The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Having the Will to Win
The terrorists cannot win either a conventional or an asymmetrical war against the United States, should it bring its full array of assets to the struggle. Indeed, the Middle East, for all its revenue from inflated oil prices, has a smaller economy than Spain's. It has never won a war against a Western power. Arab nations lost in 1967, 1973, 1991, and 2004. Hence the fatwas must go back to millennia-old glories about Saladin, the siege of Cyprus, the Moors, and the Caliphate — about the last examples of Islamic victories over the West. The Middle East's only successes in 1956, or during the 1980s in Afghanistan, were due to either a United States' veto of British operations or the importation of American stinger missiles. The Iranian hostage crisis, Lebanon, and Mogadishu were Western retreats, not battlefield defeats — grievous, yes, but hardly arbiters of relative military advantage. The present terrorists are a nasty sort, but they are still not the SS or millions of Tojo's crack Japanese troops; nor do they have the organization or the skill of the Vietcong or NVA. These are losing hundreds of jihadists every week in Iraq and have failed to retake Afghanistan.
So why do the now-surrounded and desperate insurgents in Fallujah think they can prevail, especially after the rout of the Taliban in six weeks and the implementation of a consensual government in less than three years in Afghanistan? In a word, the jihadists and their fellow-travelers are once again convinced that this time it will be different because the West, and the United States in particular, have neither the patience nor the will to endure their primeval killing of a post-Saddam Iraq.
Beheadings, suicide bombings, mass executions, and improvised explosive devices are not intended to destroy or even defeat the U.S. military. Rather, they are aimed at the taxpaying citizens back home who fuel it. In a globalized world of instant communications, a bin Laden or Zarqawi trusts that most of us would prefer to take out the garbage than watch a blood-curdling video clip of yet another Western hostage kneeling before a half-dozen psychopaths as they begin to saw off his vertebrae. They hope that we the sickened ask, "Why waste our billions and hundreds of lives on such primordial folk?" — wrongly equating 26 million who wish freedom with a few thousand criminals and terrorists.
The improvised explosive device is a metaphor for our time. The killers cannot even make the artillery shells or the timers that detonate the bombs, but like parasites they use Western or Western-designed weaponry to harvest Westerners. They cannot blow up enough Abrams tanks or even Humvees to alter the battlefield landscape. But what they can accomplish is to maim or kill a few hundred Westerners in hopes that our own media will magnify the trauma and savagery of their attack — and do so often enough to make 300 million of us become exhausted with the entire "mess." The message of Arabic television is that the Iraqis are supposed to blame us, not their brethren who are killing them, for the carnage. Not our power, but our will, is the target.
Al Qaeda and their appendages in Iraq do not know the requisite numbers of dead or wounded Americans necessary to break the resolve of the United States, but brag that with 1,000 fatalities they are nearing their goal — and thus a few more will give them a change of administration, schedules for withdrawal, an abandoned interim Iraqi government ripe to pluck, and a Lebanon-like paradise to reconstruct the lost sanctuary of Afghanistan. In other words, they are desperate for a reprieve from their looming destruction. Al Qaeda — "the Base" — without a base is not much of a terrorist organization since its own proud appellation has become an ironic joke.
Despite the three-week victory over the Baathists, there is some reason for the Islamists' optimism that they can break our will — given a decade of nonchalance after the first World Trade Center attack, the Khobar towers, the USS Cole, and an assortment of other unanswered murders in the 1990s. The April withdrawal from Fallujah — whether due to worry about Iraqi civilian or our own casualties — was a grievous blow. The Spanish debacle was an even worse Western defeat. Killing about 200 Spaniards got a Socialist and anti-American prime minister elected and an almost-immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq — even though such appeasement was met not with thanks but with a subsequent attempt to blow up the judges of the Spanish High Court.
Meanwhile, here at home, John Kerry talks about timetables for departure and cessation of the present course. His supporters on the extreme left from George Soros to Michael Moore blame George Bush, not Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein, for the current televised butchery. There is a reason why candidate Kerry now painfully insists that he would not precipitously withdraw — because everyone else worldwide, from a Chirac and Schroeder to Arafat and most of the Arab world — suspect that, in fact, he will.
An American flight would shame Tony Blair and John Howard, leave eastern Europe to the bullying of Paris and Berlin, destroy the Iraq interim government, take the heat off Arab autocracies, and send a message that American policy was back to Clintonian-like law enforcement, replete with jargon such as "sensitive" and "nuisance." It does not matter what Kerry would "really" wish to do, since the last two years of campaign rhetoric have earned him the worldwide reputation of the Bush antithesis, and thus his victory would, rightly or wrongly, be interpreted as a complete rejection of toppling Saddam and fostering a constitutional government in his place. His supporters and financial backers on the left would not tolerate anything less than a withdrawal.
Because of our astounding weaponry and superb military, the terrorists in Fallujah count on the help of such postmodern Western guilt and internecine blame to supply constraints on the American military every bit as effective as the old Soviet nuclear deterrent. Again, a Michael Moore — or so they believe — is worth an entire jihadist cell. Our parents were terrified that, should America resort to military force abroad, they would be nuked; we are even more scared that our lethality will earn us the parlor disdain of the French and Germans. The terrorists are assured that the Western press is obsessed with Abu Ghraib, but not at all with Saddam's necropolis or their own slaughter of innocents. They suspect that those who endured Omaha and Utah or scaled Suribachi are long sleeping in their graves, and that a few thousand creeps in Fallujah scare us more than a quarter million in the Bulge did our parents.
So yes, it is a strange war. Jihadists are amused that a few American soldiers, worried over their safety, can refuse orders, call 7,000 miles home in anguish, and expect that their complaints, handed over by Mom to the local TV station, will turn up on national cable news before their own commanders in the field even know what is up. A teenaged terrorist with a RPG, being filmed as he is killed, is every bit as an effective soldier through his globally broadcast death than had he lived on to hit his target Humvee with his rocket in the first place. We don't ask, "Which school-builder or power-restorer was he trying to obliterate?" but rather "Why did we have to kill him?"
When the Islamists behead a tearful Englishman or American, it is more likely that his surviving dad or sibling back home will be on television all over the Middle East within minutes damning Tony Blair or George Bush, without a word of censure for the Dark-Age head-loppers. After all, we are not Nepalese who storm the local mosque and put the fear of God into Islamists when they butcher our own. We are more likely to be frightened, turn on ourselves, and condemn some American somewhere who cannot stop "this."
But cannot our self-induced forbearance vanish as soon as we decide enough is enough? Should the American government ignore the EU hysteria, tell Kofi Annan to worry about his son's crooked shenanigans and not Americans' killing terrorists, and simply take Fallujah — as part of a larger effort to correct the laxity of the past and finish the war — then we would surely win. The fallout would be as salutary as our present restraint is disastrous.
Like the murderous Pakistani madrassa zealots who flocked to Tora Bora only to be incinerated, Fallujah would not stand as a mecca for the jihadists, but an Armageddon better to watch on television than die in.
The truth is that war remains the same the more it changes. For all the technological gadgetry, foreign landscapes, baffling global communications, and endemic pacifism of the present age, war is still a struggle of the human spirit. The morality, materiel, and technology are all on our side. But we are confused in this postmodern age that such advantages should automatically equate to near-instantaneous and costless victory as they sometimes do in Panama and Serbia — as if the heart of the medieval caliphate next to Syria and Iran, replete with terrorism and a 30-year past of mass murder, is a mere Haiti or Grenada.
In the heart of even the most ardent liberal lies a dormant but still alive desire for victory, and in every strutting hawk there lingers the fear of abject defeat. Had we secured Iraq by June 2003, the sputtering Kerry candidacy would by now have been faulting Bush for not going into Iran. But blink, falter, and witness beheadings and hostage-taking on television, and Kerry can reinvent himself as the apostle of peace all along — and a bizarre group of creepy people come out of the woodwork professing Biblical wisdom about George Bush's purported catastrophes.
In short, the more sophisticated, the more technological, the more hyped and televised war becomes, the more pundits and strategists warn us about "fourth-generational," "asymmetrical," "irregular," and "new dimensional" conflict, the more we simply forget the unchanging requisite of the will to win that trumps all other considerations. John Kerry has no more secret a plan than George Bush — because there is no secret way to pacify Iraq other than to kill the killers, humiliate their cause through defeat, and give the credit of the victory, along with material aid and the promise of autonomous freedom, to moderate Iraqis. Victory on the battlefield — not the mysterious diplomacy of "wise men," or German and French sanction, or Arab League support — alone will allow Iraq an opportunity for humane government.
Meanwhile, we all vote. One candidate urges us to return to the mindset of pre-September 11 — law enforcement dealing with terrorists as nuisances. He claims the policies that have led to an absence of another attack at home, the end of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, idealistic efforts to extend freedom, and radical and positive changes in Pakistan, Libya, the West Bank, and the Gulf have made things worse. In contrast, the other reminds us that we are in a real war against horrific enemies and are no longer passive targets, but will fight the terrorists on their home turf, win, and leave behind humane government. No choice could be clearer. It is America's call.
It really is this simple: if we have the will to win, we will win this war. If we do not, we will not, and thousands if not more of our countrymen will be killed in the coming years by the rise of worldwide Islamist terror that would follow an American retreat in Iraq. I, like Osama bin Laden, believe that a Kerry win next week will make the Islamist beheading monsters stronger and more emboldened. How can any American vote for this, in light of what we have all been through?
Is Walter Cronkite losing his mind?
“I am inclined to think that Karl Rove, the political manager at the White House, who is a very clever man, he probably set up bin Laden to this thing."
More Reactions to the OBL tape
The nuisance is back!
Remember when John Kerry told Matt Bai of The Times Magazine that he wanted to reduce the terrorists to a nuisance? Kerry vowed to mitigate the problem of terrorism until it became another regrettable and tolerable fact of life, like gambling, organized crime and prostitution.
That was the interview in which he said Sept. 11 "didn't change me much at all." He said it confirmed in him a sense of urgency, "of doing the things we thought we needed to be doing."
Well, the Osama bin Laden we saw last night was not a problem that needs to be mitigated. He was not the leader of a movement that can be reduced to a nuisance.
What we saw last night was revolting. I suspect that more than anything else, he reminded everyone of the moral indignation we all felt on and after Sept. 11.
Here was this monster who killed 3,000 of our fellows showing up on our TV screens, trying to insert himself into our election, trying to lecture us on who is lying and who is telling the truth. Here was this villain traipsing through his own propaganda spiel with copycat Michael Moore rhetoric about George Bush in the schoolroom, and Jeb Bush and the 2000 Florida election.
Here was this deranged killer spreading absurd theories about the American monarchy and threatening to murder more of us unless we do what he says.
One felt all the old emotions. Who does he think he is, and who does he think we are?
One of the crucial issues of this election is, Which candidate fundamentally gets the evil represented by this man? Which of these two guys understands it deep in his gut - not just in his brain or in his policy statements, but who feels it so deep in his soul that it consumes him?
It's quite clear from the polls that most Americans fundamentally think Bush does get this. Last March, Americans preferred Bush over Kerry in fighting terrorism by 60 percent to 33 percent, according to the Gallup Poll. Now, after a furious campaign and months of criticism, that number is unchanged. Bush is untouched on this issue.
Bush's response yesterday to the video was exactly right. He said we would not be intimidated. He tried to take the video out of the realm of crass politics by mentioning Kerry by name and assuring the country that he was sure Kerry agreed with him.
Kerry did say that we are all united in the fight against bin Laden, but he just couldn't help himself. His first instinct was to get political.
On Milwaukee television, he used the video as an occasion to attack the president: "He didn't choose to use American forces to hunt down Osama bin Laden. He outsourced the job." Kerry continued with a little riff from his stump speech, "I am absolutely confident I have the ability to make America safer."
Even in this shocking moment, this echo of Sept. 11, Kerry saw his political opportunities and he took 'em. There's such a thing as being so nakedly ambitious that you offend the people you hope to impress.
But politics has shaped Kerry's approach to this whole issue. Back in December 2001, when bin Laden was apparently hiding in Tora Bora, Kerry supported the strategy of using Afghans to hunt him down. He told Larry King that our strategy "is having its impact, and it is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimalize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively, and we should continue to do it that way."
But then the political wind shifted, and Kerry recalculated. Now Kerry calls the strategy he supported "outsourcing." When we rely on allies everywhere else around the world, that's multilateral cooperation, but when Bush does it in Afghanistan, it's "outsourcing." In Iraq, Kerry supports using local troops to chase insurgents, but in Afghanistan he is in post hoc opposition.
This is why Kerry is not cleaning Bush's clock in this election. Many people are not sure that he gets the fundamental moral confrontation. Many people are not sure he feels it, or feels anything. Since he joined the Senate, what cause has he taken a political risk for? Has he devoted himself selflessly and passionately to any movement larger than himself?
We are revealed by what we hate. When it comes to Osama bin Laden, Kerry hasn't revealed whatever it is that lies inside.
Meanwhile Bill Kristol reports on how the Kerry campaign has already politicized the OBL “commercial”.
And Beldar makes one hell of a good point:
…I don't think that bin Laden's tape is primarily an attempt to influence the course of the American election next Tuesday. Rather, I think it's a very clear attempt to begin negotiations with a Kerry administration for a "cease-fire" in the Global War on Terror.
Of course, I don't believe for an instant that bin Laden's sincere. Only a blithering fool would trust him. But only a blithering fool would —
- have listened to the North Vietnamese/Viet Cong's "seven-point peace plan" during the Vietnam War, and have taken it at face value and endorsed it as the course that America should follow.
- have believed Daniel Ortega's promises to reform his communist government in Nicaragua if only America would stop funding the contras.
- have believed that a nuclear freeze and sharp cutbacks in America's military and intellligence programs would placate the Soviet Union and win the Cold War.
- have believed that diplomacy would have gotten Saddam out of Kuwait in the last decade, or out of power in his own country in this one.
- believe that North Korea will respond more favorably to unilateral negotiations with the United States than to combined pressure in six-way talks that also involve South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia.
One such blithering fool may be elected President of the United States on Tuesday. And Osama bin Laden — like Madame Binh, Daniel Ortega, a succession of Soviet dictators, Saddam, and Kim Jong Il before him — has already begun his sly attempts to manipulate that candidate. So it is that this blithering fool's personal history of enthusiastically swallowing just this kind of bait, hook, line, and sinker — and then trying to base America's course upon it — scares me far more than anything Osama bin Laden could ever say.
UPDATE: The Captain also liked Brooks’ column, and he goes on to explain why Kerry is “one of the most incompetent major-party candidates in decades, perhaps ever. People point to George McGovern, Walter Mondale, and Kerry's former boss Michael Dukakis as similar or potentially worse candidates, but all three of those men stood for their beliefs and values. Kerry stands for himself and nothing else.” There is more; it is definitely worth a look.
Five Qualities of a Leader
Saturday, October 30, 2004
Osama’s Campaign Commercial
But the appearance this tape should not be taken lightly; I saw Dick Morris say on television yesterday that he thought Osama was trying to intervene for Kerry because he has not been successful in attacking our homeland since 9/11. I would like to believe that, but the other alternative is that it might be much more ominous—it might be a signal to initiate an attack. So be careful out there…
But the one thing I can say about this video: if watching this monster stump for Kerry does not galvanize you to get off your behind between now and Tuesdsay and do everything within your power to help get the President re-elected, I don’t know what will… If I were an attorney, after showing that video, I would simply state: “the government rests”.
America’s Moment of Truth
Every election year we are told that this is the most important election in our lifetime. Usually this can be laughed off as political hyperbole, but sometimes it is true. The election of 1860 certainly comes to mind as an election of monumental impact on this Nation. The election of Woodrow Wilson saw the end of American isolationism, while the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 brought the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Now we are facing an election of unprecedented importance; the future of the United States as a world leader and the survival of Western Civilization hang in the balance. We cannot afford to be complacent, and we cannot afford to lose; the stakes are too high.
There are critical moments that are pivotal in history, and often these moments go unrecognized at the time. The battle at Marathon is a classic example; in 490 BC. 10,000 Greek soldiers defeated a Persian army of 100,000 and drove the rulers of the ancient world permanently from Europe. The Persians did not think this important. They saw Greece as a puny backwater, and not worth mounting another effort to conquer. The Greeks, however, never forgot. Alexander would teach the Persians the importance of taking their enemies seriously. The Persians, you see, had a failure of will.
There are numerous examples of this throughout history. Rome didn't want to tangle with Attila, and paid the price. The Spanish failed to take Britain seriously until the Brits destroyed their Invincible Armada, The Russians learned the hard way not to take Japan lightly in 1905, and France learned a nasty lesson ignoring Hitler.
Do you see a pattern? All of these nations failed to deal with their enemies and subsequently began to deteriorate and/or collapse. Their collective problem was that they had strength but had lost the will to do what needed to be done. They had become paper tigers.
Osama Bin-Laden has said America is a paper tiger. He attacked us repeatedly: the first World Trade Center attack, the Khobar Towers attack, the Embassy bombings, the U.S.S. Cole. Bill Clinton was too busy selling dual use technology to the Chinese and cavorting with interns to respond.
Then Al Gore plunged the United States into the nightmare of 2000. It became obvious to anyone who was paying attention that the U.S. was bitterly divided along partisan lines. When George Bush finally assumed the Presidency the Democratic Party refused to acknowledge his legitimacy.
Is it any surprise that September 2001 another attack came? Bin-Laden had observed in Mogadishu that we would cut and run when attacked. He saw we lacked the will for a fight. The time was ripe for a spectacular attack on America itself, an attack to show the world our weakness. Hence came 9-11.
We were very fortunate, for we had a strong President. We invaded Afghanistan, and invaded Iraq. We showed iron resolve. We ticked off the corrupt Euro-elite.
But now we come to the Moment of Truth! If we remove Bush from office, we may well be sealing our fate. This is one of those critical moments in history upon which our fate and, in fact, the fate of Western Civilization depends. Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington has written of the ``Clash of Civilizations`` and makes the argument that we are in a death struggle with the Islamic World. He`s right; the terrorists are in every Islamic nation and have but one goal. Islam is VERY serious about reasserting itself. They intend to finish the job started by Muhammad, and WE stand in their way. They intend to destroy us.
Too many Americans just aren't able to understand this. This may well be the most dangerous time in all of our history. China has been engaged in a proxy war with the U.S. The Chinese military says war with the U.S. is inevitable, and they believe we are a paper tiger. Pakistan acquired the Bomb through North Korean and Chinese technical help. North Korea has nuclear weapons, and would not hesitate to use them on us if they feel regime survival is threatened. Couple all this with the madness of these suicide-terrorists and you have a recipe for destruction - our destruction.
This election is about far more than George Bush and John Kerry. It is about more than Republicans and Democrats. It is about the soul of our Nation. It is about answering the call of destiny, or taking the easy path. The Bible says that the way which leads to destruction is broad and easy. Are we going to take the broad and easy path? Is the grit and sacrifice needed too much for America? This may well be the most important decision we will ever make.
Many Conservatives are angry with George Bush because of his spendthrift ways and unwillingness to use his veto. I have heard and read many conservatives who plan on staying home on election night, or are voting third party to send the President a message. This is very foolish. Even if you live in a ``safe`` state what you are doing is weakening the position of the President by reducing his popular tally.
Tom Daschle and friends used the election outcomes in 2000 to declare George Bush illegitimate, and they tried to marginalize him. This played into the hands of the enemy then, and it will play into their hands now. If we are too busy squabbling among ourselves we cannot fight the real enemy. The radicals understand this; Americans die every day in Iraq to pay for our silly internecine political machinations. Had we presented a united front in Iraq that phase of the war would be winding down. The enemy would have had to cede Iraq to us. They know that they can win if they can get us fighting each other. I fear they are right, and they may just win.
Do we have the will to fight this to the end? This election will decide that question. If John Kerry and the Democrats win they will begin scaling back on our military pursuit of those who would kill us. Even if George Bush wins, but the election is as close as in 2000, we may find our President unable to act as is necessary. We need everyone out for this election; the stakes are just too high. We cannot be too afraid or too complacent to act. This is our moment of truth. If our courage fails we may well join the ranks of Darius and the Persians as footnotes in history.
Things are getting UGLY out there
Cheering from the Press Box
The story rocked America's presidential campaign when The New York Times broke it Monday: "Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq." Within a day, Sen. John Kerry's campaign had a new ad that depicted the Times' story and said President Bush "failed to secure" the explosives after the U.S.-led invasion last year.That reminded us of an old bromide in the news business: Beware the damning story that breaks in the final days before an election. Chances are it didn't surface then by accident.
On Tuesday, syndicated columnist Linda Chavez faulted her colleagues in the news media for not investigating "truly startling evidence unearthed this week that the Communist Party may have been directing John Kerry's anti-war activities in the early 1970s." As proof, Chavez cited captured communist records now held by the Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University.Wow! Loose weapons and commie puppeteers! Life wasn't this scary when (you choose) Ronald Reagan/Bill Clinton was in charge.
Late-breaking mud, often stirred to a sticky thickness by partisan leakers of news tips, is a staple of presidential campaigns. This year, though, a mudslide of charges is oozing into print and broadcast reports. It has tended to reinforce the perception among some Americans that many journalists are rooting for Kerry.
No, we're not going to skip down that path holding hands with Rush Limbaugh. But it's harder to refute those suspicions when CBS, which reported the weapons story cooperatively with the Times, acknowledges that it originally planned to break the scoop on "60 Minutes" this Sunday--two days before the election.
Had that occurred, many voters wouldn't have had time to learn about Monday's follow-up report from NBC, which had a reporter embedded with U.S. troops who arrived at the weapons site in question one day after the fall of Baghdad--and who didn't observe those 380 tons of high explosives. Could Saddam Hussein have moved his stockpile? Nor would many voters have learned two points that add crucial perspective: first, that 400,000 tons of Hussein's munitions have been captured or destroyed by coalition troops, and second, that the recent Duelfer report on Iraqi arms puts the number of Hussein's weapons caches at more than 10,000. The bottom line: It's not yet clear that the explosives were even present when U.S. troops arrived.
I think the Tribune’s admonition to “beware the damning story that breaks in the final days before the election” is advice well heeded. But there is a difference between the NYT/CBS hit job and the Linda Chavez piece they compared: the mainstream media ran with the NYT story on every network. And meanwhile the Chavez piece was buried by the very same media outlets.
The Tribune aren’t the only ones alarmed: check out this piece on the “Media disgrace” in this election by Thomas Sowell.
Friday, October 29, 2004
Kerry: Iraq equivalent to Bay of Pigs
Putting it on the line
Why Bush must win
Campaign 2004: High Stakes
Quite simply, Kerry must be stopped; and Bush must win
The great issue in the 2004 election—it seems to me as an Englishman—is: How seriously does the United States take its role as a world leader, and how far will it make sacrifices, and risk unpopularity, to discharge this duty with success and honor? In short, this is an election of the greatest significance, for Americans and all the rest of us. It will redefine what kind of a country the United States is, and how far the rest of the world can rely upon her to preserve the general safety and protect our civilization.
When George W. Bush was first elected, he stirred none of these feelings, at home or abroad. He seems to have sought the presidency more for dynastic than for any other reasons. September 11 changed all that dramatically. It gave his presidency a purpose and a theme, and imposed on him a mission. Now, we can all criticize the way he has pursued that mission. He has certainly made mistakes in detail, notably in underestimating the problems that have inevitably followed the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, and overestimating the ability of U.S. forces to tackle them. On the other hand, he has been absolutely right in estimating the seriousness of the threat international terrorism poses to the entire world and on the need for the United States to meet this threat with all the means at its disposal and for as long as may be necessary. Equally, he has placed these considerations right at the center of his policies and continued to do so with total consistency, adamantine determination, and remarkable courage, despite sneers and jeers, ridicule and venomous opposition, and much unpopularity.
There is something grimly admirable about his stoicism in the face of reverses, which reminds me of other moments in history: the dark winter Washington faced in 1777-78, a time to “try men’s souls,” as Thomas Paine put it, and the long succession of military failures Lincoln had to bear and explain before he found a commander who could take the cause to victory.
There is nothing glamorous about the Bush presidency and nothing exhilarating. It is all hard pounding, as Wellington said of Waterloo, adding:
“Let us see who can pound the hardest.” Mastering terrorism fired by a religious fanaticism straight from the Dark Ages requires hard pounding of the dullest, most repetitious kind, in which spectacular victories are not to be looked for, and all we can expect are “blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” However, something persuades me that Bush— with his grimness and doggedness, his lack of sparkle but his enviable concentration on the central issue—is the president America needs at this difficult time.
He has, it seems to me, the moral right to ask American voters to give him the mandate to finish the job he has started.
This impression is abundantly confirmed, indeed made overwhelming, when we look at the alternative. Senator Kerry has not made much of an impression in Europe, or indeed, I gather, in America. Many on the Continent support him, because they hate Bush, not because of any positive qualities Kerry possesses. Indeed we know of none, and there are six good reasons that he should be mistrusted. First, and perhaps most important, he seems to have no strong convictions about what he would do if given office and power. The content and emphasis of his campaign on terrorism, Iraq, and related issues have varied from week to week. But they seem always to be determined by what his advisers, analyzing the polls and other evidence, recommend, rather than by his own judgment and convictions. In other words, he is saying, in effect: “I do not know what to do but I will do what you, the voters, want.” This may be an acceptable strategy, on some issues and at certain times. It is one way you can interpret democracy.
But in a time of crisis, and on an issue involving the security of the world, what is needed is leadership. Kerry is abdicating that duty and proposing, instead, that the voters should lead and he will follow.
Second, Kerry’s personal character has, so far, appeared in a bad light. He has always presented himself, for the purpose of Massachusetts vote-getting, as a Boston Catholic of presumably Irish origins. This side of Kerry is fundamentally dishonest. He does not follow Catholic teachings, certainly in his views on such issues as abortion—especially when he feels additional votes are to be won by rejecting Catholic doctrine. This is bad enough. But since the campaign began it has emerged that Kerry’s origins are not in the Boston-Irish community but in Germanic Judaism. Kerry knew this all along, and deliberately concealed it for political purposes. If a man will mislead about such matters, he will mislead about anything.
There is, thirdly, Kerry’s long record of contradictions and uncertainties as a senator and his apparent inability to pursue a consistent policy on major issues.
Fourth is his posturing over his military record, highlighted by his embarrassing pseudo-military salute when accepting the nomination.
Fifth is his disturbing lifestyle, combining liberal—even radical—politics with being the husband, in succession, of two heiresses, one worth $300 million and the other $1 billion. The Kerrys have five palatial homes and a personal jet, wealth buttressed by the usual team of lawyers and financial advisers to provide the best methods of tax-avoidance.
Sixth and last is the Kerry team: who seem to combine considerable skills in electioneering with a variety of opinions on all key issues. Indeed, it is when one looks at Kerry’s closest associates that one’s doubts about his suitability become certainties. Kerry may dislike his running-mate, and those feelings may be reciprocated—but that does not mean a great deal. More important is that the man Kerry would have as his vice president is an ambulance-chasing lawyer of precisely the kind the American system has spawned in recent decades, to its great loss and peril, and that is already establishing a foothold in Britain and other European countries. This aggressive legalism—what in England we call “vexatious litigation”— is surely a characteristic America does not want at the top of its constitutional system.
Of Kerry’s backers, maybe the most prominent is George Soros, a man who made his billions through the kind of unscrupulous manipulations that (in Marxist folklore) characterize “finance capitalism.” This is the man who did everything in his power to wreck the currency of Britain, America’s principal ally, during the EU exchange-rate crisis—not out of conviction but simply to make vast sums of money. He has also used his immense resources to interfere in the domestic affairs of half a dozen other countries, some of them small enough for serious meddling to be hard to resist. One has to ask: Why is a man like Soros so eager to see Kerry in the White House? The question is especially pertinent since he is not alone among the superrich wishing to see Bush beaten. There are several other huge fortunes backing Kerry.
Among the wide spectrum of prominent Bush-haters there is the normal clutter of Hollywood performers and showbiz self-advertisers. That is to be expected. More noticeable, this time, are the large numbers of novelists, playwrights, and moviemakers who have lined up to discharge venomous salvos at the incumbent.
I don’t recall any occasion, certainly not since the age of FDR, when so much partisan election material has been produced by intellectuals of the Left, not only in the United States but in Europe, especially in Britain, France, and Germany. These intellectuals—many of them with long and lugubrious records of supporting lost left-wing causes, from the Soviet empire to Castro’s aggressive adventures in Africa, and who have in their time backed Mengistu in Ethiopia, Qaddafi in Libya, Pol Pot in Cambodia, and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua—seem to have a personal hatred of Bush that defies rational analysis.
Behind this front line of articulate Bushicides (one left-wing columnist in Britain actually offered a large sum of money to anyone who would assassinate the president) there is the usual cast of Continental suspects, led by Chirac in France and the super-bureaucrats of Brussels. As one who regularly reads Le Monde, I find it hard to convey the intensity of the desire of official France to replace Bush with Kerry. Anti- Americanism has seldom been stronger in Continental Europe, and Bush seems to personify in his simple, uncomplicated self all the things these people most hate about America—precisely because he is so American. Anti-Americanism, like anti-Semitism, is not, of course, a rational reflex. It is, rather, a mental disease, and the Continentals are currently suffering from a virulent spasm of the infection, as always happens when America exerts strong and unbending leadership.
Behind this second line of adversaries there is a far more sinister third. All the elements of anarchy and unrest in the Middle East and Muslim Asia and Africa are clamoring and praying for a Kerry victory. The mullahs and the imams, the gunmen and their arms suppliers and paymasters, all those who stand to profit—politically, financially, and emotionally—from the total breakdown of order, the eclipse of democracy, and the defeat of the rule of law, want to see Bush replaced. His defeat on November 2 will be greeted, in Arab capitals, by shouts of triumph from fundamentalist mobs of exactly the kind that greeted the news that the Twin Towers had collapsed and their occupants been exterminated.
I cannot recall any election when the enemies of America all over the world have been so unanimous in hoping for the victory of one candidate. That is the overwhelming reason that John Kerry must be defeated, heavily and comprehensively.
Russians tied to Iraq’s missing arms cache
Meanwhile John Kerry continues with his hollow pronouncements that this somehow shows some kind of failure on the part of the President (but certainly not of the troops who actually were there and who searched the facility upon its liberation...), as if the President was supposed to micromanage every single firefight in the war. Also aerial photos taken just before the invasion show a lot of suspicious activity taking place at Al QaQaa.
Why one Expat intellectual is supporting Bush (long, but worth it)
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.
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).
Because Gregory is such a patriot, I am hoping he does not mind my publishing his entire lengthy article here. As I see it, it is too relevant and too spot on not to include. And if it sways just one voter, it was worth it.
The Illegal Alien Swing Vote
Thursday, October 28, 2004
America at its Crossroads
Had Lincoln lost the 1864 vote, a victorious General McClellan would have settled for an American continent divided, with slavery intact. Without Woodrow Wilson's reelection in 1916 — opposed by the isolationists — Western Europe would have lost millions only to be trampled by Prussian militarism. Franklin Roosevelt's interventionism saved liberal democracy. And without the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan and his unpopular agenda for remaking the military, the Soviet Union might still be subsidizing global murder.
This election marks a similar crossroads in our history. We are presented with two radically different candidates with profound disagreements about how to conduct a historic worldwide war. We should remember that all our victorious past presidents were, at the moments of their crises, deeply unpopular precisely because they chose the difficult, long-term sacrifice for victory over the expedient and convenient pleas for accommodation (if not outright capitulation). We are faced with just such an option today: a choice between a president whose call for patience and sacrifice promises victory, and a pessimist stirring the people with the assurances that we should not have fought, and now cannot win, the present war in Iraq.
Our terrorist enemy has no uniforms or aircraft, but nevertheless struck at the very heart of our financial and political capitals in a fashion unimaginable by Nazi Germany, Tojo's Japan, or the Soviet Union. The Islamic fascists' creed is Hitlerian, their methodology primeval. Their aim is not mere territory: They want nothing less than the destruction of Western freedom, through the takeover of the Middle East and the use of its petroleum wealth to craft a nuclear, global caliphate, Dark Aged in its values, 21st-century in its lethality.
This war against Islamic fascism is now a quarter-century old, and began with the Iranian seizure of the American embassy in 1979; the apex of this escalating assault — owing to past American neglect and appeasement — was September 11. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and John Kerry — so unlike their Democratic predecessors FDR, Harry Truman, and John Kennedy — have seen the struggle not as one for national survival, but at best as the lamentable dividend of inequality or poverty, and at worst as the felonious behavior of a few miscreants who seem to eat, sleep, and bank in the upper air rather than in the houses and streets of real countries. Thus arose John Kerry's revealing use of "sensitive" and "nuisance" to suggest that we need to return either to writs and indictments or the occasional cruise missile — i.e., the status quo before the world changed on 9/11.
The reaction of George W. Bush could not be more different. He accepts the conflict as a global war of ideas against states that harbor terrorists. He recognizes it as a struggle that involves millions in the Middle East, people who will reluctantly join bullying fascists should they have any premonitions of American inaction (much less defeat or Madrid-style capitulation). Bush's aim is not merely to defeat the terrorists today, but to eradicate them and isolate their supporters through a bold tripartite strategy. It is as breathtakingly simple as it is logical: kill or capture the al-Qaeda purveyors of death; end renegade regimes, such as the Taliban or Saddam Hussein's Iraq, that have a long history of subsidizing terrorists; and promote democratic reform in the Middle East. The push for such liberalization rests on the theory that democracies rarely go to war against their own kind — and, more important, that democracies marginalize religious extremists internally by free discussion over, and collective responsibility for, solving national problems.
By any historical standard, the Bush doctrine is working. In just over three years, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein have been eradicated. Consensual societies are starting to emerge in their place. Syria and Iran are jittery, fearing new global scrutiny over their longstanding, but heretofore excused, terrorist sympathies. Libya and Pakistan have flipped, renouncing much of their past villainy. Saudi Arabia and the other autocracies of the Gulf region feel the new pressure of American idealism. For all their vocal resentment, strategically critical sheikdoms are inching toward political reform and terrorist-hunting.
In sum, a Kerry presidency will lack either the vision or the resolve to finish the war, resulting in a defeat for the United States in Iraq — with calamitous consequences for the brave reformers there, an end to liberal momentum in the Middle East, a reversal in the conduct of Libya, Pakistan, and the Gulf, and assurance to Syria, Lebanon, and Iran that the United States is conducting not war but a criminal investigation akin to efforts against gambling or prostitution. Chamberlain-like, we will return to the complacency of the pre-9/11 days, regarding the telltale signs of the destruction to come as mere "nuisances." All the hysterical invective of John Kerry's surrogates — like George Soros, Michael Moore, Terry McAuliffe, and Teresa Heinz Kerry — cannot change that bleak and depressing fact.
There is even more, here. And it is very much worth the effort of reading it all. But what it comes down to is that this is the most important Presidential election in your life. No matter who you are. So get out there and do something about it. Don’t allow this ship to go down with a mutinous “Capatain”. Vote. Talk to your friends. Pray. Take your friends and loved ones to the polls or otherwise make sure they get there. Give it everything you’ve got. A week from today we make a profound choice.
Don’t let it be said that you saw the opportunity and did not do your part to save this country.
From the author of “Deterrence”
I just had a vision.
Nothing mystical, no sense of a tap on the shoulder by Divine Providence, and it is the antithesis of a personal sense of destiny. History has not been kind to such people. And these ideas are much, much bigger than I am.
But something woke me up, literally as well as figuratively.
No, this in fact is an idea -- a set of ideas -- so simple and humbling that I am again, as I have so often been in the course of this little cyber-experiment, filled with awe and humility and more than anything a sense of gratitude that I might be allowed to have a small, small voice in this critical time in history.
I want to remember -- and more importantly, commit myself to the notion that at this exact moment, all of the ideas and threads and comments and history that circles in and out of my head, all of my many work experiences in science, aviation and entertainment have finally coalesced into a vision of why Eject! Eject! Eject! is here and what we are going to try to do.
I count 93 entries since we began Eject! Eject! Eject! on December 12th, 2002. Some have been reasonably deeply thought out, some have been fun, and some have been just plain silly. Good or bad, they've all been for you, you kind and brilliant strangers. This post...well, this one is for me. It is a note to myself that I cannot weasel out of. Please forgive me this pretension, but this is a message to my future self.
We have seen about 120,000 unique visits in the last week; that's about 10% of my total traffic in two years, with all of those peaks and valleys during 23 months. It's been a great pleasure to hear from many new readers. During the next few weeks, I hope you will enjoy the Silent America essays on the right sidebar. Newest essays on the top; old faithfuls at the bottom.
I will be spending this weekend getting the essays into PDF format. My publisher says I will need about 20 days from the delivery of those files before we can start shipping Silent America. I have seen samples of both their hardcover and softcover work, and it is absolutely gorgeous. Their fullfillment system seems simple, inexpensive and reliable. The book will also be available through Amazon and you will be able to order them through large retailers, as well as through this site. Much more on this in the next few weeks.
A final note on this odd and uplifting morning: DETERRENCE will probably be the last serious post before the election, because once it is over -- regardless of the outcome -- I plan to begin a second volume of essays that are cover topics far more timeless and universal, which I have been aching to do. SILENT AMERICA: ESSAYS FROM A DEMOCRACY AT WAR has been a collection of thoughts on the War on Terror as it unfolded. It's conclusion -- VT Day -- may never be known. But the Presidential election of 2004 is as good an end point as any, and for those of you disappointed by the slow progress of publication (and none of you are more disappointed than I am, because I not only know who to blame, I can can jab him about it any time I want to) let me say this: the book was not ready to print last year because STRENGTH and DETERRENCE hadn't been written yet.
So, like you, I am holding my breath until November 3rd. But win or lose, that day will mark a new beginning, and if you think the War and the Election have been stressfull and tumultuous, well, you ain't seen nothing yet.
I worry about terrorism. I worry about Transnational Progressivism. I worry about the utter moral decline of large parts of Europe. I worry about China. I worry about all these things.
But the only thing I genuinely fear is the cyclical nature of civilization. I fear the consequences of abandoning personal responsibility. I fear the self-hatred and nihilism that grows among the pampered, the narcissistic and the uninformed. These are things to be feared greatly. They have brought down entire civilizations and led to dark ages that have cost this species very dearly. I think we stand at such a point today, and this election -- win or lose -- will not determine the outcome...although it might give us some indication of how sick or healthy we are at this pivotal moment in history.
So prepare yourselves. There is a big fight ahead of us, regardless of who is crowing loud in a few weeks time. Other civilizations have fallen; this one may yet. But none have been armed as we are, and our wonder weapon is not the Carrier Battle Group, the Smart Bomb, or the M1 Abrams. This Civilization is armed with information, with real-time communication, with self-organizing expert systems. And for the first time in history, it has in its quiver the chance to hear from great minds otherwise buried in obscurity, to harness the power of billions of opinions and ideas and little, well-made boxes of competence and expertise; brilliant and commanding voices thrown away with the chaff in preceeding generations. This is a force multiplier to cheer even the most pessimistic.
And civilization will rise or fall on the ability to use these weapons under the shield of our shared values of freedom, opportunity, and just plain courage.
Watch this space.
Count on it, Bill. You are a national treasure. Your words ring true and clear to a troubled world. And when you do get published, I will be among the first in line.