June 23, 2004

The Case for Kerry

Anne Cunningham makes the best case for John Kerry I've yet seen in the space of three consecutive posts.

One. Two. Three.

If you're an anti-war liberal you probably won't think much of Anne's case. She isn't speaking to your concerns. This is the case for liberal hawks and disgruntled neocons to consider. Whether she's ultimately right or not, I don't know. But she makes a host of great points that need to be taken seriously.

It's probably best to read all three posts before commenting, either on my site or hers. They complement each other.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 23, 2004 11:16 PM
Comments

I think your post is probably directed more at your pro-war liberal readers, so I'm not sure I'm necessarily the best person to comment on this case for Kerry, as I come from more of a conservative perspective. But I do consider myself a swing voter - I voted for Bush in 2000 but I'm none-too enamored with him and I would have been thrilled if the Democratic party had produced someone I could vote for. But Kerry is not that person. The posts you point to make some good arguments. But I keep coming back to this: whatever gestures in the pro-war direction Kerry might be making at any given time, I simply don't trust that he really means it. All the flip-flops. All the evasions. I don't know what to believe about Kerry - the only thing I feel confident is true about him is that he really wants to be president. It might be true that there is some degree of foreign policy inertia that means that Kerry wouldn't be able to change our foreign policy that much from Bush's, even if he wanted to. But the bottom line is that I don't know. And to me, these times are too uncertain, and too critical, to elect a president who is a big question mark.

Posted by: Nicole Griffin at June 23, 2004 11:44 PM

Quite right, Nicole, our current President may be an incompetent, self-deluding fool who believes that he bears the mandate of heaven, but at least we know where we stand!

Posted by: Mork at June 23, 2004 11:50 PM

I'm with Nicole. Kerry strikes me as just fishing for issues. I don't have the sense he believes in anything.

Mork: Sarcasm and invective mix badly. Stick to one or the other. It also sounds, how can I say, immature.

Posted by: chuck at June 24, 2004 12:39 AM

I believe Bush's poor PR is a real problem, but I'm not convinced of his "incompetence".

On the economy, after a HUGE depression causing type bubble pop of paper wealth disappearing, Bush's tax cuts and deficit spending have been SO successful that most folks didn't even notice much recession.

If he's spending too much, the Dems should be saying what pork should be cut. But there's not much about that, only more anti-rich envy based tax increases to punish the successful.

In Iraq, if he's executing poorly, there should be Dem critique on how to execute better. Bring in the UN (like Kosovo? like UNSCAM?) is junk. More allies? -- Bush can't get more allies for Afghanistan, why is it a surprise there won't be much more in Iraq. The reality on the ground in Iraq won't change with 1000 more Frog or Kraut troops, nor without the 3000 Spanish (many of whom didn't want to leave). The Iraqis are taking over, and it is NOT clear that Bush did "too little" in demonstrating to the Iraqis that Iraq is an Iraqi problem. I think so; restructuring the Army instead of disbanding it I'm certain would have been better. But it's not proven by better examples elsewhere, NOR by horrible results inside of Iraq. Sorry, less than 1000 Americans killed is GREAT results, no matter what the press says.

I think Bush has made mistakes, but the Beat-Bush with any and every stick group have no alternative whatsoever. 9/11 ? NOT enough pre-emption action by Bush, only. Patriot Act? Too much loss of freedom. How can anybody reasonable hold BOTH of these ideas at the SAME time? If Bush really was bad for one, the other must be excused.

Europe will be no help to Bush OR Kerry; the big socialist (half-commie?) French and German economies have excessive unemployment, excessive taxes already (gas at well over $4/gal -- because of taxes) and a huge pension bomb about to explode on their finances. Their envy-based anti-Americanism is very related to the Leftist envy-based hatred of tax cuts (for the rich!); but now they want poor Slovakia to RAISE taxes. (The EU constitution will be defeated in referendums)

The failure of Kerry, and the Dems since Dean empowered the LOUD BUSH-HATE noise generators, is to offer any reasonable alternatives. He has no philosophy except talk over action, nuance over clarity, conditionality over commitment. Yechh. Nobody likes Kerry because there's nothing there to like. What's his solution to No. Korea? (nobody knows). How about to Iran? (implicitly like the Clinton No. Korea one? Talk, get agreement, let Iran violate it and get nukes; new reality.)

Kerry is frightening on Iran. The HUGE advantage to Kerry is that, if he articulates a believable line that Iran could cross and be invaded, the Rep-hawks would go along with it. But even he did say words, would any believe him? (me no.)

Bush and Abu -- Bush is blowing it in PR. (Again.) Yeah, it seems his press IS incompetent. And his press philosophy. There should be a line between pressure/ hazing/ humiliation, and torture. It's clear that in a few cases at Abu the guards crossed over the undefined line. The pictures are terrible, but the reality is prolly less bad, in terms of rapes (for instance), than most American prisons under Clinton or Bush.

How many dog bites? Two, five? Quantity matters. More than one is "too many", but less than 10 is NOT a big problem.

Unrealistic Perfection as an unspoken, obvious alternative really bothers me.

Posted by: Tom Grey at June 24, 2004 01:10 AM

Tom: only more anti-rich envy based tax increases to punish the successful.

Tom, you aren't going to convince any unconvinced person that Bush's tax cuts are a good idea if you can't get past this. Unless you have a really good reason, it's best to take your political opponents at their word. Hard leftists may hate the rich, but I certainly don't and if it were up to me I'd repeal the Bush tax cuts. Not because I hate rich people but because I hate deficits. And if I were to implement tax cuts myself I would give them to the poor and middle class. Again, not because I hate rich people but because I believe in helping people out. The poor need help. The rich don't. It really isn't any more complicated than that.

Sure, it can boost the economy if the rich get tax cuts. They'll invest it. It can also boost the economy if the poor get tax cuts because they'll spend that money and boost the profits of rich people who manufacture and produce what gets bought.

The failure of Kerry, and the Dems since Dean empowered the LOUD BUSH-HATE noise generators, is to offer any reasonable alternatives. He has no philosophy except talk over action, nuance over clarity, conditionality over commitment. Yechh.

I hear ya on that one.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 24, 2004 01:41 AM

He has no philosophy except talk over action, nuance over clarity, conditionality over commitment.

When did it become an article of faith that simplicity is more important that effectiveness. I would have thought that by now it is obvious that the problems we face with terrorism are complex and require a lot of smart action on a lot of different planes. But somehow you guys manage to turn the President's inability to describe the situation or his policies in anything but simple-minded cliches as a strength!

Posted by: Mork at June 24, 2004 01:58 AM

Mork: I would have thought that by now it is obvious that the problems we face with terrorism are complex and require a lot of smart action on a lot of different planes.

Agreed.

But somehow you guys manage to turn the President's inability to describe the situation or his policies in anything but simple-minded cliches as a strength!

Well, I don't think it's a strength.

Kerry has the same weakness. All I hear from him is boilerplate platitudes and posturing. No substance whatsoever.

They both suck really really bad. If I weren't writing about politics I would not vote for either one of them. But since I'm in the public eye I feel obligated to pick whichever one sucks less, get it over with, and then apologize for what I had to do.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 24, 2004 02:09 AM

I don't want to sound like I'm a huge Kerry fan, because I'm not ... although obviously, I'm in the "can't be worse than Bush" camp, but I have two questions:

1. what is the standard of policy specificity to which we ought to hold Kerry? I mean, I can't see how he's any less clear about what he'd do as President than any other non-sitting candidate (such as Bush in 2000, for example, who did plenty of straddling and sloganizing himself). Obviously, the situation is a little different this time around because of the circumstances, but how different should it be?

2. if Kerry's views have been so unacceptable, why has the Bush campaign recently been attempting to minimize the differences between the two, in order to say, more or less, "see, we've done what he would have done, so how can he say he would have done better"?

And, BTW, I think there's a fair bit of truth in that. I think the administration has moved in recent months in a couple of directions that Kerry foreshadowed. And I think that if he were to step into office right now, he'd continue the broad thrust of current policy in Iraq ... after all, what choice would he have?

Posted by: Mork at June 24, 2004 02:38 AM

The key advantage with Kerry is that there's half a chance that a genuine war of ideas against militant, jihadist Islamism can be waged in a way that gains real traction with Europe and in turn, the rest of the developed world-- even in the Middle East. New York is the intellectual heart of the world, and accordingly, when it was hit on 9/11, there was a real, sustained, substantial debate on the meaning of the attacks, and goddamn it, liberal thinkers suddenly looked close to spitting out that Vietnam hairball of theirs, and reclaiming FDR's heritage of ass kicking liberalism. (JESUS CHRIST I MISS LIKE A HOLE IN MY HEART THE HERITAGE OF ASS KICKING LIBERALISM.) But New York is also the bluest of blue cities, electorally, and because of this-- and the Bush administration's general blustering incompetence at pretty much everything except blowing bad people up and not apologizing about it (and they even muff that bit up quite a lot)-- New York intellectuals for the most part quickly regressed into this seething, hysterical Bush hatred, Bush hatred as their source of being, Bush hatred as the epicenter world view, Bush hatred eclipsing all else. And as they went, so went the world. Until we are at a point where decapitations captured on video and traded on the Internet across the Muslim world garners scarce a murmur of outrage-- certainly not as compared to, well, whatever George W. Bush said last week.

If Kerry gets elected, he will by dint of necessity be forced to drop the nuance, and start getting into the ass kicking business. And with Bush out of the way, the argument on the virtues ass kicking will become subtle, serious, and best of all, bipartisan. When Clinton was at his ass kicking-est, over Kosovo, over Baghdad, none but the hardiest of the anti-American left raised scarce an objection. So goes Kerry, and so goes they. And the anti-war objections will be marginalized, and people like Michael Moore will once again be remanded to preaching-to-a-shrinking-choir irrelevance-- as opposed to being the blustering, bigoted, fuckhead demagogue who is now counted as mother superior of the international discourse. (How the fuck did that happen?)

Posted by: Wagner at June 24, 2004 02:48 AM

Michael J. writes: "Not because I hate rich people but because I hate deficits."

Michael, maybe, just maybe the problem is not the tax cuts, but the spending and the pork. Maybe what we need is a top down review of what is really necessary and what is the real mandate of government, not what we want it to be, but the real mandate.

Just a thought!

Posted by: GMRoper at June 24, 2004 03:08 AM

Sigh

She lost me at Bush/Hitler. It's amazing how that causes me to just click away from any site. It is proof of a closed mind.

Semper Fi

Posted by: RickM at June 24, 2004 03:37 AM

GMRoper,

Exactly. Instead of raising taxes, we should slash spending. We should set a goal as a nation to reduce the proportion of GDP squandered by government from 40% to 30% which is a 25% reduction. And we should also slash government regulation which imposes indirect costs on industry that drive jobs overseas.

Unfortunately, massive government spending and job crushing regulation have become bipartisan. Bush and the Republicans are no better than Kerry and the Democrats. Both parties seem to want to keep people poor, stupid and dependent on government. And with Bush going flaccid on the war lately and deferring to the corrupt, failed, disgraced, dictator-loving, God-damned, fucking UN, I'm finding less and less to differentiate the two candidates. I don't want nuanced gibberish from somebody who is no good at it. I want gun-toting, high-noon, ass-kicking cowboy swaggar backed by one of these:

http://www.magnumresearch.com/BFR.asp

I may vote for Nader in protest.

It is remarkable how fast and how far both parties have fled from their models of success. The Republicans have abandoned Reaganism, and the Democrats have abandoned Clintonism. What a sad, sorry state of affairs. If we are going to have a policy of massive government, high-taxes, crushing regulation and foreign-policy weakness, we might as well be governed by the party that is driving the bandwagon instead of the party that hopped on for the ride.

Posted by: HA at June 24, 2004 03:54 AM

RickM,

I think the Bush/Hitler comment was a slap at the Bush haters.

Posted by: HA at June 24, 2004 04:00 AM

HA, I had the same reaction as RickM to the Bush/Hitler bon mot. Read her anyway, but her seriousness index went way down for me.

My main problem with her argument is the explicitly stated assumption that Kerry's team would handle things better than Bush's team. I have no idea what talent pool she's looking at. The last administration didn't overwhelm with foreign policy successes. Maybe there's a liberal hawk cabal I don't know about from which Kerry can recruit. He'd do himself a service by talking them up so that someone like me would get to know what his team might look like. But if it's Clinton's people and Clinton's policies warmed over, count me out.

For that matter, I think the talk of the disaster of post-war Iraq is overstated. Tom Grey is right; the losses could have been much higher. Let's look at conditions right now: Internal terrorism notwithstanding, the country has not spiraled into civil war. Falluja and al Sadr proved that Iraqis as a whole want no part of armed uprisings. The economy there seems to be stable (as witnessed by the stable exchange rate between Dinars and Dollars.) Life in Iraq seems to be better than two years ago, and Iraqis think it will be better yet in two more. If the Iraqi people resent having someone else running things right now, who could blame them? But I don't necessarily believe that means we're running things badly, when the magnitude of the mess inherrited is considered.

The success of the transition from US Administration of Iraq to the interim government is the next big test; the lack of handwringing about what's going to happen underscores the implicit confidence most people have that things will go reasonably well.

Funny, the quagmire word doesn't seem to be getting a much play these days.

Could things be better? Absolutely. Could they have been a hell of a lot worse? Absolutely.

If the best argument for Kerry is Abu Ghraib, sorry, that dog won't hunt.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 24, 2004 04:54 AM

Vote for Kerry, and elect the president the media wants you to. Elect the president Jacques Chirac embraces. Elect the president Kim Il Sung is stumping for. Elect the president the Mullahs are praying for. Elect the president who is a fan of an utterly corrupt multilateral institution (the UN).

Send a message that mistakes in wartime may be inevitable, but certainly are politically fatal. Send a message that terrorism is mostly about law enforcement. Send a message that regime change is officially off the table, for good.

Anyone who is pro-Iraq-war, who is in favor of the democratization of the middle east, who pulls the lever for Kerry because they are mad at Bush for "incompetence" is shooting their cause in the head.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at June 24, 2004 05:08 AM

Could things be better? Absolutely. Could they have been a hell of a lot worse? Absolutely.

Yes, but Mark, compare the situation in Iraq with what the aim was.

Is it not fair to say that it seems unlikely that we will ever succeed in our aim, and that it is now primarily an exercise in damage control?

I'm not sure how much comfort we should take from your implicit conclusion that it's merely a failure, not a disaster.

Posted by: Mork at June 24, 2004 05:26 AM

Matthew, I have to say, I find the desperation and illogic of your post greatly comforting.

Posted by: Mork at June 24, 2004 05:28 AM

Mork,

The aim was to

(1) Destroy an enemy regime with long term association to anti-American terror and WMD programs along with WMD use. The salutary example of this to other despots was also a prime consideration.

(2) Create a democratic state as an example of Arab democracy to push the Middle East towards reform and the draining of the swamp.

(3) Liberate the Iraqi people from a horrific tyranny.

(4) Remove the troops from Saudi Arabia.

(5) Give a better strategic base for American military power than Saudi Arabia.

I see all 5 points as completely achievable. 1, 3 and 4 are already accomplished.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at June 24, 2004 05:36 AM

Mork, I'm through discussing anything with you and your snide, a****le attitude.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at June 24, 2004 05:39 AM

Hi Michael. I was actually curious what you would think of these posts.

For the person who clicked off at Bush/Hitler, it's not that I think that, just that he is viewed that way by others - I was saying he's not given the benefit of the doubt. I used to think he deserved it. And as I was saying, he doesn't help his case in the court of world opinion by attempting to legalize torture.

Posted by: Anne at June 24, 2004 05:56 AM

Anne,

Where did Bush attempt to legalize torture?

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at June 24, 2004 06:18 AM

Vote for Kerry, and elect the president the media wants you to. Elect the president Jacques Chirac embraces. Elect the president Kim Il Sung is stumping for. Elect the president the Mullahs are praying for

What a load of crap.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 06:56 AM

Vote for Kerry, and elect the president the media wants you to. Elect the president Jacques Chirac embraces. Elect the president Kim Il Sung is stumping for. Elect the president the Mullahs are praying for

What a load of crap.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 06:56 AM

There’s an article in the May Scientific American on Freud about how research has validated his mind model. One of the interesting asides is the description of a researcher’s interaction with a patient who had lost his long-term memory to a tumor. Each time the patient meet the researcher he came up with a different explanation of why he was there. The explanations included he was meeting a drinking buddy, he was having his (fictional) sports car repaired, he was being consulted on his field of expertise, he was meeting an old buddy who was on his college team. His behavior would match the scenario he had created for himself; he would look around for his drink or out the window for his car. As the article states: “what strikes the casual observer was the wishful thinking quality of these thoughts. The man simply recast reality as he wanted it to be.” Unencumbered by real memories, the Freudian “pleasure principle” selected happy thoughts as the reason for his sessions, unencumbered by real memories each session could select another fantasy scenario.

The irony of the situation is that this happens in people without long-term memory loss. From our love lives, to our sports teams, to our politics, people put off real memories to create rose colored visions. That girl / guy is really hot for me, the Cubs really have a chance this year, if only Joe was in office things would be better. It's also known as cognitive dissidence.

Although both sides of the political spectrum do this, I see it in extreme, in the people who believe Kerry would be effective in the war on terror. Kerry wants the UN to have a greater role. This vision is unencumbered by reality of the UN whether it is its actions in Rwanda or the Oil-for-food scandal. Kerry will get greater European (and French) involvement. This vision is unencumbered by the reality of French involvement in the Ivory Coast or the corruption that is French government. Kerry will enter bilateral talks with North Korea and all will go well. This vision is unencumbered by the reality of the last set of bilateral talks. Kerry will deal with this a a law enforcement issue. This is unemcumbered by the failure of law enforcement to prevent crimes. Kerry will manage Iraq better because he says the Bush administration is incompetent. This vision is unencumbered by the fact that Kerry has not offered any substantial alternatives. He has implied that he would install a “more pragmatic” system than democracy, i.e. our dictator. How will this ease the resentments in the mid east? The vision of Kerry as a strong leader in the war on terror is unencumbered by his track record of working with dictators, weakening the CIA and national defense, disengagement or isolationism, and vacillation.

Every election cycle, we go through this wishful thinking of what our candidate will be like. Sometimes we get a Reagan; sometimes we get a Carter. In this case we have a fairly clear choice between a known quantity in G W Bush and his crew and wishful thinking in John Kerry. The degree of wishful thinking involved with Kerry is actually pretty incredible when you look in detail at the solutions he proposes.

By the way, the reason that Iraq reconstruction is viewed (by some) as a “quagmire” may be another case of wishful thinking. The administration may have been wishful in how easy it would be (but I do remember every Bush speech saying it would be hard), the press may be negatively wishful in the progress because they basically opposed the war, or the general population may have become wishful after the rapid military action established a high threshold. Physical reconstruction of an infrastructure takes time, I remember the local delays after the Northridge earthquake. The examples of Germany, Japan, and even the United States should it can take many years to establish an effective government. Successful wars against guerrilla operations also take time. If Iraq were “solved” in a single year, it would represent a record in all those fields.

Posted by: OldManRick at June 24, 2004 07:10 AM

Roque,

You think there is something untruthful about my statement? Which point do you dispute?

Kim of North Korea is actually endorsing Kerry and saying very nice things about him on his State run media. Perhaps he believes that Kerry will work with him, the way he worked with officers of the NVA while he was a member of VVAW.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at June 24, 2004 07:15 AM

"If Kerry gets elected, he will by dint of necessity be forced to drop the nuance, and start getting into the ass kicking business."

Nah, he could just waffle about or blame someone else. That's the problem with not having core beliefs: there is really no reason to do anything.

Posted by: chuck at June 24, 2004 07:31 AM

I read all three of Anne's posts, as suggested, and did not find her arguments compelling.

If the election were held today, this never-voted-for-a-Republican-for-president-before independent-minded former Democrat would go with Team Bush. Kerry creeps me out even more than Ashcroft does. And that sayin' a lot . . .

Posted by: chris in st. louis at June 24, 2004 07:38 AM

Mork, Mathew Cromer very succinctly listed our goals in Iraq. If you really want to know my metrics for both success and failure, I lay them out here on my own blog.

I still want to know where the assumption that Kerry would build a more effective team comes from.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 24, 2004 07:43 AM

I regret to say that, from Michael's recommendation, I read the posts at Anne's site with anticipation which was rewarded only by disappointment.

As we move towards the election, it seems to me there's a subtext of weak, wet wishing for another better world than the one we live in and the sneaking suspicion that John Kerry is the one that can provide that.

There's no evidence of this whatsoever, but the world we see before us now frightens many and the man who is sending signals he can back it off into the realm of soft power is often seen as a potential savior.

"Soft power" was, is, and will remain code for "We are too weak to do what has to be done to prevail. Please kill us at your leisure."

Some may think Anne has a defensible position, more may well be attracted to it. I just see it as one more way of rationalizing weakness and fear.

Not sold.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at June 24, 2004 08:48 AM

The three essays do a pretty good job of highlighting some of Bush's faults. (Though I am far from convinced that the torture stuff should be laid at his feet, having led teams that went off on tangents before.)

The problem is that I need someone to vote for, not someone to vote against. Were we talking about candidate Lieberman, for example, the three articles would go a long way towards changing my vote.

But I have absolutely no confidence in Kerry, and I prefer Bush's faults, especially given that Kerry hasn't had much of a chance to exhibit faults yet compared to Bush.

Posted by: Jeff Licquia at June 24, 2004 09:09 AM

The real problem for Kerry, IMHO, is that there is no way a Kerry win will be seen as anything other than a repudiation of the WoT. This is because Kerry refuses to have a "Sister Souljah Moment" with the anti-war Left. There is no chance that I will even consider voting for Kerry until he does that. He must unequivocally repudiate the anti-war crowd and make it clear to the rest of the world that the WoT will continue to be prosecuted aggressively -- until he does so, a Kerry win will be seen as a loss of nerve by the USA in the WoT.

Posted by: Ben at June 24, 2004 09:36 AM

MJT writes: "And if I were to implement tax cuts myself I would give them to the poor and middle class."

But, what do you mean by poor and middle class?

A two-parent family with 2 kids making up to a bit more than $35,000 pays $0 in federal income taxes. Overall, about a third of tax filers pay $0 in federal income tax. You aren't going to be able to cut their federal taxes.

As for where the upper line of "middle class" is, I fail to see why people making $100,000 need a tax cut. (I'm not saying you would set the line at $100,000, but that seems to be well within the range of what I hear described as "middle class").

Posted by: madPatter at June 24, 2004 09:37 AM

"If Kerry gets elected, he will by dint of necessity be forced to drop the nuance, and start getting into the ass kicking business."

I'll agree that he will be forced to drop the nuance, but why do you assume he will have to start ass kicking? He could just as easily drop the nuance and abandon the war on terrorism as anything but a Western-country law enforcement problem.

Anne reallys keys on this type of thought: "Various Democratic policy makers already see the war on terror much more in terms of our problematic relations with allies like the Saudis and Pakistan, which are indeed likely to be trouble spots in the years to come."

Frankly I see this as quite unlikely. Democratic policy makers haven't come up with much to deal with our problematic relations with even more friendly allies like France and Germany. They don't have much with respect to dealing with our declared enemies such as North Korea. The idea that they must have some unrevealed brilliancies with respect to the middle-ground difficult allies when they have so little to contribute to any of the other cases strikes me as wishful thinking.

She says: "Only instead of having enough tough credibility to be soft, it's the other way around. Is it that only someone who does not come off as a warmonger can rally the whole nation?"

This may be a great thing in theory, but does she think even for a second that Kerry is such a person?

She also says (hopes): "As for Kerry's principles, I'd say that his model of the War on Terror may apply more now that the Iraq war has already been fought. We have addressed the question of state sponsorship of terror, to the extent of getting rid of a potential sponsor and delivering a warning elsewhere. Kerry will be seen as having less political will on this score than Bush did, but I think the show of American resolve will still have effects beyond the current administration."

I think this is the very weakest part of her case. The warning delivered is not so clearly transferable. To make a more extreme case, does anyone believe that the you could have said the same thing with "Dean" or "Nader"? Of course not, because they didn't support the 'warning'. Kerry's current position seems to be (and I'm sorry but you really can't ask for more from me than 'seems to' when you are talking about Kerry) that the 'warning' was not necessary. So long as he takes that stance, it is far more likely that his election would be taken as a repudiation of the invasion of Iraq and its warning (in her words) than continuing to show 'American resolve'. If anything it would seem to confirm the Middle Eastern belief that the West has a glass jaw--we have technical might but no reserve of will to go with it.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at June 24, 2004 09:46 AM

The "WoT" again. Does it just make you guys feel better to keep referring to a war? Does it give you a sense of security? Do you think calling it a "war" somehow helps us to thwart future terrorist attacks?

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 10:08 AM

Roque,

You think there is something untruthful about my statement? Which point do you dispute?

The entire thing is a load of crap.

btw, have you read the latest on N. Korea?

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 10:11 AM

Do you all ever get the feeling that you're playing right into the terrorists' hands? That they're writing the script and you all are just playing your parts?

Because the "war" thing, that was their idea.

Don't get me wrong, I think we should use all measures to track them down, capture them, and keep them from launching future attacks on the U.S. or our allies, but this whole holy war thing, that seems to be exactly what they want.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 10:14 AM

I see Rogue, you are a useless namecalling &^&* who can't engage in online discussion.

You can be sure I won't waste any more of my time with you.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at June 24, 2004 10:24 AM

Rogue, just tell us in simple terms how:

"...we should use all measures to track them down, capture them, and keep them from launching future attacks on the U.S. or our allies..."

Or are you just taking a lesson from the Mice in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy:

"Sounds good without tying us down to actually meaning anything."

Cheap shots are just, well, cheap.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 24, 2004 10:29 AM

I'm afraid she didn't really lay out a case FOR Kerry. All she said is she doesn't like guard dogs because they remind her of Klaus Barbie. In effect, she doesn't like her country being disliked by others. Not exactly a hard-headed analysis of the WoT. I think many Americans don't feel the same way about Abu Garib as the media.

And John Kerry is still an empty vessel for Bush-haters. But for those in the middle, he MUST make his own case, and that will be difficult.

Posted by: Jack M at June 24, 2004 10:30 AM

RoguePlanet -

We refer to it as a war because it is a war. Far more than the "War on Drugs" or the "War on Poverty" are wars. We don't use the word to make us feel better, but because it is the appropriate word to use. And no, using the word war won't prevent future terror attacks. But fighting the war will.

Posted by: Nicole Griffin at June 24, 2004 10:39 AM

RickM: She lost me at Bush/Hitler. It's amazing how that causes me to just click away from any site. It is proof of a closed mind.

I don't think she meant that seriously. Some people perceive Bush as Hitler, that is a problem, and that was her point. I've been reading her site for a long time. She is not a "Bush=Hitler" person. She's a liberal who was pushed toward the right just like me.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 24, 2004 10:49 AM

I see Rogue, you are a useless namecalling &^&*

I didn't call you any names. I'll cop to calling your post a load of crap.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 11:25 AM

Sorry, Michael. As a little l libertarian, I usually don't find great faults with what you write, but she Godwined herself on the second post. It wasn't a satricial aside; it was the thrust of her point.

Posted by: Phelps at June 24, 2004 11:30 AM

Rogue, just tell us in simple terms how:

"...we should use all measures to track them down, capture them, and keep them from launching future attacks on the U.S. or our allies..."

Don't be tedious, Mark. That wasn't my central point, to lecture you all. I posted that so I wouldn't be accused of being "soft on terror."

I'm curious as to why you all think Bush is so much more effective in fighting terrorism than Kerry would be, particularly in light of the fact that last year the number of terrorist attacks increased, sadly. The distinct impression I get
from reading this blog and the comments is that you all like Bush because you think he talks tougher and you all like that.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 11:33 AM

Not being tedious: I'm asking you to put up or shut up. Some of us like to discuss issues instead of simply calling people we disagree with stupid.

First: While global terror attacks may have increased last year, they didn't happen here. That's worth a lot to this Brooklyn boy.

Second: Terror attacks in Iraq and other countries that explicitly or implicitly support Islamofascism puts the fight where it should be. Those countries will defeat the Islamofascists or be defeated by them. In which case the Islamofascists will need to worry about us.

Third: You assume the terror attack increase is a response to US military action. The trends were all going up before 9/11, when we were complacent pseudo-isolationists. What makes you think attacks wouldn't have continued to escalate in number and severity?

Fourth: We will be attacked again, on our soil. Whether it happens this year before the election, next year after the election, or in years to come, it will happen. Part of the War on Terror is meant to ensure that the resources behind the attacks are limited.

Fifth: How would we chase down and arrest terrorists holed up in countries hostile to the United States. We're having trouble tracking down Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi in US-occupied Iraq.

Sixth: It will soon be 3 years since 9/11. How long did it take for Latin America to move from a region dominated by despots to become a region dominated by democracies? We are in early days for this project.

(BTW, Mark Steyn today is brilliant.)

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 24, 2004 12:03 PM

I believe that the war gives Iraq a genuine chance at a gov't responsive to the people, and I'm hoping for a positive result not only in Iraq but in the rest of the ME from the war.

I wouldn't have trusted the Dems with the war (we're still in Kosovo, and we're making better headway at getting out of Iraq than Kosovo), but having the left onboard for the reconstruction would have obviously been of great benefit. In fact, I have wondered if the reconstruction might have been better done by the left and the UN. So for that part, I believe Anne may have a point.

However, the bulk of the ME is a problem, and I see the Dems offering carrots, but no sticks. (Although Bush may have offered too much stick and too little carrot) But Bush has shown a willingness to use force, and if the rest of the ME is to be "transformed" a credible threat of force is necessary. Without a credible threat of force, I believe violence is more likely, not less. I do not see Kerry providing that credible threat.

Posted by: Ron at June 24, 2004 12:31 PM

Some of us like to discuss issues instead of simply calling people we disagree with stupid.

I haven't called anyone "stupid." I called Matthew's post a load of crap, and it was. Weep not for Matthew, as I see him spewing invective at me and least one other poster in this thread, so he's apparently not one of the "us" you speak of.

Now: Your first point seems to contradict your fourth. You seem to be saying in point one Bush's policy (whatever it is) is working because we haven't had any attacks here, then you turn around and say we WILL most assuredly have an attack here. Looks like you've got your bases covered. If we get attacked here, Bush's policy is working, and if we don't get attacked here, why, it's working!

You say: "Part of the War on Terror is meant to ensure that the resources behind the attacks are limited." I'm tempted to be snarky and say "Mark, just tell us in simple terms how the War on Terror is going to do that." I agree with the goal, I just don't see how Bush is accomplishing it.

As for your second point, Iraq was not a regime that supported "Islamofascism." For Christ's sake. It was one of the only regimes in that area that DIDN'T. Saddam oppressed the Islamofascists in Iraq. We just liberated them. Not a smart move.

Re your third point: Maybe you're right. Maybe you're not. Common sense would seem to indicate that a United States military invasion of a Middle Eastern country would result in an increased number of terror attacks.

Re your fifth point, or question, I'm not actually sure what your point is here - it sure doesn't make the case for massive military intervention solving the terrorism problem. As you say, we can't even find Zarqawi in U.S.-occupied Iraq. We can't find Bin Laden in U.S.-occupied Afghanistan. So obviously, having a massive military presence over there isn't the solution, now is it?

It's a good question, though. Btw, when I posted earlier that we should track down and capture terrorists, I didn't mean to suggest by any means that I thought it would be easy - as I said, I just posted that because I figured some regular would accuse me of being a terrorist-appeaser. I don't know what the answer is. I certainly wouldn't be opposed to military incursions or force where appropriate.

Sixth: I just think we set "this project" back by years by invading Iraq.

Last: I can't stand Mark Steyn. It's all I can do to read these comments section on this blog . . .

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 12:31 PM

For my wife and I, we've both become primarily one issue voters. I'll be voting for the candidate that has the best plan to keep America safe and to win the War on Terror. I might be disappointed by tax cuts and homophobic marriage amendments, but I just can't see past the threat of terrorism. Likewise, I'm willing to look the other way on issues I would ordinarily disagree with and vote for Kerry if I believed he was more able to win the war.

My beef with Bush isn't so much his prosecution of the war, but I think he's failed on the bully pulpit, rallying the American public on the necessity to complete the mission. I give him high marks after 9/11 and his clearheaded response to the threat, but I'm uncertain he can get the job done. I don't think Iraq is a mistake or a quagmire, but with the majority of Americans thinking it is, there is a real gap in leadership.

On the Kerry side, I just don't have the confidence he can do better. Even though I think Vietnam was a mistake, I'm troubled by his antics and claims of committing war crimes. He was on the wrong side of history on the Cold War. I also find it insufferable to hear him go on about Bush's "deceptions" and "rush to war" about Iraq, given his own statements in the past in regards to regime change. His credibility is running out for me.

So I'm still undecided, and Anne's posts did little to move the bar.

Posted by: Will at June 24, 2004 12:36 PM

Btw, I was just surfing Kerry's campaign web site, and he makes numerous references to the "War on Terror" too.

Calling it a "War on Terror" just confuses things. Such that when Michael Totten and the commenters here talk about "antiwar liberals" I don't know who they're talking about. Are you referring to the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, or the general "war on terror?" (Do I have to capitalize it?) Do you assume that everyone who opposes the Iraq war is against the "war on terror?"

I supported the Afghanistan war, thought we should have done a better job of it, in fact. I opposed the war in Iraq because I thought it would set us back in terms of the general fight against terrorism (I hope to be proved wrong). S

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 12:36 PM

Even though I think Vietnam was a mistake, I'm troubled by [Kerry's] antics and claims of committing war crimes

Kerry never claimed that he committed any war crimes.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 12:38 PM

On the subject of anti-Americanism in Europe, can anyone point me to any kind of polling or statistical study to measure this? Having studied in Europe in 1987, I found the post-Libya bombing period another one filled with many protests and resentment towards America, and I wonder if to some extent, this is another example of looking at the past with rose-colored glasses.

Posted by: Will at June 24, 2004 12:40 PM

Rogue:

Your first point seems to contradict your fourth. You seem to be saying in point one Bush's policy (whatever it is) is working because we haven't had any attacks here, then you turn around and say we WILL most assuredly have an attack here. Looks like you've got your bases covered. If we get attacked here, Bush's policy is working, and if we don't get attacked here, why, it's working!

Fair enough critique, except "working" is not an either/or condition. My point it that we're talking about a rates problem. While I assume we will be attacked again, I think a non-interventionist policy would result in more attacks. The fact that we haven't been attacked on home soil since 9/11 might have nothing to do with our taking out Al-Q infrastructure, but that's not the way I'd bet. Success and failure are not binary. Fewer is better.

You say: "Part of the War on Terror is meant to ensure that the resources behind the attacks are limited." I'm tempted to be snarky and say "Mark, just tell us in simple terms how the War on Terror is going to do that." I agree with the goal, I just don't see how Bush is accomplishing it.

Snark away. In thinking about the War on Terror, I think about resources. I think about training camps. I think about money laundering. I think about mundane things like medical care and homes for family members. Is it a coincidence that Palestinian terrorism is in sharp decline now that Saddam isn't funding them? Maybe, maybe not. And I think long and hard on nuclear, radiological, and biological weapons that states might produce and then deliver through terrorist mechanisms. Five guys, a yacht, and a nuke could ruin my whole day.

As for your second point, Iraq was not a regime that supported "Islamofascism." For Christ's sake. It was one of the only regimes in that area that DIDN'T. Saddam oppressed the Islamofascists in Iraq. We just liberated them. Not a smart move.

That's why al-Zarqawi got his medical work done in Saddam's Iraq. He wanted to be oppressed while he was on the operating table. That's why the original WTC bombers worked with Iraq. They wanted to be oppressed. Sure.

Re your fifth point, or question, I'm not actually sure what your point is here - it sure doesn't make the case for massive military intervention solving the terrorism problem. As you say, we can't even find Zarqawi in U.S.-occupied Iraq. We can't find Bin Laden in U.S.-occupied Afghanistan. So obviously, having a massive military presence over there isn't the solution, now is it?

Besides for it being hard to identify one greasy spot on a cave wall from another, my fifth point (that we can't find a specific terrorist in a country we're occupying) is the inherrent futility of going after terrorists on a onesy-twosy basis. And yet that's pretty much explicitly what we're supposed to do in the law enforcement model. Wishing it would work won't make it so.

The Bush Doctrine (google it; unlike Kerry's positions, this one can be referenced) seeks to choke off the life support for terrorism by reforming or liberating the nations that support terrorism. As a bonus, if it works the lives of millions, maybe billions, of people become better in the process.

No ad hom here, but you really should bite a bullet and read Steyn. Even if you don't agree with his philosophy, he's one sharp dude. Know the enemy.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 24, 2004 01:05 PM

Damn those blockquotes!

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 24, 2004 01:06 PM

(Or, "Preview is my friend". Michael, sorry for messing up the comment formatting.)

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 24, 2004 01:07 PM

Rogue,

I haven't spewed invective at anyone in this thread.

I told you and Mork that I am not going to discuss things with you on this forum because of your pointless rudeness.

I asked you to elaborate on what part of my post you disagreed with and you refused to elaborate, calling it a "load of crap".

I'll give you one more chance to have a civilized discussion -- Mork on the other hand I have given many chances over several months and he keeps returning to a sarcastic, ad-hominim style. Frankly, I don't have the time and energy to discuss things with people who wish to "debate" in this manner.

If you care to have a reasoned discussion, you are welcome to start with explaining why each of the points I made are incorrect.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at June 24, 2004 01:10 PM
Kerry never claimed that he committed any war crimes.

No, he claimed he and everyone else in the officer corp knew about them and did nothing:

These were not isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis, with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.

Here's my favorite quote from that speech to the House:

In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart.

Screw you, future boat people. Screw you, future victims of Pol Pot. Not one American life to prevent genocide.

I'd love to see Kerry disavow that quote above. I'll not hold my breath.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 24, 2004 01:19 PM

I'd love to see Kerry disavow that quote above. I'll not hold my breath

Don't. Because I don't think there are many people today who will say that Vietnam was a good use of American military force.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 01:49 PM

Anne is definitely not of the "Bush/Hitler" camp, though I think she was being a bit provocative to drive home a point. She, like Michael, has been courageous enough to think out loud on this stuff. It would be a mistake to throw out her arguments on the basis of a misperception of her intent.

I don't think we can count on Kerry, however, to advocate meaningfully for humane treatment of prisoners overseas when this sort of thing has continued to occur under his nose here in Massacusetts:

A touchier issue is one Ms. Walker of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services says is important to explore in Geoghan's case: that of abuse by guards. When he was being held at MCI-Concord, before his transfer to the Souza- Baranowski maximum-security facility where he died, Geoghan told Walker guards were urinating and defecating on his bed, fouling his food, and posting articles about him in common areas. She says other convicted pedophile priests in his wing told her that guards abused Geoghan more severely than any of them. Latini will not comment on either the Geoghan case or guard abuse in Massachusetts prisons. He does say training and security are better today than when he joined the DOC "23 short years ago." Guards, he says, operate according to an adage he learned when he started: "Inmates get exactly what they deserve - nothing more, but nothing less." [Wink, wink.]

Bush and co. may or may not have specifically sanctioned torture, but Kerry's outrage is selective. Abu Ghraib is an apalling crime, but I don't think the fix is a simple as dumping Bush. We have a societal problem and Kerry is a bureaucrat who is unlikely to dirty his hands reforming the military. This should not be used as moral cover against accountability for Abu Ghraib, but it should illustrate the fact that this is a morally complex issue. I suppose Anne's point might have been that therefore appearances matter. But it's also important to note that these things should be opposed even when the abusers don't get caught on film.

More here.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at June 24, 2004 01:52 PM

Mark:

I agree with your post until you get to the bit about al-Zarqawi. The fact that he may have sought and obtained medical treatment is irrelevant to the issue of SH's treatment of the Shiites. I shouldn't have used the term "Islamofascists" so broadly but the fact is SH DID oppress them. There's no evidence of a cooperative relationship between SH and al-Zarqawi. Btw, that dude sure gets around, doesn't he?

That's why the original WTC bombers worked with Iraq.

Sorry, that has not been proved by any means.

my fifth point (that we can't find a specific terrorist in a country we're occupying) is the inherrent futility of going after terrorists on a onesy-twosy basis

Well, it seems to be equally inherently futile to fight the "WoT" by mounting a massive invasion of Iraq. It's unnecessarily dismissive to refer to going after them on a "onesy-twosy" basis because, pre-9/11, we apparently just didn't give the problem anywhere near the attention it needed. We didn't take it seriously enough. Post 9/11, we find ourselves bogged down in Iraq, and terrorists are gleefully capitalizing on that.

The Bush Doctrine (google it; unlike Kerry's positions, this one can be referenced) seeks to choke off the life support for terrorism by reforming or liberating the nations that support terrorism.

I did google "Bush doctrine," and I couldn't find one single instance of Bush himself articulating this doctrine. Try it yourself. ;)

If that is indeed the Bush doctrine, why are we still allied with SA and Pakistan? How many nations are we going to have to "liberate?" We're all tied up in Iraq. Where on earth are we going to get the manpower to "liberate" the next country on the list? AND give even more tax breaks to people who don't really need them?

I disagree with what you say about Kerry's positions. Look right here: http://www.johnkerry.com/pressroom/speeches/spc_2004_0227.html

And contrast with this: http://www.georgewbush.com/NationalSecurity/Brief.aspx

I still say "no" to Mark Steyn. I've suffered enough for one day. ;)

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 02:10 PM

I think what bothers me the most is the charge of incompetence. People just throw it out there without specifics.

Should Bush have kept the iraqi army intact? (just one example)

That didn't work for George Patton and it wouldn't have worked for GW. He would have been pilloried either way.

Exactly who are the foreign policy superstars of a Kerry administration? Wes Clark (lost his nerve in Kosovo, likely insane) or Madeleine Albright (wrong about virtually everything throughout her career, I especially loved her writing about the soviets).

I think this is about liberal hawks seizing on the tortue issue and other excuses to return home. The war was brilliantly fought, the post-war has gone about as smoothly as it could go.

I'm not saying I'm not bothered by the torture issue; to me its kinda like the concern of dating a woman a bit taller than me.

The biggest change with a kerry administration would be the way the media portrays iraq. Notice how the word ideology is being thrown about more often nowadays. Liberals simply can't take GW's foreign policy at face value, they can't face their own physical and moral cowardice in the face of the enemy.

Posted by: Raymond at June 24, 2004 03:04 PM

I think what bothers me the most is the charge of incompetence. People just throw it out there without specifics.

Er, there's plenty of specifics. Starting with being dead wrong about the WMD's; moving on through the failure to prevent looting and loss of essential services; continuing on through the numerous instances where our bombs killed civilians and levelled their houses but failed to kill their targets; the failure to anticipate the level of resistance; botched handling of Fallujah and al Sadr; letting Chalabi run amok . . . Geez, I could go on all day.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 03:19 PM

Good god what lame examples. These things happen in every war. Try harder.

Remember all the 'military experts' on tv during the war and how stupid they looked when all their prediction turned out wrong?

I feel your pain. I guess this war is unique in that all historical precedents are irrelevant. God forbid our hetero, christian, middle-class soldiers should win a brilliant victory!

Posted by: Raymond at June 24, 2004 03:27 PM

God forbid our hetero, christian, middle-class soldiers should win a brilliant victory!

LOL. Sorry, I didn't realize your post was a parody. My bad.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 24, 2004 03:54 PM

Can the liberal anti-war left afford a successful Iraq? Nope. If 5-10 years from now iraq is a thriving democracy then its all over. liberals were on the wrong side throughout the cold war, but largely got away with it.

A successful iraq means today's liberals will have little say in the world. They'll be stuck with transgender issues and protecting the one-nutted ground cockroach and the like.

Posted by: Raymond at June 24, 2004 04:05 PM

Mark's Kerry quote reveals a man who is almost stunningly selfish, a motive that I think drives many in the anti-war Left and the Boomer generation. It confirms another of my rules: always suspect someone who constantly tells you how virtuous he is. In this case, always suspect someone who tells you how much he wants to help the poor and underprivileged.

Posted by: Ben at June 24, 2004 04:51 PM

Ben - I think you need to read the quote again. What Kerry complains about there is not the American presence per se, but the fact that it was advertised as being necessary for American security.

Posted by: Mork at June 24, 2004 04:56 PM

I am so with Raymond on the charge of incompetence.

The other thing that the antiwar types just don't seem to understand is that there is no elegant solution to many, many problems.

For instance, Rogue criticizes Bush for the failure to find WMD and our "mishandling" of Fallujah and Sadr.

Well, those things were indeed problems, but I am certianly not aware of any perfect solution.

But apparently Rogue, and the antiwar left, can create an intelligence agency that supplies us with 100% accurate intelligence, 100% of the time. No one would ever look at a satellite photograph or a shipping manifest and draw the wrong conclusions under the Rogue administration!

Similarly, there just had to be a way to "handle" the Al Sadr situation. The guy proclaims himself the "striking arm" of Hamas and issues a fatwa stating that it is acceptable to take female British soldiers as slaves. Surely there must be a way to sit down and cut a deal with Sadr, right? It's not like his goals are fundamentally incompatable with our own. Surely he can be made to see the virtues of liberal democracy if we just find a way to communicate with him...

Sometimes there are no easy efforts. Sometimes problems are difficult and bloody. Some problems can't be solved at all, and one's only choice is between the lesser of two evils.

Today's antiwar left seems to want easy answers. A war with no casualties. A trouble-free reconstruction. Something for nothing.

The chilling thing is that there are politicians on the left who are willing to pander to this sentiment. Wesley Clark is the perfect example of this. He tells us he'll get UN troops that he knows aren't actually available! Kerry does this too ("I'll go to Europe and repair our relations with our allies!"), but hasn't quite stooped to the same level as Clark.

It's intellectually dishonest and weak.

I don't know whether the torture thing is a symptom of this. I don't think so, but I'm not sure yet.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at June 24, 2004 05:13 PM

Mork

Following is the quote:

"And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart."

To me, Kerry seems to be saying that freedom for others is not worth the loss of one American life.

Posted by: Ben at June 24, 2004 05:14 PM

Joe --

It's about selfishness: We don't want to be distracted from universal health care, etc. by a silly war. It's also about false virtue: We don't want to get our hands dirty, therefore "torture" by Americans is worse than real torture by Saddam.

Posted by: Ben at June 24, 2004 05:17 PM

To me, Kerry seems to be saying that freedom for others is not worth the loss of one American life.

Well, Ben, I think that says more about your level of reading comprehension than it does about John Kerry.

Posted by: Mork at June 24, 2004 05:18 PM

Michael, I am somewhat befuddled at your description of the posts as reasons to vote for Kerry. About the only point she makes in Kerry's favor is that he'd "have a much less cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia". The second post doesn't even mention Kerry (!). Instead it's the usual tedious crappola about Bush/Hitler and pile on John Ashcroft. The third at best makes a dubious assertion (that Kerry's approach to the WOT may apply (?) more now that the Iraq War has been fought), and the claim that Kerry might have a more realistic picture of the challenges ahead is not borne out by any evidence in Kerry's past. If there is one thing that seems consistent about Kerry, it's that he doesn't have a realistic picture of America's enemies abroad, from the North Vietnamese to the Soviets to Sandanistas to the terrorists.

No offense, but your linking to that approvingly makes me wonder if you're jumping the shark, especially the second link. I come here for serious commentary and links to intelligent articles. This time, at least, I was disappointed.

Posted by: Brainster at June 24, 2004 05:23 PM

Brainster: No offense, but your linking to that approvingly makes me wonder if you're jumping the shark, especially the second link.

You misunderstood the second link. Ann already clarified her "Bush/Hitler" statement above. She does NOT think Bush=Hitler.

She is thinking out loud, and she is weighing points and counterpoints rather thoughtfully I think. I'm going to do more of the same on this very subject when I get back from my trip. Entrenched partisans on each side aren't going to like it. There isn't much I can do about that. Somebody is always annoyed with me no matter what I say or link to. If I write something you think is awesome, Mork is going to come along and tell me I've jumped the shark. Them's the breaks.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 24, 2004 05:35 PM

Also, Brainster, consider the target audience for those posts. You apparently were not part of it. Neither were anti-war liberals. I was. And so were some others around here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 24, 2004 05:37 PM

Rogue, this is not exactly a nit:

Sure, SH oppressed the Shi'ites. But Al-Q is a Wahabi franchise, which is a Sunni faction, and SH is...

Which of course highlights another critical flaw in the anti-interventionist cant; that destroying a particular NGTO (non-governmental terror organization) will free the world from the threat of terror.

And for what it's worth, I went to high school with a refugee from Iran who was Shi'a, and she never terrorized anyone except when our tests were graded on a curve. So praising Saddam because he went on an ethnic cleansing spree seems a bit, shall we say, cold blooded.

As to the Bush Doctrine, read this:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/06/20020601-3.html

While Bush is strong in articulating that the War on Terror is a moral war, his prescription for fighting it is surprising nuanced for an idiot.

Guess he has good speech writers.

The thing about Kerry's positions, he's had so many you can find whatever you want.

As to whether Viet Nam was or was not a Just War, history will tell. All I know is, when the North broke faith with Kissenger's peace treaty (which everyone knew they would) masses of people set out in boats to get away, because possible or probable death was better than what they faced back home.

And then there's Cambodia.

The men who died to prevent these things, even if in the end they couldn't prevent them, did not die in vain.

When did the Left become a fan of Kissenger-style thinking?

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 24, 2004 05:44 PM

"Well, Ben, I think that says more about your level of reading comprehension than it does about John Kerry."

Well, Mork, when you don't have an argument you can always throw an insult.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 24, 2004 05:52 PM

If I write something you think is awesome, Mork is going to come along and tell me I've jumped the shark.

No, Michael. I will never tell you that you jumped the shark. Jumping the shark has jumped the shark.

Anyway, like our President, you benefit from the tyranny of low expecations ;-)

Posted by: Mork at June 24, 2004 05:53 PM

Well, Mork, when you don't have an argument you can always throw an insult.

C'mon, Mark, if someone's intent on insisting that black is white, there's not a lot of room for reasoned argument.

Posted by: Mork at June 24, 2004 05:55 PM

To clarify, I don't mind well-thought out arguments that disagree with my position. You have posted stuff that I disagree with but is at least well-thought out--ditto with Marc Cooper and Roger Simon.

I'll let her slide on the Bush/Hitler comment, but what about this floater:

"For the last few weeks I have been thinking that there may be some Nixon in China quality to the War on Terror. Only instead of having enough tough credibility to be soft, it's the other way around. Is it that only someone who does not come off as a warmonger can rally the whole nation?"

What in the world is she saying? The kindest interpretation is that she means that the left would give Kerry a pass on pursuing war because he has enough "soft" credibility with them. But I doubt very strongly that Kerry will pursue the war; anybody remember his incomprehesible statement to the NY Times that he didn't like the term War on Terror, that he would rather call it an engagement of economies.

And the Klaus Barbie comparison is typical fever swamp idiocy. One person at Abu Ghraib was supposedly bit by a dog. That is hardly comparable to Barbie's career.

Posted by: Brainster at June 24, 2004 06:11 PM

I didn't see where Ben was making that assertion. Point out the illogic in Ben's argument (or mine) instead of insulting us.

Kerry said "not one American life" for "the preservation of freedom, which those misfits [presumably the North Vietnamese, Khmer Rouge, and whatever the Laotian equivalents were] supposedly abuse".

Turns out that supposed abuse wasn't so supposed.

Kerry was on the ground (or at least the water) In Country. He should have had an idea about how the other side worked. Maybe Kerry was deluded, maybe he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but as history played out, the "supposed" bad guys turned out to be pretty damn bad.

But not one American life against that, no sirree Bob.

Compared to a lot of what Kerry says, that speech is perfectly clear. If America is not directly attacked, we should never shed blood on foreign soil. That's an absolutely understandable philosophy, and it's one that plays very well with a part of the Democrat's base. My feeling is that approach is short-sighted and fundamentally selfish. (It's the same thing as Pat Buchannon's argument against the Iraq intervention.) But it sure is easy to understand.

If that's Kerry's philosophy, I do not want him leading this country. So that's why I want him to disavow the speech.

But as Rogue suggests, it probably wouldn't be smart to hold my breath.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 24, 2004 06:15 PM

Ben,

I call it the law of opposites. When someone goes out of their way to tell me anything virtuous about themselves, it's a sure bet they have the opposite quality. For example: they're honest (liars), or straightforward (devious), or don't care about money (greedy), or worry about my safety (predator), ... I'm sure you can fill in many more.

As to the Iraqi army, one could go either way. It wasn't a very good army, many of the officers were corrupt or abusive, the command was biased towards the sunnis, and they had been used for ethnic cleansing. So was it best to start from scratch? Who knows. Let's move on and let the historians argue the unknowable sometime in the future.

Posted by: chuck at June 24, 2004 07:08 PM

Brainster: What in the world is she saying? The kindest interpretation is that she means that the left would give Kerry a pass on pursuing war because he has enough "soft" credibility with them.

Actually, Kerry has credibility with the left just by the virtue of not being a Republican. Come on. Don't have such a short memory. Bill Clinton attacked Slobo in Serbia, unilaterally, without even consulting with the UN first, to wage war against a dictator who posed no threat at all to the United States, and only the Chomskyites on the far-left complained. The overwhelming majority of knee-jerk isolationist bullshit came from the Republican Party.

So much of the "anti-war" fervor is anti-Republicanism in disguise. The slate will be wiped when Bush is gone. The only question I have is to what extent this will happen.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 24, 2004 07:17 PM

Michael, that is certainly a fair conclusion; the question for me is whether Kerry will pursue the war on terror, and I don't get that feeling, so the fact that he would have more freedom to pursue it is somewhat irrelevant.

And I apologize about the comment about jumping the shark. I'm a little under the weather today and I lashed out. This is still a great blog.

Posted by: Brainster at June 24, 2004 07:29 PM

Brainster,

Apology accepted. No biggie.

I have no idea what Kerry would do in office and that's my biggest problem with him. What a candidate says while campaigning doesn't always mean anything, and that's doubly true for Kerry who keeps flip-flopping anyway.

Look at Bush, campaigning as a "humble" isolationist and giving a speech at Bob Jones University. In the first case he changed his mind when reality imposed itself, and the second was just a case of extremely divisive pandering that meant nothing. A lot of what Kerry says is similarly extremely divisive pandering that means nothing. And reality will also impose itself on him if he wins.

When I look at Kerry I try to imagine what he'll do in a different context than where he is today. It's hard and obviously has a tremendous margin of error. Sometimes I'm feeling generous toward him, and other times I'm not.

The trouble with Bush is that I'm feeling less generous toward him every day. At this point I'm worried both of them will let Iran get nukes. At least if Kerry were president today the right would hold his feet to the fire. As it is, hardly anyone says jack about Iran's nuke program. That's bad. The Democrats hardly care about WMD because they harrumphed themselves into a corner, and the GOP thinks Bush will handle it. That's looking like a leap of faith to me at this time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 24, 2004 08:42 PM

Michael, I don't follow you here as to what Kerry might conceivably do vs Iran. Other than defer to the UN (that is, punt).

At least Bush might, if he wins a 2nd term, make credible or meaningful threats.

Posted by: miklos rosza at June 24, 2004 11:00 PM

"you aren't going to convince any unconvinced person that Bush's tax cuts are a good idea if you can't get past this. ... Hard leftists may hate the rich, but I certainly don't and if it were up to me I'd repeal the Bush tax cuts. Not because I hate rich people but because I hate deficits."
The fantastic economy in the US today, relative to the huge depression sized wealth evaporation of the bubble pop, is because of the tax cuts, and the higher spending.

I don't like Bush's higher spending, either -- but the deficits, especially when invested instead of consumed, avoid deflation & depression. If Bush had kept a balanced budget, Reps would have lost in 2002 and the economy really would be in the trouble Kerry was talking about last year.

One dirty attraction of Leftism is the ability to punish the "rich". I'm glad you don't share it -- but it's part of the Bush-hate fuel. If you hate deficits, cut gov't spending. Where has Kerry wanted any spending cut?

Remember, the rich (in America) get rich peacefully, because customers give them SO MUCH money. They earn it, they create wealth, they deserve it. Yeah, Enron shows many try to cheat. And rich Reps all too often get fat contracts from the gov't -- much more so than from IBM or McDonalds. Why is that? (The solution -- cut gov't spending; cut, cut, cut.)

The poor need help
Which is a better offer: a fish? Learning to fish? A steady job making money?
What most poor people really need is a job. And it's the rich, successful, greedy entrepreneurs that offer jobs. The non-rich don't have the cash, nor do the non-successful. The non-greedy don't offer jobs because they're not expanding their production because ... they're not greedy.

Tax cuts for the rich support more job creation than the same tax cuts for the poor. You advocate giving them more cash for fish, or DVDs, or whatever. Please ask yourself -- are factual results more important or theoretical words?

More Bush competence: http://tomgrey.motime.com/1088110123#298025

More on Full Employment, the one thing commies did right:
http://tomgrey.motime.com/1088018511#297701

So much of the "anti-war" fervor is anti-Republicanism in disguise. The slate will be wiped when Bush is gone. The only question I have is to what extent this will happen.

Absolutely, for now. When the campaign really starts, Bush will be pressing Kerry much harder on Iraq. Kerry will, likely, agree to continue supporting Iraq, but stop anything else.

How much will Bush push Kerry on Iran? Michael Ledeen has succeeded in terrifying me about Iraninan nukes coming. If Kerry articulates a reasonable tripwire for regime change in Iran, BEFORE Iran gets nukes, they he will be your man.

... but I'm afraid he won't because he'll be afraid of giving too much to Bush (prolly right).

Posted by: Tom Grey at June 25, 2004 02:22 AM

Michael --

Your 7:17 post is exactly why the Dems must be punished in the 2004 election. Politics used to stop at the water's edge. The Dems broke that pledge, and if the voters reward them for it, everyone (Republicans & Democrats alike) will feel free to do it again. The voters should not be short-sighted enough to allow it to happen.

Posted by: Ben at June 25, 2004 06:36 AM

the Dems must be punished in the 2004 election.

Yes, we must wrest control of the federal government from them . . .

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 25, 2004 07:56 AM

Which of course highlights another critical flaw in the anti-interventionist cant; that destroying a particular NGTO (non-governmental terror organization) will free the world from the threat of terror.

Looks like a straw man argument to me. Who on earth has said that destroying a particulary NGTO will "free the world from the threat of terror?" For my part I don't think the world will ever be free from the threat of terror, no matter what we do.

I'm not even making a "noninterventionist" case. I just think this particular war (Iraq) was badly timed and badly done and is going to cost us big time in the larger "WoT" (I truly hate that phrase).

praising Saddam because he went on an ethnic cleansing spree seems a bit, shall we say, cold blooded.

Cheap shot.

When did the Left become a fan of Kissenger-style thinking?

Crap.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 25, 2004 08:09 AM
Rogue:
As for your second point, Iraq was not a regime that supported "Islamofascism." For Christ's sake. It was one of the only regimes in that area that DIDN'T. Saddam oppressed the Islamofascists in Iraq. We just liberated them. Not a smart move.

Rogue later:

I agree with your post until you get to the bit about al-Zarqawi. The fact that he may have sought and obtained medical treatment is irrelevant to the issue of SH's treatment of the Shiites. I shouldn't have used the term "Islamofascists" so broadly but the fact is SH DID oppress them. There's no evidence of a cooperative relationship between SH and al-Zarqawi. Btw, that dude sure gets around, doesn't he?

Rogue, later still:

praising Saddam because he went on an ethnic cleansing spree seems a bit, shall we say, cold blooded.

Cheap shot.

When did the Left become a fan of Kissenger-style thinking?

Crap.

I don't know, using the supposition that Saddam kept the Islamofascists down (along with everyone else, of course) as a argument against invading sounds pretty damn realpolitik to me.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 25, 2004 09:36 AM

It's a far fucking cry from "praising" him.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 25, 2004 10:12 AM

Not to split hairs with you, Mark, but you brought up this line of argument. You used the argument that SH "supported Islamofascism" as a justification for invading Iraq. I pointed out that not only did he not support "Islamofascists," he oppressed them (and as you correctly point out, everyone else). Ask Sistani or al-Sadr. The fact that Zarqawi may have sought medical treatment in Baghdad hardly establishes any support by the SH regime. Hell, Zarqawi is now operating with impunity in Iraq, kidnapping civilians and chopping their heads off. That doesn't prove the CPA is "supporting Islamofascism" I hope.

You chastised me earlier in this thread for name calling (which I have NOT done in this thread) said "some of us" want to talk about issues. If that's the case, stop the BS labelling.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 25, 2004 10:24 AM

I shouldn't have used the word "praised". You're right, that was a misrepresentation of what you wrote. I trust that you found and continue to find Saddam and his regime to be reprehensible.

On the other hand, I stand completely by my criticism of the "realpolitik" thinking on Iraq. Whatever suppression of name-your-ngto-here Saddam may or may not have achieved, he did so as a tool effecting his own brutal regime. Saddam's "suppression" was terrorism. It was terrorism on his own people, but terrorism nonetheless. Saddam's continued rule should have been an affront to any moral person. The fact that it wasn't bothers me.

This is not a war on X number of groups who saw people's heads off. It's more complicated that that. Dummy Bush gets it. A lot of putatively bright people don't.

Time's a' wasting.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 25, 2004 11:02 AM

I actually agree with everything you say in your last post (except I think you put too much faith in Bush).

My objection to removing Saddam is the timing and the way we did it, the way we managed to alienate those who should have been our allies, and the way it was sold to this country. And in part, the way it was prosecuted, with unnecessary loss of civilian lives.

We didn't have to do it like this. There was no rush, SH was not an "immediate threat." Something this important, for God's sake, we could have taken more time to do it with great care.

Considering our long range goals, don't you find it profoundly distressing that so many in the ME now view us as an invading and occupying force and not a liberating one?

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 25, 2004 11:18 AM

Considering our long range goals, don't you find it profoundly distressing that so many in the ME now view us as an invading and occupying force and not a liberating one?

Not particularly. Polls of the people of the region I inherently distrust. The only thing I can say is, thank god 100% don't support us. What I do (mostly) trust is reports of who's doing what. al Sadr has given up armed insurrection. (We'll see what happens to him over time). Fallujah is getting to be a dangerous place for non-Iraqi Arabs. The interim Prime Minister seems to be very competent. My fingers are crossed and I'm knocking on wood.

Frankly, I'm glad the Iraqis want to take responsibility for their own future. I'm glad the calls for an Iranian-style mullahcrocy went unheeded. Civilized dissent is a good thing.

Say this for Saddam, he actually did hold elections. (The Iraqis all knew they didn't have a choice, but they knew how to pretend they did.) Soon they'll have a real choice, and hopefully all that playtime will carry over into a real participatory democracy.

The fact that they're telling dad "screw you, we can do this on our own, thank you" may in fact be a good sign.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 25, 2004 12:04 PM

Also, I don't think the assumption that "we've got time" is a good one. Considering the quality of our intellligence leading up to Gulf War II, I'm not comfortable that we have any time at all.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 25, 2004 12:09 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member



Testimonials

"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

"Terrific"
Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere


Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com


News Feeds




toysforiraq.gif



Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button

totten_button.jpg


Tip Jar





Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn