectactularly in the short term in the last century or two.)

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 08:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The anti-Bush arguments on display here fall into two groups.

One, Kerry would be a better, more effective leader of the war, one who could assemble a more effective coalition.

Two, the war was a mistake, and one that Kerry would not have made.


Neither of these strike me as being at all credible. Kerry has consistently insulted and belittled our allies. That is, our real allies, the countries that are in fact supporting us right now. He has gone to great pains to insult the Iraqi leader Malawi. He did all he could to assure the defeat on John Howard in Australia; had he been successful Australia would now be withdrawing it's forces from Iraq. A victory for John Kerry in November will be followed by the collapse of our coalition. The French and Germans have already repudiated the notion that they would send troops even if Kerry wins the election.

As for the second point, I agree that Kerry would certainly not have invaded Iraq. It's almost certain that he would also not have invaded Afghanistan. So the question becomes whether or not these actions were correct.

Numerous posters here speak disparagingly of the situation in Iraq, using language like "quagmire" and "utter failure". I'm afraid this strikes me as little more than wishful thinking on their part. Every single step of the way since November 2002, the same people have been making the same pronouncements of doom. Our invasion of Afghanistan was supposed to result in the genocide of the Afghani people, with millions dying from disease or starvation. Remember? It was absurd hubris to think America might accomplish what the Soviet Union could not. And yet today millions of Afghani refugees are returning to their homeland to participate in elections.

Our invasion of Iraq was supposed to result in a toll of hundreds of thousands of dead, if not millions. The Iraqi army would fight bitterly to defend their homeland. They would utilize WMD, perhaps even a nuclear device. The "Battle of Baghdad" was going to be another Stalingrad, with house to house fighting, resulting in the destruction of the city, the deaths of huge numbers if Iraqi civilians, and many thousands of dead Americans.

Every step of the way, the "realists" have been proven wrong. They are now reduced to pointing to the trivial casualties we are currently suffering as evidence that Iraq is an unmitigated disaster. It's not hard to get the idea that these people do not actually want our mission to end in success. For them, progress in Iraq is a step back; a car bombing is a step forward.

The reality is that the so-called "realists" are the worst kind of reactionaries, desperate to preserve the status quo at any cost. But that status quo is what has been spawning Islamic terrorism for decades.

So what are we left with? Kerry cannot possibly deliver on the absurd like dream of some "international summit" that will, through the magic of "diplomacy", somehow put the world to rights. The interests of the mullahs, of the Saudi's, of the Chinese, and of the Europeans all argue against it.

John Kerry's only real proposal is that he will arrange a summit meeting to discuss things. That is, he proposes a process, not a solution. Does he have any vision of what the proper outcome of the process should be? The question answers itself. He wants to return to the time when the failed states of the Middle East are run by corrupt, brutal, warlords, and then treat the inevitable violence that results as an irritating nuisance.

The election of John Kerry cannot do other than to throw the Middle East into chaos and cause the collapse of our coalition.

Posted by: flenser at October 18, 2004 08:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I suggest you read his whole article. It is purely a realist-based discussion of the flaws of a particular military and security strategy. It doesn't matter that we don't call ourselves "an empire" or that we don't have the "desire" to subjugate other people indefinitely. The issues he raises are independent of that."

I based my comment on the excerpt you posted, so it's not meant to address anything else in the article.

In posting it, did you intend to assert the US is an empire? That was my assumption, apologies to you if it was incorrect.

Posted by: Michelangelo at October 18, 2004 08:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good article, Greg.

Obviously spot on from the frothing picking of nits I've seen going on. More furious spinning then a gyroscope at full speed. Such intense effort given to such "light" fiction is indeed amusing.

LOL, 3 times I've had to cut this comment off (maybe I should get a blog) since the thoughts kept coming. There's enough material in these comments to inspire a small novella.

Greg, think gnats. Intense, nasty, biting little pests that while annoying, mean absolutely nothing.

You have your reasons and your conclusions. You require neither our approbation nor our condemnation. Thank you for your thought-provoking post.

Posted by: An Amused Conservative at October 18, 2004 08:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"(But I would also point out the Bush aide who was quoted calling ourselves an empire! Though I don't think that view necessarily represents the whole Administration, it is clear that some there do see that we're essentially pursuing a strategy that is quite similar to strategies employed by empires historically. A strategy that has never worked in the long term, and certainly has failed spectactularly in the short term in the last century or two.)"

Assuming you're right and our methods are very similar to those employed by empires--even so, that does not mean an empire is intended. Saying "empires project power to protect their interests, the US is projecting power to protect its interests, therefore the US is an empire" is a false syllogism. There could be many other reasons for such a projection of power...a proactive defense, for example.

(Mitsu, I will have to end our discussion here, enjoyable as it is...it's nearly time to shut down and go home. I must say it has been pleasant talking with a Kerry supporter whose responses to me are well-reasoned and don't include the insults I often get from "your side of the aisle.")

Posted by: Michelangelo at October 18, 2004 09:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>It's almost certain that he would not also have invaded Afghanistan

It's hard to take anyone seriously who posts something like this. Of course he would have invaded Afghanistan. He was one of the most vocal proponents of that war on the Senate floor. Your other remarks regarding "realists" are nearly incoherent --- you are attributing positions to realists that leftists took up. I should repeat, for the record, that most foreign policy realists are conservatives, not liberals or leftists, as you seem to imply.

>did you intend to assert the US is an empire?

Not in the sense that I believe that we have a desire to subjugate or control foreign populations indefinitely. Clearly, I don't think the American character has changed to that extent. I simply compare, I believe with some good reason, our current military strategy with the strategy used by many empires in the past (and I note, again, that some within the Bush Administration have, probably unjudiciously, used the term "empire" to describe us.)

The article I posted address a certain approach to security which is independent of whether or not we have a literal desire to create an empire.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 09:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Your justification for the war in Iraq is that it allows the US to modernize the Middle East (home of Islamic terror).

And, Iraq, you say, was a good point of entry. This idea has a certain logic. And, I heard David Frum say something very similar in January 2003. But that's not how the war was finally justified. The US went in primarily on the basis of WMD's even when it seemed questionable whether there were any. And, now we see that there are not only no WMDs but it seems doubtful if Iraq is ready for democracy, especially when it is delivered by the United States.

If democracy comes to Iraq, that's great. But at this point it's not really clear that the war indicates that Bush's team understood the most effective way to fight Islamic terror.

And, perhaps they didn't even understand their own people. Osama said that the Americans have no stomach for drawn out war. The war in Iraq requires a strong commitment by the American public. And it's not clear that it's there either.

Posted by: Michael at October 18, 2004 09:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One more short comment: I think while our methods may be similar to those employed by empires, they stand a greater chance of success because the underlying motivation is not that of empire. In other words, it the methods of empires failed because the empires themselves were not sustainable. Indeed, in all the examples stated in the excerpt, the empire was already "circling the drain." Even taking into account the problems of modern America, it can hardly be said we're doing the same.

Posted by: Michelangelo at October 18, 2004 09:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To Michelangelo:

Thanks for the discussion. To reply to your last post, in case you read this later: the use of the word "empire" is perhaps overly charged with connotations ... I (and Jack Snyder in the article I referenced, above) have been using the word only to describe a certain strategic approach to security --- not to imply that our goal is to create an empire in the traditional sense. I believe Snyder's arguments, therefore, apply to our case (as he himself has said).

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 09:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu

You seem to be the one suffering from incoherency, not to mention a slight reading disability. The words "leftist" or "left" in the political sense appear nowhere in my comments. In fact, I specifically refer to "reactionaries". Who are not the same as conservatives.

As to Kerry and Afghanistan; I can find you plenty of strong language from him on Iraq also. But, as always with the man, it is hedged about with qualifiers. Every declarative statement is followed by a "But". If you are convinced that Kerry would have taken the same action as Bush, then you are being willfully blind to his extreme skepticism (to put it mildly) about the use of US military force. This is a man who opposed the first Gulf War.

Posted by: flenser at October 18, 2004 09:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>reactionaries

Yes, but the point I am making is that the incorrect predictions regarding the war in Iraq that you attribute to the realists were, in fact, mostly made by leftists, not by the realists. By and large, predictions made by realists have turned out to be correct. I suggest you look at http://www.cato.org/ and read their position papers on Iraq. No wild-eyed predictions of disaster; merely a clear, straightforward analysis of the situation which has proved remarkably accurate, in hindsight.

I should point out that I am, myself, sympathetic to arguments from every camp: realist, leftist, liberal, conservative, libertarian, etc. They all have good ideas to offer in the political discourse. I do not myself align fully with any of these groups. I go my own way.

>extreme skepticism

Kerry has been completely consistent in his support for the Afghan war. So, for example, was the Cato Institute --- a realist/libertarian/conservative organization that strongly supported the Afghan operation --- I also agree strongly that the Afghan war was necessary. In fact, I believe Bush did not put enough into that war, we should have been far more aggressive there with troops on the ground. Another example of what I perceive as Bush weakness.

I agree Kerry has hedged on the Iraq war. That's pretty obvious. But to suggest that he would be unwilling to use American power when needed is simply not consistent with the facts.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 09:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I am voting for President Bush for many reasons.
1. He does what he says he will do if at all possible (meaning he does have to work with the congress.)

2. He looked at our enemies on 9/12/01, and then decided what needed to be done and did it before we could get hit again. We were hit enough in the '90's.

3. After the 2nd debate, it was obvious to me that Kerry will never stand up to the UN on any issue and that's spells disaster for Israel.

4. We will either fight our enemies in the middle east or in Boston, MA. I prefer the middle east.

Posted by: Lynda at October 18, 2004 09:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,
An excellent and well reasoned article.

You’ve had lots of criticism in response. Some of that criticism being verbose to the point of boredom. Not a one of them has offered anything that resembles a viable or coherent alternative though. They have that in common with Kerry.

Posted by: Dave at October 18, 2004 09:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

After WW1, the League of Nations was formed to prevent another world war. It failed. After WW2, the UN was formed to again prevent war. The hope in both cases is rooted in the idea (chiefly held by lawyers) that conflicts can be resolved by providing the means for "alternative dispute resolution." Inherent in this hope (some would say "pipe dream"), is the core belief held by lawyers, of which the challenger is one, that a system of laws works in all cases. The problem has always been and will always be that a system of laws has great difficulty dealing with those, like SH and UBL, who are outlaws and those, like Libya, NoKo, Iraq, Iran and, mostly, Syria, who are outlaw regimes. What the challenger does not "get" is that restraining orders against jealous ex-spouses or ex-lovers who are intent on killing the object of their jealousy are too often completely ineffective. Likewise, diplomacy is often lost on outlaws and outlaw regimes. To them, sanctions aren't a disincentive - they are, instead, an incentive to overcome another challenge. I would submit, to this venue, that had the Oil for Food corruption not happened, the Iraq invasion might not either. However, since it did happen, it made lawyerly options (such as sanctions, more UN Security Council resolutions, etc.) ineffective. That does not leave too many options. Giving in or taking matters into your own hands seem to be the remaining options. The President chose the latter. On a global scale, it appears to simply be the equivalent of "it is better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6." The President is now being judged.

Posted by: Phil at October 18, 2004 09:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"In response:

Up to and including 9/11, how many suicide terrorist attacks killed American citizens?"

There have been several. Marine barracks in Beirut, for example. 9/11 obviously. There are also more American's in the Middle East than in the past, as we have been waging a war there, so the probability of more deaths and injuries is higher. Some subset of people who have always been inclined to hate the US have greater opportunity to kill us if we are there instead of here. Not all of them have the resources to get to American soil.

"In Iraq, how many of the >1000 U.S. military dead, the hundreds of other foreigners dead (incl U.S. civilians), and how many 'friendly' Iraqis have been killed by suicide bombers?"

Why the fixation on suicide bombers? If an American is killed by other means, is it more or less significant? In WWII, on D-Day, we lost a lot of Americans. Does that signify that our preceding actions in WWII created more people who wanted to kill us, or were the deaths related to the circumstances of the invasion?

Your questions do not offer any proof.

Posted by: David Andersen at October 18, 2004 09:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Boy, you guys are amazing.

I've never seen a bigger pile of self-justification from a pack of Democrats-at-any-cost in my life.

Here are the facts of life.

Radical muslims want to kill us, and have announced that they are going to do so unless we convert to thier way of life. A cultural war as been declared on us.

Kerry has been a we-must-neogitate peacenick all his life.

He is not capable of waging this war. He doesn't admit we are AT war.

Bush does.

I'm a libertarian, and I'll be voting for Bush. I'll be doing it with one hand, because the other one will be holding my nose, but I'm gonna do it.

Lamont

Posted by: Lamont Cranston at October 18, 2004 10:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Whether or not there was corruption in the oil for food program (something that has not been definitively established, by the way --- note that the key incriminating evidence for this was supplied by Chalabi, who has so far refused to give investigators access to the original documents he supposedly unearthed), the Duelfer report makes clear that the sanctions and inspections were quite effective at preventing Saddam from reconstituting his WMD programs. Since the UN was planning to continue inspections indefinitely, I see no reason to think that containment would not have worked with Saddam.

Further: the UN was crippled after WW2 because of the Cold War. The structure of the Security Council was such that nothing could ever be done (except for the one time the Soviets boycotted a meeting, which resulted in the UN-sanctioned Korean War). However, since the end of the Cold War, collective security worked just fine in the case of the Gulf War. It also worked with NATO banding together in Kosovo (not a UN operation, but it was an example of the effective use of an alliance).

But the issue here isn't the UN. No American president should cede all authority to act to the UN. The problems with this Administration's policies go far deeper than just their inability to work with the international community --- they've botched even basic tactics, quite clearly (as Gregory points out in his thoughtful article).

It's pretty obvious that the Bush Administration has made massive errors with respect to tactics, regardless of what you might think of their strategy. Kerry will have to deal with the mess that is Iraq today, but at least he will be doing it with the help of advisers and staff who believe in paying attention to realities and are willing to admit mistakes and correct them.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 10:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu

I'd say the point is that you skimmed my post, without grasping what I was saying. Some of the incorrect predictions came from the left, but others came from those you are calling "realists". And both groups were wrong.

An awful lot of people made every conceivable prediction about what would transpire in Iraq. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst case scenario and one the best, what has happened probably merits a two or three. Your claim that predictions made by realists have been proven correct is impossible to verify, since you only make a vague reference to the Cato web site by way of corroboration. Cato opposed the war from the beginning, not from any "realist" stance, but from an ideological one. The libertarian view is that war (or any violence) is only justified in self-defense, narrowly defined. I'm not going to get into a discussion on libertarianism. Suffice it to say that the view that Cato are "realists" says more about you than you may have intended.

You still have not addressed my central point, that the opposition to the war initially, and the desire for it to fail now, is being driven specific ideologies. Some of these may be on what is normally termed the right, others on the left. What they have in common is the belief that Bush's actions threaten their own ideologies, which I believe to be in fact the case. It is this that causes their desperate opposition to Bush's policies, not any phony concern about Iraqi civilians or the imagined loss of American prestige.

In this sense, they are all reactionaries.


"But to suggest that he would be unwilling to use American power when needed is simply not consistent with the facts."
The facts are that Kerry, from the Vietnam War onwards, has displayed remarkable hostility to the use of American military power. He feels that, if it is to be used at all, it should only be done with the approval of the international community, which seems to be a euphemism for the UN Security Council. His recent "global test" remarks were only the latest expressions of this sentiment. You have no facts to back up your proposition that Kerry would be willing to take action in Americas best interests in the event that he could not secure UN backing for it.

Posted by: flenser at October 18, 2004 10:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have to say, this thread has some of the most literate and well-thought-out posts I've seen---not to mention the most passionate.

But through all the rhetoric shines the emotional base behind most of the arguments. There are very few who can step back from the emotion-based foundations of most of the positions to look objectively at what we do KNOW.

Regarding Kerry, it is an act of faith that he might be up to the job of President. There is certainly nothing in his background to point one in the direction of thinking he would be militarily tough, intellectually consistent, or emotionally stable. While one might WISH, with all one's heart, that Kerry would be, or even could be, a better President than Bush has been, or would be, there is absolutely nothing in his background to support such a wish.

He fought for his country? Yes, he was in battle, being shot at and shooting back. But he first tried to avoid military service by asking for a deferment to continue his studies. He then tried to avoid battle by asking to be assigned to the Swift Boat group---at the time he applied, and was accepted, Swift Boats were offshore, and not in the line of fire. He objected strenuously when he learned that Admiral Zumwalt had reassigned the boats to river duty, a far more dangerous duty. In an inteview with a Boston newspaper in 1996, he admitted to this. Aside from his medal commendations, there is no record of him being highly respected, among his peers or his superiors, as a naval officer. On the contrary, he had a very bad reputation in the Swift Boat community, and a superior officer said he was actually encouraged to take his 3-medal out, just to get rid of him.

His refusal to release his military records leaves the question of his successful completion of his military career unanswered. The time between his assignment to the Ready Reserves, with their duty requirements, and the time he was reassigned to inactive status, has never been addressed by the Kerry campaign. But we know, from many sources including Kerry himself, as well as television archives, that during this period Kerry had long (unmilitary) hair and was actively working against the war and the military. Therefore, his military career is not a very good basis for choosing him as the next leader of the country.

His Senate career was unremarkable. His few successes appear to be due to following, not leading, as shown by the oft-touted trip to Viet Nam to look into POW sighting reports. One thing we know from his Senate career is that he continued a pattern shown in his military career, of taking credit for the work of others.

Can an ardently anti-military candidate be an effective military leader? Remember, John Kerry did not just attack the war in Viet Nam---he attacked the military itself, from the leadership to the soldiers on the ground. It has come to light that to do this, extremely devious and dishonest methods were used to create false impressions. One participant in the (in)famous medal-throwing event in Washington said that leaders of the movement passed through the crowd with boxes of medals, asking the men to take a handful of medals each to throw over the wall. Kerry himself claimed he threw his own medals on that day, later changing to a couple of other stories, about either throwing someone else's medals or throwing his ribbons instead of his medals. Others have proved that many of the "veterans" were frauds, either serving in the military in non-combatant areas or not serving at all. The use of fraudulent "soldiers" to mislead the public into thinking genuine veterans were throwing away their own medals, testifying about invented atrocities, or taking other actions in a righteous protest against the evils of the country, its leadership, and its military seems to show a blatant disregard for the truth. But, more than that, it is proof of a real hatred for the military---and, some think, for the country itself. And, even more alarming, is the obvious belief that the end justifies the means. In Kerry's case, both the end---gaining personal fame as a basis for a political future---and the means----lying, staging fake theatrical performances, and maligning the U.S. military---were equally distasteful.

So the question hangs out there---Can a man who courted fame by advertising his hatred of the military ever be accepted by that military as its leader? Accepted by any other entity as a legitimate Commander in Chief?

The cover of his book, which has by the way been kept from the public due to Kerry's refusal to allow the publisher to reprint it, shows a parody of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima, but with an inverted American flag. Whether or not John Kerry was, at that time, anti-American as well as anti-military, is probablya question that will never be answered. But we do know, by his choice of the cover, that the book was intended to appeal to those with a strong anti-American bias, as well as to those who merely hated the military. So even if we believe that John Kerry has always loved his country, it is clear that with this book cover he was appealing to, and pandering to, those who hated it. Many of us question his ability to transition to a leader of that same country, and/or his ability to always act in its best interest.

Certainly at a time when the North Vietmanes leaders were exploring avenues of surrender, making queries about how to do so without being subject to war-crimes trials for example, John Kerry told them, in so many words, that they would not have to surrender. He told them, through his actions and his words, through personal conversatoins with them during his visits with them, that they did not HAVE to surrender, because due to his personal efforts the American public would lose the will to perservere. Acting in America's best interests? Hard to see that. And can we really expect a man who undermined military success to morph into a leader who is can, and will, take the battle to the enemy and prevail?

Look at those who have been dismissed by John Kerry. There is the Prime Minister of Iraq, the leaders of 29 other countries who were allies of the United States, even his own Secret Service agent. A man who was committed to taking a bullet to save Kerry's life was rewarded by the comment, after Kerry was queried about a fall on a ski slope; "I don't fall. The S.O.B. knocked me down." Keep in mind, the aspirant to the highest office in the land did not use the initials for 'son of a b_ _ _ _ '. Isn't it wishful thinking to believe that a man who is so gratuitiously insulting and demeaning of so many can somehow be a talented diplomat, magically transformed into a charismatic and uniting leader?

I am not an uncritical George W. Bush fan. I am very critical of much he has done. But I voted for him the first time because I liked his record of leadership in Texas. I liked the fact that he formed alliances between the two parties in Texas, and solved a lot of problems by doing so. I did not think he had been completely successful as a governor, or that he had solved all of Texas' problems. But I saw someone who had the ability to lead, and to draw people to him who were fiercely loyal to him. I saw someone willing to learn, willing to grow, and able to process his mistakes and learn from them. And I found the courage of one's convictions, even when those convictions are not necessarily my own, to be better than no real convictions at all.

Since then, I have seen repeated examples of that leadership. I think he's made mistakes, but they are not the kind of mistakes I, personally, find to be disqualifying. I find an error in judgement, or a mistake, far less significant than a calculated effort to be all things to all people and never being convincingly much of anything to anyone.

As for the war in Iraq, I think it shows a willingness to accept a new philosophy, a new way of looking at the world. The old definitions just don't work any more.

I recently watched a lecture by a real policy wonk, one of those guys who lectures to the Pentagon and other decision-makers. The topic of the lecture was the new form of war. And as he said, the old form of war is not what we are dealing with here. We are not looking at an identifiable enemy, in a specific place, with known weaponry, and a predictable method and time of attack. Most of all, we are not dealing with an enemy that wants to conquer us in the old sense of the word. He doesn't want our territory, our natural resources, our treasure.

So fighting such an enemy requires a whole new way of looking at warfare. This is a war of preturbation, and all that works is counter-preturbation. It's a new world, a new war, and a new way of thinking. No one is going to get it right, right away. We are all feeling our way, in a war without boundaries, without definitions, and without references. Mistakes will be made. As mistakes have been made in every single conflict in history, this is no surprise, but this is the first time mistakes will have been made in real time, with cameras to record them and the internet to allow us all to gather to dissect and analyze every aspect of every movement. It's not that the mistakes are bigger, it's that there is now a world audience to witness and critique.

And, as this is a different kind of war, in a different time, I think we need to look at the qualities needed by a leader in these times. I look for boldness, but not recklessness. I look for someone with a solid core belief in who he is and what he represents, so he can accept new ideas and dissenting points of view without being personally threatened. I want someone who is not afraid of being wrong, if the only alternative is being paralyzed. I want a President who is what he is, not someone who reidentifies himself according to the latest poll or trend. I think George Bush is a lot closer to those criteria than John Kerry.

And I look for a sense of humor. Maybe someone who knows that the Titanic didn't have a swim team, perhaps?

Posted by: Calandria at October 18, 2004 10:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu

"It's pretty obvious that the Bush Administration has made massive errors with respect to tactics, regardless of what you might think of their strategy."


No, I don't find it very obvious at all. I do hear this charge tossed around an awful lot, but I have never heard anyone actually explain what they mean by it.

Tactics, in military parlance, is the responsibility of lower lever military commanders, usually colonels and below. It relates to the movements of small units on the battlefield. Through the proper use of good tactics, battles are won. Strategy is the next level up, and describes the movements of large scale forces, which, through maneuver, logistics, and use of terrain, attempt to set an advantageous stage for battle. It is administered by generals.

Grand strategy is the next and highest stage of military planning, and is handled by the civilian leadership in the US. It entails deciding when and where to fight in order to accomplish specific foreign policy goals. For example, to invade Iraq or not in pursuit of the goal of changing the Middle East.

I know that you disagree with the grand strategy as employed by Bush, although I don't feel you have done an adequate job of explaining why. But the suggestion that Bush is responsible for bad decisions made by individual battalion commanders seems nonsensical. Perhaps by "tactics" you have a different meaning in mind?

Posted by: flenser at October 18, 2004 10:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>the view that Cato are "realists" says more about
>you than you may have intended

I'm not sure what your point is, here. The Cato Institute has long associated itself with the realist camp in foreign policy. They also happen to be libertarian -- the two are hardly mutually exclusive.

I've read their position papers on the subject of Iraq, and they used primarily realist arguments to oppose this war. John Mearsheimer also opposed this war, using much the same set of arguments that Cato used. Are you saying Mearsheimer is not a realist, but an ideologue? What is your definition of ideologue?

I myself supported the first Gulf War quite enthusiastically. I also supported the Kosovo operation, and the war in Afghanistan. Two of those wars were prosecuted by Republicans, one by a Democrat. I however, felt this Iraq war was a mistake. If it had been a Republican or a Democrat in office, I would still have opposed it. My reasons for doing so fall more or less precisely in line with the reasons stated by the realists (even though I have disagreed with them, as well, in the past).

I personally think you're attributing a lot of "ideological" bias to people which is hardly justified by the facts. Mearsheimer voted for Bush in 2000 --- he is voting for Kerry in 2004. Is that the voting record of an ideologue?

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 10:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lamont,

I, too, have libertarian instincts. But on what basis do you say it is a "fact" that "radical muslims will kill us unless we convert to their way of life?" That is not what I get out of interviews with bin Laden and studies of jihadism, even by moderate muslim scholars like Bassam Tibi, a Syrian who teaches in Germany (and who is very much opposed to militant Islamic fundamentalism). Certainly, that is not what bin Laden himself communicated in this 1998 interview: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/binladen/who/interview.html

To me, this characterization of Islamicists is reminiscent of what many said about local communist movements in the 1950's and 1960's in various parts of the world (e.g. Viet Nam) -- namely that these movements sought as their ultimate goal a destruction of our way of life. It is overly simplistic at best.

Posted by: Stefan at October 18, 2004 10:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>tactics

I am not speaking of battlefield-level tactics, but the decisons on how to implement the strategic decision to invade Iraq. Planners attempted to draw up plans for the reconstruction phase, only to be told by the Pentagon that they would not be needed, because the occupation would go smoothly, etc., and the planners were being overly pessimisstic. Insufficient numbers of troops were used for the occupation. Critical sites were left unguarded: as we have recently discovered, dual-use equipment that could have a use in a nuclear program are missing! The looting was not stopped soon enough. The disbanded the Iraqi Army... the list is very long.

Many others have brought up these points. One thing I admire about Gregory's post, above, is that he at least is acknowledging that Bush has made a lot of mistakes --- yet he is still planning to vote for him. I, personally, have little faith that things will get any better. Instead, like Andrew Sullivan, I suspect that a second Bush Administration would simply take reelection as vindication, and things would only get worse.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 10:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"is reminiscent of what many said about local communist movements in the 1950's and 1960's in various parts of the world (e.g. Viet Nam) -- namely that these movements sought as their ultimate goal a destruction of our way of life. It is overly simplistic at best."

Stefan, perhaps you are not familiar with the basic ideas of Marx and Lenin. Without question they intended to destroy the Western way of life, because they believed communism to be the ultimate form of human organization. For them, socialism was a step on the way to communism. Their clear and simplistic goal was world communism. To think that any true believers in this vision - no matter where they lived - didn't feel the same way is to ignore history.

Bad analogy.

Posted by: David Andersen at October 18, 2004 11:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu

You have a very odd understanding of what the role of the president is in military operations. Do you imagine that Bush personally reviews the list of sites to be guarded, for example?

The same intelligence that was incorrect about the WMD was also badly wrong about the state of the infrastructure in Iraq, Saddam had allowed it to decay to a level much worse than intelligence estimates indicated. The notion that this is somehow a "Bush failure" is simply nonsense. What was the Senate Intelligence Committee doing when they should have been overseeing the CIA?

The decision to disband the Iraqi Army was probably the correct one. It was an instrument of oppression by the Sunni, and the Kurds and Shia would never have accepted it's continuation.

"The looting was not stopped soon enough."

"Many have brought up these points ..."


"One thing I admire about Gregory's post, above,.."

You are skipping and dodging, Mitsu. You have been unable to point to all these "massive" mistakes that you claim Bush made. Telling me that somebody else agrees with you is not a response.

If Bush had in fact made "massive" mistakes then I would expect the situation in Iraq to be pretty grim. But it's not.

At the end of the day, every discussion with the "Iraq is a massive failure" brigade turns on perceptions. They (you) really want to believe that it is a failure, so one thousand dead in a year and a half (the expected death toll from a small battle) is treated as if we are engaged in the Battle of Stalingrad. Looting, the normal aftermath of most wars, is treated as some king of unacceptable abberration. The fact that it is taking longer than expected to fix up the dilapidated infrastructure is made to sound as if due to incompetence on the part of the president.

You contine the avoid the interesting question, which is why so many people (not terrorists) are so desperate that our efforts in Iraq be a failure. That seems to be the elephant in the living room here. When are you going to notice it?

Posted by: flenser at October 18, 2004 11:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

flesner, your argument seems to be that things are going just fine in Iraq, and those of us who see major mistakes and problems there are simply motivated by some evil ideological scheme. Has it ever occurred to you that some of us might have other reasons for thinking things are going badly in Iraq? Like, perhaps, that things are actually going badly?

I should point out that even in this Administration many have admitted that things are going worse than they predicted. Further, many pro-war commentators like the Weekly Standard, Andrew Sullivan, Thomas Friedman, and others have also seen the war going wrong --- and they have every reason to NOT think this, since they supported the war.

But my main beef with the Bush crowd is not just that they made mistakes --- everyone makes mistakes --- but that they did so in a systematic fashion. Time and again they've wanted to ignore the harsh realities on the ground and pretend that things would be easy, or that everything is fine, etc. They didn't want to plan because they thought that would be perceived as pessimisstic, and defeatist.

You are exhibiting the same tendency -- to conflate criticism with a desire to be defeated. Defeat comes in war when you ignore danger, not when you face it.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 19, 2004 12:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's 6:48 pm, Eastern Standard Time, in Ontario, Canada.

I've just spent thirty minutes reading the article and the comments posted afterwards. I won't even try to address 1% of the points that were raised, I don't believe anyone has the time for that. I really cannot believe that the Bush-boosters of this realm are willing to let GW get a free ride for happening to be president during a terrorist strike that was the culmination of DECADES of twisted and unjust US foreign policy. As a person from the outside looking in, I was not blown away by Georgie's performance in the days following 911. Call me a detached and ignorant foreign infidel, but he just seemed to me to be doing what any half-assed leader would do in a crisis of that nature.

1. Express condolences to the families.
2. Appear enraged that anyone would dare attack the USA, and resolute in the idea that the USA will not be bullied by such brazen attacks.
3. Vow to bring the attackers to justice.
4. Rally the country to provide bipartisan support in "these dark times".
5. Enact sweeping bills that would radically alter the nature of the country for the purposes of facing a clear and present danger.

Do any of these steps sound familiar? Think FDR, folks, and the Pearl Harbour Debacle. The scope of the tragedy involved in both 911 and Pearl Harbor coloured the very perception of how Americans would view the action of their leaders. It's hard not to instinctively back the guy who was in charge of your country, which was just assaulted.

I won't pretend that WWII and today's "War on Terror" are even remotely similar, but the gut reactions of citizens and leaders to the events that dragged the US into both of these conflicts is very similar. The most marked differences can be found at the end of the four year period following both attacks. Roosevelt died with a country relatively united, Bush has divided the country.

In regards to the specific Bush conduct regarding Iraq, let's keep one thing in mind: Hindsight is 20/20, unless you're looking back with rose-coloured glasses. Back when this whole ridiculous saga began, I made this prediction to friends and family: "Just you wait. They won't find a single WMD, but by then, most people won't care, because team Bush will have convinced America that the only thing that matters is that Iraq had to be free, and that Saddam was evil. (forgetting all of the other much worse dictators) Also, half of Saddamn's elite republican guard will go AWOL near the end of the conflict, so that they can reincarnate themselves as insurgents." My friends in Canada rolled their eyes, and not because it sounded so crazy, but because I was preaching to the choir. Most of the world isn't fooled by Bushes own brand of "bait and switch" that he has so often accused Kerry of. Strip away all of the post-war rewriting of history and the pro-Bush Republican idealism, and you have a pretty sorry excuse for a president. Giving inspirational speeches to the devestated masses isn't that difficult. It's actually delivering true justice to everyone that's the real trick.

Posted by: Steve at October 19, 2004 12:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Today, we are at war with radical Islam. Not Islam writ large, mind you. Not all Arabs either. There is too much tut-tutting about all those towel-headed Mohameds in large swaths of the right blogosphere. I find such rhetoric repulsive and worthy of our worst racist tendencies. "

How do you explain away Suras 2.216, 4.95, 9.5 9.29 and 60.1 of the Quran, to list a few? Remember, to Islam, the Quran is the Word and Commandments of Allah (God). They have to follow those commandments including those above.

Posted by: CW at October 19, 2004 12:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu,

That was my point. That's why I said hundreds of soldiers. Our fatalities are approaching 1100 and the overwhelming majority of them have occurred after "Mission Accomplished". I believe that as many as a third of them wouldn't have happened if the post war planning hadn't been totally incompetent.

Posted by: Jim at October 19, 2004 12:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Steve, you are pulling my leg, right? You actually think that the billionare Boston brahman is the people's candidate? The man backed by the likes of Soros and Lewis and Brent Scowcroft? The man who draws his support from the wealthiest zip codes in America, and from the most corrupt countries in the world?

John Kerry is the most reactionary man ever to run for the presidency. Period.

Posted by: flenser at October 19, 2004 12:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I believe that as many as a third of them wouldn't have happened if the post war planning hadn't been totally incompetent. "

What's the likelyhood that any of you programmed bots will ever manage to actually describe the supposedly "totally incompetent" planning? So far you are putting up donuts.

Posted by: flenser at October 19, 2004 01:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The undecided voter is a myth, a fraud, a smoke screen." - Eric

Wow. How telepathic of you.


P.S. I noticed someone else here using "Jim" so I changed it.

Posted by: Jim S at October 19, 2004 01:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Flenser, you left me with the powerful impression that in reading my post, you essentially skimmed and skipped past my discussion on American war-time political environments, and instead searched like a rabid hound for any mention of the "K" word. Why have you failed to speak to the actual messages contained within my post? I invite you to comb my post a second time and find any mention of me endorsing Kerry as a "people's candidate", or even referring to him more than once.

I only pointed out that Bush is just as prolific in "baiting and switching" as he claims Kerry to be. That's it. I challenge you to create other mentions of Kerry in my post, but for that you need to break the 128-bit encryption on this site and actually rewrite my post for me. Sorry, my friend, tossing out phrases like "brahman billonairre" doesn't change the fact that I never mentioned any support for Kerry.

In case you haven't noticed, I decided to stick to the main topic of this original article, which was the question whether GW ought to be elected to a second term. Do the world a favour and don't bother writing out a response to someone's post unless you actually intend to speak to the specific issues raised within that post. Don't make me start to think that the blogosphere has begun to sink to the level of American political discourse. I like to believe that we're all better than that.

Posted by: Steve at October 19, 2004 01:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

“I really cannot believe that the Bush-boosters of this realm are willing to let GW get a free ride for happening to be president during a terrorist strike that was the culmination of DECADES of twisted and unjust US foreign policy.”
“Call me a detached and ignorant foreign infidel, but he just seemed to me to be doing what any half-assed leader would do in a crisis of that nature.”
Do you honestly think all leaders would act the same in response to a serious enemy threat? Do you really think Chamberlain and Bush are all that similar, for example?
Assuming there is truth to your assertion that US foreign policy has been unjust for decades, does that imply the current President is obligated to say “gee, we had that (9/11) coming, can we call it even now?”
“It's hard not to instinctively back the guy who was in charge of your country, which was just assaulted.”
Bush was backed because of his post-9/11 actions, not reflexively because he was President. Had he determined that the best course of action was to work through the UN to negotiate with Bin Laden diplomatically in order to end the conflict, he would not have had the same backing.
“Roosevelt died with a country relatively united, Bush has divided the country.”
This is myopic. The country was quite divided pre-2000. The division has been building for a long time. Clinton didn’t unite the country in any way. Neither did Bush I. Gore wouldn’t have. You have to go back to Reagan (RE: two dominant wins). Enough with the Bush dividing rhetoric. It’s BS.
“They won't find a single WMD…”
Well then, they must have never been there. No chance that they were moved out of the country or still hidden.
“…but by then, most people won't care because team Bush will have convinced America that the only thing that matters is that Iraq had to be free, and that Saddam was evil.”
They are not the only things that matter, but they are damn important.
“(forgetting all of the other much worse dictators)”
I doubt anyone is forgetting them, except perhaps the UN (see ineffective, pathetic actions in Rwanda). But, I’m curious, what does it take to be worse than Saddam? Who might these greater evils be?
“It's actually delivering true justice to everyone that's the real trick.”
What is true justice? Is John Kerry the man to deliver it?

Posted by: David Andersen at October 19, 2004 01:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dano,

You have no idea what really happened in Spain, do you? Why did the Spanish government change after the subway bombings? Was it a strong desire to cave into the terrorists? No, it was the large number of Spaniards who were really pissed off that the government had lied to them in trying to pass it off as an attack by ETA that just as responsible for the fall of the Aznar government.

Posted by: Jim S at October 19, 2004 01:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A prior poster suggested incorrectly that Brent Scowcroft has come out in support of John Kerry for President. Scowcroft, Bush I's NSA advisor, was opposed to Gulf War II and he (along with former Secretary of State Eagleburger) made some very prescient warnings about it 2002, including warnings about the intractable difficulties of tranforming the political culture of that country, and warnings about the way in which the war would stimulate the growth of militant Islamic groups. But he has long been a very close friend of Bush I, and he has not -- and almost surely will not -- throw his support to John Kerry in the upcoming election.

Posted by: Stefan at October 19, 2004 01:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David,

I'm not here to reflect on Kerry. That's a whole other blog.

You're right, "true justice" is hard to define, and I retract that statement. It was philosophically inept for me to use it, and I apologize. This by no means adds up to me asserting that the rest of my post was just as stupid. I may not be perfect, but I would never try to sell myself to anyone as a complete idiot, either.

Wow. Not often you see an apology/retraction anywhere, huh? :)

I must say that I appreciate the fact that you decided to speak to the actual points I made in my original post, which is much better than the cheap labelling shot that Flenser pulled.

Now, on to your points. I'll use your quotes just as you used mine, it was most efficient.

"Do you honestly think all leaders would act the same in response to a serious enemy threat? Do you really think Chamberlain and Bush are all that similar, for example?"

Goodness, no. For starters, Chamberlain was British, and Bush is American. Germany under Hitler never attacked Britain prior to the start of WWII (though they were agressive as hell), but Japan and Al Queda did directly attack the U.S. You didn't exactly pick the greatest historical parallel. Also, I point out their differing nationalities for a reason. We're talking about American politics, not British. Let's try and get back to that.

"Assuming there is truth to your assertion that US foreign policy has been unjust for decades, does that imply the current President is obligated to say “gee, we had that (9/11) coming, can we call it even now?” "

Not at all. Let's keep subscribing to that great Babylonian precept of "an eye for an eye", after all, it worked great for them. Say, can you find the country of 'Babylon' on the map? Now, seriously, do you really think that these terrorists are attacking Americans because, as Bush says "They hate us and they hate our freedom"? It's a little more complex than that. Part of their reason for attacking was that they are sick of US unilateralism and bullying known in great detail outside the borders of your country. What was George Bush's response? More bullying and unilateralism. I'm sorry, Britain, Australia, Poland, Spain, and a smattering of third rate world powers does not a grand coalition make. This has only increased the ranks of Al Queda, and even the sympathy of some Islamic moderates to the cause of the fundamentalist hacks that they normally decry. Think about it. This is a 'war', but in unseating the Taliban and invading Iraq, the US has actually killed more civilians in these countries than the soldiers of the other side. I'm not saying the US needs to back off, but Bush tried to fight this war the easy way; using missles instead of troops because it was politically expedient in a domestic sense. All this has done is reinforce the reality that American's value their lives over the lives of their innocent civilians over the lives of the oppressed innocent civilians in the countries that they are 'liberating'. There is also nothing to 'assume' about US foreign policy. It's been pretty terrible and hypocritical. Set aside a few hours and browse http://www.chomsky.info/ and you'll get the drift.

"Bush was backed because of his post-9/11 actions, not reflexively because he was President. Had he determined that the best course of action was to work through the UN to negotiate with Bin Laden diplomatically in order to end the conflict, he would not have had the same backing. "

You're absolutely right, except for the fact that you're assuming any leader in his right mind would have tried to negotiate with Bin Laden. He is not representing any specific country, and therefore has no diplomatic ground to stand on. You're making the erroneous assumption that anyone other than Bush could have possibly tried to negotiate with Bin Laden. In regards to why he got his backing, are you going to tell me that you're not going to stand behind your president in the first few days of war no matter what? The American system is stepped in that blind loyalty principle, which explains why it took the public over a decade and three separate administrations to finally reject the idea that the US had any right to be fighting a war in Vietnam. Also, overall, Bush might have received more initial backing based on his post-911 actions, including his work in Afghanistan, but you can't possibly believe that he's received the same backing for Iraq. Let us also look at the reason that he received backing for post 911 actions. He went after the person who caused the attacks, which is the very least that anyone would expect of any president sitting in office at a time of war. My core argument is that he did not do anything special, and the fact that he actually went after the culprit is pretty standard. If my neighbour hucks a rock through my window, I'm not going to score points with my family for beating up the mailman. I'm going to confront the actual person who is invoking terror in my family. Is it a work of genius? Hardly.


"This is myopic. The country was quite divided pre-2000. The division has been building for a long time. Clinton didn’t unite the country in any way. Neither did Bush I. Gore wouldn’t have. You have to go back to Reagan (RE: two dominant wins). Enough with the Bush dividing rhetoric. It’s BS."

Oh, I KNOW that Bush united the country, but again, in a time of crisis in which the country in question is under assault from a foreign power, it's not that difficult. Clinton might have united the country, but Ken Starr and friends were too busy trying to fry his presidency based on his inability to stop trying to free willie, which was pretty lame. That is what really divided the country. But I digress. The point is, Bush had a united country at the time of the initial crisis, and has succeeded in whitally it down to a 50/50 split. I ask you again: Did Roosevelt, another wartime president, leave with the same results?

"Well then, they must have never been there. No chance that they were moved out of the country or still hidden. "

Yes, they will be lurking in the shadows, yadda yadda. I'm well aware of the fact that the US invasion likely catapulted WMD and definitely helped make available other small arms to terrorists in Iraq (unguarded Hussein era munitions dumps), but let's move on. The point is, I knew they wouldn't find anything, because Saddamn certainly wasn't going to leave them lying around to vindicate Bush. Ultimately, the invasion had about the same effect on resolving the WMD issue as the weapons inspectors did. One just happened to cost a LOT more than the other.


"I doubt anyone is forgetting them, except perhaps the UN (see ineffective, pathetic actions in Rwanda). But, I’m curious, what does it take to be worse than Saddam? Who might these greater evils be?"

Kim Jong Il of North Korea, The entire Chinese Government, etc. They're not as well publisized but they are a much worse threat than Iraq could have been.

Posted by: Steve at October 19, 2004 02:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Steve

You have a link to your own blog, on which your political views are displayed for all to see. If you wish to pretend that you are not a Kerry supporter, but rather some dispassionate observer of the scene, I'd suggest that you not link to your blog. Your desire for a Kerry victory is there for the world to see. As is the fact that you are a Canadian. Can't you people mind your own business?

Scowcroft does not need to formally endorse Kerry in order to assist in his election effort. A savvy political obersver would know that. And a really savvy one would wonder why he is doing it.

Posted by: flenser at October 19, 2004 02:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu

You continue to speak in vague generalities of things which "everyone knows", and you continue to have a great deal of trouble actually describing all these dreadful mistakes that you keep insisting Bush has made. I'm still waiting, but not holding my breath.

And of couse, you contine to avoid my cental point quite completely. Scroll back up and look.

Posted by: flenser at October 19, 2004 02:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Flenser, I never tried to hide my support for Kerry, I simply pointed out that (and I'll try to avoid quoting myself too often, it seems so narcissistic)

"In case you haven't noticed, I decided to stick to the main topic of this original article, which was the question whether GW ought to be elected to a second term".

I suggest you try to do the same. So far, in regards to your responses to my posts, you seem to be limiting yourself to chastising me for mentioning the dirty "Kerry" swear word. (that actually comprised about 1% of my entire argument) Are you afraid to actually speak to any of the other points that I raised? You also point out that I should mind my own business. Funny, last time I checked, the welfare of my country was intrinsically linked to that of yours. One of our former Prime Ministers rightfully pointed out that sharing a border with your country is like a mouse sleeping next to an elephant. The mouse and the elephant get along fine, but if the elephant accidentally rolls over the mouse in the middle of the night...... Forgive me for caring about my welfare, and forgive me for laughing at your plea to mind my own business, when it's clear that your country couldn't mind it's own business if your life depended on it.

I've never tried sell myself as a dispassionate observer, I'm just trying to talk about George Bush. Sure, I support John Kerry. Shoot me. If the dispatch wishes to post something that specifically talks about John Kerry as it's central topic, then I'll post Kerry oriented comments in the Kerry section.

I've also noticed that you still haven't tried to address any of my points that I originally raised, and have decided to attack me for my political affiliations and nationality instead. I'm still waiting for you to actually do more than shoot the messenger, and try to speak to the message.

Posted by: Steve at October 19, 2004 02:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Flenser,

I just noticed that you chastised Mitsu for avoiding your central point. Can you define irony for me?

Posted by: Steve at October 19, 2004 03:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One thing I really noticed in this article was that you rely on Bush knowing "in his gut", but you never address the myriad criticisms of his decision-making process. I think the scariest element of this administration is that by all accounts, Bush doesn't foster active debate.

And what's up with repeating that Kerry would treat terrorism as only a law enforcement issue? How many times has he said that the military element is an important PART to fighting terrorism, but unlike the Bush administration, it isn't the ONLY part?

And finally, I'm curious how you place your faith in Bush selecting a competent team for his second term. What, exactly, has given you this faith that he'll, for the only time in his career, change his mind?

Posted by: unnamed namer at October 19, 2004 03:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Flenser,

It's fairly evident that no matter what the evidence, you have a certain desired conclusion you would like to reach, and therefore it doesn't really matter what anybody else says. However, since you asked for yet another example, consider this article, via Sullivan:

http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/9927782.htm

As for your "central point" --- I've already addressed it at length, above. Scroll back and read it.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 19, 2004 03:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In case you can't figure it out, the problem with your "central point" is, as I said, that it doesn't correspond with reality. You haven't provided any evidence for your assertion that people are seeing a disaster in Iraq for ideological reasons, other than you continuing to repeat the thesis

Where is your evidence? How do you explain the reservations at the Weekly Standard? How do you explain Dan Drezner, Andrew Sullivan, Thomas Friedman? In fact, it's quite the reverse --- this Administration is the one that is ideologically driven. It's remarkable how broad the political spectrum of the Administration's critics --- from the traditional right to the left.

Your own posts betray this same lack of attention to evidence --- suggesting Kerry would have been opposed to the invasion of Afghanistan, for example, when he was loudly and consistently in favor of that war from the get go (and rightly so, in my view).

Where is your evidence for your broad claims? Or do you care about evidence?

Posted by: Mitsu at October 19, 2004 03:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I support Kerry because he helped get us out of SE Asia and only 2 Million Cambodians died.

If he does no worse in Iraq it would be a good thing.

Posted by: M. Simon at October 19, 2004 04:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu:

RE: "Your post on October 18, 2004 at 10:06 PM
You wrote: "Whether or not there was corruption in the oil for food program (something that has not been definitively established, by the way --- note that the key incriminating evidence for this was supplied by Chalabi, who has so far refused to give investigators access to the original documents he supposedly unearthed), the Duelfer report makes clear that the sanctions and inspections were quite effective at preventing Saddam from reconstituting his WMD programs. Since the UN was planning to continue inspections indefinitely, I see no reason to think that containment would not have worked with Saddam."

Wow. You set up a straw man (Chalabi) that I did not mention and then you shift the subject from the Oil for Food scandal to the Duelfer report.

However, the Duelfer report also clearly established that Saddam fully intended to reconstitute his WMD programs as soon as sanctions were lifted. The Oil for Food scandal was the way to obtain the votes on the UN Security Council to lift or reduce the sanctions.

Then you wrote: "But the issue here isn't the UN."

Au contraire, mon ami. The main criticism of the President is not that Saddam should not have been deposed, but that he did not get UN approval, as you imply just a few words later: "...The problems with this Administration's policies go far deeper than just their inability to work with the international community..."

The Oil for Food scandal goes a long way to explain why the Administration was not able to obtain UN support for its policy against Saddam.

It had been clear for some time that Saddam was evading the sanctions. The Oil for Food scandal helps explain not only how Saddam got away with evading the sanctions, but also (perhaps more importantly) how he was able to afford to purchase all the new weapons and weapon systems that he was purchasing on the sly.

To put it in legal terms, if the court (i.e. the Security Council) is on the take, what options does that leave other than taking matters into your own hands (assuming that capitulation is rejected out of hand)?

Perhaps a more important intelligence failure (because it involved not just one country but the principal world body) was not the WMD issue but rather not understanding how deeply the Security Council (and the UN) had been corrupted by Saddam.

Had that been understood at the time, perhaps a different way might have been found, but nobody has yet offered any detailed and credible alternative that takes into account the deep corruption of the Oil for Food scandal. Dismissing it as not yet proven misses the point that diplomacy and foreign policy must often (if not mostly) be made without the certainty or standard of proof that is being demanded in the case of Iraq. I am also troubled that Saddam seems to be consistently given the benefit of the doubt while, at the same time, the President is not being given the benefit of the doubt. Indeed, you finish with a statement that requires that the voters give the challenger the benefit of the doubt that you are implicitly denying the President:

"--- they've botched even basic tactics, quite clearly (as Gregory points out in his thoughtful article).
It's pretty obvious that the Bush Administration has made massive errors with respect to tactics, regardless of what you might think of their strategy. Kerry will have to deal with the mess that is Iraq today, but at least he will be doing it with the help of advisers and staff who believe in paying attention to realities and are willing to admit mistakes and correct them."

Posted by: Phil at October 19, 2004 04:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Besides every one knows the wogs are not up for self government. They can't handle it.

Why just last Saturday I was talking to some of my fellow Kerry supporters and they absolutely proved (they are realists after all) that the wogs couldn't be trusted to govern themselves and any way what is happening in Afghanistan was just a sham.

Well he promised to pull the troops out.

It is a good idea.

His motto should be:

No worse than Cambodia.

I could live with that.

Posted by: M. Simon at October 19, 2004 04:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If you try to lead, worried what everyone thinks of you, (kerry...trying to smooth things over) you're lost.

This war may have been a mistake, maybe not, ... but what done is done, and now who is going to bring it to its best end?

Posted by: peteman at October 19, 2004 04:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm appalled by many comments here fundamentally misunderstanding the Islamic World's hostility to the modern world as exemplified by America. Don't forget that the Palestinians celebrated and handed out sweets on 9/11 in celebration of a great Muslim victory, similar scenes happened in Cairo, Riyadh, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, and Damascus. On 9/12 anti-American and anti-Semitic rantings were vented on the BBC and Le Monde. So much for our "Allies." Absent a massive Soviet threat the Europeans want us "constrained" particularly the French, but also the British public and much of Old Europe, while Muslims will always hate us merely because our material success calls God a liar. Does not the Koran promise that Islam will triumph above all and bring a unitary, world-wide, Islamic Caliphate, ruled by God's final, perfect revelation (the Sharia)? Does not the success of America in culture and commerce, to say nothing of political influence, directly say that the core beliefs of Muslims is a lie?

As both Albert Hourani (History of the Arab Peoples) and Bernard Lewis point out, Islam never had a Renaissance, Reformation, or counter-Reformation. Islamic culture is NOT like the west and a Cairene or Damascus resident brought forward in time from 1000 AD would be (absent the technology) entirely comfortable with the way people act, dress, eat, worship, and interact. Even the way Mubarak or Assad rule (if not their names and titles) would be familiar. You could not make the same statement about a Parisian or Londoner because the West changed radically and Islam has not.

Most Islamic countries are weak states that lack the political means to oppose jihad or Al Queda. Bin Laden sadly is NOT out the Islamic mainstream or tradition, and to oppose jihad is to run the genuine risk of overthrow (see: Jordan and the Palestinians in the seventies). The only way to make sure that countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi, Iran, Pakistan, etc do not give state assistance is to make it more painful for them to do so than to allow terrorist organizations to operate freely in their countries.

This requires the credible use of force to remove their regimes. Penalties on their people have little or no effect on tyrants ... see Saddam, Khadafi, the Sudan, or Iran. Nothing else will work, since it's far less painful and risky for regimes to allow jihadists to operate than to suppress them (see the numerous assassination attempts against Musharraf, Mubarak, and of course Sadat).

Without the ability to operate freely in a "safe zone" in a friendly state, Al Queda is reduced to operations like Madrid that kill hundreds, rather than a nuclear bomb in a major American city.

Which candidate would be able to make a threat of pre-emptive force against a regime that harbors jihadists credible? Kerry has shown that he does not believe in the value of pre-emptive strikes to remove a regime absent "perfect" intelligence and the OK of the world community, the UN, and the French. Hence it's not believable he'd do anything more than Clinton's empty missile threats at best or Carter's inaction at worst.

Bush will at least fight. It may be bloody and stupid like Grant at Cold Harbor, but he will indeed fight, using the advantages the US has in a modern military.

The casualties we've suffered in Iraq are tragic, but add up to less than the first 20 minutes on Omaha Beach, or several hours on Iwo Jima. The choice, moreover, is not to withdraw, make "friends" with Islamic world (Egypt and Jordan are kept afloat by US $$ and they still hate us for the reasons outlined above). It's to fight and make the threat of regime change credible so jihad has no friendly states, or to withdraw and inevitably take 3 to 6 million casualties in a nuclear attack.

I'm no fan of Bush, he's wrong on every domestic issue I can think of, but he at least understands that the Middle East must be dragged forward into acceptance of modernity ala Turkey, and he's willing to fight. Kerry is Carter/Clinton at a time when the risk of that is a nuclear strike. We just can't risk Kerry.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at October 19, 2004 05:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>Wow. You set up a straw man (Chalabi) that I did not
>mention and then you shift the subject from the Oil for
>Food scandal to the Duelfer report.

I don't follow your logic here. I wasn't "setting up a straw man", and the fact that you didn't mention Chalabi only shows that you don't know that the main evidence in the "oil for food scandal" comes from Chalabi, who hasn't, as I said, yet shown the documents to investigators. Since you are evidently unaware of this fact, I'm not sure why your not having mentioned it has anything to do with my point.

I am not saying that the oil for food "scandal" didn't occur --- I am saying that to speak of it as though it were a slam dunk case is rather stretching things. Chalabi isn't exactly the most reliable source for anything.

>fully intended to reconstitute his WMD programs

As Andrew Sullivan put it, "Saddam Hussein was about as close to greatness as an imaginative kid playing battleship." Who cares if he "fully intended" to do this or that? The fact is, he hadn't reconstituted them, and couldn't as long as inspections were going on, oil for food "scandal" or no oil for food "scandal." So, why couldn't we have simply continued intrusive inspections indefinitely?

>was not able to obtain UN support for its policy
>against Saddam.

The fact is, Duelfer makes it clear that inspections were working. We could have easily ensured that inspections continued indefinitely. Which would have prevented Saddam from ever reconstituting his programs.

Meanwhile, North Korea and Iran, which were minor threats prior to the Iraq war, have now become major threats.

Great job at managing threats.

>evading the sanctions

The important question was, could he actually reconstitute his weapons programs under the sanctions (leaky though they may have been) and inspections? Duelfer is strong evidence that the answer to this is no.

Further, this ignores the basic fact that chemical and biological weapons aren't really all that effective. The only thing we really had to worry about was nuclear weapons, and we could have much more easily detected an attempt to reconstitute a nuclear program.

>benefit of the doubt

Bush has a proven record of incompetence when it comes to foreign policy --- why give him any more rope to hang us all with? He has aides that deride "reality-based" attitudes, who make fun of "pessimisstic" efforts to plan for occupation, and on and on... No, we've given this guy four years to show what he can do, and I've seen enough. It's time for a change.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 19, 2004 05:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm a Kerry supporter who read your post with some interest (as it is one of the first arguments _in favor of_ Bush I've ever seen, instead of just against Kerry). The reasoning seems basically sound, and indeed I'd be agreeing with you if I accepted one fundamental tenet: that 9/11 was the opening blow from an essentially unbeatable enemy, who will easily destroy our country and our way of life if we let our guard down for even a second.

Perhaps I'm overstating it a little, but I can't really draw any other conclusion from the "nuisance" attack. The fact that Kerry envisions a world where we are not directly threatened by terrorists apparently renders him unsuitable for office; this isn't reasonable unless you assume that we can never regain ground against the terrorists, that we can only hope to hold them off.

There is a natural urge to assume that since 9/11 is the worst thing that has ever happened in any of our lives, that it must be the worst thing to happen in history. But it just ain't so. That's a theological approach to 9/11, and a theological approach is exactly what our enemies are taking. There is the school of thought that to beat a theological enemy, we must become more theological; but I don't buy it.

In short, no one has convinced me that it's more dangerous to underestimate the terrorists than to overestimate them. In particular, nobody addresses the point that it's in the terrorists' strategic advantage to be overestimated -- isn't that the whole point of terrorism? To achieve goals out of order with your actual power, by trying to wield power in, well, terrifying ways? I'm not making the glib point that "responding is just what the terrorists want," but the fact is, you can't hope to defeat an enemy that is both strong and versatile. If they remove our versatility, that exposes weaknesses which can be exploited.

Posted by: neil at October 19, 2004 05:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Why I'm Supporting Dubya"

Uh, because you're a drooling paranoid cynical neaderthal?

I don't even know where to begin addressing your spurous BS.

First off, the inspectors were in Iraq, they were reporting no WMD even though Bushco said they knew exactly where the WMD were. The inspections could have continued and would have proven what was painfully obvious to some us then and should be to all of us now; there were no WMD nor was there infrastructure to produce WMD.

If you're telling us that the wish to maybe produce WMD in the future is reason enough for war then you, sir, are indeed paranoid. I'd estimate 85% of the globe needs to be attacked immediately under your rules.

Second, WMD and "grave and gathering danger" (yada, yada) was the premise upon which the war was sold to the public. None of these other concepts that you advocate, like jostling the geo-political climate, were presented to the public for consideration. This is a government of, for and by the people you know. It's not ok for our elected leaders to play bait and switch with our lives and treasure.

At least that's not the America my grandparents sailed from the old country to particiapte in, Djerejian.

What's with the assumption that a second Bush term would be different? Faith based voting? I see nothing to suggest Bush is any way willing to yield in the face of blunders.

Saddam was linked to al qaeda in spirit? Want to reach any farther? Wow, You conservatives are a bunch of psychics? We know Saddam was thinking about this and that and would have done this or that...........Really. Evidence, please!

Saddam gassed Kurds who were rising up against his government. As you should see by now Iraq is hard to govern without strong methods. We sure haven't treated insurgents any better over there have we? And Kurds? Djerejian, you should know the history of those people.

Gas, bullets, artillery, what's the difference? You guys are making an emotional appeal, drawing on a Nazi theme (gas), that says nothing germane to anything.

In fact, that's the crux of everything you say in your post. All emotion, no logic.

Posted by: avedis at October 19, 2004 05:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The left is reactionary, and has taken on the mantle of realism. If one looks beyond the pretentious labels, that is made clear by the various arguments here.

1. It will not even concede a good was served by removing Saddam.

2. It is willfully blind to the corruption in the UN. How does a lefty square with the fact that Sudan, a government that has sold chunks of their population into slavery, and is complicent in genocide sits on the human rights commision? How is any so called liberal able to take it seriously at that point?

3. For all of its superior sounding intellectualism, it has yet to put forth any idea to solve the underlying problems that international terrorism poses, other than isolationism (maybe we can quit making them so angry at us..etc, -- a propostion that conceeds the legitamacy of terrorism as a political tactic)

4. Sure terrorism is simply a tactic. Do you think it would have been wiser for Bush to declare war against islamic fanatics et al, especially considering that a religious war is precislely the context in which our enemy wishes to fight.

5. The argument advanced by lefties... why not No Ko, Iran, Saudi Arabia, is disingenuous because they would scream just as loudly if any country were invaded without an explicit attack from them first.

6. How does one deter people who want to die? Perhaps by deterring their enablers? Ya think?

7. The rest of the world thinks America causes the world's problems only because they know America gives a shit. Putin has razed village after village indiscriminently yet faces none of the whining recriminations. The world ignores the hundreds of thousands in mass graves of Iraq (in fact will still do business with the butcher- as the duelfer report demonstrates), The Chineses subjigation of Taiwan. Its easy to criticize someone to their face when you know that they will take you seriously and/ or not punch your face in.

7. What good is international law when it is not agreed upon or enforced?

8. I remember when the left used to decry the sanctions that were starving iraqi children-- I even remember when Clinton / Gore were calling Hussein a grave threat for the exact same reason Bush did. Seems like a thousand years ago.

Posted by: Jeremiah at October 19, 2004 05:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

“Goodness, no. For starters, Chamberlain was British, and Bush is American. Germany under Hitler never attacked Britain prior to the start of WWII (though they were agressive as hell), but Japan and Al Queda did directly attack the U.S. You didn't exactly pick the greatest historical parallel. Also, I point out their differing nationalities for a reason. We're talking about American politics, not British. Let's try and get back to that.”

Steve, you said in the post to which I initially replied that “…he [Bush] just seemed to me to be doing what any half-assed leader would do in a crisis of that nature.” You didn’t qualify an American half-assed leader or I would have picked Carter. I think the Chamberlain comparison is important. He was half-assed (if that) to try and appease Hitler. The UN is half-assed for its numerous attempts to give Saddam a time-out. Bush decided enough is enough, lets actually back up our threats; therefore he did not do what any half-assed leader would do. His ass is full.

“Not at all. Let's keep subscribing to that great Babylonian precept of "an eye for an eye", after all, it worked great for them. Say, can you find the country of 'Babylon' on the map?”

No, I can’t, because Babylon was a city, not a country.

“Now, seriously, do you really think that these terrorists are attacking Americans because, as Bush says "They hate us and they hate our freedom"? It's a little more complex than that.

Yes, I do think they attack for those reasons. Considering the repressive culture of many Arab countries, it’s not exactly a mystery that freedom for all is not high on their agenda and the American (and other Western nations) influence is undesired.

But you are right, it is more complex than that. They are also raving lunatics who believe killing themselves while killing others is glorious. They also believe that the world must be rid of infidels.

“Part of their reason for attacking was that they are sick of US unilateralism and bullying known in great detail outside the borders of your country. What was George Bush's response? More bullying and unilateralism.”

So, Afghanistan was bullying? Or just the invasion of Iraq? When Saddam went after Kuwait what do you call that and what should have our response been?

“I'm sorry, Britain, Australia, Poland, Spain, and a smattering of third rate world powers does not a grand coalition make.”

That’s your questionable opinion, not a fact. Generally speaking, whatever the majority thinks does not make it just or right, so I don’t think the argument that we needed some specific combination of countries to justify Iraq stands on its own. Furthermore, I sincerely doubt that if France, Germany, and Russia had joined us that all the anti-Bush, anti-invasion of Iraq folks would be singing a different tune. I also assume that these same folks can acknowledge that having those three countries, with known economic interests in preserving the status quo in Iraq, are not allies that were worth having in this particular case.

I also find it amusing how easy it for the left to dismiss the ‘third rate world powers’ relative to the war in Iraq with a snarky comment, yet it rises so nobly to their defense in the pursuit of perceived economic and social injustice at the hands of America. As the Church Lady said, “how convenient.”

“This has only increased the ranks of Al Queda…”

This is a factless and baseless assertion. Unless you, and the many others who have made this assertion are prepared to prove this, stop saying it. Until proven, it’s rhetorical bullshit.

“This is a 'war', but in unseating the Taliban and invading Iraq, the US has actually killed more civilians in these countries than the soldiers of the other side.”

You can’t be serious. Better rethink those numbers. Hint: Saddam may have killed one or two.

Furthermore, is the only justification for attacking an enemy the guarantee that civilian casualties will be avoided? I’m assuming you don’t think so, but what is your standard?

“I'm not saying the US needs to back off, but Bush tried to fight this war the easy way; using missles instead of troops because it was politically expedient in a domestic sense.”

There are ground troupes in Afghanistan. They are in Iraq. What are you talking about? Furthermore, tell me why minimizing troop casualties is a bad thing?

“All this has done is reinforce the reality that American's value their lives over the lives of their innocent civilians over the lives of the oppressed innocent civilians in the countries that they are 'liberating'.”

This is confusing, and to the extent that I can make sense of it, I disagree. Do you really think Afghanistan has not been liberated? See recent elections, women in school, etc. Do you really think Iraq has not been liberated from Saddam? Do you really think that such a task could/should be easy and without terrible costs?

“There is also nothing to 'assume' about US foreign policy. It's been pretty terrible and hypocritical. Set aside a few hours and browse http://www.chomsky.info/ and you'll get the drift.”

Chomsky? You need to expand your reading list. Chomsky’s only touch with reality is the air he breathes and the food he eats.

“You're absolutely right, except for the fact that you're assuming any leader in his right mind would have tried to negotiate with Bin Laden.”

No, I’m not assuming that. I used that as an example of how Bush would not have had widespread support, to demonstrate that it was his actions that garnered his support, not reflexiveness from Americans. John Kerry, however, wants to treat terrorism as a law enforcement issue, so while I doubt he would have tried negotiations, I believe he would have tried arresting Bin Laden.

“In regards to why he got his backing, are you going to tell me that you're not going to stand behind your president in the first few days of war no matter what?”

That’s right, that’s what I’m telling you. It depends on what the President does.

“The American system is stepped in that blind loyalty principle…”

I think you need to explore America a bit more. You sound like an effete urban liberal who has never spent more than a week in rural America. In other words, you think you have us all figured out.

“My core argument is that he did not do anything special, and the fact that he actually went after the culprit is pretty standard.”

Like Carter you mean (after the Marine barrack attack)? Or Clinton (after numerous foreign attacks)?
“If my neighbour hucks a rock through my window, I'm not going to score points with my family for beating up the mailman. I'm going to confront the actual person who is invoking terror in my family. Is it a work of genius? Hardly.”

And if the rock-thrower is supported by a gang, are you going after them? And if someone else supplies the gang, are you going after him or her? And if a bully lives two blocks away and terrorizes neighborhood kids, what are you going to do about that?

No, it’s not a work of genius, but that’s hardly relevant. Courageous acts are not so because of their particular genius. Is the correct litmus test “What would have Al Gore done?”

“Clinton might have united the country, but Ken Starr and friends were too busy trying to fry his presidency based on his inability to stop trying to free willie, which was pretty lame. That is what really divided the country.”

No, you are wrong. The country was divided before Clinton, he just made it worse. He had no prayer of uniting the country and that’s not his fault completely. We have widespread disagreement here and that’s not so unhealthy.

“The point is, Bush had a united country at the time of the initial crisis, and has succeeded in whitally it down to a 50/50 split.”

Just like it was at the election and where it was destined to be unless he managed to pull of the miracle of satisfying both the left and right.

“I ask you again: Did Roosevelt, another wartime president, leave with the same results?”

Bush hasn’t left yet. Let’s talk in 2008.


“Ultimately, the invasion had about the same effect on resolving the WMD issue as the weapons inspectors did. One just happened to cost a LOT more than the other.”

That depends on what you mean by cost and to whom. Let’s ask the Iraqi people about the cost and benefit of keeping Saddam vs. getting rid of him, and lets be smart enough to ask this question several times over several years.

“Kim Jong Il of North Korea, The entire Chinese Government, etc. They're not as well publisized but they are a much worse threat than Iraq could have been.”

Again, lets ask the Iraqi people. Saddam killed millions. Is that still on the good guy side of the good/bad line? I think we need to find a way to topple Jong. I suspect the Chinese government will go the way of the USSR, only with less chaos.

Posted by: David Andersen at October 19, 2004 06:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neil, I agree with you. And 9/11 changed nothing other than by becaming a rallying point for the neoconservatives nazi like propaganda.

Through fear they managed to put into operation plans that would have otherwise been non-starters (like the invasion of Iraq, Patriot Act, etc).

Remember the World Trade Towers were hit in 1993 by the same bunch. The towers didn't collapse so there were fewer casualties. The USS Cole was hit.........terrorism is no greater threat than it was in 1993 - or wasn't until Bush senselessly invaded Iraq and continued tacit support of hard right Isreali actions.

Now we are at war. But it's true that there is very little damage terrorists can do to this country. You have a much better chance of being killed by a local murderer, dying in a car crash, being hit by lightning or being eaten by a shark than you do being killed by a terrorist.

The greatest harm has been the conservtives reaction to terrorism, both foreign policy and domestic policy reactions.

Posted by: avedis at October 19, 2004 06:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David Anderson,
Try to get some facts right. The Marine Barracks attack happened in 1983 when Reagan was President. Reagan's reaction was some lame retaliatory attacks in the Bekkaa Valley and then prompt withdrawal from the region. Reagan was also the one traded weapons to Iran is exchange for hostages against the law and his own stated convictions.

Posted by: avedis at October 19, 2004 06:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

On voting day when I walk into my local precint and punch a hanging chad, (yes Grand Rapids, MI) still uses hangig chads for voting) the one question I will ask myself is,
"Does Kerry realize that we are at war?" The answer is "No."
Bush does, and therefore I will vote for him.

Posted by: Bruce J. Koole at October 19, 2004 06:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David,

A thorough reply, and much appreciated. I will respond in kind after I get some sleep and go to work tomorrow. Until then, I need to make a few points:

-I know that Babylon was a city-state, and that was actually my point... it can neither be found on the map today as a country, nor did it ever become more than a city when it was at the height of its power.... you couldn't have said anything more about my "eye for an eye" comment than that?

-We need to be careful when talking about Germany, France, and Russia's economic interests in keeping the status quo; many in the rest of the world would argue that the US had an equal amount at stake in altering the status quo... I'm not saying that it was the motivation behind the war, but in the field of international politics, those who do not step carefully will ultimately make a perception the reality.

Good evening.

Posted by: Steve at October 19, 2004 06:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You hit the mark. Anyone can look at what's happened and see mistakes made but the direction is right. In order to really change an entire region of the planet someone has to win and someone has to lose. (I vote we win and they lose) Otherwise you wind up with Northern Ireland where they've been fighting since William of Orange. (Let's have another conference on Northern Ireland or the Palestinian problem) The United States has no strategic interests in Ireland but we do in the Middle East. Bush is trying (successfully in two nations) to spread rudementary Democracy in the region to counter the religious fanatics. The region will become more unstable for the foreseeable future but are our interests served by a stable region full of people conspiring to kill us?

Posted by: jerry at October 19, 2004 06:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Okay, to those asking --- what would have been the alternative?

First: the left has made a wide variety of arguments on these issues, most of which I disagree with. For example, Chomsky et al vigorously opposed the war in Afghanistan, predicting massive numbers of civilian deaths from starvation, etc. Didn't materialize. I believe the left has made itself rather irrelevant in modern political discourse, because it has divorced itself from reality. Unfortunately, the neocon Pollyanna predictions of easy success in Iraq have also not materialized. A pox on both your houses.

I have many friends on the left, and I sympathize with their ideals --- but I don't agree with most of their policy recommendations. They have simply been wrong too often to be credible.

In North Korea, what should we have done? We should have threatened to bomb their nuclear power plants unless they agreed to reinstate intrusive inspections. Yes, many have pointed out that, under Clinton, the North Koreans violated the agreement --- but they were still unable to build more than one device, if that. Now, they likely have several devices, and we have no cameras monitoring their facilities. Clinton threatened them with bombing before, and the North Koreans backed down --- a similar strategy would likely have worked here.

With Iran --- we could have also threatened them unless they allowed in inspections. The fact that we're bogged down in Iraq makes such a threat far less credible, which is emboldening them. We can't engage in a massive military operation against Iran --- a much more clear and present danger to our national security --- precisely because of our war in Iraq. Another example of how this war has weakened our security and limited our strategic options. One of the terrible kinds of fallout from this Administration's foreign policy could well be a nuclear device given to terrorists --- precisely the thing we were supposedly heading off with this war.

Al Qaeda is a non-state actor and thus needs to be attacked at its base. Terrorism is not a military tactic in the ordinary sense --- it is primarily a political tactic. By invading Iraq, a country that was not providing any significant assistance to Al Qaeda, we have done little or nothing to reduce their base of support, and provided them with a tremendous political windfall. Of course the hard core terrorists cannot be dissuaded from attacking us --- but less hard core populations can be persuaded to cooperate with us in tracking them down, not giving them safe harbor, etc. by invading Iraq we've reduced our potential allies in the region vastly. A terror war depends on good intelligence, on political strength, and we've severely damaged our ability to obtain intelligence against our enemies, and improved their ability to operate undetected.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 19, 2004 06:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jeremiah,

I think you are wrong to suggest that any belief that the war in Iraq was a mistaken policy is solely a product of leftist ideology. Former Secretary of State Eagleburger, Brent Scowcroft, and the venerable George Kennan expressed opposition to the war during its run-up, and they can hardly be characterized as leftists. Aren't you willing to concede that there was a conservative case for opposing this war on the grounds that it would be harmful to our national interests -- and that it amounts to a massive and ill-conceived exercise in social engineering? And haven't some of the concerns of critics like Scowcroft and Eagleburger been borne out by events?

You also say that those who oppose Bush's policies have no recommendations other than to avoid actions that might make the Arabs angry -- or, as I would put it, that would stimulate recruitment for Jihadist groups. You then dismiss that kind of response as something that confers legitimacy on terrorism. In an interview in Vanity Fair, the number two man in the Defense Dept., Under Secretary Wolfowitz, acknowledged that the stationing of troops on Saudi soil has been a recruitment tool for terrorists, and suggested that it had served American interests to pull troops from the Saudi peninsula and thereby avoid this provocation:

"There are a lot of things that are different now, and one that has gone by almost unnoticed--but it's huge--is that by complete mutual agreement between the U.S. and the Saudi government we can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia. Their presence there over the last 12 years has been a source of enormous difficulty for a friendly government. It's been a huge recruiting device for al Qaeda. In fact if you look at bin Laden, one of his principle grievances was the presence of so-called crusader forces on the holy land, Mecca and Medina. I think just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door to other positive things."

Is it always wrong to avoid sticking one's hand in a beehive? Do Wolfowitz's statements amount to an advocacy of appeasement, or do they otherwise confer legitimacy on terrorism? And, if not, then why is it out of bounds to think about other ways in which we may be unnecessarily creating recruitment tools for militant Islamic fundamentalist groups?

Posted by: Stefan at October 19, 2004 06:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Concerning what might be labeled the tip of the sword of DG's initial argument, that the President does in fact get it and possesses the adaptive resolve and set of strategies to see it through, David Bernstein at Volokh lends additional weight to precisely that most pivotal of arguments with a link to an article in "Forward". An excerpt, similar to the one provided at Volokh:

"In June, Fatah power broker Marwan Barghouti wrote a note from his Israeli jail cell to Khaled Mashal, Hamas's negotiator in Damascus, urging a cease-fire with Israel. Barghouti, who despite being on trial for the murder of 26 Israelis, passes for a "moderate" in the lethal caldron of Palestinian politics, observed that since the September 11 attacks, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other events, 'have destroyed countries and movements.' The Islamic militants risked the same fate, Barghouti warned.

"These mostly overlooked yet critical five words — 'have destroyed countries and movements' — vindicate the Bush-Blair anti-terrorism strategy, as well as Prime Minister Sharon's proactive approach to Palestinian terrorism. As the American army searches for enough weapons of mass destruction to justify anti-war critics, while the media harps on 16 words which may have been inaccurate during the verbal avalanche preceding the war, these five words prove that three decades of Western appeasement have ended — and the message is resonating in Damascus, Ramallah, Tehran and Baghdad, if not yet in London, New York and northern Tel Aviv."

...

"Fortunately, both President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, among others, learned the right lessons on September 11. Rather than being stymied by the asymmetry between phantom, chaotic terrorists and musclebound superpowers [which stymied position is precisely the old, status quo, realpolitik, "trench warfare" position that had proved so ineffective, e.g., WTC '93 and Saddam's Iraq throughout the 90's], the Bush Doctrine chased terrorists wherever infrastructure could be found. Bush understood that the fight had to be aggressive, proactive and fundamental — rooting out terrorist support in financial networks and Arab capitals, hitting them where they had friends and bankers, if you could not hit them directly."

Precisely so, while Kerry and his supporters, despite the many insubstantial protestations to the contrary, remain unconvincing as suitable protagonists and successors. Even a (terrorist) like Barghouti is willing to outwardly acknowledge the current administration's successes. Of course Barghouti is forced to face the realities and doesn't have the luxury of believing his rhetoric or his imagination is a suitable substitute for those realities.

Posted by: Michael B at October 19, 2004 06:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My leftist friends (with whom I have had an ongoing debate as well) would disagree with me on this, but I certainly would never suggest that the war in Iraq had no upside as far as intimidating our enemies. However, would we really have been less intimidating a power had we been able to fully root out Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, capturing Osama bin Laden, establishing a stable democratic state there, while leaving enough of our military free to threaten or act against a potential nuclear threat from Iran or North Korea? It seems to me that a forthright military effort targeted at more threatening enemies would have been far more effective at achieving the same aims at far less cost in dollars and American lives, while undercutting our enemy's ability to recruit. Precision strikes help us more and our enemy less. Blunt, unfocused use of military power only helps the enemy and overwhelms its small benefits with great costs.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 19, 2004 07:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Stefan,

Yes absolutely I will conceded that there is a conservative case against the Iraq war. I will even concede that there is a wholly legitimate case against it (though one that I don't agree with).

I was trying to restrict my criticism to leftists in particular in part because they (in large) will not concede that they are putting forth a "conservative" case. The "internationalist" perspective being offered by them is divorced from reality, and ladened with cheap shots and easy answers.

My contempt for the left comes from the fact that it will not put forth an honest argument. That it takes little more than itself seriously. In my OPINION, After years of pretending to be the righteous victim, it can't stand having the attention shifted away. When push came to shove, and it had a chance to contribute meaningfully to a debate on the human condition, it collectively yelled "its all an illusion, bush is Nazi, Halliburton controlls the world". If one attempts an even cursory understanding of the world, much less the enormous executive branch of the government, one can see these are patently insulting assertions. But because they can be used to beat up a Republican it let the opportunity go by.
I know I'm painting with a broad brush here. But for once in my lifetime I'd like to hear someone on the left try to have a reasoned arguement without calling the motivations of people who disagree with them into question.

Not that I think you were, or many others on this line were. I'm just thinking of the alternative that Kerry has presented in this campaign.

Posted by: Jeremiah at October 19, 2004 08:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Really fine note, and I like you discussing the gorilla of Iraq very explicitly.
Two different points. 1) The Proportional Representation system, of Bremer and the UN, is more likely to lead to Iraqi civil war bloodshed than if it had been local geographic districts. In former Czecho-Slovakia, where the Czechs wouldn't even agree on the above spelling, there were NO national parties. Even the "Christian Democrats" had separate Czech & Slovak parties. The PR system is more likely to support nationalist extremists. (Bush minus, Kerry worse)
2) The ONLY new ally we need in Iraq is ... Iraqi Police. Iraq will only be free when the Iraqi people are willing to fight, kill, and die for freedom. You say "too few troops" -- yes, too few for orderly OCCUPATION. But enough for LIBERATION. It was Iraqis doing looting, not Americans. Iraqis, and foreigners supported by locals, who are doing the terrorist killings, who have the liberated freedom to kill. As good Iraqis die, there are three groups who can be blamed: terrorists, for doing the killing; Americans, for not doing enough OCCUPATION; and good Iraqis, for not doing enough turning in bad Iraqis and terrorists. "Winning the hearts and minds" takes time, and terrorist caused deaths or terrorists surrendering.

Unless you can show an example of post WW II OCCUPATION which more rapidly created a functioning democracy, the easy criticism of Bush is pretty shallow. Creating democracy in an Arab state is NOT easy.

On the other hand, how expensive IS it? The Dems aren't even sure it has any value, so of course losing 1000 Americans is too many. For me, losing less than 2500 means it was quite excellent, an A for Bush (5000 B, 10000 C) What is the standard? How many is too many? Critics never say.

Finally, the [future] elephant in the room is Iran getting nukes, and letting terrorists get one for use. At some point, the USA will have to give a final ultimatum to Iran, disarm or be disarmed.
If it's Pres. Bush, I expect the Iranians to stop progress (and try to hide). If it's Kerry, I expect them to brazenly leave the NPT and go for nukes.
What is the chance that Iran will have nukes in the next 4 years?
Under Kerry, 50%. Under Bush, 10%.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at October 19, 2004 09:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"For the (future) elephant in the room is Iran getting nukes, and letting terrorists get one for use."

During the cold war the USSR had thousands of nukes and extensive ties to terrorist groups. How come they didn't pass one on for use? After all, they were the great Satan and source of all evil at the time. During the cold war the US had thousands of nukes and extensive ties to terrorist groups. How come the US didn't pass one on for use? Why, if Iran does develop a nuclear capability ( if it doesn't already have one ), would they pass one on to terrorists for use? Capacity does not equal intention and you have to use some judgement in assessing intentions.

It's a hysterical connection that's being made between 2 distinct statements.

The Iranians don't strike me as a dangerous regime per se. As far as I can see they're interested in preserving their national integrity and securing their own interests. You can't simply dismiss these as of no consequence.

The democratically elected 1953 government was removed in a US-supported coup and the Shah was installed in its place. The US backed Sadaam Hussein in his invasion of Iran. It assisted him in developing and using chemical weapons against the Iranians. How do you expect them to respond to this? The US maintains a posture of extreme hostility and avows a policy of regime change against them. Rational calculation suggests that if you want to preserve your independence then you will have to be robust about it.

Given that the Bush administration has effectively checkmated itself in its ability to act against Iran, it would probably make sense to start a real engagement process with them. US policy vis a vis Iran has been grudge-based until now and this is going to have to change. Bush can't do that, Kerry might. I find it laughable that Iran's supposed nuclear ambitions are magnified into the ultimate threat whilst Pakistan, a serious nuclear power, that backed both AQ and the Taleban, is given a free run. Pakistan has had extensive and long-standing connections to terrorist organizations, how come it isn't being targeted - the same considerations apply to them as to Iran.

The answer is of course that Iran's nuclear ambitions can be used as a pretext for another agenda.

Posted by: dan at October 19, 2004 11:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu -

You have repeatedly leveled the argument that if our military were not engaged in Iraq, somehow the nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran would be more manageable. I don't see any evidence of that. The implication in your position is that, by keeping our forces uncommitted in Iraq, they would be used to threaten to invade Iran or NoKo.

(Otherwise, what's the point of having these forces "free"? Free to do what? The problem with making threats is that you have to be willing to follow through. If your opponent senses you're bluffing, you're through.)

The fact is, we would be bluffing, and those countries would be well-aware of that. It's a Catch-22: once those countries have nukes, we can't afford the retaliatory risk to our troops (or to other friendly nations in those respective regions) And if they don't have nukes, we wouldn't have the justification to invade them.

If you think the international condemnation of the U.S. invasion of Iraq is bad, what heck do you think we would catch if we invaded either of those nations before they had nukes? They've always built in semi-plausible deniability about their programs -- "it's for peaceful energy." About the most we could expect to get away with, in the eyes of the precious U.N., would be a strategic bombing campaign, and we're still more than capable of that.

The fact is, knowledge of what is going on in these rogue states is extremely shaky. People seem to expect us to be able to pinpoint with precision the exact moment, say, that another country is about to arm a nuke. This is impossible. The best you can do is guess, and the odds are your guess will be wrong, either on the under or over side.

I would argue that the fact that the U.S. showed its willingness to invade Iraq has probably done more to give those two regimes pause than any amount of negotiations or threats (threats which would appear empty because those regimes will see how we didn't even have the gumption to invade Iraq -- which would be the case if we held back our troops to deal with other threats, as you suggested). Even if we bought your theory that we should threaten to invade Iran if they don't dismantle their nuke program, I fail to see where the invasion would come from -- perhaps stationing 150,000 U.S. troops in a neighbor like, oh, say, Iraq is not a bad idea after all?

Another argument you've advanced against the Iraqi invasion is that these troops would have been better used in Afghanistan. Of course, that too would make them unavailable for invading Iran and/or NoKo (I think this reveals you don't really buy that argument yourself either).

The Russians put 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and still they could only maintain control over a small area around Kabul and a couple of other cities. A good case could be made that it is precisely the fact that we don't have 100,000 or 200,000 troops crawling all over Afghanistan that has made our invasion there such a huge success. (And it is a staggeringly phenomenal success, if you don't make perfection the only goal worth attaining, and instead compare it to every other failed attempt to invade Afghanistan throughout recorded history.)

Ultimately, what's the point of "getting" Osama? It's to put him out of business, right? Personally, I think Osama is dead. But even if he isn't, he might as well be. What good is a leader who's hiding in a cave somewhere in the wilderness, unable even to use to a cell phone? If he is alive, he's probably in Pakistan or even Iran anyway, so even if we put 1 million troops in Afghanistan we still wouldn't find him. And neither Pakistan nor Iran are going to allow those troops to tramp through their sovereign lands.

I disagree, too, with the assumption among many in the MSM that our actions in Iraq are causing a stampede to the international terrorist recruiting centers. The one report I've seen, I think it was from RAND, made this assertion. But when you looked at the actual numbers, the report estimated that there were approximately 20,000 terrorists in the world in 2001, and 18,000 in 2003 -- actually, a decrease.

Overall, I think the best indication that Bush's strategy is working is the complete absence of any terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. Think back to the weeks immediately following that fateful day. Everybody was on edge, expecting another attack any day.

If you had told someone a month after 9/11 that three years later, we would have liberated Afghanistan and Iraq, Afghanistan would have held free elections and Iraq would be three months away from holding their own, AND we would have lost a little over 1,000 soldiers in combat, AND there would have been not a single terrorist attack in the U.S. -- they would have had you committed to a mental ward.

Really, the nitpicking about this or that failure is unsufferable. Sure, things could be better. But everybody fully expected them to be far, far worse.

Posted by: Inkling at October 19, 2004 11:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Inkling:

"the complete absence of any terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11".

Only if you conveniently forget about the anthrax attack. That it was not an AQ op is irrelevant.

Posted by: dan at October 19, 2004 12:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Inkling, Like most of the Bush supporting commentors here you begin your arguements from factually incorrect suupositions.

We do not control Afghanistan. Maybe and tenatively, Kabul. The rest of the landscape is Indian Country. That is the fact.

So the rest of your arguement now falls apart.

Posted by: avedis at October 19, 2004 04:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Inkling:

Thanks for the considered response. I will address your points below.

Regarding following through --- I believe we could and should have followed through, both in North Korea and Iran. If NK had nuclear weapons, they couldn't use them against in response to a bombing of a nuclear facility --- they could only use them if we tried to invade (which I would not have recommended in their case), for the simple reason that if they used them, they'd know we'd wipe them out. Thus the cost would only be worth it if they thought we were going to invade and topple them. I.e., they were deterrable. Iran didn't have any weapons (and still doesn't, most likely). With respect to NK, I wouldn't have advised an attempt at an invasion (far too difficult) --- more effective would simply be bombing their nuclear facility. An extreme measure, yes, that would release nuclear materials, etc... but one which would nevertheless have prevented a much worse outcome, NK getting nuclear weapons. In the case of Iran, I would also have only used an air campaign, although if there were a need for some sort of ground force, at least we would have had that option.

However, I don't believe NK had weapons at the outset of this, primarily because, if they had, they would have simply declared that they had them in order to deter us from attacking. NK's behavior after we invaded Iraq (kicking out UN inspectors, monitoring cameras, etc.) I think lends credence to this --- they were panicking that we might attack before they managed to complete a weapon.

>international condemnation

Preventing NK or Iran from getting nuclear weapons is a far more justifiable use of force than toppling a regime with no operational ties with Al Qaeda that had nothing more than fantasies in the delusional mind of a crazed dictator for WMDs. Whether the world community "condemned" us or not, the political consequences for us would have been far less severe. In any event, I have always agreed that the US should act in its self-defense regardless of the international political costs --- provided the benefits are worth the costs.

>showed its willingness to invade Iraq

This seems to be the last argument left in favor of this war. I think this is a very weak argument indeed, for the reasons I stated above. If the only thing we got out of this is an ability to show that we're macho, then what we're talking about is a purely political or psychological impact. Could we have not achieved the same aims in other ways that involved far less cost?

A perfect example of this is, again, Iran: suppose we fail to stop them from getting nuclear weapons because we're distracted in Iraq ... if they did get them, we'd then be unable to invade, at least on the large scale, so what would be the point of this threatening posture? It becomes irrelevant if they have nuclear weapons.

Further, as I've already argued --- how strong do we really look, when we're stuck in Iraq and obviously didn't have as much of a cakewalk as we anticipated? I think a good argument can be made that we looked a hell of a lot stronger before the Iraq war than after.

>What is the point of "getting" Osama?

Again, if we're talking about just the psychological or political impact, "getting" Osama would at least have provided that impact far more effectively than this invasion of Iraq has -- or at least as well. The message would have been: we'll get you. We'll beat you down if you attack us. This doesn't deter the most extreme terrorists, but it does deter the people who they might depend upon for cover or support (or potential future recruits who haven't yet gone over to their side.)

Regarding the number of terrorists --- we do know that the number of terrorist attacks worldwide has gone up, not down. As for numbers of terrorists --- how did Rand estimate that? I'd like to see their methodology. We clearly know that anger against us has skyrocketed throughout the region.

The lack of attacks in the US is hardly evidence of anything. Al Qaeda went from 1993 to 2001 before attacking again. They take a long time to plan their operations, because they like to go for big ones. As Bill Maher put it, "they're reloading."

>nitpicking

I suppose this is a matter of vastly different perceptions. I see a mounting unfolding disaster, you see "nitpicking." What we can agree upon is $120 billion and counting, most of our ground forces bogged down, and no decrease in insurgent attacks. Whether that's "worth it" to you simply in exchange for a mostly symbolic attack, well, we differ on that point.

To me, war is something one should engage in only when one must, because the adverse consequences are very difficult to control. If you must, you must --- but a war of choice I think is generally speaking almost always a mistake. A good rule of thumb: would you be willing to die for a given war? Every other war I've supported, I'd have been willing to put my life on the line for it.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 19, 2004 04:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Really, the nitpicking about this or that failure is unsufferable. Sure, things could be better. But everybody fully expected them to be far, far worse."

Oh, really? It seems to me that the administration is on record as having said that we'd be greeted with flowers by liberated Iraqis, that the war would cost $2bn (and Iraqi oil would pay for it), and that our troop force levels were sufficient for the quick action we contemplated. So not "everybody fully expected" things to be worse than they are in Iraq, did they? Unless, of course, you grant that the administration was dissembling, out their proverbial asses, and still they didn't nearly prepare for what we've encountered in occupation.

As for those of us, many, who reasonably opposed the war, only a few of our core expectations appear not to have come to pass. True, taking Baghdad was not as bloody an affair as we may have believed, and Saddam didn't torch his oil fields nor use WMD on our troops. But even these have actually turned out to cut against us: the Iraqi army melted into resistance; the oil starkly doesn't pay the freight for the cost of the occupation; and there were no WMD, much to our international chagrin.

Hell, this damn fine mess might even be properly characterized as a "quagmire," and I, myself, never thought things would get that bad.

Posted by: Bloggerhead at October 19, 2004 05:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"David Anderson,
Try to get some facts right."

Sorry, I missed that. The Marine barracks attack was during Reagan's watch, and nothing was done, apparently because we didn't know who was responsible and still don't.

In looking over the terrorist actions against America during Reagan's tenure, I have to say that his administration did a piss-poor job of taking the fight to the enemy (which appears to have been Hezbollah mostly) too.

Posted by: David Andersen at October 19, 2004 05:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Well said. I made a clumsy attempt to Dan D. Sunday (in a first time comment to any blog) to say, in a few words, the base thread of your article about the differences in these two men's points of view in how to defeat this enemy. The enemy you clearly defined. There are two clear positions on how to deal with terrorism in the context of 9/11 and our time in history. Yes, perhaps many mistakes have been made with this path we are on but the bottom line is --a stark choice before us. To me, there is no choice. Bush may be flawed but I firmly believe you must identify a problem before you have any hope of solving it. Bush has identified the problem. Kerry has not, he is working from a false premise and I do believe history will prove him wrong. Thanks for your gift of words and your ability to use them.

Posted by: Pam at October 19, 2004 05:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Inkling:

"perhaps stationing 150,000 troops in a neighbour like Iraq is not such a bad idea after all".

Bearing in mind that the US military have just had to request UK military assistance so that they can free up troops to help deal with the insurgency it's pretty clear that those 150,000 troops are stretched to the limit already. I don't think that they can both fight the Iraqi insurgency and credibly act as a pressure point on the Iranians. And the Iranians know this. Which is why they're merrily continuing on with their nuclear programme.

Bush has essentially compromised his freedom of action vis a vis Iran. It might have seemed like a good idea to have troops in Iraq to constrain the Iranian's freedom of action, but this required all the rose-tinted scenarios that Bush uncritically bought into to come to pass. Invading Iraq was dumb; invading Iraq so as to effectively render you incapable of dealing with Iran if you believe them to be that dangerous, is a hanging offence.

And there's really no way out. If the US do manage to suppress the insurgency so that elections can take place we all know that a Shia dominated government will be elected. Bearing in mind that the 2 main Shia parties that are cooperating with the occupation - SCIRI and Dawa - have very close ties to Teheran and that the Sadrist are implacably anit-occupation, it seems that the Iranians have all bases covered. If we do ever get a legitimate democratic government in Iraq one of its first major foreign policy initiatives will be to sign a non-aggression pact with Iran.

Now if the Bush administration is really sincere about Iran being a dangerous, rogue regime it seems to me that they have played the stupidest strategic game imaginable. Iran ends up with the freedom of action to go nuclear with a US army on its doorstep looking on impotently.

Any attempt by the US to interfere militarily in Iran will have disastrous consequences on the ground for it in Iraq. Pentagon, Bolton and State know this. Rhetoric is not policy is not action. Bush has hog-tied himself.

Do you really want an administration this dumb?

Posted by: dan at October 19, 2004 05:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Steve -

“-I know that Babylon was a city-state, and that was actually my point... it can neither be found on the map today as a country, nor did it ever become more than a city when it was at the height of its power.... you couldn't have said anything more about my "eye for an eye" comment than that?”

I’m not sure what to say because I’m not sure of your point. An eye-for-an-eye is fine with me if we are attacked. I don’t believe there is a better response to aggressors than an in-kind, but significantly more powerful, response. I don’t believe they respect anything else.

“-We need to be careful when talking about Germany, France, and Russia's economic interests in keeping the status quo; many in the rest of the world would argue that the US had an equal amount at stake in altering the status quo... I'm not saying that it was the motivation behind the war, but in the field of international politics, those who do not step carefully will ultimately make a perception the reality.”

Those three countries (as well as some individuals at the UN) had a strong economic interest in maintaining the status quo in which a tyrannical dictator tormented the citizens of the country. In other words, they didn’t give a shit about the people of Iraq. Of course we (and the rest of the world which truly cares about freedom) had a significant interest in changing the status quo. I don’t think this is a secret. Our interest is based on economics (do we really want a madman controlling a significant portion of the world’s oil supply and threatening more?), national security (Saddam was a threat and could have been a greater threat over time), and morality (can we really stand by and watch so many people suffer?). There is no equal comparison between our interests (and England, etc.) and the countries and people benefiting in the Oil for Food scam. All interests are not morally equal.

Posted by: David Andersen at October 19, 2004 06:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>two clear positions

We have many enemies, the most dangerous of which is extremist Islam. I fail to see how Bush sees this more clearly than Kerry --- if he really knew who the enemy was, why attack Iraq? Iraq was led by a secular dictator whose days of glory were already long past. He was not a significant threat, whereas extremist Islam is. Yes, we need a ledaer who knows what the threats are. Bush, it seems to me, has a very vague, unclear concept of these threats --- he conflates them, is unfocused, and is confused. Not to mention presiding over a massive amount of operational incompetence.

We need someone who will fight this terror war a hell of a lot better than the incumbent.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 19, 2004 06:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fine Mitsu, so why did the Democratic party nominate Kerry? The Dems might have elected a President this time around if they could have put up a candidate worth voting for. I would have seriously considered voting against W if only the Dems would have had a clue and nominated a real leader. What happened to the John Kennedy's of the Democratic party? I think they went Republican.

Posted by: David Andersen at October 19, 2004 06:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"But it's true that there is very little damage terrorists can do to this country."

This is the most ignorant comment I've read on this entire thread.

Earth to Avedis, come in Avedis. Remember 9/11? Or do you not consider 3,000 deaths, their economic, social, and emotional costs, the impact on the airline industry and countless other ancilliary industrys (tourism), the cost of increasing security, the opportunity costs (other ways in which money could have been spent) 'damage.'

Do you not believe it could happen again? Do you not believe it could be worse?

Posted by: David Andersen at October 19, 2004 06:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

[with spelling correction]

"But it's true that there is very little damage terrorists can do to this country."

This is the most ignorant comment I've read on this entire thread.

Earth to Avedis, come in Avedis. Remember 9/11? Or do you not consider 3,000 deaths, their economic, social, and emotional costs, the impact on the airline industry and countless other ancillary industries (tourism for example), the cost of increasing security, the opportunity costs (other ways in which money could have been spent) 'damage.'

Do you not believe it could happen again? Do you not believe it could be worse?

Posted by: David Andersen at October 19, 2004 06:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>nominate Kerry?

I have to admit that I have my reservations about Kerry as well. However, watching him over the last several months has satisfied me that he's evolved to the point that I think he could do a credible job of fighting this war. Further, after watching the many debacles (in my view) of the last few years, I can't see how he could do worse. The first step: new leadership in the Pentagon that actually pays attention to reality.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 19, 2004 06:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David, the death and destruction as well as the economic aftershock of 9/11 was tragic to be sure. However, in terms of damage to the country economically- only a fraction of a percent of GDP.

The death toll was far less than the toll due to handgun murders, drunk driving, failure to wear seatbelts, and that sort of thing.

So maybe you should get a grip and come back to earth. People like you went hysterical after 9/11. Willing to sacrifice civil liberties, willing to invade relatively unarmed countries that had nothing to do with 9/11 just to throw military weight around.

The economic toll of the Iraq war is more costly than 9/11. And more people have been killed or maimed in Iraq (if you count Iraqi civilians).

So, it is the panick caused by 9/11 that costs the most.

People like you essentially surrendered to al qaeda on 9/12. Through your hysteria you were willing to give in to their terrorism.

I am not. I say build up homeland security (policing borders and ports especially), destroy terrorist bases and cells wherever they can be found, but don't go off the deep end invading countries because they might be thinking about building some WMD in the future.

Could it happen again? Sure. Kerry will do everything we can to stop it. Bush would squander valuable resources in Iraq and on tax breaks for the wealthy so that the deficit grows and financial control of the country further becomes in the power of foreign governments. But in the meanwhile, life goes on.

Get over your fear, you'll be a much better American for it.

Posted by: avedis at October 19, 2004 09:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Avedis -

You don't have a clue about me bub so spare me the hyperbolic assumptions and condescension.

So what, as long as the terrorist cost is less than domestic cost, it's a minor problem?

Tell me, which of your civil liberties have been curtailed since 9/11?

Which country is relatively unarmed? Would that be Iraq? Gee, Saddam must have killed all those people with his fists I guess.

I thought good progressives were supposed to care about the oppressed people of the world. Don't the people in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, and the Sudan count? Perhaps your idea of showing concern is a stern rebuke from the UN.

Tax breaks for the wealthy? Are they not deserving of them? Do you have any idea what percentage of the population pays almost all of the federal income tax? Do you have any idea who risks money to start businesses and create jobs? You sound like a dyed-in-the-wool, willfully uninformed socialist.

Posted by: David Andersen at October 19, 2004 09:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu –

“However, watching him over the last several months has satisfied me that he's evolved to the point that I think he could do a credible job of fighting this war.”

So you are apparently counting on – compared to nearly everything he’s said and done since after the Vietnam War until now – a 180-degree reversal of his views on the use of force? I take a bit dimmer view of a person’s ability to purge 30 years of ideology so quickly and thus I’d tend to classify any recent statements or votes made to this effect as political posturing.

“Further, after watching the many debacles (in my view) of the last few years, I can't see how he could do worse. The first step: new leadership in the Pentagon that actually pays attention to reality.”

This isn’t a Bush problem; it’s a government bureaucracy problem. It’s not as if the Pentagon, the CIA, etc. just became hidebound and inefficient in the last 4 years. I have zero faith that Kerry will do anything about it. It’s a structural, not political, problem.

Posted by: David Andersen at October 19, 2004 10:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu -

"I believe we could and should have followed through, both in North Korea and Iran."

Oh really? If you think invading and occupying Iraq is difficult, imagine doing it to a nation with three times the population and four times the size -- Iran. Ironically, Iran is the one nation that has a chance of an internal overthrow of its regime. An invasion would obliterate this because it would unify all factions against the invading infidel.

The wise thing to do there is to provide covert support to the internal opposition (there have been some accounts suggesting this is happening, but of course no confirmation from the admin. -- after all, it wouldn't be "covert" if they blabbed about it) while applying international diplomatic pressure externally -- which is precisely what the administration is doing.

A full-scale invasion of Iran would make Iraq look like Grenada in the '80s. Meanwhile, a bombing campaign to wipe out nuclear facilities remains an option on the table, and invading Iraq does nothing to prevent that possibility. The Bush admin. is again making the wise move in selling bunker-buster bombs to Israel, should we decide they are the best party to undergo this mission.

Additionally, as conventional weapons prove insufficient, the admin. is developing low-level nuclear bunker-busters, something that Kerry has come out vehemently against. (An obvious sign that Kerry hasn't learned a thing about the folly of his nuclear-freeze stance in the '80s.)

An invasion of NoKo is a slightly more realistic possibility, but only slightly. Once NoKo had a nuke, it was no longer a viable option -- or are you willing to risk the distinct possibility that NoKo will nuke Seoul, a city of 10 million near its border?

It's easy to say in hindsight that we ought to have invaded NoKo before they developed their first nuke. But when dealing with such a secretive totalitarian regime, it is impossible to have precise information on when their nukes will go on-line. NoKo successfully dissembled and stalled throughout 2002 and early 2003 until they announced they had nukes.

You wrote: "NK's behavior after we invaded Iraq (kicking out UN inspectors, monitoring cameras, etc.)..." Sorry, but these things happened well before we invaded Iraq.

Let's say you were president; at what point along the timeline in 2002-2003 would you have threatened to invade or bomb NoKo? There were plenty of opportunities to do so before we invaded Iraq.

Perhaps in October 2002, when NoKo admitted it was engaged in a secret enrichment program? Or in December 2002, when it removed the IAEA's surveillance equipment from its nuclear facility? Or in January 2003, when it announced it was withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?

There was still plenty of time for us to establish a credible invasion threat. But the fact is, no one seriously suggested, either on the Democratic or Republican side, that we make such a threat, let alone bolster it by massively increasing our forces there. I defy you to locate a single statement by Kerry at any point along the line where he suggested such a move -- or even where he suggested a bombing campaign.

So, I think it's clear that the notion that we should have kept our troops out of Iraq so that they would be available for a possible invasion of either NoKo or Iran is a complete red herring. As for bombing nuclear facilities in either NoKo or Iran, our invasion of Iraq doesn't obviate that option. We have more than enough strategic bombers capable of undergoing this mission.

"In any event, I have always agreed that the US should act in its self-defense regardless of the international political costs --- provided the benefits are worth the costs."

Aye, there's the rub. When one is dealing with imperfect intelligence, the benefits will never be clear until we actually occupy the country in question. If we had discovered the WMDs that every intelligence agency in the world believed Saddam to possess, would you say that the war would have been worth it? What if we invaded NoKo, and discovered that they weren't even close to having nukes?

Indeed, while you (and I) may believe that "the US should act in its self-defense regardless of the international political costs," I'm not so sure that Kerry agrees. He has made it clear that any war under his admin. would require broader international support than Bush has for his war in Iraq.

In the case of NoKo, did you know that despite all of their provocations (admission of secret program, kicking out IAEA, pulling out of NNPT), the UN's National Security Council refused to support a vote to condemn NoKo?

As best as I can make it out, Kerry has said that any preemptive action would have to "pass the global test." He has said this doesn't apply to any retaliation in response to an attack on us. I agree that we could have and probably should have been more aggressive in preventing NoKo from gaining nukes. But there is no indication that Kerry would be, in fact, he has expressed a desire to return to the failed Clinton strategy.

Mitsu: "Further, as I've already argued --- how strong do we really look, when we're stuck in Iraq and obviously didn't have as much of a cakewalk as we anticipated? I think a good argument can be made that we looked a hell of a lot stronger before the Iraq war than after."

What we had before the Iraq War was what fighters call "gym muscles." They look impressive, but what street fighters want to know is, do you have the balls to use them -- to do what it takes? True strength requires this ineffable factor beyond the number of tanks and planes you have.

Terrorist attacks against US interests escalated throughout the '90s, culminating in 9/11, precisely because we showed an unwillingness to use our strength. The whole Iraqi insurgency is centered around destroying our will to fight through what objectively amount to pinpricks against a giant. Because of their visceral hate of Bush (which is really cultural), the media are playing right into their hands by day after day emphasizing all of the bad news out of Iraq.

About the best argument I can muster for supporting Kerry is that the media would do everything in their power to bolster him and cast the best possible light on his actions. If the circumstances were precisely the same as now, and Gore were president, I have no doubt that the MSM would be backing this war. Christopher Hitchens would still be writing for the Nation (though there would still be dissenting voices on the hard left, to be sure).

Sure, one can fault Bush for fighting too sensitive a war, and not having the will to wipe out the resistance in Fallujah, say, when we had the chance. But these arguments from the right would have more force if the alternative were someone who showed a greater willingness to damn the torpedos of public opinion and political correctness. Kerry hardly fits the description here (and that's the understatement of the year).

"We clearly know that anger against us has skyrocketed throughout the region."

Oh really? I'd love to see the statistics that back this up. Besides, the anger of the Germans toward the U.S. undoubtedly rose once we entered the war against them. Does this mean we ought to have backed off? After all, D-Day probably really pissed them off.

"The lack of attacks in the US is hardly evidence of anything. Al Qaeda went from 1993 to 2001 before attacking again. They take a long time to plan their operations, because they like to go for big ones. As Bill Maher put it, 'they're reloading.'"

I'll leave aside the frivolity of quoting a stand-up comic to bolster one's policy argument. But if the lack of attacks in the U.S. is not evidence of anything, then I'd like to know what standard you would use in its stead?

The fact is, Al Qaeda is finished as an effective organization. There are still some stragglers in cells around the world. But they no longer have any central organizing authority to turn to. This doesn't mean they still can't do damage, much like a dying animal might lash out in its death throes. And this doesn't mean there aren't other bad actors out there who can still do us harm. But Al Qaeda as an organization complete with training bases and other terror infrastructure is effectively kaput.

Moreover, there's no evidence that sending more troops to Afghanistan would have resulted in Osama's capture. He simply would have retreated to the mountains of Pakistan or Iran that much sooner. I would argue that the capture of Saddam is more instructive to the rogue regimes of the world than nabbing Osama would have been.

"I suppose this is a matter of vastly different perceptions. I see a mounting unfolding disaster, you see 'nitpicking.' What we can agree upon is $120 billion and counting, most of our ground forces bogged down, and no decrease in insurgent attacks. Whether that's 'worth it' to you simply in exchange for a mostly symbolic attack, well, we differ on that point."

War, as you said, is rife with unintended consequences that you cannot control. But I ask you again to remember the uncertainty at the start of the Iraqi War -- the fears of another Stalingrad in Baghdad, of outright civil war between the Shias and Sunnis, of oil fields aflame, of Turkish intervention, etc. If you someone told you before the war that this is the situation we would be in -- fewer than 800 combat deaths, Saddam captured, his sons dead, free elections around the corner -- would you not have been relieved to hear this?

Posted by: Inkling at October 19, 2004 10:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I read this article on the advice of Mr. Sullivan, and I am completely unpersuaded. The argument is logically inconsistent. We should ignore everything bad and incompetent that Bush has done, and hope that he gets better. But for Kerry, we should assume that bad actions and attitudes will be repeated in the future. Bush's past actions are to be ignored, whereas Kerry's are a likely guide to his future course of conduct. I especially love how commentary like this focusses on Kerry's pre-9/11 voting record, again using it as a predictor of future action, while ignoring everything Bush said and did pre-9/11. Just as Bush accuses Kerry of voting to cut the intelligence budget (evil) while ignoring the fact that his CIA appointee, Goss, voted for the same cuts (forgivable), and accuses Kerry of voting to cut weapons systems (pre-9/11, but still evil) that Cheney also wanted to cut (pre-9/11, but now understandable). The article really reads as an exercise in deluded self-justification. Sure Republicans make errors, but we should hope and pray (without any evidence) that things will change; but ignore Kerry's actual words about what he would do (e.g. increase our armed forces by two divisions) by focussing on his pre-9/11 voting record. Bottom line, Bush had his chance and blew it. He will not change his ways because he will not admit - cannot even see -- errors he has made. This article will persuade no-one to change his/her mind.

Posted by: JimP at October 19, 2004 10:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Again, I appreciate the reasoned response, Inkling.

>Oh really? If you think invading and occupying Iraq is difficult

Which is why I did not suggest invading North Korea.

>a bombing campaign to wipe out nuclear facilities remains an option
>on the table, and invading Iraq does nothing to prevent that possibility.

It does a lot to make it more difficult. Though I don't think we should do more than bomb Iran, should we have wanted or needed to use ground forces, we could have done so a lot more effectively before the Iraq war --- it is simply not a realistic option now. Further, we're simply not paying enough attention to Iran. Our leaders are likely to be too reticent to intervene in Iran now, after the debacle in Iraq. The international fallout of a campaign against Iran would be worse. It is likely that our attack on Iraq has only hardened their resolve to make weapons, when we might have been able to dissuade them diplomatically before. Etc. In any event, our adventure in Iraq has done nothing to help us in Iran, and has certainly distracted us from Iran.

>Sorry, but these things happened well before we invaded Iraq.

Yes, but well after we were making threats to invade Iraq. It's pretty obvious they feared an invasion, and they wanted to make weapons before we could invade. Meanwhile, Bush sat there and pretty much did nothing whatsoever.

>at what point along the timeline in 2002-2003 would you have threatened to invade or bomb NoKo?

I don't know why you keep bringing up invasion; I specifically said we shouldn't invade. I would have threatened to bomb North Korea certainly when they removed the cameras, most likely before, to head that off.

I'm quite sure the reason we didn't do it was Bush wanted to keep the focus on Iraq. I thought this emphasis was insane --- we should have focused on stopping NK, not invading a tangential country.

>But the fact is, no one seriously suggested, either on the Democratic or Republican side, that we make such a threat

That is incorrect. We made precisely such a threat in 1994; it forced the North Koreans to let in inspectors, etc. This, of course, didn't stop their efforts to develop a bomb, but it certainly slowed them down quite a bit.

>Aye, there's the rub. When one is dealing with imperfect intelligence

You must be aware that the problem was far worse than mere "imperfect intelligence." There was a concerted effort to distort and misinterpret what evidence we had. The Pentagon set up its own bogus intelligence division which churned out tons of crap spoon fed to it by Chalabi's agents. We were snookered because we wanted to be snookered.

>I'm not so sure that Kerry agrees.

You may be right, but again, I think he has evolved his position and is much more willing to use force than he has been in the past. Further, as I said before, I believe this administration has done such a terrible job at security that I can hardly believe even a somewhat reticent Kerry could do worse.

>But there is no indication that Kerry would be, in fact, he has expressed a desire to return to the failed Clinton strategy.

The Clinton strategy didn't stop North Korea, but it certainly did slow them down. And, had rapprochement between North and South Korea eventually occurred, the whole issue would have become moot in the end.

>True strength requires this ineffable factor beyond the number of tanks and planes you have.

Iraq as a gigantic military training exercise and demonstration? I'm sorry, that is simply not worth the cost in my book, by a long shot. Further, what we had before Iraq was a series of stunning military victories with very few American lives lost. I think people around the world were beginning to see us as nearly invincible. That's certainly no longer the case today.

>I'd love to see the statistics that back this up.

There are plenty of polls, news articles from the region, etc. Here's one example from July:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A7080-2004Jul22?language=printer

"Arab views of the United States, shaped largely by the Iraq war and a post-Sept. 11 climate of fear, have worsened in the past two years to such an extent that in Egypt -- an important ally in the region -- nearly 100 percent of the population now holds an unfavorable opinion of the country, according to two polls due out today."

>the anger of the Germans toward the U.S. undoubtedly rose once we entered the war against them.

Obviously. However, did we need to pay this price for an unnecessary war against a minor threat? If the Iraq war were strategically necessary, then of course I'd say, who cares what the political costs were. But it wasn't, so the political costs mean something important to us, because it makes it more difficult for us to gather intelligence on the ground, which is precisely what is needed most in a terror war. It is not a minor issue of hurting some feelings. It affects our security.

>But if the lack of attacks in the U.S. is not evidence of anything, then I'd like to know what standard you would use in its stead?

Let's see how the security situation looks over the next ten, twenty, thirty years. I believe the "fruits" of this administration's missteps will come quite clear in the long run.

>The fact is, Al Qaeda is finished as an effective organization.

What is your evidence for this?

>Moreover, there's no evidence that sending more troops to Afghanistan would have resulted in Osama's capture.

You are overstating your case here. "No evidence"? We had him cornered in Tora Bora and he got away. Perhaps he would have eluded us anyway, escaped earlier, etc., but it seems doubtful to me that had we went in with more troops it would have had no positive impact whatsoever on our probability of capturing him.

>I ask you again to remember the uncertainty at the start of the Iraqi War

As I've said before, some may have predicted disaster in the first weeks of the war: I didn't. I felt from the beginning the initial phase of the war would probably go relatively easily. It was the aftermath that I thought would go badly --- it has gone just about exactly as badly as I thought it would. The only surprise --- Saddam actually had no WMDs at all. I actually figured he had something, somewhere. The proponents of this war in the government predicted we'd be withdrawing in a few months. Hasn't gone that way.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 19, 2004 10:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Harrumph!

Posted by: Marc at October 19, 2004 10:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oops, that "harrumph!" was in response to JimP.

Posted by: Marc at October 19, 2004 11:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kerry supporters, here:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-1312869_1,00.html

is a left-winger explaining her reasons for Bush over Kerry. She's someone who has seen the enemy first hand:

"When mosques are raided by US forces, I am not surprised. I know mosques are used as terrorist bases. I expect most of the young men I talked to are now either dead or sitting in an Israeli jail. They were triumphalist about the global spread of Islam and confident that it would one day dominate the planet. They hated the West, they wanted to kill Jews, and none of them had ever heard of George W Bush."

and her experience supports the premise that the fanatics of Islam do hate us and they are primarily driven by hate, not some sort of reasonable grievance with American imperialism or some other multi-layered reasoning.

Posted by: David Andersen at October 19, 2004 11:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>primarily driven by hate

Of course. That's the whole point. It is precisely because we are faced with implacable enemies driven by hate that we had better fight this terror war as effectively as possible. The problem is, I think it's demonstrably the case that George Bush has done an awful job of this.

Does anyone think Kerry thinks we can negotiate with these guys? Of course not. Wat we can do is avoid needless wars that alienate and infuriate (with some good reason, I might add) the populations on whom we must rely for intelligence and whom the terrorists draw upon for support.

I can't see any reason for a hawk to vote for Bush --- if you are really concerned about security, I believe we have to get rid of this guy. He's been a disaster, in my view. I really believe Bush underestimates the enemy, and that's exactly why he listened to the neocons who wanted to invade a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 --- they figured they might as well use 9/11 as an excuse to carry out this plan that they had formulated long before. They figured, the terror risk is just a sideshow. Well, I'm sorry --- i think the terror risk is much more than a sideshow --- it's the main attraction, and we had better get focused on it.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 19, 2004 11:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I find it hilarious that in the states', the word "liberal" is a swear word, and people have actually succeeded in creating a mass paranoia tied to the creation of labels that identify someone as such.

It's the exact opposite in Canada. When our imperfect Liberal Party wanted to get re-elected, they drummed up the image of the right-wing nut-job Conservative party, and managed to scare half the undecided voters of Canada into voting for them instead of letting the Conservatives in to office. Incidentally, I thought it was a pretty cheap way to go, and it should have cost them the election, but it didn't.

I just thought it would be interesting to point out.

I think it also speaks to the fundamental differences between Canada and the United States, and to the reason that most Canadians are hoping and praying that you folks will turf Bush. We're a 'liberal' leaning centrist country. Uh-oh. I guess that means that since we are closer to embodying the values of that evil John Kerry than that of St. Bush, we would clearly have massive deficits, be victims of multiple terror attacks resulting from weak leadership, have an inefficient and pathetic health care system, a poorly educated society, and have a ridiculously high crime rate.

Oops. We don't. One of the best health care systems in the world (public at that), one of the best education systems in the world, respect from most of the world as peacekeepers, BUDGET SURPLUSSES, a much lower crime rate than the USA, etc..... (believe it or not, I'm not trying to toot my country's horn, I'm just trying to point out that liberal stereo-types are pretty flawed at the core, and yes, I know, the US is bigger than us and the leader of the free world, but that doesn't mean that they can't still learn a thing or two from others)

All of these successes delivered under the umbrella of a predominantly LIBERAL ideology and government. Hell, the name of the party is the same as their location on the political fence. It's a miracle that we haven't become a haven for terrorists or something. What's my point? To paraphrase Kerry, labels only work if you're trying to scare the electorate into voting for you. Bush has, in his term, achieved the same bugetary results that he is certain only liberals can do. That's just one example. Yes, yes, I know that 911 played a big part in it, but that's my central point. The Bush administration uses 911 as a scape-goat on one end, and then turns around and parades it as a symbol of their war-time prowess (which as Mitsu and others have pointed out, isn't really that great), and the existing Republicans and uninformed/undecided/fear mongered voters lap it up and declare him re-electable. Amazing how they try to have it both ways. The Bush boosters of this room have consistently ignored his very real errors and gaffes and tragic mistakes, and instead have focused on.... oh my.... Kerry's voting record. Has it ever occurred to you that if the man's voting record has changed over the years, that it doesn't automatically make it a bad thing? Bush pre-empts half his speeches with "The world changed after 9-11" Fair enough, but if the world changes, shouldn't the way people react to that world, and vote in that world also change? In general, I don't run my life the same way as I did ten years ago. I still have some core principles that guide me, but I don't mindlessly apply the same techniques to different problems. I change and adapt as needed. A good chunk of GW's current administration served under his father, and applies a disturbing number of similar principles to the current administration. The doctrine of pre-emption is not new here, folks, it has been used by the US for decades (a good portion of South America, for example). All that the current crew has done is taken preemption, and applied it to a very different environment. No wonder it's not working.

The bottom line is this: If I had done my job in the last four years the way that Bush had done his job, I would have been fired, and the dude down the hall who had made a few errors for the last twenty years, BUT LEARNED FROM THEM, would have been quickly shuffled into my place.

Posted by: Steve at October 20, 2004 12:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Steve

What exactly is your problem? It's odd enough that some Americans display this deranged Bush hatred, but what prompts somebody who does not even live in America to obssess so much about our president?

You are, not to put too fine a point on it, an ignorant jackass. You waffle on at great length without ever actually saying anything. You think Canada is great? Good, I'm happy for you. We think America is great ourselves. I notice that Canada does not need to guard its borders to prevent Americans from streaming across to avail themselves of it's "best health care system in the world".

You have consistently failed to point out the various gaffes and mistakes that you imagine Bush has made, in spite of being asked to do so repeatedly. I find this to be a commn trait among the BDS sufferers; they exibit a good deal of eye-popping, jaw-clenching rage, but can never manage to articulate just what it is that has them so exercised. I cannot attribute this solely to your poor communications skills; I have to suspect that the "real reason" for your fury is based an a purely visceral dislike of George Bush. His actual actions are irrelevant. Just the sight of him drives a certain class of people insane.

On a cerain level I sympathise with your suffering, but at the end of the day, it's really none of your busness who we elect. Why don't you read a book or watch TV? Do something normal with your life instead of documenting your bizarre Bush obsession on your blog for the world to see.

Posted by: flenser at October 20, 2004 05:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why I'm NOT supporting Dubya:

http://ambivablog.typepad.com/ambivablog/2004/10/a_queasy_endors.html

Thanks to all on this thread for being such an important part of my decision-making.

Posted by: amba at October 20, 2004 05:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm sorry, folks, but I guess I still don't understand why this nation is so divided. All the pundits and politicians continuously talk about how wise and intelligent the American voters are. "The American people are smart," they say. BALONEY! How can that be? If they're so smart, how come this race is even anywhere close? How can a reasonably intelligent person look at Senator Kerry in terms of (a) his highly questionable record in Viet Nam, (b) what he did to his "buddies" when he returned from Viet Nam, (c) his voting record in the Senate, (d) his total lack of accomplishment in the Senate, (e)his ping-pong politics as evidenced every time he picks up a microphone after seeing a new poll, (f) his make-'em-up-as-you-go statistics, and (g) his conflicts with his church [just to name a few] and not see a complete phony? Why is this race so tight when this candidate is as transparent as a sheet of glass - and twice as fragile?

It just hit me that if Kerry is elected, a large chunk of the money he's planning to use to pay for his never-ending PLANS - I'm talking about the tax rollback for the folks earning over $200,000 - will be lost to security upgradings for his five palacial estates and for providing 5-6 full-time secret service agents per location to guard these properties . . . when most of the time they're not occupied except for the hired staff. Do the math. Resources for the overseas extravagances will, of necessity, be "outsourced" in much the same manner as H.J. Heinz outsources jobs and it's OK, but everyone else is going to hell for doing it because they're not flaming liberals. We better make up a PLAN for that, quick.

I noticed that voting has started in Florida, which means that according to a recent DNC directive, the dems will be crying foul any day now, claiming that the election is fixed, that voters are being harassed, and that the Republicans are already trying to steal the election. [The directive mandated that these claims be made whether there is any evidence to back them up OR NOT]. Isn't that special?

It's about time for Kerry to go to another Southern protestant church with the reverends Jackson and Sharpton and begin the long, persistent whining that will probably last until the 2008 election if they lose this one. How about the guy in Toledo who was rounding up voters for the NAACP and was being paid off in crack cocaine? There's a role model!

Bottom line is that we are at war. None of the myriad of issues debated will matter as much if we do not win this war and must spend our future living in fear. These libs have totally and completely forgotten 9-11. There can be no other explanation for their behavior unless they are just downright stupid, but, kind person that I am, I will give them the benefit of the doubt. If Tommy Franks supports the way the president has acted as commander-in-chief, that's more than good enough for me.

Posted by: faddle at October 20, 2004 07:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BB has a super post 0n the BD blog site (Posted by: BB at October 18, 2004 08:10 PM). He's one of the most insightful I've read here, he must have an historian's training to "put yourself in the other's shoes."

Being a secularist (and lifelong straight ticket Democratic voter) who has nonetheless studied religions, the worldview you describe is almost incomprehensible to us secularists. We have so denounced religious mythology as irrelevant, that we forget it actually records history. Having read the Bible as an historical text, the trauma of the Israelite exiles in Babylon, or the messianic eschatologists in Daniel (the Essenes) share exactly the sentiments of modern Muslim radicals. We're not doing so hot, as God promised? Redouble the efforts! More sacrifices! Keep the Sabbath! Unfortunately, Mustlims substitute infidel sacrifices for scape goats. For the most radical among them, the more the better. And modern technology makes it really easy to be super observant in that way.

What will we do if one of them lands a WMD in our cities? If instead of 3000, 300,000 or 3,000,000 are killed? The possibility is not far fetched. Will we still be discussing state health insurance and global warming? Or will the missile silos be open for business? Maybe nuclear winter will offset global warming.

One question: did you mean to call Islam a "pagan" religion? As a secularist, I choose not to make a moralistic distinction between religions classified as "pagan" (generally a pejorative for polytheist or pantheist religions) and those classified as non-pagan (generally a self-centered designation of their beliefs by adherents of monotheist religions). However Islam, as a monotheistic religion, would be designated non-pagan. Curiously, Muslims make a distinction between "people of the book" which encompass the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and others, who in the Koran are Infidels. Modern radical Muslim clerics, especially Wahabbis and Salafis, have chosen to ignore that Koranic precept and to describe Jews and Christians (and even some Muslim sects such as Sufis and Shias) as infidels. Which seems to justify Bush's claim that radicals have hijacked Islam for political aims, given that they are not pure fundamentalists, but selective adherents of Koranic texts where it suits their purposes.

One other way in which Kerry supporters seem not to "get it" is applying concepts of national sovereignty, the founding philosophy of the UN, born as it was post WW2 when national sovereignty had seen widespread violation, to the Arab world. That world has much weaker national sentiment, what exists is more of the pan-Arab kind, with relatively little allegiance to a nation-state. So when anti-war radicals say that Iraq was not a supporter of al-Qaida, they miss the point. The Arab nation has sympathies for al-Qaida's message, even if few people actually enact the message. That sympathy nurtures an environment where radicals thrive, since they do not face ostracism, rather celebration, in their native society. It would be like if Terry Nicholls and Tim McVeigh's militia movement had widespread sympathy in the US. We would see many more Oklahoma City type bombings. But our society collectively decided such movements were beyond acceptable, leading to a withering of the radical militia movement that believes in right wing conspiracy theories regarding Waco TX and Ruby Ridge. Since the bombing, even while a less radical "responsible" gun-ownership culture has thrived, there has not been a repeat. For al-Qaida type radicals to wither in the Muslim world their society needs to undergo a similar ostracism process. Bush is conducting an experiment in Iraq to see if democracy and a market economy can perform that social transformation and will subsequently draw in Arabs from neighboring regions.

I completely agree that Bush's experiment in such is based on absolutely no proof. It is a shot in the dark. But given the not so far-fetched doomsday scenario that seems so obvious, I would rather have our country try something then behave like democracies usually do, wait for a catastrophic attack before responding. The irony will be, if Bush succeeds, his theory will never be proven, since he will have averted a catastrophe that so many can't conceive as possible. Maybe that's why he dismisses history, since only God will know (if He exists). Democrats surely won't credit him.

I plan to hold my nose and vote for my first Republican, Nov. 2. My friends will never forgive me.

Posted by: Michael LeBauer at October 20, 2004 07:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

faddle and Michael, your posts are pretty much non-sequiturs in this thread of conversation. The question is not whether we ought to fight the terrorists aggressively, but, rather, which candidate is more likely to do a better job of it. Neither of you seem to acknowledge or even notice the mistakes made by this Administration, the intelligence failures, lack of planning, tactical mistakes, and general hostility towards "reality-based" reasoning.

At least Gregory is willing to see these failings and, despite this, still is going to vote for Bush, based on the theory that he's not going to continue to make the same mistakes in a second term as he made in the first --- but to simply pretend all is well and this team has done a wonderful job fighting terror --- well, that's pretty unconvincing. I personally see no reason to think that a second Bush term will be substantially different from the first --- unless it is worse --- a reelection would only increase their sense of vindication, as I and many others (Dan Drezner, Andrew Sullivan, etc.) have argued.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 20, 2004 09:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu, I too appreciate the civil tone of our debate. Here is my response:

You wrote: "Which is why I did not suggest invading North Korea."

Not to belabor the point more than I already have, but your original argument was that by committing the bulk of our troops to Iraq, we made it difficult to use them to threaten North Korea and Iran, which were/are in the process of developing nukes.

If you're not willing to invade either of these countries, then any threat is useless, and maybe even provocative. The NoKos in particular are notorious for being incredibly skittish when it comes to any troop deployments on the Korean peninsula.

">a bombing campaign to wipe out nuclear facilities remains an option
>on the table, and invading Iraq does nothing to prevent that possibility.

It does a lot to make it more difficult. Though I don't think we should do more than bomb Iran, should we have wanted or needed to use ground forces, we could have done so a lot more effectively before the Iraq war --- it is simply not a realistic option now."

I beg to differ. In the first place, no one seriously would ever expect us to invade Iran, as I wrote earlier, it is a much bigger country and a far more formidable foe than Iraq. The Iranians are well aware of this. Our only realistic hope of stopping their development of nukes is a bombing campaign.

"It is likely that our attack on Iraq has only hardened their resolve to make weapons, when we might have been able to dissuade them diplomatically before."

None of this is relevant to Iran's nuclear program. There is absolutely no way that mere diplomacy or even threats will prevent Iran from devleoping nukes. The only way we can prevent it is through the use of force. End. Of. Story. Tell me, if you were in Iran's shoes, why would you ever actually halt such a program? What you would do is play the same game that NoKo did, of pretending to cooperate one day, and then refusing to cooperate until pressure builds up, and then back to pretending to cooperate, all in order to stall any real international action (read: force) until you've got that first shiny nuke online. And then you can tell everybody to just go stuff it.


">Sorry, but these things happened well before we invaded Iraq.

Yes, but well after we were making threats to invade Iraq."

So are you saying we shouldn't even have made threats to invade Iraq? Keep in mind, you wouldn't have the advantage of hindsight. Even the UN supported our efforts to demand a renewal of the inspection process in Iraq. We're talking about late 2002 here. We had barely even begun our buildup of troops in the Middle East prior to the Iraq invasion.

"It's pretty obvious they [NoKo] feared an invasion, and they wanted to make weapons before we could invade."

You wrote earlier that we ought to have left Iraq alone in order to maintain a credible threat to invade NoKo. (Or was it to initiate a bombing campaign? I'm sorry, your position is becoming so incoherent I can't keep track.) Now you're saying that it was precisely the threat of invasion that caused NoKo to develop nukes. So are you now saying that we were too aggressive in dealing with NoKo? Keep in mind, they announced the succcessful completion of nukes before our invasion of Iraq.

But you have stumbled onto the truth here, albeit not in quite the same sense that you put it. NoKo indeed created nukes because they feared an invasion. But this fear predated the Iraqi crisis by, oh, nearly 50 years. NoKo has devoted all of its meager resources to making itsefl as militarily strong as possible for decades. It started this nuke program more than a decade ago. As with Iran above, NoKo was going to develop nukes no matter what we did -- again, short of the use of force.

I agree with you that perhaps Bush ought to have used bombers in an attempt to destroy the nuclear facilities. Problem is, NoKo is such a closed country that it's impossible to be sure that you're hitting all of the right targets. And NoKo was absolutely certain to retaliate against the nearest target, which is our ally South Korea. More than 10 million South Koreans live along the border between NoKo and SoKo within range of 1000s of NoKo artillery pieces poised to fire on their cities. Even if they didn't have nukes, they could still easily slaughter 10s of 1000s of SoKos, if not more.

The SoKos, for better or worse, have consistently begged us not to provoke the NoKos. Would you as president be willing to defy the will of your closest ally in the region and probably condemn 10s of 1000s of their people to death by bombing NoKo? Now, maybe you would decide it was worth it. But it's not as easy a decision as you make it out to sound.

>at what point along the timeline in 2002-2003 would you have threatened to invade or bomb NoKo?

I don't know why you keep bringing up invasion; I specifically said we shouldn't invade."

Again, not to belabor the point, but your argument originally was that by committing our troops to Iraq they were not available to threaten invasion of NoKo or Iran.

"I would have threatened to bomb North Korea certainly when they removed the cameras, most likely before, to head that off."

Threatening to bomb wouldn't be enough for the NoKos, not when they were so close. You'd have to be willing to follow through. See above for consequences.

"I'm quite sure the reason we didn't do it was Bush wanted to keep the focus on Iraq. I thought this emphasis was insane --- we should have focused on stopping NK, not invading a tangential country."

I wonder if you really felt that way at the time? Hindsight, remember. Every intelligence agency in the world believed Iraq had WMDs, etc. Again, the only way to "stop" NK would have been to invade or bomb it, with all the attendant messy consequences.

">But the fact is, no one seriously suggested, either on the Democratic or Republican side, that we make such a threat

That is incorrect. We made precisely such a threat in 1994; it forced the North Koreans to let in inspectors, etc. This, of course, didn't stop their efforts to develop a bomb, but it certainly slowed them down quite a bit."

Please, don't insult my intelligence by recasting that horrendous diplomatic bungle as some sort of limited triumph.

The late and great Michael Kelly wrote in the Washington Post:

"In October 2002, after years of mounting evidence of North Korean violations, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly confronted North Korea with evidence that it was conducting a clandestine bomb-building program based on a process of enriching uranium. North Korea had begun this program only months after the signing of the 1994 Agreed Framework — and, note, seven years before George Bush called anybody evil. North Korea first denied the truth, then admitted it — and then unilaterally “nullified” the 1994 deal.

"We were bound to end up at this point, no matter which president ended up holding the can kicked in 1994. North Korea never had any intention of living up the agreement, and it never did. Eventually, it was going to get caught, and it did.

"Bush has reacted as probably any responsible president would. He has refused to back down. Well, what else? Would it be better that he “renegotiate” — that he give North Korea another seven years of bomb-building time?"

Me: It's pretty clear that allowing inspectors in was merely a ploy, that the NoKos had no intention of living up to their end of the bargain. And Kerry, through his call for, yes, more bilateral negotiations with the NoKos, is obviously falling into the same trap. Kerry will no more bomb or invade NoKo than will Bush. Indeed, he will probably shower them with aid in an utterly futile effort to get them to turn over their nukes. Bush is right, if negotiations are to have any hope at all of success, the Chinese have to be involved. They are the only party that has a snowball's chance of getting NoKo to do anything but dissemble and lie.

"You must be aware that the problem was far worse than mere "imperfect intelligence." There was a concerted effort to distort and misinterpret what evidence we had."

And I suppose the Russians, the British, the Italians, the Israelis even the French and the UN were all in on the plot. None of these parties disputed the belief that Iraq had WMDs. The pre-war dispute was over what to do about it.

">I'm not so sure that Kerry agrees.

You may be right, but again, I think he has evolved his position and is much more willing to use force than he has been in the past."

He has "evolved" his position? Excuse me, I don't think he has a position. From 1971-1997, Kerry had a remarkably consistent record -- of opposing every single war we've been involved with (including the first Gulf War, which even Al Gore supported).

More than that, he has consistently sought to slash defense and intelligence spending.

To wit:

In 1993, Kerry introduced S.1163, a plan to slash numerous defense programs, including:
- reducing the number of Navy submarines
- reducing the number of light infantry units in the Army down to one
- reducing tactical fighter wings in the Air Force
- terminating the Navy’s coastal mine-hunting ship program
- forcing the retirement of 60,000 members of the Armed Forces in one year

In 1996 (five years before 9/11), Kerry introduced S. 1580 to to slash defense funding by $6.5 billion. Kerry’s bill was considered so beyond the pale that it failed to attract a single co-sponsor.

In 1995, Kerry voted to freeze defense spending for 7 years, slashing over $34 billion from defense.  (S. Con. Res. 13, CQ Vote #181: Rejected 28-71: R 2-51; D 26-20, 5/24/95, Kerry Voted Yea). Keep in mind that 9/11 occurred six years after he voted in support of this bill -- meaning that if it became law it would have meant we'd have a significantly smaller military to deal with the post-9/11 world.

In 1994, Kerry proposed an amendment rescinding $1 billion in the FY1994 Intelligence budget and freezing the budget at that level through at least FY1998, which would cut $5 billion from Intelligence funding during that period.  Kerry’s proposal was defeated by a vote of 20 to 75, with even Sen. Ted Kennedy voting against the measure.

In 1995, Kerry proposed S. 1290 to reduce the intelligence budget by $300 million in each of fiscal years 1996-2000.  This bill failed to attract any co-sponsors and never reached the Senate floor for a vote.

And of course, famously, Kerry was one of 12 senators to vote against the appropriation of $87 billion for the war effort as recently as a year ago.

Frankly, it's clear to me and to many other observers that Kerry is only a step away from being a pacifist. His "global test" comment in the first debate reveals more to me than any number of macho poses with shotguns in the wilds of Ohio. He's clearly beholden to the Turtle Bay crowd, the same people who value the votes of dictatorships as much as democracies, who stole billions from the mouths of Iraqis in the Oil-for-Food Program.
 
"Further, as I said before, I believe this administration has done such a terrible job at security that I can hardly believe even a somewhat reticent Kerry could do worse."

Oh yes. Believe me, it can get a lot worse. Anybody who doesn't believe this doesn't know history.

"The Clinton strategy didn't stop North Korea, but it certainly did slow them down."

I answered this above.

"And, had rapprochement between North and South Korea eventually occurred, the whole issue would have become moot in the end."

I hate to be flip, so I'll bite my tongue here. But you know what I'm thinking, don't you?

"Iraq as a gigantic military training exercise and demonstration? I'm sorry, that is simply not worth the cost in my book, by a long shot. Further, what we had before Iraq was a series of stunning military victories with very few American lives lost. I think people around the world were beginning to see us as nearly invincible. That's certainly no longer the case today."

It's all a matter of perception. Frankly, most people thought we did mighty fine in our invasion of Iraq. It wasn't until the NYT et al. "came to their senses" and realized that, hey, if we present this war as going well, this yahoo might get reelected, that they began the steady drumbeat of disaster and quagmire. I still maintain that 800 combat deaths in 19 months is a mighty fine war record, when you're dealing with the occupation of a culturally-hostile nation of 25 million. But I suppose we had better just agree to disagree, here.

"There are plenty of polls, news articles from the region, etc. Here's one example from July:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A7080-2004Jul22?language=printer


"Arab views of the United States, shaped largely by the Iraq war and a post-Sept. 11 climate of fear, have worsened in the past two years to such an extent that in Egypt -- an important ally in the region -- nearly 100 percent of the population now holds an unfavorable opinion of the country, according to two polls due out today."

As they say, it's all relative. From the same article, here is the core paragraph, that cites the actual numbers with a minimum of spin:

"In Zogby's 2002 survey, 76 percent of Egyptians had a negative attitude toward the United States, compared with 98 percent this year. In Morocco, 61 percent viewed the country unfavorably in 2002, but in two years, that number has jumped to 88 percent. In Saudi Arabia, such responses rose from 87 percent in 2002 to 94 percent in June. Attitudes were virtually unchanged in Lebanon but improved slightly in the UAE, from 87 percent who said in 2002 that they disliked the United States to 73 percent this year."

You know what? I'm pretty comfortable with those numbers. Based on the alarmist language in the paragraph you quoted, I expected the change to be far more radical.

As you say with respect to whether Bush's actions have made us more or less secure, the true answer as to whether this war has improved our situation probably won't be known for decades to come. War is like invasive surgery; it's extremely painful and debilitating, and the patient often suffers greatly for some time after. But the hope is that in the long run, the patient will be better off than before the procedure. Right now we are going through the painful period. Seen from that vantage point, things look glum and regret are rife (anybody who has undergone major surgery knows what I'm talking about). We shall see the final outcome, years from now....

"If the Iraq war were strategically necessary, then of course I'd say, who cares what the political costs were. But it wasn't, so the political costs mean something important to us, because it makes it more difficult for us to gather intelligence on the ground, which is precisely what is needed most in a terror war."

You assume that if we hadn't invaded Iraq when we did, that things would have turned out differently. But everything seems go point to the fact that we ultimately would have had no choice. Saddam, for whatever reason, was never going to stop playing games with the inspectors. (My gut tells me that he actually did possess WMDs, but either effectively hid them or transferred them out of the country, probably to Syria, so that we still haven't found them. But I'll leave that aside for the purposes of this discussion.) You don't play games for 12 years and suddenly stop. The only way we were ever going to discover whether he truly was a threat was literally to take over his country. The war was only a matter of time. In a post-9/11 world, the risk was just too great to walk away from.

Some say that if we waited longer, or gave the inspectors more time, then the war would have had greater legitimacy in the eyes of the world, which would have made our job easier. In light of the Food-for-Oil scandal, Saddam's bribery campaign, and Iraq's lucrative contracts with Western Europe and Russia, it's clear to me, anyway, that France, Germany and Russia, for certain, were never going to approve of war. It only would have given Saddam more time to prepare an even better defense.

">But if the lack of attacks in the U.S. is not evidence of anything, then I'd like to know what standard you would use in its stead?

Let's see how the security situation looks over the next ten, twenty, thirty years. I believe the "fruits" of this administration's missteps will come quite clear in the long run."

So, if there's a massive terrorist attack in 30 years, it's Bush's fault? I don't think even you believe that.

">The fact is, Al Qaeda is finished as an effective organization.

What is your evidence for this?"

See above paragraph about lack of terror attacks in the U.S. post-9.11. Also, repeat after me: the U.S. has killed or captured over 75% of Al Qaeda's leaders.

">Moreover, there's no evidence that sending more troops to Afghanistan would have resulted in Osama's capture.

You are overstating your case here. "No evidence"? We had him cornered in Tora Bora and he got away. Perhaps he would have eluded us anyway, escaped earlier, etc., but it seems doubtful to me that had we went in with more troops it would have had no positive impact whatsoever on our probability of capturing him."

It might have slightly increased our chances of capturing him. But the fact is, most of our forces are not equipped to operate in that mountainous region. After all, you can't very well cruise around the mountains in Humvees or Bradleys. It takes Special Forces, of which we had the bulk of ours in the area. In any event, I'm pretty convinced that Osama actually does lie at the bottom of the million-ton slag heap that is Tora Bora. I'm putting the word out now -- if he wants to convince me otherwise, then please appear in a video with a recent edition of a newspaper in his hands. That's all I'm asking.

"It was the aftermath that I thought would go badly --- it has gone just about exactly as badly as I thought it would."

And I think that the rumors of how badly we're doing in post-war Iraq are greatly exaggerated, for largely ideological reasons. Again, let's agree to disagree.

"The proponents of this war in the government predicted we'd be withdrawing in a few months. Hasn't gone that way."

Really? You might be able to scrounge up a quote or two, at max. But I'm pretty sure that on balance, there were a lot more statements to the effect of, we could be there for several years.

The bottom line for me is, for all the criticisms of Bush, I just don't see Kerry doing any better. In fact, every bone in my body tells me that Kerry will be a ditherer and appeaser in the "grand" tradition of Carter, and I fear that those instincts will result in great tragedy for the U.S.

Posted by: Inkling at October 20, 2004 10:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It seem to me that one of the odd things about the debate above is that it overlooks what observers a few decades hence will probably note as the most salient feature of the Bush presidency – his truly spectacular *political* failure as self proclaimed "wartime president".

After 9/11 G W Bush not only had exceptionally high approval ratings, but in his role as Commander in Chief the pretty much universal support and good will of the American People – only a fringe on the left and right could be said to opposed to his stated goal of punishing the attracters and insuring against repetition of the attacks – and this support translated into enormous political leverage in Congress, as observes both at the time and since have noted the county was pretty much ready to write Bush a blank check for whatever policies he chose to pursue.

Now, a few weeks from the election, his approval ratings hover near 50% or less, much of the half of the country that will not vote for him views him with fear, contempt or both, more than half the voters believe the centerpiece of his anti-terrorism policy was a mistake in conception or execution, and it's likely that if he achieves reelection it will be by a narrow margin on a highly partisan and divisive platform.

It as though in1943 half the voters reguared FDR and Churchill as charlatans or fools, support for continuing the war hovered at 50% or less, and the election of either would likely leave their country on a path toward even greater division and internal conflict.

Contrasted with the promise of the situation after 9/11 - for both the President and the country – this is a truly dismal accomplishment, and though the normal operation of partisan politics contributed their part, it's clear that the Administration was the chief architect of its own failure.

At a time when national cohesion was needed, it leveraged public support for the war into political leverage used to advance a highly partisan and divisive domestic policy. At a time when openness was needed in pursuit of pratical methods to pursue the war and public support to conduct it, it instead it pursued a policy of unprecedented narrowing of perspective in private and pervasive secrecy in public. At a time when it should have been building a national consensus for action, it instead first manipulated both the public and itself into what many reguard as a highly questionable war based on dubious "facts" for highly speculative ends, and then when the reasonable (and often glaringly obvious) questions began to be asked, questioned the patrotisim of anyone who voiced support for any but it's own narrow views and objectives.

And throughout - while as a result voters' attitude toward the war was increasingly balanced between support and skepticism - it consistently, blindly and sometimes furiously refused to admit that mistakes had been made, or that that future policy might have to be adjusted based on the experience.

This as, at best, the political accomplishment of George Bush as a "war time president", and I don't see any reason to expect any but more of the same in a second term.

And while I don’t know if Kerry will be any more effective in his "wartime leadership", I believe it highly unlikely that he could could possibly do worse.

Posted by: M Dodge Thomas at October 20, 2004 03:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>You wrote: "Which is why I did not suggest invading North Korea."
>
>Not to belabor the point more than I already have, but your original argument was that by committing the bulk of our troops to Iraq

Yes, I thought you might say that, but in the case of North Korea it is pretty clear that the reason Bush did nothing was because he didn't want any distractions from his preconceived idea that Iraq was where he wanted to commit forces. Although I believe the only thing we should have done was bomb the nuclear plant, had NK not complied with our demands, the fact is that a prudent commander-in-chief would also have prepared our forces to handle the worst-case scenario of a larger conflict there (not to mention preparing our conventional forces to make it less likely NK would attempt to retaliate). I believe Bush didn't threaten NK mainly because he didn't want any diversion of forces there, or skirmishes or battles there requiring more forces in the region.

>I beg to differ. In the first place, no one seriously would ever expect us to invade Iran,
>as I wrote earlier, it is a much bigger country and a far more formidable foe than Iraq.
>The Iranians are well aware of this. Our only realistic hope of stopping their development of nukes is a bombing campaign.

You're right that our deployment in Iraq impacts us less in the case of Iran than it does in NK. Nevertheless, I think it is pretty obvious that a foreign policy focus on Iraq makes it less likely that we will do what is needed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. I do not see the Bush Adminstration making sufficient efforts there, just as they didn't make efforts in the case of NK --- a potentially catastrophic lapse in my view.

>What you would do is play the same game that NoKo did

Yes, but as I noted earlier, the presence of inspectors, cameras, etc., was sufficient to stall North Korea's program. If the cameras and inspectors were having no effect, NK wouldn't have been so eager to throw them out of the country in the first place. North Korea was and is a starving regime --- all we needed to do was stall them long enough to outlast them, until they collapsed, which would lead most likely to unification, in which case we would be home free. Further --- it makes a big difference whether they have one or five weapons --- with one or two, they're likely to want to keep them for themselves. If they have several, they might have a small incentive to sell them to terrorists. I do think it's unlikely NK would sell weapons to terrorists --- for a variety of reasons --- but forestalling the possibility I believe is nevertheless imperative.

The same argument can be made for Iran. What one hopes to do is pressure them to allow intrusive inspections, making it difficult for them to get enough material to develop a weapon. Slowing them down long enough to allow the political process inside Iran to overthrow the mullahs --- which will occur at some point. If they do not allow inspections, we bomb them.

>So are you saying we shouldn't even have made threats to invade Iraq?

No, what I am saying is that the Administration had already committed to invade Iraq, which is why they decided not to threaten NK as they should have, because an escalating situation in NK would likely have diverted our attention from Iraq for months, if not years, particularly if NK attempted to retaliate for bombing their nuclear facility. If we had been following a rational policy of attending to threats in order of significance, we would have threatened Iraq to get inspectors in there, then turned our attention to NK and let inspections proceed in Iraq (which could have gone on for some time --- it was not a pressing matter).

>But this fear predated the Iraqi crisis by, oh, nearly 50 years.

Of course NK has wanted nuclear weapons for a long time, but for quite some time they had assessed the threat level as low enough that they could work very slowly towards getting a weapon. That has obviously changed.

>And NoKo was absolutely certain to retaliate against the nearest target

Yes, but that is simply a risk we should have taken. With NK having a number of weapons, the probability that we may be hit by a nuclear terrorist strike goes up very dramatically. It's still low, but it's far, far higher than it was before. Not to do everything we could to stop this is, to my mind, a monumental failure to protect our national security.

>The SoKos, for better or worse, have consistently begged us not to provoke the NoKos. Would you as president be willing to defy the will of your closest ally in the region and probably condemn 10s of 1000s of their people to death by bombing NoKo? Now, maybe you would decide it was worth it. But it's not as easy a decision as you make it out to sound.

>Threatening to bomb wouldn't be enough for the NoKos, not when they were so close.

If it took bombing their reactor to stop them, then that's the price we should have paid. I am not convinced it would have been necessary, but it certainly would have been worth the price if we determined it was necessary.

>I wonder if you really felt that way at the time?

Oh yes, I did feel that way at the time. I wrote as much, at the time.

>It's pretty clear that allowing inspectors in was merely a ploy, that the NoKos had no intention of living up to their end of the bargain.

One could call it "merely a ploy" --- but as I said before, the inspections likely did prevent NK from developing even one weapon (based on their behavior). They needed more material from their plant --- something that the inspections and cameras, etc., prevented them from acquiring. So, ploy or no ploy, the inspections were able to slow them significantly.

Obviously we couldn't have just gone back to the level of inspections that were there before --- they would have had to have been far more intrusive. Or, as you say, perhaps we should have bombed them. Doing nothing, however, was not an option --- yet it is the option that Bush followed.

>And Kerry, through his call for, yes, more bilateral negotiations with the NoKos, is obviously falling into the same trap.

At this point, it's too late to bomb their facility. Bush sat by as NK took the nuclear material out of the plant, and now there's no way we will find it. They may well have one or more weapons. We simply cannot bomb them or threaten to invade any longer --- negotiations are our only hope. It's truly a disaster, in my view, that it has come to this.

>And I suppose the Russians, the British, the Italians, the Israelis even the French and the UN were all in on the plot.

Yes, even I believed that he had something. The question was, what did he have, how much, etc. A large and active program to create more? Or a few moldy old stocks? My feeling was he probably had some old chemical or biological weapons, but no nuclear program. The Bush Administration thought he had an active nuclear program, etc. --- all based on extremely faulty intelligence (to say the least).

>From 1971-1997, Kerry had a remarkably consistent record -- of opposing every single war we've been involved with (including the first Gulf War, which even Al Gore supported).

Prior to 9/11, George Bush opposed "nation-building", etc. --- all that changed, later. People can change their positions. Obviously we're in a different world now than we were before.

>a plan to slash numerous defense programs

That had less to do with pacifism than a desire to save money. Though Kerry's plans may have gone further than some, during that period Republicans and Democrats alike were interested in reducing or constraining defense spending. We had a military designed to fight the Soviet Union, which no longer existed. Even Donald Rumsfeld thought we could do more with less --- a notion that has proven false, but it is not as though Kerry was the only person in Congress suggesting we didn't need to keep defense spending at Cold War levels.

>And of course, famously, Kerry was one of 12 senators to vote against the appropriation of $87 billion for the war effort as recently as a year ago.

This is clearly a red herring, as you well know. Kerry voted for a different version of that bill, and cast the no vote on the final bill as a protest.

>I answered this above.

I am quite aware that NK attempted to get around the inspections. They did not, however, succeed in producing a weapon, most likely. Now, of course, they likely do have weapons. Which policy is the greater failure? I mean, you seem to be arguing that because NK tried to violate the agreement that we might as well have no agreement at all, even if it means NK gets several nuclear weapons in the process!

>I hate to be flip, so I'll bite my tongue here. But you know what I'm thinking, don't you?

You think NK is going to last forever? North Korea was and is an unstable regime. Of course, now that we've put the fear into them, I suspect hard-line forces within NK will keep them going far longer than they would have otherwise. However, we've seen many previous regimes of its kind fall... we've helped many of them fall. Koreans can be quite stubborn, of course... but I think we could have maneuvered them into collapse, one way or the other, as we have seen many similar regimes fall before. Now, of course, who knows. We may have a very long wait.

>We shall see the final outcome, years from now....

I will admit that it is always possible things will be fine thirty years out. However, considering the utter naivete that went into the planning of this war ("dancing in the streets"), I can't attribute mastermind thinking to this Administration. They didn't understand the region even remotely well enough to plan for the first year of the war, and we're supposed to trust that they know how this will turn out thirty years from now? I wrote, early on in this war, that I thought the initial phase of the war would go relatively easily, but the longer-term consequences of occupation would be grave, due to what I felt was sure to be gross mismanagement and ineptitude on the part of the Bush Administration, based on their ineptitude in the months prior to the war.

So far, this war has been going as I thought it would. My current prediction: Iraq may well stabilize somewhat over the next several years, but the long-term impact will be a dramatic increase in anti-American sentiment, and a terrorist conflict that will be far more virulent in the future than it could have been.

>The war was only a matter of time. In a post-9/11 world, the risk was just too great to walk away from.

I don't agree. So-called "WMDs" are not all created equal. First of all, Saddam was not going to give weapons to terrorists --- he was only interested in having them for himself. He didn't trust even people in his own military, much less some crazy jihadists who believed he should be killed as an infidel. Secondly, if he had anything they were just moldy supplies of chemical and biological weapons. These have been proven to be, pound for pound, no more effective than conventional weapons on the battlefield. They are difficult to deploy and they degrade quickly over time. Nuclear weapons, of course, ARE a big deal, but he wasn't anywhere close to having them. The dismantled parts of a nuclear enrichment device they found were accompanied by diagrams indicating that Iraqi engineers didn't know how to make such a device work properly. Further, had he made moves towards a weapon, it would have been easy to detect a nuclear program compared to detecting a chemical or biological program. Finally, we could have continued inspections indefinitely, making it difficult if not impossible for him to reconstitute his programs.

>Some say that if we waited longer, or gave the inspectors more time, then the war would have had greater legitimacy in the eyes of the world, which would have made our job easier. In light of the Food-for-Oil scandal, Saddam's bribery campaign, and Iraq's lucrative contracts with Western Europe and Russia, it's clear to me, anyway, that France, Germany and Russia, for certain, were never going to approve of war. It only would have given Saddam more time to prepare an even better defense.

As I wrote to another poster, regardless of whether or not there were bribes, the inspections were sufficient to prevent Saddam from proceeding with active WMD programs. Further, the primary evidence for these bribes was, as I understand it, provided by Chalabi's group --- not a particularly reliable source. There may be other sources, however, so I am willing to believe it did happen. However, even in that case --- the amounts were bribes to specific officials, not to the whole governments of France, Germany, etc. I doubt these officials were making it public to their own governments if they were receiving bribes. If we had found evidence of real programs, the governments would have made a decision independent of bribes to a few officials.

>So, if there's a massive terrorist attack in 30 years, it's Bush's fault? I don't think even you believe that.

I believe that Bush's stewardship of our security has been severely flawed, and with the exception of the war in Afghanistan and beefing up of our intelligence operations (which any president would have done), we have a record of a series of failures and mistakes that have left us far less safe than we could have been. Even if you think the Iraq war was justified, you have to see that the planning for the war was horrifically mismanaged.

>Also, repeat after me: the U.S. has killed or captured over 75% of Al Qaeda's leaders.

I see no need for this tone. What we have done is killed or captured 75% of the leaders --- whom we knew about already. This does not prove that we've "finished" Al Qaeda as an effective operational organization. They've likely reconstituted themselves.

>"The proponents of this war in the government predicted we'd be withdrawing in a few months. Hasn't gone that way."

>Really? You might be able to scrounge up a quote or two, at max.

I meant to write "start to withdraw" within a few months. But a couple of quotes:

From the New York Times in May:

'The Bush administration is planning to withdraw most U.S. combat forces from Iraq over the next several months. The administration does not want substantial numbers of American forces to be tied down in Iraq.'

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A44801-2003Mar28?language=printer

'A senior administration official who briefed reporters Monday on condition of anonymity said Rumsfeld "has right along said that he thought that fighting was likely to last weeks, not months." Rumsfeld told troops last month that "it could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months." Rumsfeld also contradicted the Army chief of staff, who told the Senate that "several hundred thousand" troops would be needed to occupy Iraq. "Far off the mark," Rumsfeld said.'

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/special/iraq/2509349

'"If someone had said, `Would you, a year ago, have expected you would be where you are at the present time?' one would not have described where we are," Rumsfeld said. "I certainly would not have estimated that we would have had the number of individuals lost that we have in the last week."'

At least he's honest.

>The bottom line for me is, for all the criticisms of Bush, I just don't see Kerry doing any better. In fact, every bone in my body tells me that Kerry will be a ditherer and appeaser in the "grand" tradition of Carter, and I fear that those instincts will result in great tragedy for the U.S.

I have to admit I share your concerns that Kerry is not as decisive as I'd like. However, a few things set these concerns to rest, for me. He was a supporter of military action in Kosovo and Afghanistan. He did fight in Vietnam, and despite the claims of the Swift Boat Veterans, the evidence is quite overwhelming that he served quite bravely and risked his life a number of times in battle in the face of fierce gunfire. Like all of us, 9/11 clearly changed him --- and again, George Bush used to talk of being opposed to nation-building --- so if we can't hold Bush, the National Guard no-show, to be consistent with what he did in earlier years, why should we assume Kerry can never change? Kerry also will need to prove his strength, as well, so if anything he might be tempted to be overly aggressive just to prove he can be, for political reasons. But ultimately it is a judgement call. We have a record of a senator who has clearly evolved from the positions of his youth, up against a president who has a proven record of incompetence, bad planning, and disdain for "reality-based" thinking. Kerry will have some excellent military advisers, as well, I believe, to help him make better decisions. I vote for Kerry, as Mearsheimer says, "with enthusiasm." The "enthusiasm" is not something I would have expressed a month ago ... but after watching him over the last several weeks, I have come around.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 20, 2004 04:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, DB.. your very smart construct of fragrance words and disjointed logic is too clever by half. Clearly, there are limits to intellectualism. More importantly, without an historian’s eye, arguments praising Bush and deriding Kerry are empty verdicts on who is best suited to lead. Unfortunately, you attribute insight to those who have yet to demonstrate the capacity to absorb your arguments. Your view of our dilemma is static, like a poorly lit photo that leaves you to project what you want into the picture. But this is not how to understand history or the choices that we face now. This week it has been announced that Condoleezza Rice will be campaigning for Bush’s reelection. Now it is time to ask “Where is Colin Powell?” And I have a follow-up question, “Do you think Colin Powell would now campaign for Bush?” Remember he was there as our safety blanket 4 years ago to protect us from Bush’s limited experience on the world stage. He was a leader that could push Pax Americana forward on solid footing. His current absence from the stage speaks louder about Bush’s incompetence than any argument supporting Bush’s world view. Let me lift the veil from your eyes. I do not share the arguments that try to limit Kerry to his past. The past can only be partly instructive of future actions. Rather than see Kerry locked in some contrived time warp, I see a man well-suited to grow beyond his limits. Can you say the same of Bush? We can’t allow reckless intrigue and misguided religious convictions to control the destiny of our country. Today, more than ever, the President must be a successful instrument of Americans’ hopes and dreams, here and in the world we now dominate.

Posted by: youngblood kaufman at October 20, 2004 08:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David Anderson, hats off to you for your thoughtful, point to point replies to my previous postings. I don't necessarily agree with you, but at least you bother to be engaging in your discussions.

Now, for a contrast.

Flenser,

Do I really have to repeat in writing the mistakes Bush has made? I thought the rest of the people who share my views were doing a pretty good job of doing that in this very posting.

As I predicted, you ran and hid behind various "mind your own business you stupid Canadian" diatribes, without bothering to actually speak to the meat of my argument, which is that the mass fear of liberal ideology in the USA is dangerously overblown. It's even got liberals apologizing for their own viewpoints. All I mused about was the fact that our country is more liberal than yours, and has managed to survive quite handily. I only referenced one of the best (not THE BEST, just ONE of the best) social programs in the world and a balanced budget as proof that liberal ideology does not = overspending and useless programs. As I stated in the actual post itself, (you must have selectively read it again) I was not tooting our horn for the sake of tooting our horn.

Do me a favour and start reading a book yourself. I recommend one on the art of debating, so you can learn to actually address one of my points instead of mindlessly bashing my nationality and involvement in this discussion.

Posted by: Steve at October 21, 2004 12:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There is a high level of naivete displayed by many of the posters here.

Of course, any president is essentally a figurehead, a front for powerful forces behind him.

The poweful forces behind John Kerry are a handful of billionaries who are bankrolling his campaign. Soros, Bing, Lewis, and others have spent a hundred million dollars to ensure John Kerry is elected.

Follow the money, people. Ask questions.

If you have a taste for irony, it's delicious to watch all the "progressive" and "liberal" types as they leap to do the bidding of wealthy financial speculators.

Posted by: patrick at October 21, 2004 03:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Steve, sorry, but your arrogance is exceeded only by your ignorance of the facts. Let's explore them together, shall we?

The mean average tax burden of the Canadian family is about 48%, in the U.S. it is about 20%.

To put it another way, according to Canada's Fraser Institute, the date at which the average family finishes working for the government and begins working for oneself, based on their aggregate tax burden, is June 24 -- nearly halfway through the year. In America, this Tax Freedom Day occurs for the average family on April 11.

From Canada's own Centre for the Study of Living Standards:

"In the 1990s, the gap between Canadian and American income levels widened significantly. Real personal income per capita in Canada fell 9 percentage points from 87.2 per cent of the U.S. level in 1989 to 78.1 per cent in 1999, the largest 10-year decline in recorded in recent Canadian economic history. This decline in Canada's standard of living relative to the United States has important implications, such as the greater financial incentive it gives Canadians to pursue careers south of the border.

From the 2004 CIA World Fact Book:

"Another long-term concern is the flow south to the US of professionals lured by higher pay, lower taxes, and the immense high-tech infrastructure."

Unemployment in Canada recently dropped to 7.1%, due to the addition of 32,000 public-sector jobs (there was zero private sector job growth in the same period). The U.S.'s most current unemployment rate is 5.4% -- and of course, the Kerry campaign is complaining that it is too high.

Canada's unemployment rate has been consistently and considerably higher than America's for the past decade or more. There has been a similar disparity in GDP growth. If America's unemployment was as high as Canada's, Kerry would be a shoo-in. But you know what? Bush's tax cuts have worked wonders and kept unemployment low (and GDP growth relatively strong).

Again from the CSLS:

"From Canada's viewpoint, one of the most important labour market developments in the past 15 years has been the divergence of the Canadian and American unemployment rates after 1981. From 1948 to 1981, the unemployment rate in Canada was, on average, the same as that in the United States. In the 1980s, the Canadian unemployment rate averaged more than 2 percentage points higher than the American rate, with the gap rising to 4 points in the 1990s."

Now let's move on to the vaunted Canadian health care system, shall we?

The following is culled from recent articles in the Seattle Times and from the Pacific Research Institute:

A July 2004 poll conducted for the Canadian Medical Association found that 40 percent of Canadians now grade their health care system as a C or worse.

“Year over year, Canadians have identified that their confidence in their health-care system is eroding,” said Sunil Patel, the former president of the CMA.

Between 1993 and 2003, the median waiting time from referral to treatment increased by 90 percent, from 9.3 weeks to 17.7 weeks, according to an annual survey of physicians.

For cancer patients, the waiting time for medical oncology more than doubled from 2.5 weeks to 6.1 weeks, and the waiting time for radiation oncology increased from 5.3 weeks to 8.1 weeks. Nearly half of doctors and nurses polled in 2004 reported that their patient’s conditions had worsened while waiting for care.

In 1999, according to Dr. Richard F. Davies, due to delays in treatment, 71 Ontario heart patients scheduled for coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery died before surgery, "121 were removed from the list permanently because they had become medically unfit for surgery" and 44 left the province to have their CABG surgery elsewhere, often in the U.S.

Overall, 192 people either died or were too sick to have surgery before they worked their way to the front of the waiting line. Yet, the Ontario population of about 12 million is only 4 percent of the population of the United States.

Canadian physicians' frustration with their inability to provide quality and timely care is resulting in a brain drain. A doctor shortage looms as Canada falls 500 doctors a year short of the 2,500 new physicians it needs, according to Sally C. Pipes, president of the Pacific Research Institute.

Another casualty of the lengthy waiting periods is Canada's much-vaunted equal access to medical treatment. Even though medical emergencies allow some people to jump ahead in the waiting line — making others wait longer — a survey published in the Annals of Internal Medicine medical journal found that more than 90 percent of heart specialists had "been involved in the care of a patient who received preferential access" to cardiac care because of non-medical reasons including the patient's social standing or personal connections with the treating physician.

Among OECD countries with nationalized health care, Canada spends the most on its system while ranking among the lowest in such indicators as access to physicians, quality of medical equipment and key health outcomes. One of the major reasons for this low ranking is that Canada outlaws most private health care. It's also why so many Canadians come to the U.S. to receive health care.

End of excerpts.

The problem with most characterizations of the American health care system is that they are based on caricature. When you hear statistics bandied about such as the one about 40 million Americans lacking health insurance, the assumption of most listeners is that those who lack insurance also lack health care.

Do you ever wonder why, in light of all of the apocalyptic rhetoric about America's lack of compassion, there aren't poor people just dropping dead from untreated illnesses all over the streets of the U.S.?

Few people, especially those from privileged backgrounds such as John Kerry, know that everyone, regardless of insurance status, can receive free health care. There is a complex safety net in place in the U.S. that only those at the lower income levels are aware of.

How do I know? Well, several years ago I was laid off from my job. As a young (seemingly) healthy man, I didn't bother to pay the monthly fee to maintain my work insurance plan. A few months later, I was diagnosed with cancer.

Like most who don't know squat about the American health system, I figured I was a goner because I had no health insurance. Nothing could be further from the truth. I received completely free health care, courtesy of the state and federal governments, and ultimately recovered. At no time did I face anything like the ridiculous waiting periods mentioned above for the Canadian system. I got the expert care I needed (from some of the best doctors in the country), and promptly.

At the end of it all, I never paid a single dime. Curious, I asked for an itemized bill for all of the varied treatment -- a myriad of expensive scans, chemotherapy, and surgeries -- the total was well over half-a-million dollars -- all courtesy of Uncle Sam.

The thing is, most people never have to deal with this system because most people don't get a serious illness like cancer when they are too young to have either work insurance or MediCare.

So there you have it. America's health care system is not nearly as stingy as its detractors claim it is, especially for the poor. (Incidentally, did you know that several hundred thousand illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico, are treated absolutely gratis by the U.S. health care system every year? Can Canada -- can any other nation -- boast of such mind-boggling generosity?)

In the end, the differences between Canada and the U.S. are differences in fundamental philosophy. To grossly generalize, Canadians prefer safety even if it means less prosperity, while Americans are willing to accept more risk for the trade-off of greater opportunity. (Though these differences are relatively small, mostly at the margins.) Ultimately, shouldn't we celebrate the diversity in our two approaches, rather than seek to homogenize them?

Posted by: FutureTense at October 21, 2004 11:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitsu - This debate could wax on infinitum, but I (as well as you, I'm sure) don't possess an infinity of time to pursue it. So allow me to sum up my final position here.

Many of your criticisms of the Bush admin. are from the right; you claim that Bush wasn't hard enough on North Korea and Iran with respect to their nuclear programs. But based on everything Kerry has said about how he would deal with them -- through negotiation, through (amazingly enough) offering Iran free nuclear fuel in return for a (spurious, as always) agreement not to build nukes -- tells me that he will not only fail to be more hard-line than Bush, but that he will be more of a patsy. You talk of bombing NoKo and Iran, and yet I've never heard that suggestion out of Kerry once. In fact, he's opposed to nuclear bunker-buster bombs, which may be the only way to destroy some of these ultra-hardened nuke factories, which suggests further to me that he hasn't left behind his nuclear-freeze, peacenik ways.

You say that your extraordinary powers of observation have detected a sea-change in Kerry's views on the use of military force, while he has given us a 30-year history of actions and decisions to the contrary. You compare this to a handful of statements by Bush during the 2000 campaign opposed to "nation-building."

During that same campaign, however, Bush expressed greater support for a stronger defense than did his opponent Gore. But all of that is moot, as Bush's actions have spoken loud and clear as to his willingness to use all available force to defend the U.S.

As for Kerry's widely touted (albeit, at 4 months, meager) military experience, sorry, but unless we are counting on our commander-in-chief to personally wield an M-16 in our defense, it doesn't matter much. Most of our greatest war presidents never served in the military. Conversely, some of the most dovish candidates have been war veterans -- McGovern, e.g., was a highly decorated WWII bomber pilot.

In fact, Kerry's particular experience could militate against him, as he appears to have internalized the "Vietnam Syndrome" (an overwhelming allergy to any use of military force) as the main lesson he took away from that conflict.

How do I know that? Let me count the ways -- his anti-war activities, his opposition to every one of Reagan's aggressive actions throughout the '80s, his support for the nuclear freeze, his proposals for radical cuts in defense in the '90s far beyond what even other liberals were comfortable with, etc., etc.).

You say that you believe Kerry will prosecute the war more competently than Bush. Your evidence is, well, that Bush has done such a terrible job that it isn't possible to do worse. Again, I beg to differ on that point, at the very least. I'm sorry that I have to keep repeating this point, but it keeps getting ignored by all of the doomsayers: The numbers of deaths, at about 1100 now in 19 months of the Iraqi War, is miniscule compared to most past wars that we have fought.

It can definitely get worse. Consider just this one fact: We lost some 3,000 civiilians in one day, on 9/11. It will be another 32 months, or 2-2/3 years, before the number of troops killed in Iraq will equal that total.

There is no evidence that Kerry will prosecute this war any better than Bush, other than Kerry's blanket statements (which strike me as remarkably arrogant and hubristic) that he will do a better job. He likes to throw around the phrase "I have a plan," and yet he never deigns to share this plan with us. His constant vacillation on whether the war is a good or bad idea, on whether to pull out quickly or stay in, etc., etc., does nothing to alleviate my concerns. It's clear to me that he is the worst sort of political opportunist, saying whatever he thinks will get him elected.

The small bits of a "plan" that I've heard have only caused my concerns to rise. He claims that he can coax France and Germany to send troops to relieve ours in Iraq. And yet both of those nation's leaders have said in no uncertain terms that even if Kerry were elected, this won't happen.

And even if it were possible, the amount of troops they could send is miniscule. Do you have any idea how small their armies are? I've read an estimate that there is a total of 55,000 combat-ready troops in all of the EU. I think nearly half that number is from Britain.

That leaves very few troops available -- and how many of them do you think France and Germany would ship out, even if Kerry, through the sheer force of his overpowering personality, could convince them to send any? This is the linchpin to Kerry's plan to improve the situation in Iraq?

Kerry also contradicts himself when he attacks Bush from the right by criticizing his admin. for "outsourcing" the operation in Tora Bora (despite the fact we had many Special Forces involved). And yet he wants to outsource the security job in Iraq. How hard do you think the unionized German military are going to fight to root out insurgents, for example? It's pretty darn clear that if anything is going to get done in Iraq, we have to do it. I'm sorry, but what glimmers we have from Kerry's magic plan are far from encouraging.

Kerry has a record. It's a record as the most dovish senator of the past 20 years. I chalk up his recent sporadic bursts of uncharactistic hawkishness to his overriding ambition to be elected. (I actually know people who know him personally, and they confirm this.)

Ultimately, however, the biggest argument I can think of against Kerry is, ask yourself the following question: which candidate do you think Bin Laden (if he's still alive), the rest of Al Qaeda, the Iraqi insurgents, and every other terrorist in the world would like to see elected? Hmmm...

Posted by: Inkling at October 21, 2004 12:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Futuretense, you raised excellent points, all of which I very much aware.

Again, I wasn't trying to compare the two systems. I only pointed out that the Canadian social net, despite its flaws that you so brilliantly pointed out, is still considered among the best in the world, despite having a GENERALLY more liberal ideology that that of the USA. No system is perfect, and I wouldn't claim for a second that Canada was even close to being superior. In fact, I recall NEVER claiming that in any posts. Being "one of the best" doesn't make us "the best".

Why is everyone dancing around the issue of the US being paranoid about liberalism? People have picked apart every part of my post EXCEPT for the central part of it. I'm not even a liberal myself, and I find the anti leftist bigotry disturbing.

Posted by: Steve at October 21, 2004 06:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think that part of the "problem" is that Americans define liberalism differently than do most other nations. Classical liberalism used to mean support for freedom in general, free markets, free trade and individual rights in particular. In recent years, in America at least, liberalism has become associated with a dovish foreign policy, higher taxes, and hostility toward the military and traditional morality.

Let's focus on the issue you underscore, social programs. Americans are aware of the ineluctable link between expanding the social net and higher taxes. And higher taxes are associated (rightly or wrongly, I'm not getting into merits now) with reduced economic opportunity. It's a matter of priorities. In most other nations, the population is content to live with lowered economic prospects in exchange for an expanded social net, i.e., they've come to accept higher structural unemployment so long as the unemployed are given a minimal existence.

Americans, by and large (and these are gross generalizations, of course), crave greater economic opportunity, and are not content to live at a bare subsistence level on the dole. Let me put it another way: millions of immigrants don't flock to the U.S. in order to take advantage of our social programs (though some do).

And Americans generally believe that the higher taxes necessary to finance an expansion of the state have the trade-off of hurting their chances of propering. That's why class warfare rarely works in U.S. politics. Americans would rather increase their chances of becoming a millionaire than increase the safety net (even if they all know that not everyone can become a millionaire). America, for better or worse, is simply filled with more risk-takers than just about any other nation.

Isn't it refreshing that there is at least one nation of people with this DIY attitude, who aren't constantly whining about how little the government is doing for them? (Again, this is a generalization, we have our share of whiners too, they just don't usually constitute a political majority.)

So, when you hear "liberalism," you think "expanded social net," Americans think "higher taxes." (There are other issues as well, but that's our focus today.) It's just a matter of perspective.

Posted by: FutureTense at October 21, 2004 08:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thank you.

Posted by: Steve at October 21, 2004 11:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>Many of your criticisms of the Bush admin. are from the right

Yes, you could say that, though I prefer to think of myself as a radical moderate. I find myself in agreement with some ideas from nearly every camp. I tend to think of myself as a pragmatist more than anything else --- I do not believe in being blinded by dogma or ideology. Thus, though I tend to be more sympathetic to Democrats than Republicans, I think fiscal conservatism is generally a good idea; though I oppose excessive tax cuts for the rich, I think the free market is clearly a better way to allocate resources than central planning (though I believe in regulating the free market --- minimally, but nevertheless somewhat), etc.

I don't think it will get worse under Kerry, and we simply disagree in our judgement of the man. I have reservations about Kerry because he seems to be too reactive --- some call it "flip-flopping" --- i.e., he voted against the first Gulf War (though that was handled pretty competently by Bush Sr., at least in the run-up to the war), but then when it went relatively well, he seems to have changed his position and started to support American military interventions. I believe his inability or unwillingness to condemn the second war against Iraq stems from his conversion in the 90's from a dove to more of a hawk... although I think the second war was a mistake, I think his tepid resistance to it at the time is a pretty clear indication that he doesn't live in the pacifist camp any longer. I would have preferred it if he voted for the first Gulf War and against the second Iraq war, but you can't have everything.

I also think his advisers would be better. Many of them would probably come from Clinton's term --- though he wasn't as good as Bush Sr., overeall, in fact he was pretty bad in the first couple of years, he rebounded and was at least willing to do things like threaten to bomb North Korea. Bush didn't even do that --- in fact he kept saying the US had no intention to invade North Korea, etc. If Clinton would be willing to bomb North Korea, wouldn't Kerry? (Though as I said that isn't really an issue now, since it's too late due to Bush's incompetence.) I believe a Kerry administration would likely draw upon advice from a lot of smart, pragmatic people who were systematically ignored in the Bush Administration.

Anyway, we clearly have different perceptions of Kerry. We'll see how it goes. I believe Kerry, though reactive, has learned and is much more hawkish than he used to be --- and he'll probably feel the need to prove this in office. I really don't think that Bush's supposed hawkishness does us much good if he can't execute, and has ideological blinders on.

Posted by: Mitsu at October 21, 2004 11:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


IP: 66.59.238.119
URL:
DATE: 10/18/2004 06:39:53 AM
------------
My take on some paragraphs text:

{...global war on terror ("GWOT")...}
Wow, You blew it right off the bat, in the first sentence.
There is no such 'thing' as a GWOT. That's very "GWOD":
Global War On Drugs. What you have are a bunch of people
who use deadly violent around the world for any reason
they choose. This is NOT GI JOE fighting Corba Commander
and his organization. Some groups are linked most are not.
There's no central enemy. Nations and empires have had this
problem of violent groups attacking since the dawn of man.
In the old days some would call them pirates. Learn to ID
all the playing pieces of the puzzle and then see how they
fit together; or you'll never make any headway.

{...The pessimists make a strong case that the war was a bad idea....}
Pessimists??? How about observations. Such as: "I woudn't pull
that cord if I were you." Looks like those pesty observations were
spot on...

{....brazen fashion....}
Brazen? Looks to me some human beings were faced with a challenge
on how to get to the enemy (in their eyes) and figured out a way. Clever these humans.
Odd....The Japanese military thought the 1942 Dolittle raid was a brazen cowardly
attack too...

{....So, one might fairly ask, and to put it bluntly,
how can I support the man who dragged us into this bloody mess, this foolhardy
adventure--what might well potentially prove to be the worst foreign policy blunder for
America since the Vietnam War.}
Fairly ask our poor mentally challeneged president who is supppose to know how to do
war better than everyone else simply because he's from the GOP? FAIRLY!!! How about
calling the guy on the carpet and DEMANDING what the HELL is going on! Bush, the-great-leader
who understands it all.

{Iraq is (if in tortuous fashion) moving towards elections come January.}
Hey..This is irrelevant...Thats an EXIT problem for U.S.

{Why We Went In}
Richard Haas got it partly right: "I will go to my grave not knowing that. I can't answer it."
WMD's were not the reason. When you go to war over WMD's, next time actually send
some troops to the buildings where those WMD's are suppose to be. Then you will have
cover if they don't show up.

{Today, we are at war with radical Islam.}
No your not. Your fighting a bunch of groups that use islam as a tool for their own
purposes. Better get a lot of 007 agents out there to ID, Track, and then destroy these
groups. Nations having been doing this for centuries.

{George Bush, in my view, understands the nature of the evil we are combating}
From what I've seen Bush doesn't understand how to operate a room light switch.
(Not my opinion...an observation.)

{Yes, I am voting for him with many reservations...}
Excuse me?!?! You have reservations about someone who 'understands the nature
of the evil we are combating'? Not reassured? Not even a tiny bit of comfort? Like:
(Captain Kirk is on the bridge...Whew..we are gonna win now..someone who knows
what they are doing is here. The captain has returned. I can relax now. What are your orders
Captain.)

{Kerry Doesn't Get the Stakes
I don't believe, in his gut, Kerry believes that we face an existential challenge with regard to
the war on terror. How else to explain the now famous quote in the Matt Bai article:

"We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus
of our lives, but they're a nuisance,'' }

[ General Brent Scowcroft, Bush 41 National Security Advisor and Bush 43
appointee to the Forum for International Security--

Can we win the war on terrorism? Yes, I think we can, in the sense that we
can win the war on organized crime. There is going to be no peace treaty
on the battleship Missouri in the war on terrorism, but we can break its back
so that it is only a horrible nuisance and not a paralyzing influence on our societies.
--"9/11 a Year On" conference, Sept. 2002]

Don't believe, think. Ask questions. This falls under the concept: I know you think you
heard what I said but what you heard is not what I meant. Or something to that effect.

(Now MY head hurts....Moving on....)

Bottom line: Your article doesn't come close to telling anyone why you voted for Bush.
Maybe you don't know yourself. Saw lots of fancy madison avenue PR stuff.

But here's some advice: If a person walks up to you, says he knows how to do it better
than anyone else, and then blunders the project, replace him.

Posted by: James at October 26, 2004 03:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My head is spinning from all the directions this comment thread has taken. Nonetheless, two things:

1. I see a lot of would-be Kerry voters saying he has a "better plan" to fight the war on terror, and would be more effective than Bush. I'd like to know exactly how Kerry isn't ripping off the Bush doctrine and adding a pinch of UN subservience to appease the lefties to come up with his secret plan.

2. In case you missed it, Afghanistan just had a successfully run election, no terrorism marring the results. And they say we're not paying enough attention? Maybe that's because they're their own country again... could it be? Expect to see the same in Iraq, soon.

3. If you were wondering why Iraq was the first to go after Afghanistan, I'd like to offer my own theory... maybe because it's so close to rogue states like Syria, Iran, and ne-er do wells like Saudi Arabia. Its centrality is equivalent to Germany's during the Cold War, which explains our prolonged presence there. Just a thought.

4. Blaming George W. for low-level military strategy... now there's a good one.

Posted by: Pietro at October 26, 2004 09:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

... uh, make that four things.

Posted by: Pietro at October 26, 2004 09:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think its somewhat unfair to characterize Kerry as indifferent to Iraqi democracy. If he could do it fairly easilly he would be thrilled. But I see no evidence he will work hard for it, and indeed to this day im not sure he has spoken of its importance. Certainly not with any conviction. The real problem now is that were Kerry to be elected, he has all the incentive in the world to cut and run while blaming Bush for the debacle. To stay and fight for freedom, after all, is a risk. And I have never known Kerry to take a political risk.

Posted by: Mark Buehner at October 27, 2004 03:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Im much more concercerned with Kerry's domestic policies than Bush's.

Here is an excerpt from the second 2004 Presidential Debate
"KERRY: Boy, to listen to that -- the president, I don't think, is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment.

Now, if you're a Red Sox fan, that's OK. But if you're a president, it's not.

Let me just say to you, number one, don't throw the labels around. Labels don't mean anything."

Why did Kerry denigrate his hometown team? He misjudged a team that had the second highest payroll, brilliant new managment, the best batting average in their leaguge not to mention a hot winning streak, and deemed them as not living in a World of Reality.Forget the fact that they were favored to beat the Yankees and win the Penant.He didnt say their chances were lowe he said that they werent in reality. The worst part, is he made this statement on national tv while the red sox were sweeping the angels in the beginning of the playoffs.

Tonight the Red sox are 1 game away from winning the World Series, Will Kerry apoligize to the Red Sox Nation for his arogant and pessimistic, and completly unfounded statements Unllike the Red Sox he lacks steely determination and the will to win.

Bush on the other hand was once a part owner of the texas rangers and has done a great job on managing domestic policies.

Posted by: M Teachman at October 27, 2004 05:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First off...I'd like to thank everyone else who has posted. These are some of the most articulate and well thought out arguments I have seen for either candidate. If only such discussion were more apparent in each parties campaign...maybe we would all be better off.

I'm not going to even try to address all the points that have been brought up...nobody has that much time. I would, however, like to throw in my two cents on a couple of topics.

Posted by David Anderson - Oct 19, 6:00 am

In regards to American policy increasing the ranks of Al Qaeda

"This is a factless and baseless assertion. Unless you, and the many others who have made this assertion are prepared to prove this, stop saying it. Until proven, its rhetorical bullshit."

No, it's not bull. Perhaps you were refering to Al Qaeda in particular. To think that our actions are not creating more terrorists, however, not only flies in the face of all we are seeing in Iraq, but is downright dangerous. We're never going to win this war if we assume that our actions do not have negative consequences as well as positive ones. We are forcing more and more moderate Muslims to choose sides every day, and not all of them are choosing ours. Perhaps they aren't joining Al-Qaeda, but there are plenty of less distinguished jihadist movements out there for them to align with.

A couple people have stated that a more extended and stronger effort in Afghanistan before the invasion of Iraq would have been preferable. On this point I whole-heartedly agree. Can you imagine how much easier it would be for us in Iraq if we had taken a few years to make sure all was going according to plan in Afghanistan? People say we need to set up Iraq as an example of democracy in the Middle East. What was needed was to take it one step at a time and provide a working model in Afghanistan for the Iraqis to look to and say "See? They knew the problems and they knew the risks and they succeeded. Soon it shall be so here as well." Instead, we squandered the opportunity, and while things are not as bad in Iraq and Afghanistan as the media potrays, they are certainly not as good as Bush would like us to believe.

I am of the firm opinion that the Iraq war was exectuted FAR too soon. The Iraqis (aside from the Kurds) had shown no real effort on their part to resist and overthrow Saddam since the end of Gulf War I. People will say that a resistance to the Bathists in Iraq was impossible under Hussein's dictatorship. 200 years ago people said the same thing about a backwards group of colonies rebelling against the greatest empire in the world...and it took nearly seven years of fighting to prove to the rest of Europe that we had what it took to win if we had just a little help. The Iraqi rebellion would have been long and costly to the Iraqi people...but they would have been all the stronger for it. The Iraqis needed to start fighting for their own freedom BEFORE we got involved. Instead we moved in before the collective will of the people of Iraq was truly aligned with ours, and now we are paying the price. An idea forced upon someone else, even if it is something as wonderful as freedom, is still tyranny.

Someone mentioned that we have been idle in regards to Pakistan, and wondered why so little has been done. The reason is simple...they have nuclear weapons, and so does a certain neighbor that they don't exactly get along with. India is an untapped asset in the war on terror. The worlds most populous democracy. That they have not made a greater effort on their part to assist the U.S. to a greater degree shows just how worried they are that a dispute regarding Pakistan may eventually result in a nuclear confrontation. China might also wonder why American forces were gradually moving closer to Tibet...they don't exactly trust us, do they?

I have seen several people post that they consider Biological weapons to be, if not insignificant, then at least secondary to nuclear weapons. I agree that nuclear weapons are our biggest problem, but to say that Bio-weapons are not feasible or as dangerous is downright ignorant. A single nuke in a large city will kill several million people. A single bioweapon in a large city, if comprised of the right biological agent, will kill at least ten times as many. Most bioweapons can be spread from person to person. Most can be genetically engineered to avoid vaccines. And finally, most of the highly dangerous agents (Smallpox, Ebola, Plague...among others) are just as readily available in the former Sovier Union as nuclear weapons are. Bioweapons are far easier and cheaper to produce. To build a nuke takes many people and extensive hardened facilities. A bioweapon takes just one person in a single small room, given the proper equipment. For a thorough look at the state of bio-weapons proliferation and the possible effects of such an attack, I highly reccomend reading "The Cobra Event" by Robert Preston, author of "The Hot Zone". It is a work of speculative fiction, but is extensively researched and has an impressive bibliography. The ideas and scenarios it describes are nothing short of the stuff of nightmares, and to dismiss Bioweapons as "secondary" is to invite our own demise.

Lastly, I sincerely hope that the 2008 campaign pits John McCain against Wesely Clark. Now those are two men who I could firmly support...not like the two lackluster choices we have running this year.

Posted by: Edgecrusher at October 28, 2004 12:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Edgecrusher. Sadaam used chemical weapons on the Kurds before the first Persian Gulf War, and he used Nerve Gas on the the massive Shiite uprising after the War. The US intelligence was not the only nieve people who believed in Sadaam's phantom WMD's, most of the iraqis and even his army believed he still comanded nasty stockpiles. Sadaam would not regret wiping out entire ethnic populations in his delusional quest to be the ruler of the greatest arab empire the world has ever seen. After all he was to be the next Nebuchanezar, only greater.


Unfortuantely the world is no longer controlled by musketballs and men with simple weapons. A small minortity that controlls the majority of skills, wealth, information, weapons and technology can dominate a weaker resourceless population. The taliban and several other regimes have.

However, I will agree with you that Bio-weapons are nothing to sneaze at or take lightly. An atomic bomb could destroy the city of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, but a genetically engineered smallpox bio-weapon could wipe out 90% of the Japanese population in weeks or months. Scary thought to contemplate

John Mcain is too moderate for me but a fine 2008 candiate nontheless, and a great person. I should hope Wessely Clark will not be on the balot. When a complete warmonger and conservative praises the Administration and then becomes a liberal anti-war canidate in a bout of ruthless ambition, it makes you wonder if he has any real convictions or values other then getting elected.

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