Monday, November 1

Bush vs Kerry

In a previous post on this subject, Bush vs Not Bush, ethiopundit supported the President against a largely undefined Kerry. Today the situation is far clearer and David Brooks of the New York Times gets to the heart of the matter while discussing the latest Bin Laden performance:
The nuisance is back!

Remember when John Kerry told Matt Bai of The Times Magazine that he wanted to reduce the terrorists to a nuisance? Kerry vowed to mitigate the problem of terrorism until it became another regrettable and tolerable fact of life, like gambling, organized crime and prostitution.

That was the interview in which he said Sept. 11 "didn't change me much at all." He said it confirmed in him a sense of urgency, "of doing the things we thought we needed to be doing."

Well, the Osama bin Laden we saw last night was not a problem that needs to be mitigated. He was not the leader of a movement that can be reduced to a nuisance.

What we saw last night was revolting. I suspect that more than anything else, he reminded everyone of the moral indignation we all felt on and after Sept. 11.


This is why Kerry is not cleaning Bush's clock in this election. Many people are not sure that he gets the fundamental moral confrontation. Many people are not sure he feels it, or feels anything. Since he joined the Senate, what cause has he taken a political risk for? Has he devoted himself selflessly and passionately to any movement larger than himself?

We are revealed by what we hate. When it comes to Osama bin Laden, Kerry hasn't revealed whatever it is that lies inside.
Kerry is a fine man who served his country with valor in Vietnam and honorably in the Senate. However, his worldview appears to have remained rooted in the popular Vietnam era assumption that the United States and any country allied with her security interests are naturally suspect.

Before the War on Terror, Kerry was not committed to the Cold War either as revealed by his support of minimal defense and intelligence spending, the nuclear freeze movement and a policy of non-confrontation with ever expanding Soviet interests worldwide. Later he opposed the First Gulf War and only supported the current Iraq War with the curious understanding that it would never be fought.

The Senator does not appear to appreciate that all countries, regardless of what they say, base their foreign policies on national self interest. The 'global tests' that he needs to approve and give moral weight to legitimate American interests would leave the U.S. utterly alone and lost in a dream of total world harmony.

The United Nations serves a purpose as a marketplace for selfish interests that may occasionally come together more productively than they would from individual diplomacy. Its agencies do excellent jobs worldwide in realms such as health and care of refugees. However, there is no country on earth that would trust the U.N. with its vital security interests regardless of what they may say.

Kerry's recent comments about the 'coalition of the coerced and bribed' and his belittling of Iraqi leader Allawi when he visited Washington show a curious inability to respect those who respect America. Like many countries worldwide, France and Germany can indulge themselves with low defense spending and one-world sermons secure in the knowledge that the U.S. will defend their basic shared interests around the world.

What would they do if confronted with a 9/11 type attack sponsored from abroad or a possible domestic uprising among immigrants (that they make no effort to integrate into national life)?

Faced with such a horror their response would be unthinkable for Americans - millions would face placement in camps and instant deportation, largely because they were never considered French or German to begin with. Abroad, the only choice except for pleas to the U.S. for help would be total capitulation, or in the case of the interests of France alone, the nuclear option.

The NATO alliance was always based upon the threat to all from the Soviet Union. It was never the grand alliance that Bush supposedly ruined as is imagined by pundits today. France fought and lost three colonial wars while in NATO. The U.S. helped with money in Vietnam but refused requests for nukes at the siege of Dien Bien Phu where the French lost. The U.S. forced an Anglo/French retreat from Egypt and ignored Algeria.

France left the NATO military command in 1965 and actively opposed the U.S. in its Vietnam war. Neither had any dreams that Germany or any other members would ever help them outside of Europe. Even in battles with terrorism the French and Spanish refused American planes overflight rights during the strike on Libya and Rome let loose terrorists forced down by American fighters over Italy.

When Clinton sent American soldiers to the former Yugoslavia to stop an impending genocide he had to drag a kicking and screaming Europe along with him. NATO, the U.N. nor the E.U. could respond to a crisis in Europe itself without American leadership.

Kerry does not share the centrist instincts of Bill Clinton that made that Presidency a largely successful one despite 20-20 hindsight on the terror issue. Indeed, Clinton has not supported even the most nebulously feel good Kerry foreign policy pronouncements while generally refraining from criticism of Bush on the same issues.

We think that is because Clinton intuitively understands, as Bush does and Kerry doesn't, what 9/11 meant. The Fourth World War is here. This time humanity faces determined enemies who want to bend Islam, one of the world's great religions, to their own private will in the service of a new totalitarian evil. The first three wars were fought against the Central Powers from 1914-18, totalitarian Fascism from 1935-45 and totalitarian Communism from 1945-91.

The Bush policies in pursuing this war have been exemplary. It is hard to imagine how policy to change the directions of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya among many others could have gone better than it has. The failure to find WMDs in Iraq is certainly a problem but Saddam demonstrably had and used them over a long period and clearly acted like he had something to hide. Indeed, he wanted the whole world to believe he had large stockpiles.

Appropriately, Bush acted like he believed him.

Most criticisms of 'incompetence, quagmire and debacle' are nonsense. They seem to be demands that Bush, personally, do everything in Iraq perfectly. Well, the world has never worked that way. War is a hideous and bloody business that usually does not provide gratification either instantly or in the short term.

From the often unsteady first American battles during the Revolutionary War, to the first years of defeat in the Civil War onto the litany of mistakes that defined World War II from Guadalcanal and Tarawa to the disaster at the Kasserine Pass ... it took a while to get things right.

Even when victorious, grave errors were routine that caused thousands of lives - that is simply how horrible and dangerous war has always been - it can not be wished away because news cycles have gotten faster. The U.S. persisted, began to win and ultimately triumphed. Few armies in history have ever done as well as the American forces have done in Iraq in terms of battlefield success and low casualties to themselves and civilians.

No adequate wargames could ever have existed to predict the outcome of invading a large, diverse, heavily armed police state with no functional civil society and manipulated radical religious tendencies. Yet the job was done in short order and after a year and a half occupation at historically relatively low cost it is evident that American interests are being served as well as those of Iraqis whose future is brighter than it has been for well over a generation.

Only 13 soldiers out of 130,000 abused prisoners at Abu Gharib and that problem was laid at Bush's doorstep as though American Presidents routinely know what every squad sized unit thousands of miles away was doing. The large majority of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians go weeks or months at a time without hearing a shot fired in anger but the whole country is portrayed as though it is in the grips of an eternal Tet Offensive.

Would FDR or Lincoln have been personally blamed for missing explosives and weapons from a German or Southern depot? Of course not, but the media today thrives on bad news alone and demands it in ever increasing amounts.

If the occupation of the American South in the 1860-70s, that of Germany or Japan in the 1940s or of South Korea in the early 1950s were judged by the harsh standards facing America today the world would have lived with a rejuvenated Confederate Slavery for generations more and an unstable, likely Soviet run Europe and Asia today.

Historically, American troops do not stick around for ever and the Iraqis know it. Bush would see them stick around long enough. The President for all his faults says what he means, does what he says and above all recognizes that there is a war on and not a job of managing 'nuisances'.

The Bush Presidency is actually quite radical in having identified America's interests with changing the world and not just accepting it as is. There is also much to be said for the simple fear that potentially WMD armed despots and would be supporters of terrorism must now feel.

One of the strengths of America is its capacity for introspection and self criticism that keep it agile and young in spirit. For that reason alone the President come 2009 will probably be a Democrat. Now, Bush should finish what he has begun.

Bush is comfortably past the dated assumptions born of the 1960s that right was usually found in America's wrongs. Kerry's Old-European outlook of sophistication and nuance masking a cynical world weariness and self doubt is not good for America or the world.

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