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Sunday, September 05, 2004

Andrew Sullivan has indicated repeatedly, forcefully and eloquently that he cannot vote for Bush. He will be voting for Kerry. This is based entirely on his concern with gay rights, especially single sex marriages.

Even though I agree with him on the issue, I think he's wrong to base his vote on that, because Kerry won't be much better than Bush on the issue and because, as painful as it is, all Sullivan has to do to win is wait. But that's his prerogative, and, in any event, it's not the point of this post. My point is that for years, I thought single issue voters (think abortion) were foolishly giving their votes to people with whom they disagreed on most things in order to elect someone to champion/oppose a single cause about which they were passionate. It seemed to me that they were unnecessarily restricting their choices and marginalizing themselves by ignoring every position but one of every politician for every office.

Until, that is, I became a single issue voter.

No matter how bad the economy really is or how bad it gets, no matter what else happens, the only conceivable issue for me in this election is the (misnamed) War on Terror. Which of the two choices realistically available to me, Bush or Kerry, will do a better job of prosecuting that war?

My take: Bush wins hands down on that issue.

Initially, Bush, along with the rest of the country, especially including its leaders of every political stripe, failed to recognize the size and immediacy of the threat. But since 9/11, Bush's performance on this issue has been both outstanding and far better than I think Kerry's would have been.

Kerry faults Bush for the lack of allies. That's nonsense, and Kerry is smart enough to know it (and also smart enough not to acknowledge that it's nonsense). Do we have enough allies? We do not and we never will. There is probably no such thing as "enough" allies. But Kerry is not complaining that we don't have enough allies. His real complaint is that we don't have the right ones: France and Germany.

Basically everyone agrees that taking out the Taliban in Afghanistan was the right thing to do. The disagreement revolves around Iraq. Should we have deposed Saddam, and was it related to 9/11? The answer, in both cases, is yes. The allied action in Iraq is related to the War on Terror in the same way that the allied landing in North Africa was related to the defeat of Germany in WWII. The best description of the strategy involved was written about a year ago by Steven denBeste. (Come back, Steven. Please. Pretty please. The sooner the better.)

Bush's acceptance speech at the convention tracks denBeste's outline closely. Iraq is intended to be a beachhead for liberal democracy in the Middle East, and

"[f]ree societies in the Middle East will be hopeful societies, which no longer feed resentments and breed violence for export. Free governments in the Middle East will fight terrorists instead of harboring them, and that helps us keep the peace."
What Bush failed to note is that democracies historically simply do not attack one another.

While I am quite sure that France and Germany were invited to join the "coalition of the willing," including either or both of those countries as allies in the war in Iraq would have required wholesale changes in the strategy and tactics used by the coalition. Inviting a partner who can make no realistic military contribution and who will, as the price for his cooperation, impose demands which make the implementation of your strategy impossible is just plain dumb, regardless of the economic or political support that might be provided.

Kerry's other major complaint is that Bush has damaged our relationship with those two major European powers. Have our European alliances been damaged by the disagreement over Iraq? Well, yes and no. There is damage, and it is substantial, but I think that the disagreement over Iraq was only the immediate cause. There were underlying disagreements which predated Iraq and even 9/11 which were eventually going to erupt anyway, resulting in much the same amount and type of damage.

Kerry also criticizes Bush for "misleading" us into Iraq. That's Demo-speak for failing to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And yes, that was a massive intelligence failure that occurred worldwide, including in France and Germany. Does the fact that others made the same mistake as the CIA (for which both Bush and Clinton bear the responsibility) excuse the CIA's failure? Not at all. But it does establish beyond any doubt that the CIA (and therefore both Bush and Clinton) had reasonable grounds to make the determination they did. Intelligence is never perfect. Sometimes its just plain wrong. This may be one of those times. Or maybe the damn things are sitting in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, waiting to be smuggled into Israel.

Weapons of mass destruction were one of a number of reasons to go into Iraq. They were never the only reason, as Kerry recognized when he said that he would also have gone into Iraq, even if he knew that he would find no WMD.

So much for Kerry's complaints about Bush. What would Kerry actually do, if elected? We don't really know. He says he would do what Bush is doing, but more effectively. He says he would get the cooperation of our traditional allies (code words for France and Germany). And he says he would begin to draw down US forces in Iraq within six months.

What does "more effectively" mean and how would Kerry accomplish it? We don't know. We don't know because he hasn't told us.

What cooperation does he think he can get from France and Germany that Bush can't? We don't know. We don't know because he hasn't told us.

Draw down our forces in Iraq starting in six months? It's always a bad idea to tell the other side in a conflict when you will be leaving, especially if the date you pick is not in the distant future. All they have to do to win is hunker down and wait, then come out to play after we've gone. They know damn well that if we leave, we won't come back. So we better not leave until the job is done. Really done. That means more than just the absence acts of of terror for a short period. It means dead or incarcerated terrorists. Lots of them. It means a functioning government and a functioning economy. It probably means permanent bases in Iraq for the foreseeable future. It did in Germany. And Japan. And Greece. And Turkey. Those four countries were the beneficiaries of a serious US military presence for decades during the Cold War, and that military presence was a huge factor in winning the Cold War.

And then you have Kerry's statements during the primaries about the coalition of the bribed and coerced. What a stupid way to treat the people who are doing what you want them to do (who are sometimes also known as "allies"). Is that how he intends to get France and Germany on board? Will he reward them as he rewards our current allies, by denigrating their contribution and their integrity (not to mention our own integrity)? Forget the insult to our friends. Does Kerry believe that calling our allies bribed and coerced is a "more effective" way to build a coalition?

Top all that off with Kerry's Senate testimony upon his return from Vietnam. Yes it was a long time ago. Yes, he was a much younger man. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and not conclude that he was grandstanding by repeating allegations that he did not then believe to be true. But my question is this: If Kerry once believed that our armed forces were routinely engaged in rape, mutilation, torture and other atrocities consituting war crimes, does he still believe that those things happened in Vietnam on the scale he described to the Senate and with the (at least tacit) consent of "all levels of command?" If so, the Swift Boat Vets are absolutely right, he is utterly unfit for command. If not, he must say so, and hold the nuance, please. Yes or no will do.

Bush's recent statement that the war cannot be won was foolish. We can win. We must win. We will win. (I know. I know. That's what Kerry said.) I don't think that "winning" means that there will be no more terrorism in the world. A warped mind, a bag of fertilizer and some fuel oil are all that is necessary to commit an act of terror, and all three ingredients are abundant throughout the world. I think that winning means that fewer terrorists exist, and that those terrorists that do exist are local, lacking the ability to strike beyond their own locale as they did on 9/11. To me, winning means that terrorists have no umbrella groups like al Qaeda to provide financial and logistic support.

It is only speculation, but I think Bush was really talking about what winning will look like. There won't be surrender documents signed on the USS Missouri. Winning the War on Terror will bear more resemblance to the end of the Cold War: a gradual decrease in the frequency and severity of terrorist incidents, followed (and in some cases, preceded) by seemingly abrupt political changes towards liberal democracy in the Middle East and parts of Asia. I think we won't realize we have won for at least several years after we have, in fact, won.

Whatever he meant by that statement, Bush beats Kerry like a retarded mule on the only issue for me this fall.

(Kudos to Pervasive Light for the retarded mule imagery.)
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