Monday, July 19, 2004
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What is John Kerry's theory of foreign policy?
Philip Gourevitch has a lengthy New Yorker essay on John Kerry's foreign policy principles. A few parts that struck me:
What's odd about this is that within the Gourevitch article itself there's a formulation that would perfectly encapsulate what Kerry's going after. Earlier in the story, Gourevitch writes: "the signature chord of his campaign’s foreign policy unmistakably: that 'America is safer and stronger when it is respected around the world, not feared.'" (emphasis added)
This is simultaneously a promising but incomplete formulation. The political class is familiar with Machiavelli's dictum that it is better to be feared than loved -- and the Bush team would probably embrace this line of thinking.
Kerry's introduction of "respect," however, gets at a middle ground between the two poles of "fear" and "love" that probably resonates with most Americans. It's the perfect way to communicate toughness while still attacking the Bush team's foreign policy.
The problem with the way Kerry phrased it, however, is that to pretend that respect and fear are mutually exclusive components is absurd. For there to be respect in international relations, there must be an recognition of capabilities that can also inspire fear. It's the same mistake that's frequently committed with Joe Nye's "soft power" concept -- to pretend that the soft power of governments does not rest on a foundation of hard power is just wrong.* Fear comes from hard power alone; respect comes from the combination of hard and soft power -- it does not come from soft power alone.
Maybe Kerry is just exercising a rhetorical flourish and understands this -- maybe not. The fact that neither Gourevitch nor I can tell is what's so disturbing to me when I contemplate pulling the donkey lever -- which is why I'm still on the fence.
The second passage that caught my eye:
*As I noted previously, this dictum holds for states, not non-state actors.posted by Dan on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM
In your very first quoted graph, Dan, you've come up with one of the more convincing reasons to avoid voting for Kerry.
Kerry can’t be specific about what he would do in Iraq if he is sworn in next January 20th, because nobody knows what will be happening there then. He said that “America must lead in new ways” to meet “new threats,” “new enemies,” and “new opportunities” with “new approaches” and “new strategies,” to forge “a new era of alliances” and “a new direction in Iraq,” but there was nothing novel in the foreign policy he described. What he was calling for was a renewal of the approach to world order that Churchill envisioned in 1946—the preservation of international security through the web of alliances of the newly established United Nations.
Given an article covered by the Instant One this morning, it's clearer to me than ever that the UN cannot be reliably included in any international model going forward.
Snips from the Article:
Added involvement with the UN is all Kerry has ever had to offer in terms of his ideation about foriegn policy. Ere long, he's have us bowing to this corrupted monster.
Kerry should not be trusted with the reins of power here in the 'States.posted by: Bithead on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
My (partisan) take on Kerry's words is that he's not claiming respect and fear are mutually exclusive, just that respect has a component crucial for self preservation that fear does not.
I fear, but do not respect the angry hornet's nest in my garage. That emotion will lead me to destroy that nest even if I'll get stung in the process.
I respect my parents (Do I fear them? Sort of, and sort of not.) and so when they impose their will on me, my reaction, even if it is anger, is never violent or destructive.
I think your concern about a false dichotomy is precisely why Kerry is reluctant to let a sound-byte summary of a codified "doctrine" encapsulate his thinking, which is no doubt broad, on the topic of foreign policy and national security.posted by: brent on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Dan: very few people in this country have killed the enemy at close range. Kerry has. I expect (indeed, it is my profound hope) that this was a critical formative experience.
War is rarely the right option. Containment and bribery (excuse me, negotiation) tend to be cheaper and more effective. But when it was time to kill or be killed, Kerry survived.
And in terms of fighting the next war, with what army? If China invades Taiwan, are we really going to risk nuclear war? North Korea may have nukes, but it likely has little ability to invade S. Korea.
Iran seems ready to go nuclear. Before accusing Kerry of being soft on diplomacy, ask what the incumbent's strategy is toward Iran. It appears that he doesn't have one.
This country has skyrocketing deficits, has a national and international health care plan that channels billions of dollars into big Pharma to the detriment of the populations the plans are intended to serve, has hundreds of thousands of troops engaged in an unpopular war thousands of miles away, has pissed away international goodwill (that could be used, among other things, in tracking terrorists), and has elevated form over substance in virtually every single substantive policy issue (e.g., homeland defense). What, precisely, has the administration done right to merit your vote?
What about Iran?
Francisposted by: fdl on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Kerry wants to take every issue individually, and, in fact, seems rather obsessed about doing that. This can result in some very pragmatic decisionmaking. It also means there may be no disceranble rhyme or reason in what he does. This is not a bug; it's a feature.
As for a slogan-- try this. "Although they may fear the bull, nobody wants to help the bull in the china shop break the crockery."posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
The way you state your problem with Kerry's pithy formulation of his foreign policy vision is telling. You hedge on the question of fear. You start off by saying that respect and fear are not mutually exclusive. But then you say, "For there to be respect, there must be an recognition of capabilities that can also inspire fear," not "For there to be respect, there must also be fear." And you say that respect comes from hard and soft power, not from fear among other things. Do you think that Kerry doesn't understand the importance of hard power? Or are you, on the other hand, recognizing that we want some of our relations with other nations to be built fundamentally on respect, even though those other nations recognize our capabilities which are designed to inspire fear in yet other nations or actors?
Kerry's rhetorical flourish could be rephrased as "America is safer and stronger when its alliances are built on respect, with some fear thrown in in the background, and when America is feared by its implacable enemies who will never respect it (though the point is to work on turning implacable enemy nations into respectable and respectful regimes that are unfriendly to other actors who are better at not turning out implacable enemy inhabitants), and when it is both respected and feared (in differing mixtures) by those in between." But that doesn't make for a nice-sounding signature chord, does it?
Is this really why you are still on the fence?posted by: Jeff L. on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Indeed, he seems to attribute all that is strained in the transatlantic alliance to the Administration’s hubris and its diplomatic incompetence.
Kerry brings us back to being the "Paper Tiger", having sharp claws- afraid to use them. Respect means nothing to our enemies if we are reluctant to use our power decisively.
Dan writes: "...to pretend that soft power does not rest on a foundation of hard power is just wrong. Fear comes from hard power alone; respect comes from the combination of hard and soft power -- it does not come from soft power alone."
I don't think that's true. Maybe our definition of "soft power" is different, but it seems to me that it's possible to have plenty of "soft power" without having much if any hard power to speak of.
Sistani is a good example of this. Obviously he can't remotely compete with the US in the hard power department, but we've had to take him very seriously all the same, because of the respect he commands among the Iraqi people.posted by: N V on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
What people are not discussing is the biggest issue here. It is the issue of whether or not we are viewed by rogue regimes as a strong horse or a weak horse. 22 years of appeasement policy in response to outrages in the Middle East let the dictators of the world and their terrorist allies to believe that we were "all hat and no cowboy". Bush has changed the calculus here. We got rid of the Taliban, and we got rid of Saddam. Suddenly it is dangerous to be an enemy of America.
Our enemies are waiting to see if Bush wins this election, to see if the "New America" is going to stick around or if we will see a return to the old America. If Kerry wins, you can expect them to wonder whether or not the "Old America" has come back. You can expect trouble from the North Koreans, the Chinese, Iran, as well as Al Qaeda, if Bush does not get elected.
Personally I see no reason to trust John Kerry to act appropriately. His foreign policy instincts are bad -- making friends with Communists in Southeast Asia who later went on to murder millions, making friends with Daniel Ortega and the Sandanistas (who were drummed out in free elections by the locals who despised them), opposition to Reagan's military buildup that won the cold war, opposition to Gulf War I.
If the rest of you want to vote for the politician who didn't want to Saddam in 1990, go for it, just don't pretend you are voting for a "Strong Horse". John Kerry is the Neville Chamberlain of today, only with a lot more obfuscation about where he stands on the issues.posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
I think respect is absolutely the correct term. Look, we do want evildoers to fear us. But we do want people who are not involved in this conflict to respect us, not just for our power and wealth, but for our ability to use them wisely.
Is fear a component of respect ? Occasionally, but not always. I respect lots of people, but I don't fear them. There may be occasional cases (such as our parents) whom we both respect and fear, but I would contend that this is only occasionally, and is by no means a universal case.
When you haveposted by: erg on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
This whole discussion of "Respect" is pointless. We are opposed because of who we are, not what we do. Look at the international outcry over Chechnya and Tibet versus the international outcry over liberating a people from one of the bloodiest tyrannies of the past 100 years. If Kerry is elected we will be "respected" because we will tie the Lilliputian knots back onto ourselves.posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
'22 years of appeasement policy in response to outrages in the Middle East let the dictators of the world and their terrorist allies to believe that we were "all hat and no cowboy".'
In these 22 years, we've seen 2 major attacks on Libya by US forces. We've also seen a very major effort (partly directed by the US) into channeling Islamic radicalism against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. We've seen Gulf War 1. We've seen a protracted battle in Lebanon with various milita groups (after the terrorist attack on our marine headquarters in Beirut, we retaliated in various ways too).
Understand, I support all those actions (although the intervention in Lebanon was ill-conceived from day one). But dont claim that we sort of "sat back and took it", in the ME, because that is manifestly not true.posted by: jik on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
I think that the people who fear that John Kerry is going to turn US national security policy over to the French are full of stuff and nonsense.
Paying attention to what Holbrooke, Biden, and Beers say here is instructive. It's really a return to very late-term Clinton foreign policy more than anything else. The multilateral stuff is just fluff to avoid getting pinned down on Iraq during the campaign season. These guys aren't starry-eyed Francophiles. They just don't see any value in denigrating Europe.posted by: praktike on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Of course the rest of the world feels a certain inchoate fear about us. We are many time stronger, militarily, than the next 10 of them (a guess). Just like everyone fears the gigantic kid in second grade - he might be gentle and kind and take a lot of kidding with a rueful smile, but it's not like anyone is under the misimpression that he can't jam any six heads into the toilets whenever he wants. You are just comforted that he doesn't seem like the sort to do that for minor mistakes or just because.
The whole idea that people will stop fearing us is ridiculous. We took, what, a week to topple Afghanistan and a week to topple Iraq? If they underestimate our reaction to their future bad acts - well, it will hurt, but they can't destroy us, but they can justify our destruction of them.
It's like there's a whole generation of people who believe that the Cold War scenario still applies (when we couldn't really afford miscalculations). Or perhaps you are claiming that we demand a stronger ability to influence events not directly related to this country (and, if others don't act as we'd like, we have to smack them around). Other than this, I don't understand how the paper tiger could be anything but laughableposted by: SomeCallMeTim on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
I'm troubled by many of the responses to Dan's straightforward, unobjectionable observations.
I'm troubled by Praktike's comparison of Kerry's doctrine to that of the tail end of the Clinton era, as though this is a good or at least neutral thing. Hello?! The last couple of years of Clinton's reign was when AQ got fully out of control, as his people ran around putting out self-ignited fires. You'll have to do a little better than that if you want wafflers to come over to the Kerry house.
I found Gourevitch's piece hopelessly rosy-hued. I am willing to hear Kerry's praises sung, but only if we get serious consideration of the guy's past (probably ongoing) blindspots. And no, it's not enough to just mention the opposition to GW1. There must be consideration of his very real, very visceral (it seems) opposition to an effective (hence powerful, hence well-funded) intelligence service for the past, oh, 30 years or so.
To say that Kerry recognizes the dangers posed by today's world--dangers that cannot be addressed by simply conferring with a vitiated, sagging Old Europe--but then fail to address these past errors, is to agree with Praktike that a return to late-Clintonian foreign policy would be a blessing. I could not vote for such a policy. I DID see that Kerry wants to give a lot more money to the CIA NOW, and double the number of Humint officers. Fine, but unless he has revisited his old animus toward the service, this will just be window dressing. Is he willing to let agents go under deep cover, perhaps even taking part in terrorist activities abroad in order to infiltrate AQ and its allies? This, it seems to me, is a more pressing question than either "how much money can I promise to throw at an obvious problem" or "how do I get us from fear and loathing to respect and cooperation?" Though, frankly, I'd love to see an explication of the latter as well.posted by: Kelli on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
What's most telling in all this "respect" talk is the animating notion behind it: that these nations who believe our policy is not in their best interests would support us nevertheless if only we sold ourselves better.
It is, of course, baloney - there isn't a nation on earth that is going to go against its own perceived self-interest to support the United States ... or any other nation, for that matter.
Why is it so hard for some to see that France opposed us because it did not want to see (a) Saddam removed; (b) its economic interests in Iraq disrupted; (c) a non-Saddam government which might look unkindly on French collaboration with Saddam's regime?
More to the point - given that collaboration, why are we concerned about what the French think of us at all?posted by: BradDad on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
I cannot understand how center-right people can continue to cavil about Kerry's forieign policy creds.
We have a Vice President who is largely in charge of policies and who is on record as saying "deficits don't matter". And he means it thus: in the short term pursuit of Power, deficits indeed don't matter. In that sense, it is not a lie.
Why on Earth would any center-right or center-left person still not have made up his mind about whom to vote for at this point?posted by: mac on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Actually, Mac, when the Veep (who I would love to see given the boot) says "deficits don't matter" he is referring to their relatively small size vis-a-vis the US economy as a whole. Get back on track, wouldja? This particular discussion is about a)military power/b)America's standing in the world/c)whether or not Kerry has his head up his butt on a and b. Sure, the VP is lying about size not mattering, just like your girlfriend is lying to you...nevermind. Not the point here, and you know it.posted by: Kelli on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Deficits are a good thing. A healthy deficit is all that stands between the American public and all the hair-brained domestic policy boondoggles that could ever be imagined. The policy of "Starve the Beast" can only be implemented when there is a threatening deficit to point to in fear.
And Mac, I suspect a lot of moderate people don't want to elect Kerry because a man who voted to appease Saddam in 1990 doesn't look like a good bet to protect us from terror today.posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
BradDad's first paragraph has it right: one of Kerry's problems is his failure to acknowledge the role that national interest plays. Not just ours -- other countries'. Bush may be an arrogant SOB who pissed off the world -- but it wouldn't have mattered if he were Dale Carnegie; the French weren't going along with the Iraq war. They didn't perceive it as in their interests. Kerry's belief (or rhetorical dishonesty in pretending) that he could have sold Europeans on this war by being more polite is bizarre. What could possibly give him that idea?
Kerry's foreign policy -- I'd have done what GWB did, but I'd have done it better and so everything would have worked out -- is the equivalent of the fiscal policy of balancing the budget through "eliminating fraud and waste." Empty and pointless.posted by: David Nieporent on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
I'm not sure I get your soft/hard power distinction. I was under the impression soft power meant economic and cultural power while hard power was military strength. Back in the 80's when it looked like Japan was going to overtake the American economy, it seems pretty clear to me that they had plenty of respect.posted by: Jor on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
We're talking about doctrines, not about specific actions. The bottom line is that there was no political capital available to do what everyone agreed needed to be done vis-a-vis AQ and the Taliban after 9/11.
My point was that Kerry's team is not going to be constrained by multilateral institutions if it feels it needs to act. It's a return to "multilateral if possible, unilateral if necessary." Which, incidentally, is exactly where a chastened Bush administration is at the moment.posted by: praktike on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Kerry didn't feel any need to act in 1990 when Saddam was preparing to seize the Saudi oil fields. What makes you think he will act if needed today?posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
"The policy of "Starve the Beast" can only be implemented when there is a threatening deficit to point to in fear."
I would suggest that this policy is not a policy of the "center-right," to which Daniel Drezner usually subscribes. And surely such a policy would be one of spending freezes and tax cuts, rather than the Bush/Cheney policy of spending increases and tax cuts? From where I stand, the policy is more one of paying off ones friends and punishing enemies, which is surely not a model for political centrism of any sort.posted by: mac on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Matthew Cromer: The policy of "Starve the Beast" can only be implemented when there is a threatening deficit to point to in fear.
Reagan/Bush/Clinton showed that "Starve the Beast" doesn't work. Even when there's a threatening deficit, it's easier for politicians to raise taxes than cut spending. Which is why Dubya's "tax cut" is really a tax shift.
If you really want to cut spending, just cut spending.posted by: fling93 on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Dan is exactly correct in his criticism of Kerry's 'respect' and of soft power in general.
The only reason there is diplomacy at all is because of the credible threat of harm that underlies negotiations. I note that many on the left believe that hard power is brought to bear when we, Clinton style, launch 15 cruise missiles at a problem to 'flex our muscle'. There are two elements to a credible threat. We must have the capability of doing harm and we must have the will to exercise it.
For 10 years prior to the invasion of Iraq, we had utterly failed every time boots were required on the ground to solve a problem. The only lesson we taught the middle eastern thug is that we don't have the will to stand and fight, so if we can't cruise missle you into oblivion, we will lose. We taught the world that we had no stomach for losses.
Prior to the invasion of Iraq, we had absolutely nothing in the way of a credible threat to negotiate with the middle east. Saddam negotiated in bad faith because he was not afraid of us at all. The premier value of the war in Iraq was the reestablishment of credibility on the part of the US military.
Unilateralism is the result of being the only projectable military force of significane on Earth. The UN is demonstrably inept at enforcing dictates, and the attempt to go through the UN in a last ditch effort to help that organization with its own credibility problems was doomed to failure but still necessary. To put it bluntly, the UN means absolutely nothing in the absence of the US military backing its play. Legitimacy in international relations is not a function of how many dictatorships vote for your policies in the UN, it is a function of what you can enforce.
Diplomacy is the art of politely reminding everyone of that fact, and the Bush administration did not do a good job of it, but that is not to say that you can ever have a diplomatic solution without credibility in your threats.posted by: Jason Ligon on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
"Indeed, he seems to attribute all that is strained in the transatlantic alliance to the Administration’s hubris and its diplomatic incompetence. “It will be easier for a Kerry Administration to call on our allies to fulfill their responsibilities,” James P. Rubin, one of Kerry’s senior foreign-policy advisers, said to me. “When a President can go to countries and say ‘I’m going to take steps that you’ve been calling for,’ he can also say, ‘Now take steps to do what we need.’ It won’t be easy, but at this point there’s a political cost for countries to coöperate with the U.S. With a Kerry Administration, that cost will change.”"
When you attribute all the transatlantic strain to Bush, instead of realizing that France and Germany both would have opposed dealing with Saddam (even using non-military means) no matter who is in the White House, you reveal that you don't know much about why there is transatlantic strain.
Kerry is all about talk: "It will be easier for a Kerry Administration to call on our allies to fulfill their responsibilities..." Sure, but they won't actually fulfill such responsibilities. They will smile and nod and refuse to help out--just like they did with the fantastically popular-in-Europe Clinton.
Jik, you say:
This is a problem of cultural perception. From the Arab perspective our attacks on Lybia prove our foolish restraint because we did not destroy our enemies but rather left them in power. Ditto Saddam in Gulf War I. Our Afghanistan policy was proof that we weren't men enough to fight the Soviets on our own--we had to rely on the more powerful Arab warriors to do what we could not. We ran in fear from one single bombing in Lebanon.
I'm not saying the perceptions are accurate, but we ignore those perceptions at our peril. And Kerry plays right in to them.posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
And how much spending would there have been in the absence of those deficits? A lot more.
Also the "tax shift" argument ignores the fact that lower tax rates today means more economic growth tomorrow and can even mean more tax receipts today.posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
There is a great deal of talk about Kerry not supporting this or that bill. If you are genuinely interested in understanding a particular vote, you simply must understand the entire bill and the circumstances surrounding it. Let's take the famous $87 billion vote. Most who voted against it, were making a statement that the Executive branch had to fufill its accountability obligations to the Congress and the people. Regardless of how you feel about Iraq, you have to admit that the refusal of the administration to place any sort of pricetag on any aspect of the mission even weeks after we'd entered Iraq, was an effront to our system of checks and balances. (We may know or not know the unknowable so we don't know how to price it.) Once the $87 mindboggling billion figure initially came out, there was no accountablity for where/how it was to be spent. A no vote was not a waffling on the war vote. A no vote meant that the accountablity mission given to Congress was being carried out. Regardless of your opinion of Bush and his admin., think a moment of the precedent of such an action. Think about when the president might be of a party in which you don't support. Do you really want to create precedent for an imperial presidency? Do you really want a Congress that simply rolls over?
Instead of simply mouthing the flip flop talking point, look at the particular bill and related circumstances. What if someone agrees that we should fund upgrades to states for voting systems and someone tags on $50 million for public steambaths in Fairbanks, Alaska?posted by: lansing on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Sebastian states, "This is a problem of cultural perception. From the Arab perspective...."
If the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq has shown us anything, surely it is that we are freakin clueless about the Arab perspective and culture.posted by: Karol on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
I disagree somewhat, though correct me if I've gotten the wrong impression of your comment.
IMO Kerry here is just ducking substantive comment, which is normal at this point for a normal campaign. But he can't win that way.
Kerry is the challenger and Bush is the incumbent, and incumbents win unless the voters are really unhappy with them. Only the Democratic base is really unhappy with Bush. The voters as a whole aren't. At some point Kerry must give the voters a reason to vote for him as opposed to merely voting against Bush.
So far this is conventional presidential campaign reasoning. But this is not a normal presidential campaign - we're at war after being attacked at home, and security at home from foreign enemies dominates this campaign. "The enemy has a vote."
ALL of Kerry's political instincts over the past 30-35 years say to play it safe - to avoid making commitments or flat statements which, in his experience, can only hurt him. This is just fine for a Senator, but makes him come across as wishy-washy, indecisive and weak as a possible war President.
I.e., one of Kerry's major weaknesses is his lack of executive experience. He's been a Senator too long and his campaign instincts are not merely inappropriate, but dangerous, for a Presidential nominee in wartime.
Not to mention that he and the Democratic political class have the wrong policies. Worse, they have the wrong image.
Kerry is still trying to portray himself as someone who can be trusted not to abuse Presidential powers, as if the major threat to America comes from within as opposed to without.
I.e., he and the Democrats think, act and talk as though 9/11 didn't happen.
The public wants a President who will use the powers of his office, and the power of the United States, against our foreign enemies. We must take risks in war which we would avoid in peace.
It's not merely that Kerry hasn't recognized this yet - I doubt he can, let alone will in the future. He just can't see outside the box of conventional Democratic Party thinking.
"Kerry's foreign policy -- I'd have done what GWB did, but I'd have done it better and so everything would have worked out -- is the equivalent of the fiscal policy of balancing the budget through "eliminating fraud and waste." Empty and pointless."posted by: Tom Holsinger on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Thanks for the advice. Now that I'm well and truly relaxed I can calmly tell you that you're even more full of crap than usual. I just adore the rationalization about there having been no will to stand up to Bin Laden pre-911. It's sooo very convenient, and so very wrong. If Clinton (yeah, I voted for him twice too) had had the foresight to recognize a growing menace in the rearview mirror, it wouldn't have taken much to get the country on board, especially in the wake of the African Embassy bombings and the attack on the Cole. Remember those, Praktike?
He got the okay for assaults in the Balkans, which really were none of our concern, how tough could it have been to get folks pumped up about terrorists going after US citizens?
Right on, man. If I may second your thoughts and push it a bit further. I think leadership, specifically the lack of any evidence of it from Kerry's direction since the day he left the deck of his swiftboat really has to raise some doubts in peoples' minds. No committee chairmanships in four senate terms? That's gotta be some kind of record. Clinton had many flaws, but lack of leadership skills was not among them. That guy drew talented people toward him like a sun reigns in planets and stars. Kerry? He's more like a lonely statue on whom any number of separate scaffolds are set up, with various artists carving out their own portion. What it may look like upon completion is anybody's guess.
Cmon Kerry-touters, gimme something real to hold onto, some reason to trust the guy and vote for him in November!posted by: Kelli on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Kerry can’t be specific about what he would do in Iraq if he is sworn in next January 20th, because nobody knows what will be happening there then.
Here Kerry has stumbled, all unknowing, upon the great disadvantage of being in office rather than out of office: People start expecting decisions out of you whether you can see the future or not. I suggest we spare him the shock of finding this out the hard way.posted by: Paul Zrimsek on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
I'm a Democrat trying to decide whether to vote for Mr. Kerry this fall. My hesitation is partly related to what my interlocuters on Kevin Drum's weblog have called my irrational obsession with the al Qaeda terrorist threat.
Mr. Gourevitch's article was mainly reassuring. I like Mr. Kerry's stated willingness to use force when needed, and I like the fact that Mr. Kerry has explicitly distanced himself, to some extent at least, from his father's useless foreign policy "realism".
Mr. Kerry will win this election whether I vote for him or not. Perhaps the quality of administration rhetoric will decline. (After all, why did Senator Kerry object to Secretary Albright's nationalistic description of the U.S. as "the indispensable nation"? Aren't we?) However, I believe Mr. Kerry will adopt a strong foreign policy rather than listening to awful advice from far-left anti-American "anti-war" activists like Michael Moore.posted by: Arjun on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
'Look at the international outcry over Chechnya and Tibet versus the international outcry over liberating a people from one of the bloodiest tyrannies of the past 100 years.'
There wasn't any outcry over Tibet because the invasion of Tibet is 50 years old (nearly). There was certainly plenty of outcry at that time. There wsa plenty of outcry when there were bloody battles in Chechnya.
As a matter of fact, I believe that there are no indispensable nations, just as there are no irreplaceable people. Still the US is less dispensable than any other country. I haven't followed that exact message and Kerry's comments, but it could well have been that he simply intended to blunt that statement a little. Albright has a tendency to make impolitic comments -- her comment about the deaths of Iraqi children from sanctions as a "price worth paying" was one of the most terrible comments any SecState has ever made.
'However, I believe Mr. Kerry will adopt a strong foreign policy rather than listening to awful advice from far-left anti-American "anti-war" activists like Michael Moore'
Remember that Moore isnt' a Democrat, urged voting for Nader in 2000. He is far less a part of the Dem establishment than Pat Buchanan is of the Repub establishment.
posted by: jik on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
So, why is he a registered Democrat?
Try again, with facts.posted by: Bitehad on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
The Democrats have IMO insuperable demographic problems which doom any possible presidential nominee, will cost them a few Senate seats and possibly some House seats.
It is really a turnout issue. Gore with Clinton's help did a fantastic job of turning out black voters in 2000, especially first time ones. That can't happen this time simply because the GOP controls the White House. The 2002 congressional election results show what an abberation the 2000 black turnout was.
Control of the White House means a lot here. My father's last hurrah as a California Democratic operative was to plot, with Leon Panetta, how to boost then Gov. Pete Wilson's 1994 anti-immigrant initiatives into Democratic sweeps in California for the 1998 and 2002 elections. Pop spent almost two months in D.C. in late 1994 early 1995 plotting with Panetta on this, and told me in loving detail about it at the time as I'm a Republican and he knew it would drive me nuts. That also taught me what to look for in White House support for voter turnout drives, and I recognized how Gore was using a Democratic White House to get out the 2000 black vote.
The next insuperable factor is that Al Gore had spent years preparing to get out a mammoth black turnout for 2000. No such long term effort has been in effect for the past four years, or even the past two years. The last insuperable factor is that Gore, as a Southerner, knew how to appeal to the black vote. No plausible Democratic nominee this year had anything comparable to Gore's experience withm and sensitivity to, the concerns of black voters.
Finally you've got El Dud as a nominee. I have difficulty imagining a possible Democratic nominee with worse appeal than Kerry to black voters. The guy has major problems appealing to any voter but it is especially acute with blacks. This is really a personality issue.
IMO these matters are worth about 1%-1.5% of the popular vote overall, but proportionately more in must-win states for a Democratic nominee such as Pennsylvannia, Michigan and New Jersey.
You gotta problem.
The Pew Poll said Kerry went down 11% among female voters in May. Apparently they are repulsed by his personality too. And almost all of that 11% were independents and Democrats. They won't vote for Bush. They'll stay home.
Add another 3-4%. Of voters who won't be there for down-ticket Democratic candidates.
And have a nice day.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
I'm sorry, but what the hell is "soft" power? Diplomacy?
Okay, so what would be the country topmost in everyone's book as to soft power? France, I'm guessing.
Does anyone respect France these days?
As to your statement that "hard" and "soft" power must be combined for "respect," I must respectfully say that doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Did we respect the Soviet Union in 1960? Why? Was it because of their "soft" power? Were we enamored of Kruschev's shoe-pounding skills? No! We were scared of the Soviet Union's army and its nuclear weapons: HARD POWER!
For chrissakes, this "respect" crap is intellectual spaghetti. It presupposes (a) the U.S. is no longer "respected" in the world; (b) George Bush's going to war to free 50 million people from tyranny in two years is the reason and not something else (like say, animus, envy or a feeling or irrelevance); (c) regaining our "lost" respect gets us anywhere, economically or militarily; and (d) Kerry would somehow restore this elusive national quality. Ceterus paribus, as you economists like to say, it's fine to cultivate respect for another nation's opinion. But to be bound by it at the expense of our sovereignty is unconscionable.
Osama bin Laden doesn't respect soft power, either. Endless diplomacy and half-measures by the Clinton Administration are what bought us 9/11.
John Kerry is fundamentally unserious about the War on Terror. In 1984, Kerry wanted to cancel almost every major weapons system now in use in Iraq. If he had his way now, we would all forget about terrorism and go back to creating new government entitlements. Practically everyone in his chain of command from Vietnam recently attested to his unfitness for command. He has not earned a turn at the helm, and his squishy foreign policy pronouncements just reinforce what an awful C-in-C he would make.posted by: Fresh Air on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
“Cmon Kerry-touters, gimme something real to hold onto, some reason to trust the guy and vote for him in November!”
John Kerry’s campaign strategists should be worried sick about voters like Kelli. She is seeking any excuse to vote for him in November. Kelli is a moderate liberal who possesses a Phd and I suspect has never voted for a Republican presidential candidate in her life. In other words, Kerry should be able to take Kelli’s vote for granted. That he cannot---is a stark indication that his campaign is in deep trouble.posted by: David Thomson on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Jason Liquon wrote: "There are two elements to a credible threat. We must have the capability of doing harm and we must have the will to exercise it."
You're overlooking a pretty important fact - the "credible" part depends on how other countries view us.
The Bush administration's blundering has severely damaged our national credibility. One consequence of this is that we'll have a much harder time gaining the cooperation of other countries via trust. That's a bad thing. While cooperation via trust isn't always possible, in situations where it is possible, it's far preferable to trying to secure cooperation by other means (because it avoids the massive costs of enforcement and monitoring that are associated with nonvoluntary compliance).
That's part of the problem. But even if you ignore that aspect, and believe that foreign policy effectiveness is based solely on threats to crush anyone who gets in your way - then the Bush administration has still completely screwed up, because our credibility in that regard is also shot.
For example, we've invaded the one member of the "Axis of Evil" that apparently was neither actively sponsoring anti-US terrorists nor developing WMD. We justified that invasion with claims that have now been proven bogus. Outside of the USA, very few people believe that our stated justifications were the actual reason for the invasion. Under those circumstances, why would any potentially hostile country believe that good behavior will safeguard them from a US attack?
Then, there's the Bush administration's supposed doctrine of not offering concessions in exchange for WMD disarmament. As far as I can tell, that principle has now been unceremoniously abandoned in our dealings with Libya and North Korea.
And what about the adminstration's vow to get the bad guys in Fallujah, and "capture or kill" Muqtada al-Sadr? Once again, the adminstration brags about their "resolve," and fails to follow through on their threats. Needless to say, the actions will get a lot more attention than the words.
So, after launching a war based on false justifications, and after a series of threats and blusters that have proven empty, our credibility is pretty much gone. As a result, we've sabotaged our ability to gain cooperation through trust, and we've greatly undermined our ability to gain cooperation through threats. I don't see any way of fixing that problem, unless we have new leadership.posted by: N V on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Anyone who claims that Saddam was not aiding terrorists is either stunningly ignorant about the facts or lying. See Hayes book _The Connection_ for starters. Which are you, NV?
P.S. Your candidate's chief foreign policy advisor just stepped in a pile of dog****. Do a google search on "Trousergate" or "Sandy Burglar" for starters. Maybe we can put him and Joe Wilson together on a cruise and sell tickets in front of theatres screening F911.
I should add "Anti-American" terrorists to my last post.posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Matthew Cromer: And how much spending would there have been in the absence of those deficits? A lot more.
That doesn't appear to be the case, or else Bush 41 & Clinton wouldn't have raised taxes to pay for the higher spending that happened anyway despite the deficits.
Also the "tax shift" argument ignores the fact that lower tax rates today means more economic growth tomorrow and can even mean more tax receipts today.
Only if you're on the right side of the Laffer curve, where tax rates are so high that increasing taxes lowers revenues and cutting taxes increases revenues. But if we were, revenues would have decreased after Bush and Clintons tax hikes. Instead, they increased to the point of creating a surplus. Pretty clear indication we're on the left side.
Besides, cutting taxes is a pretty stupid way to cut spending, especially if you already have control of Congress. There's no reason to play around with shenanigans like deficits. Just cut spending!posted by: fling93 on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
'So, why is he a registered Democrat?
Here's the Documents to prove it
Try again, with facts.'
Fact 1) Moore actively urged voting for Nader over Gore in 2000.
One could equally use Buchanan (who has run in the Republican primary) as an example of Republican foreign policy.posted by: jik on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
Actually, you're right that I should have said "Al-Qaeda" instead of "Anti-American terrorists," since the latter term could probably apply to people that did receive support from Saddam at some point.
Regardless, after the recent Senate report, I think just about everyone agrees that the administration's original rationales for the invasion have been essentially discredited. So, the central points are unchanged.
- Bush went to war on the basis of justifications that have been proven almost entirely false.
- Very few people outside the US believe that the stated justfications were the actual reasons for the invasion.
- Our national credibility has suffered severe damage as a result.
- Because of this, our ability to gain cooperation both through trust and through coercion has been jeopardized, and it's unclear how that problem can be fixed without a change of leadership.posted by: N V on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
The only relationship between "what other countries think" and our credibility is that we are more credible if people believe that we are going to do what we say. We told Saddam that if he didn't tow the line, he was finished. He didn't, and he is now finished. It doesn't get much more credible than that.posted by: Ben on 07.19.04 at 11:11 AM [permalink]
The problem, as I've said, is that very few people outside the US believe that our stated justifications for invading Iraq - WMD and terror support - were the actual reasons.
The message we wanted to send is: "The USA is prepared to attack countries that develop WMD and support al-Qaeda."
The message we actually sent was: "The USA is prepared to attack other countries whenever we feel like it, and will then justify that attack with phony claims about WMD and al-Qaeda support."
As a result, potentially hostile countries will probably conclude that terror support and WMD development are irrelevant to their chances of being invaded by the US, since those factors were fake excuses, rather than actual reasons, for the invasion. In fact, it's likely that they'll now be more inclined to develop WMD as a deterrent to US attack, given that we chose to invade and occupy the one Axis of Evil member that apparently didn't have an active WMD program.
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