Tuesday, November 2, 2004

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So you say you're still undecided....

Looking for a last-minute guide to make up your mind?

You can access my reasons for voting for Kerry by clicking here. Go read the Economist as well -- these paragraphs ring true for me:

Invading Iraq was not a mistake. Although the intelligence about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction has been shown to have been flimsy and, with hindsight, wrong, Saddam's record of deception in the 12 years since the first Gulf war meant that it was right not to give him the benefit of the doubt. The containment scheme deployed around him was unsustainable and politically damaging: military bases in holy Saudi Arabia, sanctions that impoverished and even killed Iraqis and would have collapsed. But changing the regime so incompetently was a huge mistake. By having far too few soldiers to provide security and by failing to pay Saddam's remnant army, a task that was always going to be long and hard has been made much, much harder. Such incompetence is no mere detail: thousands of Iraqis have died as a result and hundreds of American soldiers. The eventual success of the mission, while still possible, has been put in unnecessary jeopardy. So has America's reputation in the Islamic world, both for effectiveness and for moral probity....

This only makes the longer-term project more important, not less. To succeed, however, America needs a president capable of admitting to mistakes and of learning from them. Mr Bush has steadfastly refused to admit to anything: even after Abu Ghraib, when he had a perfect opportunity to dismiss Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, and declare a new start, he chose not to. Instead, he treated the abuses as if they were a low-level, disciplinary issue. Can he learn from mistakes? The current approach in Iraq, of training Iraqi security forces and preparing for elections to establish an Iraqi government with popular support, certainly represents an improvement, although America still has too few troops. And no one knows, for example, whether Mr Rumsfeld will stay in his job, or go. In the end, one can do no more than guess about whether in a second term Mr Bush would prove more competent....

Many readers, feeling that Mr Bush has the right vision in foreign policy even if he has made many mistakes, will conclude that the safest option is to leave him in office to finish the job he has started. If Mr Bush is re-elected, and uses a new team and a new approach to achieve that goal, and shakes off his fealty to an extreme minority, the religious right, then The Economist will wish him well. But our confidence in him has been shattered. We agree that his broad vision is the right one but we doubt whether Mr Bush is able to change or has sufficient credibility to succeed, especially in the Islamic world. Iraq's fledgling democracy, if it gets the chance to be born at all, will need support from its neighbours—or at least non-interference—if it is to survive. So will other efforts in the Middle East, particularly concerning Israel and Iran.

John Kerry says the war was a mistake, which is unfortunate if he is to be commander-in-chief of the soldiers charged with fighting it. But his plan for the next phase in Iraq is identical to Mr Bush's, which speaks well of his judgment. He has been forthright about the need to win in Iraq, rather than simply to get out, and will stand a chance of making a fresh start in the Israel-Palestine conflict and (though with even greater difficulty) with Iran. After three necessarily tumultuous and transformative years, this is a time for consolidation, for discipline and for repairing America's moral and practical authority. Furthermore, as Mr Bush has often said, there is a need in life for accountability. He has refused to impose it himself, and so voters should, in our view, impose it on him, given a viable alternative. John Kerry, for all the doubts about him, would be in a better position to carry on with America's great tasks.

However, in the interest of fairness, go read the Bush endorsements from Virginia Postrel, Megan McArdle, and Greg Djerejian.

Postrel's detached endorsement of Bush is the mirror image of my attitude towards Kerry:

Bush leaves me cold and always has. I never wanted to hang out with him, so I don't take our policy differences personally. I never idolized his leadership, so I don't feel he's failed me. He gets my vote in part because I don't identify with him. He's just a hired hand, and he's better than the alternative.

I feel somewhat despondent about voting against my party -- but reading this Guardian story about Tom Wolfe's attitudes towards New York society, particularly the closing paragraph, reminds me of the occasional virtues of going against the grain:

Parting cordially, it seems strange that such an effervescent maverick, such a jester at the court of all power - all vanity, indeed - should so wholeheartedly endorse the power machine behind George Bush. And so an obvious thought occurs: perhaps Wolfe is jester at the court of New York too. Would he really be happier away from New York, out on the plains, in the "red states" where everyone at dinner parties votes for Bush? Wolfe's eyes revert to that mischievous glint, and he allows himself a smile. "I do think," he admits, apparently speaking for himself, his country and his president, "that if you are not having a fight with somebody, then you are not sure whether you are alive when you wake up in the morning."

posted by Dan on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM


How the soldiers in the field of battle will work for someone that a large majority didnt voted in and dont trust?

posted by: lucklucky on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

By your logic for voting for Kerry, you would have thrown Churchill and Roosevelt out of office during World War II because they fought unnecessary campaigns with some incompetence and much bloodshed in Italy and North Africa, and voted in someone who would have continued to appease the Nazis, who would not have made war on them at all. Kerry quite recently has been saying the inspectors should have been left to do their job, and if they had, they would have found that Iraq had no WMD. We know that immediately after such a finding, the containment and inspection regime would end. And we know from the Duelfer Report that Saddam Hussein would then have proceeded full speed ahead developing WMD. We also know from the Duelfer Report that Saddam's intelligence agencies were experimenting with techniques for terrorist delivery. So under the policy Kerry proposed even after the Duelfer Report came out, Saddam actually would soon have the WMD everyone has been looking for. Is that competence? People who support Kerry because they believe Bush has the best grand strategy for waging the war on terror are really making an imaginary "best" the enemy of a real policy. The truth of the matter is that Kerry will withdraw from Iraq without winning. For him, putting Iraqis in charge will not be a way to win, as it is with Bush, but a fig leaf to cover defeat, exactly as was Nixon's "Vietnamization" of the Vietnam War. Debacle in Iraq will return America to the same "humility" it had after losing in Vietnam. Most Americans will see that as a disgrace. Unfortunately, Kerry sees it as America playing its proper modest role in a multilateral world. Has Bush learned? We know the original plan was to remove most US troops immediately. When Bremer said more were needed, at least more were not removed. Vastly more troops simply are not available. More could be used in Afghanistan too, since our NATO "allies" have made a rather pathetic committment of real support there. This election is really a referendum on the Bush grand strategy of waging the war on terror as a war for democracy. If Bush loses, that strategy will be abandoned.

posted by: Robert Bornholz on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

Hey, what gives? I've got your link in my favorites folder labeled "Wing Nuts" and now I come here and you're endorsing Kerry?

I've got some reorganizing to do..

And Robert, your way is to lose for winning.

posted by: Archie on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

Would FDR have been reelected if he'd ad to run in '42 instead of '44?

posted by: Boronx on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

Dan, someday I hope you'll tell us why you think the Iraq war was not a mistake -- in terms of strategy, as opposed to tactics. Experts on both sides of the Atlantic thought that this was a high-risk, low-reward course of action. (Israeli experts apparently agreed).

BTW, is the Economist even aware that there are holy sites in Iraq as well, and that basing our troops there is also offensive to many Muslims?

posted by: Carl on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

That's rich. Illinois college professor voting Democrat is going against the grain. Right...

posted by: Reg on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]


Daniel can speak for himself, but you might want to take a look at this from his about me post:

I’ve also served as an international economist in the Treasury Department, a research consultant for the RAND corporation, and as an unpaid foreign policy advisor for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign (they didn’t need the help). [my emphasis]

I think that speaks volumes. Perhaps next time you should dig a little deeper.

posted by: Randy Paul on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

We've already dissected your endorsement, Dan. Here's a quick thought on the Economist's. It begins with the sentence: "Invading Iraq was not a mistake." The next sentence does NOT read (but actually should): "John Kerry as Commander in Chief would never have ordered such an invasion." Third sentence (and hey, I'm an historian, not a logician, but I did take high school calculus, so here goes): "Logically then, if A is true, then John Kerry cannot be entrusted with the Presidency."

Chew on that for a while, oh open-minded smear posters who rant about "wing-nuts" and sane, nice "people like me." I'm off to vote.

Oh, one more thing. My husband is a smart, informed guy. He has come out these past few months for Kerry (a first-time Dem vote if he carried through on it). Like me he originally supported the war in Iraq; like Dan he got disgusted and turned against it. When I asked him who he voted for, he said "once for Bush and once for Kerry." Ha ha, I said (we just moved to Chicago, insert old joke here about "early and often"). No, seriously, he said. He punched once for one guy, then asked for a new ballot and voted the other way. It'll take months of torture to get him to say who won in the end (and hey, this isn't Abu Ghraib).

Point is: polls are meaningless this year. Buckle up kids, this'll be a wild ride.

posted by: Kelli on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

Between the fraud reports already rolling in and the stunt Daschle tried to pull, im already in a deep depression. Whoever wins I have little faith left in the system.
At least im starting to remember why i lean libertarian. A simple act like having someone walk into a building a punch a hole in a peice of paper and its a total government nightmare. I cant check out a video at blockbuster without flashing a drivers license but thats too much of a burden for a voter? Idiotic. The whole system is a farce. Its disenfranchisement to ask someone their social security number?

posted by: Mark Buehner on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

Undecided voter? At this stage?

Isn't that kinda like voting for the war, and then not voting to support the military?

Isn't that like for years supporting the war, and then trying to claim you've always been against it?

Oh, wait.... (slaps forehead)

posted by: Bithead on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

Best Poll for undecided Voters;

Since 1956, Weekly Reader students in grades 1-12 have correctly picked the president


Weekly Reader kids select Bush in Presidential Poll

The students who read Weekly Reader’s magazines have made their preference for President known: they want to send President Bush back to the White House.

The results of this year’s Weekly Reader poll have just been announced, and the winner is President Bush. Hundreds of thousands of students participated, giving the Republican President more than 60% of the votes cast and making him a decisive choice over Democratic Senator John Kerry.

Since 1956, Weekly Reader students in grades 1-12 have correctly picked the president, making the Weekly Reader poll one of the most accurate predictors of presidential outcomes in history.

posted by: POLL TROLL on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

I might have been able to vote for Kerry (but for the thousand things he's said and done (and not done, in 20+ years as a Senator), most recently telling us he talked with the entire Security Council when both he and they knew it to be false), but for the baggage he brings with him: the Democratic Party - the party of Carter, Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Howard Dean, Kucinich, Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, Michael Moore, George Soros, MoveOn.org, ....

I just can't bring myself to support any of those guys for village council, let alone helping run a country.

posted by: Mike on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

I was just recalling where I was on Election Day 24 years ago.

I was just wrapping up my last semester at a college in Ohio where for two years I had been, as best I could tell, the only Republican on campus (what was I doing there? Long story). The Government Department's chairman invited some of his students over for an Election Night party; we watched NBC.

What fun that was! Polling in those days was not the science it later became, and of course there was no internet, so as individual state results started coming in they were often as not a surprise. One after another states confidently expected to go for Carter were rung up for Reagan, and Senators who had been around (as it seemed to me then) forever were getting thrown out: Nelson, Magnuson, Culver, Bayh. Everyone else at this party -- indeed, nearly everyone on campus -- entered a state of shock that was to last for days. It may be that I was not as gracious that night as I might have been; there were a very substantial number of people on this campus who regarded Jimmy Carter as some kind of dangerous reactionary, for Desert One and pulling out of the Olympics, also for all that Christian stuff, and Reagan to them was just unimaginable. He could bring about the end of the world, and was more or less widely expected to do just that. I remember having a few arguments, but mostly I just laughed.

Well, Reagan had his eight years, and they were a time of remarkable creativity in government along with some failures and many frustrations. Government departments not charged with carrying forth the message of the day could develop new policies that had some chance of enactment provided they could be interpreted as consistent with, or at least not inconsistent with, Reagan's principles. In one Congress alone (the 99th) the 1986 Tax Reform Act, the Goldwater-Nichols bill reforming the command structure of the military, and the Conservation Reserve Program that was the largest soil conservation program in history were all enacted -- as they could not have been without the leadership of, respectively, the Reagan Treasury, Defense and Agriculture Departments. In that same Congress protectionist trade legislation that targeted Japan and had broad popular support went nowhere, because Reagan didn't want it.

That era ended for good on Election Day in 1988, which I saw out in a hotel suite that had been rented by the Dole campaign. Of course I had followed the dreary course of the elder Bush's battle with Dukakis, but for me and many others the election had already been lost months earlier in the GOP primaries. The flip side of creativity and intellectual ferment is risk, and George H. W. Bush was not going to have much of that. He would do what some of the media types who admired him did for a living, react to events while networking vigorously; he promised a Presidency of passivity and stagnation, and he ended up delivering on his promise. So as the votes were counted and Bush squeaked out his victory over one of the weakest major party Presidential candidates in recent history I displayed little enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, that night I drank well over half the bourbon I have consumed in the whole of my life.

No drinking tonight, whatever happens; I have to drive. This Election Night I'll watch the returns come in at the victory party of a Senatorial candidate I've done some volunteer work for. He's a good guy, and will be a good Senator, the kind who has done his campaigning so he can do the job he campaigned for, the kind I understand. You have to find good news in politics where you can these days, and remember that it's always possible that in four year it might be 1980 all over again.

posted by: Zathras on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

The Corner just posted early exits in Ohio 49 - 41.

If this is anywhere close to true it's over. The online futures for Kerry are crashing and Bush surging.

posted by: Matthew Cromer on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

Analogies are certainly fun. Must be something in human nature, I guess. If FDR had insisted on invading Spain, for instance, in hopes of creating a domino democracy effect across Europe (those imperial Europeans were so deficient in democratic institutions!), would that qualify as a decent analogy?

But seriously, we are not dealing with world war II here. Bin Laden is a threat more akin to the anarchists of a century ago. These are non-state actors working within the state, in order to try to destroy it. It is now clear that there was more of a risk in removing Saddam (and the Iraqi state) than containing him. Not that removing Saddam in concept was such a bad idea. But it is patently obvious that we were woefully unprepared for the task. If Bush could admit that major mistakes were made, chop some heads (bad analogy!), and move on, I would feel much differently about him. But "staying the course" is taking us over a cliff. So I am casting my vote against Bush. And, unfortunately, voting for Kerry, though I don't at this point see much hope from that direction. Well, there may be a glimmer.

posted by: haydar on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

Well now the corner lists early exits with Kerry + 4. Guess it isn't over yet!

Various futures still have Bush 55, Kerry 44 or so.

posted by: Matthew Cromer on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

The fraud reports appeared to be a Bush campaign stunt. They raised a question about the counters indicating the total votes cast on the machines in past elections. The real vote counter started at zero for this election.

And, for my endorsement of Kerry, see Should conservatives support Kerry?

And, here's just one data point for those who continue to think Bush is keeping them safe:

Border Patrol Union Disputes Bush's Claim That America is Safer

"President Bush's latest pronouncement that America is safer appears to have more to do with winning votes than winning the war on terror. He doesn't seem to understand that the security of our Nation is directly proportional to the security of its borders, which are a porous sieve. Anyone, including terrorists, can easily walk across our borders without being detected or apprehended..."

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

Anyone who places any reliance on those "political futures" obviously simultaneously as no experience with the problem of OTC and penny stocks, and doesn't know the difference between a betting pool and a market exchange.

Dear Kelli,

If it is logical propose defending the hiring of Bush because he did the right thing even though it is acknowledged he's not doing a good job at it ... then it is also entirely logical to advocate now firing Bush and hiring Kerry to do a better job despite the fact that Kerry might never have advocated the invasion in the first place.

Strategic rationale for Iraq Invasion: Oil blockade against China. Premptively denies them the ability to annex Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. Consequence of US failure in Iraq - Russian and Chinese move into power vaccuum and premptively blockade us. Result loss of Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan to Chinese annexation. Japan has neglicable military force. It's only real deterrent is it's advanced nuclear technology creating the possibility of a nuclear weapon. For the same reason, this forces China into a direct annexation strategy. It can't afford a potentially nuclear armed Japan at its flank. Development of nuclear weapons by SK or Taiwan likewise would trigger immediate annexation. Successful transfer of nuclear weapons to any of these locales is optioned by China into proliferation and release of nuclear weapons to proxy terrorists for use against us.

In other words ... whoever controls Iraq will control the Middle-east. Whoever controls the middle-east can oil blockade the other's economy and war machine. Whoever can use the middle-east as a blockade takes Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan in a conventional war. All nuclear options directly escalate either to premptive conventional war or nuclear use on American civilian population.

That's the current medium term strategic posture we're involved in.

posted by: oldman on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

The USA can blockade any oil that travels by tanker, but we can't necessarily blockade pipelines unless we bomb them.

Note how badly the chinese wanted a pipeline from siberia. But the russians decided to send their pipeline to a port, where they could fill tankers to go to japan, the USA, etc.

Could or would china conquer iraq and blockade us? It seems to me unlikely. They'd have wildly extended supply lines, it isn't the sort of thing their military has been good at so far, and it doesn't fit their style over the last 10 centuries or so. If they want to grab oilfields that they don't have official title to, why not siberia? It's closer, there are fewer disgruntled populations in the way, it directly threatens only one nation where iraq would directly threaten many. And oil isn't the only natural resource there.

Note too that the amount of oil in iran, iraq, and saudi arabia hasn't been independently verified. These are nations whose OPEC status depends on how much reserve they claim, and they have no particular reason not to lie about it. We captured Saddam's oil data and studied it and suddenly scaled back our reconstruction plans....

Would the chinese fight their way to iraq and into iraq because they believed *Saddam's* estimate of his oil reserves? Surely there couldn't be two governments stupid enough to do that....

Traditionally we have believed that the USA was the only superpower. The USA was the only nation willing and able to project massive force across the world. The USA was the only nation willing to expend vast quantities of oil to project massive force across the world. Now the USA has tried to project force cheaply and we came up short.

What other superpower will spend the resources that we wouldn't to spend? The EU? China? China doesn't need to blockade us. They can do an economic blockade whenever they want and we're toast -- they haven't wanted to yet. From their point of view they're at the center of the world already, they already control the central things. Why should they take south korea or japan in conventional wars, when those nations will make accomodations without much of a war? Why destroy taiwan when they can get concessions every time they threaten war? Taiwan will buy time by surrendering slowly.

China doesn't need harebrained invade-iraq schemes. They aren't that desperate. Only the USA is that desperate.

posted by: J Thomas on 11.02.04 at 12:33 AM [permalink]

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