Friday, October 15, 2004

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About that p-value....

I've received a surprising number of inquiries about whether I've decided on Bush or Kerry for president. When we last left off, my probability of voting for Kerry was at 60%.

Slate is now surveying its contributors over the past year about their voting choices. The deadline is next week, which I'm using as my own deadline for making up my own mind.

After the debates, I'd say my p-value for Kerry is now at 0.8 (i.e., an 80% chance of voting for Kerry). I'm still uneasy about making this choice, because I remain unconvinced that Kerry understands the limits of multilateral diplomacy. Matt Bai's article from last Sunday's New York Times Magazine raises as many qualms as it settles in my mind. Take these paragraphs towards the end:

If forced democracy is ultimately Bush's panacea for the ills that haunt the world, as Kerry suggests it is, then Kerry's is diplomacy. Kerry mentions the importance of cooperating with the world community so often that some of his strongest supporters wish he would ease up a bit. (''When people hear multilateral, they think multi-mush,'' Biden despaired.) But multilateralism is not an abstraction to Kerry, whose father served as a career diplomat during the years after World War II. The only time I saw Kerry truly animated during two hours of conversation was when he talked about the ability of a president to build relationships with other leaders.

''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....

He would begin, if sworn into office, by going immediately to the United Nations to deliver a speech recasting American foreign policy. Whereas Bush has branded North Korea ''evil'' and refuses to negotiate head on with its authoritarian regime, Kerry would open bilateral talks over its burgeoning nuclear program. Similarly, he has said he would rally other nations behind sanctions against Iran if that country refuses to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Kerry envisions appointing a top-level envoy to restart the Middle East peace process, and he's intent on getting India and Pakistan to adopt key provisions of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. (One place where Kerry vows to take a harder line than Bush is Pakistan, where Bush has embraced the military ruler Pervez Musharraf, and where Kerry sees a haven for chaos in the vast and lawless region on the border with Afghanistan.) In all of this, Kerry intends to use as leverage America's considerable capacity for economic aid; a Kerry adviser told me, only slightly in jest, that Kerry's most tempting fantasy is to attend the G-8 summit.

Now, I'm very sympathetic to the argument that Kerry's diplomatic style would play much better on the global stage than Bush's (click here for some evidence of this) -- and that this improved style would go some way towards advancing America's national interest via greater multilateral cooperation.

But I'm not sure it will go nearly as far as Kerry thinks it will. If the Senator from Massachusetts thinks that improved style, greater diplomatic efforts, concerted multilateral coordination, and even copious amounts of American aid can get India and Pakistan to sign on to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, or create a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace, then, well, he's drunk too much of the multilateral Kool-Aid. Bill Clinton -- who epitomizes the kind of diplomatic style Kerry could only hope to achieve -- invested a fair amount of diplomatic capital on both of these flash points, during a time when America's global prestige was greater than today -- and in the end achieved very little of consequence. There are international problems where the conflict of interests are so sharp and the stakes are so high for the affected parties that all the outside diplomacy in the world won't achieve anything. And I can't help but wonder if Kerry believes he can somehow talk radical Islamists into submission.

So I'm troubled by this -- but at this point I'm more troubled by the Bush administration. Robert A. George has a New Republic column that encapsulates a lot of my difficulties voting for the GOP ticket this year. Here's the part that hit home for me:

President Bush has failed to live up to the second key tenet of conservative government: accountability.

Take, for example, the Pentagon's disastrous planning for postwar Iraq. The lack of troops for the post-invasion period enabled the insurgency to bloom and put American soldiers at risk. Worse, while memos from Ashcroft's Justice Department seemingly provided legal cover for the abuse at Abu Ghraib, the material causes could be found, again, in the underdeployment of troops: "What went wrong at Abu Ghraib prison?" asked The New York Post's Ralph Peters, one of the more earnest supporters of invading Iraq. Pointing to the two independent reports examining the scandal, he concludes: "Woefully deficient planning for post-war Iraq, too few troops and inadequate leadership at the top." Peters is among the conservatives who believe the Abu Ghraib fiasco should have been the final straw for Rumsfeld.

But it didn't happen. And it won't happen, because accountability is a foreign word in this administration. To demonstrate how little he has learned, Rumsfeld observed, "Does [the abuse] rank up there with chopping off someone's head on television? It doesn't. It doesn't. Was it done as a matter of policy? No." Forget that the abuse was far more pervasive than just the handful of servicemen that first popped up in photographs; when the secretary of defense basically says, "Hey, what the terrorists do is much worse," the moral foundation upon which America stands begins to crumble. The president's stated goal was to try to bring democracy to the Middle East--not to allow us to become tainted by the barbarism so prevalent in the region we are attempting to liberate. So Rumsfeld stays on--even as the situation rapidly deteriorates.

Then again, this shouldn't come as a surprise: George Tenet remained in his position following the worst intelligence failure in U.S. history, enabling him to tell the president later that evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a "slam dunk." The first failure helped lead to the deaths of thousands of Americans; the second failure led us into a conflict from which there exists no clear exit strategy and that has rendered the word of the United States suspect. Yet Tenet stayed on, too.

And no wonder. As Bob Woodward writes in Plan of Attack, "[S]everal things were clear from the president's demeanor, his style and all that [Colin] Powell had learned about Bush. The president was not going to toss anyone over the side.... The president also made it clear that no one was to jump ship.... They were a team. The larger message was clear: Circle the wagons." The larger message is that loyalty is prized above all, regardless of the results and regardless of the effect on U.S. standing in the world....

No, a Kerry administration would not be any conservative's ideal. But, on limited government, a Democratic president would, arguably, force a Republican Congress to act like a Republican Congress. The last such combination produced some form of fiscal sanity. And, when it comes to accountability, one could hardly do worse. Of course, a conservative can still cast a libertarian vote on principle.

At crucial points before and after the Iraq war, Bush's middle managers have failed him, and the "brand" called America has suffered in the world market. In any other corporate structure plagued by this level of incompetence, the CEO would have a choice: Fire his middle managers or be held personally accountable by his shareholders. Because of his own misguided sense of "loyalty," Bush won't dismiss anyone. That leaves the country's shareholders little choice.

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.

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. Given the tactical and strategic errors in judgment that this administration has made, I have to lean towards Kerry.

My readers have the weekend to try to influence my p-value. As I said, the odds are good at this point that I'll tell Slate I'm voting for Kerry. But I strongly encourage Bush supporters to try and persuade me otherwise in the comments section.

UPDATE: The best effort to persuade me so far comes from an e-mail sent by a former US diplomat who served in both the Clinton and Bush administrations:

I don't dispute some of Kerry's criticisms of the current Administration's conduct of foreign policy. But KE04 presents no actual solutions on foreign policy from which we can derive a reasonable belief that his performance would be better than the current White House. In fact, it just might be worse.

Many of Kerry's policy proposals on foreign affairs strike me as nastily disingenuous. His "fair trade" mantra raises the specter of protectionism at a time when America's continued global economic engagement remains a lynchpin of the "soft power" Kerry so ardently wishes to use as leverage in the war on terror. His fulminations on a lack of allies in Iraq don't pass the red face test -- French, German and Russian interests are now clearly arrayed in a classic balance of power position against the U.S. This will not change with Kerry in the White House. As for other allies (minus the UK and Australia), we're the victims of our Cold War success - most participants in Iraq are already projecting about as much power as they possibly can, having comfortably atrophied under our security umbrella for the past 60 years. This is the burden of hegemony, and I'm not quite sure Senator Kerry, whose mind still fully inhabits the Vietnam paradigm, is up to the task of bearing it forthrightly.

Kerry's respect for multilateralism should not be praised, but questioned, given the changing nature of international politics today. The days of America being able to win a kitchen pass from UN members on any number of issues have come to pass. The Cold War is over, and as your U of C colleague Mr. Mearshemier warned back in 1990, multipolarity will make us outright miss the Cold War. But Kerry hasn't grasped this fundamental change. He hasn't comprehended that the UN, as well as other multilateral institutions, has stopped being a preserve of internationally agreed rules and collective action backed by broad consensus. These institutions have become, instead, vehicles for the pursuit of narrow self-interests by any number of major regional powers which aspire to great power status. (France, Russia, Germany, India, Brazil, China). This is a drastically different international order from the one Kerry presumes to know.

You also have to ask yourself, who is going to carry out Kerry's multilateral approach? And on that score, things simply get worse. A Kerry White House would mean the Madeleine Albright B Team moving into senior foreign policy positions. And, with the notable exception of Richard Holbrooke (his hair may be on fire, but he gets things done), this would be disastrous. These are the same folks who fiddled for 8 years on counter terror, negotiated a terrifyingly naive nuke deal with North Korea, and generally treat foreign policy as a rhetorical exercise. This is a team who has demonstrated, in past position of influence, an alarming propensity to get rolled by their foreign counterparts. Let's pick just two: Susan Rice? Jamie Rubin?! Are you serious?? During her sojourn as assistant secretary for Africa in Albright's State Department, Rice had to be consistently bailed out of trouble by career diplomats. As for Rubin, he is anti-gravitas. He's Edwards-lite.

Think about Kerry's foreign policy track record and his much ballyhooed commitment to "multilateralism". Think if that reflects accurately the state of world politics today. Think about the people who would occupy senior Cabinet, NSC, State and DoD positions under Kerry. Then think about your vote again, please.

Here's another reason specific to Red Sox fans (link via Shannen Coffin at NRO).

ANOTHER UPDATE: One of the sharpest students I've ever taught e-mails a sharp rebuttal:

I’ve got to say I wasn’t too impressed with the former diplomat who wrote in to try to persuade you to change your mind. He attacks Kerry for not recognizing a changed world. Yet it’s not clear that your correspondent has a clear vision of the world either – he alternates between talking about the the US carrying the “burden of hegemony” and then referring to a “multipolar world” in reference to Mearsheimer’s (whose name he misspells) arguments. Is the world unipolar or multipolar? Seems like he doesn’t really know; or more likely is using a pair of contradictory arguments to go after Kerry (“We’re in unipolarity and Kerry doesn’t understand unipolarity! We’re in multipolarity and Kerry doesn’t understand multipolarity!”).

He also refers to French, Russian, and German “balancing,” which doesn’t look much like any kind of balancing we’ve ever seen before, given the lack of military build-ups or alliances between this supposed balancing coalition (indeed, he refers to “atrophied” allied capabilities). Not to mention that Germany and France have troops helping out the US in places like Afghanistan and the Balkans - helping secure the peace in the wake of the Taliban’s removal is an awfully strange kind of anti-American balancing. So the French, Germans, and Russians are balancing by helping out the US in Afghanistan/Balkans, trying to manage Iran, neglecting their militaries, letting tens of thousands of US soldiers and hundreds of million of dollars of US military capabilities sit on German soil, and not allying against the US? Doesn’t look much like the Triple Entente or sixth anti-Napoleonic coalition to me.

I’m not exactly comforted by the thought of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Bolton et al running the show for four more years. Other than some successes regarding Libya, keeping the WTO together, and the Taliban’s removal I have a suspicion this is not a foreign policy team that will go down in history as even minimally competent.

*YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I'd like to thank the 95% of the commenters who have posted respectful arguments pro and con. I haven't enjoyed a comment thread like this in quite some time.

I'll try to address the more trenchant criticisms sometime this weekend.

MONDAY UPDATE, 11:50 CENTRAL TIME: This is taking longer than I thought, but I'll be posting something in the next few hours.

posted by Dan on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM


I fear for the future of this country when 1,000+ dead in a country of 290 million is considered too high a price to pay for what our ancestors willingly sacrificed everything for.

The debates proved to me that Kerry will be acceptable, if passive, in security matters. So I won't even bother to dissuade you from voting for him. I'm far more dissapointed that our capacity for sacrifice to nobel ends is practically non-existent today. We'll cheerfully help the world if it doesn't cost us, the richest and most capable country in the history of the world, anything or cause any deaths.

posted by: Matthew Ryan on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I worry about Kerry's decision-making process after reading this article:


posted by: Kevin on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Having been born and raised in MA, worked in the MA state legislature, and being an ABD in IR who studies congressional-executive relations in security policy, I am very leery of a Kerry presidency and what it would mean for foreign affiars.

First, Kerry has been a poor senator in MA. He was vulnerable to Bill Weld because Weld was seen as more reliable and concerned about the issues facing MA and local democrats. In my job in the Legislature, I would never call Kerry up even though he was our Senator. We would call the congressman or Senator Kennedy, who both, at a minimum, returned our calls. With Kerry, you were unlikely to even get a return call from his office. The same reputation stuck with him on constituent affairs. Its the reason he earned the nickname "Live Shot." If there was a camera, Kerry would be there. If not, good luck.

In terms of foreign policy, Kerry talks his fp experience and mastery. Yet, in my research, with the exception of a procedural manuever to outflank Jesse Helms, he has been nearly invisible. He casts the required vote, but thats it.

Lastly, a local columnist/talk show host said last year "I look forward to the next 11 months as the nations gets to know John Kerry like we know John Kerry." I fear Kerry has been able to get by on anti Bush sentiment to this point and, if he is elected, we are going to regret it sooner and later.

posted by: Dundare on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

At some point, the Bush Administration has to be held to account for woeful incompentence in Iraq. Given that noone has been fired for massive intelligence failures and abysmal planning in post-war Iraq, the only choice those of us who supported the war have is to fire this President.

posted by: Josh on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


Don't count on it. BC04 is going to be
re-elected overwhemingly. They are starting
to pull away via tracking polls.

The House and Senate will be getting even
more Republican on Nov. 2.

So the President will not be held accountable
for his mistakes. It will be our duty as
Americans to fully support the winner of the
Election, no matter who it is.

May God Bless the United States of America!

posted by: pragmatist on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Dan, you write, "Bill Clinton -- who epitomizes the kind of diplomatic style Kerry could only hope to achieve -- invested a fair amount of diplomatic capital on both of these flash points, during a time when America's prestige was greater than today -- and in the end achieved very little of consequence."

I want to agree with the crux of what you're saying, but I wince when you say Clinton achieved "very little of consequence" on foreign affairs. Yes, we had many problems that were not solved when Clinton was behind the foreign policy wheel, but I think it's important to remember the tremendous outpouring of support for this nation after 9/11. We had everyone on our side, and should have used the opportunity even harder than Bush did to strengthen international institutions and relations.

At the very least, I want to throw out the idea of a significant relationship between Clinton's exhaustive style + substance foreign policy and foreign support for the US following 9/11. I could be way off, but I feel like I'm looking for my car keys while the US engenders real, absolute hatred abroad.

posted by: russ on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I'm not that smart to be able to convince you otherwise, but I will say that I value your views and that over the last year or so this blog among others has helped me solidify my support for Bush and opposition to Kerry.
Your rising p-value seems counterintuitive to me.

posted by: nbdy on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Foreign policy is critically important. But our ability to project power around the world depends entirely on our economic engine.

and running a $400+ BILLION dollar deficit is a very good way to cripple our power down the road. this deficit is, simply, unsustainable.

since the house and senate are very likely to stay R, this country needs a D president to create divided government and stop the runaway federal spending.

both parties, in modern times, have shown themselves to be utterly irresponsible when given unified control. we must, WE MUST return to fiscal discipline.

and the debates made perfectly clear that Bush has no interest in cutting spending or raising taxes. and his party won't make him.

a R legislature will not pass such fiscally irresponsible budgets to give to a D president.


posted by: fdl on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Matthew Ryan has a point, but it's not the one he intended to make.

Bush's incompetence at execution isn't just some bloodless managerial failure, with the stakes measured in bad quarterly profit/loss ratios.

Bush's incompetence at execution has killed nearly 1100 American soldiers (so far), tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, and maimed a few tens of thousands more of both.

War isn't a game of manliness. It isn't a game of chicken. It isn't a way to "send a signal" of how "resolved" we are.

War is real. War kills people. War orphans and widows people. War blights lives with severe disabilities and mental trauma.

War is an obscenity. It's butchery. There's no way around it. That's why war is, has to be, a last resort: something you do only when you absolutely must, and only when everything else has failed.

The consequences of a botched war, a carelessly begun and planned war, are unendurable.

And unforgiveable.

Bush spent our nation's blood cheaply and callously - because it wasn't his.

For that alone, the man should be tossed out of office.

posted by: Palladin on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

First, Kerry has been a poor senator in MA. He was vulnerable to Bill Weld because Weld was seen as more reliable and concerned about the issues facing MA and local democrats.

That's an interesting way of spinning the fact that Kerry WON the 1996 Senate race in Massachusetts against an immensely popular moderate Republican governor. In fact, he won 52 % to 45 % (, which is actually quite impressive given that Weld was (re-)elected governor in 1994 with a whopping 71 % of the vote and that Kerry had been behind in the polls.

So, yeah, the people of Massachusetts must really hate Kerry - so much so that they keep sending him back to Washington (I guess that's also a form of punishment). Or maybe they really wanted to keep Weld as governor. But it can't possibly have been because they liked Kerry. Right.

Oh, and your quote from the "local columnist/talk show host" - got any links to that? The literal quote you gave isn't found by Google. Not that I doubt someone said something along those lines (and probably worse) - after all, the Boston Herald has been pretty firmly on the Republican side for quite a while. But I have seen quite a few unattributed quotes like this by people claiming that the locals in Boston don't like Kerry.

Of course, one might then equally point to the endorsement of John Kerry by the (admittedly insignificant) Lone-Star Iconoclast of Crawford, TX - It's a surprisingly well written and well argued editorial...

posted by: gw on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I think that the best reason to vote for Kerry is that it will lead to congress not doing much, and that can only be good because the current makeup of congress is such that congress only accomplishes things in extremes, and almost invariably screws up whatever they're working on.

posted by: flaime on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

BC04 is going to be
re-elected overwhemingly. They are starting
to pull away via tracking polls.

Not at all clear. The polls have been all over the map. And they're not going to be re-elected overwhemlingly, if they're relected it will be by a narrow margin. Ditto for Kerry.

In any case, your vote is indepdendent of who you think is going to win. I think Dan is right. So at least, as a Kerry supporter, we've got the college professor Iraq war supporter-turned-disillusioned social liberal foreign policy hawk blogger demographic down !!

posted by: erg on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

To answer the questions.

That's an interesting way of spinning the fact that Kerry WON the 1996 Senate race in Massachusetts against an immensely popular moderate Republican governor. In fact, he won 52 % to 45 % (, which is actually quite impressive given that Weld was (re-)elected governor in 1994 with a whopping 71 % of the vote and that Kerry had been behind in the polls.

Kerry won, but should not have even been challenged. There were a significant number of Democrats who supported Weld or at least witheld support of Kerry till very late in the election. It was a pretty powerful message to Kerry that people were unhappy.

Kerry also won because of some strange miscues by Weld. Down the stretch, Weld morphed (as much as he could) into a right wing republican. He seemed to be running on guns taxes and the death penalty down the stretch and it cost him.

Kerry also did really well in the debates. They are excellent watching if you can still find them.

Kerry was further served by 1) Bill Weld's popularity - as he was able to argue that Bill Weld was such a good governer that he should remain one and 2) the presistent fear in MA of one party government - people liked Weld and were leery of what the future would bring if he headed to Washignton. This also played a key role.

In the end though, I think the election was decided by the overwhelming dominance of the democrat party in MA. They control the legislature, the congressional delegation (0 repubs), and every other aspect of MA politics except hte governor. We have elected some pretty poor republican governors as a check on democrat dominance.

The quote was from Howie Carr. He certainly doesnt like Kerry and I would imagine fewi n his regular audience do. Personally, I had far warmer feelings for the Duke than I do for Kerry. Howie Carr also coined the J.F.K - just for kerry moniker as well.

posted by: Dundare on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

See, I'm the other way around. I'd rather have somebody that fumbles now and then, but at least knows the game they're playing. Can you really make good decisions, regardless of your process for doing so, when you don't understand the problem you're facing?

posted by: Justin on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The Carter commeth.

posted by: Ernie Oporto on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I think foreign policy is a wonderful litmus test. But is "a good decision-making process" one?

posted by: CW on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


What about Social Security and Medicare? When Kerry was asked about it in the debate, he essentially said, "It's not a problem. 10 years from now, we'll look at it again, and if it still looks like there will be a problem, we'll have a commission look into it."

Doesn't that worry you?

posted by: Adam on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Oh Adam, I doubt it. I have three words in response to that...

Defense Secretary McCain.

posted by: Kate on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


I respect your current p-value. Given your invitation though, I'll try to offer a little persuasion.

I understand the fear that a second administration may be taken as a validation of bad policy decisions. However, I think that is unlikely. I think most people, and the president especially view this election not as a referendum on the policy decisions, but on the foreign policy instincts.

And that is why I think those supporting the President (including myself) are so concerned about a Kerry victory. Bush has set himself as representing a pre-emptive instinct and protect the homeland. Kerry's policy seems to highlight a take no action approach.

In effect Bush's policy could be considered to be something like this...If the risk and rewards of doing nothing, given the intelligence (including the risk of flaws in the intelligence), is worse than the reasonable calculation of the risk and reward of taking Action A, Action A should be taken. Assuming of course that mutually exclusive (given resource limitations) Actions B or C do not offer greater benefits for less costs. [I could go more into this, if you'd like me to feel free to e-mail me or reply in the comments.]

Kerry's doctrine seems to be best described by a do-nothing approach unless (a) we get the green light from a variety of non-U.S. actors, including those who may or may not have adverse interests in the U.S. in taking the action, and (b) the threat is so imminent as to be completely unavoidable.

Personally, Kerry's position is not untenable in a world were the greatest concern is other state actors and you are by far and away the strongest state. However, in a world where a few independent actors can inflect substantial damages than I believe the do-nothing choice carries greater risks, risks that Kerry seems to willfilly ignore.

All in all though, this is key, repudiating Bush, will not be seen as repudiating Bush's policy implentation. It will be seen as repudiating the idea that the government should act if it believes military action is in the best interest of the citizenry. I believe repudiating that doctrine would be far more damaging to the US long-term than any other thing.

As to actual policy execution, I think most Bush supporters recognize that you can set the rudder but you cannot change the waves and wind. A Kerry administration would likely bring in Cabinet members who had a fair foreign policy for the 90s, but even during the 90s the threat that both Iran and NK posed grew, and made so that action against those axis members became more difficult (Actions B & C became more costly than A as a result of that inaction).

As to accountability/responsibility, I cannot argue with the personal belief that Rumsfeld should have resigned. However, I think the most likely case is that the President believes he has surrounded himself with the best people, and though those people have had failings the abilities they bring are highly valued by the President.

Well, at this point, I'm getting winded. I would be honored to carry on this discussion if it useful. However, if it is not, that is fair, and I wish you the best in coming to your decision.

posted by: Joel B. on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Why bother? Prof. Drezner is drinking the "Kerry can be strong" kool-aid, and nothing anyone says will dissuade him. But just for the record:

1) Your complaints about execution are good but almost beside the point. No war has ever gone according to plan. Bush has made far fewer mistakes to date than Lincoln did during the first 3 years of the Civil War. In any event, before you can even ask who would do a better job, you have to be convinced that the candidates even understand the question.

2) Judging from the Bai article and Kerry's long record in the Senate, I don't know how you can conclude that Kerry gets it. His prescriptions are pure 9/10 - a little diplomacy, some sharing of intelligence, a few prosecutions, some mild sabre-rattling (maybe toss a cruise missle into some tents somewhere, but God forbid, no real use of military force except to repel an invasion of the continental US) - how is this any different than the bi-partisan policy towards the Islamicists that gave us 9/11? Sen. Kerry himself admits that 9/11 did not cause any substantial change in his policy views. In my view, that renders completely irrelevant any analysis of whether he could or might be more or less effective in prosecuting the war against the jihadists.

posted by: DBL on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Kerry was further served by 1) Bill Weld's popularity

I note that the fact that I had already (pre-emptively) made fun of the idea that people voted for Kerry because they wanted to keep Weld as governor did not stop you from laying out that idea in all seriousness.

You guys really are masters at re-interpreting reality. Up is down, left is right, a victory is a loss and so on...

(But if we follow your logic: Ever wondered why the good people of Texas didn't vote for Kerry in 2000? Was it because they wanted to rid themselves of their current, incompetent governor?)

And as for Howie Carr - so I was right in speculating that your quote came from a highly partisan Boston Herald columnist. Someone who's been engaged in spreading negative rumors about Kerry's character that are mostly based on anecdotal hearsay.

(I'm sure nobody in Texas - except for those wacky Lone-Star Iconoclast editors, of course - would have anything bad to say about George Bush. The DUI arrests - who cares?! But, hey, Kerry cut in line in front of someone in Boston - or at least someone called Howie Carr to tell him about this. Now THAT's a reason not to vote for Kerry. Right.)

posted by: gw on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

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.

You terrify me, especially since the latest trend in the polls indicates a Bush win.
But when I recall that despite his narrow and dubious margin of victory in 2000, Bush governed in a way more satisfying to the evangelical right than the moderate center, I fear you're quite right. The more cogent and powerful the criticisms, the stronger the impulse to take the election victory as a reason to ignore them.

Interesting to note that it seems that the reason Kerry's victory in the last debate is being undercut goes, as Andrew Sullivan has made clear, to the tenacious bigotry of our attitudes towards--if I may use such a nasty word--lesbians.

posted by: Fearful on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Bush has made far fewer mistakes to date than Lincoln did during the first 3 years of the Civil War.

That's because Bush doesn't make mistakes. Period.

posted by: gw on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I wouldn't be so sure Kerry will be such a dove. As Gene Healy mentioned, "I'm pretty sure God isn't going to tell John Kerry to bomb anyone, but Kerry might end up being even more hawkish than Bush anyway, having more to prove," a la LBJ.

Not that anyone should want to emulate LBJ. Indeed, Bush shows some disturbing parallels, increasing both domestic and defense spending without raising taxes while there was an oil shock -- that was the recipe for that ghastly inflation of the 70s. Ironically, the "jobless recovery" seems to be the only thing saving Bush this time.

And per that excellent WaPo article that Kevin posted, I actually don't think paralysis of analysis will be an issue. There are hardly any situations where the President needs to make a very quick decision on his feet (or else Bush wouldn't have had time to finish reading "My Pet Goat"). And anyway, I figure it's harder for an enemy to predict and manipulate a wartime leader with constantly shifting and adapting strategies.

posted by: fling93 on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

When an administration proposes a plan that would drive millions of higher-wage jobs down to near the minimum wage, I would think that would be an instant disqualifier. See The Big Show on the Border. That's a tangible example of exactly how this administration fails to think through the consequences of their actions.

I'm to the right of center. I somewhat supported the Iraq war.

However, I've made up my mind that President Kerry is infinitely better than four more years of the same.

Kerry will have divided government. He will be forced to work with the Republicans. And, he will probably be forced to show that he isn't weak. He might be even more of a hawk than Bush in some ways.

The Republicans will be able to keep Kerry in check, and will do so free of "compassionate conservatism."

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I might be moved to vote for Kerry, if only I thought he had any character.

And if only he weren't a Democrat. When I look at that once-great party, I see Clinton (the Playboy President), Mrs Clinton, Jimmy Carter (a nice old man, but absolutely clueless about world affairs), Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, Jesse Jackson, Big Al Sharpton, Wesley Clark, Madeline Albright (and more names from the Convention), ...

Then there are their staunch supporters: Michael Moore, Sean Penn, Barbra Streisand,....

None of these people (in either group) are capable of running a village council reliably, let alone the country.

There are major problems on the home front: the insecure Mexican border, Social Security, Medicare, but this time, the focus has to be on the foreign front.

(I don't put much stock in Woodward's interpretation of things.)

I go with Zell Miller. We have to put our trust in someone who has the will to do what's necessary to make things safer. If anything, I fault the administration for not doing more.

But I have no doubt that Kerry will do less, not more.

I remember an incident during the Clinton years, where a soldier was court-martialed for not wearing a UN helmet in a formation. For one guy, at least, principle was worth more than convenience. I believe that if Kerry starts running things, we'll see more UN uniforms on American troops. I really don't want to see that.

Then there's this ridiculous Democratic notion that international observers come in and watch our election process. Where are they going to get them? Argentina? We're big kids now, and perfectly capable of muddling through our own elections - flawed as the process is - without help from people for whom the concept of democracy is still a new, untested, and somewhat suspect thing.

It's also true that our election process would be less flawed if it weren't for the antics of people like George Soros (for whom the campaign contribution rules are not a problem) and Michael Moore (who seems to think it's OK to trade votes for underwear). Lastly, but certainly not the last attempt, is this brazen attempt by the UK Guardian to solicit votes in Ohio.

Is there nothing the Democrats will stoop to to weasel their way into power?

(About Tenet: Clinton appointee, who would most certainly have been fired by Clinton if he had been appointed by Bush Sr.)

posted by: Mike on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

From Kerry's plan on how to deal with Iraq it doesn't sound like there is a whole lot of tremendous difference. Both advance that elections must be held in January and that Iraqi troops must be trained to take over security of the country. Other issues, like Kerry's need to ask other countries to participate, I think are misguided and nieve.

I, however, agree with Bush's overall foreign policy for the same reason that Joel B. (above) does. Bush seems like a visionary type of leader, whereas Kerry is acting like he will be more of a micro-manager in the foreign policy area.

But there are other issues in this election that have varying weights of importance. The number one other issue to think about is judicial appointments. Some of the Supreme Court justices have been holding on through the first Bush term waiting to see if it was safe to retire after 2004, and they may not hold on no matter who gets elected now. Whoever we elect will be picking a court justice or two, and I really haven't heard a lot of discussion on this point. My impression here is that Bush says he will appoint strict constructionists, but Kerry's only statement is that he won't appoint any judge who will overturn any part of Roe v. Wade. We need more discussion here.

Kerry is supposed to be more solid on domestic issues, but in listening to him the other night during the last debate, he sounded more wishy washy on those subjects than he did on the war in the first debate (not flip flopping; wishy washy). His health plan, while not as Orwellian scary as Bush makes it out to be, is still a larger government expansion than Bush has in mind. And outsourcing? Come on.

Pretty much the best thing you can say about Kerry is what has been said above, that with a Republican House and Senate the government will be stagnant and slightly better for the economy.
I would rather have Bush in there and somehow convince him to back off the large government programs.

posted by: Richard L'Esperance on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"I remember an incident during the Clinton years, where a soldier was court-martialed for not wearing a UN helmet in a formation. For one guy, at least, principle was worth more than convenience."

And Bush gave us Abu Ghraib, among other military derelictions of principle.

Your point?

posted by: Jon H on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I agree with most of the points you made. The one I want to add - and I find it an essential one - is that I believe (from his own statements) that Kerry does not believe we should have an offensive strategy in the war. He talks defense, not offense, mostly because offensive is, well, offensive (to our potential allies, whether it's Europe or other Arab countries).
No, I don't think Kerry will just withdraw from Iraq. I'll even grant that his administration may manage Iraq competently (I put the odds of that at 30% - your numbers may differ). But his instincts are against opening any new fronts, taking any new risks, and offending any new countries or constituencies. We'd be going defensive in the war. I consider that bad; I'm not sure where you stand on that.
So here's the break, then, as simple as I can make it, granting your premise that Bush is bad at execution (which I don't believe, but you do): Would you rather vote for bad execution of a good plan, or good execution of a bad plan?
That's not a trick question. It's a genuine dilemma, one that many people face who *want* to vote for Bush. (It's not mine, because my evaluation of Bush's competence is much higher than yours. But I don't think there's much point of arguing that one.) Bush definitely represents higher risk than Kerry, because he'll try to *do* things that may go wrong. Kerry's lower risk, because he'll be defensive on purpose and by instinct, and won't be able to get much done domestically (if Congress stays republican - I assume you'd vote Kerry + Republican congress to keep the stalemate, right?)
I do note that you're talking yourself into voting against Bush, not for Kerry. You're going to vote for stagnant government (your words) in a time of War. Your position is then, as best as I can decipher, that a stagnant government and four years of defensive (but perhaps competent) management of the War is preferable to a re-invigorated Bush administration going off and widening (perhaps incompetently) the war.
If that's your break, I think you should vote for Kerry.
It's not, as you can probably tell, mine.
-- perry

posted by: Perry The Cynic on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"See, I'm the other way around. I'd rather have somebody that fumbles now and then, but at least knows the game they're playing. Can you really make good decisions, regardless of your process for doing so, when you don't understand the problem you're facing?"

I'm not sure whether I read it here or not, but I saw someone mention that the fundamental difference in foriegn policy with regard to the WoT between Bush and Kerry is that Bush sees nations and their governments as key actors, and prefers to go after them. Kerry, on the other hand, sees the key actors as being the terrorist organizations themselves.

Personally, I see that as a huge issue with Bush. Kerry's viewpoint on that is certainly incomplete, but in my opinion less dangerous, because when you are militarily neglecting action against state sponsors of terror, you have other means at your disposal for dealing with them. Terrorist organizations, however, do not respond to diplomatic pressure at all. I think the military might (among other things) needs to be focused very tightly on rooting these people out and taking them out of the game, so to speak, rather than toppling corrupt and evil regimes at the expense of your attention to these groups.

I also think Bush's outlook leads to an increased military presence in the middle east (coughcoughSYRIAcoughIRANcough). And what with me being prime draft age and all, I'm not a fan.

As an aside, don't give me that BS about "but they voted against the draft". Don't care. A common sense interpretation of the facts says we need more troops already, and if we're going into Syria and Iran, we're going to need a hell of a lot more. And to be quite frank, I burn easily.

posted by: Jim Dandy on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The 'devil you dont know' faction seems to be gaining steam. I'm at a loss for the logic behind it. The amount of attributes not remotely found in his record you must project onto Kerry to consider him remotely hawkish is astounding. If you want to vote for Kerry, fine. But you should go in open eyed. I dont want to hear a year from now that Kerry wasnt what he advertised himself to be in foriegn policy. If Kerry gets elected and ends up being the next Carter or Chamberlain, 'i told you so' isnt going to be remotely comforting. I urge everyone in that ballot booth, the second before you punch a name, think about the man that voted against Gulf War 1. Thats all I ask.

posted by: mark Buehner on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

A Case Against Kerry

Proposition for Dan: The desire to fire Bush for post war incompetence is no reason to elect someone who would choose not to fight at all.

On the international front, Kerry's problem is not that he has excessive faith in diplomacy, it is that he doesn't understand the nature of diplomacy at all. Through all of the windbag speeches about international community, Kerry fails completely to appreciate that force and self interest are what underlie diplomatic relations. The only way to gain compliance from a tyrant is to make him afraid for his life. Cruise missiles demonstrably are insufficient in this task, you MUST be willing to commit troops enough to hunt him down in a spider hole in his own country.

Diplomacy had failed to bring Saddam into compliance with international will not because more countries needed to scowl disapprovingly at his obfuscation, but because he had no reason to believe he personally would suffer. The tyrant sitting on oil doesn't care if you apply sanctions. He has access to as much personal wealth as he could desire. He will be the last man in the country with a cheeseburger in hand. The 'asprin factory' approach plays into the tyrant's hand, as well. Blame the US for killing school children, don't suffer any damage of signifigance, and even gain face by shaking your fist in defiance at the Great Satan.

Diplomacy with such person means that there must be a credible threat of chasing him down. The limits of Clintonian military action are reached when they call your bluff and don't waver after you hit them with 15 Tomahawks. At the end of the day, no one believed we would put boots on the ground, even our allies. Absent the reestablishment of that threat, there could be no diplomacy.

Which brings us to diplomacy with allies. Self interest governs. There is no public support for putting French boots on the ground. It won't happen. Yes, allies don't like Bush, but do you really think that the dislike is intense enough to let us fail if they otherwise would have helped or that Kerry is so much more charming that he will convince them to violate the wills of 95% of their constituents? Kerry is not proposing a serious policy difference, he is proposing to sprinkle fairy dust.

What about accountability? I agree that, assuming mid term elections favor Republicans, a Kerry term checked by the opposition party would have a greater degree of accountability in most areas. The easiest decision for Kerry to make would be to bring all the troops home, say within six months, never to commit boots to conflict again. Perfectly accountable position. Is it desirable? How would he address N. Korea? How would he address Iran? Will he say, flat out, that a nuclear material producing Iran is not acceptable, even if it means employing troops to make sure? Kerry says he wants two more divisions. Do you believe him? Are we to believe that if Kerry had been running the show we would have committed more troops to the field? No. We will get more fairy dust.

Note here that Kerry is the commander in chief, and as such has very high capability to do whatever he wants without congressional approval in these times. The divided government check is weaker with troops in the field than at any other time, by design.

Vote for Kerry becuase you believe that the scope of the fight is AQ and done. Vote for Kerry because you want government reinsured healthcare. Vote for Kerry if you like the specific way he plans on spending like a drunken sailor. For heaven's sake, don't vote for him because you feel the need to fire Bush for poor decisions in a fight that he at least had the fortitude to fight, and don't hire a liberal because you expect him to be more conservative than a conservative. At some point, the satisfaction of firing a poor decision maker has to take a back seat to the concern that his replacement doesn't understand the nature of the decisions he will be asked to make.

posted by: Jason Ligon on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

It intrigues me that people think that Kerry is going to be protectionist because he's voiced support for "fair trade."

"Fair trade" is a feint for being concerned about job losses. It's like saying you'll appoint a commission to study something. The commission, or in this case multilateral negotations, allow you to tack back to the correct policy while acknowledging people's concerns.

In any case, which is worse: Kerry/Edwards "fair trade" from labor pressure, or Bush's lobbyist influenced mercantilism.

posted by: Evan on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I can't believe it. If you want to pick a slimy liberal traitor (why isn't he in jail for undermining troop morale ?) and coward like Kerry over a good, honest, commander in Chief like George Bush, then God help you.

Universities are probably the only place on Earth were communism still rules. Its no wonder these hard leftwingers (and despite occasionally breakig with them), thats where Mr. Drezner's political beliefs lie support a communist lover like Kerry.

If Kerry becomes President, expect to see all US actions outside having to go through the UN. And despite his occasional talk about preventing outsourcing, expect more jobs to go abroad to China and India, detroying our industrial base. If Kerry is elected, I predict the country will not survive 4 years more. Fortunately, those of us in the red states have a solid bloc of Southern states to live in even if the rest of the country falls apart.

posted by: Tigue on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I urge everyone in that ballot booth, the second before you punch a name, think about the man that voted against Gulf War 1.

I realize this is probably a losing proposition and it's quite unlikely to score any points with Dan either, but: Can we just pause for a moment and actually reflect on where we might be today, if we hadn't rushed into "Gulf War 1" at the time?

Wasn't "Gulf War 1" and the way it was executed - by deploying troops in Saudi Arabia etc. - the main motivation for the terrorists to strike America? Might the World Trade Center still stand today, if we had found a better way to get Saddam out of Kuwait?

Please note I'm not advocating "appeasing" Saddam. Air strikes against Iraq would have been more than justified, in addition to sanctions. But did we really have to send troops into Saudi Arabia? And don't say the Saudi government requested them. The Saudi government is very much part of the problem itself - it's a corrupt dictatorship, and our support for it is another reason why we are being targeted by terrorists today.

Kerry's argument in voting against the war resolution back then was that it was "rushed". And that seems, in retrospect, to have been a correct assessment. If we had thought a little longer about how to go about getting Saddam out of Kuwait, we might have spared ourselves a lot of grief that we have to cope with now and in years to come.

I suspect that you, Mark, and some others here will find this argument absolutely appalling. But I wonder if you are willing to engage the actual argument or whether you will just try to stifle it again by envoking Carter or Chamberlain or by claiming that I am blaming America rather than the terrorists.

posted by: gw on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Yikes. How did this blog get on my reading list. I should have been warned when you couldn't understand why anyone wouldn't by a Germanh car because of a dispute between Schoeder & Bush. The dispute is between the U.S. (our country) and Germany (a country we have saved from the slavery of the Third Reich by the blood of our soldiers and the treasure of our citizens).

Go with Kerry -- don't let down your colleagues in the faculty.

posted by: erp on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Say, where is David Thompson lately? I miss his invective on a juicy question like this....

posted by: Bruce Cleaver on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Prof. Drezner seems to be caught in an error common to academics (having been in the academy myself, I mean no slur). He thinks that if you want to know what the candidates will do, you should listen to what they say they'll do.

Wrong, of course. Look at Lemann's article on Bush in this week's New Yorker, if for some reason you need a refresher on this.

Alas, I have no particular hopes for Kerry. But based on a comparison of his history with Bush's, I can't see it being likely that he can be as huge a FOOL as Bush.

If Bush had fired Rumsfeld after the looting of Baghdad (or, at worst, Abu Ghraib), and had eased Cheney off the ticket, and gotten Condi a new job after 9/11, I still wouldn't be voting for him ... but I wouldn't despise him.

Nothing justfies re-electing this fool and letting him think that God has smiled upon the 1st four years. Because that's exactly what he will think, and the 1st four years will look like a paradise of moderation.

Hey, Prof. Drezner---have you read that Fallows article, "Blind into Baghdad"? If not, please don't vote until you've read it.

posted by: Anderson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"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."


posted by: lucklucky on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Unlike you, I don't see the case for voting for Kerry. Here are my reasons. Judge for yourself.

1. Foreign policy is paramount in this election. Kerry as an individual, and the current leadership of the Democratic party as a whole, still see the world through the Vietnam lens. Despite the occasional tough talk now, Kerry, and the Dems generally, will always find reasons to hestitate, temporize, appease and ultimately do nothing effective while dangers gather. Worse, those with whom the next president will have to deal, especially the crazies in Iran, Pakistan and North Korea, know that. They have reason to fear Bush, and that strikes me as a big plus factor in terms of voting for the current team. Today's comments from the leaders of Japan about tbe inadequacy of Kerry's approach to North Korea (the same could be said about Iran, Pakistan and many other troublespots) should give anyone considering a vote for Kerry serious pause.

2. I find oddly ahistorical the assertion that what you and Professor George call the lack of accountability, particularly for errors in the handling of the Iraqi war, is a prime reason to vote for Kerry. There has never been a war of any consequence that was free from mistaken judgments, tactical errors, and much worse. On your logic, both FDR and Truman should have been voted out (perhaps Lincoln too, although on accountability that is a closer case). There was no housecleaning by either FDR or Truman yet at the time there were loud and I think far more substantial grounds for a claim that serious errors in judgment had been made -- FDR for the many, far worse military missteps along the way to victory as well as the internments at home, and Truman for "mishandling" the post-war dealings with Stalin, the reconstruction of Germany, etc. To me, some of the most interesting posts on the web have been articles and editorials from the 1940s, bemoaning the many screw-ups, the utter incompetence of the American post-war occupation, etc. How odd those articles read today. The point is not that we should celebrate, or vote for, mistakes in judgment. But a little perspective is in order. The Abu Graib mess was deplorable, but in perspective, is on a par with the internments during FDR's time. Deporable, yes; but the main event, hardly. Despite the mistaken judgments, FDR and Truman deserved reelection because they got the big things right. Same with Bush.

3. It is helpful to remember that war is a violent teacher (Thucydides?). All agree that the war on terror, and the Iraqi front in that war, is unlike anything America has ever done before. Mistakes, even bad ones, are inevitable. I don't know whether the claims by the punditocracy that the Bush team was wrong in deciding how many troops were needed, where to station them, what tactics to adopt regarding the Sunni triangle, etc., are valid or not. No doubt, in hindsight, the commanders would do some things differently (which ones I don't know). But none of that is troublesome, or should serve as the predicate for the 'accountability' -- firing Rumsfeld, etc. -- that seems to concern you and Professor George so much. If your standard made sense, Grant should have been fired (held 'accountable' by Lincoln) for the bloody mess leading up to and during the early part of the Peninsula campaign before he finally pushed through, despite all the mistakes along the way, to final victory. In war especially, the point is to learn from events, particularly tactics that do not work, and if possible, not to repeat them. As far as I can tell, the Bush team is doing that.

4. You need to ask yourself whether having Bush or Kerry at the helm is more likely to keep America safe. Deciding to replace Bush because he does not fire the "middle managers" when events go wrong seems, to me at least, to have priorities exactly backwards. The comparison of the federal bureaucracy to a business corporation only goes so far. The reality is that there is a quasi permanent government of "middle managers" and higher ups that cannot be fired, that engages in endless turf battles, and that reflects deeply held and starkly contradictory views on every important issue facing the president. The CIA has a starkly different view than Defense, etc. Nothing comparable exists in any business. Firing Tenet because the CIA was wrong on the WMD issue (if they were wrong and there is nothing to the notion that WMDs or predecessors were moved to Syria, and putting aside the Duelfer report's concerns about Saddam's plan to restart WMDs as soon as sanctions collapsed) does nothing to address the reality of the conflicting, quasi institutionalized worldviews held by different parts of the permanent government. Perhaps firing Tenet would have been the right thing to do, but the fact is that it would have changed nothing of substance. You need to recognize that comforting ideas about "firing those who screw up" just like a corporation would do to a manager who fails to deliver on his P/L commitment don't quite fit here given the reality of the permanent government and the fact that it isn't (may never be) clear what the truth really was.

5. The 1940s were a different age, and the kinds of charges leveled against Bush today by Kerry (he lied us into war!), Kennedy (it was all a fraud cooked up in Texas by Rove for political reasons!), Robert Byrd and many others would have been unthinkable in that earlier era. But aren't you concerned that a Kerry win will be taken as validation of that line of attack and where that will leave us as a country?

6. Whatever may have gone wrong in Iraq, I think it bears noting that in March 2003, as the Iraqi campaign began, predictions of the likely cost of the war in loss in life far exceeded what we have experienced. That tells me that some very important things were done very well. Isn't accountability a two way street, in that right decisions are rewarded? Don't you think Rummy got some very important things right, despite a lot of hysterical criticism?

7. When a war is broadcast 24/7, and where the emphasis is always on the problems rather than the successes, it is far too easy to conclude that some decision was a huge tactial or strategic mistake when events may yet prove the opposite. The point is not that the reporting is skewed for partisan reasons (it may be), but that it is driven by more commonplace concerns about what is of journalistic interest, what sells, and what doesn't. Do you really think the country's policy can be run based on what is currently being featured in the news cycle? Are you confident you have an accurate picture of events in Iraq, and that your picture is more accurate that Allawhi's? Aren't you concerned that demand that Bush be fired because he didn't fire "middle managers" has a tendency to reduce policy decisions almost to an Oprah/Geraldo level? Remember, too, that accountability is a concept that never applies to armchair critics. So a little humility, and perhaps a bit more confidence in the commanders on the ground and their ability to adjust to changing and difficult circumstances, is warranted here. Before accoutantability can be invoked, the person meeting out the reward/punishment needs a firmer grip on the facts than any voter could realistically claim at this point. Since I am convinced that Bush has the better strategic approach to the ongoing war on terror including the Iraqi front, it seems clear to me that the greater folly would be to vote based on what the 24/7 news cycle shows and to ignore the essential fact that Bush is right about the current historical moment and Kerry is not.

8. I don't understand your point about Kerry's ability to accomplish diplomatically anything significant that Bush could not also accomplish. As others have noted, France has no friends, just interests. The Aussies and apparently the Japanese don't share the view that Kerry has some great diplomatic skills that will do us (or them) any good. Quite the opposite. See point 1, above. The notion that "nobody likes America anymore" is without substance. European elites have thought ill of the US for decades -- remember all the noise about the Pershing IIs, US warmongering, etc. during Reagan's administration. That will not change and, frankly, does not matter any more today than it did then. On the point, Rummy was clearly right unless this is the one truth that you think dare not speak its name.

9. The domestic issues are important, but do not tilt decisively in favor of either candidate. In all events they are overshadowed by the foreign policy reasons for sticking with Bush.

Sorry for the overly long post. But you asked for it.

posted by: Richard on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Wasn't "Gulf War 1" and the way it was executed - by deploying troops in Saudi Arabia etc. - the main motivation for the terrorists to strike America?"

No. It was a justification. Were that excuse not available another would have been chosen. The goal of the Islamo-fascists is not to remove Americans from SA except in passing. The goal is to seize power anywhere and everywhere possible.

"Please note I'm not advocating "appeasing" Saddam. Air strikes against Iraq would have been more than justified, in addition to sanctions. But did we really have to send troops into Saudi Arabia?"

Air strikes and sanctions... kinda sounds like the last 10 years. No, without ground forces we could not have forced Hussein out of Kuwait most likely. He would have held out and eventually world consensus would have turned against our bombing campaign. Not to mention the number of scuds smacking Saudi and Israel would be problematic. Would Israel have attacked Iraq at some point? Probably. What would our the response be by the Arab world? Who knows? The point is, you dont get to choose how much war you have, circumstances and other players dictate that. What you suggest simply gives the initiative to Hussein, and it is a dangerous mistake to think American military victory is ever inevitable.

"Kerry's argument in voting against the war resolution back then was that it was "rushed". And that seems, in retrospect, to have been a correct assessment. "

Or it might have emboldened our enemies still further. Our coalition may have cracked. Without American troops, would Hussein have cut a deal with the Saudis at the point of his tanks and scuds? Perhaps. The Saudis were good allies with a quarter million US troops between Hussein and Riyahd. Without them, who knows?

"I suspect that you, Mark, and some others here will find this argument absolutely appalling"

Its an interesting thought exercise, but the assumptions you make are dangerous. Since when have our enemies and adversaries respected America's patience and diplomacy more than force? How many enemies and troublemakers did we cow by shocking the world by kicking the snot out of Hussein in what everyone assumed would be the mother of all battles? How much respect did we earn around the world and how many Vietnam ghosts did we vanquish?

"But I wonder if you are willing to engage the actual argument or whether you will just try to stifle it again by envoking Carter or Chamberlain or by claiming that I am blaming America rather than the terrorists."

Lets put it this way, Neville Chamberlain never in his wildest dreams expected his solution to result in the disaster it did. He never had the faintest notion that both France and England would be routed from the entire continent in a month. He wasnt a bad man, he just didnt understand how the world works. When bad people do bad things, they must be punished, or they are emboldened. Letting Hussein keep Kuwait or slink out assumedly by eventually cutting some deal would have strengthened him. His nuclear program, for instance would have continued. What would his ambition have driven him to do next, assuming America would never send troops to stop him? Thats the bottom line, some people understand the nature of tyrants, and some simply cannot fathom them. Those might be decent, honorable, educated folks, but they are still weak in that respect. I think John Kerry is such a person. I dont think he understands who we are dealing with and what they are capable of.

posted by: mark Buehner on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"The amount of attributes not remotely found in his record you must project onto Kerry to consider him remotely hawkish is astounding."

Well, he *is* the only candidate who fought for his country.

Bush and Cheney are only hawkish in the most cowardly way.

posted by: Jon H on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Josh writes:
'At some point, the Bush Administration has to be held to account for woeful incompentence in Iraq.'

How would anyone be able to tell whether we are 'incompetent' -- what would be the yardstick ?

In other words, if the Iraq war is sui generis, the relative 'competence' of the administrations efforts will be determined by history writers 50+ years from now.

Put another way, can you say: 'The management of the Iraq war was worse than ...' what ? Germany/Japan in 1945?

Germany in 1919?

I say you can't.

posted by: JonofAtlanta on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I remain unconvinced that Kerry understands the limits of multilateral diplomacy

He doesn't understand diplomacy period, other than its affect on the weak-knees in his audience. His promise to engage in bilateral negotiations with NK is nothing more than a threat to cut Japan out of the talks over its own future, essentially treating them like Poland before WWII, as little more than bargaining chips, with no say in the outcome. This is supposed to improve things for us how?

There are two parts to your current problem: the first part is some kind of apparent belief that things were much better before Bush, when this clearly is not the case; the second part is the apparent belief that Kerry will be able to do any better, which is also clearly false.

Let's roll some footage from the Clinton years:

Chavez spurns flood relief from U.S. troops
January 13, 2000

Two U.S. Navy ships headed for flood-ravaged Venezuela are returning to their Norfolk, Virginia, base after President Hugo Chavez rejected an offer of assistance from the U.S. military, the Pentagon said Thursday.

There is Chavez refusing aid from the US because the aid is from the US. And check that date--this is after eight years of Clinton's warm-pussy diplomacy that everybody seems to think Bush has squandered. How far could he have fallen, really?

Ah well, that was just Chavez, who we all know is broken in the head anyway. Surely things among our allies were much much better. What about, say, the Irish, whom we even helped with negotiations in the northern troubles? Nope, not much better there either. Consider that when the USS John F Kennedy carrier docked in Dun Laoghaire in 1996 that every lefty opposition group in the country made protests over its nuclear payload, or argued that its presence violated Ireland's position of stated neutrality, or said that the daily overflights from the on-board jets were clear acts of war. I was living in Dublin during this time; I could barely leave my flat, and had to keep my American accent soft in order to avoid conflict--you know, the exact same shit that expats are complaining about today, except that this was under Clinton, and happened in the middle of a multi-year diplomatic effort towards helping the Irish.

What about Iraq? How did Clinton do there? For one thing, it was 1995 (Clinton) when the French and Germans stopped participating in no-fly zone overflights. Turns out that those nations preferred the deal from Saddam (exploration rights to take effect at the end of sanctions) over partnering with warm-pussy Clinton to enforce UN sanctions.

What about when Clinton engaged in operation Desert Fox, to eliminate Saddam's "known" WMD stocks and programs (which the Duerfler report now says was eliminated in 1991)? He could only assemble a coalition of a half-dozen nations for that effort (including stalwarts in this one), while his opposition included today's opponents as well as many others. For example, the only time in US history where Russia has recalled their US ambassador in protest (not even during the Cold War) was in angered response to Clinton's mis-handling of ODF:

Russia: Iraq airstrikes a blow to world order
Egypt urges Clinton to 'contain the crisis'
December 18, 1998

In unusually strong criticism from the Russian military, Gen. Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Defense Ministry's international military cooperation department, said the attack could lead to a major separation from the West.

Moscow "will be forced to change its military-political course and may become the leader of a part of the world community that disagrees with the (U.S.) dictate," ITAR-Tass quoted him as saying.

Read that again... that happened under Clinton.

In retalition for the imperialistic Clinton hegemony, France Russia and China began moving towards lifting the sanctions against Iraq. As part of the negotiations, Clinton traded away the activist UNSCOM for the passive (verify only) UNMOVIC, and agreed to terms that would end sanctions as soon as UNMOVIC could not disprove Saddam's declarations (as a matter of pure luck for our side, Saddam was naturedly unable to file a declaration which could not be proven as false). Even after trading everything away like that, the resolution only passed because France Russia and China all abstained from blocking it.

On the other hand, Bush managed to build a large coalition and also contained the countries that would not join. This is a marked and demonstrable improvement over the sitution in 1998, and is remarkably better given that Bush engaged in all-out war while Clinton was limited to a four-day bombing run.

Of course, Clinton was limited to that because [1] the right was killing him domestically and [2] the left was blocking his attempts to go any further than a small bombing. As to the latter point, who can forget the famed town hall where Albright, Cohen and Berger were shouted down by their own constituents:

U.S. policy on Iraq draws fire in Ohio
February 18, 1998

Albright was drowned out at one point by a group chanting, "One, two, three, four, we don't want your racist war," as she tried to explain U.S. policy to the audience of 6,000.

Same audience, same response, different admins. Clearly the problems here are with the crowd, not with the admins. It helps the MSM and their zombies to blame Bush for everything, of course, but history tells us otherwise.

Certainly the extent to which hostility towards the US is expressed has shifted somewhat, but that hostility has always been there under the surface. If anti-Americanism is now at a 7 or 8 (anything higher would have to involve open warfare or subterfuge), then it was already at a 5 or 6 under Clinton, just operating under the surface. In some areas (such as national governments), things are clearly better -- we don't have France on our side but they weren't there after 1995 so that's no loss, and we have better relations with Russia and China this time.

Kerry thinks he'll do better than Bush and maybe even better than Clinton. Bullshit. Kerry is insulting our allies, offering to bargain away the Japanese, and promising to stop short of full democracy in Iraq. He's also demonstrated that he has no clue about the hostile reception that will greet any American president in some quarters, regardless of the anti-American history of that president himself.

And let's be clear about what a future under Kerry will look like -- it will be a lot like the past under Kerry. In 1970 he said that he thought US troops should only be mobilized under orders from the UN, which of course meant that the Soviets and Chinese could veto our response to their agressive moves. He has since distanced himself from that remark, but I look at his history and I see him living it out. Between his anti-war activities during Vietnam, his work to advance communism in Nicaragua and Grenada during the 80s, his appeasement of Saddam in the 90s, and his continued efforts towards constraining America insted of our enemies... all I see is the 1970 Kerry living large. Get ready to trade away Japan's security -- no missile defense shield for you -- just so Kerry can appease his leftist base and score points with the anti-Americans.

Can't do worse than Bush? We alredy did worse under Clinton (through no fault of his own; the fault is with our enemies), and we will certainly do worse under Kerry.

posted by: Ursus on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Well, he *is* the only candidate who fought for his country."

Im the only candidate that ever flipped burgers, does that qualify me to CEO McDonalds?

posted by: mark Buehner on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I live in fear of a day where Kerry could actually get elected president. He do or say anything to get elected, and drag American down the toilet with him.

posted by: Sokologo on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

If you believe having a rank opportunist, someone utterly without principle (Kerry has always been a leftist but now he won't embrace it) and someone who has absolutely nothing substantive to show for 20 years in the Senate is reasonable presidential material then there is no point in trying to persuade you to the contrary.

Kerry is an empty suit. God have mercy on us if enough fools pick another Democratic narcisist for president.

posted by: jag on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

For several YEARS now, when asked about Bin Laden, George Bush has used non-sequiturs and bromides such as "he has been marginalized. He's hiding in a cave. We're on the hunt. I'm not that concerned with him."

By that logic, we should allow everyone on death row to go free, as long as they promise to live quietly in the woods and not bother anyone. Bin Laden killed THOUSANDS. How many Americans would agree that adequate punishment for Bin Laden is "marginalization"?

If you were about to jump to your death from the top of the World Trade Center on 9/11, what would YOUR last thought be? I'll tell you what MINE would be: Get the bastards who did this to me.

I don't want to hear about the "hunt." I reject "marginalization." I want to know why Bin Laden has enjoyed life for three years longer than his thousands of victims, and what we are doing to capture or kill him.


posted by: GOP Vet on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I note that the fact that I had already (pre-emptively) made fun of the idea that people voted for Kerry because they wanted to keep Weld as governor did not stop you from laying out that idea in all seriousness.

I almost didnt answer this because of your smug and superior tone in addressing me. Generally, it has been my experience that people who treat others on the net the way you do usually have very little to add to the argument.

The fact is that one of the themes put forth by Kerry and the MA Dems at the time was exactly what I said - keep Bill Weld as governor. If you take a moment to go back and research the campaign you would see this or if you lived in MA and followed the race as I did you would not be mocking me about this.

In any discussion of MA politics post Dukaukis, the consistent drive of the voters to elect a republican (any republican?) to the governor's office to block the dems controlling all areas of government cannot be doubted.

As for Howie Carr, he is a guy who glories in going after "hacks" (nonpartisan) and pissing and moaning about the state of MA. Does he support Kerry? Hell, no. In fact, he appears to disdain the guy. Why else would he be chuckling at the thought that Americans would get to known him as well as we do in MA?

So if an independent or Republican says something about Kerry its out of bounds or unfair or not worth considering?

posted by: Dundare on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


Why you should vote for Bush:

Yes, Bush has made mistakes. Quite a few. As you know, he is the President, and every decision he makes is scrutinized to the letter. But, he has made a hell of a lot more terrific decisions that will pay off long after his term ends, whether that is this January or in January 2009. Every social issue you can think of is meaningless unless the huge issue or terrorism and radical Islam is sent to the dustbin of history, and without being concerned for re-election, but legacy, you will see a new peace dividend, perfect for Democrats to get back to their issues sooner than you think.

Why you should not vote for John Kerry: He has been on the wrong side of history his entire life. And he will worry more about what Kofi Annan and the NY Times editorial page thinks of him than in making difficult and unpopular decisions. A Kerry administration will be just like Clinton's, an attitude of, "what can we do to get through this news cycle with as little damage as possible."

You know what you are getting with Bush. And, a man of your intelligence knows exactly what Kerry will do, no matter what position he takes this week. Nobody what the left-wingers have said, you know in your gut that Bush is a good man who will do what is right regardless of his popularity, and you know that Kerry is a panderer who will do what is popular, and inaction is highly popular in Democratic circles.

Yeah, Bush isn't perfect, but who is? For me, I know he'll do everything to defend my daughter's life. Kerry, on the other hand, may avenge her death if it doesn't upset France and Belgium.

posted by: Brian on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Prof. Drezner,

You live in the People's Republic of Illinois (words of another Chicago native), right?

Your vote doesn't matter; Kerry will carry the state easily and Obama will trounce the clown for the Senate.

Unless you have followers in other states who would be influenced by your decision, don't lose too much sleep over it:-)

posted by: zorel on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"I don't want to hear about the "hunt." I reject "marginalization." I want to know why Bin Laden has enjoyed life for three years longer than his thousands of victims, and what we are doing to capture or kill him. "

Has it occurred to you that the man is buried under a mountain somewhere? Should we task our entire military with digging up Afghani mountain sides until we find a corpse? This isnt a battle against one man, to frame it so is in fact to lose focus. This isnt even a fight against 'Al Qaeda'. Al-Zaqawi is every bit as dangerous and determined to hurt America and he doesnt necessarilly even have his Al Qaeda fraternity pin.

posted by: mark Buehner on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

mark Buehner, Dundare, and Ursus,

you guys made good points!

I still wonder why anyone should care about Daniel Drezner's vote - as I said before, Illinois is not in play!

posted by: zorel on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I wrote:

What about Social Security and Medicare? When Kerry was asked about it in the debate, he essentially said, "It's not a problem. 10 years from now, we'll look at it again, and if it still looks like there will be a problem, we'll have a commission look into it."
Doesn't that worry you?

Kate wrote:
Oh Adam, I doubt it. I have three words in response to that...
Defense Secretary McCain.

Huh?? You lost me there Kate... what does McCain have to do with Social Secuirty and Medicare? Are seniors going to be so inspired by him doing policy into a ripe old age, that they decide not to retire and collect benefits?

posted by: Adam on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

In thinking about a Kerry administration I shutter about what may lie ahead. You should too. America's fighting men and women have little or no respect Kerry.

Who knows where they will be once the the Kerry Admin. is actually established.

Suggest you consider what Victor Davis Hanson writes(excerpt):

Terrorist killing, like the first World Trade Center bombing or the USS Cole, certainly was not seen as the logical precursor to 9/11 — the expected wages of a quarter century of appeasement that started with the weak Carter response to the Iranian hostages and was followed by dead soldiers, diplomats, and tourists about every other year. No, these were "incidents" like 9/11 itself — "law-enforcement" issues that called for the DA, writs, and stern prison sentences, the sort of stuff that barristers like Kerry, Edwards, Kennedy, and McAuliffe handle so well.

This attitude is part of the therapeutic view of the present struggle that continually suggests that something we did — not the mass murdering out of the Dark Age — brought on our present bother that is now "the focus of our lives." We see this irritation with the inconvenience and sacrifice once more reemerging in the Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, and the New York Times: We, not fascists and Islamist psychopaths, are blamed for the mess in Iraq, the mess in Afghanistan, the mess on the West Bank, and the mess here at home, but never credited with the first election in 5,000 years in Afghanistan or consensual government replacing autocracy in the heart of the ancient caliphate.

To all you of the therapeutic mindset, listen up. We can no more reason with the Islamic fascists than we could sympathize with the Nazis' demands over supposedly exploited Germans in Czechoslovakia or the problem of Tojo's Japan's not getting its timely scrap-metal shipments from Roosevelt's America. Their pouts and gripes are not intended to be adjudicated as much as to weaken the resolve of many in the United States who find the entire "war against terror" too big, or the wrong kind, of a nuisance.

Instead, read the fatwas. You hear not just of America's injustice in Palestine or Chechnya — not to mention nothing about saving Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo or Afghanistan of the 1980s — but also of what we did in Spain in the 15th century and in Tyre, Gaza, and Jerusalem in the 12th. The mystery of September 11, 2001, is not that it happened, but that it did not quite happen when first tried in 1993 during Bill Clinton's madcap efforts to move a smiling Arafat into the Lincoln Bedroom and keep our hands off bin Laden. Only an American with a JD or PhD would cling to the idea that there was not a connection between Group A Middle Eastern terrorists who attacked the WTC in 1993 and Group B who finished the job in 2001.

A Kerry presidency, we know now, will go back to the tried and true institutions so dear to the therapeutic mind that please the elite and sensitive of our society. How silly that most Americans are about through with the U.N. Indeed, we Neanderthals want it relegated to something like the Red Cross tucked away at the Hague, if not on the frontlines in Nigeria or Bolivia. Yes, we dummies have seen enough of its General Assembly resolutions aimed at the only democracy in the Middle East, its promotion of rogue states such as Syria, Cuba, Iran, and Libya to human-rights watchdogs, its corrupt Oil-for-Food program, and its present general secretary and his role in nepotism and sweet-heart contracts at the expense of the Iraqi people. No surprise that a shaken perpetual-president Hosni Mubarak is calling for a U.N. conference on terror with wonderful Arab League logic: 'You kill Jews on your own soil, good; you kill them on mine and lose me money, bad.'

posted by: J on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

A quick thought about Kerry's foreign policy strategy.

Yesterday our PM (I am writing this from Canada) declared from Paris that he would not send troops to Iraq under any circumstances. He made this statement even before he knew who would win your Presidential election.

Martin's declaration was made in Paris ,not Ottawa or Washington.This despite the fact that Canada borders on the U.S., that 90% of our exports are sent to your country, and that Canada is largely dependant on the US for its security.

Clearly our PM,who proclaimed his indifference to giving America a helping hand in Iraq while he was standing next to President Chirac ,thinks that the French President's view on this matter is more important than that of the next President of the US, whoever he might be.

Kerry's plan for Iraq seems to based on the belief that his more diplomatic approach would win over countries like ours,who have been put off by President Bush approach to deposing Saddam Hussein.

Like his French and German counterparts, our Prime Minister has gone out of his way to disabuse Kerry of this notion even before he takes office.

Given this rejection of burden sharing, what remains of Kerry's Iraqi plan? More to the point,how can the Senator claim that he has a far better understanding of America's traditional allies than President Bush,when he has so misunderstood their reaction to his overtures on Iraq?

The former diplomat who you quote was spot on when he wrote that the international institutions that Kerry cherishes " have become vehicles for the pursuit of narrow self-interests by any number of major regional powers which aspire to great power status. (France, Russia, Germany, India, Brazil, China). This is a drastically different international order from the one Kerry presumes to know. "

Our Prime Minister takes US trade and defense cooperation for granted. He knows that the US will act responsibly towards Canada ,whoever is elected in November,because it is in your national interest to do so.

He thus feels free to curry the friendship of the French and snub our closest ally. I sincerely doubt that any amount of eloquence on Senator Kerry's part will change that.His belief that his diplomatic apprach will work miracles and his misunderstanding of the motivations of countries like my own betrays a naive view of international relations,which will not serve him well if he is elected.


posted by: Steve Albert on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Jim Dandy - I know that Bush pere understood the key actors to be national leaders, not just nations and governments, and that led him into the folly of not concluding the Iraq war by removing Saddam's regime. But I don't see what you do regarding Bush and Kerry seeing nations as the key actors. After all, Kerry is much more interested in diplomacy, for better and worse, where the only real actors are nations and governments.

posted by: Anthony on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"remember the tremendous outpouring of support for this nation after 9/11. We had everyone on our side, and should have used the opportunity even harder than Bush did to strengthen international institutions and relations."

This passage shows an astounding failure to grasp the situation. Sympathy cards are cheap. Losing billions of under-the-table money from Saddam is not. No matter what Bush did, or how long he waited before "rushing to war", France, Russia, et al would have been hard pressed to let go of their big, fat cash cow. Is greed so hard to understand when it's practised by Old Europe?

And that's the type of cluelessness that Clinton excelled in (getting snookered by North Korea) and Kerry is promising.

posted by: skeptic on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The fact that Victor Davis Hanson is supporting Bush is almost enough to change my view on supporting Bush (or would if Kerry were not a lying communist weasel).

VDH is a true loony, a man who dreams of Pax Americana and finds comfort in ahistorical analogies full of logical flaws. [ This is the same so-called historian who ignores the Mongols in a 600 page book of wars between East and West. Follow his views and we'll find ourselves in a 90 year cycle of remaining in the Middle East trying to establish democracy among people who wouldn't recognize it if it bit them.

posted by: tigue on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I love the line from the diplomat:

"...KE04 presents no actual solutions on foreign policy from which we can derive a reasonable belief that his performance would be better than the current White House. In fact, it just might be worse."

I'm reminded of Berke Breathed's fabulous short story, "The Great LaRouche Toad-Frog Massacree." In that story, a bunch of toad-frogs are accidentally killed because they were thought to be an invading Communist hoard.

After it is discovered that the toad-frogs are all dead, one of the characters is on the verge of emotional collapse. That character is consolled by this line of thinking:

"Milo, realizing that Portnoy's emotional stability was at stake, went to his side and explalined that while, admittedly, the likelihood of those toad-frogs being Communists, or even liberals, was not great, there was no reason to assume that he had wiped out Republicans instead. In fact, there was an excellent chance that the vast majority of them were LaRouche Democrats, who, of course, were better off dead."

Kerry may not be better, but might be worse? Sure. And Kerry might be a LaRouche Democrat Toad-Frog.

posted by: Chuck on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Oh. The whole story can be found here:

posted by: Chuck on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

\Jonof Atlanta asks: "How would anyone be able to tell whether we are 'incompetent' -- what would be the yardstick ?"

Let's ask ourselves how we're doing in relation to our goals and if we stay the course, do we have any prospect of achieving them. Here are the goals as far as I can tell:
- Get rid of the WMD's in Iraq and the country's capacity for obtaining them
- Stability/relative peace in Iraq
- Progress on democratization
- Deprive terrorists from having a basis of support by creating a democratic examplar in the region

What about progress?
There were no WMD's but we're lucky there weren't since we didn't have enough troops to detect and guard the installations where potential WMD's could have been found.

Attacks in the Green Zone this week attest to the lingering instability. MANIFESTLY UNSUCCESSFUL.

Portents of possibilities, given what transpired in Afghanistan but not enough UN observers to oversee the elections process, large parts of the control in Sunni areas unable to hold an election due to violence. MAYBE.

Iraq was not a haven for terrorists before we took out Saddam. It now is. Iraq has created the impression in the Muslim world that this is a war against Islam. Attitudes in the region have deteriorated sharply, and the U.S. has through its intelligence failures and incidents like Abu Ghraib utterly damaged its reputation. This may well have created more impetus for marginal sympathizers of al-Qaeda to become full-fledged supporters of terrorism. Rumsfeld's query about whether we are killing terrorists faster than they are being created may now have an answer: we appear to be making more terrorists. UNSUCCESSFUL TO DATE.

If we had planned better, would we be in the same mess? If you answer no to that question, then we are lead to conclude that this was an ill-conceived diversion from the wider war on terror.If you answer yes, then the failures to date are signs of at best, hiccups on the road to success to be lamented, or at worst, policy failures that may have potentially doomed the whole enterprise.

Is this Germany post WWII or Vietnam circa 1968?
Who knows for sure, but I have no confidence that the Bush Administration is capable of a mid-course correction because so much of what they have done to date has been poorly executed.

I understand the doubts about Kerry, but the blinders in the Bush Administration to how hard the "hard work" is lead me to believe that another 4 years is simply intolerable.

posted by: Josh on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I find it interesting that many posters seem to think the war in Iraq has been conducted incompetently. Really, what did you expect to happen? That American troops would waltz into Baghdad, tear down a statue of Saddam Hussein and that all of a sudden the shuttered windows would burst open, arab women would throw off their headdresses, throw flowers, and burst into song? Even Bush wasn't that optimistic; he predicted that, after the official end to major combat manuevers, it would still be "a long hard slog." (And, as commander in chief, he has to present an optimistic picture or he's going to undermine morale--a leader can't say "we expect a lot of casualties and very little obvious major progress for a while; terrorism will continue to be a problem in Iraq for years to come and the success we can reasonably expect is to minimize our casualties by shifting them to soft targets like Iraqi civilians." Instead, he has to make it sound optimistic by saying something like "there's still a long, tough road to hoe, and there will be losses and sacrifices to be made, but I have confidence that our troops will win victory for a better tomorrow.")

We can point to a lot of individual failures in the war, but that's not necessarily a sign of incompetence. That's to be expected. Every military campaign I'm aware of has a large number of individual failures. The Revolutionary war? You bet. The civil war? Yes (and on both sides). WWI? Lots of them. WWII? Sure. Reconstruction after WWII? Yes. The Korean War? I think so. Vietnam? Definitely. Nicaraugua? I believe so. Even in a well-organized and well-trained military, you just can't get thousands of people to make life or death decisions for even short periods like the invasion of Nicaragua without mistakes. (And sometimes, even doing the right thing doesn't work).

As for Abu Ghraib, the only specific incident mentioned so far, IMO, it's unusual not for what happened (which though horrific, as I understand it, is not that uncommon even for stateside civilian prisons where there the guards aren't on the front-line of a guerilla war (not that guerilla wars really have front-lines, but hopefully you understand the point)). Rather, it's unusual because it was quickly investigated, exposed, and stopped.

From my vantage point at least, the endeavor to bring democracy to Iraq has always been fraught with peril and risk of failure and it's going along about as well as it could reasonably be expected to. Demanding that it should be going perfectly is wishful thinking, only made possible by the fact that our military succeeded so brilliantly in the early (and infinitely easier) stages of destroying Iraq's conventional military.

posted by: Seneca on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

For my Brother, on The Wall; this is very simple, John Kerry is a man with NO
honor. GWB, with whom I disagree VERY strongly, is at least an honorable man.
Kerry, by all definitions of an earlier
time, committed treason. Any argument, to the contrary, is disingenuous at best
or irrevocably flawed at worst. My Brother, a West Pointer with stars on his collar points was KIA a few short months before Kerry consorted with agents of an enemy government. Compounding his error, he then appeared
before Congress and scurrilously defamed
an entire generation of his comrades in arms. The man is simply unfit to be elevated to the office of The President
of The United States of America. How can
you or any other rational, thinking citizen of this country even begin to think of casting a vote FOR him. If you cannot bring yourself to vote for the incumbent; there are two honorable choices, cast NO vote for President or choose one of the other alternative candidates. Thank You, RRC

posted by: Roy R. Colglazier on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"For several YEARS now, when asked about Bin Laden, George Bush has used non-sequiturs and bromides such as "he has been marginalized. He's hiding in a cave. We're on the hunt. I'm not that concerned with him.""

GOP Vet, if that's what you really are ... it seems that for several years now, you've been content to read quotes out of context for your understanding of life. But now we have, instapundit (and his links to friend and foe alike), and the Washington Times. Surely you can find the courage to see what's on the other side, to crack the door open and let in the light ...

posted by: DNC Vet on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The case against Kerry for me is that I have no idea where he rally stands on foreign policy issues. I can't risk him turning out to be Jimmy Carter2.

If Kerry had the same positions he has now, he would never have won the Democratic primary.

posted by: Dave on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Well, he *is* the only candidate who fought for his country."

Yes, quite right.

Unfortunately, he was fighting for Communist Vietnam.

posted by: DNC Vet on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

It constantly amazes me that apparently large numbers of people have the vague notion that, for whatever reason, Bush is "strong on terrorism" and will make us all "safer".

What's his record?

When he was handed a memo in the summer of 2001 entitled "Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S.", Bush promptly left for vacation to Texas. For the entire MONTH of August. How would history treat the President of the U.S. if there was a memo a month before Pearl Harbor titled "Japanese planning to strike Hawaii", and the President left to relax on the beach for an entire MONTH?

The same way history will treat Bush, I suspect...which is why Bush fought tooth and nail against the creation of the 9/11 Commission, hoping to supress public release of that intelligence document.

This is the same man who said that he "really does not think all that much about Bin Laden" since he's been "marginalized." Marginalization is apparently sufficient punishment for someone who killed thousands. I would bet the families of those victims have something to say about that.

Oh, and the oft-repeated "two-thirds of Al Queda killed or captured"? Must be a really nasty one-third that has struck recently in Bali, Tunisia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and about half a dozen other places, including Iraq on a daily basis. A large and nasty once-third, eh?

Absolutely, utterly incredible.

posted by: GOP Vet on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

A most interesting conversation on Bush vs. Kerry.
Please note that Kerry has had to campaign in Massachusetts 12 times (more than Bush has campaigned in Wisconsin). Why do you think that is? Could it be that he does not want the embarrasment that Al Gore did in Tennessee?
Beth, N. Carolina

posted by: Beth Debrot on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Further to your Update:

Kerry's foreign policy claims and ambitions (more multilateral; respected abroad) are at stark odds with what he has said and done during the campaign. He promises to bring more allies aboard, yet insults those who already are. What's a prospective ally to make of this?

He promises to push talks with North Korea to the fore, and then tanks the current talks by promising to cave on North Korea's principal demands. He commits to a more UN-centric process, yet Bush worked very hard to get the UN on board with his program.

All this leaves me thinking that Kerry may make attractive noises, but he's actually wreaking havoc with our international interests.

posted by: Shelby on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

My problem with Kerry as president on foreign policy is two-fold. First, you're not just electing one man but an entire foreign policy team, and the team Kerry would bring to Washington was the same team that failed to deal with terrorism for its first run at it--8 years of dithering and missile strikes. That team has learned nothing since 9-11, taken no responsibility and appears bent on repeating all of its past mistakes. It does not understand the world as things stand today, and has shown no interest in understanding anything other than how a given issue poll tests.

Second, Kerry's instinct is Euro-centric when the reality is the war on terrorism is being fought and will be fought on much broader terms. He cozies up to "allies" who were bought and paid for by Saddam's Oil-for-Food dollars, yet irritates allies that actually stand with us. He sent his sister to Australia to try and convince them that their alliance with us makes their lives more dangerous. He discounts the contributions of the Polish, the Italians, and the South Koreans in Iraq, not to mention how he discounts the contributions of the Iraqis themselves. And his treatment of the North Korea issue--which amounts to repeating all of the Clinton mistakes while cutting our Japanese and Korean allies out of the talks--is a recipe for disaster. If he follows that strategy he will alienate our most useful ally in Asia, Japan. And all in the name of essentially appeasing Kim Jong-Il. It won't work, and will harm our alliance with Tokyo.

If you want a third problem to consider, just look at Kerry's base. What do they--the's and the Michael Moore contingent--want Kerry to do? Surrender, cut and run, blame 9-11 and every other disaster on ourselves. They want the US to retreat and wait for the next attack, and only clean up the blood without cleaning up the problem. Does Kerry have the spine to deal with them, when they can rightly say they put him in the White House? I don't think so. Kerry will not listen to you, Dan, but I believe he will listen to them because far-left thinking on foreign policy is where his instincts always take him. Kerry's record during the Reagan years is proof enough of that. He got every single call during that period wrong, and has shown no solid evidence that his thinking has changed one iota.

Bush isn't perfect, but he has put the war where it belongs: In the terrorists' back yard. Given time, he'll probably succeed and Iraq will become a reasonably stable, reasonably democratic place free of terrorists. If not given time, I expect Kerry will cut and run and Iraq will descend into a chaos reminscent of South Vietnam after we retreated--on the advice of John F. Kerry.

posted by: Bryan on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I see that many here have not understood that the calls for "accountability" are a red herring. Where were those calls during the Clinton years? No need for it then?

Those calls for accountability are merely a trap. As soon as Bush admits any mistake, will he be applauded for his courage and "buck stops here" attitude? His opponents (certainly the MSM) will immediately use his own words to beat him over the head with. So please ... no more hypocritical, vacuous calls for accountability.

posted by: DNC Vet on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

You seem to forget one crucial point. The options are not multinational cooperation vs. the US acting as the lone ranger of the world. The options are a multilateral approach or the US increasingly facing political isolation and insignificance internationally. Everyone already knows how vulnerable the US is economically, and the world certainly has learned from Iraq that the American military might perhaps was somewhat exaggregated. (Always a risk with going to war - you may actually reveal the limits of your military abilities.) Even in Israel there seem to be a groving sense that the US maybe not is your best bet for the future. (No, nobody is writing off the US as an international player with considerable political weight, yet. But what Kerry understands, and Bush perhaps not, is that there *are* limitations to the US power to singlehandedly bend the rest of the world after her will. The American century, after all, was the short 20th century 1917-1989.)

posted by: Oscar on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

A view from across the border:

posted by: Tim Bray on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"The options are a multilateral approach or the US increasingly facing political isolation and insignificance internationally. Everyone already knows how vulnerable the US is economically, and the world certainly has learned from Iraq that the American military might perhaps was somewhat exaggregated."

What you are suggesting economically would be suicide for anyone that tried it. Look at the EU, even Europeans cant agree on anything, how would any other collection of countries get together to cut their own throats? Trying to economically punish the US would do far more damage to any nation that tried it, which would never be contemplated by the Chiracs of the world.
Politically we are no more or less isolated than we were 2 years ago. The shroud is simply off. Everybody's neighbors smile and wave... until you ask them to help moving. This is the fundamental difference in perspectives. Kerry thinks nations act against us because they dont like Bush. Bush knows they act against us because it is in their perceived self-interest to do so. In the end, interest is everything.

posted by: mark Buehner on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"The options are a multilateral approach or the US increasingly facing political isolation and insignificance internationally"

And what, pray tell, might these multilateral partners demand of us? Will the country have to sell her sould because of some perceived risk of "political isolation"? Will we have to dismantle our military, pull all troops out of the middle east, maybe funnel more billions into the ME, so that they can develop more WMD?

I believe Oscar proceeds from a false assumption - the one where he says "Everyone already knows how vulnerable the US is economically." Really? I didn't know how vulnerable the US is.

I see a major terrorist attack, and within a few months afterward, interest rates are still low, the stock market is back up where it was prior to 9-11, and people are still at their jobs.

"US maybe not is your best bet for the future"

OK, who is, then? Europe? How many troops do they have? The UN? Did you forget Rwanda, and the Balkans? Yeah, real bang-up job done by these factions.

No one does it better than the U.S. Give me an example of what would be a "better bet"

"there *are* limitations to the US power to singlehandedly bend the rest of the world after her will"

Let me sound cocky here - no, there aren't any limitations. If necessary, the US could do A LOT more damage - economically, and militarily.

posted by: Inspector Callahan on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Dr. Drezner, you're thinking like an academic, with due respect. The perfect is the enemy of the good, and you're looking for perfect accountability. You'll never get that from either party or any candidate.

You quote an article that essentially demands that Rumsfield be fired for Abu Ghraib. If that doesn't immediately strike you as wildly disproportionate, you're not living in the real world.

Dubya is sometimes loyal to a fault. But those who are the competent recipients of that loyalty can be emboldened to take risks and think creatively without fear of being purged when — as is inevitable — some of those risky or creative actions fail to pan out, or even when they explode. A manager who sees firing as his only management tool is himself not the sharpest tool in the shed.

I think you're losing the forest for the trees, sir, and you're way over-intellectualizing your voting decision. My advice: Put your PhD down for a day. Spend an hour re-reading War on Terror materials from any source, including at least a quarter-hour specifically on 9/11. Spend an hour observing your new baby without any distraction, and thinking about that baby's future. Then do what your gut tells you.

posted by: Beldar on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

For me, I'm one of those "basically libertarian types who want to see terrorists in little pieces". So, a Dem who was credible in defense would have an excellent shot at getting my vote - particularly since all things being equal, the "divided government effectively means diminished government" argument carries some weight with me. But things are not equal, and I still wonder if Kerry really gets it: we _are_ in a war with an enemy who doesn't care to score points with us to make us change policy, but wants to destroy us.

In this case, summits, diplomacy, multilateralism, etc are all processes, not results in and of themselves. What results does he want to see? What is his global vision? He has none, as far as I can tell. Basically, he is like an architect talking about innovative construction techniques without talking about the buildings he'll build.

Also, Kerry hasn't answered the fundamental question: what if the vaunted international institutions are subverted and corrupted, as they were by Saddam? Even Bush has a hard time talking about this, since we need the UN's "credibility" for various things like the Iraqi elections. How does "multilateralism" work in real life when lots of countries are operating in bad faith (how to say that in French?) or have many layers of agendas?

posted by: Foobarista on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Like it or not, this election is a referendum on the effectiveness of terrorism. If Bush is defeated, terrorists all over the globe will celebrate with renewed energy and conviction. Bush’s defeat will be proof that bin Laden was correct: America does not have the stomach for a tough, protracted fight. Murder enough “infidels” and even the great Satan will back down. Imagine the impact of that message in recruiting new killers.

Correspondingly, our military and the allies who have helped us in the fight against international terrorists will be deeply demoralized. The loss of the will to fight at home is the end for the soldiers in the field. 75% of our soldiers will vote for Bush, and then wonder why we won’t let them finish the job we sent them to do.

Most disturbing is the fact that many Democrats and leftists know this – and don’t care a whit. These loving, nuanced humanitarians are completely indifferent to the fact that surrendering Iraq to the terrorists sentences millions to misery and death. They didn’t care when they helped demoralize America into surrendering millions to the horrors of communism in Vietnam – so why should they care now?

As to the WMD debate, consider this:
Prior to the invasion of Iraq, there were five sets of indisputable facts:

1. There are numerous terrorist organizations – al Quaeda among them – with members willing to die for the sake of killing Americans. There can be no doubt these organizations would love to deploy a weapon of mass destruction in the middle of New York City – if they could acquire one.

2. In the past, Saddam Hussein possessed and used such weapons – on his own people. And though he claimed that Iraq no longer possessed WMDs, Hussein repeatedly refused to allow weapons inspectors unfettered access to his weapons facilities. Furthermore, intercepts of phone calls between his weapons officials showed that during the limited inspections that Hussein allowed, “certain items & materials” were being moved around to avoid discovery by the inspectors.

3. The world’s intelligence community was virtually unanimous in the belief that Hussein still had WMDs or was trying to acquire them. The dispute was over what to do about Iraq’s weapons, not whether they existed.

4. Whether or not Hussein had any connection to 9/11, he was clearly a terrorist sympathizer and sponsor. He sent $25,000 to each family of suicide bombers in Palestine. At the Salmon Pak facility outside of Baghdad, terrorists trained in hijacking, assassination and the use of biological and chemical weapons. The terrorist that hijacked the Achille Lauro and killed Leon Klinghoffer was living in Baghdad. The Ansar Al-Islam terrorist group was openly training in northern Iraq.

5. Having been humiliated in the first Gulf War, Hussein hates America – and would have relished the opportunity to retaliate. After all, this man tried to assassinate the first President Bush.

President Bush looked at this collection of facts and realized that America was potentially facing a dangerous nexus between: 1) an America-hating madman in possession of nation-state resources and with a proven willingness to develop and use WMDs, and 2) the existence of international terrorists willing to die for the sake of killing Americans. The possibility that Hussein might be able to take vengeance on America by giving WMDs to a group like Al Quaeda was an intolerable risk. That is why President Bush took us to war in Iraq.

Is Iraq a disaster, a reflection of Bush's incompetence? With all of the media focused on the violence, it is easy to overlook some of the good things. Here are some of the highlights of accomplishments to date, according to USAID (

• Expanded peak electricity production to 6,000 megawatts, compared to prewar levels of 4,400 megawatts, an increase of over 36%.

• Expanded the Baghdad water treatment plant to increase capacity by more than 50 million gallons per day. Seventeen new water and sewage treatment plants are under construction around the country.

• Reopened and renovated seaports, which now off-load up to fifty deep-water vessels per month.

• Completed emergency repairs to some 1200 kilometers of fiber optic cable, reconnecting 20 cities and 70% of the population.

• Added over 200,000 new phone lines in Baghdad.

• Rehabilitated 2,405 schools nationwide.

• Printed and distributed 8.7 million math and science textbooks.

• Trained nearly 33,000 secondary school teachers.

• Vaccinated over 3 million children and 700,000 pregnant women.

• Screened more than 1.3 million children under the age of five for malnutrition – and fed hundreds of thousands that needed it.

• Trained 2,500 primary health care providers and 700 physicians.

• Introduced a new, uniform nation-wide currency.

• Created more than 77,000 new jobs through a public works program.

• Facilitated the establishment of 16 governorate councils, 90 district councils, 194 city or sub-district councils, and 445 neighborhood councils.

• Renovated and reopened the Baghdad International Airport, and currently there are more than 40 non-military arrivals and departures daily.

Is it perfect? No, but it is not the disaster Senator Kerry likes to describe and it is getting better every day.

A John Kerry presidency will be Jimmy Carter all over again. Do you really want that?

posted by: Michael Smith on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Isn't it quite ironic to see so many of the avid "risk takers" make the argument that the risk of a Kerry presidency must by all means not be taken?

It seems to be the major remaining argument of many of them, including that email that Dan posted as an update.

I'll take the "risk" of the "Madeleine Albright B Team" moving back in any time over the risk of the Donald Rumsfeld F team staying on for four more years.

posted by: gw on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

You are an untenured college professor.

Gary Becker can come out in favor of George Bush, and if you have tenure and win a Nobel prize, you can do what ever you like. Until then, even if you intend to vote for Bush on election day, which, IMHO, is the only thing a sane person interested in the survival of western civilization could do, you would be a damn fool, if you were to say you would be voting for Bush.

Therefor, for the sake of your career and your family, you must announce your ferverent support of John Kerry.

But on 11/2 in the privacy of your polling place, and for the sake of your family, your friends, the United States of America, the Jewish people, and western civilization, vote for George Bush.

Don't worry about unduly influencing the general electorate. They think all college profssors are communists anyway, so another Kerry endorsement makes no difference to them.

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"I'll take the "risk" of the "Madeleine Albright B Team" moving back in any time over the risk of the Donald Rumsfeld F team staying on for four more years."

I wont. Audicity isnt a risk in war, not being audacious is the risk. Its always better to be wrong moving forward.
"A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future." George Patton

posted by: mark Buehner on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Iraq was not a haven for terrorists before we took out Saddam."

This is somewhat questionable. Richard Clarke reportedly worried that UBL would "boogie to Baghdad" if pressured in Afghanistan. The 9/11 commission reported no active operational cooperation, but it arrived at that conclusion by ignoring some direct evidence of it (on the basis that, if a terrorist's cell phone was used in a certain time period, that meant the terrorist was in the US). Even so, they found quite a bit of evidence of contact and sympathy between the Iraqi regime and Al Quaida. There is some evidence that terrorist groups affiliated with Al Quaida (Ansar al Islam for one) had training camps within Iraq. There is also evidence that Hussein was paying the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. So, while Iraq may not have been a haven for terrorists if haven is defined as where they are physically located right now and terrorists are defined as Al Quaida, it was certainly involved with and supporting terror.

"It now is. Iraq has created the impression in the Muslim world that this is a war against Islam."

Part of the reason is that Islamist propaganda needs make honesty about the actual scope of the conflict more advantageous to them than to us. We can't afford to admit that we are at war, not with terrorism, but with militant Islam. They benefit by trumpeting that fact. And they would have benefitted from the fact that they can admit the truth but we can't even if we hadn't invaded Iraq.

"Attitudes in the region have deteriorated sharply, and the U.S. has through its intelligence failures and incidents like Abu Ghraib utterly damaged its reputation."

Perhaps. Abu Ghraib (and especially the media obsession over it) certainly played into the propaganda arms of our enemies. "Utterly" damaged its reputation is a bit strong though. That assumes first that our reputation cannot be repaired. Secondly (and on the other side) it assumes that we weren't already considered the Great Satan.

"This may well have created more impetus for marginal sympathizers of al-Qaeda to become full-fledged supporters of terrorism. Rumsfeld's query about whether we are killing terrorists faster than they are being created may now have an answer: we appear to be making more terrorists."

This analysis also assumes that marginal sympathizers would have remained merely marginal sympathizers of al-Qaeda had we done nothing militarily beyond Afghanistan or had we invaded somewhere else. That seems highly unrealistic. It seems just as likely that continuing sanctions on Iraq would have made a highly effective propaganda tool as news programs displayed dead children killed "by the sanctions" (like they did for a while before invading Iraq became a live option) while the actual effectiveness of the sanctions eroded into nothing and Oil for Food lined the pockets of Russian and French companies and Saddam Hussein. The perception of a weak or gunshy US might have been just as effective a recruitment tool for Al Qaeda. Remember that the anemic response in Mogadishu and to the USS Cole attacks were specifically mentioned by UBL in his speeches explaining why his side would be victorious.

I think it quite likely that the nature of the conflict we are in will inevitably have a polarizing effect and marginal sympathizers of Al Quada will become full-fledged supporters or reject it entirely. And the perception of strength or weakness is at least as likely to influence them as their perception of the US--which is pretty dim to begin with if they sympathize with Al-Qaeda.


To which, it might well be answered that it was never realistic to expect it to be successful by this date.

"If we had planned better, would we be in the same mess? If you answer no to that question, then we are lead to conclude that this was an ill-conceived diversion from the wider war on terror."

Not really. "Ill-conceived diversion" implies several things that are not necessarily the case.

First, it implies that we will not eventually prevail. To me, the current climate in Iraq looks like a picture of slow and piecemeal but steady progress. Violence is likely to be the last problem to be vanquished not the first and a partially just and more-or-less stable government is more than any of Iraq's neighbors can boast. Even a flawed democracy in Iraq could look very attractive.

Second, it implies that there were better options. I don't believe that there were. The status quo prior to the invasion was untenable. The sanctions were steadily producing less of everything except misery. The no-fly zones were steadily provoking more and more confrontations of the kind that portrayed us as a paper tiger. There was no way to preserve what was worthwhile about the status quo. Giving up on containing Saddam would, in the best case have been a much bigger propaganda victory to our enemies than anything that really happened, and in a more likely case would have meant the immediate revivification of all his WMD programs as well. Simply destroying Iraq, finding a suitably cowed dictator to enforce "stability" and leaving them to pick up the pieces might have resulted in fewer casualties but would have been less noble and also would have been a greater propaganda victory.

Third, it assumes that Iraq is a diversion from the war on terror as if there were a specific and set number of terrorists who could reliably be rounded up and killed or imprisoned (at least until they get access to lawyers and contest their imprisonment on due process grounds). If that isn't the case, however, then winning the war on terror will require a fundamental re-ordering of the Islamic world--either by bombing them into non-existence and kicking the pieces under the rug or by persuading them that joining the modern world is a better idea than destroying it. If the latter choice is going to be successful, something like the project of rebuilding Iraq is necessary, whether the odds of success are 90% or 50%.

"If you answer yes, then the failures to date are signs of at best, hiccups on the road to success to be lamented, or at worst, policy failures that may have potentially doomed the whole enterprise.

Is this Germany post WWII or Vietnam circa 1968?
Who knows for sure, but I have no confidence that the Bush Administration is capable of a mid-course correction because so much of what they have done to date has been poorly executed."

How about Post WWII Germany with a 1968 vietnam press?

"I understand the doubts about Kerry, but the blinders in the Bush Administration to how hard the "hard work" is lead me to believe that another 4 years is simply intolerable."

The greatest reason for doubting Kerry on this subject is that he appears unsure of whether he rejects the project entirely or whether he lives in wishful thinking land where, if we just had him as president, the French and the Russians would stop lining their pockets and join us and the Germans and Canadians would send troops and invite us to cocktail parties again. And, of course, our current allies would be just as favorable to a man who has done everything in his power to demean them as they are to the one who has honored their efforts and sacrifices. Either way, electing Kerry seems like an invitation to disaster.

posted by: Seneca on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

To the commentors who would have America believe that the President is responsible for the deaths of our troops in the war: We are volunteers. We are dedicated enough to the "principles that make our country free" to sacrifice ourselves for the freedom of the others and as insurance that our children might not have to suffer another attack on this country.

If you think your vote for Kerry is showing support for the troops, then please consider that by 4 to 1, troops prefer Bush and by 3 to 1, when you add in our family members.

Please don't commit us to military failure (under a Kerry administration) under the false premise that somehow the vote is out of concern for those who are willing to die for you and your families. Just pick some other reason to vote for him - don't blame us for it.

posted by: tc on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Dan, your diplomat friend's penultimate paragraph is close to my own view. Apart from party loyalty -- which I do take more seriously than most people -- it is a fairly complete list of the reasons not to vote for Kerry that I find persuasive.

Now, in fairness to Kerry, however similar his foreign policy instincts are to Carter's and Clinton's he is vastly more knowledgable and experienced in foreign affairs than they were when they became President. Any President is liable to make mistakes about issues he is hearing about for the first time, and for John Kerry there will not be as many of those as there were for the last two Democratic Presidents.

But his instincts are I fear very similar indeed to Carter's and Clinton's, and this doesn't matter only with respect to policy directions. The foreign policy process in both Democratic administrations was an absolute mess. Carter was too indecisive to choose between his Secretary of State and his National Security Advisor, who feuded for the first three years of his term. A different person made policy in Clinton's administration depending on what part of the world was involved. A Democrat with real, comprehensive foreign policy expertise or long executive experience -- someone like Sen. Biden or Bob Graham -- might be counted on to do better. I don't think John Kerry can be.

And yes, there is the matter of a Kerry administration trying simply to renew the Clinton administration's approach to terrorism, and to China, and even to trade. This approach was not successful, and got less successful the longer Clinton was in office. On terrorism particularly, I could not avoid noticing that the line Clinton's former aides gave the 9/11 Commission was about the same as the line coming from Bush's staff: we did everything we could, and 9/11 happened anyway, and what are you going to do? I give Richard Clarke credit for his apology, but he was the staffer least at fault and is unlikely to return to government in any event. And he was the only one.

I know how Bush and his team changed their approach after 9/11. I don't agree with all of what they have done, and in fact will not address Bush's performance at all right now for fear of striking a tone like that of Hamilton's endorsement of John Adams in 1800. But I know what we've got, and after November the single biggest obstacle to doing better -- the election -- will be history. I don't know how Kerry proposes to improve on Clinton's performance that paved the way for so many of the problems we have now. He hasn't said. I don't think he knows, or rather I think he believes his presence will dramatically change the international atmosphere. This belief is a product of his formidable sense of privileged entitlement; it is doomed to be frustrated, and I have no idea how Kerry will react to that frustration.

This campaign has been every bit the disspiriting affair I thought it would be at the beginning of this year. In fact from my point of view the whole course of public affairs in this country over the last sixteen and a half years or so has often assumed the characteristics of a nightmare. But what has passed cannot be changed, and what is before us is to make the best choice we can. With great reluctance I conclude that the best choice this year is Bush.

posted by: Zathras on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Trying to economically punish the US would do far more damage to any nation that tried it...

I didn't suggest that anyone would or should actively punish the US economically. I was thinking more about harsh economical realities like the trade deficit. How many more multibillion-dollar wars can the US economy take?

And what, pray tell, might these multilateral partners demand of us?

The idea with multilateral cooperation is that you give and take, make some compromises, and in the end everyone gains. It's about mutual interests. You don't need to sell your soul.

"US maybe not is your best bet for the future"
OK, who is, then? Europe?

Yes, for Israel. Read the article I linked to.

Let me sound cocky here - no, there aren't any limitations.

I see. Well, nice dreams.

posted by: Oscar on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The comments are extensive, and I didn't have the chance to read all. So this may already have been said.

One of the premises swinging your vote is "lack of accountability." Tenet's a great example. But the notion that Bush can't get rid of anyone is wrong. Look at O'Neill, Clarke and, gently Tenet. But more important, just what evidence is there that Kerry would impose accountability? Look at his campaign staff. Many added, none discarded.

posted by: prim on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"I was thinking more about harsh economical realities like the trade deficit. How many more multibillion-dollar wars can the US economy take?"

You're actually buying into the talking points? The US economy is as healthy as ever, far more healthy than anyone else in the world, particularly Europe. If you look at our spending, military and total its no different as percent of GDP than it was in the 80s, which I think turned out ok. The US is not in this fantasy verge of economic collapse. If anything it is gearing up for another boom. If sending a hundred thousands troops to Iraq for a year and a half has left us teetering on the brink of economic destruction we're doomed no matter what we do.

posted by: mark Buehner on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Audicity isnt a risk in war, not being audacious is the risk.

But you aren't audacious enough to give Kerry a chance...

posted by: gw on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


I am not sure I agree that the United States really had the genuine level of support around the world right after 9-11 that you and some others think we did. I think the United States had sympathy so long as the country was the victim, some of that sympathy diminished in Oct 2001 when Pres Bush ordered military action in Afghanistan. I recall, once the war in Afghanistan started, seeing polls like one taken in Germany that indicated after about 3 weeks of war 75% of the German population thought the USA should stop bombing the Taliban. I also recall editorials and opinion pieces in European newspapers blaming the USA for 9-11, not to mention Palestinans dancing in the streets on the day of 9-11.

As for Kerry, well he isnt President yet and he has already had two foreign policy failures in one weeks time. His "allies" announced they wouldnt be sending troops to Iraq and then Iran rebuffed his nuclear fuel overtures made during the first debate.

posted by: John on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"But you aren't audacious enough to give Kerry a chance..."

Thats a nonsequitar. Kerry has made his attitude clear, he is going to essentially play defense. Bush is playing offense. Yeh, electing Nadar would be more radical than either one but that doesnt make it an audacious choice. Recklessness and audacity and not the same thing.

posted by: mark Buehner on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Drezner: 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.

luckylucky: What?!

He is taking into account the possibility that he himself (Drezner) might be wrong in his foreign policy instincts, and that a good decision-making process is more likely to determine if that is the case.

Richard (pt #1): Kerry...will always find reasons to hestitate, temporize, appease and ultimately do nothing effective while dangers gather. Worse...the crazies in Iran, Pakistan and North Korea, know that. They have reason to fear Bush

Yes, they do have reason to fear Bush. What's more telling is what they're actually likely to do in response to it. The example of Bush's approach to Saddam vs. his "do nothing effective" approach to Iran and North Korea seems to send a message to our enemies that you are much better off arming yourself than disarming. Especially if you can get a nuke, of course (Libya is certainly a counterexample, but I'd argue they were not likely to be invaded no matter what they did, as they were low on Bush's radar).

And of course, both Iran and North Korea have less to fear of either candidate now that most of our troops are currently preoccupied with Iraq.

posted by: fling93 on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Well, given the choice between smart student and former diplomat, I go with Mr (Ms?) diplomat. Just because France has a few troops in the Balkans or Afghanistan doesn't mean they can't position themselves against US interests in other areas. I thought that was what the diplomat was trying to say. But I'm not a political scientist, or anything like that, so what do I know? :) Isn't Jacques Chirac in China now and trying to convince the EU to lift military bans? All while having troops in the Balkans and Afghanistan? I think we will see a lot of this in the future. We want better relations with India and they want better relations with Iran, but we have our issues with Iran, etc, etc.

Anyway, I'm voting for Bush because I am a physician and I would rather chew my own arm off than vote for a ticket with Edwards, Kerry has lots of good criticisms, but he seems very naive and overly trusting of 'allies', and because Kerry sounds like he's going to spend even more money than Bush. Whatever. The world's not gonna end with another Bush presidency or a new Kerry presidency. I think we'll do fine.

posted by: MD on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Dear Mr. Drezner,

I can't help but think that critics of GWB's forign policy tend to focus on minor setbacks and failures at the expense of the big picture: Before 9-11 it looked as if sanctions against the Iraqi regime could not be sustained indefinatly. Our French, Russian and Chinese "allies" were pushing to end them and "human rights" groups were assailing the hardship it caused the Iraqi people.

After 9-11, GWB had the choice of appearing to the world as weak in the face of Islamic assualt or the opposite and in the process getting rid of the expense and trouble of maintaining forever our air patrols of northern and southern no-fly zones. WMD or not, the cost of not acting would have been incalculable in terms of american prestige and safety.

We should also remember the state of the economy by 9-11: We had a recession which started before GWB took office, the tech bubble burst, corporate malfeasance was finnaly being brought to light and of course there was the freshly made pile of rubble smoking in Manhattan. Where are we now? 5 quarters in a row of excellent average growth and very strong employment numbers.


posted by: David Pecchia on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"And of course, both Iran and North Korea have less to fear of either candidate now that most of our troops are currently preoccupied with Iraq."

NK is a special case, as they already have nukes as well as the conventional capability to kill tens of thousands of SKs at a moments notice.

As for Iran, i think you (and the Mullahs) will find you are quite mistaken, about a great many things. An afternoon of tomahawk missiles can settle the issue, at least for the moment.

posted by: mark Buehner on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The dumbest thing I've been hearing smart people say is that the REpublican Congress will keep Kerry in check. First, the Senate could tip Democratic if Kerry has coat tails. Also, Congress is not CONSERVATIVE enough to oppose Kerry (or Bush's) big government plans. A Kerry presidency gives the power to Senators Chafee, McCain, Snowe, etc. and I have no faith that they will take a stand for small government against more government spending and regulation. The situation isn't much better in the house.

If Newt Gingrich were still in charge, I'd say the argument had some merit, but with the current crop of moderates, divided government won't help.

posted by: REg on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

National security?

People are worried that Kerry might be weak on national security. I can't imagine him being any weaker than Bush is.

Sure, Bush will rush into war as a first result, but once we get there he's completely impotent. He didn't go in with enough troops in Afghanistan and let Bin Laden and the rest of Al Queda leadership go. Then he decided to use the same failed strategery in Iraq - with the same bad results. (Not everything is going terrible, but it neither country is doing nearly as well as they should be; Bush admin let nuclear weaponmaking materials in Iraq fall into the bad guys' hands, there's no security, etc.).

So far Bush is 0 for 2 in running a good war. If another war comes up, I'd rather take my chances with Kerry than be guaranteed another loss with Bush.

posted by: Zip on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Bill Clinton -- who epitomizes the kind of diplomatic style Kerry could only hope to achieve -- invested a fair amount of diplomatic capital on both of these flash points, during a time when America's prestige was greater than today -- and in the end achieved very little of consequence."

What happened to our prestige in the meantime? Who is to blame? What can you do to rectify the problem and empower America again?

p = 1 or bust!

posted by: brent on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Mark Buehner: NK is a special case, as they already have nukes as well as the conventional capability to kill tens of thousands of SKs at a moments notice.

We've had this discussion before. Yes, NK is a special case. Instead of wanting one or two nukes for defensive deterrence, they want 6 or 7 (and due to Bush's approach of "do nothing effective" until China gets off their ass, they may already have them). Why else would they want them if not for offensive purposes -- or to sell them to other rogue states and terrorists? That's a dangerous enough situation that you cannot take the military option off the table, even if they already have a nuke. Besides, you shouldn't let the enemy know exactly what and and what you aren't willing to do (never mind letting the enemy know if they're at the top of your enemies list).

As for Iran, if it were that easy, why hasn't Bush done it? Why is he instead letting them enrich uranium? Why did he instead invade Iraq, which never had the capability to do this in the first place?

posted by: fling93 on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"The dumbest thing I've been hearing smart people say is that the REpublican Congress will keep Kerry in check."

So far Bush has been the biggest proponent of big government in the federal government. A Republican Congress (there's zero chance of the House going to the Democrats) will be more likely to continue working with him on massive expansions of entitlements, pork, spending and liberalism.

Kerry being in the White House would set up at least a modicum of animosity between the two branches, creating some gridlock.

Every study at the state and federal level shows a divided government keeps spending the lowest and dampens new tax initiatives.

posted by: Zip on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Please note that Kerry has had to campaign in Massachusetts 12 times more than Bush has campaigned in Wisconsin). Why do you think that is? Could it be that he does not want the embarrasment that Al Gore did in Tennessee?

This statement strikes me as completely bogus. Most polls I've seen show Kerry winning MA by 20-30 points. The last democrat to lose in MA was Mondale, and even that was close. Even the Republican Governor of MA, Romney, said that Bush is not going to win MA.

Has Kerry really campaigned in MA 12 times ? I suspect the statement is confusing fund raisers and the like with real campaign stops. I've no doubt that kerry has been using MA and NY as a giant ATM for his campaign, just as Bush uses Texas. But Bush had raised most of his money prior to March of this year. The Dem convetion was also in MA, so Kerry might have held visits there at that time. He may also have had visits on the border with NH.

posted by: afh on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

This is how hard this is:

The current president of the United States has no credibility in the world, and has no propsects for regaining credibility. You can vote for him and ostracize America for another four years, or you can vote for the other guy and gain a glimmer of hope.

Everything else is speculation.

posted by: Mark from Iowa on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

David Pecchia:"I can't help but think that critics of GWB's forign policy tend to focus on minor setbacks and failures at the expense of the big picture: Before 9-11 it looked as if sanctions against the Iraqi regime could not be sustained indefinatly. Our French, Russian and Chinese "allies" were pushing to end them and "human rights" groups were assailing the hardship it caused the Iraqi people."

First, don't forget all of the US companies that were pushing to end the sanctions.

Anyway, the big picture is that Bush's record on national security is pretty weak. He let the bad guys go in Afghanistan. That's not a minor detail, that's a huge one. We had the opportunity to take bin Laden and much of the Al Qaeda leadership out over there, but Bush let them all get away. He took our special forces out and divereted them to Iraq BEFORE Congress had even started to talk about giving Bush authorization for war. He replaced them with Spanish-speaking anti-drug agents. Terrible failure.

In Iraq, he rushed us in with no strategy to win the peace. He's mananged it terribly. And by all reports, terrorist recruiting has gone through the roof as a result. That's making us less safe.

These aren't minor details, they're huge.

posted by: Zip on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Thats a nonsequitar.

Actually, it's not (not even a non sequitur) because it wasn't a conclusion, but a correct observation. You think we ought to take great risks, because we are at war, but you think electing Kerry would be a great risk and should therefore not be taken - because we are at war.

Kerry has made his attitude clear, he is going to essentially play defense.

I was wondering where exactly you might have got this line from (i.e. which talking points producer), and I found something interesting in my 5-minute research. "Playing defense" is new right-wing double-speak for improving homeland security! Wow. When Kerry talks about "guarding our ports", that's "playing defense"! When Kerry talks about giving more funds to first responders, that's "playing defense"! And also "defeatist", if you read the right right-wing blogs.

I guess some of you guys would rather see the whole World destroyed - then you can say "at least we got them, too!".

I begin to wonder: Has war actually turned from a (sometimes necessary, but sometimes dubious) means to achieve peace to a goal in and of itself?

Recklessness and audacity and not the same thing.

Oh, how true...

posted by: gw on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The diplomats questioning of a future Kerry cabinet puts to mind Bush's choice for National Security Advisor. Remember what Richard Clarke had to say about Condi's concern over those pesky terrorist warnings? Talk about a lack of accountability.

posted by: Kevin Cooney on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I'm far more dissapointed that our capacity for sacrifice to nobel ends is practically non-existent today. We'll cheerfully help the world if it doesn't cost us, the richest and most capable country in the history of the world, anything or cause any deaths.

When was it different ? We've always had one of the lowest percentages of foreign aid of the industrialized nations. We've always been somewhat isolationist, intervening only when our interests were threatened, especially outside the Western Hemisphere. Even then, we had imperialist misadventures like the Phillipines (what did we ever gain from that anyway) ? Other than a fit of Wilsoniasm in the WW-1 era.

posted by: erg on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Other than some successes regarding Libya, keeping the WTO together, and the Taliban’s removal I have a suspicion this is not a foreign policy team that will go down in history as even minimally competent.

That is one of the most absurd pronoucements I've seen in a while. The Rumsfeld-led Bush DoD team will be lauded for generations. Their re-thinking of force distribution, recognition of the changed geo-political landscape and repeated military successes are some of the main reasons I'll be voting for Bush this time. I want that team protecting my family and preparing us against future threats.

posted by: Somejoe on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Doesn't matter how you vote. Illinois is polling heavily for Kerry. You're vote will either be one among the deluge, or one that's washed away by the deluge.
However, cynicism aside, I'm not ready to write Iraq off as a disaster, or even call it a disaster. Iraq is a challenge. Following this perspective, D-day was a disaster, Iwo Jima was a disaster, etc. These are challenges, and we need to rise to the occasion. Islamofacism is a threat, and we can fight them now or fight them later, but we will fight them, and the cost now is lower.
But back on Iraq. You have situation where gurillas several steps below Mafioso are fighting an occupying power. They can blend in the noise. Said occupying power could blast away indiscriminantly, or they could take the difficult route (short-term) and target those involved. The fact that tribal leaders in the Sunni area are turning on the 'insurgents' suggests that the tactic is paying off.
18 months is too soon to evaluate Iraq. Get some patience.

posted by: Geoff Matthews on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I am amazed that anyone would seriously consider voting for Kerry due to foreign policy considerations given his constant changes of position on Iraq and his incredibly naive/foolish suggestions on dealing with North Korea and Iran.

As for being unpopular in Europe, I can only assume people worried about that have either forgotten what our European friends thought of Reagan, or they're too young to recall.

posted by: Stan on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Another four years of this administration could irreversibly damage the United States' reputation abroad. Germany in recent days has implied they would not rule out sending troops to Iraq if the US is under new leadership. Even if this is mere posturing, Kerry's diplomatic skills certainly cannot make the situation worse, whereas Bush's certainly can (there is every reason to believe that this administration's current handling of Iraq could force Tony Blair to decamp, and the likely departure of Colin Powell will only make things worse, as his suggested replacements will be viewed with thinly veiled derision by most of the world). Kerry is, above all, a politician and has made too many political compromises for my taste, but I believe that he will at least listen to more than one viewpoint on important issues, read the news, hold people accountable and lead this nation with honor and dignity (qualities that have been sorely lacking in recent months).

posted by: TJ on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Why vote for Bush?

- Kerry picked Edwards as VP. Kerry has never released his medical records. Were you scared of the possiblity of Dan Quayle being president how about Edwards? John McCain declined to be his running mate. What does he know that we don't?

- Other personnel picks during the campaign. Keep bringing people in when a problem arises and hopefully fix the problem that generally goes away over time. Looks like how the Clintons picked their first cabinet. We got Janet Reno from that process. Who will John Edwards bring to the administration.

- I don't question Kerry's patriotism but I do question his judgement. He opposed everything Ronald Reagan did as ably mentioned many times before in prior posts.

- If Gulf War 1 didn't qualify as a global test then what will?

- "I will never privatize Social Security". Before 9/11 George Bush was setting up this election as a referendum on Social Security with the Monihayn commission. Who has the vision and who doesn't?

- Who says that Rumsfeld will remain as Sec Defense? Remember the purge after the mid-term elections of O'Neil and Lindsey. Were there hints before of a house cleaning?

- Bush nominates Porter Goss as CIA Director over the strenous objections of the democrats. The man doesn't wait when he feels something needs to be done.

- If Kerry opposes tax cuts then why couldn't he show up at the Senate to oppose the latest one. Surely the Democrats would made the vote happen during a time he could be available or does he have that little pull with his collegues.

Zell Miller said it best. "Never have two men been so wrong, so often and so loudly as the two Senators from Massachuetts."

posted by: Jeff Schaeper on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Maybe everyone could now go back and provide new arguments based on the fact that Kerry will not have as much presidential power as Bush. We'll have divided government.

Here's the correct link for the article mentioned above: Blind Into Baghdad.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I have not read a remotely persuasive argument of why to vote for Bush in months. Even his arguments of why to vote for him require ignoring reality and believing his fantasies of how the world is.

If AQ Khan was really brought to justice...then maybe a vote for Bush would be reasonable.

If our invasion of Iraq was making us safer...then maybe a vote for Bush would be reasonable.

But these things are not really happening. I think that every vote for Bush is a vote that is willfully denying reality.

I have seen reasonable arguments for not voting for Kerry (I don't believe them, but they are reasonable).

Dan, I know that you are pragmatic, and can see that we need to change. And, like it or not, the only change that is possible is President John Kerry. And I think the debates showed that is nothing to be afraid of. Unlike Bush, Kerry at least seems to understand the the best politics is good policy.

posted by: Rich on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I just want to add this, it might not mean anything to you but it is an honest statement. I’m an active duty military member who is nearing retirement. I currently work in the DC area and serve with a joint unit. The military loves Bush, and we know he loves and respects us as well. After years of Bill and Hillary’s thinly veiled contempt for us serving under the Bush administration has reignited our military. The president gave us back our honor and pride. You might not understand it but trust me it’s true. The dread that is seeping in around here at the prospect of serving under Kerry and his vaguely crazy wife is palatable. The feeling that Kerry might take over has us all shuddering at the idea of Clintonesque humanitarian missions that tie our hands and are mostly for show. Kerry would be a terrible Commander in Chief; his willingness to smear us launched his career after all. The sense of possible betrayal and untrustworthiness about him is frightening. The military has a strong institutional memory; the Clinton administration was generally hated and is not forgotten. Bush asks and we give, with trust and admiration. You don’t want to know what the chatter around here indicates with regards to Kerry. Don’t dismiss me as a DC “warrior”, I’ve spent years of my life on deployments and expect a few more before I finally hang up my boots for good.

posted by: Mil Member on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


Lord Acton said "absolute power corrupts absolutely". Kerry is the real "conservative" in this race -- and Bush is the radical -- trying to introduce democracy via bunker busting bombs.

If ALL branches of the US govt are controled by ONE party -- absolutism would be the outcome -- for the sake of John Adams, Madison and Washington -- lets vote for Kerry. Thx

posted by: Koby on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I'm pretty disappointed with the discussion here, particularly the undercurrent of "Bush has screwed things up in Iraq". Can anyone in all seriousness say that all the contingencies we've faced there were forseeable? It's not enough to, for example, complain about Tenet on the WMD's (9/11 perhaps, but he wasn't alone there) since intelligence agencies around the world were reaching the same conclusions. As Michael Ledeen, among others, has pointed out, the CIA we have now is a product of the political culture, one in which the important business of intelligence gathering has been compromised by legalistic interpretations of law and policy (Gorelick's wall being just another brick, so to speak).

That's just one of many examples, but the real answer to the question of screwups is that what is happing in Iraq is immensely difficult, and made all the moreso by the qualifications Bush's opponents have constantly forced on him. The levels of force, the speed with which the ground assault was conducted, the failure to bust up Fallujah and other northern Baathist strongholds, are all in part products of the political necessities involved. The trick is getting it done despite those political elements. The only perfect answer to all of those details is Kerry's: don't do it at all. But in the end that answer fails the "global test". It leaves the Muslim Arab world without a democracy of any kind and it's most dangerously disruptive leader, Hussein, in power.

One should also consider that the Iraqis have been a part of this equation. Those who complain that Fallujah and Sadr should have been dealt with swiftly ignore the reluctance of the interim government to do so. Under a Democrat, many of the biggest critics would hold that up as an example of diplomacy and partnership, despite the many ways in which that decision has caused problems.

In many ways the current political culture contributes also to this perception of "arrogance" by the Bush Administration. The admission of mistakes and errors are of course fodder for the political opposition. Kerry has engaged in the same kind of avoidance, but he comes off a little easier because he's not the Commander-in-Chief, just a junior senator from the NE.

To complain that Bush, Rumsfeld, etc. don't fess up mistakes is to ignore that those public admissions would have a political cost. If such a cost means a President Kerry, and a foreign policy without the vision and proactive nature needed to successfully combat terror (and it would), then the calculation has been better not to pay that cost and to leave recriminations behind closed doors. A Kerry administration would be forced to do the same, only with a worse policy.

Finally, about that sharp student. Someone please explain to them the difference between the hedgemony of military power and the diplomatic movement towards multipolar action, as well as the observation that the two are not mutually exclusive. Your diplomatic correspondent made that clear enough, but it didn't seem to take. The US is the big dog as far as military power goes. That's hedgemony no matter how many UN resolutions and agreements come down seeking a multipolar solution. It was also clear from the original post that the diplomat was addressing that we are in transition, potentially, from one state to another. The question is, should the US accept that transition and if so, in what form. A Kerry presidency would move the US into a multilateral stance without the leadership role required by the military hedgemony(and economic for that matter. Bush clearly acknowledges the need for multilateral diplomacy, but not to the point where the US is merely a follower. France, Russia, and Germany all want to be the big dog, thus their willingness to involved themselves in Iranian negotiations, a situation where US influence is minimal. Their involvment in Afghanistan is pragmatic as they had little influence there before, so there is much to gain. Iraq was the opposite situation. They had made their gains under Saddam. They stood to lose (and have done so) from regime change there. I find it difficult to see how some can mistake these self-motivated involvements as some kind of love or fairness for the US. That is though the perspective that Kerry brings. It is a nieve one.


posted by: CB on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

DNC Vet writs:

"I see that many here have not understood that the calls for "accountability" are a red herring. Where were those calls during the Clinton years? No need for it then?

Those calls for accountability are merely a trap."

How can firing Rumsfeld or Tenant be a "trap"? When people who are responsible for military discipline or cirtical intelligence fail their duties miserably, they should be fired. That is simply right action. We don't need any mea culpa from Bush. In fact, that's not accountability - that's just a bogus political confessional. But those posters are correct to say that not taking action erodes the moral foundation of the U.S. as well as confidence in its intelligence.

Now the country is being given the opportunity to do what this Administration has refused to do: re-assert our American moral authority by making it clear that these lapses are not to be tolerated. To ignore what has happened vis-a-vis the erosion of ethical values and re-elect Bush would be to shame the American public with responsibility for the same immorality this Administration has shown.

posted by: Sothurn on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Kerry has never released his medical records."

Really? Here's a New York Times story based on interviews with Kerry's doctors. "Each doctor, interviewed separately, said that Mr. Kerry had instructed him not to withhold any information about his medical history."

Joshua Marshall's take is that Kerry's foreign policy will look more like that of George H. W. Bush--prudent and realistic.

In early February I sat in a Starbucks in downtown Washington with Dan Feldman, who is helping to organize Senator John Kerry's foreign-policy team. We discussed Kerry's vision of America's role in the world, and the people who might play important roles in his Administration if he is elected President, touching on everything from the crucial issue of Iraq and the simmering crises in North Korea and Iran to NATO and the proper balance between international alliances and the brute force necessary to secure American interests abroad—collectively, the foreign-policy questions that are central to the next election, and to the next four years. ...

As we discussed this, Feldman outlined a course that starkly departed from the one charted by President Bush, yet was equally unlike the approach--characterized by soft multilateralism and fealty to the United Nations--portrayed by Republicans as typical of Democratic foreign policy. Feldman emphasized the need for skilled diplomatic management and a willingness to use force abroad, but also an essential caution. The more he spoke, the more he called to mind the policies of the first Bush Administration.

George H.W. Bush has receded into history. But his Administration's traditional if unimaginative attitude toward foreign relations lives on through his National Security Adviser, Brent Scowcroft, who re-emerged two years ago as one of the most unabashed and difficult-to-dismiss critics of the buildup to war in Iraq.

I think that for undecided voters, whether you should vote for Bush or Kerry depends primarily on whether you think going to war in Iraq was a "colossal error" or not. (I'm inclined toward the latter view. It's not so much getting the intelligence wrong--it's understandable that Cheney would have believed that the scanty evidence of Iraq's WMD was only the tip of the iceberg, after the 1991 discovery of Iraq's secret nuclear program. The really big mistake was in going to war with grossly inadequate postwar planning, based on wishful thinking.)

Here's a brief web page that I've written up for undecided voters.

posted by: Russil Wvong on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I'll vote for Bush, but concede that many of the dialectical arguments for Kerry make good sense.

One that doesn't make sense is the idea that Kerry will prove a foreign policy hawk. At a certain level this is just far too cynical.

4 years ago it was pretty clear (even to me) that George Bush was an awfully conservative guy. (Doesn't anyone here attend an evangelical church?) Some in the media portrayed him as some kind of moderate, and felt that his self-decriptive use of the term "compassionate" was code for "occasionally liberal." That was ridiculous. And of course some argued that since his margin of victory was so small he would want to reach out to the center. That was ridiculous, too. (Does Barney Frank think that a miniscule KE'04 victory should force Kerry to the right?)

But in the same way that liberal commentators sought to create a Bush that had never existed and never would exist, so too many now in the center and even on the right want to pretend that Kerry's long and highly consistent record of left liberal foreign policy views is going to suddently go up in smoke when he puts his hand on the Bible. Not so.

Let's not be so cynical. Bush was pretty clear where he stood as a candidate. Even though he didn't have a long record (certainly not on foreign policy) he pretty much did what he said he would do. Most politicians do. Kerry's the same. He's been a left liberal on foreign policy consistently for 30 years. As President, he will be a left liberal on foreign policy.

4 years from now what will we say to the Republicans who whine and say that despite an incredibly slim margin of victory, Kerry misled us all and pulled U.S. foreign policy in a far more liberal direction than the electorate wanted? If we're fair, we'll tell these folks to shut up. And we'll remind them that Kerry won fair and square and had the right to implement the same ideas he consistently held for the past many decades.

posted by: Lancaster on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Let's put policy aside for a moment. This administration's primary failings have been that of implementation, not of policy. It seems clear that regardless of what course of action they pick, the administration will continue to be unreceptive to advice or feedback. So even if you like this administration's policies, their track record should give you serious pause and make you ask: would I rather have what I consider to be suboptimal policy, competently rendered?

posted by: Wendy on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Let's put policy aside for a moment. This administration's primary failings have been that of implementation, not of policy. It seems clear that regardless of what course of action they pick, the administration will continue to be unreceptive to advice or feedback. So even if you like this administration's policies, their track record should give you serious pause and make you ask: would I rather have what I consider to be less than optimal policy, competently rendered?

posted by: Wendy on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I have to confess, I haven't read all the comments-- for god's sake I have to work sometime, don't I?!!

My two cents-- all you folks bitching about the human and financial cost of Iraq, please consider what is at stake. The 1990's saw the US pursue a foreign policy which (I suspect) would closely resemble the Kerry approach. What happened?? The US was perceived to be a paper tiger, and the entire Middle East drifted inexorably toward radical Islam because that seemed to be a legitimate path toward power/ prestige/ influence/ delusions of grandure. Do you not see that the world was drifting down a path that would have ultimately resulted in World War? Arab nations infused with an extreme ideology and armed with the kind of WMD that they coveted would NOT have been content with peaceful co-existence! Hasn't 9/11 demonstrated that to everone's satisfaction?

My point-- as painful as Iraq is, I believe that it is a gamble well worth taking. It is a pre-emptive strike against a nascent adversary. One day, your children may think that $200 billion and 1000-2000 dead was one hell of a deal. (yes, I have children.)

posted by: godfodder on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

John McCain declined to be his running mate. What does he know that we don't?

I don't know about you, but I know exactly what McCain knows. He knows that he wants to be President. Not Second Fiddle.

Incidentally, McCain also turned down Bush in 2000. Did that bother you ?

posted by: erg on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


You say that Clinton, despite investing a lot of energy in Middle East and South Asia, could achieve precious little. I am from India, and know first hand that inspite of all the arm twisting by Clinton admn of India on the NPT issue, Indians never loved America, and the POTUS more than when Clinton was in the WH.

Given the fact that Indians are instinctively suspicious of world powers, a holdover from the past as a colony, and non-alignment bastion, that is quite a big deal. Bush, on the other hand, has lost all the goodwill. And, remember, even Indians who root for Israel, and are generally hawks on the WoT do not like him, or trust him.

posted by: Ramki on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Bush was pretty clear where he stood as a candidate. Even though he didn't have a long record (certainly not on foreign policy) he pretty much did what he said he would do. Most politicians do.

Absolutely not. He promised a more humble foreign policy. He promised no more nation building. He gave us the biggest nation building exercise since WW-II. He gave us the least humble foreign policy since Woodrow Wilson.

posted by: Jont on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Interesting, Dan.

Now you have how many people trying to influence your vote, courtesy of the blogosphere? (note to Michigan graduate students: Time to redo the friends and neighbors hypotheses.)

I do notice a bit of bait and switch in your comment (from earlier posts) if I understood correctly, Dan. Is it bad policy decision making or bad execution you deplore? Or, both?

I, too, am conflicted, but closer to .49 than .80. Remember what Kahneman and Tversky had to say about folks' ability to assess probabilities?

(arcane footnote: probabilities range between 0, 100 while p-values are bounded at 0.0 and 1.0; Go figure!)

posted by: Mike on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Let's put policy aside for a moment. This administration's primary failings have been that of implementation, not of policy. It seems clear that regardless of what course of action they pick, the administration will continue to be unreceptive to advice or feedback. So even if you like this administration's policies, their track record should give you serious pause and make you ask: would I rather have what I consider to be less than optimal policy, competently rendered?"

That assumes two things: first that the implementation of the Bush administration has been "incompetent" rather than imperfect. It's undeniably imperfect. However, it hardly seems incompetent.

Second, it assumes that a Kerry administration would render their "less than optimal" policy competently. Given the actions of the Clinton administration (some of the worst of which, like the disastrously naive approach to North Korea and the law enforcement approach to terrorism have been explicitly endorsed by the Kerry campaign) and the Carter administration before it and the general record of John Kerry on foreign affairs (he's been pretty consistently on the wrong side of history throughout the 80's and early 90's and more recently has been saying whatever he thought would get him a lift in the polls), that seems doubtful at best. I would think a mismanaged, disorganized, pandering, and piecemeal approach to foreign policy would be the best I could expect from the Kerry camp.

I see my choice as between an imperfect implementation of a good foreign policy and an inconsistent and and poor--possibly incompetent--implementation of a bad foreign policy.

That choice isn't difficult at all.

posted by: Seneca on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

A John Kerry presidency will be Jimmy Carter all over again. Do you really want that?

The George Bush presidency has already been Jimmy Carter all over again.

posted by: Marc on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Since I live in California, my vote for President is irrelevant except on a symbolic level. I will probably not vote for either Kerry or Bush. But if I was in a battleground state where my vote might actually matter if the election was extremely close, I'd have a difficult time reconciling myself to a Kerry victory.

I’m a libertarian who has been very unhappy with President Bush’s big government conservativism. He allowed a budget surplus to explode into an enormous deficit, and he had no good excuse for doing so, even if you subtracted out the military spending. With Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, Bush could have insisted on fiscal restraint, and he could have used the War On Terrorism as a justification for reigning in domestic spending growth.

However, the War On Terrorism overshadows domestic concerns. There are people out there who want to kill me and my family and my neighbors and my fellow citizens. These religious fanatics will keep trying to do so, and they will not be deterred by the possibility that they may also die in the attempt. They cannot be appeased and they are not motivated or dissuadable by reasoned arguments. They, not past U.S. foreign policy mistakes (of which there have been plenty), are directly responsible for the deaths of three thousand people on 9/11. Our future safety lies in hunting them down and destroying them, and we have the moral right to do so.

In large measure I think President Bush has exhibited a rational attitude, and has pursued a plausible strategy, in this war. He wants to carry the war to the enemy rather than just play defense; to hold accountable those nation-states which harbor or assist terrorist organizations; and to attempt to create a long-term “drain the swamp” solution by promoting free and prosperous societies where vicious dictators and authoritarian regimes now hold sway.

I wish we could have a foreign policy of “live and let live”, not one where we spend lives and treasure policing the world (no matter how badly it needs policing). But Al Queda decided not to let us live, and now we have to return the favor. That’s what self-defense and justifiable retaliation are all about.

Everything I’ve seen from Kerry suggests that he fundamentally misunderstands the nature of our enemy and of this “war” (which to him and his advisers may only be a metaphor). I fear that Dick Cheney is correct: A Kerry Presidency will increase our risk and embolden the terrorists. They will find havens and opportunity to regroup, and the next time they strike it could be even more devastating.

I cannot and will not shrug off the danger of my daughter being killed by some future nuclear or biological or chemical attack. Nor do I want the other consequences of such an attack: An America with greatly restricted liberties in the name of heightened security, and various nations or holy cities in the middle east reduced to radioactive glass in retaliation.

Dan, from what I’ve read on your blog I think you generally agree with most of the above. But your main concern seems to be “accountability” – that the level of mistakes and misjudgements by the Bush administration (and its unwillingness to admit those mistakes and learn from them) requires that Bush be fired from his job and replaced by someone else. On an abstract level there is much to be said for that philosophy. I heartily endorsed it in 1992 after the elder Bush broke his “read my lips, no new taxes” pledge. Unlike a business, we do not have a wide choice of alternatives. It’s not a matter of “fire Employee A and interview lots of applicants until we find a much better Employee B”. At this point it is a matter of “keep A or replace him with B”. That makes it tough. It’s especially tough when Replacement B is an arrogant know-it-all who seems even less inclined to ever admit to a mistake.

I think it's important to distinguish between hindsight and foresight, between taking calculated risks and having some of those risks turn out badly. It is fatuous in the extreme for Kerry to say “knowing what we know now, we shouldn’t have done” something back then when we didn’t know what we know now. Human being must make the best estimates they can with information which is never as complete as they’d like. They must take risks, which INEVITABLY means that sometimes the dice will come up wrong. That doesn’t prove that the action was wrong. The odds can be in your favor, but a certain percentage of the time you’ll still lose. In the long-run, you expect that favorable odds will average out to your advantage.

So I have little sympathy for the “Bush lied or misled” meme regarding WMDs or the intensity of guerilla opposition. Especially when so many other things went better than expected. Saddam’s army cracked and collapsed in three weeks, and our forces were not attacked by chemical weapons. Our casualties were far lower than anticipated, and civilian “collateral damage” was far less than anyone expected due to our precision munitions. There was no mass refugee flight or food crisis.

Bush started the Iraq attack by attempting a decapitation strike. It failed, but it was a good gamble, and I was impressed by the boldness and flexibility it evidenced.

There will always be lots of mistakes in war. The side with the best chance of winning is the one which can adapt and learn from its mistakes. The U.S. military has been extraordinarily good at incorporating “lessons learned”, far more so than any other fighting force on earth.

The Bush Administration also shows signs of being able to adapt and learn from its mistakes. That doesn’t mean it can openly ADMIT its mistakes, given a political climate in which the opposition party will jump on every single mistake and try to jam it down Bush’s throat. But it can question itself and correct its course.

The best evidence was Rumsfield’s famous October 16, 2003 internal memo ( asking numerous questions about our strategy. I thought that was great. It showed a willingness to engage in introspection which is habitually lacking in government agencies and bureaucrats. Of course it was immediately seized upon by the opposition as an indication that Rumsfield and the Bush Administration still didn’t know what they were doing. Such attacks are incredibly counterproductive, since they inhibit exactly the questions which need to be asked and the changes which need to be made.

The bottom line is that I think the Bush Administration is considerably more open INTERNALLY to learning from mistakes and adjusting course than a Kerry Administration is likely to be. We desperately need an opposition party which is not reflexively anti-everything that the President does, but which can intelligently and constructively critique the President while offering support when the President does something right.

I wish the Democratic nominee was Joe Lieberman. We’re stuck with John Kerry.

If you vote for Kerry, I suggest you hold your nose very, very tight.

[Sorry for the length of this comment; it sorta got out of hand. But it was as much for me as for you.]

posted by: Daniel Wiener on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I think a point that many have missed and are not discussing is the upcoming change of the SCOTUS under the next President. I shudder to think of Kerry appointing a Teddy Kennedy style lefty to the court or even worse another Ruth Bader Ginsberg ACLU activist. With two and possibly three seats up for grabs over the next four years, I could never trust a KE04 stacked court.

posted by: Gabriel Chapman on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The 1990's saw the US pursue a foreign policy which (I suspect) would closely resemble the Kerry approach. What happened?? The US was perceived to be a paper tiger, and the entire Middle East drifted inexorably toward radical Islam because that seemed to be a legitimate path toward power/ prestige/ influence/ delusions of grandure.

Er, no. It was not the 90s, that saw the real growth of radical Islam, it was the late 70s through the late 80s. Begining with the Shia Islamic revolution in Iraq. The real catalyst was the growth of the mujhadeen. We supported them, with good reason -- to overthrow the Soviet puppet regime in Afghanistan. But these groups led to the radicalization of Islam far beyond small groups like the Islamic Brotherhood earlier. Bin Laden, Zaraqawi are all graduates of that school. These radical warriors formed Al Qaeda, and Lashkar-E-Toba (the terrorist group operating in Kashmir). Arguably, the 80s set the stage for much of radical Islam.

We did not take action in the 90s early enough. that was definitely a mistake on our part. We were too busy facing domestic terrorists such as Timothy McVeigh. This blindess was shared by both parties. if you read the neocon mags from that time, they wanted us to focus on Iraq. They wanted us to confront China.

When Bush came to power, a big part of the neocon agenda was containing China. There was also talk of continuing sanctions against India. People wil remember the confrontation over the captured American crew. The neocons in Bush's team proved no more adept (even less so, to some extent) in confronting Al Qaeda before 9/11.

We need a foreign policy team that thinks harder about Rumsfeld's "unknown unknowns". The Bush team has not shown any greater capacity to do so than the Clinton team which preceded it.

posted by: jont on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Drezner: 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.

Leaving aside the direction that Kerry's foreign policy instincts might direct him to (in my opinion he bids fair to be another Jimmy Carter, a most alarming prospect), I don't understand how you can say that you like Kerry's decision making process.

In my opinion, Kerry's decision making process is a major strike against him.

Kerry's decision making process is one of prolonged data gathering. Look at these quotes from his own aides: "Things you thought you resolved a week ago pop up again because he's had another four conversations," "They'd give him three proposals, and he'd want 25 or 50 before he made a decision." "He thinks he wins because he knows the most," said a longtime friend and aide.

My objection to this information-intensive decision making style is simple: a Senator investingating one issue for a commitee can function this way. A President cannot. He does not have the time. If he tries, during the time he spends investigating one issue, six other equally pressing issues will go south for want of a timely Presidential decision.

Thus, the Kerry style is a recipe for doing nothing much. Clinton, whom I consider much brighter than Kerry, tried a similar style and achieved little in foreign policy. The discussion went on forever, but at the end of the day, no decision was taken.

In the real world, a leader who takes decisions, even if they are sub-optimal, is to be preferred over one who does not take decisions. Because the one who does not decide will be overwhelmed by events. Clinton's term in office does not show well in retrospect.

posted by: Nadine on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The bottom line is that I think the Bush Administration is considerably more open INTERNALLY to learning from mistakes and adjusting course than a Kerry Administration is likely to be.

Bush has said that he can't think of any mistakes he made in his term except possibly appointing Paul O'Neill, I presume. Maybe he is indeed open to introspection, to learning to changing his position when things go wrong, but is concealing it for political purposes. Or maybe not. I think simply mentioning a few mistakes would have indicated that he does show some learning ability. Indeed, long before the political season started (last year), the PResident was reluctant to admit mistakes too.

And don't confuse brilliant performance and learning by the military with that by the President. The military is an excellent learning organization. They even learned something from Vietnam -- its called the Powell doctrine. It does't help if the CiC sets military learning aside.

posted by: Tonk on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I would add the one thing this election has taught me is that the Baby Boomer generation is an utter failure at managing the nation they created. Kerry and Bush are both products of a selfish power mad generation that still doesn't "get it" when it comes to protecting the nation, understanind basic consititutional principles, and fiscal policy.

posted by: Gabriel Chapman on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

This is an absolutely amazing discussion that demonstrates to my mind why the vast majority of us have no business influencing public policy, especially foreign policy. I am simply awestruck by the ridiculous assertions put forward on both sides of this discussion regarding history and its relationship to the future, and even more so by the misplaced certainty with which these views are offered. The vast majority of posters have offered nothing more than platitudinous verbiage about supposedly historical lessons that reflect an utter absence of reflective thought. These mischaracterizations of the murky past are only matched by singularly incredible propositions about the state of affairs in the world today and the nature and causes of the threat facing our country and the world. Imposing your narrow conceptual framework on the world is simply no way to approach serious issues. I guess we can all take solace in the fact that we are engaged with issues, but I wonder now how beneficial that truly is. I don't favor either Bush or Kerry, but both men's defenders here make me despair. I don't want to be overly negative, which I am being, and I'm sorry to tar insightful posts with the same brush, but I think everyone needs to remind themselves of how little they truly do know and quit demagoging the other side.

As far as Dan's original question, I would say go with your gut, taking into account your entire view of the candidates, not just their foreign policy views. It is extremely difficult to predict not only the course of future events, but also how a president will react to them - Bush is himself a remarkable example of this. Will this period mark the rise of the American hegemon? Will we be spending the next fifty years fighting inconclusive battles against Middle Eastern nations? Is a Pax Americana waiting to be grasped? Is Islamic terrorism simply the dying gasp heralding self-revolution in dictatorships throughout the world? Will terrorism even matter in twenty years as China asserts its global position and we're to weak to constrain it? Who knows? Voting on the basis of stated foreign policy and possible future events is a dicey proposition at best. I would assume you'll agree that both will try to do the best job that they can in defense of the American people. At this point, that is perhaps the best that we can hope for. What each candidate has done in the past is in part an indicator of how they will respond in the future, but are we truly in a position to say with intellectual honesty that we can now correctly apprise what is needed? History has taught us that too often are the ultimate consequences of our actions only dimly perceived at the time we make them. You shouldn't simply vote to punish Bush, as that can be needlessly masochistic. Nor should you view Kerry as only the man he was in 1971, 1985, or 1992. The criteria of their decision-making process is perhaps the best one that is available, but in the end, you should vote on the basis of who you perceive each man to be.

posted by: insanity on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I think people in this country are proving too willing to just lay down and sacrifice their freedoms to the authoritarian outcomes that are bound to come from a government run by people like Bush and Ashcroft, who have regularly displayed that they have little or no respect for the freedoms of those who lack the funds to purchase their influence and favor.
Kerry certainly won't be a positive force in the world, but so what? Wilson proved that trying to be a positive force in the world was a farcicle adventure in failure. Bush is proving it too. That Kerry will wind up failing to accomplish much, and will in turn keep the pro-theocracy Congress in check can only be a win-win for the American people.

posted by: flaime on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

'Clinton, whom I consider much brighter than Kerry, tried a similar style and achieved little in foreign policy.'

Clinton's foreign policy style was not much different from his domestic policy style. I thought he had some significant successs (after his first 2 years) in domestic policy, and he did prove sucesssful in combating domestic terrorists.

In foreign policy he had his successes. Excellent relations with India, stoppping a potential nuclear war between India and Pakistan, Irish peace treaty, success in Bosnia (more mixed in Kosovo). He even had some success in the Middle East peace process.

His main failure was in not confornting Al Qaeda. yet, until Septemeber 11th, it would have been hard for any US president to do that. Even the Bush adnministration's plant to deal with AQ before 9/11 wasa long-term 3-5 year plan.

Foreign policy was considered considerably less important pot-w

Really ? Clinton was able to achieve success in the Balkans. He defuse probably the most serious foreign policy problem of the 90s -- potential nuclear war between

posted by: erg on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"I fear for the future of this country when 1,000+ dead in a country of 290 million is considered too high a price to pay for what our ancestors willingly sacrificed everything for." - Matthew Ryan

Our ancestors sacrificed for our lives. For our liberty. For the liberty of friendly nations that had been conquered by outsiders imposing tyranny. Iraq has NOTHING to do with any of those things since we didn't take them down in 1991, which I could have supported with no problem. I've grown so tired of being lied to by this administration in their attempts to make the invasion of Iraq seem like something it's not. I'm not one of those fools who think that it was some kind of war for oil. But I know it certainly has nothing to do with the war on terrorism. So somehow I don't share Mr. Ryan's pessimism.

posted by: Jim on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


I was rereading your original comments and wanted to post once more because there's something about them and much of the criticism directed at Bush that deeply troubles me. I think it's encapsulated by your comments at the end. Allow me to take each of the following paragraphs in turn.

"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."

I'm not sure I see the point here. The best thing that can be said about Kerry is that we don't know much about his decision-making process. We know that he is heavily influenced by the shifting political winds, and while in a few cases the same could be said of Bush, it's clear enough that Bush has tried to remain as consistent as possible in his approach: Work with the Iraqis. Promote democracy. Fight the terrorists. Don't be too heavy-handed in the use of force.

The main goal of course is a democracy of some kind in Iraq, one that the people can get behind, and that is stable enough to not be undermined by foriegn or interanl discord. He has his eyes on the prize and his decision-making has often reflected that. If people are frustrated by Abu Gharib, I wish they'd put that frustration in the context American casualties or the Iraqi victims of terror. It's not that the abuses aren't important so much as that there are greater dangers and abuses that need unrelenting focus. I can't even begn to imagine the affect on WWII if some of the atrocities that occurred there were given the same kind of focus (see for some detail).

The URL above demonstrates that atrocities have occurred in just about every major conflict the US has entered. People seem to want to ignore that so they can hammer at Rumsfeld. I also don't think it's credible that reduced troop numbers played a part in the abuses. Chain of command is proportional in the US military. The real problem is that certain officers didn't do their duty in the oversight of their troops. However that, in part, can be pointed to as a cause of many atrocies that occur in war.

It also seems to me that much of the criticism directed at Bush, including some of the efforts you have reproduced here, seems to be woefully divorced from the political and diplomatic context of the war. People complain there weren't enough troops but forget (or choose not to remember) that when Shenseki levelled the complaint, many saw it as an attempt to discourage military action in Iraq, that large forces were a concern of some in Congress and that generating the political will to win a conflict is essential to any military action the US undertakes.

They also fail to take into account that even at the current troop levels the complaint that we are heavy-handed occupiers who should be moving out forces was often leveled. For every person who complains that the US didn't do enough to stabilize the country, you could find one who earlier complained that the US was doing too much in the first place. Some are the same people. It wasn't only Rumsfeld's "new" military that drove this policy. It was also the fear that a massive force would be seen as a more oppressive and permanent one.

It's easy to be a critic, but that doesn't make your decision-making process better.

Kerry's decision-making process is clearly influenced heavily by political opinion and a dangerous reliance on the approval of foreign powers who have demonstrated that they are not overly concerned with the interests of the United States. I have real difficulty imagining better outcomes from such a process. Maybe (a big maybe) Kerry could create a better short-term look at some point, but it doesn't get the job done in the end.

Most of all though, you can't simply divorce decision-making from the policy goals. Kerry's initial decision-making would leave Saddam in power and France as one of the primary influences on the application of US force in the world. Policy is a product of decision-making.

"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. Given the tactical and strategic errors in judgment that this administration has made, I have lean towards Kerry."

Agan there is an underlying assumption here that I don't think is justified. The idea that the administration has made significant errors of judgement is in part a product of the difficulty of the current circumstances. I'm hard pressed to see how a Kerry administration would have made an improvement. Would Kerry have put the hammer down on Fallujah? Not with critics ready to complain about the injudicious use of US military might. One might argue that Iraq under Kerry would be more "peaceful" but it would be similar to the false peace that Iraq enjoyed prior to the war. It would be the peace of over-compromise, the peace of reluctance and capitualtion. If Sadr and the Fallujah thugs are bad now, what would they be like under Kerry? (think Somalia under Clinton's watch)

Also, the idea that the Bush team would see political victory as a "vindication" for their decisions is, in addition to being overly cynical about the administration, unrealistic given the political realities. A Bush victory will still leave him facing the same rabid opposition and the same Congressmen and Senators on both sides of the aisle ready to wring their hands publicly whenever given the opportunity. The reluctance of the administration to do so themselves is in part because they view only one thing as vindication: a successful outcome in Iraq. "Administration sources" can whisper all they want to the media that the admministration is backing away from the initial goals, etc. (let me guess... are those sources at State?) but Bush keeps returning to the rhetoric of democracy and freedom. He has replaced the cynical foreign policy of the Cold War with something new and better. All the trouble that comes with it is part of what we are seeing. The alternative is to either return to a cynical pragmatism that cannot work against our current foe, or to take Kerry's road, the road of triangulation and the false hopes of diplomacy that have disappointed from the Sudetenland (sp.) to Clinton's agreement with North Korea. It's not arrogance that drives this administrtion, it's the necessity of getting there given all the obstacles, political and physical. As we move on, and people will be able to view this from a better perspective, that will only become more clear.

Hope you reconsider that vote.

Cheers and Best wishes

posted by: CB on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

D day was a disaster, Iwo Jima was a disaster?

WIthin a year of both these events, the US military had defeated the real and loyal armies protecting these nations, began occupation and began rebuilding them. 20 months in, our own soldiers are afraid to go get gas

posted by: jay on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Your "brightest student" comments then refutes himself by ending with "Other than some successes regarding Libya, keeping the WTO together, and the Taliban’s removal"! What more than this has been accomplished since Reagan's policies ended the cold war? Clinton's treaty with N. Korea? His handling of the Palestenian issue? Please! Pres. Bush has led us through 9/11 into the 21st Century - I trust him.

posted by: bud on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The sound and the fury aren't we all?

Dan, wonderful to read as always. As someone well described as a fence-sitter let me offer you my thoughts, although I'm certain you know all these points already:

1) Iraq- who cares if it was wrong or right, we're there now. a) We didn't go in with enough boots to either secure the peace, of as Sullivan has been following b) secure the nuclear equipment and materials that were in Iraq. If we were worried about nuclear technology getting into terrorists' hands wouldn't it have made some sense to actually watch those places (it's not like we didn't know where they were, the IAEA had freaking tags on the equipment).

I care less about the former point. I have no grand vision for middle-east democracy, but letting known nuclear technology walk off with looters?

2) Kerry has no real plan for social security. Maybe some partial-privatization is the way to go, but we cannot afford the 1 trillion cost. Medicare/Medicaid would be the same. So, do I chose between what might be a good plan that will decimate the government (or result in printing billions in new bills with massive inflation) or the do-nothing plan? Personally, I'm hoping Kerry will break pragmatic and do some combination of raise the retirement age, go means-testing and decrease payments, but that might be a pipe-dream.

3) Homeland security: If we want to secure the US we do not need ballistic missle defense. NKorea has a reason to not attack, no matter how crazy KJI. That is, while he hates us, KJI likes power more. He, and his country, would be literally evaporated from the face of the planet should he shoot. State-less actors (OBL for instance) have no such concerns. What we need: secure ports and secure borders. The funding outlays required will be massive. We cannot afford those if the Bush tax cuts are made permanent.

While I am not certain that Kerry gets this, I am certain that Bush & Co either don't or won't tell us that they do. Evidence: Telling quote when W said he wasn't concerned about OBL. Stated belief that terrorism can be eliminated. Seeming lack of concern about other failed states.

4) military power: we do not have enough boots. we need more.

5) judge clarence thomas. scalia was quoted as saying that thomas does not believe in established case law. when scalia calls someone 'out of the mainstream' and bush says 'we need more justices like this' i get worried.

6) ...

posted by: tim on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

My professor put it like this as to why Senator is better than the President: Imperialism needs a kinder, gentler face.

Also, if one is concerned about the welfare of the GOP, then a Kerry win might actually be better. Reason? The rift within the party between the radical right and the ordinary conservatives is currently fragile and a victory will only marginalize the conservative influence in the White House. A loss sends a signal, however mixed and skewed it becomes through the political grinder, that radicalism must not be the majority voice in the decision making process.

I think my professor is right on both counts.

posted by: Gaels on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Wow, that was a long and boring rationalization.

Shorter Drezner: every ounce of wisdom tells me that Bush is an idiot, but I'd sure lose a lot of face to my winger friends and my wife. And Glenn and Micky might never link to me again.

posted by: long.and.boring. on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Love the posts both pro and con though I am a strong Bush supporter and will remain one. Some ideas that I have been mulling over though and would appreciate some feedback.

Concerning the draft, the military and Rumsfeld are also opposed to it. By going with the all volunteer military it frees the US to be a mad bomber for both good or ill. The draft BS is just to scare everyone into opposing the war because their kids would be at risk. I prefer to take my chances with the mad bomber and hold the administration accountable every four years. The reason the military is against it is volunteers seem to be much more motivated. Volunteers who stay in become professional and are better able to kill the enemy witout being killed. When Rumsfeld said conscripts did not add value in Vietnam that appeared to be the rationale. The draftees either came home in body bags or wounded or survived their tour, new how to fight and survive but were transferred home to be replaced by new inexperienced troops who did not know how to survive.

South Korea is well able to defend it itself without us. Our 37000 troops or 25000 troops are just there to remind the North that we will get into the fight. It is Seoul that will bear the initial slaughter from the North's massed long range artillery in those hardened bunkers (boy we could use some nuclear bunker busters) or the nukes. Ultimately it is the South's 550,000 man army and the US's aircraft carriers and airforce that will win that long bloody war.

China in the meantime is the only thing propping up North Korea economically and therefore the most logical one to try to pressure them. Not sure what leverage we can apply except for economic leverage or encouraging Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to go nuclear.

Finally on Iran. Just want to point out that Iran probably flares off the natural gas from their oil wells. Any natural gas fired electrical generation would be far cheaper than any peaceful nuclear program they could build. The least that should happen is that since there is no justification for peaceful nuclear facilities the world should be able to demand that they be shut down.

posted by: Steve on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Apart from the fact that there's a lot to consider and then answer above, that which stands most out in my mind from many sources (and I have not been able to find it again, to give the originator the credit he or she deserves) is simply this primary consideration ...

Bush-as-President, once elected, is likely to decide to DO things - and the checks and balances that make this country work will operate to permit or deny those decisions ...

Kerry-as-President, once elected, is likely NOT to decide to do things - and there's nothing that can force him to act ...

And I have 4 daughters ages 12-22 ... the oldest was *in* NYC during 9/11 - and fortunately survived ...

The above essentially makes *my* choice ...

Secondary consideration ... and I have been noticing this on many sources of information and opinion ... take a look at the reality associated with each person who posts - is it easy to confirm who they are, or are they hiding behind a cute pseudonym ? With that information, on which side do the genuine ones weigh in ?

On each consideration, the result favours a Bush presidency ...

I hope this small addition to these comments helps anyone reading them to make the decision with which our children *can* live ...

posted by: Alasdair on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Dan, my position is clear: John Kerry is a douchebag, but I'm voting for him anyway. Nevertheless, read this for a broader take on what a Kerry strategy might look like. I think Matt Bai was talking more about Kerry not getting the sentiment right, and frankly if you read Ackerman's take it becomes clear that Bai has it wrong.

posted by: praktike on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

For the most part, votes for Kerry are in reality votes against Bush cast in retaliation for perceived wrong-doing in the 2000 election. Absent that factor, the polls would be running something like 80 to 20 for Bush on his way to history's greatest landslide.

Vote for Kerry because of his great "plan"? You're kidding, right?

Dude, wake up! Call your proctologist immediately and ask him help you get your head back in the right place. Its dark up in there and you'll benefit from the new point of view.

posted by: Chuck on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I'm French and I live in NY. I'm not one to demean the accomplishments of GW Bush - In fact he's accomplished a lot and has taken a courageous stand under tremendous adversity. But the bottom line is that his us vs. them approach, his contempt for other nations and for the democratic process in other nations, and his refusal to accept different viewpoints, even when supported by facts, does not serve the American people well. A Kerry administration might be a lot more successful in making other countries, including France, face up to their responsibilities. It's a disgrace that France does not cooperate mroe in Iraq, but as it is, the French, anbd other European governements, do not trust the Bush administration to devise a winning strategy, one that is based on facts, rather than ideology. In these ircumstances it is very easy for governments to sit back and wait. I have no doubt France would have committed resources, if not troops, if Bush had made a case based on a realistic assessment of Saddam's reach rather than hyperbolic statements that seemed utterly unbelievable and antagonized most people outside the U.S. . Its not all about France, btw. French military resources are not that great, and France can be isolated diplomatically - but the case has to be stronger and more realistic than the one made by Bush in order to pull in other nations. Bush basically dared other countries not to join in in Iraq. And strong-armed tactics like spying on others in the U.N. and eleswhere does not help. Someone in this agreed mentioned that every country believed that Saddam possessed WMDs. Well that's not quite accurate. In fact its disengenuous. Most countries believed Saddam had not fully accounted for all his weapon programs, but no one truly believed he was the threat described by Bush. A Kerry administration might forego the nationalistic hyperbole and make it easier for governements around the world to cooperate to achieve the objectives we all share.

posted by: antoine on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I'm a lifelong registered Democrat who will vote for Bush/Cheney.
I cringe when I hear Kerry state the following:
(1) mission at Tora Bora was outsourced to warlords - I believe compelling warlords to assist in defeating the Taleban/Al Qaeda was the right decision.
(2) multilateral talks with North Korea is misguided, we need bilateral talks - I believe compelling China, Russia, South Korea and Japan to participate in the negotiations is the appropriate course of action.
(3) multilateral approach to Iran's nuclear program is misguided, we need to apply sanctions - I believe sanctions would break the middle class and enslave them to a corrupt and despostic regime.
(4) the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place - I believe that following elections in Iraq we may be able to draw down our troops, stepping aside to allow Iraqis to succeed in their own fashion. If Kerry were elected, drawing down troops early in his term could be misinterpreted both at home and in Iraq. Is he cutting and running? Is he a weak horse? To establish his credentials, Kerry could actually increase troops in Iraq - LBJ redux. (It's a crazy notion, Bush has the flexibility to draw down troops because he's a known entity, he'll kick some ass.)

The WSJ weekend section profiled a documentary, previews of which can be found at - the 6 minute preview captures some of the aspirations of the Iraqi people. Bush appears to have greater faith in their ability to succeed.

posted by: esmeralda on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I'm a pragmatist. Strategies only take one so far, and adaptability in the long run is an advantage. A simple plan of trying things, getting feedback, and adapting is the key to success, not going in with a plan hoping to win. Losing is for losers.

Bush may very well win the election, unfortunately. But, given the finances of our country, the situations we have placed ourselves in, and the lack of adaptability our administration exhibits, winning may not be the appropriate word.

My reasons for voting for Kerry are:
1. The budget. (name a republican in recent memory who has balanced the budget.)
2. The war. (it's idiotic.)
3. An administration. (is that what Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al are called?)

posted by: Nicholas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

f the Senator from Massachusetts thinks that improved style, greater diplomatic efforts, concerted multilateral coordination, and even copious amounts of American aid can get India and Pakistan to sign on to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, or create a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace, then, well, he's drunk too much of the multilateral Kool-Aid. Bill Clinton -- who epitomizes the kind of diplomatic style Kerry could only hope to achieve -- invested a fair amount of diplomatic capital on both of these flash points, during a time when America's global prestige was greater than today -- and in the end achieved very little of consequence

You're wrong, actually. Clinton achieved a great deal in India. He was able to open excellent relations with India. There has probably never been a US President as well-liked in India as Clinton on a personal level. Furthermore, he was able to stop the nearly suicidal stupidity of Pervez Musharaf in launching an attack on Kashmir. That war could easily have become a nuclear war.

I think he also made some progress on the Israel/Palesntine issue. A little more time, and he might have been able to achieve even more.

Now I agree that neither Pakistan nor India are likely to sign the NPT under almost any circumsance.

But I'm curious if you think the Bush approach is going to be any better. How is Bush going to get India or Pakistan to sign the NPT ? By invading India ? [ We might, just might need to bring back the draft for occupying a country with 40 times the population of Iraq :-)].

There are of course limits to diplimacy. Careful foreign policy demands both carrot, and stick, and sometimes neither. The problem with Bush is not that he does not understand the utlity of the carrot, but his messianiac views on foriegn policy are likely to get him to make the wrong choice.

posted by: erg on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Sorry, Dan, your student's sharpness doesn't manage to reveal itself in the post. The international group in Afghanistan is not large and would need to be rescued by the US if they got into any trouble. Yes, the French & Germans are there, and I'm not dismissing that. But they have reached their limit with that effort and are no good anywhere else. Your student hyperventilates with little analysis.

Kerry's fantasy of UN-otopia is foolish and reckless. It ignores the atrophy of European military prowess and the impending pension nightmare faced by many European countries (meaning that they can't spend any money for military and keep their welfare states afloat in the style to which they are accostomed AND they will have riots if they try to reduce benefits). You want the French to fight by our side? Then tell them that bin Laden just issued a new fatwa- he wants to outlaw vacations. Having 8 weeks of vacation is probably the only thing a 21st century Frenchman will fight for. If Kerry believes his own rhetoric, he's dangerous. If he doesn't believe it, he's a liar of the highest order and will owe his election to the crowd who will want their say-so.

Vote for Kerry if you decide, but I honestly can't understand why it has taken you so long to decide. You could have just said months ago you were voting for Kerry unless something unusual came up. You're a smart man, you can tell the difference between the candidates, what's with the indecision? I repsect you and I may disagree with your choice, but am more puzzled by the slow walk to the obvious.

posted by: Barry Dauphin on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Great Equalizer.

A gun takes out an Archduke, a geek brings the internet down, 19 shortknives spin a new world disorder.

Turning Iraq into the Garden of Eden may help. I am doubtful that Paradise blossoms from a Nintendo battlezone. Elections every other week will not remove the swords from their walls.

This is fighting the last war. Even the language is retro: Islamo-FASCISTS. Shock and Awe may be viscerally satisfying, (as long as it's "over there"); but it is clumsy weapon and mis-aimed.

Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer. The Anthrax copycats will get stronger strains. The lethality of the nuisance terrorist no longer requires state support, and is too a tiny target to declare "war" on.

While we wail and knash our teeth on each week's beheading, spill our blood, our treasure, our credibility, our goodwill, into the sands of Iraq, the world turns. These throwbacks to the 1st millenia have oil, roadside bombs, legions of suidcidal warriors. They have no future, lets not tie our history with their's.

Instead let's turn to historic threats, states with which we will compete. After we have spent ourselves on W's crusade they will have become stronger.

I say we declare victory, no WMDs. Sorry 'bout the mess. Take out Iran's reactors. North Korea too. Perfect high-value targets. Keep your governments. If we get a wiff of any further WMDs, as Arnold says: "I'll be back". Get Karl Rove convincing the Chinese to return to communism.

Where have all the cold-eyed realists gone? Gone to faith-based every one.


posted by: jim on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

You say:

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

If you see Kerry's instincts guiding him in the wrong direction then doesn't it make it worse that he's going to be good at getting there?

It seems me to make more sense to chose someone who will muddle through in the right direction over someone who will expertly lead us astray.

posted by: Brian on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The Bush Admin, contrary to some hopeful posts on this board, hasn't learned from its mistakes.

Today we heard about bombings in the Green Zone, supposedly the most secure spot in Iraq. Today we also hear of an entire platoon under arrest for refusing a mission they considered suidical because their equipment was considered "extremely unsafe" - in other words, they were to be sent into a combat zone without the equipment they needed to be able to fight effectively. More than a year after Bush declared the end of major combat in Iraq, our forces are fighting and dying at a higher rate than during "major combat." More than a year after it was clear bad planning left our forces to fight without adequate supplies, arms and equipment, our forces still don't have adequate supplies, arms and equipment.

Today, we've also heard that the General largely responsible for encouraging the torture and murder of POWs has been promoted. Not court martialed, not relieved of command, not even disciplined....but *promoted."

What, exactly, has Bush "learned"? Someone point this out to me.

I also take issue with the idea that domestic policy must take a back seat to the war.

I don't see how you can say "we're fighting for freedom!" in one breath, and then say "But we'll accept losing our freedom" in the next.

A White House counsel who helped craft a legal pretext for exempting the President from any laws is now a Federal Judge. Bush has made it clear he will appoint to the SCOTUS more justices like Scalia and Thomas. Administration policies continue to erode the separation of church and state. The Republican Party has locked Democratic congresspersons out of committee hearings, scheduled votes in secret so Democrats wouldn't be there, stripped funding bills so appropriations would only go to Republican districts, and used Federal funds, Federal courts and Federal rangers for the purposes of forcing state-level gerrymandering. Republican operatives are engaged in multi-state voter registration sabotage, shredding thousands of registrations filled out by citizens who are Democrats. These are profoundly anti-American activities, and a Bush victory will only ensure more of the same.

George Bush, and the Republican Party, have had the advantage of single party government for two years. In that time, they have thoroughly undermined the apparatus of open and accountable government. They are working hard to ensure the continuation of single party governance that is secretive, authoritarian and caters to vested interests at the expense of the general prosperity and common welfare. The damage another 4 years will do is beyond calculation.

It's possible a lot of the people here think this is fine. It's possible they want more of this.

Then they should definitely vote for Bush.

But if Bush wins, I don't want to hear them ask years from now, oh so bewildered, why everything went so horribly wrong.

Because we know what Bush is, we know what his Party is, and we know the last 3+ years are a mere prelude to what 4 more years of "more of the same" will bring.

posted by: Palladin on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


You are correct that war is a brutal, obscene orphan-making monstrosity. And yet, there are worse things in this world. Endlessly gabbing while a malignant evil metastasizes into an unspeakable human calamity, for instance.
I'm not putting down the instinct toward diplomacy or negotiated solutions. This is a noble and just instinct directed at resolving conflicts without the depradations of war. Clearly, however, we had been negotiating with bad faith partners. People who wish us nothing but pain. People whose covert ability to cause that pain had grown immense. The time had come to act. So we reached into a snake pit and pulled out a bad looking snake. In hindsight, that particular snake was pretty toothless. Too bad for him, but he is not owed an appology. He would have done what damage he could and that still might have been plenty. Crush his head and see how the other snakes squirm. Yes Palladin, waging war is absolutely about sending messages, among many other things, and if we send a clear enough message, we may not have to send another.
I'm not pleased by anything I've written here, but the stakes are too high to see it any other way. Our civilization is at risk. So what if we didn't hit the bulls-eye on Iraq. Saddam was a menace and a monster and it is a good thing that he is gone. May all the other menacing monsters take heed.

posted by: Patrick Higgins on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I'm surprised at how many people have an insider's or prescient knowledge as to what a President Kerry will or will not do. The George Bush (on foreign policy) we elected 4 years ago is not the same President Bush we now have. Point is that any (every) President has to respond to events.

History shows us that the ability to define and then achieve a goal in foreign affairs is oh-so-much more difficult and fraught with risk than we realize. So, the emphasis needs to be not only what our leader would like to do, but how likely he is to be able to accomplish his goals. President Bush's incompetence (presumed, because I can't imagine him wanting the outcomes he has achieved) should be sobering to anyone who supports his vision and values.

In business we know that execution trumps strategy. Grand visions don't amount to much if they can't be achieved with tolerable cost and sacrifice. Poor action is often counterproductive. Primary rule in governing large, complex systems: First, do no harm.

BTW, all this talk about the cost of not acting exceeding the cost of acting, etc... doesn't it depend on both the anticipated threat (currently inflated, if you ask me) and the proposed action (currently way out of proportion to the likely threats we face) AND the opportunity cost of action AND the cost of reaction to your action, etc.?

I'm tempted to think that a Kerry foreign policy that is prone to inaction is safer in the near and long term for us. Look at the nature of the threats that we face: catastrophic attack (nuke, biological), erosion of influence (economic, political, cultural), degradation of international system (business/commerce, environment, values). The big threats to us are not nation states acting out of order ("rogues") but not acting in enough order. The greatest impediment to a nuclear detonation on our soil is the material, not the motivation, mechanics or means of delivery. We need rapid, aggressive accounting and safeguarding of all nuclear material; it's a problem that begs for a coordinated, international solution.

The world is getting more interdependent whether we like it or not. Kerry's stated views (current NYT Mag) of the US and our role in the world thus actually seem to me to be more perceptive and appropriate for America than the President's.

posted by: Mandalgobi on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I love to read Drezner, but it seems to me that the full-time tenure track isn't the most accountable either ... can we start a campaign on getting rid of tenure next?

I don't understand the 'decision-making process' argument. If I showed an elegant way to make two-plus-two equal five, would it then be a more accurate and preferable answer to four?

Finally, the decision ISN'T whether to fire Bush or not. It is whether he or Kerry would make the best president for the next four years.

Does the president's views, his record and his decisions match closer to yours? Or does Kerrys?

posted by: Gary on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I want to thank everyone here for posting such well thought out and articulate opinions. I've been pretty put off by the increasingly nasty, rancorous tone of most political debate. This discussion has been like a breath of fresh air!

posted by: A.L. Prey on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Matthew Ryan,

Quoting the Kennedy doctrine from memory:"...we will bear any burden, pay any cost, support any freind, resist any foe, to ensure the success of liberty." Do modern Democrats believe this anymore? They swoon at the thought of 1100 dead soldiers and $200B and give not a thought to the 50 million liberated souls in Iraq and Afghanistan. After 9/11 many asked "Why do they hate us so?" The truest answer is that we are all that stand in their way. "They" are a bunch of old school (real old school) thugs and tyrants who want to push a bunch of little guys around and live the fat life. Like every indulged psycho, their appetites only grew with their influence. They had BIG plans, but America just wouldn't allow them to unfold, so America became enemy #1. Woe be to the vulnerable people of the world when the bad guys get the message that America will no longer "...bear any burden, etc." I'm not laying all this at the feet of John Kerry necessarily, but there is a huge part of the American public who no longer wish to live up to Kennedy's ideal. As for Kerry, he says he'll stay tough on the baddies, but I just don't know if I can trust him. And ohhhhh man, will they be watching close!

posted by: Patrick Higgins on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Can anyone in all seriousness say that all the contingencies we've faced there were forseeable?

If I had had access to all the information that the administration had, I doubt that I would have made the same mistakes. Here are a few examples:

One should also consider that the Iraqis have been a part of this equation. Those who complain that Fallujah and Sadr should have been dealt with swiftly ignore the reluctance of the interim government to do so.

Bush continually blames his failures on others. The buck stops at the top.

Arab nations infused with an extreme ideology and armed with the kind of WMD that they coveted would NOT have been content with peaceful co-existence!

What exactly is Bush doing about that extreme ideology? How much money is Saudi Arabia spending to spread Wahibbism around the world? What exactly are we doing to counter the ideologies that lead to terrorism?

These religious fanatics will keep trying to do so, and they will not be deterred by the possibility that they may also die in the attempt... In large measure I think President Bush has exhibited a rational attitude, and has pursued a plausible strategy, in this war.

Those two sentences sharply contradict one another. Military threats to blow people up don't work too well against people who don't mind being blown up. Smarter thinking is needed, not just more bombs.

Bush-as-President, once elected, is likely to decide to DO things - and the checks and balances that make this country work will operate to permit or deny those decisions ...

Unless, of course, they work to undermine those checks and balances. See "Why I can't vote for Bush."

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I cannot fathom how anyone of sense could cast a vote for Kerry.

To know that Kerry would be a disaster for American foreign policy we need only look at his vote against the first Gulf War. Saddam had started on what was an astonishingly bold venture to sit astride the world's biggest oil fields, and essentially hold the world hostage. Even though just about every country in the world recognized the danger and supported war against Iraq, that wasn't enough for Kerry.

One has to wonder what it would take, if that wouldn't do it?

And we have tried the law enforcement policies of Kerry already during the Clinton administration. When the USS Cole was bombed, Clinton approached this not as an act of war, but as a Kerry exercise in law enforcement. But the Yemeni's, showing this approach the respect it deserved, gave us the old "see no evil, hear no evil" act and Clinton got nowhere.

Even bin Laden says that he attacked the US because he believed we were too soft to fight back. The law enforcement approach that Kerry favors is what lead directly to 9/11 (at least if you believe bin Laden on this issue).

Much of the reason people feel they must vote for Kerry is the belief that Iraq has been some kind of disaster.

Says who?

They only reason people believe Iraq is not going well is that the press continually drums that into us. It's a fluid situation there and it is being defined as a failure by the same morons that said we couldn't defeat the Afghans (the mountains are too high, the legendary Afghan fighters defeated the Russians, etc...). Why would you trust the judgement of these partisan hacks now when they have been so wrong for so long?

Is it just possible when you watch NBC, CBS, ABC, the TImes' and the Post reporting on this issue that you might be getting a hidden political agenda?

To get a handle on where things are heading in Iraq, I think you might consider two impartial, unbiased indicators that suggest things are going rather better than the reporting. They are the lack of any refugees and the exchange rate for Iraqi currently (which is quite strong). The Iraqis apparently believe in their future even if the New York Times does not.

I also listen to soldiers coming back to my own community. All are stunned at what they hear in the news which simply does not reflect the reality of what they saw with their own eyes. We are not getting the truth about Iraq from a left leaning press that desperately wants a Kerry presidency.

Another thing to consider about a Kerry presidency in a time of war is that almost to a man, the troops have a visceral disgust of Kerry. And this includes the vast majority of those that served with Kerry in Viet Nam. If Kerry is elected, we might actually need to re-implement the draft. Kerry seems to think so.

One can just go on and on about the moronic idea of a Kerry presidency:

-where is any record of accomplishment in his history? He has been in the national spotlight for decades and has accomplished just about zero with the exception of marrying rich.

-for someone so attuned to the delicate nuances of diplomacy, he damages our standing in the world when he insults those nations that shed blood with us in a futile and pathetic attempt to curry favor with nations that cravenly accepted blood money from the UN oil for food program.

-he foolishly announced a date when he expected to have the bulk of our troops out of Iraq, thus encouraging our enemies who know know they need only hold on for a little while longer and they will win. What craven stupidity!

-when my mother dies, she will not find it necessary to remind me to have integrity, a point Kerry's mother apparently felt it necessary to make three times. Any you can see why when you observe that his positions change on an almost daily basis.

Vote for Kerry? In the words of John McEnroe: "you cannot be serious..."

posted by: Mark on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I think you're headed in the right direction with sound logic. Bush will keep making the same mistakes - since he doesn't consider them mistakes. Kerry will be unhappy he doesn't get more help from other countries - then turn to more realistic options.

posted by: David Weisman on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Please note that Kerry has had to campaign in Massachusetts 12 times (more than Bush has campaigned in Wisconsin). Why do you think that is? Could it be that he does not want the embarrasment that Al Gore did in Tennessee?
Beth, N. Carolina

I do not see how Kerry can lose MA. The state has a a very high percentage of Dems to Repubs and even among independents, people lean center left to left.

Kerry is back here on occasion - but I am pretty sure it is mostly for the money. I have a relative who works for the State Dems and they are constantly holding big big money fundraisers for him and the DNC - to the point that they have tapped all the big donors out :P

One last point, the Clinton admin came into office talking aggressive multilateralism and left talking about the US as "the indispensible nation."

I still strongly believe that Clinton's ability to talk the Euro talk allowed many of our differences to be papered over - that and the fact that we lived in a transitional and relatively peaceful period in IR during his tenure.

posted by: Dundare on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

A simple question, Professor drezner:

How do you know Kerry has a good decisionmaking process? All available evidence suggests otherwise.

posted by: Anonymous on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I'm pretty sure Kerry's entire decision-making process involves constant polling.

Else how do you explain how this process meant to arrive at a decision never seems to arrive at a final one?...

posted by: Mark on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"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."

So, if you vote for Kerry and he wins, he'll take us in a different direction that you don't like, but at least he'll get us there quickly and efficiently and with fewer mistakes? It seems to me like you're essentially saying: "When I go on a cruise I'd like the captain to keep us afloat, but I'll take one who will send us to the bottom, so long as he uses good decision making to get us down there".

All silliness aside, I think I understand what you mean -Kerry potentially will have a better decision making process, and this better decision making process will enable him to break free of his instincts to lead us down a path you don't like when it really matters. If this is what (or is close to what) you think, I must respectfully disagree.

Instinct is a very powerful force, and everything I have read or heard about Kerry over the past 20 years leads me to believe that Kerry's instincts are pacifism, appeasement and deferral to international consensus at all costs abroad, and expanding the welfare state at home. Kerry will use his superior descision-making process to follow those instincts, and not break free of them.

He was wrong about the Cold war and the Soviets, he was wrong about the Sandinistas and communism in central america, he was wrong on Gulf War I, and he was wrong on wanting to slash military and intelligence spending in the 90's......and he was following his instincts. As President, I think Kerry will continue to follow these instincts, and his superior decision making process will not lead him to break free from these instinctual drives. It will just enhance his attempts to fulfill them.

That's my 2 cents. Take it for what it is (or isn't) worth.

posted by: djm92 on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I would trust your gut and if it says Kerry, do it!

I've come to the same conclusion. And now that I have, I don't know why I ever doubted my gut for an instant. At this point I can't think of a single reason why any intelligent person with a shred of a shared sense of humanity, Republican, Democratic, Independant, or Martian, would vote for George W. Bush. Unless you are a Radical Evangelical or an uninformed idot. The level of mendacity, the flagrant lies, the secrecy, the dirty tricks, the negative campaigning, and the false character smears alone are reason enough. An incumbent President who lowers himself out of sheer desperation to this kind of schoolyard bullying -- that is exactly what it is -- is not the kind of man we need in the Oval Office. Ditto for his advisors: Karen Hughes is the obnoxious, meddling girl you always hated and Karl Rove is simply creepy, the loner with meglomaniac fantasies of riches and power. Not to mention the others. They all have bad or compromised characters. The most tragic of them all -- Colin Powell -- has completely lost all credibility in the eyes of this country and the world; if he had resigned a year ago and made a noble, contrite statement -- and he is the only one among them who seemed even remotely capable of doing this -- he could have retained a sliver of dignity, but now the moment for that has past and he will leave office with the same sense of mendacious non-accountability as the others.

Kerry might be hard on Bush, but almost all of his criticism is leveled at Bush's policies and the administration's failures, and all are fairly accurate and can be substantiated. He was correct in his rebuttal of Bush's Social Security Plan, and on the Pell Grants, and on the Assult-Weapons Ban, etc. Almost everything Bush has said about Kerry, all that negative campaiging, amounts to just about zilch when faced with the facts. The non-reality of Bush's attacks is plain as day when confronted with Kerry face to face.

As for Kerry's Senate record: I've come to the conclusion that it has to be put in the background. I read someplace (DailyKos perhaps) that as President of the United States Kerry will have to move more toward the center, his first mandate must be to bring the country and the congress together and everything he has said in his stump speeches and in the debates leads me to believe he will.

Great leaders rise to the occasion once they take office. I think this could be the case with Kerry. He has proved to the American public that he is Presidential, that he is a statesman, that he will be a fair administrator, and that he will govern the people of the United States and not a core base. At least, given my options, I'm willing to give him the chance. I think he will be able to repair our European alliances and this is something that MUST be done if the United States intends to remain on friendly terms with first-world democracies. In addition, he will not be working alone, he bring in a team, it will be partly bi-partisan, there are plenty of Republicans who are fed up with Bush -- I have a strong feeling that John McCain, even though he is campaigning for Bush is going to vote for Kerry, I just know it -- and anyone he brings in will be an improvement on what we have now. There's every reason to believe that in a Kerry Administration, John McCain may very well be Secretary of State.

Bush has alligned us with newly-formed, or srtuggling, or borderline democratic states where the future remains somewhat uncertain, and he has engaged so directly with "the terrorist" mentality that America is looking more and more like those fundamentalist socities we are fighting rather then the democratic socities we once fought alongside with. Contrary to what most people are saying, I have no doubt that John Kerry can charm Chirac and bring France back to the table, as well as Germany. The truth is, we need them, and once the market in Iraq is opened up for foreign business rather than American colonial monopoly, you watch how quickly those foreign troops fly in.

To say that Kerry will never be able to work this kind of muilt-lateral stragety or won't be able to achieve anything with bi-lateral talks with N. Korea, or come closer to peace in Isreal and the occupied territories are VERY pessimistic -- perhaps you share the Bushies apocolyptic view of the world. The world itself has made it plain that it would be willing to work with a different administration, whereas it will not work with the current administration.

On the cultural front, gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, etc., Bush is pandering to the Evangelicals and leading America backwards rather than forwards. Every civilized, industrialized nation on the planet, and even some third-world countries, have progressive views and laws in place regarding these issues.

The fact that Bush firmly supports an amendement to the Constitution of the United States that would actually DENY citizens of this country rights is outrageous -- another single reason not to vote for him. So first it will be gays, but who next? How long before Jim Crow is back on the boards? Muslim-Americans have already been rounded up and held for years now without due process under the Patriot Act. People should be thinking about these things very seriously.

Why can't middle-class and young people recognize that these Health Savings Accounts are NOT any kind of Health Care AT ALL. It is a Savings Account, not Health Insurance. What happens when your childen or your wife become ill and the savings in the accounts runs low or dry?

And why can't they realize that privatized Social Security is NOT Social Security. Again, it is a savings account that accrues interest at MARKET RATES, which change. It is not stable, it is not any kind of financial security AT ALL.

Why can they not see that Bush's "ownership society" is practially a return to a FEUDAL STATE. It is a society only for those who own the forces of production (top 1%). The rest of us are going to paying through the nose and getting nothing in return -- no health insurance, no social security, and severely limited civil rights.

I add my voice to those who are saying that four more years of Bush would be the ruin of the United States of America -- the name may remain, but it would utterly cease to exist as as and idea and as a nation. It is already no longer a nation exactly, but a "homeland." After "homeland" comes "Fatherland" and after "Fatherland" comes... I don't know about you, but I don't really want to find out.

posted by: Paolo10019 on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

great thread. One thing little discussed though is the source of terror. It seems everyone accepts that Islamofascism is based in states. These states are Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and that toppling or neutralizing each of them is the what and how of this war. W is pretty dedicated to this proposition.
But the hijackers came from Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The regimes and conditions, nuance aside, that brought birth to the terror movement are unchanged. There seems to be no policy or plans in place to do so. There seems to be a single dimension to the current administration war on terror. Friend or foe.
The foes don't seem to hurt us anywhere near as much as our friends do. W doesn't see this.

posted by: jay on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

You know, I couldn't really care less who the fug you're going to vote for, you pompous ass.

Like it's some big announcement we're all supposed to wait for with bated breath.

Yeah, go ahead, put Ted Kennedy in charge of U.S. foreign policy. You and 40,000,000 other morons who at least have the excuse of being largely illiterate.

posted by: Tormental on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

From Lonewacko:
What exactly is Bush doing about that extreme ideology? How much money is Saudi Arabia spending to spread Wahibbism around the world? What exactly are we doing to counter the ideologies that lead to terrorism?

What Bush has done is to force both the house of Saud and Musharraf of Pakistan to take a public position against the jihadis. They are squarely in the crosshairs and are forced to join in the war on terror since they now have no choice.

Part of the Bush strategy is to reduce terror once again to a local problem and not a global one, and this is a good thing, since the locals have tools and information we are not likely to have.

Military threats to blow people up don't work too well against people who don't mind being blown up. Smarter thinking is needed, not just more bombs.

The jihadi's tried to set up a training camp in the vast emptiness of eastern Oregon. If you've never been, this is bleached-bones-drying-in-the-sun, semi-arid country. Think of the lonelier parts of Nevada.

At any rate, as remote as it is (and it is very remote), these guys stuck out like a sore thumb. They still had to drive in, fill up, buy groceries and so on. They were in custody in a matter of days.

What I learned is that if these guys can't quietly set up a training camp on Eastern Oregon, they can't do it anywhere. Not without support from a state.

What Bush is doing with the bombs is convincing states that support for terrorism is a loser. And the dying starts right at the top. The very first missile of the Iraq war was directed right at Saddam. This breach of etiquette was sharply noted in all the capitals of the axis of evil. I read that Kim Jong Il didn't attend a meeting for months afterward.

Bombs may or may not deter terrorists, but they do a great job of influencing the heads of marginal states to stay on the path of truth and light.

The jihadis we're just killing. While the thought of being bombed may not stop your more committed terrorist, the fact of being bombed most certainly does. A dead jihadi is a ineffective jihadi.

Sounds like a pretty effective plan to me.

posted by: Mark on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I'm pretty disappointed with the discussion here, particularly the undercurrent of "Bush has screwed things up in Iraq". Can anyone in all seriousness say that all the contingencies we've faced there were forseeable?

It depends. Every problem we've run into was widely foreseen, along with a lot of others that didn't happen. Put it this way: If you're going to go into a known minefield you need to take extraordinary precautions. (Or maybe charge across under fire and take your losses clearing a path; sometimes that's what you have to do.) If you choose to wander around in a known minefield taking no precautions, it's asking too much of your critics to expect them to say which mine you'll step on.

There were a *whole lot* of problems to be expected, and they deserved serious consideration and planning and preparation, and they didn't get it.

....the real answer to the question of screwups is that what is happing in Iraq is immensely difficult....

Not an adequate excuse. Probably the best excuse available. Someday maybe you'll be getting courtmartialed about a bunch of screwups under your command, and I suggest you try out that excuse. "Well, uh, what we were attempting to do was immensely difficult...." You might as well offer them some sort of excuse to take into account, and I'm sure they'll give this one all due consideration.

I thought Napoleon's explanation about this stuff was pretty good. If you get stupid orders, and your superior officer is available, it's your duty to contact him and let him know about the problem. If the orders stand, you must follow them. If you get stupid orders and you're on the spot while your orders come from somebody who doesn't understand and can't understand, then your duty is to resign. You don't disobey orders, and you don't lead your force into disaster.

In Napoleon's time this happened when the orders came from the capitol. Now there's no concern that orders or reports might take 2 weeks to arrive -- often enough they're at lightspeed. The concern is whether your reports can be *understood* in 2 weeks. We're getting central military decisions made by people with no training. The president, the vice president, the secretary of defense, etc.

Look: Rumsfeld scrapped the TPFD. Very few generals resigned over that. They should have, and they didn't. When the logistics went to hell the first week they got him to let them go back and straighten it out, and they were lucky enough that nothing too terrible happened in the meantime. It should not have come to that. Rumsfeld took the credit and kept going, and made worse mistakes.

Every general in the army and the marines should have resigned rather than serve under a SecDef who'd throw away the logistics. And they didn't. And Rumsfeld is still SecDef. I blame the Army. The current SecDef is their primary enemy and they have done nothing to take him out or even attempt to neutralise him.

The only perfect answer to all of those details is Kerry's: don't do it at all. But in the end that answer fails the "global test". It leaves the Muslim Arab world without a democracy of any kind and it's most dangerously disruptive leader, Hussein, in power.

This reminds me of the old saying, "If it isn't worth doing at all, then it isn't worth doing well." It isn't true that the arab world has no democracy of any kind. Jordan is inching toward a constitutional monarchy. Syria maybe too. Lebanon *had* a democracy until the israelis broke it. Several north african nations are quasi-democracies. Iran has a democracy that gives some religious figures a sort of veto. We have a democracy that gives the Supreme Court a sort of veto. It isn't parallel but it isn't entirely unrelated either.

So, we figure we'll provide iraq with democracy at gunpoint. Was this plan cleared with our iraq experts? No, it was not. It isn't enough to say that the status quo is so bad we have to do something. What you compare a bold plan to is all the other bold plans that might work. It isn't an adequate defense to say that we had to do something, so we did something that the best informed of us pointed out was extremely stupid.

One should also consider that the Iraqis have been a part of this equation. Those who complain that Fallujah and Sadr should have been dealt with swiftly ignore the reluctance of the interim government to do so.

People will complain every which way. The guys in charge are supposed to do something workable despite the stupid complaints. If we'd had early elections and we let Sadr pick a representative to run for him, he wouldn't have fought. He started fighting when we closed down his newspaper and tried to kill-or-detain him. We were upset with him because he spoke out against the american occupation, which is a perfectly normal thing for a political candidate to do.

In Fallujah, we started out sending in a garrison that was far too small to police the town. Big enough to be a provocation but not big enough to do much good. If we'd staged early elections and gotten out until the local government asked us in, we could call Fallujah a success. Democracy in action. If we find that car bombs are being made there we can inform the local government and ask them if they need assistance finding the garage and shutting it down. But as long as they don't need assistance and they don't export violence, a democratic city that doesn't need policing is a success. So why the hell do we need US troops patrolling them? Well, if we needed to make sure nobody had violent objection to our staying indefinitely, then we needed to find and destroy all resistance. But if we just wanted democracy and security, Fallujah was arranging its own security early on. They weren't our problem unless the iraqis decided they were -- and they didn't.

The idiots who thought we ought to carpet-bomb Fallujah early, were plain unclear on the concept.

To complain that Bush, Rumsfeld, etc. don't fess up mistakes is to ignore that those public admissions would have a political cost.

Very machiavellian. So, they make mistakes. They hide the mistakes because it's more important that the public not find out about the mistakes than that the mistakes be corrected. Known incompetents keep high position because it would look bad for Bush to replace them.

You point out this behavior as if it's the most natural thing in the world, as if we should *understand* the motivation. As if it was not treason. (I'm using the common definition of treason here: "a crime that undermines the offender's government". By that definition what Bush has been doing is literally treason. He has undermined the US government.)

It is the duty of our highest officials, after major screwups on their watch, to replace the people responsible and take responsibility for putting those people in position to screw up. Often when that happens the public forgives them. The egyptian public forgave Nasser for the disastrous 1967 war. The american public forgave Reagan for letting incompetent Ollie North do iran/contra. Etc.

But an administration that would leave Rumsfeld in office for 4 years! Because it would look bad to remove him!! This is unforgivable. Bush must go.

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

But the hijackers came from Egypt and Saudi Arabia. ... There seems to be no policy or plans in place

Jay, sure he can see it just like we all can, but the difference is that he has chosen to act indirectly by working to change the socio-political dynamic in the region (you know, the subtle and strategic approach). You would seem to prefer that he bomb the holiest sites in Islam so that he can make clear to you the understanding.

Democrats--still don't know the question, nevermind the answer.t

posted by: Ursus on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

It is the duty of our highest officials, after major screwups on their watch, to replace the people responsible and take responsibility for putting those people in position to screw up.

Unless it's a Democrat convicted of committing felony perjury to hinder prosecution, of course.

posted by: Ursus on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Great leaders rise to the occasion once they take office. I think this could be the case with Kerry. He has proved to the American public that he is Presidential, that he is a statesman, that he will be a fair administrator, and that he will govern the people of the United States and not a core base.

Sorry, all Kerry has proved to this voter is that he'll say anything to get elected. Anything at all. Even very unwise things.

The hope that non-English Europe will come galloping to our rescue is ludicrous. They no longer have sufficient military capability to defend themselves much less project substantial military power in Iraq.

And they have unequivocably said so. You are pinning your hopes on a complete fiction. There is no such a thing as French and German military power.

This is partly why the Europeans so have their panties in a snit. They had sold themselves on the notion that war was a thing of the past and that international institutions like the UN would protect them.

They won't.

The Europeans put all that cash they should have put into their own defense into all those lovely social programs that they are beginning to realize they can no longer afford. Like a junkie still in denial, they may not really be salvageable until they have bottomed out.

Which may happen soon, since Europe is substantially more susceptable to jihad than we are.

posted by: Mark on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

My reasons for voting for Kerry are:
1. The budget. (name a republican in recent memory who has balanced the budget.)

Newt Gingrich.

posted by: Slithy Tove on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

gw: "I note that the fact that I had already (pre-emptively) made fun of the idea that people voted for Kerry because they wanted to keep Weld as governor did not stop you from laying out that idea in all seriousness."

I am a lifetime resident of the Boston suburbs. I regularly heard people personally and on TV say that they liked Weld but wanted him more as Governor, where he would keep the Dem-dominated Legislature in check (the divided gov't argument we're hearing here nationally), than in the U.S. Senate, which most Mass. residents felt was plenty conservative enough.

posted by: akmdave on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Why do any of you question the fact that France and Germany and Russia would not support us in Iraq? They were profiting handsomely from Saddam. Why can't you admit that? Other nations loved Clinton because he did what they told him to do. All John Kerry wants is to take Tereza to Paris and say "I'm the man who escorted Tereza Heinz to Paris." He will lose interest in the Presidency after that. He certainly lost interest in being a Senator quickly. He accomplished nothing in 20 years. John Kerry has undermined TWO American wars. Had the American Left let us prosecute this war without all their wailing, it would have gone much more smoothly. Why would Iraqis stick their necks out to help free Iraq when the media they hear constantly says that Bush was wrong and soon to be replaced? Perhaps they have seen Blackhawk Down and understand how Democrats operate.

posted by: hoosier on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Also a p-value of 80% Kerry.

The salient point is the need for accountability. A Bush presidency with a Democratic Senate would be great. But that won't happen. So that leaves Kerry or no checks and balances.

A deadlocked government is the only way we can get the government we need and no more than what we need.

posted by: frank on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

It's pretty easy to second-guess the Bush Administration, especially the President's decision to keep Tenet and Rumsfeld, especially Tenet. And it's pretty easy to throw stones at the Administration for events in Iraq after the toppling of Saddam and his government, and for the intelligence errors concerning WMDs. It's also pretty easy to point fingers at the Administration for diplomatic misques and fraying relations with France, Germany and the UN.

That said, I know what I want from my president right now - someone who will aggressively wage this war against the enemy, and the larger problems of the nations and culture that support and spawn such enemies. Someone who understands what we're up against; someone who understands that, in the final analysis a war you're unwilling to fight unilaterally is a war you're unwilling to fight; someone who will try to enlist allies but will not compromise the mission for the sake of allies; someone who is willing to suffer mistakes made for the purpose of winning. For it is a sorry state of affairs when we mistake the absence of perfection for failure.

You think the Bush Administration has failed? Then ask yourself one simple question: In who's shoes would you rathter stand now - us or the terrorists? Who do you think has the advantage - us or the terrorists? Who do you think is winning - us or the terrorists?

And if you, benightedly, answer "terrorists" to any of those questions, ask yourself another series of questions: why would you want the terrorst's position instead of ours? What advantages do the terrorists really have over us? If we're losing, why are they in retreat, and we on the offense? Where, finally, if we're losing, are all the refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan? Where are the refugees?

So replacing a guy who will take this war, even imperfectly, to the terrorists with a guy who will look for every single last possible excuse, including the failure of France, Germany and the UN to support us to not fight thiw war is not only shortsighted, it is the one way, the only way, the terrorists can recapture what they've lost - the initiative (not to mention the HUGE political and symbolic victory Kerry's defeating Bush would mean to the Islamo-facists...and if you reject that, well, you're just nuts).

posted by: Tim on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The call for accountability has an initial aura of reasonableness -- who wouldn't want government to be accountable? But the complaint quickly slides into different territory: that Bush will not admit he's been wrong. First, catch your rabbit. First, prove him wrong. Once you have set up your conditions of what is failure and what is success, short and long-term, in the ME, and tried to nail down evidence of failure, you will find it elusive. Unless you cheat and argue retrospectively.

The widely-shared impression of all the cool kids does not persuade me. You have to rise above the level of "Bush doesn't see things as I do and won't admit he's wrong, therefore he is arrogant and unaccountable."

posted by: Assistant Village Idiot on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

As near as I can tell, John Kerry is not only a multilateralist -- he is someone who wants to use multilateralism as a tool in addition to bilateralism in addition to unilateralism, because he sees a networked world in which the US cannot defend itself in the absence of cooperation from others.

His Senate investigations in the 1980s attacked the dark side of globalization. Took the position that corrupted or weakened governments (by drugs, ideology, whatever) made poor partners for the US. Hence, US policy should be to strengthen counterpart law enforcement and regulatory agencies to work with ours as means of dealing with growing number of cross-border threats where military action would not be feasible.

As we aren't about to send commandos into most of the countries where Al Qaeda is housed, this would seem to be a sensible approach, so long as Kerry was willing to use the military where necessary.

There is some reason to be concerned about this in his history, given Vietnam and his lack of support for the 91 Gulf war. There is also reason not to be concerned. He advocated immediate invasion of Afghanistan after September 11. Before September 11, he called for the invasion of Panama to get rid of Noriega before Bush One decided to do it. He supported military interventions in Haiti, Bosnia during Clinton years. And at time in 1991, he said he would change his mind if the situation stayed unchanged for an additional limited period -- which he said was weeks, not months -- to bring the rest of the US public aboard and to show that Saddam wouldn't be moved by sanctions alone. Still probably not the right judgment in light of history, but not wildly off either if you take him at his word at the time.

As to his position on Iraq, he more or less said at the time of the vote, that between trusting Saddam and trusting Bush he would trust Bush, but the vote was an effort to strengthn Bush's hand with the UN and Iraq, not a decision to go to war no matter what. A number of prominent Senate Republicans said exactly the same thing. And the Bush Administration promised at the time that they would not take the vote as a guarantee of war, only as authority to do it as a last resort.

So all in all, given where we are, I don't think a Kerry presidency is likely to be weak. Cautious about starting a war pre-emptively, yes, but weak no.

Given our Iraq situation, dealing with Iran and North Korea will be difficult for either Kerry or Bush. Do we think Bush has the diplomatic skills to advance either of this? Not demonstrated so far. And one thing Kerry has been in Senate is an alliance builder -- Richard Lugar, Jesse Helms, Al D'Amato and John McCain are all people he has worked with cooperatively and closely on national security matters.

Worth recollecting that, I think.

posted by: Tristan Teague on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Just to point out a huge difference between the occupation of Germany/Japan and Iraq. The former were reduced to rubble when the fighting ended. Civilian casulties for Germany and Japan numbered in the hundreds of thousands. In Iraq, the U.S. was committed to limiting civilian deaths, and according to the Iraq Body Count project, those deaths to date are under 16,000. In other words, while we broke the spirit of Germany and Japan (and it needed breaking), no such thing was done in Iraq.
Conversly, though, if we did invade Iraq that way, and turned Baghdad into a crater, the same people who complain about the dangers that U.S. soldiers face today would decry the actions of the U.S. army. What we are facing is due to the mercy of the U.S. military, and the fact that the goal is a democratic government should be more proof of that.
Instead, the left cries on about Haliburton, blood for oil, etc. They have no vision, no patience, and no desire to spread freedom beyond the border.

posted by: Geoff Matthews on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Whether it will be France or Germany -- or NATO -- or UN Special Forces -- our only hope of getting any of them is with Kerry. And right now, the only way of stablizing Iraq and making sure legitimate elections take place across the entire country is by getting them to help. Kerry has made clear that America will still be leading the world; after all, we are still the only global superpower. After his recent comments, any election Rumsfeld holds at gunpoint in Iraq will not be be seen as legitimate in the eyes of all the Iraqi people, other Middle Eastern countries, or the rest of the world. Chabali was a fraud, already exposed. Chaos will reign in Iraq until a unified concert of opinion is reached among Western democratic states and real diplomatic measures are enacted with Turkey, Syria, et al. The United States will simply not be able to succeed without them. You are lying to yourself if you continue to believe the Iraqi people still want to deal with us Americans (Remember Abu Ghraib?). Eventually a treaty will have to be signed by all of the above recognizing the new state, and in the present situation, with the current players sitting at the table, the prospects for this are not promising. Otherwise we will out of necessity remain in Iraq for decades to come.

Furthermore, once a legitimate state is established, the oil revenues need to go into some kind of treasury in order to support the new state, and the wealth needs to be distruibted across the country to aid in reconstruction and modernization. In all likelihood, this will not happen as long as Bush and Cheney and Company are in power. I'm not sure they will ever be willing to let go of the pump handle. There is greed everwhere, but they have already shown themselves to be beyond the pale in that regard. An international team should be brought in to aid in the restructuring of the oil industry. Again, diplomacy and international cooperation will be necessary.

Why can't you admit that for a myriad of reasons Bush simply won't be able to succeed in Iraq given the inept war he has waged so far and as far as we can see will continue to wage under the banner of his unmoveable "resolve."

posted by: Paolo10019 on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

You think the Bush Administration has failed? Then ask yourself one simple question: In who's shoes would you rathter stand now - us or the terrorists?

Usually when you see some kid who's all banged up from a fight and he tells you "If you think I got hurt, you oughtta see the other guy", it's after the fight is already over. Isn't it a little early to be saying we're winning if they're losing worse than we are?

Who do you think is winning - us or the terrorists?

OK, you've convinced me. We're winning the war on terror! We've practically won already! Can we rebuild our civil liberties now? Does my wife still have to take off her shoes in public to fly in an airliner? Maybe we can start bringing the troops home and paying down the deficit?

Where, finally, if we're losing, are all the refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan? Where are the refugees?

I hear the afghans are overjoyed we've stopped cluster-bombing them. They can go home to their warlords now.

In iraq, do you have any statistics about how many people have left versus come back? A lot of middle-class people have told the media they're leaving. Their friends and neighbors get kidnapped and told to go, and they figure they'd better go too. Particularly doctors and teachers, but also engineers, technicians, etc. I don't know how many people it actually comes out to. Maybe it's partly urban legend. If it's a hundred teachers and three hundred doctors it makes a difference but not *that* much difference. How would we collect the data? Say it's a million refugees scattered across the middle east or the world. Say it's two million. How would we count them? How would we know if they're there or back home in iraq?

Your talking point claims nobody is leaving iraq, and I don't see how we'd know whether they are or not.

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

If you compare the shining perfection of what Kerry promises with the messy reality of what Bush has imperfectly done, then, yes, Kerry looks better.

But Kerry basically reminds me of ever grandstanding s.o.b. who I ever had to grit my teeth around while listening to them bloviate at a scientific group meeting about how that *other* guy's actual laboratory work was defective.

In the end it comes down to your intuitive assessment of which approach to life is actually likely to, on balance, give the least unsatisfactory results in the real world. That sort of judgement can't really be compelled in somebody else, and depends at least in part of criteria of "least unsatisfactory" which can't be argued.

If you think we should have left Hussein in power, Kerry's your man -- Bush's decisions are clearly not "least unsatisfactory". Conversely, if you think we should have removed Hussein from power, ask yourself why you think Kerry would ever have done that, or why you think he would ever do anything requiring equal political courage at any time in the next four years.

posted by: Erich Schwarz on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Mark, and others:

I agree with you that a John Kerry Presidency would be a dangerous foreign policy disaster at a critical time in America's history. As the incumbent administration has pointed out, Americans will be less safe and pushed "toward tragedy" (in the words of President Bush) if Kerry becomes president. As Zell Miller, correctly pointed out, "Right now, the world just cannot afford an indecisive American ... In this hour of danger, our president has had the courage to stand up.' Or, as Vice President Cheney pointed out: "If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again -- that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.”

Cheney especially faced stern criticism for his position, but his position is in fact the only one that can be defended in light of the facts of Kerry’s deep shortcomings.

Unfortunately, these facts logically lead to a very difficult conclusion. The threat manifested by the Kerry campaign is a clear and present danger to the United States of America. The organization pushing for his presidency is in fact more dangerous than organizations like the Islamic American Relief Agency, whose offices were recently raided by the FBI on the grounds that they were aiding and abetting the bin Laden terror network. As many conservative commentators point out, elements of the left wing in this country are equally guilty of aiding and abetting the enemy. President Bush effectively tied Kerry to these left wing elements during the third debate a few nights ago.

Those that believe, as I do -- and as the Bush campaign has clearly stated -- that the Kerry campaign is a threat to American safety, must conclude that the only alternative is for the White House to step in now and do what it must to stop the Kerry campaign. No course of action should be ruled out. If the IARA can have its funds frozen, surely an argument can be made to do the same with the equally dangerous Kerry campaign. While this would be a controversial move, this nation must deal with all threats to its safety, whether from within or from without, strongly and swiftly. This is a time of war, and one cannot claim to love this country without the desire to defend it against any peril.

Keeping safe from terror will require tough decisions, and I thank God that we have a sitting President that can make them. For the sake of our families and our freedom, President Bush must win re-election, by any and all means necessary.

posted by: Robert Fredson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]












posted by: daniel on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]





posted by: daniel on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

One last thing: many people here seem to be forgetting that as everyone on the planet now knows Iraq had no ties to Osama bin Laden or to 9/11, there were no "weapons of mass destruction," and there was no capability of producing "weapons of mass destruction."

As we learned from Richard Clarke, Bush wanted any connection, the slightest connection, found or fabricated as early as September 12, 2001.

As Bob Woodward reported, the plans to invade Iraq were laid out by this administration long before the weapons inspectors went in and returned with nothing and the UN resolutions were passed and the inspectors were sent back in and again returned with nothing and more UN resolutions were passed, etc. etc.

Condi Rice went on Meet the Press and lied to the world about the intelligence. Powell went to the UN and lied to the world when he read that now ludicrious report.

It was a total sham, a "mushroom cloud" if you will, smoke in our eyes. We were totally mislead so that the Bush cartel could pursue their own missionary crusade and oil plundering expedition at the expense of the American taxpayers and the lives of thousands of American teenagers and young adults (who probably went into the armed services to get the money to go to college which they most certaintly were not going to get through Bush's reduction in federally subsizdized Pell grants).

The point isn't really whether Saddam should or should not have been taken out, or whether if Kerry were President he would still be in power. The point is we had no business invading Iraq in the first place based on the intelligence we had, which proved that there was absolutely no threat.

We invaded and occupied (we did not "liberate") a foreign country for the sole purpose of "spreading democracy." "Freedom is on the march:" if you are smart you will recognize that this is a freightening phrase. What kind of democracy are we spreading? We now have less freedom at home and have created a civil war in the Mid-East, which has only served to escalate Isreali aggression in the occupied territories, pushing the entire region further and further away from any chance of peace in the near future.

We are meant to shrug all this off because Bush "believed" there were "weapons of mass destruction," because he "belived" there was a grave threat. We are meant to take his word on "faith" because of his own self-professed "faith," because he has a direct line from the White House to God. We are being told to have "faith" in the President's "resolve."

All we have gotten from this administration is lies, lies, lies. Lies about the intelligence before the attack on 9/11 and lies about the war in Iraq, beligerence and arrogance and the worst kind of pandering to the American public in the history of the republic, total misrepresentation in code directed at their evangelical base of their domestic agenda, and state sponsored propoganda the likes of which the world has not seen in at least sixty years.

Based on the facts and nothing else, Bush must go.

This simply cannot be condoned by the American people. If it is, the degree of mass ignorance and mass stupidty could not be measured on any imaginable scale. We really will have ceased to be a civilized country. It will be certifiable proof that America is nothing more than the mass of vacant-faced, applauding zombies (perhaps the "armies" ready to take "freedom" on the "march") you see in photographs of Bush rallies.

Who can now fight the best war in Iraq or the best "war on terror" is not the issue. By way of his actions and immorality (contray to what he spouts), Bush has already forfeited his claims to the Presidency.

posted by: Paolo10019 on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Given how few undecided voters there are out there, I'm suprised that you haven't yet been on the receiving end of a personal phone call from one of the candidates themselves.

posted by: Alex on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Someone above said: If Bush is re-elected it will validate his policy errors.

Hey, if Kerry is elected, it will validate the craven and partisan manuevers of the press and the truly nasty machinations of the left.

A worse validation, I think, as concerns the future of the nation.

posted by: Lizzie on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I cannot improve on Richard's post, so I ask you if you can answer his main argument "Bush has the better strategic approach to the ongoing war on terror including the Iraqi front, it seems clear to me that the greater folly would be to vote based on what the 24/7 news cycle shows and to ignore the essential fact that Bush is right about the current historical moment and Kerry is not."

Kerry has a long record with respect to the issues that matter at this time, and he has been consistently wrong.

You, as a supporter of this war, are "going wobbly" and by doing so increase the risk of losing it.

You cite the many mistakes made in the conduct of the war. I have seen many events that I too consider mistakes, but in each case the policy and tactics have changed as a result. Fallujah is a perfect example. Pulling back seemed wrong to me at the time, and was clearly wrong as events unfolded. That policy has now changed, and the successes in Najaf and Samarrah bode well for the new policy.

A vote for Kerry is clearly a vote for defeat in Iraq, and there is no explaining that away by listening to what he says on the campaign trail. We know these two candidates based on what they have done, not what they have said. Bush may lose in Iraq, nothing is certain in this world, but he has achieved many successes, and as you yourself admit his policy vision is the right one while Kerry's is wrong. So instead of going wobbly, work harder to see the correct policy succeed.

And finally, how do you think a Bush defeat will be greeted by our enemies? They will redouble their efforts, because they know as I know that Kerry cannot have the fortitude to keep up the fight in the face of losses and defeat, if he does not believe in the cause itself.

posted by: doug on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Jeez, you guys write a lot of words to get simple points across.

Germany, France et al are not lined up specifically against the United States, they are bracing against the threat they perceive from a belligerent Bush White House. Remove the belligerent, the European balancing goes away and the war on Muslim extremism becomes global governments against stateless thugs, and far more effective.

I probably could have said that faster.

With all due respect, do you realize that you may make a very reasoned decision in casting your vote while the rest of the country votes on emotion? You guys should be using your reasoning power to convince the unconvinced. The time for election 2004 as "intellectual exercise" is over.

posted by: Keith Adler on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I do not believe a vote for Kerry is a vote for defeat. That's what the Bush Administration needs you to believe for them to win. Kerry does indeed throw bones to his anti-war base, damaging election-year clarity that most of us on this page would like to hear. But he voted FOR the war, remember?

And, Kerry's internationalism will not allow him to leave an unstable Iraq behind. We simply cannot retreat. This is so obvious as to be self-evident. It is not an option that is on the table. It would be a disaster. Kerry knows this.

So, let's define victory in Iraq, now that we're there. Leave the WOT out of it for now.

(1) A stable Iraq
(2) Some level of representative government in Iraq that can defend itself
(3) A reduction in US force levels

Bush's plan is to continue using blunt force toward this end. For 14 months we've seen this plan carried out, and incompetently at that. Kerry offers a more multi-faceted plan that uses all the intruments of power at our disposal.**

It is overthink to try to model how the world will view our decision and cast your vote based on what policies it validates. We're in this for the long haul(like, forever, dude). Who cares what some idiot in another country thinks about our vote now? This is a long term, intelligent decision, not about proving to our contemporaries how tough we are. They know how tough we are.

Vote for the direction which is the most intelligent direction from this moment forward. Presidents have to make hard decisions. So do we.

**This gets at another logic flaw that seems to often crop up, that Kerry must be tough and go out there and fight this war on his own. When Bush leaves, the vast majority of the apparatus that is fighting the war will remain identical: military, state department staff, intel. The idea that we will just stop fighting the war is, frankly, ridiculous.

posted by: Keith Adler on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I agree with several of the comments above, that
1) the enemy in the GWOT wants to destroy us, or at least our way of life, and
2) The president understands this better than does Kerry.
I would also add that the President seems to have the will to fight this war to victory, despite the negative press and negative reactions from much of Europe.

My judgment is that this is the critical issue for our time, and that despite many things that I wish were otherwise, I believe that the President is the better man for the next 4 years.

posted by: Leo Katzenstein on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

After reading of some of the posts here and considering how vehement and repetitive the Democrats have been in their criticism of our failure to capture or confirm the death of Bin Laden, I've realized that this is precisely because of their belief that the Global War on Terror should be a law enforcement operation.

Kerry & Co.'s view is that bin Laden is a criminal who murdered 3,000 Americans. Like all murderers, he must be brought to justice or conveniently killed while being captured. This is all true, but the important point is that, to Kerry as to any detective or prosecutor, the sole criterion for success or failure is whether or not the criminal has been arrested and convicted.

Bush saw the 9/11 attacks not just as mass murder, which certainly they were, but also as an act of war committed by a large organization with much popular support and many resources and, in at lease one case, protected by a national government. For Bush, the primary goal was to destroy the cohesiveness of the organization and to remove its bases of support, whether geographical and political, financial, or popular, and thereby eliminate its capacity to threaten the United States.

Bin Laden is no longer capable of using the resources of Afghanistan to attack us, nor is he in a position to have any operational leadership, so he is not a threat. That is the important point. To say that all our actions are a failure if bin Laden is not personally accounted for is like saying that World War II would have been a failure if Hitler had escaped alone to Paraguay in April 1945. The unfortunate converse of this view is that the extradition of bin Laden and a handful of senior Qaeda leaders in 2001 would have been sufficient, and that destroying al Qaeda, incapacitating its state sponsors, and ensuring that those states would not support future terrorist activity was unnecessary. If this is what Kerry believes, that makes the distinction clear.

posted by: AT on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

After a year of hearing him every night on TV, there is no good reason to vote for Kerry. His fiscal conservatism is phony through and through as his domestic policy ideas demonstrate. His "realism" in foreign affairs is the simple minded reflex cut and run policy he has endorsed since Vietnam. So he will be nice to Chiarac. How is that serious? He seems to forget our alliances were based on the hard reaality of the Cold War. When the threat is gone, the reason for the alliance goes with it. France and Germany even Paraguay for that matter will act in the international arena in their national interests. They will join or stand aside as it suits them.

He will accept the Kyoto Treaty, since he clearly will not fight to convert our power system to 75% nuclear power it will be an empty gesture. As Bill Clinton knew, it will never come to a vote in the US Senate. There is no way to meet the CO2 standards without going nuclear as France has done and the rest of Europe is heading for. Without a huge nuclear power program, Kyoto is impossible.

It is clear he has deep problems facing reality -- he honestly believes he is the great hero of the Vietnam war at the same time he is also the leading antiwar firebrand. He also is convinced his personal contact with key leaders is all that is needed to bring peace and prosperity. These are both grand illusions we can not afford to indulge. In reality, he is now and always has been a man without serious accomplishments. He was despised by his classmates, he was despised by his Naval shipmates, he was considered backbencher by his fellow senators. His whole career has been pretentious. If you want to see his accomplishments, look around. Where are they?

posted by: John Kelly on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Hmmm, I guess I'm naive. But if we were fighting Osama and his boys. Why is their recruitment up? Why are their activities more widespread, harder to predict? How many trials have there been for those who committed 9/11? And by the way, we captured Saddam who killed how many Americans? Why can't we capture Osama, who we know killed over 3000?

Where is the support both financial and military that we enjoyed in Gulf War 1? Where are the WMD's and the PROVEN links to terrorism in Iraq?

How much plutonium has North Korea processed since the Bush administration demonstrated their diplomatic skills? Why is it that the North Koreans have potentially 8 bombs instead of 2? And aren't the North Koreans desperate for cash? Who would buy them? Do terrorists have money? Why haven't we invaded this obvious threat to us?

Isn't Iran the biggest winner in our invasion of Iraq? Hasn't Iran made serious inroads into improving their popularity in Afghanistan and Iraq? Isn't Achmed Chalabi a Iranian agent? Doesn't Iran have a proven nuclear research and development program? Is Iran our friend? Doesn't Iran have proven contacts with Al Qaeda?

Now you could argue I suppose that this is all Clinton's fault, and reading this thread I await with some amusement your attempt to do so. But didn't all this happen under Bush's watch? Kerry wants to try something different, maybe it will fail, maybe it will succeed. But Bush has shown he can't, or worse, won't learn from his mistakes. Kerry can I believe.

Now I may be naive, but I think John Wayne was a actor in fictional movies and that the real world is a complex place. A John Wayne approach doesn't seem to be producing much, so lets try a real world approach instead.

Naively I feel that these terrorists aren't sponsored by states, that they are a product of a widely held view among millions of Muslims that America is an enemy intent on invading Muslims countries for their oil. Now as I understand it before the Bush team sprang into action, the majority of Muslims were neutral, and as far as I can tell have gotten progressively less neutral. I believe this fosters a groundswell of low level diffuse support for our terrorist enemies. Focusing our diplomacy on the Arab street isnt a magic wand, but no amount of troops and hardware will be able to change their opinion.

Do I believe that when John Kerry becomes President that everyone will rush to help in Iran? Nope, but I naively assume that the Bush team which has failed so miserably will be suceeded by a team which will have that will have a much better chance of getting some support. A unstable, terrorist breeding ground, Islamic fundamentalist state that Iraq is closer to now than under Saddam, is in no ones interest. Its amazing that the Bush team has sucessfully managed to close off any possibility of help, from those who would provide it. They wouldn't be providing it from the purest of motives, but our motives for invading were anything but. Its a real world thing. I assume we are in a world of grays, not black and white.

Over 3000 of our fellow citizens were murdered. Over 1000 of our soldiers and thousands more have been maimed or disabled. None of the rationales given for invading have been proven true. Al Qaeda which committed the crime, is probably more dangerous today that before 9/11. We have squandered billions of dollars, committed ourselves for years to occupying Iraq, which will very likely get worse. These are matters of fact. Bush got us here, thru his foreign policy.

So Dan you seem to feel that a approach that is different from Bush's, such as John Kerry's is worse, because it MIGHT get a worse result.

How naive are you?

posted by: Sean on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Germany, France et al are not lined up specifically against the United States, they are bracing against the threat they perceive from a belligerent Bush White House. Remove the belligerent, the European balancing goes away and the war on Muslim extremism becomes global governments against stateless thugs, and far more effective."


Who cares what France and Germany thinks? They aren't in our position, they don't care what our position is, and they couldn't help even if they wanted to. They are acting in their own interests, and don't have the military or money to be much help anyway. And historically speaking, when has either come to America's aid? The Revolutionary War?

You place too much value on them, and miss entirely what is really important: what countries are acting against us? None. No Arab countries came to the defense of either the Taliban or Saddam, despite all the "Pan Arab" whatever councils and closing-of-ranks that is usually associated with any activity that is focused on the middle-east. That's because they know better than anyone that support for either the Taliban or Saddam was indefensible given their respective track records, and they don't have the cover of being an "ally" of the U.S. in which to spew hypocritical criticisms against us.

posted by: Felix on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Sean, if you think Iran is in a better position now than it was in 2000, look at a map and get back to us.

posted by: AT on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

A few people in the above comments have repeated the claim that Kerry is trapped in a 9/10 mindset. I would counter by saying that Bush appears trapped in a 9/11 mindset. Neither he, nor his supporters, seem to grasp that the most effective strategy in a long-term fight like this has to involve an ebb and a flow, a time when you press the attack and a time when you consolidate your gains and take the time to woo the fence-sitters.

Today is neither 9/10 nor 9/11, 2001. We are three years removed from those dates, and the large-scale military operations that were necessary in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks will not be the most effective or appropriate measures going forward from here. We have invaded two hostile countries and successfully toppled their regimes, but we have taxed our military and yes, diplomatic, resources to their practical maximum in the process. Over the next few years, it seems almost a certainty that Kerry's approach, with its emphasis on intelligence gathering, special forces operations, law enforcement and fence-mending with our allies, will be more closely attuned to the actual policies that the ultimate winner in this election will no doubt have to adopt.

posted by: Greg on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I wonder if the US would have invaded Iraq in either of the 2 Gulf Wars if it were not for the oil?
For instance if Germany had invaded Denmark would there have been the rapid response to support tiny Denmark's plight? I think not!
Oil? brings to mind the plot to remove a democratically elected Chavez. Didn't George W. fight a war by proxy there as well.
But there's no beating without the Bushes it seems when it comes to oil.

America has got into a foreign policy quagmire I reckon and someone needs to at least try to get back to reality. That certainly won't be George W. History has a way of catching up with you and failure to learn from history will bring GWB down just as surely as Nixon was brought down by his lies, his false promises of victory and his trumpeting of the great and good sacrifice of America's fair and finest.
The problem will be at what cost? Iraq is already GWB's Vietnam and make no mistake about it. When you read up about Vietnam and you will see the emerging pattern of a failure to recognize what is going wrong and GWB's determination not to be the second President to lose a war.(That's his resolve!).
Think that technology and firepower will prevent loss of American lives and win the war? It didn't work in Vietnam against a ragged army and it won't happen in Iraq against a ragged army.
I wonder why GB41 didn't continue on to Baghdad and even refused to support the Shia uprising? Do you think he couldn't or was he just wiser than his son?
Personally I think Kerry's plan to have a smarter war on terrorism makes more sense.This war is currently being fought with no Intelligence inside or outside the White House.You can't fight a guerrila with smart bombs and the "maybe,could be, thought to be, purported to be" approach. Does the death, sad as I am to say it, of 3000 people justify two wars ,the deaths of currently 1000+ American soldiers and civilians and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Afghans and Iraqis to hunt and kill a few men.(Which of course hasn't happened yet). OBL's ideology has now spread to 60+ countries and the terrorists number in the thousands ready to strike when ready and prepared to die for their cause.Is their cause any less pure than America's? Is their God any less than GWB's God?
There was no major terrorist threat until GWB created it.There were no "WMDs". Saddam did not have connections with OBL. The Taliban offered to hand over OBL etc just for the US's willingness to let them alone.
GWB says Kerry "flip-flops" but if you look a GWB's "flip-flops" you might think again.
Kerry says, according to GWB, that terrorism is a nuisance. That's not what he said actually but GWB has himself said that the war on terrorism is "unwinnable" (30 August) before of course he flopped and retracted to the party line. What message does that send to the troops?
GWB has dragged his feet over N.Korea and not allowed meaningful discussions to be held. The Chinese and Japanese and South Koreans are quite happy for the US to have Unilateral talks in conjunction with the existing multilateral meetings with N.Korea.

Of course Kerry will have to continue the war in Iraq in the same vein for a while and probably for years. How can he not? You can't clean a room full of sh*t with a teaspoon overnight.To pull out too quickly would further tarnish America's already damaged image in the world.
Do you think it doesn't matter what the rest of the world thinks? Wake up!
America is already bankrupt financially,morally and ethically as far as I am concerned at this moment..
I read in another blog " Was it our fault that 9/11 happened?"
How was it otherwise? Examine the causes America and you will find it was your fault. That's of course not just GWB's fault. He's just another in the line of American Presidents who seeks "to project the might and power" of America by threats,bullying and sabre-rattling. It's just it could be more efficient and less costly to do it by supporting other countries technologically and financially rather than bombing them and their people to blazes.
I believe John Kerry will bring more thought to bear on that subject and find a better fix than the "Dear Leader" GWB.
I also think John Kerry will do a better job with the economy .
GWB says of Kerry's tax the rich 1% plan - "There is no point to tax the rich because everyone knows that they have lawyers so they don't have to pay them". What kind of thinking is that for a leader of country to say to his countrymen when so many have fallen into poverty and American kids are more illiterate. If closing loopholes in tax shelters etc benefits the country and sufficient revenue is produced - why not?

I think he will also be better on domestic issues and will certainly have a better connection with the rest of the world. (As if that matters eh?)

I'm sorry but I don't feel safer now than four years ago and American "democracy" is not "on the march" and that is entirely due to GWB's actions.I tend now to have a negative view of American democracy when I look at things like Iraq and Afghanistan - the sucking up to Pakistan , a country once branded as a pariah state, and the blind eye to the pardoning of Al Khan. It seems to be more of a "hypocrisy" and that is all due to GWB's actions over the past 4 years.
Why does GWB think the rest of the world really wants America's brand of freedom and democracy? Why shouldn't the Middle East countries have a theocracy if that's what they want? Isn't that their form of freedom and democracy? Can you can answer these questions honestly? What about the elections in Afghanistan? (Pleeeeze!)

By the way you probably will have gathered that I am a foreigner invading this blog so you can ignore me.
By and large the Americans I have met and worked with have been good ,hardworking friends and good drinking buddies so don't think I am also anti-America(n)

posted by: fred on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The so-called "War on Terror" does need to be re thought. It is not a "war" that can be won by marching into some capital. Nor is it a "war" that can be lost when the enemy marches into our capital.

It's unfortunate that the Right thinks of it this way. Is "radical Islam" or "Islamofascism" going to 'win'? What would that even look like? How many tanks does Global Radical Islam have? On the other hand, are we going to destroy Global Radical Islam? How -- by killing millions of Muslims?

The business about radical Islam being "the enemy" smacks of apocalyptic Christianity in my opinion. It's weird myth-making to compare any faction of Islam to the Germany of Hitler (our modern day Antichrist) ...


OK, the US lost 3000 citizens on September 11. That's bad. But all nations must survive terror attacks. Can we just calm the F down and stop gabbling about a "clash of civilizations"? That's backwoods fundamentalism, fear mongering, and myth making. "Axis of Evil"? Jesus Christ. Arab terrorists learn to fly jet planes and you'd think the end of the world was here, or at least that it was World War II all over again.

I have news for you. In World War II, 50 million deaths - in about five years. That is the equivalent of *ten* WTC attacks - *every day* - for *five years*.

Don't be such goddam children. 2 skyscrapers go down, and your brain goes off its tracks and you start babbling about Islam as if it were the Evil Empire.

Well maybe it is if your problem is that you're a fundamentalist Christian.


If you want to deal with global oil-funded Islamic terrorism, there's many different things to do, one of which is to mount military assaults when necessary.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration only seems to want to do one thing - mount military assaults - and is indifferent to most all else - even the aftermath of those military assaults.

International terrorism needs a imaginative leader with a multifaceted plan for dealing with it.

Kerry might do it. Bush certainly won't.

And, yes, taking bold action and losing badly through your misjudgements is worse than taking no action.

the wesson

posted by: TheWesson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

the fact is that you want a "war" when
1 - you have been traumatically jolted out of your delusions of security
2 - you are not actually shooting and being shot at. (from what I've read, war is far superior in the abstract.)

the wesson

posted by: TheWesson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I may be late on the vying for vote thread; but I cannot resist.

"This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq... this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war... our children will sing great songs about us years from now."

I am less concerned about Kerry's potential follies of multilateralism-solving-all-ills than I am about this administrations lack of human reason. I realize that Perle is not an official, and that he is probably insane; but we know that this, or something similar, is a sentiment shared by a few key players. And a vote for Bush is a vote for them. As is clearly noted, Bush does not dump anyone, even for the grossest offenses.

posted by: QEK on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

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.

Is this not saying that you would prefer a leader who does a good job of carrying out policies you oppose - rather than one who does a less-than-perfect job of carrying out policies you support?

We are trying to keep from getting nuked. It is essential to follow the policies suited to achieve that goal.

Kerry may have a thought process you prefer, but that is no reason to think that in practice he would be more successful than Bush in achieving his goals. He may be far less successful in achieving his goals. Betsy's Page, quotes a NY TIMES article which describes how Kerry's campaign has often been paralyzed by Kerry's thought process. Please read that article prior to deciding in favor of Kerry due to a preference for his thought process.

Many would argue that Bush has achieved a great deal. For a humorous Ramirez cartoon summarizing these successes, see this link on my weblog.

posted by: Vik Rubenfeld on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

A question about Kerry's vaunted foreign-policy skills: where's the beef? Most of his argument seems to be basically "he's one of them" (Swiss finishing school, etc). This may be true for Western Europe, but it won't be true for most of the _real_ negotiating that needs to be done. The mullas and Kim Jong Il could care less about Kerry's French skills.

He's insulted half the planet during the campaign, with talk of the "coalition of the bribed and coerced". Isn't bribery and coersion of states to get them to do what you want also called "diplomacy"? Also, many of them actually went along because their leaders believed in the mission...

Some examples: Kerry managed to piss off China during the second debate (and my Chinese wife caught it instantly) by bringing up "bilateral" talks with NK, presumably with Beijing's diplomatic team sitting near a phone rather than in the room negotiating. He also upset Poland's leaders, and got a swift back of the hand from the French&Germans on any notion of troops in Iraq.

So, this is the Great Diplomat?

posted by: Foobarista on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Let me get this straight. You spend the better part of a year devoted to debunking the criticism of outsourcing and now you are considering voting for the one candidate....who is a critic of outsourcing!!!??? I couldn't make it through even half of your self-absorbed Hamlet post. It reminded me of Al Gore's speech explaining why he was about to vote for the Gulf War. I think it is time that I removed this blog from my bookmarks menu.

posted by: Daniel Casse on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"I couldn't make it through even half of your self-absorbed Hamlet post. It reminded me of Al Gore's speech explaining why he was about to vote for the Gulf War. I think it is time that I removed this blog from my bookmarks menu."

That's an excellent idea. Dan Drezner is simply lying to himself. All of his weak arguments do not pass the smell test. Drezner is seeking tenure and it’s not wise to rock the liberal boat. An allegedly adult Republican is highly valued and can be more useful than an enthusiastic Kerry supporter. It’s really that simple. The rest is intellectual window dressing.

posted by: David Thomson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

mr. drezner,

i am certainly not a fan of bush's competitor, but i am entirely less confident in bush. i decided to create a simple, rational website to communicate some of the main reasons why people shouldn't have confidence in bush. this site is non-profit and contains no banner ads, pop-ups, or cookies. is the site filled with fancy graphics? no. is the site biased? of course, but unlike the rest of the political garbage out there, it is highly rational. the site uses only non-controversial sources and quotes almost every one of them. thanks for reading my shameless promotion.

nate carr

here's a sample:


In light of the Iran-Contra controversy, Reagan had this to say,

"First, let me say I take full responsibility for my own actions and for those of my administration. As angry as I may be about activities undertaken without my knowledge, I am still accountable for those activities. As disappointed as I may be in some who served me, I'm still the one who must answer to the American people for this behavior. And as personally distasteful as I find secret bank accounts and diverted funds -- well, as the Navy would say, this happened on my watch."[51]

He went on to say,

"Let's start with the part that is the most controversial. A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not. As the Tower board reported, what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages. This runs counter to my own beliefs, to administration policy, and to the original strategy we had in mind. There are reasons why it happened, but no excuses. It was a mistake."[51]

He concluded his national address by saying,

Now, what should happen when you make a mistake is this: You take your knocks, you learn your lessons, and then you move on. That's the healthiest way to deal with a problem. This in no way diminishes the importance of the other continuing investigations, but the business of our country and our people must proceed. I've gotten this message from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, from allies around the world, and -- if we're reading the signals right -- even from the Soviets. And of course, I've heard the message from you, the American people. You know, by the time you reach my age, you've made plenty of mistakes. And if you've lived your life properly -- so, you learn. You put things in perspective. You pull your energies together. You change. You go forward.[51]

It was established in Competence: The Preemptive Invasion of Iraq that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. To this day, Bush still denies that a mistake was made. Just recently, in the first 2004 presidential debate, Bush states, "I decided the right action was in Iraq. My opponent calls it a mistake. It wasn't a mistake."[52]

Reagan possessed the ability to take public responsibility for his actions and learn from his mistakes. Bush has yet to address the nation and apologize for the strategic mistake or at least take responsibility for the CIA's miscues. Since Bush has yet to realize the reality of his mistaken decision, it can be assumed that he hasn't learned from this mistake. If Bush hasn't learned from this strategic mistake, then he can't be trusted to avoid a similar pitfall in the future.

posted by: nate carr on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

It is becoming more apparent that those who are comforted by Bush's simplistic clarity of purpose in foreign policy have been hypnotized by his superficial similarities to great leaders (resolve and willingness to act boldly ala Churchill, Lincoln) and comforted by false analogies to previous wars.

The fight against Islamism is unique in human history. It cannot be fought or understood by use of historical precedent, because there is none.

The one defining dictum of previous warfare has contained a basic assumption: that through force, the enemy could eventually be compelled to surrender because it could be safely assumed the enemy valued its own literal survival - that its leaders desired to retain power, that its citizens wanted to survive, that it wished to keep control of its land and its identity as a culture or nation intact.

The mass psychosis of Islamism is the first modern ideology that places greater import on the destruction of its enemies than the survival of its own adherents.

No matter what degree of malevolence drove Fascism and Communism, they were "top-down" ideologies where nation state leaders waged wars of aggression to increase their own power. Though perfectly willing to sacrifice its citizens to this end, when faced with the threat of annihilation (as Japan was after Nagasaki) - surrender could be compelled and formalized and the war could end.

In a war of this nature, with a geographically identifiable enemy with a comprehensible goal, the most important quality in our leaders was strength of will exhibited by military resolve. Absolute determination to inspire their citizens to fight to the last breath made Churchill and Lincoln great. Reagan's "peace through strength" only worked because Gorbachev was a rational opponent who never considered nuclear war a viable option - even though it guaranteed the destruction of his enemy - because it would mean the death of humanity, and as a rational man, when push came to shove, he would choose the collapse of the Soviet Union over the death of humanity (not to mention himself and the citizens of his totalitarian state).

The distance between Western democracy and Islam ism represents arguably the largest cultural gap between two civilizations ever to simultaneously exist on the planet together (and be aware of the other's presence) . Islamists are not even pre-enlightenment - they are pre-economic, seeking to return to the 7th century when women played no role at all in economic life. It is a movement based on a psychotic terror of sexual humiliation.

The motives driving Caesar, Napolean, Attila, Hitler, Stalin et al had to do with the expansion of influence through conquest. The motives driving Islamism are more primal: they find Western influence (particularly regarding gender roles) so terrifying that they would rather destroy themselves - rather destroy the world - than see their societies assimilate. They have therefore created what can only be described as a massive suicide cult as a chemotherapy-like defense to the cancer of Westernization.

These "non-state actors" have no geographical identity. They have no cities to defend, no armies that can be faced on the battlefield. Individuals expend themselves consciously, like cancer cells, seeking only to destroy the host. They will sacrifice their bodies, their families, their children - literally anything - to destroy this threat to their belief system.

This enemy is more dangerous than the Nazis or the Communists because it is worse than evil - it is insane.

The twisted notion that suicide/murder-as-courageous-act-leading-to-canonization-and-Paradise as a balm to horrifically wounded pride is a virus that is infecting an entire generation of young men in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Iran, and the Palestinian areas. They have literally nothing to lose. No economic stakes. No civic stakes (all are under dictatorships or occupation). The only thing under their control is where and how they can die. The madrasas churn out more each day, each week, each year.

This is NOT a movement that military force alone can destroy. The military is only marginally useful in this battle. It is a battle of ideas, a battle of hearts and minds, a battle to rush the maturation of a society that does not want to mature.

Surveillance, special forces, linguists, signal intelligence, the removal of enabling nation states...all this is critically important - but a military intervention creates no endgame. Remember - the Islamists are willing to die. It's in their game plan. Killing them does not hurt their ideological goals - ironically, it helps them. The physical capture or death of Islamist leaders is of course, important - but only in that it helps to prevent terrorist attacks in the short term. In the long term, as we are learning in Iraq, shooting at this shadow enemy will only stalemate it, never destroy it. It will keep us safer, but not produce the kind of conclusive "falling of the Berlin Wall" moment we need to permanently marginalize these elements.

The Islamists weak spot - their pressure point, is their dependence on America's ongoing aggression to fuel the propaganda campaign that keeps the madrasas full. For the Islamists to continue to grow at the current rate, we must continue to appear to moderate Islam to be encroaching on their culture, planting military bases on their soil, stealing their oil, corrupting their women - in short, as dire a threat as the suicide cult suggests. This helps the cancer grow. This keeps the average citizen enraged at Israel and the U.S., never at the murderers and tyrants among them.

Note how the prospect of a free Gaza has, for the first time, caused real dissension between Arafat and Hamas. Sharon has the right idea in getting out of Gaza, but if he were smart, he would go further and unilaterally return to the '67 borders no matter what the internal riot it would cause. Throwing the ball into moderate Islam's court is the only hope for a lasting solution.

We must chase and destroy Al Qaeda all over the world. Begin a Manhattan Project directed against nuclear proliferation. Get out of Iraq as soon as security has remotely stabilized, even if it means civil war. We must challenge the more corrupt Arab regimes to reform, and vigorously engage the less onerous (Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, maybe Afghanistan) to make them economic success stories. And we must challenge Israel to take the actions stated above, regardless of whether or not they have a "partner in peace".

As the familiar objections start to fall away (the Americans are occupiers, they want our oil, they only support Israel), the Arab world will turn on itself. There will be civil wars. Courageous moderates will put pressure on autocratic regimes, thus taking away the "populist" stamp of approval from the Islamists. And, God willing, over ten or twenty or fifty years, Islamic society will be slowly transformed.

The only hope of "winning" this war; of checking the metastization of this ideological cancer, is engagement with moderate Islam.

Bush believes he is dealing with Hitler or Stalin. Yes, he is unwavering in his military determination. But he does not understand AT ALL the "hearts and minds" aspect of this battle. His radical decision to remove Hussein only played into the hands of the Islamists. Look at the American Imperialists! Look at the invaders, taking your oil, building bases on your holy land!

Kerry, at least, would understand that human intelligence can only be gained through the assistance of helpful moderate Arab regimes. He would make it more difficult for Europe to abdicate its responsibilities. He would, just by not being Bush, give America a clean slate in terms of whatever shred of moral authority we might have left.

An imperfect choice, but all we have.

Apologies for length.

posted by: Bill Wheeler on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

From above: "We are trying to keep from getting nuked. It is essential to follow the policies suited to achieve that goal."

Interesting point, except for the fact that Bush's policies seem to be increasing the chances that precisely that will happen. And Kerry understands this. Without being alarmist, his recent points get to all of the frightening failures of the Bush administration's policies:
(1) Loose nuclear material and weapons across former Soviet Union.
(2) North Korea's expanding nuclear arsenal.
(3) An overextended and disillusioned(thanks to unclear rationale for war) military that would be hard-pressed to respond to any contingency.
(4) Insufficient guarding of ports and border-crossings.
(5) Weakened alliances that should be supporting us fully. They are threatened by the danger of nuclear terrorism just as we are.

This threat is too real and dangerous for Bush/Cheney to have also chosen now as the time to prove a point against Europe and the United Nations. We're talking about nuclear weapons going off inside the US and we're spending energy trying to prove an arcane point about national sovereignty? The question, which has been asked above, is not "When have they ever been there for us in the past?", the question is "When have they ever before been against us?" We certainly don't need them against us at all right now. We need them to be at least moderately with us. The Bush Administration's policies have already cost us 3 perhaps critical years in this respect.

And on top of all that, with our military pre-disposed, our ability to threaten the use of it is dramatically curtailed. Rather, we are providing a perfect example to the entire world of the limits of the American military. That such a large proportion of our military is engaged in Iraq and having to expend so much effort to stabilize a relatively small part of the globe is troubling, and points to the fact that we should:
(1) be working in partnership with more allies
(2) be more aggressive in using the other tools and pressure points at our disposal.

Plus, and finally, Iraq is not AT ALL a policy that has reduced the chance of a nuke going off in the United States. Democratizing the Mid-East, "freedom is on the march", etc., is an indirect method at best for reducing the threat of a terrorist attack in this country. A better series of policies would be:
(1) Stop N. Korean program
(2) Account for and lock down all of Soviet weapons
(3) Stop Iranian program
(4) Increase intelligence(the results not just the budgets)
(5) Increase border & internal detection.
(6) Identify and destroy the organizations that may want to use these weapons against us.
(7) A policy of "world democratization" which, if successful, over decades, may reduce the formation of organizations like Al Qaeda who have the intent to harm us.

Dealing with the Iraqi threat is certainly on the list but probably not on the top of it. And a policy of "world democratization" that has recently become the primary explanation for the war, is at best an indirect and long term strategy for countering an immediate threat. With all due respect, since our military resources are finite, we should be protecting ourselves from the immediate threat before we start the long-term project of spreading democracy. It is a noble cause, but should not be our first priority.

The Bush Administration's judgment is severely in question, and they show no signs of an honest, even somewhat open reassessment of their policies so far.

Bluntly, they don't seem to get it.

posted by: Keith Adler on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Fron the fromer diplomat: "French, German and Russian interests are now clearly arrayed in a classic balance of power position against the U.S." Under what president did this happen? Under Bush, of course.

You should consider the fact that the administration bungled to get Turkey to participate in the Iraq war. The result was no real northen front that would have swept over the Sunni Triangle, which is now the primany source of of our problem now.

Bush has show to have little capacity, let alone interest, in working with other countries.

posted by: Michael R on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Sometimes in life when it is difficult to hold on to your belief of what is right and what is wrong one has to look at the quality of the criticism against what one believes. By and large I support Bush's foreign policy because on balance it correctly assesses (and is designed to meet) the threats posed to our national security in the 21st century. Additionally, I find the criticisms of that foreign policy lacking in weight and intellectual seriousness, which serves to strengthen my conviction.

To begin, the notion that has become so prevalent in the press and the intelligentsia that I find most untenable is the idea that Bush has "failed to win the peace" in Iraq (whatever that means). This concept is also referred to as poor (or disastrous or a miserable failure) "post invasion planning". Certainly, with the benefit of hindsight, there are things that could have been done differently. But, if Iraq is to be subdued and stabilized and emerge a pro-American state with a form of representative government, then history will look upon the naysayers who keeping pointing to the "high price" we paid as perhaps the most seriously unserious people in all of military history.

Let's cut through all the chaff in this debate. It is ridiculous to maintain that the price we are paying in Iraq is disproportionate to the benefit received if we meet our goals. There is no precedent in the history of conflict to support this notion. And people that believe otherwise, respectfully, strike me as not very thoughtful or perceptive. Purveyors of this specious "the price is too high" argument can only be right if Iraq turns out to be a failure. Their argument amounts to this: "now, while the outcome is uncertain, it is apparent that the Bush policy was a failure." This kind of circuitous pseudo-logic is absurd and has undermined our national discourse at a critical time in our history.

If we succeed in Iraq we will look back and realize that the price we paid was a bargain. Could the price have been lower? God only knows. As for corporate shareholder analogies; voting Bush out of office on the notion that things could have gone better is akin to bouncing the CEO cause his company's stock only went from 10 to 50 in three years when it theoretically could have gone to least according to an insurgent shareholder trying to have himself elected as CEO. I am shocked that this kind of thinking passes for measured intellectual analysis.

Second, I find it interesting that it is so readily assumed that Kerry diplomacy would be more effective than Bush's. Certainly if one believes that diplomacy is an exercise in getting other countries to "like" us then Kerry may be best. The question is what we will pay for that popularity? Certainly we can all agree that diplomacy is a means to an end, not the end in itself. If you view diplomacy as a vehicle to achieve foreign policy objectives that are mutually beneficial to the parties, then Bush is the right man.

Also, Kerry's ideas on Pakistan are woefully naive' and dangerous. There may come a time that we will more aggressively confront Pakistan, but that time is not now. At this time we need to quietly, and diplomatically, nudge Musharaff towards greater cooperation and determination in fighting the war on terror. This approach has been incredibly successful and one for which Bush has received little or no credit. And there is a story within the absence of recognition in regard to the stunning diplomatic success in Pakistan that tells us much about this president. Why does Bush not trumpet his success in Pakistan more loudly (yes he has spoken of it, but it is very much muted)? Because it would undermine the quiet diplomacy going on in Pakistan, that's why. The last thing that Musharaff needs is to have Al-Jazeera trumpeting comments made by the US president that makes him look like a lackey for Bush any more than they already do. This president is in the fight of his life being viciously criticized for lacking diplomatic skills and yet he will not compromise the diplomatic progress of US/Pakistan relations by responding to his critics as he rightfully could by loudly holding Pakistan out as the remarkable diplomatic success that it is. In comparison Kerry has made some very damaging statements during the course of this campaign, offensive to important allies of the US. And these statements are part of a long pattern of a man that will say anything, and is willing to besmirch any person or group, to further his own political aspirations. If that is the mark of a good diplomat, or effective diplomacy, maybe I’m missing something.

Moreover, Kerry's idea of pushing Pakistan harder is a dangerous one. There will come a time that we can push harder, but that time is not here yet. If we push too hard and Pakistan implodes it would be a disaster for US efforts to eradicate terrorism and control the threat of nuclear proliferation. It is surprising that the nuance candidate doesn't understand this reality. Moreover, his N. Korea diplomatic ideas are very troubling. N. Korea would eat a John Kerry administration alive in my judgment. His policy is nothing more than a return to a failed Clinton/Carter approach.

A Kerry administration would result in a deterioration of our national security.

posted by: jim on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Congragulations Dan! IT only took you a year or two to break out of the group-think cult and accept reality.

posted by: Jor on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Dan: you mention the two most important and frankly unassailable problems viz Bush: one, his decision making process is flawed [for obvious reasons as far as I'm concerned]; two, to reward bad decisions which verge on incompetence would be to ask for, not more of the same, but worse.

Then you say you're only LEANING to Kerry and practically beg for people to spin you otherwise?

posted by: Hellenic on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

A p-value is a measure of how much evidence we have (=the sample data provides) against the null hypothesis.

posted by: Michael Stastny on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I voted Libertarian in 2000, didn't care for either Bush or Gore. I have been torn over this year's vote -- from the "war on drugs" to fiscal restraint to gay marriage to stem cell research, I disagree with administration policies. I supported U.S. action against Afghanistan and Iraq, but have been deeply troubled by questions about the basic level of competence exhibited in handling the situation in Iraq. If only the Democrats had nominated somebody like Lieberman, there is no doubt in my mind about which way I would vote.

So I keep wondering -- Bush or Kerry -- both have such strong negatives for me, if only I could feel I was casting a vot *for* a candidate instead of choosing the lesser of two evils.

This morning I brought in the newspaper. Headline: "Kerry says Bush might reinstate draft." Read the story. Kerry says "With George Bush, the plan for Iraq is more of the same and the great potential of a draft."

How could anyone choose to vote for a candidate who can stoop to such blatant demagoguery? I think Kerry has just pushed me over the edge into voting for Bush -- okay, correction, into voting against Kerry. Kerry's obscene fear-mongering have convinced me of the need to vote against him.

posted by: Jim on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Please don’t do it Professor Drezner. I would have to revise my bookmarks. I first discovered Mickey Kaus, Andrew Sullivan and your esteemed self while visiting Paul Krugman’s website in search of ideas on trade theory. (Outside the USA, Krugman is better known as an economist than as a Bush-bashing NYT columnist.) There I learned that Kaus is given to snidery and careless reading, Andrew Sullivan is not the person to link to if you want to accuse someone of being shrill, while you are a political scientist who needed to have that (to Krugman, self-evident) fact pointed out to you. So I have grouped you all together as Unreliable Bushites. Stick together, at least until you are sure Sullivan is going to jump ship with you.

There are compelling reasons to vote for Bush. The current configuration of the international system is unsustainable. US dominance must inevitably call forth a countervailing coalition of jealous, nervous rivals. Neil Ferguson has drawn attention to the way Bush is acting as a catalyst for this process by pissing everybody off, even the Brits. It is his destiny. He is also managing US fiscal policy like a drunken Argentine finance minister with a new IMF rescue-package in his pocket. This will help to restore the balance of power as it cripples the long-term growth prospects of the US economy. His social policies are equally satisfactory when viewed from a global perspective. A declining America will make for a more stable world. Of course Kerry probably can’t do anything to prevent it, what with a hostile Congress and an unholy mess on his hands from day one. He probably doesn’t have the exceptional talent it would require to sort things out. But he would try and we can’t be entirely sure he would screw up, whereas we can have total confidence in Bush. Stick with the man you know.

If nothing else, Bush is good for a laugh. Think of all the stand-up comics who will have to write new material if he loses. Although he has a face like a horse, Kerry isn’t much good to them. What chance is there of him dressing up in a flight-suit with a huge bulge in the crotch? What will the collectors of malapropisms do? A president who looks and talks like a president just isn’t funny.

Don’t disappoint me. I have no vote in US elections so I am counting on people like you. Vote Bush. You know you want to.

posted by: Kevin Donoghue on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Jim, jim, Felix, Brian, skeptic, Seneca: surely you must all see this and agree.

Those of you who believe, like I do, that Kerry is a grave danger to the nation must agree that he MUST BE STOPPED by any means necessary. This is just common sense. If there is a danger, you remove it.

posted by: Robert Fredson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I can't stomach Kerry's demagoguery on certain issues. But it doesn't end there.

Trade is the big one for me (full disclosure: OUTSOURCING STUFF FROM CHINA IS MY JOB, FOLKS.) I find the constant drumbeat of anti-trade stuff highly irritating- come on folks, merchants have been accused of disloyalty since the beginning of time. Confucius did it, medieval Europeans did it, and I guess we still do it. Outsourcing is going to happen, we want it to happen, and it's good for us in the long term. Maybe we can fiddle with some of the terms on which it happens, but make no mistake, it's a benefit for all involved. Not the least reason is that I am largely certain we will never have open war with China. Wal-Mart effectively protects Taiwan, in a sense.

However, Bush is no free trade hero. The best example is steel tariffs- he figured he could cheese a few votes in steel states by slapping tariffs on, and he wasn't even smart enough to know how heavily steel users in this country would be punished by such a move. He only retracted the tariffs under threat of retaliatory EU action. Provoking a trade war- bad form, Mr. Bush.

Furthermore, I know where Kerry's heart is in this regard. I've looked at his record, and I am not troubled by it. His vote to extend permanent normal trading relations with China is of course very important to me. On the broad scale, he has not been bad at all- a Clintonite at heart, really. I liked Bill Clinton's policies in this regard and I expect more of that under Kerry.

So while it pains me to watch crass demagoguery, I know that is not what we will see when Kerry is in office.

posted by: perianwyr on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I echo all of the sentiments expressed by the former diplomat with a reminder of a prior vote concerning Iraq and two previous statements that Senator Kerry has made regarding upcoming foreign policy threats. The vote I am referring to is not the vote on the resolution, but his vote on the initial war with Iraq in 1991. There too he called for greater diplomacy even though the UN and France were on board. He seemed to think we could talk Saddam out of Kuwait. If he had been President Saddam could very well be in Saudi Arabia by now and Senator Kerry would deem it prudent to continue negotiating with Saddam.

Also, he made a couple of points during the debates that I believe need to be examined more fully. The first statement is concerning Iran and the need to call their bluff. This constitutes giving Iran nuclear fuel and seeing what they do with it. Of course, he says they would be required to give us the spent fuel in exchange. This to me seems a bit naive because Iran's regime is not transparent enough to adequately supervise such a transaction. Given the UN Oil for Food scam, the violation by North Korea of their commitments, and Iran's current ability to play games with inspectors I seriously doubt our ability to ensure that the nuclear fuel is only used for energy purposes.

Second, concerning North Korea he is suggesting that we have bilateral talks (along with multilateral talks) that would again require us to bribe North Korea to stop their program. Once again this is the same failed approach used in the 90's that leaves us where we are today. Japan has voiced the concern that the multilateral talks would break down if we had bilateral talks with North Korea. I don't see how we can ensure that the money would not go to further the military operations either.

Now the above demontrates more then merely failed instincts it displays an inflated sense of self for Senator Kerry. It seems that Senator Kerry deems himself so persuasive that he can talk all of these folks into doing whatever he wants.

It reminds me of a movie I watched, Die Hard, when the "bad guys" took over the building and one of the "extras" thought he could finagle these folks because of his brilliance. The end result was that "extra" was shot in the head.

President Bush may at times be loyal to a fault. He may not get rid of a certain administration official that one wants rid of or if he does he may take a long time doing it. Nonetheless, his overall strategy on how to win this war against these particluar terrorist groups and the states that love them represents reality far more then Senator Kerry's.

Given a choice I want a President who sees the big picture for what it is. In my judgment any administration will make some mistakes in the excution of the overall strategy, but if the strategy itself is sound we should be ok in the end. Senator Kerry's approach would lead us trusting untrustworthy types and force us to rely on our ability to defend way too much. President Bush's approach does not require us to trust those we can not trust. It also puts us on offense so that they must battle through our military before getting to the homeland. In my judgment President Bush's approach is the better approach and justifies voting for him.

Thank you for your consideration.

posted by: Jason Besler on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I admit that a President Kerry is a distinct worry for me, but, moreso is all those he'd bring into office with him.

While Bush has been in office we have not seen thousands of FBI files on Democrats routed to the White House nor
IRS audits attacking his long list of detractors. This may not persuade you, but, it should worry you.


posted by: Thomas Hazlewood on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I come here for the economics, not the foreign policy so i will mostly comment on that.

For 25 years the starve the beast theory has been in power. While I agree that everything else being equal that lower taxes should be better for the economy -- we have had 25 years -- actually 40 years since Kennedy -- of tax rates
trending down. But over this period the economy had performed worse, savings have plunged, and we have gone massively into debt to other countries. By almost any measure you care to use, the starve the beast strategy has been a complete failure that has seriously damaged the US economy. Rubinonomics works and voodoo economics does not work. We now have a republican party that believes in big, insolvent government.

You have to vote against Bush to get some economic rationality back into our system before Bush has 4 more years to finish turning us into a banana republic. So far Argentina has been the only example of a country going from first world status to second world status because of bad economic policy. But it sure looks like Bush is trying to make us the second country to fall from grace.

All of the comments above about foreign policy wer interesting, but none of them addressed the key issue. I originally opposed the Iraq invasion because I believed it would turn into the type of guerrilla war it has and that it would do more harm to US interest than anything Saddam would ever be able to do. So far I have seen no evidence or reason to believe I was wrong. Moreover, it is getting worse and worse because this man in the WH does not know how to make a decision or correct an error. You wonder why he ran 3 companies into the ground. All you have to do is look at his incompetent management of the WoT to see why. I could take a list of his bad decision and make a great case that he is really a secret ally of Ben Laden.

If the US was a stock and Bush was the CEO I would short the stock. It is that simple.

It does not surprise me at all that Bush is the first president since Hoover to run for relection with the S&P 500 lower than when he took office. -- it is a new meme that is trying to get started that the market crashed before Bush took office. The S&P 500 peaked in September and fell 6% from its peak until bush took office. It then proceeded to fall another 42%. So well over 80% of the market crash as measured by the S&P occurred under Bush.

posted by: spencer on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

1) the enemy in the GWOT wants to destroy us, or at least our way of life, and
2) The president understands this better than does Kerry.

OK, I met a guy who's making minimum wage who wants to win the lottery.

The enemy is a group of perhaps 50,000 anonymous people who control no government, who perhaps have enough money and certainly have enough dedication to do some damage.

We are the USA, with the strongest army in the world, the second-largest economy in the world, the biggest deficit in history, etc.

Why should we care what this insignificant enemy thinks? The only reason they could strike us is that we weren't paying attention at all. Now we have a basically-incompetent Homeland Security and there hasn't been a second attack in the USA in 3 years.

They have no chance to destroy our way of life unless we do it for them. It's like, last summer I was driving and a wasp started flying around in the car. My wife freaked out and started screaming and flailing around. I got startled but once I saw what it was I found a spot to pull over and opened the window to let it out. Getting stung by a wasp is unpleasant but it's nothing like wrecking a car at 65 mph. Terrorists can't destroy our way of life, they aren't strong enough. But we can do it if we respond wrong.

On the other hand, $50 oil would go a long way toward destroying our way of life. Nothing much to do with terrorism but it's a real threat. We desperately need a credible alternative energy.

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Palladin says:

The consequences of a botched war, a carelessly begun and planned war, are unendurable.

And unforgiveable.

Bush spent our nation's blood cheaply and callously - because it wasn't his.

For that alone, the man should be tossed out of office.

It never ceases to amaze me how some clueless folk can call the Iraq war "botched" or "carelessly planned." The war itself was absolutely brilliant from a military perspective. The U.S. casualties were very low considering the fact that we invaded a country prepared for war and overthrew a tyrant who would have done anything to stop us.

Yes, mistakes were made both during and after the war. No big surprise. Any military officer will tell you that the best plan falls apart the minute the first bullet flies. The real test is how quickly the leaders adapt to the actual situation.

I do not want to convey that everything is rosy in post-war Iraq. There are certainly many problems that need addressing. The only blame I give to Bush is that he absolutely refuses to say that any mistakes were made. He should say to the American people that

"...mistakes were made. We changed our plans to address the problems. We will be successful. After all, I have been telling you from the beginning that this effort will not be easy and will require sacrifices."

I will support Bush in this election because I believe that Bush has demonstrated the necessary leadership over these last 4 years to win in Iraq. I do not trust Kerry to win this war. Regardless of what he has said over the campaign, his record over the years leads me to question his resolve in military and foreign policy matters.

posted by: VA Gamer on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Your sharp student says: "Other than some successes regarding Libya, keeping the WTO together, and the Taliban’s removal I have a suspicion this is not a foreign policy team that will go down in history as even minimally competent."

"Some [piddling] successes"? If, on 9/12/01, the American people had been offered an iron-clad guarantee that we could get to where we are today with combat deaths equal to about 1/3 of the number of people killed in the WTC and Pentagon attacks, would we have accepted? I think so. Would you have voted for it?
In other words, "are we better off today than we were on 9/12/01?" I think so.
Why would you take a chance on national security in the hope that Kerry would increase the marginal tax rate from 35 to 39.6%?

posted by: Oldtimer on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

re: JFK2 v GWB. It isn't that hard. Look at your children and imagine the children they'd like to have. Now think back to George Washington, Adams, Madison and Jefferson thinking the same thoughts as they considered revolutionary change v. (reactionary "please don't disturb my peace") accomodation. And how every gamble built on American core values has played out.

Democrats are the party of death. Every day we pay something for their and their fellow travelers pursuit of mankind's perfection on earth. e.g. Today we're going to lose more (young) citizens than 9-11 due to the unintended but guaranteed failures of Hillary Care I (her vaccine program justified w/ the lives of children for a non-provable, tho historically fatal, arguably "well planned" "feel-good" program that interfered w/ citizens' choice and "best of all information exchange" enabled by the free market).

It's not that central planning (in war, reconstruction, health-care, etc.) can't work, it's that it absolutely won't work in our system. History shows that only dictatorships (appear to) succeed at this. Granted, that's what this county's liberal minority does as it uses the courts, filibusters, regulatory processes to usurt the peoples' will. Shame on them.

posted by: Ari Tai on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

If Kerry thinks the French and Friends will suddenly consider the War on Terror a more worthy goal than keeping their oil flowing free, then he should simply look to French and UN obstructionism on the Sudan situation.

Not even sanctions. Even with an ongoing genocide.

And they refuse to come to grips with Iran. After the elections in Iraq, Iran is going to be an imminent battleground. And if Kerry is in office, they will feel quite free to go whole hog in their nuke program.

And they'll be right. And we will be in very real danger of nuclear war.

No nuance there.

posted by: Korla Pundit on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Is it just me, or is almost everybody that supports the current administration sound like they're in a pulpit? When I read those posts, I almost feel supporting Kerry is tantamount committing a mortal sin.

I mean truly. Are we so sure that what the administration is doing is absolutely the correct course of action.....or are we just afraid to admit to ourselves what that would mean if it weren't true?

I'm an independent, fiscally conservative, socially liberal, generally middle of the road kind of guy. I'd like to think that I can always see both side of the argument, but maybe my BS meter just isn't as finely tuned as everybody else’s.

My personal opinion is that the most well reasoned, un-biased viewpoints are coming from those who support Kerry or are leaning that way.

Do I think that Kerry is the answer to all the countries woes? No, absolutely not. Is he going to be able to deliver on all those "plans" he's laid out? I don't think so.

What I know, is that I have fundamental issues with the Bush administration that I have not had with others in 20 years. Kerry clearly represents better politics at home and abroad to me, and I just can't see the compelling evidence that we'll really be more sorry if he gets elected over Bush (and I have looked at both of their records extensively).

This will be the first presidential election that I vote democrat.

posted by: darin on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Just a note for your sharpest student. The diplomat refers to the unipolar state of the world during the cold war when the Europeans were weakened under the US hegemony (read umbrella), and the multipolar world that now exists post cold war where the US hegemony has evaporated to the point that these nations are now able to rise above the fray. Two different times, two different states of affairs. Christ I'm only out of high school and I could understand the diplomat right from the get go. Time to call that student back to class.

posted by: truss on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Too many posts to read first so I will skip them all to make just one point - and that is to address the left's claim that by invading Iraq we have created more jihadists worldwide and that we could have avoided that by keeping the sanctions in place and containing Saddam. This is part of the general strategy of considering Osama bin Laden's "grievances" against the west and addressing those as a strategy for defeating terrorism. Why do people forget that one of bin Laden's "grievances" against the west listed in his first fatwa (correct me if I am wrong factually on this) was that we were killing thousands of Iraqi children through the sanctions? Consider the implications. It essentially ties the west's hands in using sanctions to deter nuclear Islamic states as these will still incur the jihadists wrath. That seems to leave no acceptable choice for the jihadists but for us to keep out of the ME all together and ignore all nuclear ambitions. Is the left comfortable with that? Secondly, the jihadists are purportedly angry with us for propping up dictatorial regimes in the ME - much cited by the "grievance" crowd. But we have done the exact opposite in Iraq (and Afghanistan) - Bush has radically broken ranks with previous US foreign policy on this score (and Kerry has stated (among many diverse statements) an intention to return to realpolitik). My point is that we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. Bush has had the courage to recognize that fact. Once we all recognize that fact we will see the futility in shooting the messenger. If the Kerry folks don't see the post 9/11 reality then it could be truly dangerous for them to assume power. If they do see it - but have been shamelessly playing politics with war this past year - then consider whether it is a good idea to reward sheer political opportunism which has served to divide the country at a time when it is most important that we are united in being honest about the threat that we face.

posted by: Caroline on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I graduated from the U.C. law school in 1970, and loved the intellectualizing that was pervasive throughout the campus. The trouble was that few of those skills were very effective once I got into the real world--it was far too easy to over-think issues and miss too many forests for trees.

You're doing that now. You and the emailers you find most engaging are basically trying to predict in small details what the world will be like with Bush or Kerry in the White House. You simply can't know the answer to this. There are too many variables to make any rational assessment. One thing we do know, however, is that whatever happens will happen fast, whether it's Iran's nuclear bomb, the overthrow of Pakistan by Al Qaeda--make any list you want. And we also know that the consequences will larger than at any time in the past.

What's important in the election is figuring out who is going to deal with this best. My take is that Bush will act quickly and decisively, with as many allies mustered as time will permit. Kerry won't--he will spend too much time maximizing support, he will be too timid in projecting force, and too willing to make unenforceable or stupid compromises with opponents in order to say that the matter is resolved. That's just the nature of his party and their standard advisers (do you think things have changed in the party from the days of Carter and Clinton?).

Your critiques are petty--the "understaffing" of the post war effort may have been a misjudgment; so what? Is there a mistake free war that I have missed? The issue is whether we should have gone to war. Focus on that. You may be sure Kerry wouldn't have gone to war. Bush did. If you agree we shouldn't have gone to war in Iraq, that would be a rationale to vote for Kerry that I could respect, though I'd disagree. But your stated reasons are really off the mark. I think you need to get out of the trees and look at the forest.

posted by: John Friedman on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

This is just common sense. If there is a danger, you remove it.

Sounds like a good reason to vote against Bush in November.

posted by: Marc on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Wow. Where did all these people come from? This used to be a sleepy little blog comment page (and I mean that in a good way).

Anyway, I actually did read through the bulk of the pro-Bush comments (no need to read the pro Kerry comments telling me stuff I already know) and the common assumption that underlies most of the posts is that they believe the Bush administration is 1) honest and 2) competent.

I suppose if I started with those assumptions, I might be persuadable. But conclusions drawn from false premises don't hold up. I can't understand for the life of me how anybody paying attention could still have an ounce of faith in the Bush administration. We've seen a series of bad decisions that inevitably flow from a bad decision making process that places pleasing the president by telling him what he wants to hear over factual hard-nosed analysis.

And Dan's absolutely right that Bush & Co will take an election victory as vindication of everything they've done so far. More, bigger blunders await us in a second term.

posted by: uh_clem on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Yeah, Marc's reasoning is ultimately why Bush wins. As more and more voters realize that Kerry and his voters hate Bush more than they do the terrorists and other enemies of America, they'll vote for Bush.

posted by: Tim on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I always enjoy your writing but it is hard to understand how a bright guy like you seems to be voting for Kerry. If I had the gift of words, my thoughts would be reflected by V.D. Hansen so you might consider reading or re-reading some of his work before you make your final decision. I read the 11 page NYT piece which got Kerry's vision "spot on", I just happen to disagree with his conclusions. We all want terrorism to "go away" and become the same problem it has been since Munich but we have different situation now.
The future is important to me - I have
6 grandchildren-it is both naive and dangerous to look to the outdated solutions of the past.
It is tempting and worked, for the most part, at the time they were used. Much of my generation is stuck in the '60's and the tragedy of Vietnam. They can not help looking backward but this generation must not be blinded by their own mistakes to the degree they cannot see the world as it is not like we would like it to be or perhaps it should be.
Think about it.
Pam C.,
An old political science major who probably read to much Ayn Rand in her youth and didn't believe her until now.

posted by: Pam on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The difference is between Will and Might.
I think Kerry might pursue the WOT, and I know that GWB will.
I know that Kerry might keep taxes low for middle america, but I know GWB will.
Kerry might reject world opinion and take the war to the extremist, George Bush will.
And so on..
Look, no one can be genuinely undecided at this point, so I take your vacillating as a simple intellectual wank.

posted by: truss on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Interesting comments from all quarters; albeit, I hear a bit of desperation on the part of the Bush supporters ( for surely they, as well as Bush's handlers, feel some instability in their base). Nonetheless, some charges made by them are blatantly misleading: Kerry is cynically using issues for political gain? Of course he is (he wants to win)! Yet Bush and his campaign are lilly-white and pure in this regard ( c'mon man, who among all these intelligent people really believes that)? And in regards to policy, how can Kerry do any worse than Bush has on the international front( Kerry will at least be able to read the background material used to prepare presidential briefs. At home, anyone can see that a Democratic Prez in combo with a Republican congress is the only viable recipe for fiscal sanity( or I suppose it could be the other way around, to be fair). In conclusion, vote for the guy who demonstrates higher cognitive function, for these times we are a living in require intelligent leadership ( they used to say "let the best man win", well the debates showed us who is at least the best man in the face of pressure, and who has that higher cognitive function).

posted by: bob on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Jim, jim, Felix, Brian, skeptic, Seneca: surely you must all see this and agree.

Those of you who believe, like I do, that Kerry is a grave danger to the nation must agree that he MUST BE STOPPED by any means necessary. This is just common sense. If there is a danger, you remove it.
Posted by Robert Fredson at October 16, 2004 09:20 AM "

Will someone please notify the Secret Service of wingnut Fredson? Dan, can I count on you to do just that? And Dan, while you're at it, please note the impact of Coulters/Savages/Hanitys/Limbaughs on your blog. All the hate from the pro-Bushies that is evidenced right here. They don't say they would prefer Bush but that they acknowledge the Kerry is a patriot who would implement policies they don't agree with, but stating that Kerry is a treasonous antichrist, a communist that sold us out to the North Vietnamese, a frenchie that will abort us all while banning the bible and making gay marriage the norm. A danger to the country and the world.

Dan, stop your rationalizing. Get a real job. See the nation. Enjoy a beer. And vote Democrat, we're the party of positive thinkers and optimism, fiscal responsibility, national and world leadership, and pro-children.

Dan, if you have kids, think about which President you'd rather have as their Commander in Chief.

Silly Dan.

posted by: a.father on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

There is nothing in Kerry's record that indicates he could successfully manage even a small business to say nothing of an extremely large one. His management experience seems to be limited to a controversial 120 day command of some tiny boat in the swamps of Southeast Asia. He has no Senate record of leadership or pushing new ideas or proposals or getting others to coalesce around his visions if they truly exist. He was the anti Dean candidate for his own party and is the anti Bush candidate for them now. His foreign policy seems to be predicated on summits and doing diplomacy whatever that means.

Of course Bush hasn't been perfect, but he has a track record as a businessman, governor and 4 years as CinC. No one could have predicted that standing on the ruins of the WTC that Afganistan would have new constitution, its first election ever and its women unchained.

Iraq is heading in the same direction and it is all due to Bush's vision and belief in freedom. Have there been mistakes? Of course. Will there be more? Of course, but the promise of a stable democratic country smack dab in the middle of the worst snake pit in the world today is something should be united in desiring.

Kerry has no expressed vision of change for the Middle East, only a forlorn longing for the "Way We Were". Terrorism reduced to a nuisance like prostitution and gambling. No true understanding of the threat our way of life is under. I can discern absolutely no reason to vote for him.

posted by: EddieP on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Please read Ron Suskind's cover story in today's New York Times Sunday Magazine on Bush's "Faith." Look for it on-line if you don't get the paper. It's worth searching out.

It is quite clear that if Bush is re-elected there will be no stopping him, as they say of villans in comic-books. He already has a God-complex. What comes next?

It appears that many conservative Christians are out trying to register and recruit Democrats. They, too, are scared of a second Bush term.

This election is not about the "GWOT" or realigning the world balance of power. This election is about reclaiming our country from a delusional man and his base of "freedom marchers."

I am flabbergasted by the otherwise intelligent people on this forum who grandstand about the "GWOT." This is another sign that this country may be doomed. Why can't you all see the "bigger picture," which is much much more than the "GWOT."

Bush is manipulating you with the "GWOT" rhetoric to push through a radical, anti-enlightenment domestic agenda. How many of you have the multi-millions you will most surely need when we no longer have access to afforable health care or social security? Will you be satisfied when radical discrimination policies are writ in stone in the US Constitution? When Roe v Wade is overturned and women no longer have control over what happens to their own bodies? When there is no longer any seperation between church and state and all social programs (what are left of them) are run through fundamentalist churches on "faith-based" initiatives? When our communities are re-segregated and all ethnic minorities are for all intents and purposes living in real ghettos because they can't economically afford to do otherwise?

Containing Communism was one thing, but the United States is not and should not be a Missionary State. The Soviet Union wanted to be and thought of itself as an Empire. Guess what? It failed. As has every other Empire in the history of human civilization. What makes all you pre-emptive Iraq-war "GWOT" enthusiasts make you think it will be any different here?

You have been brainwashed by this administration's propoganda of fear if you think John Kerry is fear-mongering. A vote for Bush is a vote for a *possible* draft: Bush has so overextended our military and has so little international support (Poland, as reported in today's New York Times, is pulling their few troops out of Iraq sometime in 2005), that if he does not change course he will have no choice but to either recruit a larger volunteer army or re-instate a draft.

In any case, I sincerely hope that all of you who have said you are voting for Bush because he is the only one who has the right ideas on the "GWOT" or is the only one who has the "resolve" to fight and win the "GWOT" are ready and willing to go and fight that war --where ever he so chooses to take it -- yourselves. Are you ready and willing to be shipped out to defend your vote for Bush and everything he believes in? Which you are being asked to accept "on faith" and not doubt and not question?

posted by: Paolo10019 on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Wow! Late to the party again.

I can't possibly plow through so many comments (sorry) so I'll just add thoughts on the two cited letters. Much impressed by the first; find the critique of said letter by your bright former student less than impressive. Her/his questions are on niggling, abstruse points for the most part. Are multipolarity and unipolarity really so mutually exclusive? Can we not assume a multipolar world in which the US pole is much bigger than others, but others exist, even try to act in concert against us? (Can a pole act? Nevermind, you get the point.)

Lastly, what is the life experience of this former student as compared with that of the diplomatic lifer? When you consider how strongly Democratic the State Department is (and I was there, it is) I would say the odds are that this guy did not have much problem at the time with Democratic leadership. He probably knows most of the team that would be moving into a Kerry administration. His/her views are grounded and reasonable. The former student--well, we need to know a bit more about their qualifications to pronounce judgment on any of this. So if you'd like to update again, that would be appreciated (if only in the most broad terms, so as to preserve anonymity).

Thanks, Dan.

I disagree with your leanings, but you present them well, as always, and I won't hold it against you even if you vote Nader. Not like Illinois is up for grabs anyway.

What I'd like to see next is your thoughts on the Daly administration selling off the next century's worth of Skyway profits in return for an upfront chunk of change. Isn't that like selling off your kids' patrimony to finance your drunken spending binge of the next 6 months? I didn't know stupidity like that could even be legal.

posted by: Kelli on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

This has been an extraordinary give and take. It is extremely unusual to make it to the end of a thread this long and still be interested but the quality of most posts is very, very good.

I'd like to make the appeal that you consider a vote for Bush by truly facing the entire context in which his presidency has played out. In particular, what strikes me about the anti-Bush claims is how context-free they are. That is, the claims that Bush managed Iraq and Afghanistan "incompetently" are only plausible if you ignore the entire context under which these wars were waged and, more specifically, the claims of Bush's opponents when they were begun.

A few examples:

The Kerryite left claimed that Afghanistan would be virtually impossible to pacify. Opponents pointed out the failed Soviet invasion and even the failures of the British a century earlier. We were told that the death toll would surely be in the 10s of thousands and, even should we "win", that it would be a bloody stalemate for years. Noam Chomsky predicted that Bush's policy would likely result in millions of dead Afghanis as aid to the war-torn country was disrupted. Bush himself was characterized as a mass murderer.

The reality is that the Taliban - one of the most repressive, backward regimes in history - was deposed within a few months. In the ensuring months, the largest economic boom in Afghanistan's history was unleashed and Afghanistan has just held the first elections in its 5000 year history. We may not have gotten OBL - or we may have: many, many al Queda fighters died deep under the mountains by bombs designed to "bounce" deep into the caves and then explode to collapse the tunnels. So what happens? Does the Left acknowledge that they were profoundly out of touch with the reality on the ground? No, they accuse Bush of being out of touch because he "outsourced" the capture of OBL (a claim available only to those who are largely ignorant of the reality at the time - see for an effective deconstruction of this claim).

The next example:

According to the Kerryite left, Iraq would surely be the graveyard of the American armed forces: it promised to be the "mother of all battles" with WMDs, urban fighting and a population that hated the Americans for 12 years of sanctions. Again, the casualty estimates were in the 10s of thousands in some of the bloodiest fighting since VietNam. Some went so far as to claim that the U.S. may well lose against Saddam's "battle hardened" army. This was the "reality" of the Kerryite left.

The truth? The truth is that brilliant strategy, superior equipment and a far better trained U.S. military swept to Baghdad in three weeks with an astonishingly low casualty rate. Indeed, no war in recent history has proven the Kerryite left to be so completely out of touch with the reality of American military capability. Whenever I hear claims that Bush is "living in a fantasy" or is "out of touch with reality" I have to shake my head at the utter cynicism and ahistoricism of the people making this claim.

Even with all of the casualties in both Afghanistan and Iraq taken together (hell, you can even include car accidents and drowning accidents) America has executed these military actions with an astonishingly low casualty rate. This does not denigrate those who have given their lives for this effort. Instead, it exalts their sacrifice to recognize that they chose to live their lives in service to the freedom of others when they surely had many other, easier options.

The next example:

Surely Iraq has now proven to be a quagmire and a looming failure under the misguided policies of an administration that reflexively refuses to admit that the entire venture was a distraction from the "true" war on terror. A "spiraling" death toll and a "resurgent" insurgency are quickly draining the blood from Bush's fantasy of democratizing the Middle East, right?

The truth is that we were indeed largely "Blind into Baghdad" in part because of the speed with which major military resistance was overcome. There have unquestionably been blunders and miscalculations that have cost American lives - just as in every other war in human history. Relative to the perfection of Kerry's multilateral fantasy, Bush's actual execution falls far short.

But the deeper truth is that even if nothing else is achieved in Iraq, the exposure of A.Q.Khan's nuclear proliferation network and the removal of Ghaddafy's nuclear weapons program made the entire effort worthwhile. Indeed, it is absolutely no exaggeration to say that we *did* find WMD's by invading Iraq - we just happened to find them in Libya. THESE ARE NUCLEAR WEAPONS THAT WILL NEVER BE USED AGAINST AN AMERICAN CITY. More germane to this argument, it is crystal clear that *none* of these programs would have been exposed under Kerry's 1990-era liberal internationalism.

In addition, it is pure fantasy to say that things are worse in Iraq now than before the war (I'm sure that will induce some hair-pulling by Democrat readers but bear with me a second). Before the war, Iraq was a festering sore and a humanitarian disaster in which a brutal, thuggish regime raped, tortured and murdered hundreds of thousands of people with absolute impunity. Just recently, another mass grave filled with women and young children was uncovered. Does it surprise anyone in the least that these same people, now turned out of "official" power, continue to act in essentially the same brutal way as they always have? The people who make the news by killing children with car bombs WERE DOING THE SAME THING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS BEFORE THEY WERE DEPOSED. THAT IS WHAT THE MASS GRAVES SHOW US. The *only* difference - the only difference at all - is that our press now lovingly lingers over every horror in order to convince us that were were in error for freeing the vast majority of Iraqis from this horrible regime.

Daniel, you posit that Bush's policies have been "incompetent" because errors have been committed in the prosecution of the war. With the clarity of hindsight and a willingness to willfully ignore the Kerryite left's earlier predictions, you may be right. But if you look at what they said AT THE TIME, you could not possibly come to this conclusion. Bush has been mostly right and the left has been proven - again and again - to be almost wholly wrong. I am utterly confident that, within 5 years, Iraq's success will cement this conclusion just as the fall of the Berlin wall cemented the wisdom of Reagan's position. Unless - of course - Kerry is elected and he decides to turn a slowly earned success into an immediate failure.

Bush will be hailed as a visionary (even if he is defeated) because people will, in time, recognize that the detailed mistakes were irrelevant when the bigger picture is taken into account. You can do your part to promote human freedom by supporting Bush as he continues this fight - a fight for the peace that can be earned only by defeating the Islamic Fascists who would enslave others in the name of their own hateful, fundamentalist fantasy.

posted by: WildMonk on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Don't be such goddam children. 2 skyscrapers go down, and your brain goes off its tracks"

Thank you, theWesson! Thank you for saying the unsayable!

The rancid-sweat fear I've seen from Bush supporters absolutely appalls me. They're willing - no: eager - to throw out everything that makes America America, from civil liberties to participatory democracy, because Bush "makes us feel safer" and that means it's OK to overlook his incompetent, authoritarian, utterly wrong-headed policies.

Bush might make you "feel" safer, but he hasn't actually MADE us safer.

To think that the best way to combat global terrorism is to infuriate and alienate most of the globe is so stupid I can't take it seriously. I don't believe the people who propound that idea believe it either. I don't believe the people who are calling for the destruction of entire cities, regions and religions actually think that'll make the world a better, safer, more free place.

I think what happened is, Bush supporters HAVE gone "off the tracks" and are frightened to the point where they're thinking with their hindbrains - the place where we're reassured, on a primitive animal basis, by pure shows of force.

Look, I'll say it over and over, and I'll jump and down while I'm saying it, and even do an interpretive dance while I'm saying it: Iraq did not present a clear and present danger to America; Iraq was not Al Qaeda's ally; Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

There were good reasons to think about getting rid of Saddam. There might even have been a good strategy for doing so, but Bush didn't go that route.

He manufactured an urgent threat that didn't exist, he used the false urgency to railroad us into war, he brushed aside the "decent respect for the opinion of mankind" in doing so, and has since used the war to keep scaring Americans into supporting him. He's used the war to scare Americans not only into supporting him on the war in Iraq, but in supporting him on the war against civil liberties and participatory democracy here at home.

How does it make us safer to continue entrusting our nation to a man who uses fear to keep us in line?

How does it us safer to continue entrusting our nation to a man with a proven record of refusing to listen to anyone who doesn't tell him what he wants to hear? With a proven record of being sheltered by his advisors from information they don't want him to hear? With a proven record of punishing people who tell him unwelcome news and a proven record of not punishing people who egregiously screw up?

Has *anyone* here ever heard of The March of Folly? Has anyone here ever *read* it?

Pro-Bush posters talk a lot about "sending messages" - to our forces, to the Iraqis, to the world.

OK: what kind of message did Bush send when he: 1) ignored the one issue that might have given him some legitimacy in the Arab world; and then 2) invaded a country that had NOT threatened us, to set up an American satrapy? while declaring America was embarked on a God-approved Crusade?

Do you think the Arab world doesn't listen to this stuff? Do you think Iraqis didn't know what was going on in Abu Ghraib long before we did? Do you think Iraqis didn't know the original occupation plan was to "privatize" - that is, sell off to cronies - Iraqi assets? Do you think Iraqis don't notice that Halliburton et al. isn't hiring them to rebuild their own country? Do you think Iraqis don't notice that the US is using mercenaries because mercenaries aren't accountable to anyone for what they do?

Just because *you* don't notice, don't care, don't think these things are important, doesn't mean the people directly affected don't. The Iraqi insurgence is spreading, getting deadlier, because Iraqis don't believe Bush's high-flown rhetoric, because he's given them no reason to. The Islamic world is angrier, more opposed to the US than ever, because they don't believe Bush's high-flown rhetoric, either.

So: how does Bush make us "safer" by infuriating the Islamic world? How does Bush "combat terrorism" by showing the Islamic world that the terrorists' wild paranoid fantasies about US intentions were actually true?

At what point does it occur to the pro-Bush brigades that pouring lighter fluid on a fire isn't necessarily the best way to put it out?

posted by: Palladin on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Dan, I'm not going to try to persuade you one way or another. You're smart enough to be able to read, reflect, and make your own decisions.

But I would like to share why this will be the first presidential election where I vote for the Democrat, too.

I have been a registered Republican for the last 36 years. But I am an American first, and I also believe that a strong 2-party balance is the best way to keep our country centered.

There are a lot of factors that brought me to this decision, but there are two that really stand out for me. The first has to do with my extreme disappointment with the Republican Party in general. I am a social moderate, a fiscal conservative, and a small business owner. I am appalled at the ballooning deficit, the "corporatocracy", and the pandering to the worst of the know-nothing fundamentalist religious right. With the takeover of the Republican Party by people whose beliefs are so far from what I have always considered to be "Republican values," I am extremely concerned about the future of our country if the executive branch and both houses of the legislative branch remain in the control of the Republican Party (which will also mean that the judicial branch comes under their control).

We used to be concerned about "gridlock" in Washington, but now I yearn for it. It meant that no party's radical-wing agenda could get through -- it always had to be pulled to a compromise in the center in order to get the bipartisan support required to pass. Frankly, I saw a lot more fiscal conservatism under the Clinton Administration than I have under Bush -- I've seen absolutely none there -- and I hear a lot more of it coming from the Democrats than I do the Republicans (other than buzzwords). So that is reason one -- I desperately believe that another four years of complete Republican control will be a disaster for this country's economic future. And while military might may give us the power of force, it is our economic might and a strong pluralistic democracy that gives us the power of influence and leadership.

The second reason is the Bush Administration specifically. Frankly, it concerned me in 2000 to vote for a man who seemed to have so little knowledge or understanding of the world... just a good ol' boy from Texas... but I was reassured because it seemed that he was surrounded by the adults from the Bush I administration. I had (and still have) a high respect for the adept foreign policy that helped the collapse of the Soviet Union to a soft landing rather than what could have been a last devastating paroxysm of a nuclear enemy. Unfortunately, I was unaware at the time of the rise of the neocons and what it would mean for us.

What terrifies me about Bush (and that is a word that I do not use lightly) is that he seems to be making decisions on faith (which for me, means not considering reality, or discounting it if the information comes from someone outside the approved circle or differs with the prevailing "scripture"), and never, never considering the possibility that the decision might not be perfect in all respects.

Making matters far worse is that he sees "consistency" as a good thing in and of itself, and seems really unable to ever recognize any mistakes. NO one, no matter how thoughtful, can imagine the way things will really turn out, and reality always holds nasty surprises (and missed opportunities) for anyone who thinks they can. Holding "consistently" to a direction when the road takes a turn will put you in the ditch, and even if you have an accurate roadmap of your trip, it never shows you all the bends in the road or the other things that might be on that road. This would still hold true if he were carefully examining all of the possibilities before embarking on the road. But by his own admission and observations of people within in his administration, he doesn't. He makes his decisions from his gut, from options brought to him by his people who have their own agendas and faiths, and who dare not tell him that he is ever wrong.

This is the consistency that terrifies me about Bush, and that has me voting for Kerry in this election. I do not expect that I will be completely happy with him - I have never been with any president. But at least he seems to really educate himself and think about the world, and to reconsider decisions and apply correction (or even change course) as reality and the information about it changes.

If I ran my life or my business with the consistency of Bush, I would be living in a cardboard box. I regularly re-evaluate my decisions and adjust them, and sometimes come to the understanding that "well, that was a dumb idea, and I've learned not to do that again." I guess I'm just a flip-flopper, but I really believe that the US desperately needs someone who is capable of learning from mistakes and changing courses that are not working.

I was one of those undecideds until the debates -- leaning away from Bush because of my very real concerns, but highly conflicted about Kerry. Bush's performance in the first debate made up my mind that I could not vote for him; there literally seemed to be no one home. His performance in the second reaffirmed to me that he was going to continue to pander to the fundemantalist religious right, whom I despise, and that his solution for all economic ills was more tax cuts, which I think is disastrous economic policy.

It was Kerry's performance in the third debate that made me comfortable that he was indeed presidential timber, and that it would not be a bad thing if he were elected. It was then that I made up my mind completely that I could vote for him for president.

posted by: Ducktape on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

For Paolo:

You say:

"Will you be satisfied when radical discrimination policies are writ in stone in the US Constitution? "

Oh yes, Bush is quite that racist. Yep - ready to bring back Jim Crow and incarceration of gays. The writing's on the wall alright. You know, this is the kind of garbage that just degrades the entire debate. "Radical discrimination"?? In all of history marriage has never been understood to include gay couples. Until the concept was brought up a few years ago and activist judges imposed it in MA, no one even thought the concepts went together. Now, in defending what has always been the norm, Bush is practicing "radical" discrimination?

Please. I'm pretty agnostic about the whole topic (leaning toward approval) but it at least deserves discussion. Not just this kind of flame throwing.

"When our communities are re-segregated and all ethnic minorities are for all intents and purposes living in real ghettos because they can't economically afford to do otherwise? "

I know I shouldn't say this but...Oh grow up.

posted by: WildMonk on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Hey Paolo10019,

Get this through your head, There will be no draft. The Pentagon hates the idea. Why? Because conscript armies are shit. Even the reserves are something close to shit, and it might be good to phase them out in the future. (no offense to any reservists out there)Using a conscript army will turn any conflict into Vietnam. I guess Charlie Rangel's propaganda stunt worked if he's got you worried about it.

As for your comments on Bush's domestic policy as some kind of theocratic dictatorship, just take your thorazine please. You know the voices might come back if you don't take the thorazine.

posted by: Your Doctor on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


Who told you about our evil plan to get rid of democracy and civil liberties? You'd better watch out. After we steal this election our black helicopters will be paying you a visit.

posted by: Your Doctor on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"I can't believe it. If you want to pick a slimy liberal traitor (why isn't he in jail for undermining troop morale ?) and coward like Kerry over a good, honest, commander in Chief like George Bush, then God help you."

The coward who actually went to war twice, by choice, as opposed to the good and honest C-I-C who avoided it with family ties ... the coward who took his comrades' concerns to Washington when it would have been FAR easier to do nothing, as opposed to the honest C-I-C who lied to his country about going to war and rushed off our men and women without properly equipping them first ... the coward who has actually been shot at as opposed to the good C-I-C whose campaign handcuffs and removes dissenters from his campaign stump appearances, going even so far as to handcuff and arrest the woman who wants to know why her son had to die in Iraq ...

Are you joking?????

posted by: JC on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Thank you for the chance to help you decide your vote. I agree with you on several matters. Abu Ghraib was a complete disaster. Bush does suffer from a "loyalty disease" but that ends with this term. Rumsfeld and others will be gone in the next administration after a thorough house cleaning.

There are several reasons why Kerry is unfit for the Oval Office. The first chronologically was his lies about routine war crimes in Vietnam in 1971 and his trip to meet with South Vietnamese leaders during a time of war. These are the issues that have really upset Vietnam vets. Many people feel that was a treasonous act. If Kerry had ever apologized for his actions the way Jane Fonda did, the vets may have forgiven him. But until that happens, Kerry will have a difficult time leading the military.

The second reason Kerry is unfit is that he flip flops on important issues. I know you have heard it before, but it really should disqualify him from the office. Kerry supported the war until it looked like he was going to lose the nomination to Howard Dean. If you watch you can see the transformation. During a time of war, we need a leader who can be resolute when the chips are down.

Third, Kerry should be disqualified from office for taking foreign campaign contributions. I invite you to visit these links:

Unless you think a nuclear Iran will help bring stability to Middle East, you cannot vote for John Kerry.

posted by: Ron Cram on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

love the coward above who is voting against bush cause he's afraid of serving his country. you have a future as a democratic presidential candidate (whatever you want to say about W and vietnam, flying a fighter jet != safe occupation. other circumstances around their respective pre-war records show that the 2 current candidates instincts were the reverse of how their actual service ended up, details available upon request)

as for mr drezner's vote...

you'll vote for people who'l competently do things you dislike or actively think are bad ideas, vs people who you see as not being as competent but moving in the right direction: so you'll cheer for the opposing team's quarterback as he marches down the field to score against you, rather than cheer for your team who is having some problems with the handoffs? ok so apparently UofC logic has changed since friedman

love how your smart student hides from a point by pointing out a spelling mistake in a quick email/post to a blog. Cause that shows the quality of someone's thinking, the inability to properly spell someone's name when it is a complex non-english surname... mature

so you're going to vote for someone who's entire team's foreign and economic policy instincts are diametrically opposed to yours, who will actively not protect the country, who on past behaviour appears to believe that the US is a malignant force in the world, rather than for someone who is doing the right things, is confronting false allies and creating real new ones, has some implementation problems, and has minor casualties?

wow, people really have become coddled. 1000 soldiers in 1.5 years... this is far far far below 1% KIA, given the number of people rotated through.

posted by: hey on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Even tho I don’t believe that Bush deserves re-election, there’s no way I can vote for Kerry and the 3000 left-libs he would appoint. So it’s useful to speculate who might be in the national security side of a second Bush 43 term. Before beginning that, a comment about no one being fired: The greatest failures of all in the last ten plus years were CIA failures. Did Bush fire Tenet? We’ll never know of course, but he did accept Tenet’s resignation with alacrity.

I didn’t have the courage to watch the debates, but were either of the candidates asked who would be in their national security cabinets? An earlier comment mentioned Susan Rice, Jamie Rubin and Richard Holbrooke for Kerry. Another who should be mentioned is Wendy Sherman, now a senior national security adviser to Kerry. Her claims to fame are that she negotiated the nuclear deal with North Korea and that she ran Emily’s List prior to joining the Clinton administration.

As to the next Bush cabinet:
Rumsfeld: Heading home to Taos. You can see that the wind is out of his sails after Abu Ghraib.
Wolfowitz: Seriously damaged goods. Could not, should not be confirmed for any position ever again. I cringe whenever I see him in Iraq.
Powell: Damaged goods. If not the CIA, then he and the State Department should have anticipated the post-war problems in Iraq. Needs to be let down gently, otherwise he might turn into a democrat.
Condoleeza Rice: Damaged goods. Unfortunately for her and for the country, she badly failed her boss.

So where does that leave Bush? Well I guess McCain is obvious for Defense. However the State Department is a real problem. Need someone who will mend fences with “old Europe”. But be realistic enough to reorient the State Department. Biden? Lieberman?

posted by: jason on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Bush is, I believe, losing the overall war on terror, the battle of ideas. He has military power but can't persuade young muslims. Failures like WMD in Iraq or Abu Ghraib only made it worse. Even worse, Bush thinks he's actually winning. Dangerous.

posted by: v on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"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."

What good decisions are you referring to? Kerry's voting for war or not voting to fund it? He's about as resolute a decision maker as as black is to white. To think that Kerry will win the US more respect is foolish, the world will see Kerry for what he is, Chamberlain. I too have been critical of the Bush administration for lapses in the war, many of them mentioned in your blog, I believe we did not use the devastating military power we had at our disposal enough. But to think that Kerry would "do it better" is asinine. But Bush makes a decesion, for good or bad, and you know where he stands.

Diplomacy without the stick, essentially, what a Kerry administration espouses, would be a major failure internationally and our enemies will become bolder and more resolute. Please don't pretend to be up in the air about voting for Kerry, you are 100% voting for Kerry and have been since day one, but on the outside chance that you really are up in the air about who to vote for, I'd have to question your decision making processes, blogs that at this late date in the game who don't know where they stand should not be taken seriously.

For all the bad of the War, the mistakes made on many levels, bringing in John Kerry will be the biggest mistake the American public has ever made. We will rue the day that he is elected.

posted by: Ayatrollah on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

You think Bushie is going to put Biden or Lieberman into his cabinet?

Jebus man, it's still morning and you're shitfaced already. Get a grip on yourself!

posted by: jason's.a.moron on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Ah! Hopeful fantasies! How I enjoy hearing them!

Hopeful Fantasy 1: A man who never admits error will somehow spend his second term correcting the errors he doesn't think he made. Thanks, guys: this is Escher-quality surrealism.

Hopeful Fantasy 2: A man who only punishes and fires people for telling him stuff he doens't want to hear will somehow spend his second term firing the ones who did tell him what he wanted to hear and replacing them with dauntless truth-sayers.

Well, the only persons who we know for sure won't be back for a 2nd Bush term are Rice and Powell. Good riddance to Rice, the Most Incompetent National Security Advisor Ever ("We couldn't do anything about Al Qaeda before 9/11 because we didn't have a process yet"). Sorry about Powell, but his rep for thoughtfulness and straight-shooting was overblown anyway; I'm more worried about who will replace him. Some say Wolfowitz, in which case: God have mercy on our souls.

Rumsfeld? What makes you think he'll leave? He's "the greatest Secretary of Defense we've ever had," per Cheney. And he likes having armies to play with. The next great strategic game he wants to try out is How to Invade Iran With Even Fewer Forces Than We Used in Iraq. That should prove entertaining.

Oh, and to the person who pooh-poohed the Bush civil liberties record: I'm guessing you're not a female of reproductive age, or a Muslim, or a lawyer who once had a Muslim client, or someone who spent three years in prison without charges being filed and without access to an attorney, or someone who minds signing loyalty oaths to go hear a speech, or someone who minds that a Bush Campaign hireling has operations in place to shred thousands of voter registration ballots in swing states, or a researcher at Los Alamos, or on the No Fly List. I'm also guessing you agree with White House lawyers who say torture is OK, or who say torture is OK if we can get someone else to do it for use, and who say the President isn't bound by any laws in wartime ("wartime" being a period of time defined, oddly enough, by the President). Tell me again: what is it about America that you cherish?

posted by: Palladin on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Hi Dan,

I don't really have a problem with what you've described as the administration's lack of accountability regarding the prosecution of the Iraq war. Of course, this particular group may be all too predisposed to forgive its own mistakes, but I think it's natural, given that the press and policy establishment are pretty strongly set against them, they would value loyalty over accountability. I think it's less a matter of closing ranks than a headcount: they need numbers. Clearly no one from the Scowcroft school is going to be tapped to replace Rumsfeld, so can they go outside the administration?

I have a much larger problem with their signal failure to do the one thing American politicians are supposed to do--sell their ideas to the American people. It's interesting however to see how they stumbled: They could have made a very plausible case to the American electorate for the war in Iraq that it would a) re-arrange the oil equation so that Saudi Arabia did not have the leverage to ignore US demands; b) decapitate an Arab regime and prove the US could wage successful military operations in the region; c) ensure a position that would threaten Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria. Instead, the administration took a less certain case to the international community about WMD. That is, maybe if they were less concerned about getting France and Germany aboard they wouldn't be in the position they are now. Granted, it wouldn't have been easy to make the case in the press (though Thomas Friedman seems to have made it for them over the last few years), a press which flatters itself and the Bush team in giving the administration's penchant for "secrecy" an intellctual history. Maybe they really are "Straussian"; it's much more likely they didn't think they could make an argument that in New York, Washington, Boston and Los Angeles would essentially be reduced to oil, race and empire. Still, they should've made that argument and sold it; in not doing it, they violated a pretty basic agreement between the American people and their elected leaders.

However, I largely agree with that first post from your diplomatic correspondent. A Kerry foreign-policy team would not be good at this point. Had they been in office on September 11, it's quite possible they would've responded as strongly as the Bush administration, re-evaulating certain strategies in the Middle East, and maybe they would have been less ideological. Instead, Beers, Rubin et al. have followed, if not determined, the general current of the policy establishment that is appalled to see its work undone, without recognizing that they too are not practical, but ideological--and wrong. The general drift of US policy in the region obviously needed to be re-thought, though few will give credit now to the Bush administration for doing so. Instead, critics respond hysterically that they have trashed years of US realism in the region. Yes, and they were trashed for good reason.

We already know what much of a Kerry foreign policy will look like, even the stuff he hasn't talked about, because these fights have been around so long and it is certain they will re-direct foreign policy in the name of realism when it is nothing but a habit. Two come immediately to mind: renew constructive engagement with Syria, and restart the peace process. The prospect of the latter is especially disturbing since it suggests that the Kerry team prefers to listen to, say, the international community rather than the last Democrat who held the office. Clinton spent American prestige trying to broker a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians; Clinton is the one who tells us that Arafat is not serious, while the Arab League tells us that the road to peace goes through Jerusalem. Does Kerry really believe--along with the rest of the policy and international community, and against Clinton now--that the key to stability in the region is a just and comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli crisis? It's a perfectly enjoyable fantasy; the question for the Kerry team is if there is another large attack on the US, what do they plan to do about it? Send a better envoy to Jerusalem? Dispatch an FBI team to Tehran, or a DEA unit to the Bekaa valley? Kerry has had months now to articulate what he thinks the world looks like, and the Times Magazine article you cite indicates quite clearly that Kerry has no coherent idea of what the world looks like. It may in fact really look like it did before 9/11, before Iraq, but he hasn't sold it. I think there's nothing there.

What finally tipped me against Kerry was that gratituitous remark he made about the Haliburton slush-fund in the 2d debate. I've assumed all along the Democratic candidate was basically a centrist and had to play to both sides of the party. But that quip was so out of the blue and pointless, it made me feel that he is not playing to the left, rather he owns his leftism.

I think the thing to do is hope that the people who are not purged from a 2d Bush term are less ideological and take the opportunity to reconsider some of the reasons we went to Iraq and see if they're working. What they're seriously lacking is any strategic flexibility; what Kerry's lacking is any relevant strategy.



posted by: Lee Smith on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

“Does Kerry really believe--along with the rest of the policy and international community, and against Clinton now--that the key to stability in the region is a just and comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli crisis?”

---Lee Smith

Wow, I think this dude essentially agrees with me. He may not be quite as blunt, but he clearly notices that the Kerry campaign is ready to put unbelievable pressure on Israel if it wins this crucial election. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty: you show me someone who even subtly hints that Israel is responsible for Islamic terrorism---and I will point out to you an individual, who perhaps unwittingly (I’m trying to be kind), is anti-Semitic.

posted by: David Thomson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Lots of varied comments here, some very intellectual and coming from historical comparisons which I like. However, I look at Kerry more from the inside out rather than the outside in approach. I think that people are driven by their core beliefs. If these beliefs are balanced, serving others rather themselves then I think one has a good basis to lead.
Looking at Kerry's life I see a man driven more by self promotion rather then public good. Someone who has molded his entire life to be President seems more like a robotic man then an evolved pubic servant. Kerry seems to be a man trying to make a image rather than seeking the truth. His Vietnam service is something that concerns me from a baseline point of view. He made more enemies than friends, in his day to day service with his brothers in arms. There are so many discrepancies to his stories, especially his combat duty, metals, valor, even his honorable discharge (which was issued in '85, seven years following his leave of the service). He won't release all of his military records nor his medical records. These are questionable character issues which haunt him today, and me too as a voter. I have grown up with people who remain stuck in holes of incompetancy if they refuse to address and mend earlier issues in their life. Kerry seems like one of these people -- an unfinished character too busy stretching for power to really examine his values. How can someone like that authentically lead?
George Bush, on the other hand, seems to be more steady and centered in his beliefs. While I certainly have problems with some of his domestic policies, I feel that his original Middle East plan, to reconfigure the area by regime change, is a risky but sound one. I think that we have long been on a path of conflict with the Middle East, and if we waited to be decimated before we got tough, it might be too late for our civilization to survive, as we know it today. For that reason, and primarily that reason alone, I am willing to put many of my domestic policy differences on hold for another four years. We will not go to Hell in a hand basket, domestically, if Bush is re-elected. However, if Kerry is elected with all his ills of judgment and character, the results of the wrong international choices could be devastating to us all.

posted by: Jan on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Gay Marriage and the Draft

I'd like to continue in the debate, and to substantiate some of my claims:

To "Wildmonk," the person who said I was being ridiculous when I spoke about "radical discrimination:"

Here is the exact text of the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment introduced by congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., (H.J. Res. 56) and supported By Bush:

"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union between a man and a woman. Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

"...or the legal incidents thereof:" meaning that gays and lesbians and undefined others are forever denied any kind of civil union or domestic partnership legal protection under the law in the United States of America. No visitation rights, no inheritance rights, no shared health insurance, no tax benefits, etc. etc., not to mention the fact that it opens the door that much wider to discrimination in the workplace and in our communities. It is a hateful and divisive proposal, mean-spirited and not in the American way. And I would say it is pretty "radical:" an amendment to the US Consitution that denies rights or even the possibility of rights for countless citizens who work hard and pay taxes. Anyway you look at it this amendment would forever fire-brand anyone, gay or straight, who chooses not to get married a second-class citizen. The idea is preposterous and of course will never come to pass, but it is part of the GOP platform and is advocated by Bush. As moderate Republicans and most level-headed people say, it is an issue that has been and should be left to the states; so why is it part of the GOP Platform?

To take it to another, perhaps more contentious level: the recent bru-ha-ha over Mary Cheney is a smoke-screen obscuring the fact that Dick Cheney doesn't even support equal rights for his own daughter. We all saw how uncomfortable he was in the vice-presidential debate when it came up as a topic. He had to sit there and say that he doesn't support the idea of the amendment, but he nevertheless subscribes to the policies advocated by Bush. Kerry was in no way "outing" Mary Cheney. She is an openly gay woman who was sitting with her partner in the vice-presidential box at the RNC and who is running his re-election campaign. Not only is this hypocracy and self-denial of the highest order, it is simply sad, pitifiul. And it is telling of the growing fissures in the Republican party because of the ascendency of the evangelical right.

To "Your Doctor," and all those who may not have followed the movement of the "Common Defense" Bill introdiced in House by Chuck Hegel:

"H.R.163 Title: To provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Rangel, Charles B. [NY-15] (introduced 1/7/2003) Cosponsors (14)
Related Bills: S.89
Latest Major Action: 10/5/2004 Failed of passage/not agreed to in House. Status: On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill Failed by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 2 - 402 (Roll no. 494)."

Thank god it failed! But there it is in the House records nonetheless. Please take note of this little gem of a phrase: "and for other purposes." Now, if that doesn't alarm you, I don't know what will.

posted by: Paolo10019 on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I am a jew democrat & i support david thomson - and bush. 100%.

posted by: daniel on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Mr. Drezner,

I don't pretend to have your academic or policy-making background, but with your permission I'll take a crack at persuading you to vote Bush anyway.

In very broad terms, I believe this all comes down to what 9/11 meant to you. John Kerry's scariest comment from the NY Times magazine last weekend wasn't the "nuisance" line, it was when they asked him how much 9/11 changed him and he said, "Not very much at all, really". In other words, he still sees global terrorism as a law enforcement problem-- arrest OBL and a few others and we can all go home and forget the whole thing.

What George W. Bush (and I, and others) learned from 9/11 is that the Middle East must be rebuilt. Possibly from scratch, certainly from its foundations, and almost certainly against their will and that of Europe and others (whose agenda has nothing to do with stopping global terror). You can never kill or arrest all the OBL's and Zarqawis because a thousand others stand ready to replace them. Instead, we must eradicate the corrupt monarchies one by one until the region is converted to secular, free-market democracies. People in such societies have neither the time nor the inclination to join Hamas; they're too busy raising their kids and enjoying prosperity and intellectual freedom.

And let me stress here that the difficulty of such an undertaking is not necessarily an argument against it-- especially when you consider the alternatives. Toppling the Soviet Union seemed like an impossible task at one time, too. Yet we did it and the world is better off for it.

People like John Kerry either don't understand this or don't want to accept the enormity of the challenge. They want to give the Middle East a new coat of paint and call it a day when it really needs a fundamental re-structuring that could take a century (it will certainly take at least a generation, untold billions and many inncent lives, I freely admit this).

Viewed through this perspective, things like the deficit (mismanaged, I agree)and education (we're off to a good start, but not finished), to say nothing of things like Abu Ghraib and the looting of Baghdad-- as much as they need to be addressed-- seem like minutae. Bush would be the pick of nobody's leadership litter for a hundred different reasons, but in his own crude way he understands the threat that unchecked Radical Islam poses to the world far better than John Kerry does.

Can you honestly imagine a President Kerry doing anything but waiting a month or two to "access the situation on the ground" before he pulls our troops out of Iraq, makes some grand exit speech, and convenes his first meaningless "summit" while Iraq descends into greater extremism and chaos?

If you accept my premise that the Middle East doesn't need a Band-Aid, it needs a complete remodeling, then most of what President Bush has said and done so far makes perfect sense. If you don't, then none of it does.

And if you think we can make the world safe again without a radical restructuring of the Middle East (including Iran), then by all means vote for Kerry because he hasn't the slightest intention of taking on such a politically risky challenge.

President Bush has an idea of what the world should look like and he doesn't much care what the pundits, the critics, or, frankly, the voters think of it. (How else would you explain his tax cuts and his decisons to go to war?) I think that this quality is among his greatest strengths.

I hope this recitation of things I suspect you already know (or at least have heard from others) has been presented in a useful way. Your blog is most enjoyable.

Ned Rice
Staff Writer
Real Time with Bill Maher

posted by: Ned Rice on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Al-Qaida and the Taliban were but the symptoms of the 9/11 attacks, the reason George W. Bush deserves to lose his job is that he has failed to even attempt to root out the disease, the militant fundamentalist ideology of Wahhabism.

The Taliban did not just spontaneously appear out of thin air, they were created. In the early ‘80’s, in response to the Iranian Revolution and the early successes that Iran achieved in the Iran-Iraq War, Saudi Arabia, assisted by Kuwait and the Gulf States, started producing Wahhabist madrassas on an industrial scale throughout the Sunni Muslim world. After the chaos that followed the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Saudis implanted numerous radical Wahhabist madrassas in Pakistan, and with the assistance of the ISS, literally conjured up the Taliban.

The vast majority of Madrassas in Pakistan (six out of 27,000 have been closed down), in fact of all the madrassas that the Saudis have built are still operating, still poisoning the minds of young men throughout the Sunni Muslim world. They are currently incubating the next group of terrorists that will strike the United States. President Bush should have ordered Saudi Arabia, under the threat of regime change, to dismantle each and every one of these universities of hate. Instead Bush decided that Iraqi Ba’athism was the greater threat to the security of the United States.

posted by: Kevin (de Bruxelles) on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

What George W. Bush (and I, and others) learned from 9/11 is that the Middle East must be rebuilt. Possibly from scratch, certainly from its foundations, and almost certainly against their will and that of Europe and others (whose agenda has nothing to do with stopping global terror).

And it's exactly this unrealistic perception of reality that scares me. Rebuild the middle east from scratch? Undo 6000 years of history and remake it in a couple years? Against the wishes of the entire rest of the world? And do it on the cheap and without resorting to a draft?

Are you insane? This isn't even close to realistic.

Oh. Sorry. I neglected to notice you were a comedy writer.

posted by: uh_clem on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

“President Bush has an idea of what the world should look like and he doesn't much care what the pundits, the critics, or, frankly, the voters think of it. (How else would you explain his tax cuts and his decisons to go to war?) I think that this quality is among his greatest strengths.”

Chris Wallace in his recent book, Character : Profiles in Presidential Courage, reached the conclusion that President Bush courageously decided to invade Iraq. One may not agree with it---but the politically prudent course of action was to do nothing. The President was sitting pretty after the success of Afghanistan and the improving economy. But he risked everything by taking on Saddam Hussein. A proven appeaser like John Kerry would have never put his presidency on the line.

posted by: David Thomson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


Did you even read my post? I said "I guess Charlie Rangel's propaganda stunt worked if he's got you worried about it." Look at the sponsor of HR-163 if you didn't get the reference. Rangel is a far-left Dem from New York who openly admits that the purpose of this bill is to try to prevent us from using the army.

"The lawmaker has said his measure could make members of Congress more reluctant to authorize military action." -CNN

I've heard him state it more explicitly than this on television, but I don't have a link.

Fortunately the Republicans killed

Of course Kerry claims it's Bush who wants a draft. Do you get the feeling you're being manipulated?

posted by: Y. Doctor on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I would like to address the meme that "we had everyone on our side after 9/11 and Bush blew it."

When the international community expressed their heartfelt condolences after 9/11, it was much like what might occur if there was a death in the family of one of a group of competitors. The competition stops for a while, everyone expresses their sympathy and best wishes, and after a decent interval, the game is back on.

The French, Germans, Russians, Chinese, and others that opposed us in Iraq did so because they had potent national interests in seeing Saddam remain in power and/or in seeing the US fail in an attempt to reshape alliances in the Middle East. It would have made absolutely no difference who was President. National interests outweigh fuzzy notions of "goodwill" and "friendship" on the international level.

The bottom line is, and must be, "what is in our national interest and what are the costs?" It's nice to have people like us, but we need to be realistic. They like us as long as it is in their interest to like us, and no longer. At one time the British were our mortal enemies, for example. Things change. I want a President who puts our national interest at the top of the priority list with no apologies and no waffling or "nuance". We are the big dog on the world block and there is no avoiding the fact that our presence on the world stage will elicit antagonism from our competitors. And that doesn't bother me one bit.

posted by: MarkJ on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

We had troops enough for post war Iraq.

The plan was they would come through Turkey.

That caused a move to plan B.

The ability to change plans as the battle evolves is a good sign not a bad one.

Most of what the non-experts call military failure is nothing of the kind. Battles evolve. This is the natural course of war time events. To call such evolution a failure is a sign of undereducation in the military arts and sciences.

Of course when arguing from ignorance any thing is possible.

Including turning success into failure. See Vietnam, Tet Offensive, General Giap's post war estimate.

Also see Kerry, Vietnam.


posted by: M. Simon on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I love darin's post. Darin’s a guy that has looked at Kerry's and Bush's record "extensively" and concluded that John Kerry has better ideas on foreign policy. That is an amazing talent that Darin has developed.

I for one would like for Darin to tell us, specifically, what he has found in his thorough examination of John Kerry's record on foreign policy/national security that propels him to his conclusion.

Was it Kerry's opposition to Reagan's arms build-up and confrontation of the Soviet Union that lead to the end of the Cold War? Was it his 1984 Senate campaign platform wherein he advocated massive defense cuts and a unilateral nuclear freeze when the Cold war was still hot? Or was it his view that the US should unilaterally pull out of Vietnam in 1971 and abandon any attempt at idea whose application resulted in 3 to 4 million deaths? Maybe it was Kerry's affection for Daniel Ortega in Central America during the 80's (no problem there he had national security stalwarts like Tom Harkin on his side back then). Perhaps it was Kerry's opposition to the first Gulf War. According to the nuance candidate we just needed to give sanctions a chance to work. Sanctions? How does this kind of vacuity pass as intellectualized nuance? To think that there were 44 blowhards in the Senate back then (of which Kerry was one of the most vocal) that could not grasp a concept as simple as this: the US placing sanctions on someone that could have controlled Iraqi, Kuwaiti and Saudi oil reserves is not someone that we have any leverage upon. (it was interesting that former ABC correspondent Bob Zellnick stated on Scarborough country that anyone who voted against the first Gulf War should not be elected president at this time in our history) Maybe it is the young, idealistic Kerry that appeals to Darin; you know, the one that told the Harvard Crimson that he would like to see US troops only deployed at the direction and approval on the UN. Or was it the Kerry that wanted to spend the "peace dividend" before there was peace. It goes on and on.

Give me a break. This character is a McGovern/Carter foreign policy huckleberry....without the class and integrity. He should not be permitted within a hundred miles of this country's foreign policy and national security apparatus. The degree to which Bush hatred has blinded ordinarily sensible people to the risk this man poses is utterly mind numbing. A vote for Kerry is a vote for a demonstrated appeasement candidate in a time of war.

posted by: jim on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

BTW Dan,

Please explain (as any professional would) the logistics for getting more troops into Iraq.

Also please explain how the initial three week victory (as opposed to the six week to three month campaign originally planned) affected the logistics. Would there have been enough troops if the six week timetable had been what actually happened? (my answer - it would have been more likely even given the Turkey no show).

Oh well.

The real question is this: is Iraq moving on our time table or the insurgents. So far the evidence is in our favor. Whose will is prevailing? The thugs of Falluja or the Iraqi governments?

posted by: M. Simon on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

P-value Bush = 0,

Our faith-based president making faith-based policy

posted by: jor on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

hey! finally a Bush/Kerry dialoge without the !@#!#!

Well done


posted by: steve on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

the initial three week victory


That's like refering to Germany's initial three month victory in the invasion of the Soviet Union.

The media may have framed it to you as a victory but anyone familar with counter-insurgency type wars knows that getting in is the easy part, getting out is what is tough. The war was lost before we started, post WW2 historic precedent shows that this type of war is always won by the insurgents.

posted by: Kevin (de Bruxelles) on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Kevin (de Bruxelles),

Insurgents only win wars if the local government doesn't have popular support. Iraq has a government and soon it will have its first elections. Everything indicates that the Iraqis are enthusiastic about taking democratic control of their country for the first time in history.

The insurgency is doomed and they know it. Heard much from Al-Sadr lately?

Of course, the Kerry campaign referring to the Iraqi government as a "puppet" doesn't help matters. Actually I'm surprised they didn't call it a "running-dog capitalist neo-imperialist puppet regime."

posted by: Y. Doctor on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

To: uh_clem

I never said it could be done in a couple of years, and I never said it could be done cheap. In fact, if you'll read my posting I said it could take a generation or more and cost many billions and many innocent lives, American and other.

Against the wishes of France, Germany, Russia, and China who opposed the liberation of Iraq because Hussein was paying them billions in oil bribes to do so? Or against their minions who line up behind them like obedient lapdogs for UN votes?

You're right, though - a vote for Kerry would make us enormously popular around the world. Especially in countries whose citizens tend to chant "Death To America" at every opportunity. Which sounds to me like yet another reason to vote for Bush.

posted by: Ned Rice on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

A great reason to vote for Kerry can be had simply by reading the incredible amount of naive and cowardly enablement being done on behalf of Bush by his unpaid spinmasters in this thread alone.

Dear God; if Bush was my own son I still wouldn't have half the the nerve these apologists do to just shamelessly spin away any and all of his well-documented failures and deficiencies.

Unreal. The Koolaid is so thick you can eat it with a spoon.

Yout logic is quite sound, Daniel.
Kerry is the only real choice if you believe in accountability.

AAMOF, I truly believe it's academic at this point anyway, regardless of how the polls skew.

It's a safe bet everyone who voted for Gore in 2000 has most certain NOT been persuaded into voting Bush this time around, and it's an equally safe bet that a healthy dollop of people that did vote Bush in 2000 are wildly disenchanted with their candidate's report card.

President Kerry.
Our ONLY chance whatsoever to bring this bitterly divided country together.

End of story.

posted by: Tanna on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

A couple of questions Dan,

Knowing what we know now, about what the administration knew then. Was the war in Iraq the best possible solution?

Are the lives of of our soldiers, IE sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers somehow cheap enough to gamble with?

Osama killed over 3000 American citizens. This war has killed over a thousand and rises every day. Leaving out innocent Iraqis (You know the folks we ostensibly came to liberate?) who have died (10000 and counting) either by our military actions or thru the violence we allowed to occur, and ign

These casualties are a result of us invading a country who had nothing to do with the attack on 9/11. Iraq had a brutal dictator who hated us ruling it. There are at least a dozen other countries that have committed atrocities against their own population and hate us. Did we invade them? Will we invade them? Do you think these gus wouldn't want to get WMD? Should we invade them? If its right to invade Iraq why not these folk?

You have charges by the US of genocide in Sudan. Where and when are the troops landing? Where is Bush and Cheney saying we need to promote democracy there, stop the repression of their own population, where is our ultimatum to the Sudanese of do it or else?

We are weaker now than before 9/11, our military is stretched, we have dipped into our ready reserves of men and material and it will take years to rebuild them. If you go to war, thats a last resort not the first. For all those people who whine that Saddam was trying to get out of sanctions, imposed because GWB I wouldn't destroy the Republican Guard in GW I or didnt lift a finger to help the Iraqi uprising after GW I. I ask this question how much WMD was produced by Iraq? How many Americans were killed by Iraq? How much did the sanctions cost us in over 10 years.

When I was a kid I would watch the news and see video of American and Vietnamese killed or wounded. This isnt a Nintendo "War in Iraq" game people are dying every day for no particularly good reason because George Bush has made mistake after mistake. If thats acceptable to you and you think Kerry MIGHT do worse then I would ask this question.

Of the two do you go with Bush's documented failure? or with Kerry's possibility of failure? and if so, which do you think can change if it doesn't work out?

posted by: sean on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Thank you Jim, for your kind words, although I have this vague feeling of Déjà vu. Since you asked, I’ll tell you specifically what I find more appealing about Kerry’s policies. Generally speaking I find them more thoughtful and well reasoned. I don’t agree with all of them, but then again, I don’t have too, I just agree with more of them.

1) I happen to agree with Kerry’s opposition to Reagan’s build up of nukes, even though I supported Reagan. Anybody that had bothered to actually visit the USSR in the late 70’s or early 80’s should have been able to tell that communism there had its days numbered. It seemed pretty clear to me that their financial framework wasn’t working when Russians were waiting in line to get bread, or when an entire Tractor was produced just to remove its tires to use on a different construction vehicle on the other side of the country. I don’t believe that the USSR would have lasted; regardless of a nuclear weapons race. I happen to feel the less number of nukes there are, the better off the world is (even if they are our nukes).
2) I also happen to be too young to actually recall much of Vietnam, but I believe from reading my history books and talking to family members that served there that I probably would have felt that we shouldn’t have been there either.
3) As for Kerry voting against the first Gulf War, I agree with you, but that was a completely different situation than this one. An ally was invaded by Iraq. It is that simple, and I think that Kerry was wrong not to advocate a stronger involvment.

But unless I’m reading your post incorrectly, it appears that much of your issue with Kerry stems from his record on Vietnam, defense, and war. Those are simply aspects of his positions for me; however they seem a real crux for you.

In point of fact, Mr. Kerry’s defense record has been more than adequate for me. If you’re a stranger to, I would suggest you visit it. His record is fairly and unbiasly depicted in several articles there, including:

What’s more important to me than his view 30 years ago or even 15-20, is how he’s viewed the world in the last 5-10. I actually find it more respectable that Mr. Kerry doesn’t have the same positions on everything now that he did 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Times change, the world changes, circumstances change. I agree with his positions more often than not, and when compared with this administration, there is simply no choice.

Let me ask you this question. Is it your position that the USA should spread democracy to the world? Impose our ideals on people that don’t share our view of life, liberty, and justice? I happen to think that if our way of life is truly a panacea that the current administration thinks it is, then today’s technology and communication only make it a matter of time before people of them world realize it.

If your point is we have to “go git them there terrorist” before they get us, well great let’s do it…..explain to me again why we’re in Iraq? In reality we won’t know for years to come what the repercussions of this action will be, but I believe what we have done in Iraq is simply unjustified, and we have done more damage to our precious war on terror than good. Clearly you have a different perspective, but I won’t insult you for it.

posted by: darin on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


You said:

"President Kerry. Our ONLY chance whatsoever to bring this bitterly divided country together. End of story."

Sorry to burst your bubble, but a significant number of people already hate Kerry as much as others hate Bush. Kerry is very good at opportunistic bitching and self-righteous posturing, but just wait until he has to make decisions in the messy real world. Do you really think that the center and the right are feeling forgiving towards the left at this point?

The division will end when the Baby Boom generation grows the fuck up.

posted by: Y. Doctor on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

“Let me ask you this question. Is it your position that the USA should spread democracy to the world? Impose our ideals on people that don’t share our view of life, liberty, and justice?”

You didn’t ask me to reply, but I shall do so anyway. Should we impose our democratic principles on those who don’t share them? You ask the wrong question. Instead, you should ask: should we assist those who do agree with our values the opportunity to convert their fellow citizens---and prevent the nihilists from harming them? Oh by the way, aren’t you interested in freeing women from the male chauvinist pigs of their society? How about providing them with a voice in their own affairs? Do you realize that you are inevitably dooming the liberals within these backward societies to the whims and arbitrary actions of the scum bags?

“I happen to think that if our way of life is truly a panacea that the current administration thinks it is, then today’s technology and communication only make it a matter of time before people of them world realize it.”

Our current administration thinks it is? You mean that you disagree!? Are you hinting that we do not possess a consensus that our democratic principles are worthy of export? Alas, true believing reactionaries are not interested in embracing democracy. The German Nazis, for instance, were citizens of a democratic country. It didn’t keep them from advocating genocide and other evils.

posted by: David Thomson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

read this letter by
Ray Medienkritik to George Soros over at his blog "davids Medientritik."

don't vote for Kerry because you think his "charm" will convince France & Germany to be our allies again.

posted by: val on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

>>>The division will end when the Baby Boom generation grows the fuck up.

Calm down, Doc. Let me try a new tact:

President Kerry.
The ONLY chance to bring accountability, respect and competence back to American government.


Bush & buddies will be a bad memory in three weeks, my friend.
Just like they do at our jobs, the stockholders of AmeriCo will rightly address the failures at the top come Nov 2nd.

As well they should.
Incompetence must never be rewarded.

posted by: Tanna on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

What war has ever not been somewhat "botched"? Check the internet for any number of parodic condemnations of WWII battles invoking today's standards of perfection. The corollary question is: on what basis do you think Kerry would give us a more perfect WOT even in Iraq alone?

After a mere 18 months, Iraq is far from a defeat. Bush if reelected may have nothing to lose as a lame duck, but his party sure does and will hold him to task rather than face the same marginalization as the Dems post-Vietnam.

posted by: PJ on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"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."

This may be my own spin, but what I take from this and other comments you have made is that Bush has the better policy but less than optimal execution while Kerry is slanted the other way. If so, it seems to me that you would rather see the country move in a less than optimal direction more efficiently than attempt to move in the best direction less efficiently. I guess this could make sense as measured by overall progress. However overall progress can be measured by different metrics. Is the goal to rid the world completely of the danger of militant Islamic fundamentalism or just to suppress it enough so that it is merely a "nuisance" for the time being?

That question posed, here is my pitch for Bush. One thing that Bush is clearly for and that Kerry has given no indication that he is for (to my knowledge) is the democratization of the ME. This, it seems to me, is the only sure way to put the threat of militant Islamic fundamentalism behind us once and for all. Even with the best execution it is likely to be a rocky road. Bush may make the road rockier than it needs to be. However I think it is critical to push this through and make the sacrifices needed to make a success of it now. Afghansitan and Iraq show every sign of becoming a success in the relative short term, from a historical perspective (I know the days seem to drag in the GWOT). If so Bashir / Mullahs may not last the decade.

Kerry on the other hand may more successfully keep the lid on the problem of militant Islamic fundamentalism in the near term. He'd be like ointment IMO. You'd feel better, but the underlying problem would likely only be contained and could errupt at a later date. He doesn't seem like the fella with the strategic vision or resolve to make the problem go away. If so we'll be more likely to have catastrophic terrorist attacks down the road (perhaps years down the road) and be fighting future wars against better armed opponents.

Bush then I believe has the policies needed to put the WMD threat from terrorism behind us once and for all, since this requires state sponsorship with current technology. Given the stakes I think this is worth shooting for and that's why I'll be voting for him. I won't mention domestic concerns since foreign policy overrides all else for me in this eletion.

posted by: Graham on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

“This may be my own spin, but what I take from this and other comments you have made is that Bush has the better policy but less than optimal execution while Kerry is slanted the other way.”

Wow, I’m impressed for I couldn’t make heads or tails of Dan Drezner’s weird utterance. Where is the evidence that John Kerry ever optimally executed anything in life? His campaign has been a mess since day one. Kerry has accomplished next to nothing in his political career. What has he ever done?

posted by: David Thomson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"President Kerry. Our ONLY chance whatsoever to bring this bitterly divided country together. End of story."

Sorry to burst your bubble, but a significant number of people already hate Kerry as much as others hate Bush.

The hatred for Bush has transcended the hatred for Clinton and Kerry. The world doesn't hate Bush as much as they hated Reagan but elements in this country does.

And the only way this "unity" under President Kerry happens is if Republicans decide not to "tit for tat" against Kerry what's been done over the past 4 years to Bush. If they do, Kerry will be no more a uniter than Bush was.

posted by: Nemo on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


For my own edification, can you please tell me how many friends and family you currently have that live outside the USA.

You state:
"Instead, you should ask: should we assist those who do agree with our values the opportunity to convert their fellow citizens---and prevent the nihilists from harming them? Oh by the way, aren’t you interested in freeing women from the male chauvinist pigs of their society? How about providing them with a voice in their own affairs? Do you realize that you are inevitably dooming the liberals within these backward societies to the whims and arbitrary actions of the scum bags?"

That's a pretty black and white take on things don't you think? I take it that you feel its OK to aid these citizens in "backward societies" by saying the reason we're coming to liberate you is that your scumbag leader has WMDs?

Maybe I missed the place where you make the point that nation building is on par with protecting America from WMDs, but even if you did, I disagree.

We don't have to let the degradation of women and religious minorities in other countries go unchecked, but we absolutely can't use fictitious WMDs as an excuse for invading those countries, killing and injuring tens of thousands of civilians in the process.

Last time I checked 7 out 10 Iraqis (including the Kurds) think they are worse off now than before we invaded. Shouldn't they be better judges of that than all of us over here sitting on our cushy asses?

You put words in my month when you infer that our democratic principals aren't worthy of export.

However, you and I seem to differ on whether they can be given or forced on a population that doesn't share our religious and value system. Perhaps you've heard the quote "All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come." by Victor Hugo.

I believe that if our values and principals are as noble and great as everybody seem to think, they will be adopted in these places....over time, but we can't just expect other cultures to think this is going to make their lives better. It is very naive in my opinion to think forcing our values on them will solve the issue of terrorism.

Like I said earlier, we won't know what all the ramifications of this war will be for years, but I honestly don't believe we've done ourselves any favors by invading Iraq.

posted by: darin on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Recommended: Without a Doubt:

...'When I was first with Bush in Austin, what I saw was a self-help Methodist, very open, seeking,'' [Jim Wallis of the Sojourners] says now. ''What I started to see at this point was the man that would emerge over the next year -- a messianic American Calvinist. He doesn't want to hear from anyone who doubts him.''

...Every few months, a report surfaces of the president using strikingly Messianic language, only to be dismissed by the White House. Three months ago, for instance, in a private meeting with Amish farmers in Lancaster County, Pa., Bush was reported to have said, ''I trust God speaks through me.'' In this ongoing game of winks and nods, a White House spokesman denied the president had specifically spoken those words, but noted that ''his faith helps him in his service to people.''...

Much more at the link.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"I think you're losing the forest for the trees, sir, and you're way over-intellectualizing your voting decision. My advice: Put your PhD down for a day. Spend an hour re-reading War on Terror materials from any source, including at least a quarter-hour specifically on 9/11. Spend an hour observing your new baby without any distraction, and thinking about that baby's future. Then do what your gut tells you."

I just spent two weeks on the Nile doing something like this - thinking about the future “without any distraction” in the midst of an Islamic majority culture. My children are at the age where their future plays a large part in directing my thinking. After the break from the back and forth of the campaign, my "gut" tells me that its time for GWB to go.

I missed the first debate (saw the second a 3 AM), but the most interesting thing that I did was turn right instead of left and found myself walking in an Egyptian neighborhood without the armed guard that was always with the tour group. I received five different invitations to sit and have coffee in the space of a 30-minute walk. The Egyptians were friendly, welcoming and eager to just chat. I realized that these people DID NOT attack us. They want to like us, but the ones I talked to simply couldn't understand why we "hated" them. The last weekend we were there, Taba was bombed and Egyptian tourism took another big hit.

Yes, there are unreasoning “Jihadists” just as there are unreasoning Evangelicals. GWB thinks like a Jihadist – his thinking is faith-based. I think its time for something other than us vs. them faith-based thinking. I am not naive enough to expect “multilateralism” to get us out of the ditch – but I expect that a recognition that we don’t have all the answers will go a long way toward getting others to help us as it is in their interest to help us out of the ditch. Its not that Kerry can magically get other nations to “cooperate” – its that Bush wont be an impediment to cooperation. He is the biggest impediment to a diplomatic solution to any problem in the world at the moment. Unless we are willing to defy the world for a long time to come, it is time to rejoin the “concert”.

posted by: TexasToast on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


"It's a safe bet everyone who voted for Gore in 2000 has most certain NOT been persuaded into voting Bush this time around, and it's an equally safe bet that a healthy dollop of people that did vote Bush in 2000 are wildly disenchanted with their candidate's report card."

Actually, there was a large and broad shift toward the Republican party following September 11. Anecdotally, I and my entire immediate family were Bush-bashing Gore supporters in 2000. We are all voting for Bush this time.

posted by: AT on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I will argue that Kerry will be a much better president due to his stand on a broad range of issues.

1. The economy. John Kerry will work towards a balanced budget. This will help secure our economy. One of the best things of the Clinton years was that balancing the budget (some tax increases, some spending restraint) greatly lowered interest rates which greatly helped the economy. Bush et al have driven us into dangerous territory with excessive tax cuts that are defunding our government while simultaneously increasing spending.

2. The environment. John Kerry will bring better judgment to the administration of public lands and pollution controls. This is a no brainer.

3. Separation of church and state, protection of the Bill of Rights. I'll lump together several issues here. Bush has been aggressively blurring the lines between church and state. We need to roll this back. Administration of the country should be based on cool reasoning and sound judgment, not zealotry fanned by religious passions. John Ashcroft needs to go. The Patriot Act needs to be amended to protect our rights. Bush has now installed political hacks whose job it is to decide, based purely on politics, which scientists working for the government are allowed participate in open scientific conferences. Other hacks decide which scientists are appointed to scientific committees. Shades of the Soviet Union. Get the politics out of science. This has been a back door approach to undercut the effectiveness of regulations on industries of all sorts.

4. Openness in government. This has been the most secretive government ever. Secrecy is the enemy of democracy. Nothing like fresh air and sunshine to help keep government honest be they democrat or be they republican.

5. Iraq. The war in Iraq is a disaster. Don't just take my word for it. Many republican leaders have said the same thing. Even Gen. Eisenhower's son has come out for Kerry.
The war in Iraq was unnecessary. The inspectors were successful in removing Saddam's weapons.
The no-fly zone had Saddam successfully contained.
Now we are spending vast sums of money, we've lost well over 1,000 of our kids, perhaps 20,000 of them have been injured, a large unknown number of Iraqi's have been killed (mostly by our forces) and the result is what? We have a Quisling government not respected by the populace and increasing violence which seems to be heading towards civil war. Both US and British panels have concluded that the best we can hope for is to muddle through with the status quo and that the worst case (and not unlikely) is regional war in the ME. It was a huge mistake for Bush to take our country into a needless war and expose us to real risks.
It seems that Iran is the real winner in this. Their agent, Chalabi, fed false information to Cheney et al to help induce them to go to war. The US then took out Iran's sworn enemy at no cost to Iran. In the process the US army is bogged down in Iraq making it less likely they will attack Iran. Pretty sweet.

I think that Kerry will have an easier time getting the world to join him in solving Iraq because the rest of the world has an interest fixing this problem. They did not have an interest in invading Iraq in the first place.

A regional war in the ME would have serious consequences for Europe. It will have to be cleaned up. We can't just pull out. However, stabilizing Iraq with an eye to self preservation is different from conquering Iraq because of some ideological passion with an eye to installing a puppet government owned by the right wing.

A few other comments.

Though Sen. Kerry voted against the first Gulf War that vote was very close, 52 -47. Many others joined him.

The current coalition in Iraq is a joke. It includes the likes of Uzbekistan whose leader is at least as bad as Saddam. Just google Uzbekistan and human rights. This guy would boil his enemies alive while he watched. Great coalition member. Take a look at the list and see how many world powers you can find.
Iceland, Solomon Islands, Eritrea, ...

posted by: John Konopka on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

VA Gamer said, "...Bush has demonstrated the necessary leadership over these last 4 years to win in Iraq."

What criteria would you use to decide what victory in iraq would look like?

What is the relationship between those criteria and Bush's military moves in iraq?

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

After the elections in Iraq, Iran is going to be an imminent battleground. And if Kerry is in office, they will feel quite free to go whole hog in their nuke program.

What do you think Bush will do to keep them from going whole hog on their nuke program? If they get it working fast enough they'll have a deterrent to keep Bush from attacking. What possible reason would they have to go less than whole hog?

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Of course Bush hasn't been perfect, but he has a track record as a multiply failing businessman, ceremonial governor and 4 years as CinC.

half a trillion dollars deficit
soft on terrorists, weak on Homeland Security
feckless occupation of iraq
failing education proposal
backward jobs policy

It takes real chutzpah for a Bush supporter to point to Bush's record.

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

But the deeper truth is that even if nothing else is achieved in Iraq, the exposure of A.Q.Khan's nuclear proliferation network and the removal of Ghaddafy's nuclear weapons program made the entire effort worthwhile.

Why do you link these events with iraq?

Khaddafy had been trying to sell out to us for some time, and we finally let him.

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I'm with Dave Thomson on Israel. A disturbing implication of Kerry's faith in the UN is the UN's consistent anti-Israel, pro-Arab stance. It hearkens back to the left's emphasis on bin Laden's "grievances" (which I commented on earlier) and the extent to which our future foreign policy should be oriented towards addressing these grievances as part of a global strategy on the WoT. Everyone needs to come to their own conclusions on this one but other posters have apparently bought into the idea that if we only solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict much of the problem will evaporate and they cite Bush's "withdrawal" from this issue as a signature failure of his foreign policy. I say bulls**t. Does anyone think that the Arabs truly care about the Palestinians? History suggests exactly the opposite. The Arab world is apparently using the Palestinians as cannon fodder in a proxy war against Israel. They have everything to gain by prolonging the conflict and diverting attention from their own regimes into hate towards Israel. Look at a map of the Middle east - how tiny Israel is. Look at the population figures. Look at the Arab indifference to what Sudan is doing to black Muslims. Look at what Jordan did to the Palestinians. Why does the left buy into this? We all look back at the 1930's and imagine that we individually could never have ignored or justified what was happening to the Jews. The reality is that it is happening all over again. The scapegoating. Are people aware that the origins of al Quada - the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood - were created by the Nazis? The Arab "grievances" arguments re Israel are a smokescreen. Bush isn't buying it. I'm afraid Kerry - with his faith in multilateralism and the left in general - with their propensity to seek legitimacy in the sheer numbers of Europeans denouncing Bush in the streets are in fact buying into it. I just saw anti-Bush Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter on TV citing the large anti-Iraq war protests in Europe as corroboration of his own political sentiments as if sheer numbers matter to the moral legitimacy of one's position. Isn't it always a crowd that stones someone to death?

posted by: Caroline on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

If you were swayed pro-Kerry by the debates (from K60% to K80%) then I doubt there is any point in attempting to sway you now, but here goes:
Kerry offered NOTHING concrete or of substance, only oblique "plans" and criticisms. He has a 20 year record in the Senate yet offers nothing from that, only promises of a brighter tomorrow. Reading your post it is evident that your personal inferences, suppositions and guesses about whatever Kerry's policies, advisors, etc., will be is somehow...enough for you. Hmm. You have no data or facts on which to lay your assumptions of what a Kerry administration would be founded on, only hope? Guesses?
Bush has had 4 years in the White House and has Medicare, No Student Left Behind, the FIRST and only government funded Stem Cell Research appropriation, a tax refund that saved the economy from the looming Clinton recession and a very serious war effort underway, among other policies, all of which is in focus now. Was everything executed perfectly and in a manner that pleases everyone? Of course not, the supposition is laughable. But apparently to you a series of nonspecific "plans," a nonexistent 20 year record and, admit it, the fact that a candidate is not Bush, is enough. I should hope that a sense of enlightened pragmatism would guide you in your voting, but my hopes are not high.

posted by: eric on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

There will be no draft. The Pentagon hates the idea.

Why would you imagine the Pentagon would get a choice about it?

The Pentagon didn't get to choose whether to occupy iraq. The Pentagon didn't even get to choose *how* to invade iraq. Rumsfeld told them they weren't the experts, he was the expert.

Do you think this administration would listen to them next time?

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Abu Ghraib was a complete disaster. Bush does suffer from a "loyalty disease" but that ends with this term. Rumsfeld and others will be gone in the next administration after a thorough house cleaning.

If Bush fired Rumsfeld, Cheney etc then I'd seriously consider voting for him. He'd have to do it by, say, October 18 so we could evaluate the replacements.

But Bush has given no reason whatsoever to make us think he'd do that. At this point it's only a campaign promise, there's absolutely no reason to believe he'd deliver on it.

In fact it isn't even a campaign promise, it's a campaign promise that Bush hasn't even made with his own lips. It's only a compaign promise delivered by Ron Cram.

I would feel a lot better about Bush if Ron Cram was speaking for Bush instead of Bush speaking for Bush. Unfortunately....

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Three comments:

1- Your concern that a Bush re-election will be viewed by his team as "vindication for all their policy decisions to date" seems like a pretty heavy thumb on one side of the scale, without considering the corresponding argument for the other side. Wouldn't a Kerry election, by your argument, be viewed by Kerry's team as vindication for all of their campaign strategies? This has been a tremendously ugly campaign; do you want CBS to feel "vindicated" about its 60 Minutes memos? Should MoveOn and Michael Moore feel "vindicated" about their contributions? Should Kerry feel "vindicated" in slamming our current allies as "coerced and bribed"?

If you don't feel that a Kerry election "vindicates" these people, how will a Bush election vindicate all of his policy decisions? At best, it should be viewed as what it was: better than the alternative.

More fundamentally, trying to figure out what sort of a "message" you're sending with your vote is sort of pointless; it's a pretty low-bandwidth connection there--one whole bit of data if you're choosing between D and R. If you want to send a message, write a letter. Vote for the candidate you think will do better. (I know, you're in Illinois where it doesn't matter very much, and "sending a message" might make a bit more sense.)

2- You argue for Kerry's superior diplomatic style and instincts. Would these be the instincts that gave us the aforementioned "coerced and bribed"? Or, perhaps, the instincts that gave us the stupidest proposal on the subject that I've ever heard---*both* bilateral and multilateral talks with North Korea!?

3- Your student seems to have problems comprehending the former diplomat's arguments, and his counterarguments don't make much sense. For example, no doubt if I tell him that the United States is in the Northern Hemisphere and in the Western Hemisphere, he will retort with a sneer "Well, make up your mind! Which is it? North or West? You can't have both!"

Of course, you can: the two divisions are divisions along different axes. The explanation is similar with the descriptions of the world as "unipolar" and as "multipolar": they're describing, in a fairly straightforward way, the patterns of power along two different strategic axes. In particular, along the military axis the US is, since the decline of the USSR, the undisputed leader, the single pole. But along various other axes, such as the diplomatic power structure at the UN, cultural power, and regional power structures, the fall of the USSR has led to various other powers (e.g., France and Germany with the EU and China with eastern Asia) contending for influence as new centers. This is, again, a major change since the Cold War days when nearly every country was aligned, voluntarily or involuntarily, with either the US or the USSR.

posted by: Dave on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

wow, people really have become coddled. 1000 soldiers in 1.5 years... this is far far far below 1% KIA, given the number of people rotated through.

Count it as %/year, since the number rotated through isn't the issue. Figure the first 3 months were pretty much a honeymoon and rates have been going up -- call it 1000/year. Out of 150,000 guys, that's within shouting distance of 1%/year.

Then, the very-serious wounds seem to be in about 7:1 proportion to deaths this time round, due both to the better armor and better medical care. A wounded soldier is more disruptive than a dead one, but we sure don't begrudge our wounded their lives. Call it 8000 dead/disabled, more than 5%/year.

But this is still insignificant. Our troops can easily continue to follow their orders losing 5%/year. 8000 casualties a year doesn't really matter, we could bear that easily for 5 years, or 10 years, or forever. It's only people who complain that it's useless, that we're taking those casualties for nothing, who really object.

We're likely to take 2 or 3 times as many casualties next year, and that's still insignificant. We can easily take 24,000 casualties a year. In WWII sometimes we took that many in one day. It's nothing to worry about, it's just a talking point for people who deny the value.

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Knight-Rider is reporting today that there was NO PLAN FOR POST-WAR IRAQ. Given that everyone except the village idiots on this board knew that already, I think the documentary evidence might help convert a couple of the idiots. Read the power-point slide on post-war iraq reconstruction it is truly hilarious.

posted by: Jor on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Instead, we must eradicate the corrupt monarchies one by one until the region is converted to secular, free-market democracies. People in such societies have neither the time nor the inclination to join Hamas; they're too busy raising their kids and enjoying prosperity and intellectual freedom.

This is an exciting possibility. But we need a test case, a smaller and easier test case than iraq. Ideally one where the chance of success is maximised.

I suggest palestine. They have essentially no government at all for us to eradicate, the Palestine Authority is mostly a legal fiction that we alternately bribe to pretend they're governing palestine and blame for not governing palestine.

They are next door to the strongest free-market economy and the strongest democracy in the region.

Bring prosperity and intellectual freedom to palestine, get palestinians too busy raising their kids and enjoying prosperity to join Hamas, and we'll have some great pointers for how to do it on a larger scale.

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

For those of you Bushies who did not see this yet. Bush still hasn't armed the troops properly and now some are refusing to carry out missions which they are calling "suicide missions." Bush hasn't said anything about what he's going to do about this. Nothing at all. Not in a press conference, not on the stump, and not in the debates. Everything is perfect according to him and Cheney, and yet we get the following. In the meantime, Kerry is the only one who has admited that the troops aren't properly armed and he is the only one who has told us exactly what he wants to do to fix the problem and get things done. You people who are going to vote for Bush based on his running of the war are either clueless or as delusional as he is. Go to the NYTimes online for the entire article.

Inquiry Opens After Reservists Balk in Baghdad

The Army is investigating members of a Reserve unit in Iraq who refused to deliver a fuel shipment north of Baghdad under conditions they considered unsafe, the Pentagon and relatives of the soldiers said Friday. Several soldiers called it a "suicide mission," relatives said.

Some 18 members of the 343rd Quartermaster Company, based in Rock Hill, S.C., were detained at gunpoint for nearly two days after disobeying orders to drive trucks that they said had not been serviced and were not being escorted by armed vehicles to Taji, about 15 miles north of Baghdad, relatives said after speaking to some of the soldiers.

Jackie Butler of Jackson, Miss., the wife of Staff Sgt. Michael Butler, 44, said she was awakened about 5:30 or 6 a.m. Thursday by a call from an officer from Iraq. He told her "that my husband was being detained for disobeying a direct order," Ms. Butler said, "and he went on to tell me that it was a bogus charge that they got against him and some of those soldiers over there, because what they was doing was sending them into a suicide mission, and they refused to go."

A senior Army officer said that 19 soldiers from the unit had been assembled Wednesday morning to deliver fuel but that some had refused to go. He denied they had been held under guard.

The officer said the soldiers raised "some valid concerns."

"Unfortunately it appears that a small number of the soldiers involved chose to express their concerns in an inappropriate manner," said the officer, who discussed the preliminary findings only on the condition of anonymity. Insubordination in wartime is a grave offense, and an inquiry is under way, the officer said, to determine if the Uniform Code of Military Justice was violated and whether disciplinary measures were warranted.

It is unclear if this is the first time a group of soldiers in Iraq has refused to carry out orders, and the military is playing down the incident as an isolated event. But the small rebellion suggests that problems linger with outfitting soldiers with adequate equipment in an increasingly dangerous country.

posted by: Paolo10019 on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

So this is what the chattering classes get up to.
My god all this effort in comments for one man's indecision. Bet not one convert was made either.
If it's sunny outside, go play people.

posted by: truss on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Paolo119 - laughable facts. Just wait until (if) Kerry is CIC. See the recent stats on the number of troops supporting Kerry vs. Bush. If you think we have a problem now, just imagine the scenario with Kerry calling the shots. The Dems just had to nominate one of the most prominent anti-war figures in American history - when we're at WAR - and they somehow imagine that our troops will be quite happy to take orders from him. Good luck! It will be Kerry's karma that he will have to institute the draft because the number of volunteers under his administration will drop off dramatically.

posted by: Caroline on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Before I start, few things you should know about me:
* I am not an American citizen or residence, I am Israeli, living in Israel.
* I am usually in favor of left wing policies and ideologies. I am not a moderate, but I am a pragmatist. I am also aware of the high rate of lunatics in the radical left, even when I (at least partially) agree with them.
* I was against the war from the start. I thought it was a mistake - a fast success in the beginning, but a bitter mess afterward. Just like the 1982 Israeli invasion to Lebanon. BTW, unlike all the intelligence agencies in the world that Bush was relying on, I never believed that Saddam had WMD in 2003, and I have a sealed gas mask to prove it.

So why should the Bush administration go?

Because they have a dangerously distorted view of the reality in Iraq and in the Arab world. They have in mind the post-Nazi West Germany, and they believe that they can install democracy in Iraq and make it spread all over the Arab world.

Well, it is true that if the Arab world had a sustainable democracy then the global situation would be much better. But to think that it could be done by taking over one country and force it into democracy, is extremely naïve. Building democracy is a process for decades, a highly instable process with a rollercoaster of ups and bloody downs. In France it took 80 years that included the revolutionary terror (in the original meaning of the word), the regime of Napoleon, the return of the monarchy, 2 revolutions, two "Parisian communes" and a painful military defeat before democracy was restored, because of a split in the pro monarchy camp. In Germany the down step brought the most horrible era of modern history. Russia, after almost 90 years has not found its way to democracy yet. So they really think they transform, within very few years, two countries with no democratic heritage into stable democracies that can spread on the gospel of democracy to the whole Arab world?! On what planet they are living?

Now, they will find in the archives some skeptic news reports from the end of the 40's saying how things are not going to succeed in occupied West Germany, and say: it is possible now, as it was possible then. As I stated above, they have in mind this picture of post WW2 Germany. That's why they insisted, in spite of British advice, to disband the Iraqi regular Army – a mistake that by itself deserve an election lost. They had in mind the picture of the Ideological brainwashed Nazi Germany. But the Saddam regime was never that ideological: Hitler founded the Nazi party. Saddam was not even a part of the founding group of the Iraqi Ba'ath party. There was no need for a total "de-Nazifying" of the Army and the government like the allies (supposedly) did in post-Nazi Germany. In Iraq it only created a chaos that was well used by the terrorists and other anti-American elements, and for no real reason.. The only reason was because they actually believed that they were saving the world from the new Hitler. So they had to play into this scenario on and on.

Another different between post-Nazi Germany and post Ba'athist Iraq is that in the former there was an external enemy with inner support, communism, which not only was not popular with most of the German population, it was really hated by the overthrown regime. So there was very little danger of collaboration of the new external enemy with the loyalists of the old regime. On the contrary (see the Wernher von Braun case). In Iraq there is also such a (mostly) external enemy – radical Islam. But even though Saddam was never closely associated with radical Islam (despite the pre-war American propaganda), and even bitterly fought against one branch of it (the Shi'i one), there is no such a dichotomy like there was between Nazism and Communism. This dichotomy helped to make the American military presence a stabilizing factor. The lack of an anti-American tradition in Germany also helped. But in the Arab world there is a long anti-American tradition. And with the lack of dichotomy between most of the Muslim population and the radical Islamism, the American presence only solidify the popular support for the radical groups, and makes itself a destabilizing factor.

So there is just not enough time to make Iraq into a pro western country which will be an example of democracy to the whole Arab world. On the contrary- it is going to be an example of the failure of democracy, and a destabilizing factor in the Middle East. Tension between Kurds and Arabs (and Kurds and Turks); Shi'is and Sunnis; seculars religious and radical religious, and so on will cause troubles for years if not decades. Situation in Iraq might deteriorate into a civil war. The election might be in the "one man, one vote, one time" style. Even though with Aayatullah Sistani leading the Shi‘is in Iraq it is less likely, an Iranian style Islamic rule is also quite possible (and this by itself might lead to a civil war, because in Iraq there is no religious homogeneity like in Iran). Saddam regime was an evil tyranny to the Iraqi people, and a danger for the rest of the world. There is no doubt about it. But nobody promises that what will follow this transition time will be any better.

The next president may face very tough and unpleasant decisions, which will require admitting failures. Can the President that couldn't admit in even one tactical mistake during the debate do it? I doubt it very much. He himself, and his administration are too invested in it to admit mistakes. I don't think that the "four points plan" of Kerry is any magic solution, nor that it is serious plan. I don't really believe that Kerry and his people know now what they are going to do in Iraq if elected. But I am not sure it is a bad sign. It may very well be a sign of blessed pragmatism. Plans made today may be totally irrelevant in January.

And finally – one point of comforting for the losing side on November 2 (or whenever the recounts, and the decision about Colorado electors allocation initiative and all of this stuff will be over): the "return to reality" might be so painful that the party that wins the presidential election might pay by losing the next following two election cycles. Like the Israeli invasion to Lebanon, the US led invasion to Iraq started with a swift military success, but created an un-winnable situation. It will be only possible to minimize the losses. This is not going to be very popular, and the President will be blamed for whatever will go wrong – and quite a lot will. Still, I believe that Kerry administration will be able to do it better, at least because it is very difficult to do worse than the current administration. And because it is like in the game of "go" (a strategic game, which I think any national leader should know to play). The more you insist on saving lost "stones" the more damage it cause you when you lose it. I believe Kerry administration will be more open minded, less invested in a failed policy, and therefore more likely to abandon it soon enough

posted by: eman on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The media may have framed it to you as a victory but anyone familar with counter-insurgency type wars knows that getting in is the easy part, getting out is what is tough. The war was lost before we started, post WW2 historic precedent shows that this type of war is always won by the insurgents.

That isn't necessarily true.

We did fine in the indian wars. We moved in large enough armies and destroyed the indians' economic base, and then we moved in enough colonists that the indians could never get started again.

We did fine in texas. In a country full of mexicans, after the mexican armies were beaten we made sure the remaining mexican civilians knew who was boss. They really didn't give a lot of trouble, considering.

We did fine in the mexican war. Our armies trampled mexico, spreading chaos wherever they went, and the mexicans couldn't do anything about it. They gave us half their country to get us out of the other half. And we didn't have much trouble with mexicans in the parts we kept, all it took was to show them who was boss.

We did OK in the philippines. We broke the big resistance by slaughtering enough civilians to persuade them to give up, and for 50 years the insurgents stayed bottled up in the mountains where they couldn't do much harm.

We did fine in okinawa. They'd had a simmering tension with the japanese, and when we took over they treated us as liberators. We mostly let them run their own government and they went right on being nice to us until we sold them back to japan without consulting them.

We did fine in puerto rico. For awhile there was a bit of insurrection, but we let them vote on whether to become a state or become completely independent or what, and the rebels couldn't get a majority, and they calmed down.

It isn't true that the insurgents always win, even post-WWII. Times insurgents don't win include:

1. The insurgents don't have enough of an issue to sustain a fight.
2. Or we persuade insurgents that fighting is irrelevant to getting what they want.
3. Or we kill so many of them that they give up; this varies by population but may require us to kill 1/3 of the people over a number of years.

#2 is the obvious choice. So for example, if the coming iraqi elections were to include a plebiscite about whether or not to request that US troops leave, I expect a lot of insurgents would work toward furthering elections and getting out the vote. Most of them fight us because they believe that's the only way to get us to go away.

We win by making the fighting irrelevant, not by winning battles. And we might win. You can tell we're winning when the number of daily attacks on US troops goes down, and down, and finally stops. When US attacks on insurgent positions end. When US raids to detain insurgents stop. When we stop putting up checkpoints. When the violence peters out because nobody sees they gain by it, we have won.

Of course, it's harder to win while installing a puppet government that will do whatever we want.

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

....please explain how the initial three week victory (as opposed to the six week to three month campaign originally planned) affected the logistics. Would there have been enough troops if the six week timetable had been what actually happened? (my answer - it would have been more likely even given the Turkey no show).

You know, nobody forced us to win in 3 weeks. That was entirely our schedule. We could have gone slower if we wanted to. If we thought it was a good idea we could even have bypassed Baghdad and done full-scale attacks on each of the cities north and west of Baghdad that some of us have since decided are giving us trouble because they didn't have enough of a taste of our steel.

Of course there are various reasons why it would have been a peculiar thought to choose to win slower rather than faster. (For example, I've seen the complaint that we let too many iraqi soldiers desert or surrender; if we'd hit them harder and faster we'd have killed a lot more of them and they wouldn't be alive to be insurgents today.) But I find it amusing that Bushists justify later problems by the short war, when it was clearly a self-imposed short war.

Oh well. Somehow this reminded me of a joke. I went to a dentist to have two wisdom teeth exracted. He looked them over and gave a quick injection. Then he went off to deal with another patient. Ten minutes later he came back, checked that the anesthetic was working, and pulled the teeth. It took about 3 seconds each. I was working in a field where skilled workers justify their contracts by estimating the time required and multiplying that by their base hourly rate. I jokingly pointed out what his hourly rate would be to justify his fee. He replied, "Oh, if you'd only told me you had a problem with that I could have pulled them slower."

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

One Canadian responding to the other who said, "Yesterday our PM (I am writing this from Canada) declared from Paris that he would not send troops to Iraq under any circumstances. He made this statement even before he knew who would win your Presidential election."

Funny, how world-fearing hawks will only hear their prejudices confirmed, almost independently of what any foreign leader actually says. My Prime Minister Paul Martin today did NOT rule out sending troops to Iraq in the future. He only said that it wouldn't happen at the present time. He specifically stated that it might happen at some future date when he felt Canadian troops could play a valuable role. The fact that he left the future possibility open is something brand new in the Canadian position, and represents a definite shift from the position laid out by Chretien. The shift is somewhat similar (although sketchier) to the one recently adopted by the Germans. The fact that he made the statement in Paris is clearly irrelevant and merely an expression of bald-faced bigotry. It's a crime and an insult now to the Americans be seen standing beside Jacques Chirac when you even talk about Iraq. Puh-leez. Open your eyes, Scott. Canadian foreign policy just changed. You were too wrapped up in your narrow little bubble of national self-hate to notice.


posted by: Paul on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

President Kerry.
Our ONLY chance whatsoever to bring this bitterly divided country together.

That's worth a thought. Could Kerry bring our bitterly divided country together?

I don't see it. What we have is a whole lot of people who believe in a fantasy world, and a whole lot of others who either see a degree of truth or else believe in a different fantasy world.

How could anyone possibly reconcile that? If iraq doesn't come out perfect, wouldn't they blame Kerry? If we don't disarm iran and north korea (which Bush has shown no sign of being able to do), wouldn't they blame Kerry? If we don't go on to "reform" the entire middle east, wouldn't they blame Kerry?

Even victory is not enough. Suppose that without Bush's interference iraq turns into a peaceful democracy with no US troops. That isn't good enough, we need US bases in iraq to invade iran from.

Anything less than fully accomplishing Bush's grandest fantasies is inadequate. To bring the country together Kerry would have to fulfill all of Bush's implicit promises, and many of his own at the same time.

What if one set of fantasies were to get disproven, would that do it? No, not if it's the wingnut fantasies. They'd say it's the MSM publishing more leftist lies. The fantasies are impervious to evidence.

I wouldn't be surprised if the nation splits into 4 countries within 20 years. Say, one for the northeast, one for the west coast, a little empire around Chicago, and a loose confederation of everybody else.

I wish I could see a way to heal the nation, but it doesn't look likely to me. People would need a sense of reality, or at least a set of common agreed fantasies, and there's no sign of that. Maybe it could start quick and spread quick, though.

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"We're likely to take 2 or 3 times as many casualties next year, and that's still insignificant. We can easily take 24,000 casualties a year. In WWII sometimes we took that many in one day. It's nothing to worry about, it's just a talking point for people who deny the value."

--- people I know do want to feel that they are getting something for their dead soldiers :: cf. your point about people who deny the value. And the soldiers like to feel that they are fighting for something in the national interest.

We have gone through about 12 explanations for what they are fighting for (the value proposition) this year, at every point in time all but the most recent version having been proven false. What will they be fighting for next year as casualties escalate and the rationales continue to slide?

posted by: TomR on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Yesterday our PM (I am writing this from Canada) declared from Paris that he would not send troops to Iraq under any circumstances. He made this statement even before he knew who would win your Presidential election."


"Clearly our PM,who proclaimed his indifference to giving America a helping hand in Iraq while he was standing next to President Chirac ,thinks that the French President's view on this matter is more important than that of the next President of the US, whoever he might be. "

Canada has a a meager military with vehicles that don't have proper armor. It also won't be investing significantly in its military because it's committed to balancing the budget, which is only barely possible with significant new health care spending. And it already has its hands full with afghanistan (although I don't know why they scaled back their troops there) and other international efforts.

ref: Toronto Star

i'm one of the least informed here, so i can only wonder if something similar follows for other countries as far as troops. and know nothing about the differential likelihood of more aid were John Kerry to become president.

posted by: Shai on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I am a student at the University of Chicago and longtime reader of this blog, and I voted for Kerry not because I support most of his policies, but because I believe that we ought to vote retrospectively and crush Bush in the polls because of his egregious mishandling of foreign policy and the situation in Iraq.

Does Kerry have a better plan to fix the Iraq situation? Of course not. The mess left by Bush's failed policies is far too enormous. But I believe that the Bush administration needlessly rushed to war without verifying the evidence or developing post-battle plans and needlessly alienated potential allies every step of the way, and they are therefore responsible for the chaos that ensued. It is clear that there is no accountability within the administration - this was a group effort, and even such enormous failures as the Abu Ghraib scandal went unpunished - and so it is the responsibility of the American electorate to hold the Bush administration accountable for their failures and send a clear message that there is no mandate for extremism.

There is another, longer-term side to this debate as well - will we embrace or shun the international community in the fight against terrorism? Will our foreign policy will be one of reckless aggression or strategic cooperation? Keep in mind that despite the failures of Clinton, multilateralism is not equivalent to softness on terror.

Will our Attorney General and Supreme Court fight to preserve or erode our fundamental liberties? Ought our laws to embrace tolerance, diversity, and progress, or division and fear of differences? If not, what exactly are we fighting for?

The mistakes Bush made in Iraq and elsewhere are far too substantial to be ignored. The world is a more dangerous place as a direct result of Bush’s actions, and the least we can do is to reverse the trend by voting him out of office.

Your p-value is leaning in the right direction, in this polisci student's opinion.

posted by: Ryan McCarl on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Dan, its just a bad term for you. Redsox CRUSHED tonight, 19-8. Down 3-0. CHANGE PRESIDENTS NOW!

posted by: Jor on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Unification in a Changed Culture:

To J Thomas:

I think a changed administration will help to unite the country -- it will not be Kerry alone or the figures in his administration who will effect the change though.

A Kerry administration -- a changed government -- will result in a changed political and perhaps social atmosphere which will gradually result in a changed cultural atmosphere. I think those three things together will help to bring the country back together, especially the third factor.

This is hypothosis but I think the Bush administration's doctrine of pre-emption, propoganda of fear, and Bush's weed-wacking of the English language infected American culture in very negative, divisive ways.

I don't think it was a coincidence that reality TV (which I admit I watched and often enjoyed) reached its peak during the Bush years. Survivor, Fear Factor, American Idol, all those creepy plastic surgery makeover shows like The Swan and Extreme Makeover, even Extreme Home Makeover, America's Next Top Model, the nearly irrational mass hysteria over the state of marriage in "bait-and-switch shows like The Bachelor, The Bachlorette, Elimidate, even Queer Eye for the Straight Guy seem somehow reflective of the Bush years -- this last category in particular underscores, underwrites, the evangelical right's obssession with the Federal Marriage Amendment. The weird sense of secrecy and competition some of these shows breed among the contestants. It filtered over directly into our experience of the build up to the Iraq War, the tussles between the Administration and the UN, the beginning of the war with all that euphoric talk of the "embedded" journalists -- the way the war itself and this entire Presidential campaign have seemed like just two more reality TV shows.

Ditto for Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, which has made a billion $ riding the waves of the Bush "faith-based" zeitgeist.

Here is the $100 quote from Ron Suskind's "Without a Doubt" article yesterday: "'We're an empire now,' an aide to the president told me, 'and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality--judiciously, as you will--we'll act again, creating new realities." So you, see, there is some relation, though I'm not able to articulate it exactly.

In spite of (or rather because of) the patriotic jingoism of the the last few years the cultural climate in the US has generally been negative. So much so that even Kerry, in order to prove to the American public that he is serious about "Homeland Secutiry" and "the GWOT" is constantly reminding us that he will "search out and kill the terrorists whereever they are." All this government-sanctioned, open talk about "killing," the constant color code alerts, the fear-mongering, "the terrorists," all this talk about Bush's "faith" -- all this has to stop before the country can even approach the level of national cohesiveness we had during the Clinton impeachment!

I think this is what Kerry was hinting at in that New York Times Magazine Profile everyone is talking about where he said we need to get back to the point where terrorism is a nuisance. I think he was talking more about these cultural aspects. The Bushies fear-monger by calling it the 9/10 mentality, but it is clearly not: it is an expression of desire for a mentality of the present moment and the future. As long as Bush is in power the national consciousness will be yoked to 9/11; instead of a present moment we will be stuck in the non-reality of the past the Bush administration has created for us; in 2008 we will still be mentally and culturally stuck in 9/11. From a cultural viewpoint, it has already proved to be oppressive and it will only become more oppressive. We somehow have to continue to fight the war on terror and deal with the situation in Iraq while also lifting outselves out of this cultural black hole -- both the language and the images of our everyday national life have to change in order for the country to emerge from this non-reality the Bush administration has forcefully and willfully created.

But I don't think it will be easy and I don't think it will be instanteous. I think most people prefer being in the dark, they prefer the non-reality, the kind of agressive euphoria it breeds (for whatever reason, here I think of Karl Rove and Karen P. Hughes). When people say America can't take four more years of Bush, think of how that might register in cultural terms: eventually the divisiness, the negativity, the fear-mongering, the aggression, the blunting of language, the manipulation of language to justify terror (think of those Justice Department briefs arguing for the legality of torture) and the violence of images of "faith" (whether from the war in Iraq, more reality TV shows like Fear Factor, or more movies like Gibson's The Passion of the Christ) will erupt into violence on American soil and it won't be perpetrated by "the terrorists."

I know those of you who support Bush will balk at this analysis, but before you hand out the thorazine it might be worth thinking about.

posted by: Paolo10019 on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

So I am watching Good Will Hunting on TV and this poignant monologue
knocked me out:

Will Hunting's response to the question: "Why not work for the NSA?"

Why shouldn't I work for the NSA? That's a tough one. But I'll take a shot. Say I'm working at the NSA, and somebody puts a code on my desk, something no one else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I'm real happy with myself, 'cuz I did my job well. But
maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East, and once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels are hiding. Fifteen hundred people that I never met, never had no problem with, get killed. Now the politicians are saying, "Oh, send in the marines to secure the area", 'cuz they don't give a shit. It won't be their kid over there, getting shot. Just like it wasn't them when their number got called, 'cuz they were pulling a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some kid from Southie over there taking shrapnel in the ass. He comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back
from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cuz he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so that we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And of course the oil companies used the little
skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them but it ain't helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. They're taking their sweet time bringing the oil back, of course, maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and fuckin' play slalom with the icebergs, it ain't too long till he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea
life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy's out of work. He can't afford to drive, so he's walking to the fuckin' job interviews, which sucks because the shrapnel in his ass is giving him chronic
hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he's starving 'cuz every time he tries to get a bite to eat the only blue plate special they're serving is North
Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I'm holding out for something better. I figure: fuck it, while I'm at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected President.

posted by: shocking on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


Here's a counter-hypothesis:

The polarization of the country is not new. It's a symptom of what's sometimes called the "Culture War". You can trace it back to the post-WW2 generation coming of age in the 60's. The Boomer zeitgeist is a reaction against the values of the WW2 generation. The old Great Depression/WW2 ethos of sacrifice and community and stability was felt to be stifling and backward. The new generation valued self-expression over consensus, self-actualization over self-sacrifice, integrity over compromise, and so on.

So here we are in 2004, living in the strident, hysterically confrontational culture they created. Bush and Kerry are merely products of their generation. They didn't create the problem and they won't end the problem. They are the problem. They can talk about unity and consensus all they want - their speech and actions will continue to divide us.

You can see how Bush frightens and divides the country, but can you see how Kerry has the same effect? He frightens workers with hysteria about outsourcing and the economy. He frightens minorities with stories of a vast right-wing conspiracy to suppress their votes. He scares the college kids with rumors about the draft. His rhetoric is even more overwrought than GWB's.

So when will it end? Here's one suggestion:

"When the ideas, preferences, and tastes of the ruling generation are extremist, and therefore revolutionary, those of the new generation are anti-extremist and anti-revolutionary, that is to say, substantially restorationist in spirit."
- José Ortega y Gasset.

I'm afraid it's going to take a few more years before this shit burns itself out.

PS: I still think you should take your thorazine. ;)

posted by: Y. Doctor on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I respectfully disagree.

John Kerry is extremely liberal, and as such I disagree with him on just about every issue.

posted by: Seth on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I spent 21 years in the Intel Community, mainly doing threat assessment and studying asymmetric warfare. I cannot in this space go into the detail necessary to show why the assessments you have read and apparently believe about the Bush’s administration’s "blunders" in Iraq and in their conduct of the GWOT in general are wrong on almost every point. These negative critiques, to the extent they are not politically motivated, reflect outdated thinking and/or are by people who generally lack both first-hand knowledge of the current situation and the professional competence to evaluate it. [I invite you to read my blog,, for a more detailed discussion of a few of the common misconceptions about our activities in the GWOT.]

President Bush has a strategic vision that is both forward looking and audacious, and shows an excellent understanding of both the current threat and the environment it which it operates. He has succeeded in getting ahead of the terrorists and forcing them into a reactive mode, and the campaign that he has directed has been more successful than anyone anticipated. Bush is following Lincoln’s dictum that "as our case is new, we must think anew and act anew." Bush refusal to fight the last war, by the Last War’s methods, has caused discomfort even among supporters who either do not understand or are captives to old paradigms. It may grate painfully to admit to those like myself who disagree with the President on a number of domestic issues, but my professional assessment is — and I do not hesitate to assert that future judgement of history will be — that the Bush administration’s conduct of the war has been very little short of brilliant, and the triumph or the tragedy will be whether he is allowed another term to prosecute it, or if our successful efforts will be cut short by the election of John Kerry.

John Kerry represents an unabashed retreat to the mindset of the 1990s. He has shown no appreciation of current conditions or how the present threat can be successfully be met. Even given an explicit plan, he and his advisors have neither the vision, the temperament, nor the understanding to effectively carry it out. He is happiest fighting no war at all, as he showed in 1991; or in a pinch, the war he knows best. That is not what our country needs at this critical time.

posted by: C. Owen Johnson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

“I'm with Dave Thomson on Israel. A disturbing implication of Kerry's faith in the UN is the UN's consistent anti-Israel, pro-Arab stance.”

Uncle Tom Jews like Dan Drezner indeed lie to themselves. The evidence is overwhelming that a very large percentage of John Kerry’s supporters consider Israel as an apartheid nation. A subtle form of anti-Semitism is rampantly out of control in the national Democratic Party. It’s time to embarrass the Drezners of academia and other liberal institutions. They have got to start facing reality.

It’s very peculiar that Caroline is one of the very few people even willing to acknowledge this sad state of affairs. Everybody knows that I’m right. Why the overall silence? I've obviously touched a nerve.

posted by: David Thomson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

PS: I should also like to point out that your sharp student's sharp rebuttal almost completely misses the point. He or she does not seem to understand what the diplomat they are attempting to rebut is actually saying and his or her understanding of the current world, as demonstrated by this short note, appears spotty. Your student may indeed be sharp, but I'm afraid she or he remains just a student.

posted by: C. Owen Johnson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Y Doctor J Thomas,

Insurgents only win wars if the local government doesn't have popular support.

Your statement is correct; the problem is that the Allawi does not have anything approaching popular support.

If we look at five post-WW2 models of insurgent victories over Western powers:

Algeria 1954-1962 where the FLN defeated France.
Indochine 1945-1954 where the Vietminh defeated France
Vietnam 1954-1975 where the Viet Cong defeated the US
South Lebanon 1982-2000 where Hizbollah defeated Israel
Afghanistan 1979-1989 where the various Mujahadeen groups defeated the Soviet Union

In all these cases, eighteen months into the conflict, the local governments had a much higher level of popular support that Allawi has now. The Shiite community of South Lebanon initially welcomed the Israeli invasion because they were so sick of the PLO running wild in their areas.

These models all are relevant because they involve the Western power deploying large forces in theater and the insurgents employing both Nationalist combined with larger more Universalist (Communist, Islamist, anti-Colonial) ideologies.

There is no point in referring to pre-WW2 successful anti-insurgency successes--and they certainly do abound—because the situation is certainly different from the days when at least half the world was dominated by Western colonial rule. In those days the British Empire controlled an Indian population of 300,000,000 with 5,000 colonial officers. The equivalent in Iraq would be the US controlling Iraq with 416 troops. Things changed after WW2; for one thing automatic weapons, mortars and bomb making became more easily obtainable for insurgent forces. Pre-WW2, counter-insurgency consisted of manning entrenched machine gun positions and mowing down hordes of charging natives armed with spears. The second reason is the spread of Maoist guerilla war tactics in which the strategic goal is too spread your overwhelmingly superior enemy as thin as possible, and at the maximum point of his over-extension you counter attack relentlessly his weakest point. The most important change however, is the exponential increase in costs imposed on a Western power in order to keep a technologically advanced army in the field and the subsequent strain this imposes on an industrial economy.

You both mention the offering the Iraqis democracy should render any insurgent efforts futile. The obvious fact that we have already “offered" Iraqis democracy and the insurgency is far more advanced at this point of the conflict compared to any of our historic models should render this argument mute. In theory an offer of democracy, or more broadly self-determination, should deflate an insurgency, since normally this is indeed what they are fighting for in the first place. But this theory hangs on two very important conditions. First, the insurgents must see democracy as in their interests. In Iraq, the absolute last thing the Sunni Iraqis--who make up 20% of the population and have exclusively ruled Iraq for the last 80 years--want is democracy.

The second factor is the extent to which the insurgents or occupied populations actually believe the promises of the occupier. Iraqis suffered through almost 40 years of US imposed Ba’ath Party/Saddam Hussein rule and they are frankly quite skeptical as to US intentions in their country. The CPA’s failed attempts at imposing a radical corporate-friendly economic order and the choice of Allawi himself--an obvious CIA asset--combined with the rise of Neo-Baathism, demonstrated most clearly by Iraq's national intelligence chief Mohammed al-Shahwani’s attempts to build a domestic intelligence operation more in tune with a totalitarian state than a democratic one, are ringing alarm bells throughout Iraq.

Someone mentioned Moqtada al-Sadr’s recent jester towards disarmament in exchange for cash as a positive sign in the counter-insurgency operations. All too often, in the heat of the US Presidential election, news from Iraq is run through a filter which either divides it in to good news or bad news for Bush (or Kerry), and not much further thought is put into the overall strategic situation there. The situation in Iraq is extremely complex--it reminds me of Lebanon during the civil war--there are at least five main actors, and each of these main actors are themselves divided into many factions. The five players are:

The US led coalition
The Iraqi exiles groups, including Allawi who is currently in power
The Shiites
The Kurds.
The Sunnis

With Sadr quieting down his militia, we very roughly have the condition where the first four actors have, for the time being, similar short-term interests, namely the destruction of the Sunni rebellion. However, none of these groups have common long-term interests, since with the exception of the Kurds who want independence, the other four--whether they admit it or not--all want hegemony over Iraq and its oil wealth.

With Sadr City quieting down, the US is pulling out troops out of that troubled area to help fight the Sunnis outside of Baghdad. The Shiites know that their path to power runs through the Sunni heartland and the more Sunnis the US kills, the better for them ,since militarily they have yet to show very much. British troops, already spread thin in Southern Iraq, are going to replace US forces in Sadr City, if it remains quiet. They will be well past the breaking point of over-extension in case of renewed violence in Shiite Iraq. Allawi has repeatedly threatened to cancel the elections if the insurgency doesn’t stop, while the only thing keeping the Ayatollah Sistani in line is the certainty of electoral victory if elections are held.

In fact Iraq is on the brink of disaster. If the Sunni insurgency is not quelled in the coming weeks, and Allawi goes ahead and cancels elections that he is sure to lose anyway (a la Algeria 1992), the Shiites will rebel and British forces will be slaughtered in their hundreds as they attempt to flee to secure bases. An unstoppable downward spiral will begin; predicting what that will lead to is a fool’s game.

posted by: Kevin (de Bruxelles) on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I'm an independent centrist and I supported Bush in 2000. I already voted for Kerry, and that's a Florida vote so I know mine matters...whether it's counted is another story.

I prefer governance from the middle and I abhor extremes. My preference is divided government between the parties to counterweight each extreme. Unified goverment leads to radical policy making and they never get anything done -- witness this Congress. Pathetic!

That said, Bush has proven himself to be the most God awful president this country has ever seen. He is arrogant, narrow-minded, incurious, and of very questionable intellect. His "compassionate conservative" tripe may have deceived me in 2000, but not this time.

I'm a Kosovo vet and I recently left the military this year because I couldn't stomach anymore time in uniform while this man is commander in chief. This lunatic marches us off to his crusade in Iraq while he lets Osama escape in Afghanistan so he can hold Taliban cookouts in some cave, roasting S'mores with Mullah Omar while they plan on how to murder another 3000 Americans.

George W Bush, the greatest Al Qaeda poster child for terrorist recruiting that Osama ever had. May he be judged for the 1100 American dead soldiers he sent to his war of choice while 9-11's murderers go free.

Just goes to show that a small man who never grew up until his 40s, a recovering alcoholic, and a chronic underacheiver who never distinguished himself in life through tough choices and sacrifice, can still ascend to the US presidency by way of family entitlement and enough corporate backing. He will never measure up to his father or Reagan.

I'll be waiting for the GOP to return to its Goldwater-Reagan roots before I'll vote for another Republican ever again. Unbelievable that today Pat Buchanan looks like a moderate compared to these neocon Wilsonian-Coolidge crossbreeds that hijacked the GOP. May the paleo-conservatives take back their party in the memory of Teddy.

posted by: Independent Centrist on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

“Unbelievable that today Pat Buchanan looks like a moderate compared to these neocon Wilsonian-Coolidge crossbreeds that hijacked the GOP. May the paleo-conservatives take back their party in the memory of Teddy.”

Most interesting. This is obviously a discrete way of saying that this individual wants to marginalize the Jews. Pat Buchanan has long been hostile towards Israel. This is a common theme of the paleo-conservatives. Neocon is often a subtle way of describing Jews.

posted by: David Thomson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I keep seeing comparisons between the current situation in Iraq and developments in 1942 & 1943 in WW II. Yes, in the early stages of WW II there were a lot of mistakes made. But, they were a learning process while we built the machine and capability to win the war in 1944 & 1945. Those mistakes in 1942-43 are not comparable to the mistakes being made in Iraq right now. currently, in Iraq we are not in the process of building a war machine to eventually overwhelm the enemy. What you see is what you get. A vote for Bush is a vote for more of the same and more of the same is steadily marching down the road to defeat and making our enemies more powerful and reducing the US ability to influence events beyond our border.

Evidence for this is that the next military budget has nothing in it to replace the material and equipment being worn out now in Iraq. If Bush really had a plan to win, rather than gradually lose you would see major increase in the military procurement budget for armoured vechicles. But it is not there. What does that tell you?

the fact that we won the battle with the Iraq army faster than expected has nothing to do with the growing insurgency war that we are losing.

posted by: spencer on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Most interesting. This is obviously a discrete way of saying that this individual wants to marginalize the Jews. Pat Buchanan has long been hostile towards Israel. This is a common theme of the paleo-conservatives. Neocon is often a subtle way of describing Jews. "

If some Jewish self-important paranoia is all that can be manufactured out of that post then I must be right on the mark! Typical neocon that you are, totally missing the point. The world does not revolve around Jewish affairs -- I know that shocks you -- but it's true.

In the 1990s the neocons were considered (rightly so) to be nutcases. Pat Buchanan, Newt, and their ilk were considered the extreme right-wing nutjobs of those days...just watch reruns of that hate-filled vitriol Pat spewed at the 1992 RNC. Fast forward to 2004 and he's a moderate compared to these neocon nuts we have today.

As for Jews? Please. They're so far below my radar of concern that I'd let them and the arabs fight it out and prefer to keep America out of it. Both those people are absolutely hopeless -- they couldn't agree on dessert let alone a peace accord. They want unending conflict? So be it.

America has bigger fish to fry, like China and North Korea.

posted by: Independent Centrist on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The suspense is waning now that Professor Dresner has reached p=.8. He will soon join the 90% of university professors who will vote liberal. The same goes for African-Americans and to a lesser degree Jews.

Y'all claim to be discerning voters but in the end you vote for the party not the country.

posted by: R. A. Benfield on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

“Both those people are absolutely hopeless -- they couldn't agree on dessert let alone a peace accord. They want unending conflict? So be it.”

Why are you blaming the Jews? They are merely the victims of Arab anti-Semitism. In no way should the Israelis be considered as equally guilty for this ago old conflict. The Jews are not “absolutely hopeless”---only the Palestinian militants.

You may say that Israel is below your radar screen of concerns. Nonetheless, this is not the case for at least a third of John Kerry’s supporters. They openly blame Israel for allegedly mistreating the Palestinians and enraging Osama bin Ladin. Why is George Soros and the radical leftists being essentially ignored by Dan Dressner and other academic Jewish liberals? The answer is obvious: they have been bought off by the liberal establishment. These Uncle Toms look the other way while subtle, and not so subtle, anti-Semitism flourishes under their very noses.

posted by: David Thomson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Prof. Drezner,
You asked for reader feedback on your election deliberations. I'm out of my league here so am
pointing you to a web article backing Pres. Bush: I like it because last spring I reread the Orwell biography by (name escapes)and made the same connection -- though not as thoroughly or eloquently.

I also wanted to share a personal reaction with you. Being semi-retired, I have since March been
babysitting my baby granddaughter and indulging in a steady diet of C-SPAN 1 & 2 as well as the election coverage. The household includes a dog of mixed breed but mainly Australian cattle dog. Miss Q. is energetic, sometimes unmanageable by my standards, clumsy but fiercely protective of the baby and me. A few doors down there resides a hound dog who wails...and wails...and wails.

Perhaps I watch too much TV, but I have come to equate Miss Q. with President Bush and said howling hound with Mr. Kerry. Perhaps the latter's constant complaints...going back decades...have most to do with that. Or maybe I
know instinctively (though the NYTimes would fault me for that) that Pres. Bush has what it takes to protect us.

One final thought: do the terrorists mean us harm? Some now say the administration is over-concerned. I disagree and recommend to you research by Mary Habek, Associate Professor of History at Yale, who puts the worldwide Islamists and Jihadists in multi-century perspective. She was on C-Span on Aug. 15.

So that's my take as a citizen and voter.

Best, Kate

P.S. Enjoy your blog!

posted by: Kate on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Dr. Drezner:

Let me limit my comments to what seems to be the issue that troubles you the most: accountability or, more precisely, public accountability.

I believe that the President’s ability to resist the usual temptation of politicians to succumb to domestic and international calls of “heads must roll” is a sign of steady character, a reassuring sense of proportionality, and a keen sense of how his response, or lack of one, to such calls is likely to play or, perhaps more appropriately, be played with on the Arab “street” and in the halls of the U.N., among other venues.

I, for one, prefer a President who is reluctant to give the boot to a competent and trusted advisor (Rumsfeld) in response to the inevitable screw-ups that accompany any war and its immediate aftermath. It seems to me that the things for which Rumsfeld is being criticized – not enough troops, disbanding the Iraqi army, looting, Abu Ghraib – range from those which cannot be laid at his doorstep (is Turkey’s refusal to let the 4th Infantry through Rumsfeld’s “failure” or Powell’s, or is it that of neither?), to those that are honest judgment calls (does one trust a Baathist controlled army to behave well, or is it safer to start from scratch?) the correctness of which is rarely settled by the “first draft of history”, to those (the despicable acts of a collection of low and middle level prison guards and military intelligence personnel whose moral underpinnings, in stark contrast to those of the other 99% of their brothers and sisters in arms, were not sturdy enough to withstand the stress of their jobs) that can only be ascribed to him under the most protean definition of “the buck stops here” argument, and finally to those that comprise some combination of the above (how many of the troops available does one devote to shooting museum looters as opposed to oil pipeline, electricity grid, or water pumping station saboteurs?).

All of the above, collectively, pale in comparison to the things that, if one insists on being fair about assigning to Rumsfeld both blame and credit, went right: an astoundingly swift disposal of the Saddam Hussein regime and the establishment of enough security to prevent the nearly universal predictions of a refugee crisis and environmental disaster from coming true, return schools and hospitals to their original purposes, and allow for slower than hoped for but unmistakably encouraging progress toward a transitional and eventually a permanent government that will not be able to wring, either literally or figuratively, a 98% mandate from its electorate. More than pretty good for 18 months’ work, I say, especially when I consider the domestic and international opposition against which this has been accomplished: the viscerally anti-American Left here and in Europe, the selectively (regime change in Yugoslavia – good, regime change in Iraq – bad) anti-war Democratic Party core, the isolationist anti-war Republican contingent, the more than a few generals and congressional representatives whose egos are offended and pet projects threatened by Rumsfeld’s plans to transform a post-Cold War military, and last but certainly not least a U.N. that is at its best perennially indecisive and equivocating and at its worst corrupt and self-serving.

I am glad to have a President who seems able to distinguish between the mistakes made by Rumsfeld and those made by Tenet. The former are accompanied by the many and, in my opinion, much more important successes described above. The magnitude of the latter (“slam dunk”), on the other hand, is not similarly offset by any visible, emphasis on “visible”, accomplishments. Hence, Rumsfeld is allowed to stay and act on “lessons learned” in the context of an institution that in the last 3 years has helped our country remind the world of the second part of the phrase “no better friend, no worse enemy.” Tenet, whose main accomplishment turned out to be a devastating blow to this nation’s credibility from which it will take many years to recover, however, had to go, period.

The mistake that President Bush made was not that he kept Rumsfeld, but that he didn’t orchestrate Tenet’s resignation sooner than he did. I am even hesitant to fault him for this, however, because I am not privy to the whole range of considerations that were likely involved in the timing of this decision. For instance, should the President have done so after David Kay’s first preliminary report in October 2003, or after Mr. Kay expressed increasing doubts about WMD upon his resignation in January 2004, or after the “slam dunk” revelations in Bob Woodward’s book in April 2004, or after Colin Powell’s May 2004 admission that the CIA had been wrong about mobile laboratories? And, once the magnitude of the intelligence failures made Tenet’s departure inevitable, how difficult was it to find a qualified candidate who also represented a workable solution to the goal of minimizing damage to the CIA’s institutional morale and partisan opposition in Congress?

Far from Bush being a person whose governing instinct is to “circle the wagons” when faced with criticism, I see him as someone who seems to realize that a U.S. President, especially when the country is at war, needs to exercise considerably more reserve and discretion when considering whether to reshuffle his administration than a newspaper editorial writer, a documentary filmmaker, a European head of state fighting for his political life, or indeed a political opponent maneuvering through the nomination process would like to accord him. A page A1 mistake can be corrected several days later on page C17 without much fuss or muss. The effects of “Fahrenheit 911” can be offset by those of “FahrenHype 911”, and the most visible and immediate net result is that the creators of both make a lot of money. When Schroder wins on an anti-Bush platform, the reverberations don’t carry much past the national borders. Unless Kerry wins in November, his series of self-contradictory utterances for and against the Iraq war, as well as his incoherent stance on multilateralism versus bilateralism regarding North Korea and Iran, will also have only minor global ramifications.

Unlike those of any of the above, a U.S. President’s public declarations of “Mea culpa” and public actions to correct mistakes (emphasis on “public”) must be judged by a standard that takes into account their long-lasting geopolitical ramifications. The world stage is not an Oprah show where the worst thing that could happen is that there will not be enough handkerchiefs to go around for the audience to wipe the tears they shed in appreciation of someone’s soul-baring admissions of mistakes made and earnest promises to do better. It is a hard-edged environment where local, regional, national, and global crosscurrents are such that any “New Age” predilections on the part of a U.S. President would only produce rhetorical sticks for our country’s fair weather friends, competitors, and outright opponents to hit us with. I prefer a President who understands that, while he tries to work toward a more peaceful and benevolent world, it is dangerous for him to behave as if we’re already there. This President’s administration, thank goodness, is not about to repeat President Carter’s mistake of, to liberally paraphrase an old saying, letting a vision of a perfect U.S. be the enemy of a good U.S. Especially if that vision is one that the U.N., China, Russia, France, the Arab “street”, and a President Kerry, as evidenced by the Matt Bai article in the New York Times Magazine article, would like our country to adopt.

Let me end with one final note on the subject of accountability. About 7 months ago, Senator Kerry was “upended” by a Secret Service agent while snowboarding in Ketchum, Idaho. His response to a reporter who later asked him about the incident was: “I don’t fall down. That son of a bitch ran into me.” This, as you can read in the vetting of the several accounts of the event (link: ), cannot be excused as an instant “heat of the moment” reaction. It instead points to the lack of character of a person who places the value of one’s perfect image in one’s own and others’ minds above the dignity of someone who’s pledged to take a bullet on your behalf. This, with due recognition given to the concept of the “fog of war” and fading memories thereof, strikes me as being along similar lines to the backtracking that Senator Kerry had to engage in on the way to finally admitting that it was indeed his boat that initially left the scene of the incident involving Jim Rassman’s rescue, not the others'. It is a President Kerry that I would worry about in terms of accepting responsibility for mistakes, not a President Bush. The former, I fear, would show his less than perfect underlings the door at the drop of a hat if doing so spares him the indignities of critical editorials in the New York Times. This would also, as he has demonstrated throughout his campaign, be the fate of various positions he might hold at any given time on subjects such as multilateralism, trade policy, outsourcing, immigration, gay marriage, etc. President Bush, it seems to me, would give the idea of abandoning people and policies serious consideration only if he is convinced it is the right thing to do, even at the risk of losing an election. With Senator Kerry, I wouldn’t know what I’m voting for. With President Bush, I do, and I will. I hope you will, too.

posted by: Gabriel Pentelie on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Kevin (de Bruxelles)" compared above the current situation in Iraq to the situation in Lebanon during the 70's and 80's (I believe it is the most similar to the 1982-1985 era, after the Israeli invasion, and before the redraw from most parts of Lebanon). But there is another thing that rings a bell.

The 1982 invasion started after terrorists from the organization of Abu-Nidal shot the Israeli ambassador to the UK. Ariel Sharon, then the defense minister, was planning to invade Lebanon, to force a pro-western government that will sign a peace treaty with Israel, and to start by this a process that would affect the whole Middle East. And then came Abu Nidal, and gave him the trigger. In the cabinet meeting that approved the action against the PLO, the prime minister adviser on terror was trying to say that Abu Nidal had nothing to do with the PLO (in fact he was a bitter enemy of Arafat). But the chief of staff, Refael Eithan replied: "Abu Nidal Abu Shmidal, we should fuck the PLO".

I don't know if Abu Nidal indeed planned to give Sharon the cause of war. For sure he was happy about it. I wander whether Bin Laden had the same idea about the US and Iraq? Maybe he wasn't misjudging Bush? Maybe he timed his big attack on the US, deliberately during the term of the president that was the most likely to invade Iraq as a result of this? This is a pure speculation. But I really don't think that Bin Laden and his people had any regrets when the US invaded Iraq.

posted by: eman on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Why are you blaming the Jews? They are merely the victims of Arab anti-Semitism. In no way should the Israelis be considered as equally guilty for this ago old conflict. The Jews are not “absolutely hopeless”---only the Palestinian militants."

Yeah, yeah. It's always the other side's fault. Same old sob story I hear from the arabs. Sorry, but both you peoples' whining falls on deaf ears. I don't care about Israeli jews and I don't care about arabs. You're like two kids in a sandbox kicking dirt at each other. Bah. America needs to look after its domestic concerns rather the internal affairs of other nations. Just feel fortunate that your side still has the advantage of superior weaponry so you can continue killing the other side at a 5:1 or more ratio.

As for Soros, you must be an avid fan of Dennis Hastert -- after all, that particular nut once said Soros must get his money from the illegal drug trade. Couldn't possible be from currency speculation and other investments that made him famous! Gee, I wonder how long before the neocons accuse Warren Buffett of being a pinko commie?

Time to take off your Bushie rose colored glasses and do some non-partisan research of your own. Soros is famous for being one of the most active pro-democracy donors in the world, having invested billions in bringing down dictators, communist regimes, and propping up fledgling democracies throughout the former eastern Europe and Asia. Makes you wonder why he is so opposed to Bush? Did you know that in the mid 1990s Soros and Wolfowitz were allies in urging Clinton to take action to stop Milosovich's genocide and he invested $50 mil to bring aid to the Bosnians and Kosovars? Yes...not until the Iraq war did Soros and Wolfowitz part ways. It must rock your narrow-minded world to realize that the evil evil Soros was once allied with the neocons!

Time to do some independent research instead of having the neocons give you your info through a feeding tube.

posted by: Independent Centrist on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

“Soros is famous for being one of the most active pro-democracy donors in the world, having invested billions in bringing down dictators, communist regimes, and....”

I couldn’t agree with you more. George Soros also advocates for the legalization of mind altering drugs---as I do. But so what? Soros still perceives Israel as a violator of the rights of the Palestinians. At least a third of John Kerry’s supporters agree with him. Why are so many of the Jewish academic and professional elite looking the other way? The answer is obvious: they are Uncle Toms.

posted by: David Thomson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The recent exchange between D. Thompson and Indp. Centrist about arabs and jews (Israelis) is illustrative: until we (the United States) stop trying to deal with (manage, change, mold, et al.) the world based on our own views of history and moral frameworks, we will fail to really appreciate and fail to address the myriad problems in the world that really do affect our collective national future.

I spent 8 months of the past year in Iraq. It is hard to overstate the incompetence with which the whole enterprise has been engaged by the United States. At the same time, it could be a whole lot worse and many of the problems simply do not have neat, elegant solutions. In retrospect, I was often a part of the problem because our endeavor had systemic flaws with faulty assumptions, unrealistic goals and ill-conceived approaches.

The reality in Iraq is that there are many motivations and undercurrents that have nothing to do with America or the GWOT. A lot of the violence is sectarian and tribal and/or personal. It's about honor or insult or fear or retribution or opportunism or any combination of the above. It's hard for many of us to admit, but the world and most people "out there" do not really spend a lot of time thinking about America. My point is that we need to stop treating Iraq as an extension of our own existential crises and start working on viable, realistic solutions that will yield outcomes acceptable to our needs/goals. (I say that as someone who believes that 9/11 was a slap in the face; rude, yes, painful--no doubt, but not cause for lashing out unwisely in a dangerous world.)

We need sober, rational leaders right now. If the choice is Kerry or Bush, then it must be Kerry.

PS - the former intelligence worker (analylst?) who seemed to be saying that the current GWOT is going better than the media make it out to be... on what basis do you make that claim? There happen to be many who think it is actually much worse than the media are acknowledging. I think you might want to extend your time horizons and broaden the number of variables/scenarios in your analysis. My own sense right now is that we're only upping the ante, so to speak, in the GWOT. To switch to a more appropriate metaphor, we aren't looking closely enough at an endgame.

posted by: HHYYH on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

ref: WW2 there was many mistakes even in 43-44-45

The Bulge;Hurtegen Forest;Market Garden;Whole Italian campaign led to nothing;if it continued towards Austria it could have led to good results in post war vs Communism but it wasnt. More allied soldiers died there than germans.
D-Day look a like in southern France, a waste of resources(Germans already had retired)
Most of Pacific campaign, why not bypass most of strongholds like Iwojima and Okinawa where thousands americans died in frontal assaults?

Keep dreaming about French or Germans (G´s have already started to make some noises), they will want to go there after elections to get nice contracts...Saddam was a good friend of France(15% of it's army was with french equipment; personal friend of Jacques Chirac) it's surprising for me that someone can say that it was Bush fault...Or if you read french newspaper or listen to their TV...same for Germans.

Bin Laden is probably dead or with the face aerodinamics changed but his friends had/have to fight in Iraq instead of preparing 3-4 Sept11 a year...

posted by: lucklucky on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

What terrorists have achieved in Iraq?

Failed to rally most of Iraquis in a such way that have resorted to bombing police stations.A terror strategy.

Failed to prevent that a team of educated Iraquis cooperating with Allies to build a new Iraq

Failed to ruin Iraqui economy

Failed to achieve a civil war between Shiites/sunnites/Kurds

lets see if they fail to prevent elections too...

Dont let the 24hr news(bombs/hostages) news mask the strategic issues, they can pop up 2 bombs a day for next 5 years and achieve nothing . The news only catch the booms, dont catch Iraquis working, building, schools. Do we know how is the sewage, energy or other things going?

What we have is a simplistic distorted view of what is happening. Maybe it's worst than we think or maybe it's better, all signs point for the last.

posted by: lucklucky on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Meanwhile Kerry continues to irritate people around:
Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe again criticized U.S. presidential candidate Sen John Kerry on Saturday over his policies on North Korea, despite having drawn fire from the opposition for similar remarks made the previous day.
Takebe dismissed complaints from opposition parties that making critical comments on the senator's policies may constitute interference with U.S. internal affairs.

Criticizing Kerry for advocating U.S.-North Korea bilateral negotiations, Takebe said in a speech on the streets of Niigata on the Sea of Japan coast that "to negotiate over Japan's head on issues including the North's nuclear development would be exactly what North Korea wants."

Takebe, who holds the party's No. 2 post and is seen Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's right-hand man, said Friday on a Nippon Broadcasting System radio program, "Mr Kerry is trying to address the North Korean problem bilaterally. That is totally out of the question."


The commander of the UN peacekeepers in Haiti has linked a recent upsurge in violence there to comments made by the US presidential candidate, John Kerry...
Note there is no problem irritating the right people, but Japan is only the most important US ally in Pacific, they are sending soldiers to Iraq , a very big barrier against China expansionism and one of the biggest and most advanced economies in the world. So what is the propose of Kerry changing the rules of the game, without even talking with Japanese? Will happen to Kerry what is happening with Zapatero in Europe? no one will trust him?

posted by: lucklucky on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Dr. Drezner,
It seems the arguments made for supporting Kerry can be boiled down to a few salient points. 1. Kerry will be impotent in the area of domestic policy because the GOP will still control Congress and therefore his worst ideas stand no chance of passage. 2. His cultural liberalism is not a problem. 3. The circumstances of the war and public opinion will force him to be strong on national defense. 4. He will make better tactical decisions on foreign policy because he will have a better set of advisors and a better deliberative process.
As a Catholic Kerry's social leftism is what scared me the most going into the campaign. I'd rather not let him appoint judges and bureaucrats who will further marginalize people of faith from the public square and who will impose a radical social agenda through undemocratic means. I'd also prefer to not turn human life into a commodity through cloning and embryonic stem cell treatments which would inevitably require the sale and distribution of human ova to be useful. I am willing to concede, however, that many do not share my fears about Kerry's social agenda so let's examine the other arguments on his behalf.
If, God forbid, Kerry wins a major reason for his victory will be the Anybody But Bush factor. As others have noted elsewhere he'll lack a strong political base or broad public support for his domestic agenda. Reports are already out that the left wing of the Democratic Party will look to rest control from the DLC types no matter if Kerry wins or not. It seems more likely than not that Kerry would move left after the election to consolidate his base rather than remain in the squishy middle especially given the fact that his sympathies (based on his voting record and public statements over 20 years inthe Senate) are with the left wing of his party.
The policy implications of such a move are clear. Domestically we can expect Kerry to use non-legislative means to advance a liberal policy agenda. Remember Clinton's Executive Order that tried to rewrite labor law regarding striker replacements? On the foreign policy front we can expect a few things.
First, is the transformation of policy from offense to defense. The Kerry campaign has talked alot about increasing spending for first responders etc. It isn't hard to imagine a shift in spending from the military (folks who don't support Kerry) to unionized workers in homeland security venues (folks who do support Kerry). Kerry might not even have to short change troops he could simply try to stop development of missile defense and bunker busters unilaterally. The moves would shore up his baseand could be justified as being a "better" allocation of resources for homeland defense. I think such moves would be disastrous.
Second, would be the re-adoption of the Clinton philosophy of "If the public doesn't know about it everything is okay." The Clinton team left an unholy mess around the world. In 1998 North Korea broke the treaty Carter negotiated for Clinton in 1994. The Clinton team would like us to believe that they didn't know about it. The U.S. still has troops under U.N. jurisdiction stationed in Bosnia and Kosovo and there is no sign that the quality of life has improved dramatically on account of the kindly ministrations of the folks who conjured up the Oil For Food program.
By the way what were the Clinton State Department watchdogs looking while that scandal was unfolding? Figuring out how to invite Arafat for an umpteenth visit to the White House?
The Clinton team got surprised by the Intifada after having met face to face with Arafat for years and folks are complaining that the Bush team misjudged the potential strength of the insurgency in Iraq?
The amazing thing is that the Clinton team which got almost everything strategically wrong is taken seriously in its critique of the Bush Administration which, you, Dr. Drezner, have suggested is absoultely right on strategy if not tactics.
The tactics the Kerry team suggests for Iraq (bring in more allies) reminds me of the old Steve Martin joke about how to have a million dollars and not pay taxes. "First, get a million dollars. Then don't pay taxes." Well, duh. The Kerry team has never answered Bush's question about how you bring in new allies to finish a job you've said repeatedly shouldn't have been started.
Third, the Kerry team's obsession with OBL demonstrates a lack of understanding of the war. The implication of the Tora Bora remarks is that if/when OBL is captured or confirmed dead the war on terror on the scale envisioned by Bush will end. We'll have our September 11th mastermind and can return to the status quo ante.
Fourth, it is an accepted matter of faith on the Left that aside from the liberation of Iraq and the isolation of Arafat the Bush Administration squandered the "Worldwide Goodwill" expressed after September 11th by pulling out of Kyoto, the ICC and the ABM treaties. Would you really like to see any of these pacts revived in the interest of world solidarity? In its efforts to be multilateralist and appeal to the left-wing base it is likely that a Kerry presidency would attempt to make just such a reversal.
But these are merely reasons not to vote for Kerry and I'd like to provide some reasons to vote for Bush. 1. Social Security Choice 2. Health Savings Accounts 3. More and larger vehicles for retirement savings 4. Offense vs. Defense in the war on terror. 5. No matter whether he wins or loses the election you know that Bush will move heaven and earth to make January elections in Iraq possible. (Which is why Kerry is a bit disingenuous on Iraq, he knows that Bush is determined to do the heavy lifting there up through January 20th when the winner of the race is inaugurated and that he'll have more options to bring troops home because of that.) 6. Iran and Syria know that Bush will follow through on threats, they don't know that about Kerry and his past suggests that he wouldn't.
I could list more, but I've gone on long enough. The short synopsis is this. Kerry's lack of real support will drive him to govern from the left through non-legislative means. He'll also be inclined to shift resources from offense to defense in the war on terror to solidify his base. His advisors are the ones who left the mess for Bush to clean up and show no signs of acknowledging any of their own mistakes on strategy. Kerry's obsession with Bin Laden suggests a law enforcement mentality to the War and his obsession with multilateralism will lead him to revive treaties that are not in the U.S. best interests. Bush on the other hand has a better domestic policy vision, street cred with the thug regimes around the world (witness Qadafi) and a sound strategic vision for winning the war on terror.

The Elephant Ph.D.

posted by: The Elephant on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

one last thought : it strikes me as odd that an academic, or anyone as involved in studying the issues as you are, would be swayed one iota by the debates. Yet you moved from .60 to .80.
Can you explain *why* the debates would impact you that way; I'd think you'd be more informed by other avenues not as readily accessible to the majority and less so by talking points.

posted by: nbdy on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Good debate.

Something to consider -

There's a reason why the current administration won't win through military strikes alone.

Especially if it tries to deny it's mistakes.

posted by: Toto on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I respect your dislike of Kerry's social agenda, although I can't say I really agree with you - I find Kerry's values right on target for my wishes. But you comment that the religious right is marginalized, a comment I don't see at all. I see it as having more recognition and power, and frankly as a liberal democrat, this scares me, but I guess that's what the election is for - to sort out who reflects our collective values the best.

What I find interesting are your points on why to vote for Bush, with regards to foreign policy (and I know my opinions have been echoed on this blog and elsewhere, but I still want to point this out). To view Bush vs Kerry as Offense versus Defense on the war on terror is incorrect. Bush had three basic reasons for his pre-emptive war on Iraq - 1) WMDs, that have turned out not to be there. True, reports indicate that if we'd ever have ended the isolation of Iraq Saddam likely would have tried to restore the nuclear and chemical programs there, but the IAEA was doing its job well; 2) Terrorist links, which wheren't there either until we invaded. However bad a leader Saddam was, he had insurgent-types under control, and further, bin Laden and Al Qaeda never liked Saddam either. In fact, if you look at their patterns, they hate all secular and non-Islamofascist states, and the evidence of even third channel cooperation between Saddam and Al Qaeda is non-existent it would seem; and 3) to try and introduce the Arab world to democracy, using Iraq in a domino effect much like we viewed Vietnam as a possible domino in the cold war for either the Soviets or us. As we now know that the Vietnam paradigm was incorrect, it's obvious that the Iraq domino paradigm is false. Sure, the on-the-ground battle against the insurgents is either being won or in a stalemate for the US, but forcing democracy upon them is not democratic, our use of bombings in Iraqi cities and other tactics are infuriating the populace, and the result is that we are no nearer to winning the hearts and minds of the Arab world. And do you really think that we are either going to root out every terrorist by force, or that they'll just stop fighting for their freedom, or that the people of these countries want democracy just because we tell them they should? And your last reason, on Bush's intimidation of Iran and Syria... what?! Have I missed something? Do you really think they're working with us, or Saudi Arabia or Egypt is just stopping their quiet support of certain terrorist groups just because we threaten them? Our military is overstretched and they recognize that. They know we aren't prepared to invade their countries. So how are we seriously intimidating them?

Kerry, on the other hand, recognizes these facts. No, you're right, his proposed strategy isn't simplistic and can't fit into a catchy slogan or short stump speech like Bush's can. It's very nuanced. But he's convinced me that he's determined to go after the radical Islamists, while actively working to address the concerns of otherwise decent Arabs in the middle east, and try and ease their concerns of military and economic domination by the West. Sounds like a better strategy to me....

posted by: Democrat Dan on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

When it comes to multilateralism, I'm having trouble understanding why this isn't really, really simple:

The Bush administration is on the record having presented false information about a potential threat (Iraqi WMD) to the world.

Suppose a real threat arises against the free world, discovered first by the USA. How could the Bush administration ever convince our allies to take the threat seriously? This is the "boy who cried wolf" problem. Bush has already sounded a false alarm, so it will be hard to take his next alarm seriously.

Compounding this problem is the truly massive unpopularity of GW Bush in most of the allied democracies. The nations that objected to the Iraq war did so, in part, because of massive hostility to the idea among their own electorates, a feeling that has only solidified since then. Mistrust and contempt of GW Bush now runs so deep among the populations of allied democracies that it would be politically perilous for any ally to follow Bush's lead in confronting the next challenge.

Conculsion: Bush's lack of credibility is a direct threat to our national security.

posted by: Jarrett on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I find myself agreeing with Kevin entirely concerning insurgencies, and still there may be something to discuss.

Kevin wrote:

You both mention the offering the Iraqis democracy should render any insurgent efforts futile. The obvious fact that we have already “offered" Iraqis democracy and the insurgency is far more advanced at this point of the conflict compared to any of our historic models should render this argument mute.

We told the Ba'athists, no Ba'ath party and nobody who was senior in the Ba'ath party can be senior in We told the world we didn't want any salafis and when salafis started winning local elections we cancelled local elections from then on. We told Sadr that we didn't want any sadrists in government and we intended to kill him or possibly detain him in Abu Ghraib. This probably did not seem like democracy to the particular groups we were freezing out of the process.

In theory an offer of democracy, or more broadly self-determination, should deflate an insurgency, since normally this is indeed what they are fighting for in the first place. But this theory hangs on two very important conditions. First, the insurgents must see democracy as in their interests. In Iraq, the absolute last thing the Sunni Iraqis--who make up 20% of the population and have exclusively ruled Iraq for the last 80 years--want is democracy.

What can they hope for? I can't see them getting control of the shi'ites and kurds again, unless we manage to throw it to them. And even then it would be hard, too many people have compared notes about death squads etc.

20% is a decent voting block if they could get an amnesty for old crimes. They haven't been offered that, they've been offered an amnesty for crimes against Allawi's government only. If they had a credible offer of full amnesty and run whatever party they want, they might accept it. Of course if the offer came out of weakness they might see it as a sign of weakness and figure they could do better. But that might actually be the best they could do. Face some private vendettas but no official persecution, have a real voting block in an honest democratic government.... I don't see they can do better unless we turn out to be strong enough to hand the country back to them, and that looks unlikely to me too.

The second factor is the extent to which the insurgents or occupied populations actually believe the promises of the occupier.

True. I figure Bush has no credibility at all with them. If Kerry comes in and we're still strong enough they can't ignore us, would they believe him? If he said the right things and backed them up? Maybe. I don't think it's impossible. If we're too weak at that point then anything reasonable would look like concessions from weakness, which wouldn't get much response.

Iraqis suffered through almost 40 years of US imposed Ba’ath Party/Saddam Hussein rule and they are frankly quite skeptical as to US intentions in their country.

?? I'd figure it as closer to 10 years of US-imposed at most. Iraq was a soviet client until after the iranians dumped us. When we had iran we let iraq fall to the USSR by default, we didn't want them. It was only after Reagan needed an alternaive to iran that iraqis had their chance to become our puppets instead. And then iran/contra would have mostly ended it. We'd promised to help iraq in their war against iran, and the israelis reveal we helped them arm iran too.... By the time of the Gulf War it surely didn't look like we were imposing Saddam on iraq.

I can see they'd think of us as untrustworthy liars, but it doesn't look like 40 years of it to me. But your point stands.

Still, suppose that things haven't gone completely bad when Kerry takes over. Iraqis might take Kerry at his word until he proves otherwise. And he'd have options. The exile sunnis are lost without US support, and we can't afford to support them. We could perhaps buy them out instead of sell them out. Pay Allawy to run the elections he'll lose, pay his evacuation costs (assuming he wants to leave as I'd suppose) and pay him a big gratuity.

Let any party run for election. Have a plebiscite in each province whether to allow US troops in that province. In each city find some coalition of militias who's willing to guarantee the safety of polling places etc. If they oooperate in elections they get de facto recognition, and the chance to run for office, and the chance to get the US out without a fight. Maybe elections would mostly work.

Sunnis wouldn't control the government, but what chance do they have anyway, outnumbered 5:1 by other armed groups who may get outside support? Other iraqis are better off with sunnis having a big minority in the assembly than running a big insurgency -- if they see that and maybe agree to pardon everybody but Saddam, and if sunnis accept, it could perhaps work out. All three groups are better off with a representative government that lets them negotiate their differences, than they are with a series of wars. They might or might not see it that way. Particularly if the shia split into several parties that don't much get along, the others might feel they're better off horse-trading than fighting.

It's a series of uncertain possibilities, but I think there *is* still a chance it could work out. Maybe Kerry would have an opportunity to take some initiative that could let people act in their best interest. Coalition troops withdraw intact without major airstrikes, along with whichever exile iraqis or coalition collaborators want to go. Kurds get allies in case of a foreign invasion but not allies to help liberate other kurdish areas. Sunnis get peace and a say in government but not empire. Shia get peace and control when they all agree (but with luck they'll be fragmented enough or wise enough not to goad their minorities too much).

Sure it's a pipe dream, but I think it actually might have a chance. Of course, even in the best case (iraq quickly becomes a peaceful prosperous democracy with mostly free enterprise) american militarists would insist for at least the next 30 years that Jerry sold us out and if we'd just followed their plan we'd also have total control of iraqi oil and saudi oil and we'd have bases to invade iran and syria and get just as much success in those counries, and we'd have full democracies in jordan and egypt and all across north africa and points south, and eastward wherever there are moslems to indonesia and beyond. [shrug] You can't please everybody.

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

My apology if this has already been addressed.

I am personally unimpressed by Mr. Drezner's former student's rebuttal.

To begin with, noting the misspelled name seems rather beside the point. So what if the man juxtaposed two letters? Am I wrong in thinking this is nothing but a cheap swipe?

With regard to the multipolar/unipolar arguments, he seems to be missing where the realms of military might and diplomatic influence diverge. With the end of the cold war, no other nation can compare to the military strength of the US. Hence we live in a unipolar world. However, international diplomacy, particularly in the context of the UN, presents a less lopsided playing field. The veto power of the permanent members of the UN Security Counsel gives several other nations power that rivals our own. Hence, the multipolar world.

With this dichotomy in mind, Mr. Drezner's student's arguments about "balancing" (or lack thereof) take on the appearance of a straw man. Of course these nations are not allying against the US militarily - they could not hope to create a rival power for the foreseeable future. And why ally at all when only loosely cooperating will get them equivalent results?

Finally, I too am little comforted by much of the current administration's policies and players. But I believe their successes regarding Libya, keeping the WTO together, and the Taliban’s removal will allow history to show them as minimally competent. Only a bit of revisionism would be so kind to the failures of Albright and company.

posted by: Anthony Davidson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"I'm still uneasy about making this choice, because I remain unconvinced that Kerry understands the limits of multilateral diplomacy."

I would think about the matter this way: What could Kerry possibly do to convince you that he does understand them? What could any challenger do, for that matter, to reassure you of this? Until you actually do the diplomacy how can you possibly know where the limits are?

If we had asked the same question about George W. Bush in the year 2000 we would have had absolutely no way of answering it.

Perhaps you should rephrase the question this way: When John Kerry reaches the limits of multilateral diplomacy, what will he do then?

This is why the three debates were of first importance: How does the man behave when he is going in clearly at a disadvantage? The answer to the question appears, on the face of it, to be: much better than expected.

Conversely, George Bush behaved exactly as expected when going in clearly at an advantage:

He managed the "gentleman's C" and that just barely.

Has he managed the country any better? If Bush's record were in your pile of class papers, what grade would you give it?

posted by: Joseph Marshall on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Democrat Dan and Jarret,
Everyone else believed that Iraq had WMD including the French and the Germans. The U.S. , England, Australia, Italy, Poland etc. thought it required action. France, Germany and Russia, flush with oil for food bribes decided it did not. It's not crying wolf if everybody else agrees there's a wolf even if you're all wrong. If we did try to put together a coalition to take out Iran's nuclear program would anyone doubt they had one?
Now, answer my arguments. I assert that Kerry will move money away from missile defense and forward projections of force in favor of homeland security because it matches his base and his geopolitical inclinations. Your reply is?
I assert that Kerry's team will be Clinton retreads who couldn't even predict the Intifada when they had been meeting with Arafat for years. And that their shortsightedness there and with regard to North Korea is more damning than temporary set backs in Iraq.
I assert that between Bush and Kerry, Bush presents a more credible threat to Iran and Syria than Kerry because he's led a war for regime change which Kerry now says he opposes.
I also argued that Bush has better proposals to encourage people to become more self-reliant citizens while still addressing basic social needs.
There is a lot of naysaying about Iraq now and things could be better, but things are moving in a positive direction and they will coninue to move in a generally upward trajectory if we have the courage to soldier on.

The Elephant

posted by: The Elephant on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

You are a brilliant guy, thoughtful, considered, and well meaning. I say the follwing with all appropriate respect for your intellect and integrity: you are thinking about this WAY too much and in WAY too much detail.

You cannot predict what a President Kerry would do. You cannot anticpate the challenges he will face. You cannot imagine the crisis that will be thrown in his lap.

You have two choices: Bush, on whose first term you can judge the man, his methods, and his principles, and Kerry, on whose thirty years in political life you may do the same.

Make the call. There is no amount of objective reasoning that will make it easier or more clear.

Oh, and in case it matters, we will respect you either way.

posted by: too many steves on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I'm glad the Young Doctor and I agree somewhat on the cultural front. I think we are a little bit beyond the "culture wars" inaugerated by 60s. There actually was a "discourse" in the mainstream culture then, a class of real "public intellectuals" who made a difference. Norman Mailer and Susan Sontag and Joan Didion (who recently wrote a wonderful essay for the New York Review of Books called "Politics in the 'New Normal' America" which you might enjoy) et al. became famous and were respected. What they said had depth, mattered, and made a difference. I know you won't like my examples and you will say I'm indulging in some kind of cultural nostalgia sentimentality!

But the quotation you chose is a part of that tradition, too. I like it very much.

The truth is, most young people and many (but not most) many people in Middle America can't read a newspaper article today, much less an essay or a book written with the style and substance of a Mailer or a Sontag or a Didion or a José Ortega y Gasset (University of Chicago is exceptional, but I taught for four years at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and the situation there is grim, very grim). Not that we are even getting that kind of large-minded cultural/social/political criticism; instead, we have blogs.

In any case, I still hold that four more years of Bush will only result in the further undoing of any kind of smart mainstream culture in America -- the complete erasure of whatever little exists. Europe may be inconsequential in every other way, but it is far ahead of America in every cultural aspect.


Nobody seems to realize that establishing democracy in the Mid-East is essentially a cultural enterprise -- it will absolutely not be accomplished by military means alone. Culturally, Arab countries are more drawn to European cultures, which generally respect their own. This is another reason why the alliances are so important. We will not succeed there without the authority and the experience of world culture.

The more fundamentalist America becomes the less of a chance we have of establishing any kind of democracy in the Mid-East. The mission is already doomed. There is total cultural misunderstanding and lack of cultural respect on both sides. The Bush administration could care less that almost all of Iraq's cultural treasures were looted and destroyed -- there was absolutely no plan in place to guard them from the civil chaos unleashed with the fall of the Iraqi regime. A fundamentalist "faith-based" America will never win "the hearts and the minds" of Arab populations. Never.

posted by: Paolo10019 on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

David Thomson trolled, "Gee whiz, I noticed that you conveniently ignore that at least a third of John Kerry’s supporters like George Soros consider Israel as an apartheid nation."

So what? I consider israel an apartheid nation. Given their mission, it's appropriate for them. You're making it sound like it's some big moral issue, and like we're supposed to pretend it isn't so *because* it's a moral issue. This is like Orwell's double-think.

Anyway, Kerry/Edwards's platform outBush's Bush about zionism. The Kerry supporters who don't like israel support Kerry anyway, because Bush is so much more awful about all the other issues. If they thought that justice for palestinians was the only issue then they'd vote for Nader who took a stand about that. It looks like a lot of arab-americans *are* voting for Nader on the logic that Kerry isn't offering them much, so they might as well be swing voters and go to Nader rather than vote for Kerry anyway.

So what's your point? Do you figure Kerry will go directly against his campaign promises to be nice to his supporters (that you estimate as around a third) who voted for him even though he made no such offer? And maybe offend the other 2/3?

I think you're trying to do some kind of smear, but I'm lost on the logic of it. Are you trying to convince stupid zionists who can't follow logical arguments? Or is it one of those things where you can't explain your real position in public because it would look so bad, but you figure the others who know the secret score will understand what you mean even though you can't afford for regular people to hear it? Did you not see yourself what's missing here? Or have I just missed it?

You claim that evil anti-zionists support Kerry, therefore....

If I said that a third of Bush supporters are evil dixiecrats so therefore Bush will reinstate segregation, it would make as much sense as your troll.

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The Elephant:

Everyone else believed that Iraq had WMD including the French and the Germans. The U.S. , England, Australia, Italy, Poland etc. thought it required action. France, Germany and Russia, flush with oil for food bribes decided it did not. It's not crying wolf if everybody else agrees there's a wolf even if you're all wrong

That's not accurate. Various intelligence agencies around the world said that Saddam might have the WMD. They did it for a lot of reasons. This doesn't mean that they really believed it. And for sure it doesn't mean that the people believed this.

I'll give you an example from my country – Israel. Here the government told us that Saddam might hit us with chemical or biological weapon if he would see that he is going to fall. So they order us to open the gas masks that each of us has at home (since 1990). But many people, including me, didn't believe them, and we have our sealed gas mask to prove it.

Now, why did the intelligence services told that they thought Saddam have WMD? Some of this was to be on the safe side (especially after they underestimated Saddam capabilities in 1991, and after 9/11). In Israel it was also because our government wanted the US to invade Iraq (and I am afraid that in a year or two they will regret it very much). Maybe other services felt a hidden pressure from the US to come to this conclusion (like the pressure the CIA probably felt from the administration).

posted by: eman on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


Glad I could get a rise out of you.

I asked you to tell us “specifically”, what you found in your “thorough examination” (your words) of John Kerry's record on foreign policy/national security that propels you to believe that he has a strong record in that area.

If I can sum up, the specifics you cite are the following:

1. Kerry’s policy ideas are “more thoughtful and well reasoned”.

2. You agreed with Kerry’s unilateral nuclear freeze idea in the early 1980’s because, according to you, the Soviet Union was going to collapse with or without Reagan’s defense buildup and the world is a better place when there are less nuclear weapons even if they are in the hands of the US.

3. Kerry was right that we shouldn’t have gone into Vietnam.

4. Kerry was wrong for voting against the first Gulf War.

5. You invoke as the dispositive source for whether Kerry’s had an adequate voting record on defense issues.

Taking them one at a time:

1. I won’t spend much time on your first point because I think that it is a subjective viewpoint and has no facts or examples backing it up. It will come as no surprise to you that in my opinion I think that John Kerry has demonstrated himself to be a thoughtless, unserious and naïve thinker in the area of foreign policy/national security. Worse still, he has shown himself a ruthlessly opportunistic politician in this area, one that even the most ruthless politicians don’t normally politicize.

2. In responding to my point about Kerry’s opposition to Reagan’s military build-up in the 1980’s you chose only to focus on the nuclear arms issue. You were honest to admit that you agreed with Kerry’s nuclear freeze idea, although you supported Reagan. I will simply say that I wish that Kerry would be as honest as you and admit that he supported a unilateral nuclear freeze. Instead, he has denied it through his campaign, but he did in fact support the freeze. As for you view that it was the right thing to do I can only say that I think that that places you in a very small minority of Americans, but again, kudos for admitting it. M. Kerry opposed much more than the nuclear arms build up. He opposed missile defense, the much of Reagan’s conventional arms build-up and the deployment of Pershing missiles in Europe to name a few. Most importantly to me is my belief, based upon statements made by him in those days, that he didn’t perceive Soviet Communism as the scourge that it was. He was in the “realist” co-existence camp. As for your view that the Soviet Union would have collapsed regardless of what Reagan had done (and therefore Kerry’s bad judgment wasn’t really that bad), suffice it to say that I reject this kind of convenient revisionism and would suggest that you give more thought to the principles of cause and effect before you reject the impact that Reagan’s build-up had on the situation in the Soviet union. Bread lines or not, prior to Reagan the Soviet’s were busily trying to expand their rotting (evil) empire.

3. Although I did not touch upon whether we should have gone into Vietnam in the first place this is what you decided to focus on in defending John Kerry’s well- known advocacy of an immediate pull-out of Vietnam in 1971
Let’s remember, our discussion was whether Kerry has a record that instills confidence in the area of foreign policy/ national defense. Putting aside whether we should have been in Vietnam in the first place, we were there when John Kerry advocated we immediately withdraw in 1971. He opposed Vietnamization (the plan to arm, train, equip and support the South Vietnamese in order for them to protect themselves from the Viet Cong) and eventually we did pullout and abandon Vietnamization as a policy. John Kerry got his way. The result? Millions of innocent deaths in Southeast Asia - genocide. In his debate with John O’Neill on Dick Cavett in 1971 Kerry specifically scoffed at the notion that an immediate unilateral US pullout would lead to the very carnage that John O’Neill predicted and which did happen. You have to remember that by 1971 everyone thought we should get out of Vietnam, but there were differing views on how. It was the “peace at any price” hip/glib/smug crowd versus the “peace with honor” establishmentarian squares. And I feel very confident that had you been listening to John Kerry on that show in 1971 scoffing and condescending at O’Neill’s concern that the wrong kind of pullout would lead to a slaughter of millions you would have found Kerry more thoughtful and reasonable.

4. You agree with me on the first Gulf War, yet somehow this egregious misapprehension by Kerry of the geopolitical implications of Saddam’s move into Kuwait doesn’t seem to give you much concern.

5. As for, I am well aware of them and it is my view that the FTC should investigate them for false and misleading advertising. They do not have the franchise on “facts”. I am also well aware of the “Kerry- really-does-have-a-strong- defense-record-as-a-Senator-it’s-just obscured-by-the-inscrutable-procedures-of-the-Senate-that-the-little people-can’t-grasp” argument. Um, sorry, but that is a load of nonsense. This man is running for president. If for example he advocated a serious reduction or elimination of a critical defense program while he was a Senator (which he did many times), lost on a vote for that proposal and then voted ultimately for the final defense bill which contained what he first proposed be cut (which he likely did to get the same political cover that factcheck seems all too ready to provide him with), then, if we have any intellectual honesty, it can be assumed that a President Kerry might have accomplished what a Senator Kerry could not. That “fact” has obfuscated this simple concept under the guise of getting to the “real” facts is an affront to critical thinking people.

I want to also address your apparent belief that John Kerry has “changed” even though it seems almost unnecessary in light of the fact that you agree with many of what he has stood for in the past. If I thought that John Kerry had changed perhaps I wouldn’t feel as strongly as I do that it is imperative that this man not become the next president…it would be a disaster. But he hasn’t changed. The nuclear freezenik Kerry of 1984 is the anti-nuclear bunker buster John Kerry of today. The “Soviet-communism.-Central-American-Marxism-isn’t-that-big-a-deal” Kerry of the 80’s is the same John Kerry revealed in Matt Bai’s NYT Magazine article of a few weeks ago who completely doesn’t get it regarding Islamic terrorism. The John Kerry who voted against the first Gulf War in 1991 is the John Kerry of today that foolishly thinks that he can use diplomacy to get allies, and non-allies, to cooperate with us, while those same parties are getting payola from Oil-for-Food to not cooperate with us. And the John Kerry of 1971 that lied about and politicized what was going on in Vietnam to advance his political aspirations is the John Kerry of today that is lying about and politicizing the Iraq war in order to advance his political ambitions.

What struck me most about your response was that it was clear to me that you really don’t see the war on terror as the central issue of our time. And that, more than anything I can think of, is why you can swallow a Kerry presidency. I refer to your “go git them there terrorist” remark and the sarcasm behind the “our precious war on terror” remark. I think you are disdainful of people that feel that terror is priority one. And of course, as the “go git” remark reveals, intellectually superior to rubes that actually think that Iraq is tied to the comprehensive war on terror. Well, shazzam Darin, I sure does hope you kin apursheeate that we all figger its a smart strategery.

Lastly, do I think that we should spread democracy to the rest of the world? Not necessarily. When we are threatened we must. I think it would be the height of foolishness to invade a country that we perceive as a threat and then allow a government to rise up that is similar to the one that posed the threat in the first place. I am unmoved by the mindset that thinks this is wrong for us to do. We are a peaceful country, long suffering with tyrants and tin-horn dictators. But when you cross the line and become a threat to us I believe we manifestly have the right to eradicate that threat in the short run through force, and in the long run through regime change.

posted by: jim on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Eman there is still a couple thousand of liters of diverse chemical agents that Saddam regime said it had, but that UN didnt found... btw 1 or 2 trucks can transport all of that.

Or the bizarre recent scare news from UN about some nuclear missing components...Saddam stuff is only dangerous when the spin can damage Bush.

posted by: lucklucky on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Dont let the 24hr news(bombs/hostages) news mask the strategic issues, they can pop up 2 bombs a day for next 5 years and achieve nothing . The news only catch the booms, dont catch Iraquis working, building, schools. Do we know how is the sewage, energy or other things going?"

Riiight. Because the footage of car bombs going off in the "safe and secure" Green Zone must be lying. Wait! Maybe they've been doctored from the Hollywood libs!

What is truly ironic about your media paranoia regarding news coverage is that American news media IN GENERAL has become so beholden to the corporations that it is on the verge of yellow journalism, the like that has not been seen since the Spanish-American War.

American media is so watered down, filtered, and defanged that the American public is spared the true ugliness of what is really going on in Iraq. Recall the network anchors hooting and cheering as they were embedded in the US military during the invasion, waving American flags, and yet still claiming to remain objective! Who would have thought that we'd have a media culture that is so complacent and willing to promote the government status quo at the expense of informing the American public as a check against government abuse of power?

Try watching news sources from around the world and seeing just what the American outlets won't show you. Try the BBC for some Euro point of view and try watching some of the arab networks covering Iraq's affairs while embedded among the Iraqi resistance. Ever wonder why US news networks never report on civilian casualties and never show the true cost of war on the ground? What they DO show is explosions from a distance and tracer fire at night...very Hollywood and no doubt great for ratings but hardly useful in reporting the reality of the war effort and giving the public an objective view. 10,000 US casualties aside from deaths in Iraq...why does the government not report this figure? Why does the media not do so? The maimed Iraq War amputees are being pushed aside and ignored just like they were in Vietnam.

Yeah, you tell them about sewage and energy in Iraq -- both of which are in a sad, sad state of affairs right now. Your views are so typical of the chickenhawk armchair generals who have never participated in war -- gung ho for the war as long as it's someone else doing the dying.

You want to be a patriot? The US Army is in dire need of more recruits right now, and don't give me any bullshit about your age...the reservists have members up to 60 yrs of age and they're basically active duty right now for Iraq rotations. It's time the chickenhawk neocons take part in their own wars and grab a rifle. Amazing that the common thread among these nutcases is they themselves are the first to avoid military service during wartime. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Cheney, Bush...all cowards when the chips were down.

posted by: Independent Centrist on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Gosh darn it, somebody else is starting to see things my way:

“Now although there are many reasons one might want to vote for John F. Kerry, remembering Jerusalem — remembering to stand up for the state of Israel — is not among them. It is true that Kerry's campaign pronouncements have been unexceptionable from the pro-Zionist point of view. Yes, he flip-flopped on the miles of trenches and fences Israel is building to defend itself from the plague of terrorism, first attacking the structure as "another barrier to peace," then accepting it as "a legitimate act of self-defense."”

---Martin Peretz

Alas, Peretz is perhaps unwilling to describe Jews supporting John Kerry as Uncle Toms---but he may get there eventually. Let’s give him a little more time.

posted by: David Thomson on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Electricity is in sad shape."

This may be true, but it tells us nothing. Reports I have heard say the supply is down in areas Saddam favored but for the country as a whole is 2X prewar levels.

And my liberal friends please tell me:

How many American lives and dollars is it worth to liberate the women of Afghanistan and Iraq? Have we already paid too much?

How much butchery by the next thug government in Iraq would be acceptable if no more Americans had to die there?

10,000? 100,000? 1,000,000? How bout a nice round Cambodian number like 2,000,000? Would that be OK?

When did liberals stop being liberal?

It is a damn shame I have to go to Bush and the "conservatives" for a liberal foreign policy.

So be it.

posted by: M. Simon on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Why don't I hear from liberals their thug list and which thug ought to be next?

What ever happened to good old liberal nation building?

You have Iraq. What are you going to build with it. It may not be what you wanted, but you have it. What are you going to build?

What ever happened to a muscular liberal foreign policy? Democracy too good for the wogs?

posted by: M. Simon on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Kerry lied about his military service, e.g, Cambodia. Now he is making stuff up about the draft and social security. Why even think about voting for him? You can not trust him to ever tell the truth. Integrity, integrity, integrity???

posted by: Walt on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"And my liberal friends please tell me:

How many American lives and dollars is it worth to liberate the women of Afghanistan and Iraq? Have we already paid too much?

How much butchery by the next thug government in Iraq would be acceptable if no more Americans had to die there?

10,000? 100,000? 1,000,000? How bout a nice round Cambodian number like 2,000,000? Would that be OK?

When did liberals stop being liberal? "

LOL! Oh, this is priceless! The neocons are actually accusing the libs of not having hearts that bleed enough for the poor, poor repressed peoples of the world! Ha!

True conservatives of the Goldwater-Reagan strain see these nutcases for what they are: freak Wilsonian-Coolidge crossbreed liberal nation-builders who have some fantastic notions of reforming the entire world in their image through American hegemonic empire-building.

You neocons are so far left of the centrist New Dems it's pathetic! Time to pull your heads out of your asses and returning your attention to the domestic needs of the American people. We have no business jerking off in other countries when we have our own uninsured, unemployed, and repressed citizens in the USA.

Neocon nutcases are complete morons. They acuse liberals of not being liberal enough to buy into their nation-building pipedreams!

posted by: Independent Centrist on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Hey Thomson...I bring joyous news for you: 109 Palestinians have been killed in the latest Israeli raids.

Where are you going to celebrate? I believe some may even have been militants as well -- but heck, they're Palestinians and the only good Pal is a dead Pal!

I propose building that wall all the way around the Gaza and West Bank until they have all those Pals contained...get it? "Contained"? LOL! Maybe we can even make lamp shades and bars of soap out of them. We can call the soap "Le Arafat". Wouldn't that be kosher!

posted by: Independent Centrist on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Former KGB, Soviet nostalgic, former commie and current despot, Putin, has now thrown his support behind Bush:§ion=news

Birds of a feather, as they say...

posted by: Independent Centrist on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Well Ind. Centrist i am a portuguese in Portugal

Let me ask you a question in 70´s begin of 80's Italy lost a prime minister and hundreds of italians died because of a terrorist campaign. Did
they won anything ? was the bomb campaign a sign of widespread resistance or was a very fanatical active minority? if comon iraquis dispise the help, why they are joining the police and other civil services that terrorists feel they need to make a terror campaign against Iraquis and win by fear?

posted by: lucklucky on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

J Thomas,

The forty years of Ba’athist/Saddan Hussein comment of mine was related to the assistance that the CIA provided Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party in the years leading up to and including the 1963 coup d’etat that left Abdul Karim Qassim dead and the Ba’ath Party in charge of Iraq. In the days after this coup, Saddam—who had been living in exile in Egypt and Lebanon following his participation in a previous assassination attempt on Qassim--was flown back to Iraq and put in charge of al-Jihaz al-Khas, the clandestine Ba'athist intelligence organization. Several lists of known members of the Iraqi Communist Party were handed to Saddam by his US handlers and what followed can only be described as a bloodbath, between 5,000-10,000 Iraqi secular, pro-western leftists and their families were slaughtered, many by Saddam himself. A year or so later the Ba’ath party split and Saddam’s faction lost power and he spent several years in jail before escaping in 1967 to plot a new coup.

The evidence of CIA involvement in the 1968 coup that actually brought Saddam to de facto power is less persuasive, but nevertheless substantial and still believed throughout Iraq. As usually happens in these cases, the coups backfired, Saddam soon turned on us, and in 1972, he signed a friendship treaty with the Soviets and nationalized the Iraq Petroleum Company. The original motivation for the coups that installed the Ba’ath Party in power was to prevent these two events from ever happening. These moves by Saddam followed the death of Egyptian leader Gamel Abd Nassar, who at that point was widely regarded as the head of the Arab world and these actions were seen at the time as an attempt by Saddam to claim that title for himself. In response to Saddam's actions, the US, Israel and Iran started flooding arms into the Kurdish areas; included in the shipments were encouragements for the Kurds to start a rebellion against Saddam. This happened in 1974 and went on for about a year before the Shah started getting nervous about an independent Kurdistan on his frontiers and convinced America to change course. Arms shipment stopped and the Kurdish militias, exhausted after the year of fighting, were running low on ammunition. Sensing their vulnerability, Saddam sent the Iraqi Army into Kurdistan and slaughtered thousands of Kurds while 40,000 were forced into exile in Iran.

The history of Saddam’s rise to power is well known in Iraq and colors their perceptions of what America is doing on the ground there today. When they see the Allawis and the Shahwanis and other Neo-Ba’athists being placed in power, it resonated with their memories of Saddam and casts huge doubts on the US’s credibility as purveyors of democracy. One could certainly argue that you need thugs like these to put down an insurgency, but that renders the offers of democracy somewhat dubious, as does the talk of fourteen permanent military bases.

As for executing the actual war, I think a reality-based approach would be most fruitful. History has shown that military problems can be the most important and complicated that a human being is ever likely to face. That said, as I have implied further up in the string, the only way for a great power to “win” an insurgency war is to quickly accomplish whatever it is they need to get done, i.e. topple Saddam from power, and then withdraw as fast as possible. As soon as Baghdad fell we should have quickly moved to diengage and let the Iraqis get on with it themselves. Yes, there would have been inter-ethnic violence and many problems to deal with, but at the end of the day, at whichever point we do finally withdraw, the Iraqis are still going to have to face these problems. The critical benefit in withdrawing early—besides the obvious sparing of lives and treasure--is that there are still moderates around to help solve local problems rationally, and hopefully, peacefully. The rule of thumb regarding counter-insurgency wars is that they tend to radicalize the subject people, so that at the end of the day, when the Western power finally decides to cut its losses and leaves, only the radicals are left standing, and it is they who rule the country for decades to follow. Think of Vietnam, Algeria, Afghanistan, and Southern Lebanon, the radicals created by the insurgency wars are still in charge of these areas, even in Afghanistan radical warlords control 90% of the territory.

As for executing a voluntary withdrawal, I actually believe a faith-based (F-B) approach is more effective. Some of you F-B’ers out there can correct me on this, but as I understand it the F-B decision making process works something like this: first God the Heavenly Father takes a decision, he communicates this decision to his True Prophet on earth George W. Bush, who then enlightens his apostles; Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice et al. The faithful masses then fall over themselves finding ways to support the wise decision.

If it proves necessary to execute a voluntary withdrawal from Iraq, along the lines of France from Algeria, Israel from Southern Lebanon and the Soviets from Afghanistan, it would be much less traumatic for the country if George W. Bush were in power. All he has to say is that God, in all his infinite wisdom, has told him it is time to move the soldiers on to other tasks. His faith-based followers, by definition, are not allowed to question the True Word of God. The liberal reality-based world would not complain much, leaving only the more conservative reality-based factions licking their wounds. At the end, being reasonable people, they would see the logic in getting out of Iraq.

Please don’t take this as an endorsement of Bush however.

posted by: Kevin (de Bruxelles) on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

First of all, if this has already been said I apologize, but I could only make it through some of the comments - but the person worried about the draft is, well, falling for spin. The military will not allow a draft - ever again. That being said, using the military in combat will become more difficult in the future, as lots of people will get out if Kerry's elected. His 'plan' to recruit more SF isn't viable, by the way, for those of you who know nothing about the military - SF is constantly recruiting as it is with the current force requirements - an increase in numbers just isn't physically possible.
Secondly, that 'sharp student' may be a good student of economics, but s/he doesn't seem to know much regarding geopolitics - hegemony does NOT mean unipolarity. Nor does multipolarity require parity in military terms; the EU is a very strong economic bloc with little to offer by way of military projection. Whoever was cheering the presence of multilateral troops in Afghanistan should probably take a look at the numbers - France has about 700 troops there, and the Germans refuse to fight, they're engaged in 'stabilization,' don't you know!
Basically, Europe has too many commercial ties with the ME to want to upset the applecart, so anyone who thinks France and Germany didn't go into Iraq with the US because of 'failed diplomacy' has their own alternate version of reality. If you think popularity in the world is important (hey look Sudan and Libya are on the Human Rights Commitee at the UN!) then perhaps you need to go back to highschool. And if you think repeating the failures of the Clinton administration in North Korea, with respect to Iran, is a smart idea, while at the same time ending development of small-load bunker busting nukes, then all I can say is don't admit your election choice in front of military folks, because we're the ones who'll have to deal with the problems while you lot sit around playing armchair generals.

posted by: Jean on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I see a number of comments here regarding a military Draft, and a good many people displaying an extreme ignorance of history.

A conscript military is no less capable than a volunteer one. The soldiers who fought and died on the beaches of Normandy, the sands of Iwo Jima, or the landing at Inchon were just as dedicated and just as resolved, as those fighting today. The quality of our army comes not from how the soldiers got their as it does from the intensity of the training and commitment to purpose.

Most of those who served in WWII and Korea were draftees. Many if not most of those who served in Vietnam were volunteers. It was not draftees that lost us the war in Vietnam, it was the leadership who put us there. The arrogance that we could do what the French could not when we understood even less of the reality on the ground and were even less willing to understand our part in it.

What diffentiates these battles was not the volunteer status of the armies, but the commitment to purpose both of the soldiers and of the leadership. And that is why the military pushed for the disbandment of the Draft. It had nothing to do with the quality of those who served. It had to do with the level of commitment of those who led.

The military disbanded the Draft largely for the purpose of limiting the easy availability of troops to send to war. By limiting the number of troops, they reduced the possibility of a President placing our military into a situation where they could not win, without a clear purpose and without clear support. Without a standing Draft, in order for the military to be deployed into a war zone for an extended commitment, it would require the President going to the American people and asking for them to give up their sons and daughters to the cause. We have today a military that is composed of first responders. It is large enough and strong enough to deploy to the hot zone to place the enemy in check, hopefully defeating them handidly but if not they will buy enough time while we call up new recruits back home and train them. It is not sized for extended campaigns. This is why 40% of those deployed to Iraq today come from Guard and Reserves.

In other words... America would have to be truly committed to the cause. It would have to be a situation in which the US interests lay in self-preservation. It would have to be a situation where we were clearly committed to win, where we would divert whatever resources were necessary to make that happen.

That is why we do not have a standing Draft.

It has nothing to do with volunteers being better than draftees. If there were today another power of the risk of Hitler, the military would be behind the restatement of a Draft, as would the President, the Congress and the American people.

No, if the need is there, there will be a Draft.

The only question today is which candidate will work hardest to prevent that need through means other than military.

I do not understand the response that GW Bush is out there making unequivocally denying a Draft. On one hand he says America must be committed to the war. On the other hand he says we can fight this on the cheap and we don't need to sacrifice anything.

Well which is it?

posted by: Steve on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Daniel, I think you have to make the rational choice. For a person in your professional position, voting for Kerry (or at least announcing that you're voting for him) is nearly mandatory.

Remember that you are a young untenured academic. Old, tenured academics will be passing judgement on you sooner or later and you want to minimize your opportunities to piss any of them off.

Given the remarkable professorial proclivity for Democrats, voting for Bush (even in secret) is fraught with grave risks. Announcing that you're voting for Bush is even worse.

Vote Kerry. It's the professional thing to do....

posted by: Don on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I know a number of missionaries working in Islamic countries. I have heard from them time and again that as long as Bush is in power they feel relatively safe working where they are. The one missionary has point blank stated that if Bush is not the president the Islamic extremists in the area will not hesitate in making their lives miserable or non-existent.
Bush like Reagan at least makes the other guy think about what he's about to do. I don't believe Kerry is going to put much fear into anyone who's decided the US is their enemy.

posted by: Rong on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Actually, Steve, volunteers do make better soldiers than conscripts. They enter the military knowing that their multi-year hitch is something they have chosen, and the military has great flexibility in keeping out people (for example, those who haven't made it through high school) who are less likely to make good soldiers.

The problem comes when the military is badly stretched and likely to remain so. It still does not need anything like the huge mass of men (and now women) that a draft would make available, but it needs more people than are now willing to volunteer. A severe recession would fix the problem; more generous incentives for enlisting could ease the strain. But the military is to some extent caught between two stools -- any draft that takes only a small percentage of eligible men and women is bound to be seen as arbitrary.

Like you, I would prefer the candidates address this situation frankly. But neither one of them are taking press questions and evidently will not for the duration of the campaign, nor will they incorporate this subject into their stump speeches. By campaigning in this way they will make things more difficult for the next President if military manpower needs turn out to be so great they can only be met through some form of conscription; he will not be able to claim a mandate for any idea he proposes to deal with the problem.

I apologize to Dan for yet another addition to what is already the mother of all threads.

posted by: Zathras on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

I apologize in advance if this gets a bit long...

The Elephant - Oh, I agree with you on the prediction that Kerry would move money away from Missile Defense. I would too. I just don't see what this unproven system would accomplish, I hear more talk about threats of small nuclear bombs being smuggled into NYC or DC, not threats of intercontinental ballistic missiles. And sure, there probably would be some administration officials who are recycled from the Clinton administration - why not, they did a fine job. For North Korea, make whatever arguments you want about Clinton just putting off the problem, it's only gotten worse on Bush's watch because he's automatically blacklisted them and tried shutting down diplomatic measures early on in his presidency, and it just got worse. Now, that he's got multilateral talks going, what is his plan? How is his plan not short-sighted even more so? Other issues - you claim that Clinton should have predicted the Intifada after years of meeting with Arafat... how was he supposed to do that? Eman responded to your arguments on WMDs well, so I'll leave that one alone. You can assert that Iraq had an intimidating effect on Iran and Syria, and I think that's just conjecture on your part, with little or nothing to suggest that this is the case. And for Iraq, sure, things are heading in the right direction there, so maybe we're winning the war in Iraq. But I, in turn, assert that we are no nearer to winning the war on terror because of Iraq, but since we're there now, we've gotta finish what we started. Essentially the same thing Kerry's been saying all along.

Too Many Steves - thanks for the compliments. Yeah, perhaps I'm rather keyed up about the whole politics thing this year and I'm overanalyzing, but I'm looking forward to things returning to normal when this is all over, regardless of who wins. I guess my concerns however are that Bush's view of the Terror War is too simplistic, and that scares me. From all I've read and heard about all this, I trust Kerry far more than Bush. Anyway, thanks again for the comments, and let's pray we can all get along after the election regardless of who wins.

One more person to respond to - Walt, you mention a problem with Kerry's lack of integrity. True, I think all politicians are inheritantly untrustworthy to some degree or another, it's just a question of you do you trust less (or more), and who's social views and policies do you like more. But on the character issue, I think Bush's unethical treatment of science and intelligence is unacceptable. There are simply too many instances of where facts have been dictated by ideology, and not ideology being shaped by facts, in my humble opinion.

posted by: Democrat Dan on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Wrong. If there were a foe like Hitler today we would have a nuclear war, not a draft - stop trying to scare people. The US has enough troops, okay? The only reason the Guard is being called up is because of realignment - we should have used the nineties to posture the force correctly but Clinton had us debating gays in the military and senior Army leadership let us down as well. There is a massive restructuring going on right now, hence the increased budget. No one is saying that a draftee army can't fight bravely, but a professional army is much better. Todays army has NO place for draftees - it's way too hightech. In fact, a British contingent recently visited TRADOC to learn what the US is doing via force restructuring; they said their biggest problem in the UK's army is computer illiteracy amongst recruits. I can assure you that that is nota problem in the US. Please stop the scaremongering about the draft - it is at best ignorance, but seeing the other tactics used by Kerry, a deliberate attempt to 'get the youth vote out.'

posted by: Jean on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

... of course, I assume you're voting in Illinois ... not really a swing state, is it?

but maybe you'll outsource your vote to a Nader supporter in a swing-state....

posted by: nbdy on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The draft talk is bogus. The advocates of the draft are advocating it for several reasons:

1> young people today are less anti-war then they were a generation or 2 ago; the belief is if they were subject to the draft like their bretheren was in the 60s/70s, they'd be more anti-war.

2> somehow a draft today would subject more people to the fighting in iraq than the "poor" and "minorties" are supposedly today. This doesn't pass the laugh test. Would anyone really expect Paris Hilton to be drafted?

3> They are advocating not a military draft but a requirement of government service by young Americans that transcends the military. Some of the wilder ideas is that all people aged 18-some cutoff age would have to work for 2-3 years for the government; kind of like Americorps but on a grander scale. Except presumably they'd be in the Army or something. So we'd have American soldiers drafted and ... well doing things that soldiers generally don't do.

When's Steve going to call for Rationing, A cards and the like? I mean we're at war people. Time to shut down the internet, because we need to ration electrical power and can't have people dilly dallying on blogs when a real war is going on.

posted by: h0mi on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

One other thing.

Would any of you want Paris Hilton in the army? How about in your command?

posted by: h0mi on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The decision comes down to a simple matter of who is looking forward to the future, and who is looking back longingly at the past. We have no choice but to move into the future. The past is not an option

Bush and the Republicans are, surprisingly, the party of idealism (in the good sense) and spreading of liberal (in the good sense) values throughout the world. Two of the worst regimes in history have been replaced with burgeoning democracies by this President, against the violent rants of the Democrats and many Republicans. It is due mostly to this one man's tenacity and faith in democracy that this was accomplished.

If we go back to the Kerry way of doing things, we will go back to 1979, to the Carter way of doing things, of begging mad mullahs for mercy, of apologizing for being the world's most successful democracy and economy, of looking weak to our enemies and giving them the green light for expansion and tyranny.

Sorry, Kerry, but we have nothing to apologize for. It's the rest of the world that is willing to prop up dictators in the name of stability, and to accept bribes from mass murderers to look the other way, and do nothing to save the millions of voiceless oppressed people that are being tortured to death, and sell nuclear bomb factories to insane theocrats. They should apologize to us!

All the Kerrys of the world want to do is form committees and hold summits and afternoon teas and put out statements of strong, strong disapproval of genocide, but let's not call it genocide. Then they'll recommend that people send emails expressing lack of enthusiasm to the generals who are chopping off women's arms for being not-muslim-enough.

If Kerry goes begging to the UN on his knees, then the war is already lost. I am not surrendering by voting for this billionaire gigolo whose only concern is getting into the White House, and after that who cares, as long as he is given what he is owed by fate. He is a narcissist who thinks the world owes him this.

And picking on Bush by pointing out flaws in the details (the looting, the prison abuse, miscalculations of cost) and not focusing on the big picture is plain foolish.

Do you think Kerry could have pulled this off at all? Let alone without some of the snafus that any military or even commercial endeavor will inevitably see? No way!

As for the arguments that we should have gotten the UN to "bring our allies together," the revelations of the Oil-for-Bribes scandal should convince any sane person that this approach would only have resulted in the eventual lifting of sanctions and the freedom to continue mass producing weapons of terror, uninspected.

Bush did the right thing to protect this country, and we need somebody who is willing to suffer the slings and arrows of loud-mouthed liberals to do it again.

On a side note, if so-called "disenchanted conservatives" think having Kerry take the reins is going to cause an improvement in the deficit, in taxes, in education, in ANYTHING, then they are smoking some bad weed.

And to top it all off, if you base your vote on anything Kerry says, you are just being gullible. He will say anything, make any pose, take any posture, to make you think you can vote for him. He is LYING! Why is that so hard for people to grasp?

In summation, I think Bush's accomplishments and his commitment to protect this country, and to install the seeds of democracy in the most hostile environments on earth have earned him a second term. If Kerry had even one such accomplishment in his long useless career (not even including the awful things he did beforehand), I haven't heard of it yet.

Be brave and don't vote for going back in time. It's an illusion. The future is scary, but it's all we have to deal with.

posted by: Korla Pundit on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

It's a given that President Bush has made mistakes.

It's a given that a "President Kerry" would make mistakes.

My issue with Kerry is that he seems in many ways to be dead set on repeating President Bush's mistakes, and making new, possibly worse ones.
Our fundamental problem in Iraq seems to be too much top-down imposition of "big projects" with "big goals". In other words, all the things that bug me about the US government at home. America in civilian accomplishes most tasks with a sort of "positive chaos". That is, you have millions of people every day making decisions that move us forward at a breathtaking clip. Mistakes get fixed quickly, and things move well. This even applies in our military: We run our military in such a way that we have more sergeants per soldier then any other army. That's because we expect our sergeants to make decisions that normally only officers in other armies make.

The government on the other hand, being huge and unwieldy, tries to accomplish everything from the top down with huge, overly structured "positive order" campaigns. Its slow, and mistakes drag out for months, years, or decades.

When we apply that to Iraq, we see a situation with out any "negative order", but much "negative chaos". Our initial approach to combating this was "positive order". The CPA had a lot of money to spend, and lots of bureaucracy, and paperwork. It took them forever to get anything done, so much so that much of the reconstruction money was unspent.

When the Iraqis took over, unfortunately, they're just as bureaucratic as we are, so things are still moving slowly a year later.

On the military front, any "response" takes the local military at least an hour of "staging". An hour which usually decides the situation one way or another. Again, big, massive, slow over-control of everything.

What is really needed in Iraq is some positive chaos. Unfortunately, outside of the military, no one in the civilian side has any experience in this sort of action. What we need are lots of small, focused actions. For instance, on every block, knock at the door of a guy on the corner and offer him $200 if by next week, the street is cleaned. Let him worry about how it gets done. Or one of the best things we could do is to fully fund each commanders discretionary fund since those funds have been tapped out at this point. (Can't remember the acronym for this.)

So those are my complaints about how the war has been run so far in Iraq.

Now if I look at the candidates, I really can't believe that Senator Kerry will be smart enough to abandon bureaucracy and top-down solutions in Iraq when he seems so focused on bureaucracy and top-down solutions in his domestic policies. So I see him repeating the same mistakes by promoting "big ideas" to "fix" Iraq. So it would be this huge reset of all the things we've learned in Iraq over the last year.

Since President Bush seems to believe in small-scale solutions in his domestic policy (which he calls "ownership"), my hope is that President Bush will be reelected, and start doing more small scale promotion in his foreign policy in addition to his domestic policy.

posted by: Opinionated Bastard on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

>For several YEARS now, when asked about Bin Laden, George Bush has used non-sequiturs and bromides such as "he has been marginalized. He's hiding in a cave. We're on the hunt. I'm not that concerned with him."

Come on. First of all, Bin Laden is dead, regardless of whatever disinformation we are encouraging to keep Al Qaeda underlings from choosing a new leader.

But assuming he was alive, what's Bush supposed to say? "Yes, we are searching here, here and especially here. Tomorrow will be doing X, Y and Z? You catch that OBL?!"

Bush is in a bad position in these debates because he is the current commander in chief during wartime. He can't tell you a fraction of the actions he has already ordered and intellingence that he would love to just blurt out on national TV.

The way Jimmy Carter spilled the beans about research on the Stealth Bomber.

Kerry can spout off any crap he feels will boost his daily numbers. It's the people who believe he is sincere that need to wake up.

posted by: Korla Pundit on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Get a grip Korla Pundit, and pull your head out of the sand.

posted by: Democrat Dan on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

What? You have no real argument beyond name-calling?

No wonder you like Kerry. Peas in a pod.

posted by: Korla Pundit on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Korla Pundit,
I can't believe I'm getting drawn into this.

If you want my opinions, read my earlier posts. I'm not going to address your comments because they're so radical that they blow my mind.

And if you want to call Kerry, myself or anyone else name-callers, then you should take a look in the mirror.

posted by: Democrat Dan on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

There is no way that a Kerry win will appear as anything less than a repudiation of the WoT the Bush Admin is fighting. It will definitely be a blow to the war effort (perception often turns into reality). Kerry can claim all he wants that this is not so, but he has been too critical of the war effort.

posted by: Ben on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Some thoughts on process, strategy, and execution:

1. Process

A few people have mentioned the Ron Suskind article on Bush's faith-based approach to policy: with sufficient resolve, anything is possible; the limitations imposed by reality can be disregarded. Juan Cole makes an interesting comparison, to Mao's Great Leap Forward:

Ron Suskind's profile of George W. Bush reminded me eerily of Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. Suskind portrays Bush as filled with unwarranted certainty, sure that God is speaking and working through him, and convinced that decisive action shapes reality in ways that make it unnecessary to first study reality.

This approach to policy-making, it seems to me, should be called Right Maoism. The History Learning Site reminds us that in 1958 Mao initiated what he called the "Great Leap Forward" with the aim of boosting both Chinese industry and agriculture, through the reorganization of China into over 25,000 communes.

Mao launched the Great Leap Forward with the phrase "it is possible to accomplish any task whatsoever." (Compare to the Suskind quote of a Bush aide, from the summer of 2002: "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality--judiciously, as you will--we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.")

The Great Leap Forward was a disaster. Nobody wanted to tell Mao that things were going badly. The resulting famine killed 15-30 million people.

Resolve is important, but it's also vitally important to pay attention to the limitations imposed by reality. The ability of the United States to reshape the politics of the Middle East is limited. As Charles Burton Marshall wrote in 1953:

I stress the obvious but often overlooked externalness of foreign policy. The fundamental circumstance giving rise to foreign policy is that most of the world is outside the United States. The areas in which our foreign policy has its effects are those lying beyond the range of our law. They include about fifteen-sixteenths of the world's land surface and contain about sixteen-seventeenths of its peoples. We cannot ordain the conditions there. The forces do not respond to our fiat. At best we can only affect them.

2. Strategy

Liberating the Middle East and allowing the people there to create free and prosperous societies is certainly an admirable goal. But is it a feasible goal?

A realistic strategy must balance ends and means. The resources at the disposal of the United States are limited. Does the US have sufficient resources to attain such an ambitious goal? Given that nine out of ten active divisions in the US army are now committed to Iraq, I would suggest that the answer is evidently no. It's not easy to maintain a large army overseas, a long way from home, in an alien and hostile environment.

Even if it's eventually possible to stabilize Iraq--which I certainly hope happens, either under Bush or Kerry--to evaluate the decision to go into Iraq, you need to look at both the costs and the benefits. There were certainly major benefits to overthrowing Saddam Hussein. But I think the costs have been much, much too high.

I would suggest that a less ambitious strategy is required. Kerry's "global manhunt" strategy for the war on terror--isolate, hunt down, and kill al-Qaeda--may not be as inspiring as Bush's strategy of liberating and reshaping the Middle East. But if it's feasible, and the liberation strategy is not, I would argue that it's time to change strategies.

3. Utopian strategy, bad execution

How does this relate to execution? Even if the strategy of "liberating the Middle East, starting with Iraq" was too ambitious, was it inevitable that the execution of the war in Iraq would be so screwed up? Why was the postwar planning so grossly inadequate? (The anecdote from the Knight-Ridder story which really kills me: the briefing slide on the post-war plan which said "To Be Provided." This was a few days before the war started.) If there's any Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans reading this, this bit of dialogue (from the early episode "The Harvest") provides one possible explanation:

Xander: Okay, so, crosses, garlic, stake through the heart.

Buffy: That'll get it done.

Xander: Cool! Of course, I don't actually have any of those things.

Buffy: (hands him a cross) Good thinking.

Xander: Well, the part of my brain that would tell me to bring that stuff is still busy telling me not to come down here.

posted by: Russil Wvong on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Thanks to all for the comments. I've posted a partial response here to many of the arguments made in this thread.

posted by: Dan Drezner on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]


I’m not sure the Culture Wars are really over. Your preoccupation with the Religious Right tells me otherwise. The reformist Left may have taken the Gramscian high ground in the cities and universities, but the Right is still conducting a very successful Maoist insurgency everywhere else. Maybe it’s time to call a truce. We have other problems now.

I’m glad you liked my quote. How could I not quote José Ortega y Gasset when talking about generational conflict? Remember that he said the most important intergenerational dynamic in society is the conflict between the group aged 30-45 and group aged 50-65. If he’s right (and I think he is), the conflict between Boom and X is just heating up and should peak just after the 2008 elections.

I don’t think that X will ever share the Boom's enthusiasm for writers like Norman Mailer and Susan Sontag. I think we’d do better to read Isaiah Berlin and Karl Popper; it might help to refine our unfocused cynicism into a more civilized skepticism. Paul Johnson's historical writings also have the appropriate curmudgeonly attitude.

posted by: Y. Doctor on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The Bush Administration also leaked a date by which most of our troops would be home from Iraq. (You can even deduce it from the rotation schedules, as they were known at the time.) The date was Xmas. Xmas 2003.

Instead of acknowledging that the Bush Administration didn't have a clue how to handle the postwar period (did you see the article that the relevant Power Point slide was "To Be Provided"!), its supporters continue to claim its infallibility. The truth is, that says more about their own psychological needs to be cared for by the stern but correct father than anything having to do with the situation on the ground—and here's the proof. Every single statement they make about our "success" in Iraq can be transformed into an equally cogent argument that the Soviets were winning in Afghanistan, with the most naive word processor Replace Script. The Soviets also had a relatively easy run at the beginning, and they also brought more electricity. Actually, we're still behind on electricity, water, personal safety, and many other issues, probably more behind than the Soviets and their puppet government in Kabul ever were. But the Soviets weren't winning. Nor are we.

Clap louder, clap louder. If you want to know the depths of irresponsibility of the Boy Leader, turn from Iraq for a moment. What happened to the surplus he promised to protect (yeah, there's always a good excuse). After the recession, after 9/11, he still said the deficit would be small and short-lived. They're liars, they're clueless, and they're fanatical. Turning them out of office is the most important electoral choice of your lifetime and probably always will be.

posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The evidence is overwhelming and the Jury is in and has a verdict. If this political debate ended up in a court room, George Bush would be convicted and be sharing a cell with Martha Stewart.

It totally has to do with factual evidence against Bush and circumstantial evidence against Kerry. Putting it in courtroom terms. What has Bush done the last 4 years compared to what Kerry would do if elected in the next 4 years.

George Bush is the one on trial not Kerry. Bush is on trial for why should we give him another 4 years when he has no defense for his first term in office. IF it was so cut and dry that George Bush was a great president then there wouldn't be any of these discussions going on period. Just for a second lets forget about the economy, and jobs and healthcare. "The War" There are no words that can come out of George Bush's mouth that can justify the results of a very bad decision of proceding with the attack on Saddam and of liberating Iraq. If we weren't talking about oil then we wouldn't be having this conversation right now. Because there wouldn't be a war. For anybody that reads this post and feels that we are not fighting this war in Iraq because of oil you are most definately not educated on our government's policies in dealings with the middle east for several decades.

Lets see let me throw out a few pieces of that factual evidence. 1. Bush lectures Kerry on fiscal responsibility when he hasn't vetoed not 1 spending bill since he has been in office. 2. over 1000 american troops have been killed in a war that shouldn't have hapened in the first place since the man Osama bin Laden who is responsible for 9/11 is still alive and running his terror network. Oh and lets not forget that No WMD's were found. Let me repeat that one more time !!!! No WMD's were found in Iraq. 3. Even with the undisputed relationship with Middle Eastern Oil that the Bush Family and friends have in most places gas is at $2 a gallon or more. So that means profits are through the roof, and the crippling effects on this economy are taking its toll. 4. The Republican controlled government voted to raise Medicare 17%. 5. Oh my goodness. How about the Largest deficit in this countries history, and no end in site on fixing it. 6. Ok lets not forget the Bush regime's relationship with Keneth Lay and the catostrophic collapse of Enron. All this wonderful news about how well we are doing errrr I mean how great the war in Iraq is errrrrr How great and strong our economy is errrrrr .

How can anyone disregard what has gone on the last 4 years and try and speculate how the next 4 years will go when Kerry is elected President.

For every mistake Bush has made there is an arrogant denial. Yes are current President is very arrogant. {Mistakes, I haven't made any mistakes} Well George yes you have. And the fact that when you were asked that question in the 2nd debate and you completely dodged the question by saying if you (relating to the person who asked the question and the audience and america), believe that my deciding to go to war in Iraq was a mistake I say I firmly stand behind my decision to go to war. Even after all of the evidence points to the fact that there should have been a different course of action.

2 more points I would like to make.

First point is for anyone who says that peoples opinions around the world doesn't matter. You must relate to Bush's arrogance. United states economy, trade, import, export, Business in general is a world issue. Lets see how many people own clothing or products made in CHINA, Singapore, Bangladesh, India, etc. etc. Where has the made in america tag gone. For the majority of the worlds view just recently talked about in the news they favor the United States of America but dislike the leader of the free world. I think that is pretty strong testimony.

My final point is about Religion. Yes I think faith is important. What ever your faith may be if it promotes the goodness of humanity. Be good to each other kind of stuff. But let me take a line from a very famous comdedian by the name of "Chris Rock" in his latest stand up act. This sums up politics in a nut shell. The words on a dollar bill say IN GOD WE TRUST. And that GOD just happens to be the GOD of MONEY. For a group of politicians namely Conservative Republicans saying that they are for smaller government is the biggest hipocracy that exists today. Their every existence is OF MONEY BY MONEY AND FOR THE SAKE OF MONEY. For the bulk of middle class america that is voting for bush or who believes they have conservative values. You might want to rethink your beliefs. Money is the sole driving force of politics. And if you have the money you have the power.

So when a current president stands up in front of the american people and tells lies and backs that up with arrogance. And then throws the Faith card in there as well. Where faith has no place in politics. It doesnt have a place in business. Oh politics is business, what a concept there. He needs to be fired as CEO of the United States of America. 1 issue doesn't matter. We need to decide about all the issues because all of the issues matter as a whole. So if you think George Bush has been a Good CEO then by all means vote for him.

posted by: alanb on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

A common argument in this list is that it is too soon to call Iraq a failure. War is messy and chaotic and the present administration can't be blamed if things don't go according to plan.

I can accept that. What I cannot accept that this administration did not do their due dilligence in preparing. You don't put together a plan because you expect everything to follow to the letter. You put together a plan because it gets you prepared and better able to handle what comes up.

What we got instead was a war in Iraq that was fed to us with whichever sales pitch would work and not the real reasons for going. (Who knew then that America policy would be to preemptively start wars specifically to change governments in other countries?)

We were told that it would be quick, painless, and cheap. It has not been. I would have no problem with any of that if we had been spoken to honestly about what was happening. I would have no problem with that if we had been asked to sacrifice. The biggest sacrifice we've been asked to make still is to go shopping. We can't sacrifice some of our tax cuts or spending programs to accomplish our goals.

With control over both Congress and the White House, if the GOP plan were as sound as we are led to believe, we should be in a better position than this.

Where's the spending restraint? Where is the sacrifice? I have to say that I don't think the people running the show are adult enough in their approach to be given a second chance. When a Bush appointee resigns citing a lack of policy apparatus in the administration and that the political arm runs everything, I am inclined to run and hide. I don't think either party has a lock on what's right for America, but this administration is going to cram their agenda down our throats as though losing the popular vote implies a clear mandate.

These are all my thoughts on this election before I get to the issue that will drive my vote as long as the Repubs make it an issue: gays. To be pushing a wedge issue and hoping to have it carry the day in the battleground states is despicable. I see no point in defending or spreading freedom for others when they would so gladly take some away from me.

posted by: CG on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Jean said, The military will not allow a draft - ever again.

The military should not have allowed the iraq invasion. The military should not have allowed the low-budget/low-manpower occupation. But they did. A few officers objected and got fired, a few honorably resigned, most went along even though they had strong reason to think it was likely to lead to disaster.

Why wouldn't the military go along with a draft, if the draft was presented to them with the same small carrots and large sticks as the iraq fiasco?

They object, the objectors get fired, a few of them resign, and the rest prepare to deal with a draft. Why do you think they'd be less craven about that than they were about iraq?

We've conclusively seen that the military doesn't control policy. The CinC controls policy. When Rumsfeld told his generals they couldn't ask for more troops, and then he told the media that the generals thought there were plenty of troops, if the generals asked for more he'd provide them but they didn't want any, they hardly leaked about it at all. Right down the line they've chosen to keep their positions rather than rock the boat.

Do you think they'd balk at a draft when they didn't balk at what's been done to them over the last 2 years?

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Well Ind. Centrist i am a portuguese in Portugal

Let me ask you a question in 70´s begin of 80's Italy lost a prime minister and hundreds of italians died because of a terrorist campaign. Did they won anything ? was the bomb campaign a sign of widespread resistance or was a very fanatical active minority? if comon iraquis dispise the help, why they are joining the police and other civil services that terrorists feel they need to make a terror campaign against Iraquis and win by fear?"

That's easy: when there's 50% unemployment and the government offers a steady paycheck in the armed forces, wouldn't you join?

I'd be halfway more forgiving of neocon pipedreams if they weren't so wholly incompetent when it comes to the nation-building they love so much.

posted by: Independent Centrist on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Dude, if this is anything like the thought-process John Kerry goes through when casting votes, no wonder "he voted for the $87 mil before he voted against it." It's really pretty easy:


A: decisive, will kick ass to defend the USA, will keep taxes down, wants you to be able to decide about your own life

B: has never lead on anything in the last 20 years; wants to take a global test before securing America, has committed to raising taxes, thinks you are not smart enough to make up your own mind (this may actually apply to you.)

Pick A or B now - if unable, watch Oprah all day on Nov. 2 and let others decide.

posted by: Al on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

"Slate is now surveying its contributors over the past year about their voting choices."

hmmmm... gee, i wonder which way the results will slant in such a survey, since almost eveything i read on slate is written by people on the left.

(and i said "almost"... but it is a big almost)

posted by: chris on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

i have to say, i do enjoy this site and i will continue to visit here.

however, i can't conceive of how someone so smart and educated as daniel is (which is one of the reasons i come here) can still be uncertain and questioning about how he will vote yet.

either way, yes-bush or no-bush (i'm assuming it won't be a very enthusiastic "yes!" for kerry), make up your friggin mind man!

how, after everything that has happened since 2001 (after all the controversy, war, economic issues, rhetoric, etc.) on earth can anyone still be undecided?!

i know its still your right to vote, but i think i'd prefer that anyone that can't make up their mind yet between two such clearly distinct choices -- well, i think i'd prefer such a person just stays out of the voting process.


posted by: chris on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

The trouble with Bush as Pres. for 4 more years, as contrasted with Kerry, is that Bush will make every close call (and many not-so-close calls) in the way that is preferred by his ardent evangelical Christian base; this applies to domestic as well as foreign policy.

Kerry on the other hand CANNOT afford to do or make decisions outside the policy middle.

Given Bush's risk taking over the last 4 years, I long for a moderate like Kerry.

posted by: steve on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

As far as I can tell, Kerry "supporters" come in two flavors.

The first is the ardently anti-war individual who believes that Kerry is just posturing politically when he says he intends to stand firm in Iraq and that he will remove American troops immediately regardless of the consequences to the Iraqi or American interests in the area (i.e. he will not wait to let some American to be the last man to die for a mistake).

The other supporter strongly believes that we need to see it through in Iraq and that Kerry will see it through in a more competant way than Bush.

One of these two groups is wrong.

posted by: CMM on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Dan, that's not a p value.

Oh, and vote Kerry.

posted by: Neuro on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Lots of stuff against Bush like: "I'd be halfway more forgiving of neocon pipedreams if they weren't so wholly incompetent when it comes to the nation-building they love so much."

Wholly incompetent -- what rubbish.
Afghanistan had an pretty free, pretty democratic election, with little violence!!! Oh, that doesn't count, it's not worthy of consideration; if we looked at results it would favor Bush.

Bush policy results demonstrate competence; but not perfection.

Iraq will have January elections -- despite Bush-haters trying to say too soon, or too late, or too little security. Less than two years after invasion, whoever wins here, Iraq will have elections.

But what is the message for the world if Kerry wins? Oops, no more action for awhile. Anybody who gets an ultimatum or resolution from the US or UN better obey or else they get ... another resolution. And maybe a third, a fourth, heck a dozen or more! They're cheap, they save lives, they prepare for ... apologies later for not acting!

Just like Rwanda! Like Sudan, when the Arab killers decide they've done enough!
And AFTER the Iranian mullahs get nukes!

What is the probability that Iran gets nukes in the next 4 years?
Under Kerry, 50%. Under Bush, 10%.

Dan (you still there?) What's your guess?

posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Tom Grey guessed, What is the probability that Iran gets nukes in the next 4 years?
Under Kerry, 50%. Under Bush, 10%.

I'd ask a different question.

What is the probability that iran gets nukes before February 2005?

Under Kerry, 90%. Under Bush, 90%.

A main purpose for iran to get nukes is to keep us from attacking them. If it makes Bush attack them, it has failed. So they have to get nuke before we're ready to attack. Letting the world know they're starting a nuke program and giving us 4 years to stop them is beyond stupid. Their schedule had to be to be almost ready before they give us enough evidence to attack them.

So, if we can make an effective airstrike in november, they have to have nukes ready in november. Unless -- unless they're even stupider than the Bush administration, and they're doing something that can't work in time, because they somehow hope that Bush won't attack. What are the chances that the iranian government is even stupider than our government?

posted by: J Thomas on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Posted above:
"Audicity isnt a risk in war, not being audacious is the risk. Its always better to be wrong moving forward."

One of the recurrent arguments in (the small -- 4k word) portion of the commentaries I've read is a reference, obliquely or not, to the lessons of our World War, and to the danger of appeasing tyrants. It's a powerful argument, and one that leads to the point above.

But it's an argument that leaves forgotten the whole cause of the horrific 20th century -- it is plausible that the key turning point for us, for Europe, and for Asia occured not in 1933, 1936, or 1939, but rather in 1914.

Certainly, the lessons of 1914 suggest the need for less audacity not more. The Austro-German foreign policy of the period is hardly a recommendation for the dogged, unilateralist pursuit of terrorists.

On the other hand, I think there's a great deal of wishful thinking in condemnations of the appeasement policies of the 1930s -- the fact is that the problem of Hitler and Germany was not going to be solved cheaply or easily by aggressive but shallow Anglo-French policies in 1936 or 1939.

Frankly, though it was expensive, in the long run diplomacy worked far better, even, arguably in the hardest case, during the dark years between 1936 and 1943. I say this with full consciousness of the price we paid to subdue Germany and Japan. War is, as many of the above comment have noted, a bloody, messy business. Far better to embark on such a business with the full approval of the nation than to rush into it quickly and audaciously.

posted by: Carrington Ward on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

i the folks who conjured up the Oil For Food program.

As I understand it, the dynamic behind the setup for OFF was that global pressure to to permit humanitarian supplies forced the US and UK governments to agree to a relaxing of sanctions; the scheme resulted from negotiations between the Iraqi govt. and the US and UK govts , who were responsible for setting most of the conditions under which the scheme was run, in order to satisfy security concerns and fund Weapons Inspection. These negotiations took over a year and we're mediated by the then Sec-Gen
Boutros-Ghali. The Iraqis weren't happy with the conditions, so it took over a year for the scheme to actually get underway.

The concerns that US and UK governments had resulted in the 661 committee of Security Council members, which was supposed to oversee all trades. Most people who complain about oversight asssume this was a failure of
the Secretariat, when, in fact, blame largely lies at the door of the Security Council nations, all of which had a veto on any trade.

I think your arguments aren't helped by the fact that you obviously have swallowed the rather foolish anti-UN propaganda that circulates in some of the less reputable parts of the media.

posted by: Alan on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

Now that there is a shake up in the Cabinet which seems to even add blinders to the mindguards, the question becomes what can anyone do to prevent groupthink. Remember that it is a function of leadership style (and intelligence?).

posted by: pgram on 10.15.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]

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