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Thursday, October 21, 2004

A response to Josh Chafetz' essay justifying his intended vote for Sen. Kerry

Josh Chafetz, writing in Oxblog, explains why he intends to vote for Sen. Kerry.  The whole post is well written and argued, and I commend it to you in its entirety.   Here's the first key paragraph on foreign policy/domestic security (italics in original):

First, I think that Kerry's foreign policy will be constrained in good ways. Path dependence is a very important political force. I'm not at all worried about Kerry's response to another attack -- no president could resist striking back hard, and I see no reason to think that Kerry would even want to resist striking back hard. Moreover, Kerry will not, I think, be able to pull out of Iraq any time soon. He will not, I think, be able to cut funding for programs designed to foster Arab civil society. (Indeed, Spencer Ackerman makes a good case that Kerry would be more devoted to civil society issues than Bush has been.) More importantly, I think the Bush Administration has been very good about getting the Arab world talking about liberal, democratic values. Now, I think, it would be good to have a President who is better able to put into place the concrete policies that will reinforce the broad foreign policy goals that, I think, the Bush Administration has done a good job of locking in. In other words, now that the Arab world is talking about democracy — the kind of talk that will grow and feed on itself and ultimately cannot be silenced — we can help by having a President who (a) is not reviled in the region, and (b) is a bit less incompetent at actually promoting our foreign policy objectives than the current administration has been. Yes, (a) means that some sort of "global test" is factoring into my vote. I'm not thrilled about that, but when the major issue in the campaign is foreign policy, it would, I think, be self-defeating not to take into account how the rest of the world views the candidates and whether the rest of the world will be willing to work well with the candidate. And (b), of course, is speculative. Perhaps Kerry wouldn't be better than Bush. But any election must largely be a referendum on the incumbent, and I am increasingly convinced that Bush has mismanaged too many important aspects of our foreign policy to be given my trust again.

I cannot but admire the eloquence here, but I'm unpersuaded.  Working backwards through the paragraph: 

  • This is not a recall election, nor, with due respect, "largely" a referendum on the incumbent.  It is entirely a binary choice between two very different candidates, their respective political parties, and their worldviews.  (In fairness, Mr. Chafetz recognizes this fact at the conclusion of his post.)
  • There's certainly anecdotal evidence that leaders and populaces in France, Germany, and Belgium prefer Sen. Kerry's "style," and find Dubya's off-putting.  But there's also anecdotal evidence that Sen. Kerry's insensitivity toward the allies who have stood by America is also off-putting, and Mr. Chafetz' argument seems to altogether ignore this — despite, for example, the recent election returns from Australia (charter member of the so-called phony coalition of the bought, bribed, coerced, and extorted).  Not everyone abroad "likes" Kerry better.
  • Whether "style" is a net plus for either candidate, however, it's not what's most important.  Mr. Chafetz and his co-bloggers at Oxblog have normally been quite clear-eyed in their writings in recognizing that global alliances, at bottom, aren't about warm fuzzies, but instead about self-perceived national interests.  When national interests are considered, there's no reason to suspect — much less empirical evidence to support the premise that — any allies are likely to behave more positively on any substantive matter (i.e., perceive their own national interests differently) if Sen. Kerry's at the American helm.
  • Finally, much of this paragraph, and the ones that precede it, give Dubya credit where due.  Even if Mr. Chafetz has fault to find in the Bush administration's performance in some respects, he ought also factor in that Dubya is a known quantity on fighting the war against terrorists aggressively.  By contrast, for every Kerry quote rattling a saber against terrorists, I can produce two or three that scream "wimp" and another that's in the mushy middle.  Quotes aside, Sen. Kerry's actions and votes throughout his adult history have been consistently, reflexively against the significant use of American force (with the bizarre, inexplicable exception of supporting Clinton in the Balkins).  Mr. Chafetz doesn't appear to have factored into his calculus any risk that "Kerry the Anti-Terrorist Hawk" is a campaign fiction; however one assesses that risk, it certainly isn't zero. 

Mr. Chafetz' next paragraph is also eloquent, with an argument I don't think I've previously seen made quite this concisely (italics in original):

I can envision a situation in which I think the United States ought to take military action and in which President Bush would agree, whereas President Kerry, because of his inordinate faith in the legitimizing power of international institutions, might not. But, first, let me note that, in any situation in which military force is clearly called for (e.g., another attack, leading to another Afghanistan), I have complete confidence that Kerry will make the right call. But what about another close call where I think we ought to send troops? It's true, Kerry might not make my preferred decision. But I am also convinced that Bush — even a reelected Bush — would lack the political capital to send American troops into battle again in a close call. In other words, in the primary situation in which Bush's advantage in grand strategy would be an issue, I don't think Bush would be able to put his preferred policy in place, anyway.

I agree that a second-term Dubya doesn't presently have the political capital to, say, invade Syria or Iran or North Korea.  Nor have diplomatic efforts yet been exhausted with respect to those state actors; nor does any of them have quite yet the decade of defiance of UN sanctions and international opinion that Saddam's Iraq had, or the decade-long daily history of shooting at American and British aircraft.  I don't understand Mr. Chafetz to be arguing that we should promptly go to war with any of those countries.  So looking at present levels of political capital, I submit, isn't relevant.  Instead, I'd submit that four different factors — all hypothetical and forward-looking — are what's presently relevant:

  • Based on the perceptions of these potential future state-actor adversaries, which candidate's current credibility — in terms of perceived willingness to use military force when appropriate — is likely to influence, moderate, and restrain those states?  There's a compelling one-word proof that the answer to that question is Dubya, I think:  Libya.
  • Which candidate, if elected, could rebuild the necessary domestic and international political capital, when and if circumstances change to the point at which Mr. Chafetz and I would agree, by a "close call," that military force is appropriate?  Again, my assumption is that in the international arena, decisionmakers will be motivated by their own perceived self-interests; but that perception includes, certainly, their subjective predictions as to whether the then-sitting American President has the courage, despite substantial domestic and international opposition, to stay the course once embarking on a military option.  Tony Blair and John Howard, for instance, have had their own struggles to maintain domestic support for their governments' support of America; but they haven't had to worry about Dubya going wobbly and sawing off the limbs they've advanced onto.  And domestically, the question is, who is more likely to be able to assemble and maintain a working majority to support the military option?  That question practically answers itself, as I think Mr. Chafetz would admit.
  • I agree with Mr. Chafetz that if there is another 9/11-scale attack on America, a President Kerry would acquire the necessary domestic and international support to retaliate on a state actor that's as clearly tied to the attack as was Afghanistan's Taliban to 9/11.  But by definition, we're talking here about the "close calls."  What if there's another incident directed by a rogue state-actor at a crucial American ally — another event comparable to Saddam's invasion of Kuwait?  For example, Syria has a long history of military clashes with Israel.  Suppose it attempts to seize the Golan Heights and simultaneously decapitates the Israeli leadership through proxies' terrorist attacks?  Suppose North Korea stays on its side of the DMV, but decides to institute a 30-minute artillery barrage on Seoul one day each week?  Or what if there's an urgent need for American military action against nonstate actors being sheltered by a rogue state, or just a grumpy one?  Iran bears Israel no love, and could quite conceivably create a major international crisis there through terrorists it supports.  Or what if diplomacy and sanctions have failed, and based on the best and most credible intelligence available, it's go or no-go time on a pre-emptive military strike to take out Iran's nascent nuclear capabilities?  In any of these situations — whether you think they're improbable or not — are our options not broadened if there's a credible threat of American intervention, if necessary including ground troops?  I think they are — and I think there will be no such credible threat from a Kerry administration for any event short of another 9/11-scale attack directly on the US.  What would be "close calls" for a second-term Bush adminstration would become not at all close under a President Kerry, but default instead to American inaction and impotency.
  • The last factor is probably the least important, but not insignificant.  It blinks reality to ignore the faith that our military forces have in their present Commander in Chief, and their disdain for Sen. Kerry as his prospective successor.  The reason I say this is the least important factor is that I have enormous confidence that those forces would, quite professionally, strive to overcome that disdain, as they did in the Clinton years.  But among the professional warrior caste, there is a fairly clear preference for whom they'd like to see lead them in our future conflicts, and it ought not count for nothing.

Kevin Drum, analyzing Mr. Chafetz' post, concludes:

For hawks, the best argument in favor of Kerry is that the Iraq war is a done deal, and there isn't likely to be a followup. So even if Bush was the right bull in a china shop for the past four years, is he also the best guy to put the china shop back together over the next four? Probably not.

With due respect to Mr. Drum, that's a silly metaphor.  The world over the next four years isn't going to be a china shop, and there are likely to be new and even more serious challenges than putting broken china back together (I assume he's talking about reconstructing Afghanistan and Iraq).  Mr. Drum seems blind to those possibilities; I regret to say that his anybody-but-Bush instincts have completely overwhelmed him.  He's not susceptible to rational argument on foreign policy/security issues any more.

But Mr. Chafetz is probably the sort of thoughtful, non-moonbat center-left patriot to whom my "Can John Kerry do what LBJ couldn't?" post earlier this week was directed.  Indeed, his co-blogger David Adesnik, who's also voting for Sen. Kerry, was kind enough to link and comment on that post.  Mr. Chafetz and Mr. Adesnik clearly recognize the risks that a Kerry Presidency would mean a less effective America in the worldwide fight against terrorists and terrorism.  I think, however, that they've used their formidable rhetorical skills to talk themselves into taking that risk, and they've unwittingly blinded themselves to their own heavy thumbs on their intellectual scales.

If Sen. Kerry wins, I'll join Mr. Chafetz and Mr. Adesnik in hoping that their gamble pays off.  Unfortunately, I think a President Kerry would badly need a coalition of folks like us, on one side or the other of the center, because the Kevin Drums-and-leftwards-of-him folks from his own party will never, ever support the use, or even a credible threat of the use, of military force in any situation less dramatic than another 9/11-scale attack.  I think it's a bad gamble.  There will be crises in the next four years; a hand on the American helm that's even perceived as unsteady will encourage such crises, in much the same way that a preceivedly wishy-washy John Kennedy, post-Bay of Pigs, encouraged Soviet adventurism that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

And truth be told, I think a President Kerry is more likely to end up somewhere to even Kevin Drum's left — based on the man's history, which so conflicts with his current campaign words.  In that case, the question of a working coalition from the center-left working rightward is going to be a moot question.  I'd say that a Kerry administration will be Carter redux — except that comparison is unfair, I think, to Carter.  I'm afraid that I'd find myself longing for the comparatively steadfast and  aggressive foreign policy of Bill Clinton — who could, at least, wag the dog vigorously, albeit largely ineffectively, on occasion.

Posted by Beldar at 06:15 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to A response to Josh Chafetz' essay justifying his intended vote for Sen. Kerry and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) Mark L made the following comment | Oct 21, 2004 6:46:53 PM | Permalink

If Bush wins this election -- especially if he wins it with 53-54% of the popular vote, but even if he has over 51% -- he has the political capital to invade Iran and Syria.

This is even more so if the Republicans pick up 2 or more senate seats. If Daschle goes down, even more so. The momentum *will* be on Bush's side.

In the lead-up to the Iraq War, I did not believe that Bush would actually pull the plug and let things run. I thought he would get clotheslined by the UN and kneecapped by the Dems. Had he not done so Kerry would now be running against "W"'s indecisiveness. The world would be a lot less safe, too.

But Bush did, because it was the right thing to do. If he is reelected, he *will* move into Iran and Syria when it is the right thing to do. I mean, what is the worst thing that can happen to him if he does? He won't be reelected?

(2) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 21, 2004 6:52:36 PM | Permalink

Mark L, I think that a re-elected Dubya would be able to deal much more effectively with Iran, Syria, and North Korea, short of armed conflict, because he can credibly say to them, "Do you choose to become like Saddam or like Qaddafi? Pick, now." That's a bit of an oversimplification, but gets the nub of the situation, I think.

(3) Claudia made the following comment | Oct 21, 2004 7:20:36 PM | Permalink

Re Josh, he and David are fundamentally voting for the comforting, traditional style of Kerry instead of the aggressive style of Bush, however justified by the new realities. Their faith in formulaic "Diplomacy" with a capital D remains unshaken. They commend Bush for taking the right steps against terrorism, assert on shakey evidence that Kerry would have done the same, and then "punish" Bush by not voting for him. Way to encourage a politician to make the tough decisions, albeit the right ones, in the future, guys.

(4) Paul H. made the following comment | Oct 21, 2004 7:49:47 PM | Permalink

All of you are rather cavalier about hypothetical notions of "invading" or "attacking" Iran or Syria. We don't have the physical resources for such an effort; and I would argue that the political will won't be there for any such military effort, even if the resources (ie an expanded Army/ Marine Corps) were created in the next term of whichever Presidency.

A serious US diplomatic/ political effort would involve the endorsement and support of a democratic "national front" government-in-exile for these countries. Just the sort of thing we failed to do effectively for Iraq, because of the Clinton and Bush administrations' failure to bang heads together between CIA/State Dept/DoD, during the 12 years between the two Gulf wars.

In spite of all the hyperventilating about Iran and Syria, I don't see anyone in MSM or government even talking about this -- do you? (I don't count the blogosphere). Does anyone here really think we'd undertake a military effort at regime change again, without having a credible native exile government thoroughly prepared to take over the administration of either country?

I wish the US administration would recognize such a government-in-exile for Iran and start supporting it financially -- if nothing else, just for the hysterics this would induce at the UN, and among the Euros and our mideast "allies". Of course this won't happen -- and I don't see the point of blathering about regime change in Iran until it does. Dreams about internal change coming to Iran are just that -- the mullahs are going to do whatever it takes (like Saddam did, and the "Dear Leader" does) to ruthlessly suppress any such effort before it can get started.

My prediction is get ready to live with the Iranian and North Korean possession of A bombs. The next few years should be interesting -- will these countries have the cojones to transfer nuke technology to terrorists, and will we be good enough to detect and stop them? Should make for good blogging (if you're not at a potential ground zero). Hey, maybe this time they'll go for the continental Euros, and we can enjoy the spectacle of watching them spill their espressos and losing their sneers at us. I say let them handle their own retaliation -- France can lead the way).

Short of another 9/11 (or worse) with radiological "dirty" bombs, traceable to Iran (hopefully it won't be an atomic blast), I just don't see either a Kerry or Bush administration mustering the political will to counterattack and take down any of the "axis of evil" regimes. And these countries aren't stupid -- they watch us carefully and probably they'll take care to avoid provoking any future US administration.

Of course if we do get Kerry, and they decide to try something and make a mistake, then it's anybody's guess what will happen...but I basically I predict a "reactive" and not a "preemptive" policy, no matter who wins in November.

(5) YouGottaBeKidding made the following comment | Oct 21, 2004 8:12:20 PM | Permalink

Beldar, you're a better man than I (but then I'm not a man, so you certainly are). About the third or fourth ", I think," and my eyes glazed over.

(6) Paul Zrimsek made the following comment | Oct 21, 2004 8:16:50 PM | Permalink

Your third bullet point from the second group is bolstered immeasurably by the fact that it is Kerry himself who has defended his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq by stressing the importance of being able to offer a credible bluff even if you don't actually intend to use force. And you're right: under a President Kerry this valuable capability would be denied us.

(7) MD made the following comment | Oct 21, 2004 8:17:24 PM | Permalink

Chafetz makes three implicit assumptions:

1. Bush made the correct, though painful, call on Iraq; and

2. Because Iraq has been so painful, there will be no further analogous situations; and

2. 9-11 was an isolated event.

Hence, now that all the bad stuff is behind us, we need a President with diplomatic finesse, acceptance in foreign capitals (or at least in the politically correct foreign capitals), and a presumed talent in fostering civil society in the political sewers of the world, to lead us bravely into a future that, on second thought, looks remarkably like a utopian past.

Obviously, Mr. Chafetz's assumptions about our current historical situation, though driven by a sympathetic nostalgia, are both myopic and eerily formulated to conform to the perceived "strengths" of his preferred candidate.

The Chafetz calculus of Presidential choice: Take a candidate. Identify his "strengths." Predict a future that requires these strengths. Your vote is obvious, is it not?

This is Chafetz's technique. He predicts a future that perfectly conforms to his fantasy about a President Kerry, who in this scenario is a combination of Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and Jimmy Carter, with a little bit of Rotary Club mixed in.

You have to believe a whole lot about the future, and a whole lot about John Kerry, to buy into this story.

(8) Phelps made the following comment | Oct 21, 2004 8:18:23 PM | Permalink

I'm not at all worried about Kerry's response to another attack -- no president could resist striking back hard, and I see no reason to think that Kerry would even want to resist striking back hard.

This is the sticking point for me in his argument. We are going to have to define what he means by "attack." The Cole was an attack, and we didn't respond. The African Embassy bombings were attacks, and we didn't respond. The first WTC bombing was an attack, and we didn't respond. Lebanon was an attack, and we didn't respond. The Iranian hostages were an attack, and we didn't respond.

We have a long, long history of not responding, Democrat and Republican, and W broke that tradition. I have no desire to return to it.

As for Paul's resources question, I want to point out that our munitions sources have been on a war footing for the last three years (after about 10 years of mothballing thanks to Bush 41 and Clinton) and I think that our high-end munitions are there. We will have another 4 years to take down Syria and Iran, and I think we can do it. Iran will be first, because it is less likely we will have four years to deal with them in a non-nuclear exchange.

(9) DS made the following comment | Oct 21, 2004 9:07:19 PM | Permalink

"I'm not at all worried about Kerry's response to another attack -- no president could resist striking back hard, and I see no reason to think that Kerry would even want to resist striking back hard"

Sorry, but I don't beleive it. It's trite, but true. A leopard doesn't change it's spots. Kerry's past record speaks for itself. He's a left-wing liberal and that's all he'll ever be.
He dispises the military and could not even be counted on to attend assigned committee meetings. He was one of those responsible for emasculating US intelligence services. If, by some happenstance, a major crisis occurs in the next four years, President Kerry will freeze up and do nothing, just like his buddy Carter. Oh, he'll have a lot of excuses, but it will still come down to his having no guts to act.

(10) Mark L made the following comment | Oct 21, 2004 9:21:08 PM | Permalink

Paul H is guilty of 20th century thinking -- treating the wars of the 21st century by the standards of the 20th.

Syria would not be as difficult as Iraq. It now is surrounded by nations that are either hostile to it, or more than willing to remain neutral (Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel. (There is Lebanon, but that is a strategic cipher.) The government is grossly unpopular, its military inefficient, and the economy weak. By creating a popular liberation front for Syria democracy, we could undermine the Ba'athist regime in short order, especially if we get Iraq to the point where they have a functioning representative government.

Similarly, there is *already* an anti-goverment movement in Iran. It would not take much to fan that into a full civil war, particularly if we support it with munitions and advisors. (We can infiltrate both in through Afghanistan and Iraq. Bet they would help?) Enough chaos in Iran, and we can come in as the peacemakers -- especially if the mullahs are foolish enough to commit a couple of massacres of their own civilians. And the beauty of fostering a civil war is who the H do the Iranians use their nukes on? Nukes don't do you much good in that environment.

North Korea is a more difficult problem, but if we are willing to be hard-nosed, the Chinese will solve it for them. Just let the Chinese know that if the NoKos develop nuclear weapons, why . . . (long dramatic pause) . . . there is simply no way that the US could prevent S. Korea, Japan, and Nationalist China from doing the same. After all . . . how do WE stop them if the Chinese don't rein in their own dog.

So there are ways. Machiavellian? You bet. But I'll take that over a WWII stype war or allowing terrorist sanctuaries to develop in those countries. And no, I do not expect any of these solutions to be painless or necessarily without American casualties.

But it will be worth it.

(11) capitano made the following comment | Oct 21, 2004 9:31:21 PM | Permalink

The problem I have with anti-Bush voters is that as Beldar says, it's a binary choice. Feckless leadership is what got us in this pickle where petty tyrants doubt our willingness to make hard decisions.

As others have said above, I see no evidence in Kerry's words or actions that he has any leadership ability, let alone good judgment in a crisis.

Could he rise to the occasion once in office? Who knows, certainly not Chafetz or Drum.

The stakes are too high for wishful thinking so for those of us who don't think 9-11 was a one-time event, it's easy: Kerry = no, therefore Bush criticisms are irrelevant.

(12) Roy Lofquist made the following comment | Oct 21, 2004 10:02:02 PM | Permalink

This whole discussion assumes that Kerry is a competent adult. I think not.

(13) Jim Rockford made the following comment | Oct 21, 2004 10:04:18 PM | Permalink

Is Paul H correct in predicting we will have to live with Iran and North Korea possessing the nuclear bomb?

I'd argue no. North Korea's "Juche" philosophy of structuring their whole economy around military spending, and earning any hard currency by military exports means they WILL sell to anyone. They've already done so with missile technology, it's naive to expect them NOT to sell to the highest bidder. Particularly since Dear Leader is not well versed in US capabilities or will. However Paul H is correct in asserting that China can and will act as a check on him, likely be "arranging" a very tragic accident. They have no desire to see North Korea undermine their nuclear status. Either Kerry or Bush is likely to horsetrade (Taiwan for NoKo) with China to get this done.

Iran is a different case and is profoundly hostile to the US, has no patron state ala NoKo to act as a check on it's nuclear ambitions. Once they DO have nukes, it's inevitable that they WILL use them (unlike NoKo). On a major US city or Israel or BOTH. Consider that the same regime: a. Invaded our sovereign territory (our embassy) and held our diplomats hostage; b. was responsible for the Beirut Barracks and Khobar Towers bombing; c. has supported Hamas and Hezbollah; d. currently harbors senior Al Queda leaders ... and all I might add with no signifcant negative consequendces ... it's hard to make a case that Iran would NOT attack the US either directly or indirectly with a nuclear device if they had them.

Iran's regime hangs 16 year old girls for being raped, and plans to stone to death a thirteen year old girl for the same offense.


If they do that to their own people, the regime simply can't be trusted; absent nuclear weapons they are as Kerry says a "nuisance." However with nukes (they may have them as soon as April 2005) they are a massive security threat to the US and cannot be deterred, only removed.

Would YOU trust your life to the Mullah's who hanged that girl goodwill? I sure wouldn't.

The danger with Kerry is that he will dither, delay, and "consult" instead of acting. Given his background as a Senator (premuim on NOT acting) and his reliance on Clinton ditherer retreads, this seems a reasonable assumption. The Mullahs on their side believe that they are God's divine instrument and as long as they act steadfastly in jihad, God will provide. Iran has also learned that the US will NOT use force against them, so like Saddam they think there will no consequences. Kerry WILL be a disaster in this case (I think he will win) and is almost certain to get a major American city nuked.

People want to return to a pre-9/11 mindset. See: BBC's "terrorism is a myth" program, Arianna Huffington "it's only fear not real" and Holbrooke's "terrorism is not a real threat and there's no real war on it." However sticking your head in the sand won't make the bad man go away.

(14) SemiPundit made the following comment | Oct 22, 2004 12:43:29 AM | Permalink

What would Iran hope to achieve by attacking one of our major cities with a nuclear weapon? What would Iran look like perhaps an hour after the weapon was launched?

(15) chads made the following comment | Oct 22, 2004 1:42:07 AM | Permalink

If we are "reviled" in the middle east. It will make no difference who the leader is. They hate us all, no single leader will change that, they just want a leader that can be easily manipulated-nobel prize for Arafat anyone?

And Kerry has already as much as said he will pull out of Iraq at the first convenience. I see no real evidence to the contrary.

As for Kerry acting on a strike. There is absolutely no evidence he would, or that Gore would have, which is a favorite argument of the left. After the Cole bombing, responding to a question about retaliation, General Zinni replied "what should we do, attack Afghanistan?" This was the mindset pre 9/11 and it could easily be slipped into again. There were no plans on the board for Afghanistan or hard plans on Iraq before 9/11. I'm willing to bet we have plans in place for a few more places right now.

Most likely a nuclear attack will have no obvious sponsor. It won't be a launch. It will be a container on a truck or a civil cargo plane blowing up at a low altitude. Expecting a Pres Kerry to cut through the bull and deal effectively with this kind of threat would be asking a little much, if you ask me, when looking at his past performance and record.

And as one more aside, if you want to see Really high oil prices, put a vascilator in the whitehouse and see what happens. Without steady leadership from the U.S. the world oil markets could explode.


(16) Clem made the following comment | Oct 22, 2004 1:53:29 AM | Permalink

Beldar, that was awesome. I can only assume the courteous admiration for the other side's acumen you deployed in the first few sentences was some Southern gentleman's tradition of apologizing to the beast before it's slaughtered, stuffed, trussed, baked and eaten.

'Cause they got eaten for lunch, that's for sure, and nothing but bones littering the floor are left. Whew! Glad I don't practise law on the other side of you.

To my eye, and this may be just showing my age, the principle error of the column you critique is simply the naivete of youth. There is too much belief in the power of mere words. In Kerry's words, of course. But also I think they've been seduced by their own argument. I've seen this happen to scientists, and it's amazing how crippled one's common sense can become when you fall in love with your own theory.

Or as we sometimes say: "Logic is mostly a way of going wrong with confidence." One might add elegant rhetoric to the warning, too.

(17) Greg D made the following comment | Oct 22, 2004 2:26:46 AM | Permalink

1: I agree with Mark L. Winning the election, esp. with picking up seats in the House and Senate, will give Bush more political capital that he can use to threaten to attack other countries, and to do it if necessary.

2: Kerry's threats, given his long pacifist history, and given Clinton's failures, are not going to be credible. Which means that a President Kerry who does care about US National Defense will be more likely to attack some other country, because no one will believe his threats until he does.

3: I expect our troops will still, for the sake of their own pride, do their best under Kerry.


Will they re-enlist? Or will they bug out to the civilian world. Will more people join an expanded US military, or will they not want to serve for a Commander in Chief who has already betrayed US troops? Will they go out on a limb for a guy who appoints anti-military people to positions of power (he doesn't have all that many pro-military Democrats to assign, after all)? Or will they be more concerned w/ CYA?

4: Does Kerry pass the "Global Test"? Well, just ask the leaders of Poland, Australia, Japan, and the rest of our allies in Iraq. Then ask Iraqi PM Allawi. From what I can tell, the answer that most if not all of those people would give is that they prefer Bush.

So, who's going to get more from the America's allies (rather than neutrals and enemies)? Clearly, Bush.

So, Bush is preferred by our allies (you know, the people Kerry called "the so-called coalition of the bribed and coerced), and feared by our enemies. Kerry is neither.

So, who's the "diplomatic" choice? Clearly, it's Bush.

(18) Chads made the following comment | Oct 22, 2004 7:08:34 AM | Permalink

There are pretty good indications that under a Kerry administration morale and reenlistment rates would fall. There is also pretty strong anecdotal evidence that retirment rates would increase soon after he was elected. Especially among people who remember the early 70's.

Just one note also, it's amazing that to bolster their point, people not only have to suspend disbeleif, but also beleif, to beleive in Kerry. You have to ignore what he has said recently, plus you have to ignore what he has done in the past, to think he can, or will, do any of the things he says he'll do. It seems, to me, the height of intellectual dishonesty!

A wise man once said, "The best predictor of future performance is past performance." That does not bode well for Kerry.


(19) Boris made the following comment | Oct 22, 2004 7:37:49 AM | Permalink

Morale and momemtum are at least as important to military force as they are to athletics.

The voters who are serious about the war on terror and the fighters in the war want W. The anti-WOT voters want Kerry. Replacing W with Kerry would devastate the will to win among supporters and fighters, embolden the terrorists and give them reason to rejoice.

If Kerry were able achieve victory it would only happen if it's near inevitable anyway, in which case he will take the credit for the results of W's leadership. He would also have the standing to discredit W and the policy which actually resulted in victory, teaching a false lesson of history that will need to be painfully relearned sometime in the future.

If Kerry fails, as is more likely, he'll blame W, defeat will have been snatched from the jaws of victory, and the correct policy will be even more discredited teaching a false lesson of history that will need to be more painfully relearned sometime in the future.

(20) MD made the following comment | Oct 22, 2004 9:48:46 AM | Permalink

"I'm not at all worried about Kerry's response to another attack.............. etc, etc."

Note the mindset of this statement.

We wait. We are attacked. We got a guy in the White House who will "respond."

It's a policy of passivity. We take action only in response to our enemy's initiatives.

It does not concern me whether Kerry would or would not "respond;" what concerns me is a policy based on response to the initiatives of others, as opposed to a pro-active policy to shape events to our liking. Otherwise, our future is defined by our enemies, not by us.

If one defines the situation as "merely a metaphor of war," or as a "nuisance," or as a "diplomatic challenge," then there is no need for pro-active policies. One merely preserves the status quo, and if something unfortunate occurs, then one "responds."

Isn't it a little late in the day for this kind of "thinking?" Of course, it isn't thinking at all; it's an ideology that cannot adjust to new geopolitical realities.

(21) Patrick R. Sullivan made the following comment | Oct 22, 2004 11:14:51 AM | Permalink

I agree with MD, whether or not Kerry would respond to an attack is beside the point. Which who would best preempt an attack.

Chafetz's position is; "Bush did the right thing. I'm voting for Kerry because he might too."

Even with absolutely no evidence he would, and plenty he'll cut and run at the first sign of danger. Terrific.

I think I prefer W;s "My position on the WOT is that, we win and the terrorists lose. I'll do whatever it takes to accomplish that. ANYTHING."

(22) Thomas Hazlewood made the following comment | Oct 22, 2004 3:04:31 PM | Permalink

I can give you a good example of what will happen if Kerry should succeed Bush... Somalia.

Clinton brought his own (or his staff's) perceptions of what we were doing there and what we wanted as a result.

They turned a humanitarian mission into a international (read UN) manhunt through ambivalence, hesitance, and miscalculation. Unrealistic goals were set for insufficient manpower and the result was a disaster in combat followed by a disaster in policy and a full retreat. Read Osama's conclusions on how he viewed American policy after that debacle.

(23) furious_a made the following comment | Oct 22, 2004 6:31:50 PM | Permalink

"Doesn't have the political capital..."?

Bush has plenty of political capital, because he's been willing to risk it either on his policy initiatives ir by campaigning on behalf of Republican incumbents and office-seekers (see "2002 Midterms").

Compare and contrast the value of Bush's political capital with that of Mr. Kerry, whose Senate colleagues up for re-election this year are avoiding him on the campaign trail like the plague.


(24) Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain made the following comment | Oct 23, 2004 6:52:39 AM | Permalink

Damn you, Beldar--Damn you!! I now will have to reassess and alter my long held and cherished beliefs about lawyers (in general)!!!

Product of a SC dirt farmer and an East Tn hillbilly, a considerable stint in law enforcement, and one who has "survived" a successful stint selling cars (but I've never been a DDS)
You can see the distress you are causing in my neatly compartmentalized, solipsistic beliefs cupboard!!

Extremely thoughtful hypothetical gamesmanship from those you draw, too..

You realize, as well, after leaving here, it makes it that much more "painful" for me to make the once a week journey to know my "enemy" --Koz, Oliver and the DU rabble
And Clem, fair notice, I'm stealing the Logic,elegant rhetoric snippet for future use in being verbally insubordinate to my officer "betters"

(25) MD made the following comment | Oct 23, 2004 5:47:13 PM | Permalink

Thomas, I would like to see Kerry's comments on Somalia, if he made any publicly. I suspect he was traumatized by it, and interpreted it as confirmation of his most deeply held beliefs.

I doubt if Kerry would even risk an operation on the scale of Somalia.

I can see it now: The Somalia Summit.

By the way, I opposed the Somalia mission, on 2 grounds: 1. there was no "mission;" nobody seems to have known what our purpose or objective was, and the confusion led to indecision and chaos. 2. I don't generally favor the use of the world's finest and most expensive military on sideshows; we should keep our powder dry for the real thing, and when we arrive people should know it in a big way (otherwise, we should organize some paramilitary organization strictly for "humanitarian" missions, or throw the food delivery business into the laps of the Swedes, the Germans, or the French).

(26) Yehudit made the following comment | Oct 24, 2004 1:06:07 AM | Permalink

"I'm not at all worried about Kerry's response to another attack -- no president could resist striking back hard, and I see no reason to think that Kerry would even want to resist striking back hard."

I found this outrageous, because I don't want another attack. Period. "Striking back hard" doesn't cut it.

This is what Kerry said in his acceptance speech, and I also found it outrageous that it didn't produce more outrage. I thought that one sentence should have sunk his candidacy right there. Kerry is all about defense, no offense. Whoever didn't startle hearing that sentence is subconsciously accepting that there will be another successful attack.

The Rhodes scholars are being true to their type. Give me a Texas cowboy any day.

(27) MD made the following comment | Oct 24, 2004 8:11:38 AM | Permalink

If you really believe there would be a "response."

What response did we have to the 93 WTC bombing? Or the Embassy bombings in Africa? or the Cole?

If Kerry were President, and an attack occurred, I'm sure there would be wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth about the "identity" of the perpetrators, and rigorous condemnations all around for the "cowardly" act. SEcy of State Richard Holbrooke would go on Meet on the Press and look especially distressed. Our Ambassador to the UN would hold a press conference, and convey his heartfelt sympathies to the victims and his "unconditional condemnation" of "senseless violence."

During the 9-11 Commission hearings, I listened to Dick Clarke, Sandy Berger, and Mad Albright go through this entire litany with respect to the Embassy bombings and the Cole.

It's a predetermined script.

(28) jim made the following comment | Oct 24, 2004 10:19:44 AM | Permalink

The choice Kerry vs Bush...

There where to many good arguments above to mention, however I will risk being flagged for pilling on, allow me to add a few more…

The whole concept of Deterrence hinges on the perception (by your enemy) that the price extracted (via retaliation) in response to their action, will be significantly higher then they (the adversary) are willing to pay. This causes them to forgo even considering the offensive act (attack) as a viable option. This is the “Big Stick” Teddy Roosevelt spoke of.

It is universally accepted (post-cold war) that America possesses “The Biggest Stick” on the block. The only question that must be accessed is: Does America’s President have the political will to wield it? Here the facts speak for themselves. They only need to look as far as CNN to see the Taliban overthrown, killed, arrested or running to avoid the same and the first free election occurring in 5000 years. Then look again to see Iraq, Saddam n company, in jail, dead or running to avoid the same and elections on the horizon…

Does the policy work? One needs only to look as far as Libya’s change in policies to see the effect… Our adversaries may be making noise, but you can bet in the conference rooms of power this is giving them extreme pause for thought. That is exactly what deterrence is designed to do, make them pause and think hard and alter course!

Will America attack the other axis of evil states? Maybe, maybe not, but that leads to the biggest question of all. Will we need to attack them or will they slowly alter course to avoid the conflict (like playing chicken, who ever blinks loses). What is needed is a steady hand on the wheel.

One outcome is plain to see, the axis of evil is nervous… That is in itself a good thing.

Now as to the other candidate:
Will going back to when “terrorism was a nuisance” alter their course? Do you really need to ask? No, it did not then, it will not now… The good old days were only good for our adversaries…

Will installing former Clinton and Carter advisors and policies cause our adversaries to pause and alter course. No, it did not then, it will not now…

Will deferring to the UN cause our adversaries to pause, think and choose another path? . No, it did not then, it will not now… .

History has plainly shown the policies of Clinton, Carter and the UN did nothing to stem the tide of terrorism. In fact, terrorism flourished very nicely under their watchful policies.

As for our Military: I am a disabled vet and was career military myself. Let me spell it out for you non military types…
Clinton was despised as a draft dodger bad enough.
Kerry stabbed us in the back and is a traitor! Nothing more needs be said.

Some claim we must go with our traditional allies (France and Germany). Well it is no secret that France and Germany see the EU as a rival to the US. In the Void of power left by the fall of the Soviet Union, they see the opportunity to restore their aspirations of greatness. Rivals are rarely friends and rivals never have your best interests at heart. It is in their interest to see the US weaken or fail. Enough said on that too.

In summation:
In stark contrast to the failed policies of the past, we see the terrorists on the defensive. They no longer command the initiative. We see them being slowly constricted, their options being reduced, and their core leadership systematically attacked, captured or killed. Osama has not been on the air in 2 years and is in hiding (or dead). Their state sources of support are under extreme pressure to stop rendering said assistance or be visited by the USMC. All in all not a pleasant out look for the terrorists…

Our Global Rivals tried to oppose our actions, as it was in their interest for the US to be weakened and they failed too.

The fact if I may us the analogy: The wolves (terrorists) found to their dismay, that within the helpless flock of sheep stood a pair of Great Pyrenees (Bush and Blair) and the hunters have now become the hunted…

Our choice in November is clear, we can go back to being sheep, we can be worried what our rivals think, (who wish us ill will by the way) or we can continue to stand up, bear our teeth in the face our enemies…

For me it is clear



(29) J_Crater made the following comment | Oct 25, 2004 10:13:50 PM | Permalink

After reading this, the first thing that popped into my head was a story that made it's way around just after 9/11. Bush and Powell were trying to line up support for air rights and bases with many of the former republics of of USSR. When the US went aknock'in, the leaders in these countries all asked the same one question, "Will you finish what you start ?" Each indicated the they feared the U.S. would stir up a swarm of bees and then leave, like what happened in Afghanistan when the USSR pulled out. Powell & Co. indicated we were in this for the long haul.
When John Kerry speaks of credibility around the world, I bounce his statements off these simple requests of so many simple nations .. "Will you finish what you start ?"
After all these weeks of campaigning, spending millions of dollars by multiple political groups on "getting the message out," I still have no "warm and fuzzy feeling" about John Kerry's ability to be in anything, except possibly politics, for the long haul. I'm not even sure he has a "message" short of "I'll be different." While this may be adequate for an Apple Computer commercial, I think I would like a bit more from a President.
Most people pick their candidates based on their convictions, as these can be a measure of just how to extrapolate where a candidate will stand on issues that haven't even been vocalized or materialized as yet. Kerry is a Roman Catholic, but he has been able to hang his Catholicism at the door like a dusty old hat, thus his status as a Catholic is meaningless. My biggest problem with John Kerry is that most of what makes him "John Kerry" is equally as meaningless.

(30) Tom Grey - Liberty Dad made the following comment | Oct 27, 2004 7:31:29 AM | Permalink

I recently wrote that Israel will attack Iran if Kerry wins.
(Links to Donald Sensing AND Johann Hari -- who argues, wrongly, about MAD).

Ultimatums stop "working", inducing behavior change, when the threat is NOT enforced after bad behavior. The USA HAD to invade Iraq to prove that somebody would -- 17 UN SC resolutions had become a Monty Python joke.
(Stop! or the UNSC will say "ni" to you again!)

Kerry supporters look at gay marriage and abortion, both of which Kerry says he opposes, and his actions are clearly to allow them. Kerry supports LIKE the idea of claiming to oppose something but then allowing it; abortion, gay marriage, Sudan genocide (a plan! a table! UN/ allie Talk!), Iran getting nukes.

Israel will NOT let Iran get nukes. Sharon is preparing for a pre-emptive strike (as Hari notes, too); getting the settlers out of Gaza is a step.

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