September 25, 2003

The UN and Avoidance Behavior

Andrew Sullivan on Wesley Clark:

Let's put the best gloss on Wesley Clark's ever-shifting position on the Iraq war and glean a coherent case within it. He would have voted for the Congressional Resolution - but only as a way to increase pressure for a diplomatic solution through the U.N. But wasn't that Tony Blair's position? Blair had all along preferred the U.N. route. He and Bush won an amazingly unanimous vote on the first resolution. He almost burst every blood vessel trying to get the Security Council to agree to the second. He wanted unanimous U.N. support precisely for the reasons Clark says he did as well - so as to avoid war.
Nice try, Andrew, but come on. Wesley Clark and Tony Blair do not share the same views on Iraq.

There is no alternate universe where George Bush or Tony Blair hoped Saddam Hussein would behave himself so he could stay in power. Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and his flouting of UN resolutions were part of the legalistic case for war, but had nothing to do with the real reason for war. The real reason, as almost everyone knows, was to kick-start political liberalisation in the Arab Middle East.

If Wesley Clark opposes liberation and democratic nation-building for Iraqis, he needs to be confronted about it head-on. It does no good to pretend the Americans, British, Russians, or French took any of the arguments they made at the UN seriously. Every country on the Security Council hid its true agenda behind legalistic fig leaves.

The same goes for nearly everyone who talks and writes about it. Most pundits and politicians who discuss the diplomatic scrap at the UN use the whole charade to make disingenuous arguments or as an excuse to avoid making tough decisions. Would Bush and Blair have accepted any action by Saddam short of suicide or exile as capitulation? Not likely. Would the UN fetishists actually have surrendered to a French veto? They don't say. And since the French were never given the chance to veto, the whole sideshow provides a convenient excuse for avoidance behavior.

Wesley Clark changes the subject from Iraq to the UN. He canít get away with that. No one should encourage him by doing the same.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 25, 2003 12:01 AM

Bingo! You've got it nailed down pretty good. :)

Posted by: Al Superczynski at September 25, 2003 03:07 AM

1. On true Iraq war motivations, I have my doubts that it can all be reduced to kickstarting political liberalization. I remind myself that, in the pre-9/11 world, I strongly supported the Clinton/Blair policy of sanctions, regime change (voted in the Senate 95 to 0) and enforcement of Security Council resolutions, which amply justified ouster of the regime on those grounds alone. The neo-con domino theory didn't really even come to the fore, gradually, until January and February of this year, and the human rights case, also ample reason in my view, gained dominance only thereafter. But the enforcement case remains, in my opinion, at the heart of the matter, even if various motives came into play. Indeed, we are now faced with an analagous problem re: non-compliance with WMD norms and collective security concerns in Iran, essentially an enforcement matter and only tangentially a matter of political liberalization. Indeed, the two may conflict. The Den Beste theory, apparently becoming gospel in some corners of Blogland, is a good statement of one aspect, but seems overly reductionist.

2. Remember that Clinton/Blair led a "unilateralist" Iraq policy opposed by the French and other UNSC members. He also left a lot less broken china behind. That is no small point and is important to assessing the present and any alternative administration. This point requires no illusions regarding the obstructionism of the French or some of our other "allies". But neither should that serve as an excuse for giving Bush a pass.

3. Re: Clark specifically, the conservative intelligentsia had been waiting in the bushes (NPI) like wolves set to pounce on their prey. First, the trickle of polite, respectful doubts - he is a General after all. Then, the steadier flow of nitpicking and attempted Clintonization. Now it's a barrage quickly turning into an unthinking reflex action on the right. Wes must be doing something right if he can get them that scared that quickly. It's enough for Hillary to cry "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy"! I guess it's more like the parallel behavior of oligopolistic markets.

Posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez at September 25, 2003 04:54 AM

I'm a liberal who was also somewhat persuaded by Friedman, Berman and others on the "kickstart political liberalisation" argument. I remember hearing Friedman at a signing for his book remarking as a preface to his explanation for supporting the war that "I think Saadam is eminently deterrable."

My question is do you really think that Bush could have gotten away, internationally and DOMESTICALLY, with limiting his argument for intervention to the "true reasons"? I can't see how Blair would have been able to support it...and I see such liberal idealism being shot down in the Republican caucus as well...

If in fact such rhetoric would not have been persuasive, if the only way to go to war was to lie about WMD's...are you prepared to say that the ends justify the means?

Posted by: Markus Rose at September 25, 2003 06:22 AM

You should note that Clark has been getting attacked by the antiwar crowd for comments like these:

"Liberation is at hand. Liberation-- the powerful balm that justifies painful sacrifice, erases lingering doubt and reinforces bold actions."
-Clark writing in the London Times in April

His most often voiced concern over Iraq was the concern of a professional military leader - do we have enough troops, do we have the allies we need, are we positioned to succeed as well as we could be? I have no problem with that.

He has said the liberation of Iraq was "elective", however, so you may take issue with that.

I like Clark for what else he has stood for - pushing for the use of ground troops in Kosovo to stop Milosevic's ethnic cleansing with less risk of killing civilians, and lobbying to intervene in Rwanda to stop the genocide there. Clinton overruled him on both of those.

Posted by: Lee at September 25, 2003 08:20 AM

are you prepared to say that the ends justify the means?

As a general rule, no. In this case, yes, absolutely.

In a better world, the liberal case for war would have been the public case for war. But the Arab dictatorships would have united against us, and we would not have been able to do it. We needed their cooperation. The rest of the world is not a fraction as idealistic as we Americans are.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 25, 2003 08:54 AM


I haven't made up my mind about Clark yet. But he is waffling, and I don't like that. This is not the sort of thing to waffle on. You are emphasizing his good side, which is nice. Maybe that's the real Clark, and he is waffling in fear of the activist left for now. If he wins the nomination, maybe he can then ignore the activist left. We'll see.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 25, 2003 08:58 AM

I don't think that Clark or any other candidate is under obligation to defend their views on the goal of "kick-start[ing] political liberalisation in the Arab Middle East" when its not the stated foreign policy of the administration.

Bloggers and columnists have in some instances been doing a far better job of what the administration has been unable to do for itself, making several clear cases for war. My favorite example of this is the much vaunted "flypaper theory", which appears to have been spun out of whole cloth and only gradually made its way out of the blogosphere and into the mainstream press, where presumably some in the administration have learned what their strategy is. Followed by the famous "bring 'em on" comment, which in itself and in context led no support to this theory, bloggers all over the nation patted themselves on the back, claiming "See? See?" Yet not even leaks have supported this clever and majestic assessment of our "real" foreign policy.

The same happened with Bush's decision to send Powell back to the UN. There was an initial flurry of confusion, much of it mixed with outrage, among those who had supported the democratization and flypaper theories. Then a new meme developed, which was that Bush only went back to the UN to put them up on the ropes, to show how they were still incapable of coalescing around our noble goal, and this sucker punch would finally do them in. The source for this theory? Imaginitive writers who think the best of our administration.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with thinking the best of our administration, though I'm a bit more cynical myself. My complaint is that I don't want to base my assessment of my government's foreign policy, which as we all know is critically important and worth voting on, on what den Beste, Sullivan or even Michael Totten think it is. I want to hear from the adminstration itself--from the President himself--what our policy is, what our goals are, and how we win this war. If he can't bring himself to say it, then I can't bring myself to believe it.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at September 25, 2003 09:00 AM


Paul Wolfowitz has articulated the liberation/democratisation thesis with perfect clarity, and he did so long before the war started. You can read all about it in a piece by Bill Keller, current editor of the New York Times.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 25, 2003 09:13 AM

The real reason we went to war against Saddam was, he was our enemy. I personally would have supported his violent ouster at any time after Gulf War I, by any administration, based on that four-word rationale. I suspect a lot of Americans would agree.

This isn't to denigrate the project of political liberalization in the region. Liberalization is essential in the long run; it constitutes the slam-dunk victory we're after. But it depends on forces we can't directly control. We can create conditions where liberalization is possible, but only the locals can make it happen. It will cost them dearly, too; reactionary elements will not go gently.

I worry when people say that political reform in Iraq is the responsibility of the US. Such thinking could lead to a genuine quagmire, or set up another scabrous dependent like France. I'm not saying we have no responsibilities to the people whose oppressors we have coddled. But those people must fight, labor and suffer to be free. Our propaganda in the region should emphasize this.

Liberalization might fail. If it does, we'll just have to play whack-a-mole, indefinitely. That's not a sustainable policy, of course; just think of each whacking as another chance for reform. It's no uglier than the previous doctrine of keeping hostile forces in balance.

If George Bush were a better leader, he might have been more forthright about the reasons, and dispensed with the elaborate rationalization and political maneuverings. I also wonder, if Gore had been elected, whether this war might have been prosecuted more aggressively. Certainly there would have been far less whining here in America.

Posted by: dipnut at September 25, 2003 09:42 AM

Michael, thanks for the link. I've read the whole piece and it is enlightening, but I don't think it addresses my criticism that our administration's foreign policy--not Wolfowitz's own vision, though he certainly is a major player--is not the same policy as what many people feel it really is. From the article you linked to:

Iraqi democracy, it should be said, is not the president's declared purpose of ''regime change'' in Iraq, which is to get rid of a very bad man with a fondness for terrorists and a hunger for weapons of hideous power. But it is, to many in the administration, including Wolfowitz, a large part of the enticement.


The idea of Iraq as a launch pad of Arab democracy and a counterweight to Islamist extremism has gained some credence in Washington. As unromantic an expert as Dennis B. Ross, who ran the Middle East account for President Clinton, thinks Wolfowitz is right, that liberating Iraq would not only chasten despots and encourage democrats but that it could also unleash a joy in Iraq that would help alleviate the wider Arab anger against America. So does Henry Kissinger, whose cold realism has not often meshed with Wolfowitz's sense of the world.

That the administration could, on any given day, lean one way or the other--towards the liberalization and democratization of the middle east as a prime object, or towards reflexive targeting of individual states and actors in isolation, motivated primarily by political concerns at home and abroad--makes me nervous.

I can buy the grand vision. I really can; it's something I can get behind (though the devil, as always, is in the details). But it doesn't help me to support the administration's position if the administration is either too uncertain or too coy to adopt the vision we'd all like it to have.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at September 25, 2003 09:44 AM

As usual, a smart and thought-provoking post.

Regarding your statement "If Wesley Clark opposes liberation and democratic nation-building for Iraqis, he needs to be confronted about it head-on.".

Why the present tense "opposes"?

Clark clearly opposed (past tense) Bush's combination of reasoning and timing for the invasion.

Now that we're in, though, I trust Clark to favor (present tense) liberation and democratic nation-building.

Posted by: Oberon at September 25, 2003 10:01 AM

Clark is not what we would consider presidential material. Among the military, he's known as a "perfumed prince" (do a Google search for that). When British General Jackson was told by Clark to send in his troops against the Russians in Kosovo, he replied, "I'm not going to start World War Three." Clark was a brilliant student (#1 in his class at West Point), but he is more suited to running for governor of Arkansas, where there will be a much better match for his talents. And being front-man for the Clintons is even more justification for keeping him in Arkansas.

Posted by: Mike at September 25, 2003 10:30 AM

"...the liberalization and democratization of the middle east as a prime object, [vs.] targeting of individual states and actors in isolation, motivated primarily by political concerns at home and abroad..."

What's the difference, Chris?

I'm not just being flippant. Either one of the rationales you describe might lead to the exact same actions and results. With or without a unifying goal, we have to "target states and actors in isolation". And the motivation, no matter how high-minded, can always be described as "political concerns at home and abroad".

There exists this notion that, if war waged by Bush is good for Bush (politically), then he must be a black-hearted cynic to wage that war. I say, he is obliged to do whatever benefits him politically (short of lying). If the people want war, he should make war, or exert leadership in convincing us otherwise. Ultimately he is supposed to serve our will.

Political reform in the Middle East will be of tremendous benefit to the US. For many, that fact is reason to oppose such reform and anything which might lead to it. It is considered evil to act in one's own interest, even if the action is morally justifiable in its own right.


There is no doubt that the administration is pursuing political liberalization in Iraq; note we didn't just install Chalabi and wash our hands of the ensuing mess. This is the will of the American people, too. We want do have done something good.

We toppled Saddam because he was our enemy. We occupy/stabilize/rebuild Iraq because it serves our interests and cancels our debt to the Iraqi people. Whether the president does all this with an eye to the polls, is irrelevant.

Posted by: dipnut at September 25, 2003 11:09 AM

Michael, you hit this one squarely on the head.

I like the fact that Clark is an anit-Dean. I am disgusted and frightened by the anti-American peacenik left which has, for the moment, siezed control of the Democratic party. These people cannot be trusted with our national defense, and Dean is their fair-haired boy.

Maybe Dean is just pandering to the peacenik left to get elected. Maybe if the mantle of the presidency descended upon him, and defending the nation from terrorists was actually his responsibility, he'd begin to think and act more reasonably.

But all that is speculation. I have no reason to trust Dean today. Given his antiwar message and the fervent support of his ponytailed, no-blood-for-oil chanting supporters, I have every reason to think that Dean will be another weak and feckless Democrat, in the established Democratic tradtion of George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Walter Mondale.

We cannot allow another Jimmy Carter to lead this country in time of war. Millions of American lives are at stake, as are the lives (and futures) of millions in the Middle East.

So to the extent that Clark offers an alternative to the Howard Dean/Jimmy Carter wing of the Democratic party, I think he's wonderful. There is nothing that would make me happier than to see control of our party wrested away from the antiwar crowd. I hope Clark destroys Dean in the primaries and that the grey-haired hippies are sent screaming back to Seattle and Burlington. I hope Clark's victory is so decisive, and so demoralizing, that these people become disillusioned with politics and are never heard from again. Obviously, that last wish will never come true...if there is one thing we know for certain about the 60's generation, it's that they'll never shut up.

But we're talking about the primary season here. If Clark runs as an alternative to Dean during the primaries, that's great.

The thing is, during the general election, Clark is going to have to run as an alternative to Bush. He's going to have to offer a foreign policy vision that differs from Bush's. The problem is that I like Bush's foreign policy. I like it a lot. I don't want to see it changed at all. I can't stand Bush's domestic policy, and agree with almost none of it. In this election, though, foreign polciy is far more important to me than domestic policy.

If Clark were to say "I intend to continue Bush's foreign policy, but implement a Democratic domestic policy," I'd vote for him in a heartbeat. But he's probably not going to do that. He's going to have to offer an "alternative" foreign policy vision, and I don't like the alternatives.

From what I have seen, which isn't much, Clark will either return us to the days of terrorism-as-law-enforcement or to the days of meaningless internationalism. Clark doesn't seem intersted in the bold policy of democratizing the middle east. Maybe he'll continue it now that it's been set in motion, but I wonder. Will he insist on meaningful reforms in the Saudi Arabias, Syrias, Irans, and Egypts of the world? Or will he just look the other way while their dictatorial governments institute fake "reforms"?

Will Clark stand tall in Korea? Or will he go with another meaningless round of negotiantions and multilateral guarantees? If he's going to push an "international cooperation" approach, he'll pretty much have to, because the whole world seems more than willing to pay North Korea's blackmail. Think our allies will agree to a bloody nuclear war when they can get out of it by having us pay Kim? I don't. South Korea will never agree to it, and we'd obviously have to consult them under any multilateal approach. I'm not saying that we should go to war there -- maybe paying the blackmail is the best of a set of bad options -- but I would like to see someone who will at leat consider standing up to Kim. It's hard to negotiate from a position of strength if your enemy knows that you'll never actually go to war with him.

So that's my main issue with Clark.

There is one other concern, though, come to think of it. If Clark runs as an anti-Dean ("vote for me, not for Dean, he's soft on defense") that's great. If he runs as an electable version of Dean ("I'm Clark, the anti-war general") that's bad.

One of the things that has always troubled me about Clark is that his whole candidacty seems fake. He's not fake, but the Democrats' interest in him is. If 9/11 had never happened, none of the party bigwigs would have any interest in Clark. Terry McAulffe woudl never take Clark's calls. None of the party loyalists would be interested in him either. If Clark announced that he were running for President, he'd get about ten minutes of airtime, out of respect for his position as a four-star general. His candidacy would then crater instantly, and he'd never make it past Iowa.

Do you really think that people like Michael Moore would be interested in an Army general if we weren't at war and didn't look weak on defense? Have they long been admirers of General Clark and our military? Of course not. All they are interested in is the image of strength and miltary competence; they don't actually value it. They just want a guy with four stars on his shoulders who they can put in front of the camera. To them, Clark is basically a Democratic version of Clarence Thomas. I wasn't fooled by Thomas, and I'm not fooled by Clark. Heck, at least Thomas is a genuine ideological conservative. No one really knows what Clark's views are.

This is extremely troubling because the Democratic party doesn't just need to change its image; it needs to change its soul. We don't need to look strong on defense; we need to be strong on defense.

If Clark tries to change our soul, he is exactly what the Democrats need. If, on the other hand, he's just some guy with four stars who the peacenik left can trot out in front of the camera, his candidacy will have no real meaning.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at September 25, 2003 11:24 AM

Since Mike brought up the "perfumed prince" line, it's only fair to include this quote from Colonel Hackworth:

"I took a swing at Clark during the Kosovo campaign when I thought he screwed up the operation, and I called him a “Perfumed Prince.” Only years later did I discover from his book and other research that I was wrong – the blame should have been worn by British timidity and William Cohen, U.S. SecDef at the time."

Here's the article

Posted by: Oberon at September 25, 2003 11:54 AM

Oops. I screwed up the link. Just go to, first article.

Posted by: Oberon at September 25, 2003 11:56 AM


Thanks! Head-and-shoulders up into thought usual.

Two comments:

1. Perhaps a most important question about Clark would be the nature and names of his governance team. He's got a lot of Clinton oompa loompas working right now...

2. Regarding the practical side of the liberalization of Iraq, a 9/22 WSJ (dead tree) editorial titled "Baghdad's Laffer Curve" says that the new Iraqi Finance Minister, Kamel al-Gailani has announced that Iraq's new financial structure will include:

Top marginal tax rate = 15% (Indiv. & Corp.)
Uniform import tariff = 5% (excludes clothing food medicine and books)

Plus, foreign ownership of any business is allowed at 100% except those involving "natural resources" (read oil).

Those are the numbers of significant change.

Posted by: Stephen at September 25, 2003 11:58 AM

I hope Michael's "real reason" is the real real reason. It's certainly the reason (among others) that I supported the war. I just wish somebody--preferably W.--would have said before the war what the real reason was and gone in with guns a-blazing to change the world for the better. But by not only paying lip service to the UN but actually predicating the whole enterprise on the ridiculous notion that Iraq had to be brought into compliance with the Security Council's resolutions, we made it a lot more difficult to achieve what the real reasons say we want to achieve. Plus, by lending credence to the idea that there is some meaningful "law" determined by the pronouncements of the UN, we wind up having to defend the war in those same terms, which is a tiresome, time- and credibility-wasting enterprise.

If the US wants to be a virtuous, world-improving empire, we ought to be upfront and consistent about it. As a good old capital-L Liberal, I'd be whole-heartedly enthusiastic if somebody from the administration came out publicly and said, "The United States is going to use every means at its disposal to liberalize the Middle East." Hey, we're an empire anyway, so it's no use denying it.

Posted by: Geoff Pynn at September 25, 2003 01:00 PM

"As a good old capital-L Liberal, I'd be whole-heartedly enthusiastic if somebody from the administration came out publicly and said, "The United States is going to use every means at its disposal to liberalize the Middle East." Hey, we're an empire anyway, so it's no use denying it. "

This sounds nice but it hits a brick wall when it encounters reality. We may be an 'empire' but we're not omnipotent. Strategically, showing your cards in a poker game is a dumbass move.

Posted by: linden at September 25, 2003 01:15 PM

For what it's worth, my father (a Clinton Democrat who voted Gore in 2000) said he won't vote for Clark. I use him as a barometer for the "swing vote" and right now he is holding up pretty well.

He hates Bush.

He thinks Dean is a nut.

But he won't vote for Clark. He said Clark looked "smarmy".

::Shrug:: Take it for what it's worth. I'll let you guys know when and if he changes his mind :)

Posted by: Roark at September 25, 2003 01:23 PM

Cheers to Joe Schmoe for stating the truth. The Democrats have no real interest in Clark except for his military image. The reaction he is receiving in the press (magazine covers, alot of journalistic buzz) is an indication of how seriously they take the "soft on war" image problem. But to them it's just an image problem. (The attention focused on a not terribly well-known retired general by the media could be interpreted as a rather obvious case of media bias. Just how badly do they want Bush to lose?)

However, I'm not fooled, and I don't think many others will be either. I remember the indignant outrage by the left when Clarence Thomas was selected as a Supreme Court justice. Everyone "knew" he wasn't fit for the top court - it was just another example of the extreme cynicism of the Republicans. I admit there was some substance to this charge. But how is the support for Clark any different? No one really knows what Clark's positions are - not even he does! Yet the Democrats think they now have a candidate who can compete against Bush on the national defense issue. How many times will we hear Clark's "real" military record compared to George Bush's "fake" one? The cynicism is breathtaking, and in my mind 100 times worse. We're talking about American lives here - cynical politics on this subject get me really pissed off.

Joe Schmoe is absolutely right - the Democrats can't just "look" strong on defense, they need to "be" strong on defense. Clark is window dressing, nothing more.

A question for Roark - who does your father support for president, if not Bush, Dean or Clark?

Posted by: Tim at September 25, 2003 02:06 PM

Right now he wants Clinton (either). Or Gore.

He was Republican for years and went Democrat after he retired (he threated to divorce my mother in 76 when she voted for Carter). The "medi-scare" thing got him voting Democrat in 96 and he has never looked back. I don't know if he is representative or not, but its going to take a Clinton level politician to get his vote.

He is confused on Iraq. At times he is quick to bash Bush on it; but all I have to do is throw a couple of mass grave and "Saddam gassed his own people" at him and he folds in a hurry. The anti-war stuff does not appeal to him, despite him very much wanting it to. He wants to vote Democratic and he wants to be in the Democratic mainstream but right now the field of candidates has offered him nothing.

Most of the time, he just talks about skipping the whole election.

Posted by: Roark at September 25, 2003 02:13 PM

This is one of the most thoughtful and rational comments sections in the blogosphere. As I scroll through the posts, I feel hope that this nation may emerge from political polarization as a united polity. Would that capitol hill were as well-informed anb balanced.

MJT's site, and the readership it draws, stands in stark contrast to the splenetic, obdurate, impudent flamers of Oliver Willis' site.

Posted by: bleeding heart conservative at September 25, 2003 02:35 PM


If Clark gets real support from Democratic voters, then he is not "window dressing."

That's democracy for you.

Posted by: Oberon at September 25, 2003 02:37 PM


This sounds nice but it hits a brick wall when it encounters reality. We may be an 'empire' but we're not omnipotent. Strategically, showing your cards in a poker game is a dumbass move.

1. You're right, and there's a good reason I'm a graduate student and not a policymaker. But...

2. I'm a pretty good poker player. If I knew what our cards were, I'd definitely go for the bluff. The trouble here is that I don't know what we're holding. (Wonder how long I can keep this metaphor going?) I'd really like to believe Michael's claim about what the "real reasons" for the war are. But I'm not willing to trust people outside the administration to tell me what's really motivating Team Bush.

Posted by: Geoff Pynn at September 25, 2003 02:37 PM

Drudger has some interesting data on Clark.

Posted by: bleeding heart conservative at September 25, 2003 03:01 PM

Interesting stuff, BHC. If I may make a prediction how this will play:

most conservatives: this proves Clark is a waffler

most liberals: since Clark gave this speech in 5/11, it proves he seriously disagrees with Bush's handling of 9/11 and the Iraq invasion

conservatives for Clark: he's a pro-military centrist that we can support

liberals against Clark: he's a closet Republican and we can never support him

Andrew Sullivan: he's a nut (oh yeah, Andrew already called him that)

Posted by: Oberon at September 25, 2003 03:19 PM

The newest stuff from Drudge on Clark will have little effect. It confirms that Clark is a political opportunist, but everyone already knew that. Democrats aren't running Clark because they actually like what he thinks (and what is that, by the way?) - they are running him because they think he can beat Bush and not be Howard Dean when he does it.

This will have little effect on his supporters, and only confirms what everyone else thinks about him.

Posted by: Roark at September 25, 2003 04:31 PM

"Most of the time, he just talks about skipping the whole election."
Me too. Maybe I'll just do a write-in candidate on my ballot. Cookie Monster sounds good.

Geoff, I agree. Coming about to my pro-war position was excruciating. And, yes, I too am suspicious about Bush, but I, for some inane reason, kind of trust Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. I can't explain it. I don't think they're perfect and I'm more than a bit freaked out by the situation, but I like them. Before September 11th, I would have never said such a thing. I probably would have foamed at the mouth about the 2000 election.

But, Geoff, have you ever read "The National Security Strategy of the United States"?

"Finally, the United States will use this moment of opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe.We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world. The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders."

Perhaps they've put their views in plain view? Or this is just empty rhetoric?

Posted by: linden at September 25, 2003 05:59 PM

"Me too. Maybe I'll just do a write-in candidate on my ballot. Cookie Monster sounds good."

Nah. It won't get to that for him. He'll vote for whichever candidate gets to telling him that Republicans are going to take his social security away first. By November, he'll be hopping a** mad and voting for the Democrat.

Posted by: Roark at September 25, 2003 08:00 PM

Oberon wrote:

"If Clark gets real support from Democratic voters, then he is not "window dressing."

That's democracy for you."

Democracy and window dressing are not mutually exclusive. He may get support, and votes cast for him surely represent democracy. But he's still window dressing. As Joe Schmoe and others have pointed out, votes cast for Clark will probably have more to do with his perceived ability to beat Bush than for any real conviction about his policies.

I doubt Clark's support comes from a careful review of his positons on domestic and foreign policy. He's the Democrat's wet dream - a 4 star general with Dean's view on the war (today; "Mary" may tell him to change it tomorrow).


Posted by: Tim at September 25, 2003 08:04 PM


This is off topic for this thread, but your father's position absolutely fascinates me: a Republican until he retired and switched because of the "medi-scare thing." I presume you mean the Democratic party's implication/assertion that Republicans would reduce/destroy Medicare and leave the elderly starving & homeless etc....

I believe the Democrat's "medi-scare" tactics were designed to prey upon the fears of the elderly. However, I never knew anyone that went from being a die-hard Republican to a Clinton/Gore supporter on this issue. The retired Republicans I know find the Clintons in particular unappealing on the grounds of character and wouldn't "compromise" this position for reasons of pure self-interest. I always figured that "medi-scare" tactics appealed to Democrats that might otherwise lean towards Republican politicians. I never knew the tactic actually succeeded in gaining net new Republican votes.

The implications are fascinating, but one anectodal story does not make a trend. I'm curious how many other retired Republicans feel the same way. No need to start a new discussion; I just found your father's position interesting.


Posted by: Tim at September 25, 2003 08:25 PM

In a great response, dipnut wrote,

What's the difference, Chris?

I'm not just being flippant. Either one of the rationales you describe might lead to the exact same actions and results. With or without a unifying goal, we have to "target states and actors in isolation". And the motivation, no matter how high-minded, can always be described as "political concerns at home and abroad".

My concern is with the follow-through. For example, if our concerns with causualties, troop rotations, budgets and a desire for demonstrable success (all healthy concerns) are not balanced by an appreciation of the long-term strategic consequences of our actions judged against the kinds of overarching goals we're talking about here, we could, for example, drop the ball in Afghanistan--something that we've been threatening to do, although lately I get the impression that the administration has reconcerned itself there. I'm very afraid that allowing Afghanistan to descend into chaos, again, will eventually have truly terrible consequences, again. I want to know that the person I vote for will stay in Afghanistan, stay in Iraq, even when it's unpopular to do so, even when he or she can't scare Ma and Pa into thinking somebody's going to fly a balsawood airplane with a WD-40 can of nerve gas halfway around the world and into their family room if Something Isn't Done.

In general I don't have a problem with the right thing being done for the wrong reasons, but it leaves me with less confidence that the right thing will continue to be done. Michael's link to the Wolfowitz article and linden's link to the National Security Strategy of the United States (which I really should read before I open my trap on this subject) demonstrate that there are forces within the administration that take the long view, probably more than I realized. And I certainly haven't heard any of the candidates articulate a serious security vision (though once again my homework is incomplete). But I don't see this vision being expressed or adopted by the President, either.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at September 25, 2003 09:57 PM

"Andrew Sullivan: he's a nut (oh yeah, Andrew already called him that)"

Actually, Sullivan had a couple of nice things to say about Clark's debate performance.

Posted by: Moe Lane at September 26, 2003 05:36 AM

Sullivan's really not a consistent fellow, so expecting a single post from him to hold his opinion on a given day isn't a useful approach.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 26, 2003 10:59 AM

The real reason, as almost everybody knows, was to kick-start political liberalisation in the Arab Middle East.

Actually Michael, very very few people know that. Which is why support for the war is now down to about 50 percent. The masses are uninformed.

Posted by: mike at September 26, 2003 05:19 PM

Re: Sullivan Consistency,

I think Sullivan has and will continue to be very consistent, consistently negative that is, on Wesley Clark. The pattern emerged about a week ago with polite expressions of doubts and thinly veiled criticisms, building now to outright attacks and soon Sullivan will lose control of himself. Sullivan - who otherwise has very interesting things to say at times - has a (perhaps barely conscious) pathological indisposition to any Democrat who will seriously challenge his hero George Bush. He'll probably fall into the Clintons as Puppeteers theme. (It's the flypaper, stupid!)

Posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez at September 26, 2003 05:39 PM

What? None of you BushTheLiar/Gov't-Must-Disclose-It's-Intentions-types ever heard of the tissue of lies called Lend Lease? Quit acting as though the populace hasn't ever, with good reason, been misdirected into marching off to war. The Gulf of Tonkin is a null argument, the Cold War is over and so are it's damnable strategic "subtleties". We're back to fighting fascists bent on world domination. WWII is known as the Good War for it's crushing of fanatics. If you don't think jihadists are fanatics then invite some over for dinner and intoduce them to your daughters and wives. True fanatics stop only when killed - at which point the borderline ones often reconsider.

Posted by: Stephen Meyer at September 26, 2003 09:39 PM

And people wonder where I get the impression that there is an insane belief that the US faces a threat on the magnitude of the Axis Powers.

Hint: Ask your grandparents. Or the great-uncle you had that didn't come back. This is different.

(Full disclosure -- I had four great-uncles who served, one on the beaches at Normandy. They all came back, one with a few ribbons to show for it.)

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 27, 2003 12:38 AM


Millions have already been killed and enslaved by Islamofascists. And they have also done far more damage to the American homeland than Hitler did. If they get portable nukes they will destroy New York and Washington.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 27, 2003 05:55 PM

...and far less than Tojo did; and if the Axis had gotten nukes they'd have started with London, Washington, and New York, and then they'd've gotten nasty.

You say that struggling against an American protofascism makes me feel important; fine. But what does puffing up the threat of Islamic terrorists to US security do for you?

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 28, 2003 11:52 AM


"Remember that Clinton/Blair led a "unilateralist" Iraq policy opposed by the French and other UNSC members. He also left a lot less broken china behind."

In his concern for the crockery, Clinton also left Saddam Hussein in power. Personally, I prefer Saddam gone and the French peeved, to the alternative.

"Hey, we're an empire anyway, so it's no use denying it."

We are not an empire. We do not subjugate foreign nations in order to exploit their resources. Please, someone, point out to me how exactly the US controls the governments of Germany, Japan, Russia, or any of the other nations that have gone up against us and lost. Please, point out the unfair economic arrangements that are exporting the wealth of those nations to the US.

Please, get a dictionary.

Posted by: R C Dean at September 29, 2003 04:47 AM

"We are not an empire. We do not subjugate foreign nations in order to exploit their resources...."

If you want to see an example of a modern-day empire, look no further than France.

French Polynesia. French since 1946. That's where the French tested their atom bombs.

In Africa: Mayotte, Reunion. In South America: French Guiana. You can probably find more.

France had a pretty good empire up until 1940s -1960s. Djibouti: French colony up till 1946, French territory till 1977. Algeria, the Ivory Coast, and more finally threw off the [French] imperialist yoke and sought independence.

Posted by: Mike at September 30, 2003 03:19 PM


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