August 20, 2004

Howard Dean: Arrogant Cowboy?

I took serious issue with Howard Dean's stance on the Iraq war, as anyone who has read this blog knows. Nevertheless, I have a lot more respect for him than I have for John Kerry. The man is not, as the JibJab cartoon says about Kerry, a "liberal weiner." He just thought the Iraq war was dumb. And he said a lot of dumb things about it.

He never did strike me as the kind of guy to back down from a fight. He can be both scrappy and ruthless, necessary traits in the confrontation with Islamofascism.

Did you know he is a columnist at Cagle Cartoons? Yes, he really is. (Hat tip: Armed Liberal.)

In his latest piece he pours a bit of ice-cold realism on the idea that John Kerry (or anyone else) will have an easy time knitting the trans-Atlantic alliance back together again.

Europeans cannot criticize the United States for waging war in Iraq if they are unwilling to exhibit the moral fiber to stop genocide by acting collectively and with decisiveness. President Bush was wrong to go into Iraq unilaterally when Iraq posed no danger to the United States, but we were right to demand accountability from Saddam. We are also right to demand accountability in Sudan. Every day that goes by without meaningful sanctions and even military intervention in Sudan by African, European and if necessary U.N. forces is a day where hundreds of innocent civilians die and thousands are displaced from their land. Every day that goes by without action to stop the Sudan genocide is a day that the anti-Iraq war position so widely held in the rest of the world appears to be based less on principle and more on politics. And every day that goes by is a day in which George Bush's contempt for the international community, which I have denounced every day for two years, becomes more difficult to criticize.
Bush can still be criticized, of course. But that criticism is meaningless if the behavior of European leaders isn't taken into account. The trans-Atlantic alliance is cracking up. Some of it is Bush's fault, some of it is the fault of European leaders, and some of it isn't anybody's fault.

Before the onset of the Cold War there was no such thing as any trans-Atlantic alliance. Western Europeans allied themselves with the U.S. through NATO specifically to counter the threat from the post-war Soviet Union. The NATO slogan at the time was "America in, Russia out, and Germany down." When West Germany mellowed out and the Soviet threat evaporated, the raison d'etre of the alliance no longer existed.

Europeans today tend to feel less threatened than they have in a very long time. That's because they are less threatened. There is no totalitarian army interested in, let alone capable of, launching a ground invasion.

We Americans, on the other hand, tend to feel more threatened than we have in a very long time. The oceans did not protect us from Al Qaeda as they once protected us from Hitler and Soviet ground forces.

So the fact that today Americans and Europeans tend to have different ideas about the use of military force isn't surprising or anyone's fault. It is a natural shift based on changed historical circumstances.

It's nice to see that Howard Dean, for one, is aware that something bigger is going on here than merely George Bush's arrogant cowboy style. John Kerry, or whoever else replaces the current president, will have to deal with it. I wouldn't expect an end to American "unilateralism" just because Bush goes back to Crawford. It started, after all, when Bill Clinton stomped Slobo in Belgrade without consulting the UN at all.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2004 04:35 PM

Is it just me or does one get the feeling that Howard Dean isn't going away any time soon. I don't mean to insinuate that he'll be running for President again someday (though he may), just that I don't see him slipping into obscurity. There really is something dynamic about the guy. Disagree with his politics all you want, but you have to give him that.

I'm thinking at this point that John Kerry will probably win in November. I'm also thinking there is no way in hell he'll be able to be as liberal a President as he was a Senator. Soooo...Howard Dean represented, still represents, and will probably keep representing the "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party" throughout Kerry's term. With all the popular grassroots support he still has, I'm guessing he'll probably be Kerry's #1 thorn in the side. At least among Democrats. I don't really know what all this means or how it will play out, I just get the feeling that we haven't heard the last of Dean. Mark my words.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 20, 2004 05:09 PM

In my mind I always assumed, rightly or wrongly, that the rift between Europe and the US had nothing to do Bush and his policies, it was there prior and was just exposed in all its glory recently.
After all, its not the 1rst time France has been an ass towards us or denied us flyover rights, and France and Germany formed the idea for the EU well before 9/11 or Iraq, and were mocking the Americans well before those events as well.

However, the bottom line is interests. So in my opinion, prior perhaps interests trumped "true sentiments" in Europe while the US was needed, and now in my opinion the true sentiments of Europe have really surfaced.

The reasons to vote for Kerry or Bush has nothing to do with mending the so-called new "trans-Atlantic rift".... However, if you said Kerry would have more wiggle room than Bush due to public perception than you might have an avenue to explore. The choices aren't Reagan, Bush, McCain, Clinton and Kerry.... If they were I'd likely vote for Reagan, McCain and Clinton in that order and would not be upset with any of those choices winning though.
Not because I think Clinton has proven in my mind he would be a great wartime president, as Reagan surely has and McCain was a war hero, but Clinton surely would have more 'wiggle room' in dealing with the false bullshit of the Europeans, and that's all it is.

BY THE WAY........ did you note that the IOC has not even cited, slapped on the wrist let alone kicked out the Iranian team or competitor after "convening some bullshit meetings"? If Marty Glickman were still alive he'd be going nuts... and yet some of Marty's disciples and big fans have not said word 1 about it. Mike and the Maddog (ESPN) that is.


Posted by: Mike at August 20, 2004 05:37 PM

Dean is "dynamic" in a professional wrestling way. Maybe we can find a liberal Hulk Hogan, all emotion, no substance. Just scream and get all passionate about...something. Cause its all about feelings. That will get all the votes.

Posted by: Deep Thoughts at August 20, 2004 05:43 PM

I have to say that I agreed with what Howard Dean was saying. I liked him better than John Kerry, and was sorry to see him railroaded out of the primary campaign. At least Howard Dean stood for something, unlike John Kerry, who seems to lack "core values" (as we say in the current vernacular).

Now that Howard Dean is not running for president, he shows that he can think and talk reasonably about important issues. Now if our ponderous and pompous buddy could take lessons from Howard Dean on international affairs.


Jim Bender

Posted by: Jim Bender at August 20, 2004 05:43 PM

You know, whatevever amount of shallow crap Americans like Totten write there are Americans like Juan Cole that actually attempt informed, interesting, challenging, relevant and detail comment and analysis.

Oh, and by the way, as far s the Middle East goes Cole actually knows what he is talking about (unlike Totten.) Hence no "kill Sadr" garbage.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 20, 2004 06:14 PM


If you like Juan Cole's blog better, then go read him instead and be done with it. This comments box is not here for you to fling insults. Either present a counter-argument or go away.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2004 06:26 PM

Oh, and by the way, as far s the Middle East goes Cole actually knows what he is talking about

Here's a summary of Professor Cole's blog:

Arabs good, Jews bad.
Kerry good*, Bush bad.
Muslims good, Americans bad.
*Kerry sometimes bad because he doesn't blame all the problems in the Middle East on Jews.

What would we do without experts?

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 20, 2004 06:31 PM

Having said that...

I do find him to be a good source on the history of the Shia, but when he veers into politics, as he does frequently on his blog, he's ceases to be a professor and dons his partisan, parochial cap. And it takes but 2 seconds to suss out where his sympathies (and lack thereof) lie.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 20, 2004 06:37 PM

MJT writes: I wouldn't expect an end to American "unilateralism" just because Bush goes back to Crawford. It started, after all, when Bill Clinton stomped Slobo in Belgrade without consulting the UN at all.

That may have technically been an example of unilateralism - to the extent that means the lack of a U.N. mandate, but it wasn't really unilatéral, becuase the French (and much of Europe, in fact) were on board.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 20, 2004 07:22 PM


If you want an example of real American unilateralism, I think ousting Noriega in Panama probably fits. Otherwise, neither Iraq nor Kosovo really apply, hence my quotation marks around "unilateral."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2004 08:03 PM

I think that Bush's actions have more exposed the growing rift between the US and Europe than actually caused it. As many have pointed out, the interests of the US and Europe have been diverging for some time.

I do feel that Kerry would have more wiggle room at first as everybody would want to publicly kiss, make up, and blame all the problems on Bush.

Kerry's problem is that he will be expected to heal the rift, probably impossibly without damaging concessions that will not be popular here.

The same is not expected of Bush

Posted by: tallan at August 20, 2004 08:19 PM

>>>>"Hence no "kill Sadr" garbage."


Juan Cole is an academic and uses the language of "the academy", not like us homespun folk; but it only thinly disguises his consistent kneejerk apology for all things Arab. And he's a known Israel-hater too, his scholarly language notwithstanding. Who cares what he says about Al-sadr.

Posted by: David at August 20, 2004 08:21 PM

"Maybe the whole doctrine of pre-emptive war is a form of inferiority complex, impelling Cheney to be a strident war-monger to try to vindicate his uninvolved youth. If he was a coward, he may be endangering us all (and especially our teenagers) in a desperate ploy to regain his own manhood"...

I gotta tell you, David, I think you're wrong. I lifted this quote off of Cole's website and it's hardly the language of "the academy". More like the language of "I don't know what in the hell I'm talking about". As far as I can tell, Juan Cole is full of 2 things: Full of Shit and Full of Himself. Ever seen the movie Good Will Hunting? Remember the pompous asshole in the bar quoting lines out of a textbook? Juan Cole is very much that type of asshole elitist, it seems.

There's a difference between actual intelligence and knowing alot of facts (not that it's a bad thing to know alot of facts). Between ideology and common sense. Most academics are ideologues. The good ones know better. Juan Cole is not one of those.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 20, 2004 08:48 PM

Grant writes: As far as I can tell, Juan Cole is full of 2 things: Full of Shit and Full of Himself.

Ever read his bio?

Cole commands Arabic, Persian and Urdu and reads some Turkish, knows both Middle Eastern and South Asian Islam, and lived in a number of places in the Muslim world for extended periods of time.


He's certainly his own biggest fan. It's sometimes fun to watch.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 20, 2004 08:59 PM

Personal PS...

I have alot of professors like Juan Cole: Pompous; Insulated; Living In Their Own Little World. They're ideologues, plain and simple. They make you want to pull your hair out if and when you argue with them because they'll turn the argument into an intellectual pissing contest everytime. They could be arguing the most non-sensical and unrealistic garbage you've ever heard but still make you feel inferior and stupid because you can't recite half the useless facts they can...the intellectual pissing contest thing.

I also have a few really great profs. They'll be the first to tell you that most their colleagues are full of shit. They'll also be the first to say that they change their minds on things every once in a while and, despite years of learning, are wrong all the time. They're humble, in essence, and are constantly humbling themselves by seeking and questioning even their most cherished beliefs.

I had one of these really great profs who was a big fan of Michael Moore. Then he saw Fahrenheit 9/11 and it changed his mind completely. Now, he hates the guy. We had this big open discussion session at my school about the movie and this prof was one of the highlighted speakers. Anyway, everyone knew he loved Michael Moore and so it completely blew everyone away when he devoted his entire 20 minute speech to shredding all of the lies portrayed in the film. It was a thing of beauty, really, watching an otherwise liberal-leaning professor totally destroy the credibility of Michael Moore.

My point is that, David, whoever else it may concern: Academics aren't all that bad. Most of them are just tired ideologues (both liberal and conservative) insulated and out of touch with reality. But some of them are really awesome people.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 20, 2004 09:10 PM

Another Personal PS (the last one, I promise)...

My girlfriend is looking at Grad Schools and was pretty set on the University of Michigan for a while to focus on Middle-Eastern Studies. She's since moved on and is now looking into Georgetown. Thank God she'll never have to study under this assclown.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 20, 2004 09:22 PM

Grant McEntire: She's since moved on and is now looking into Georgetown.

Tell your girlfriend to beware. There are plenty of assclowns in the Georgetown Middle Eastern Studies department too, starting with assclown-in-chief John Esposito and running down the line through Samer Shehata.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 20, 2004 09:27 PM

Dean said at the convention (not in his main speech of course) "They [the Republicans] would rather burn books than read them." That does not strike me as the statement of a serious political figure. Today, in attempting to slam the Bush campaign as somehow directly responsible for the Swift Boat ads and book (although of course all left leaning 507's are scrupulously independent) Kerry's spokesman Stephanie Cutler ridiculed the president ala Michael Moore for reading "My Pet Goat" during the 9/11 attacks. And yet I truly believe they believe they are taking the high road and Bush is running a gutter campaign although no one can point to a single attack by the Bush campaign on Kerry personally, not concerning a statement he has made or a position he has (however briefly) taken and no one, least of all the New York Times,least of all the Kerry campaign has offered a scintilla of evidence that a single fact offered by the Swift Boat Vets is false. I think Kerry and much of the Democratic party has actually become delusional and I now fear a Kerry presidency more than I have ever feared anything in my life. I would feel this way even if I did not largely think President Bush is doing an effective job. Just as a reminder I am no Republican but a Democrat who has voted for the Democratic candidate in every national election since 1988. I just think truth and reality is a little more important than partisanship and hackery.

Posted by: Doug at August 20, 2004 09:34 PM


The swift boat stuff is just typical electionerring.

The fact that Kerry, and his campaign staff, may be responding to the attacks in a less than perfect way shouldn't give rise to sentiments like:

I now fear a Kerry presidency more than I have ever feared anything in my life.

Unless you've managed to lead an amazinlgy fear-free life up till now.

American will be fine no matter who's elected in November. Although I realize that just about 85% of the country has convinced themselves otherwise, in one direction or the other.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 20, 2004 09:48 PM

Man, I'm like a walking-typo tonight. Gotta work on that.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 20, 2004 09:50 PM


If you like Juan Cole's blog better, then go read him instead and be done with it. This comments box is not here for you to fling insults. Either present a counter-argument or go away."--MJT

How about JUST GO AWAY!!

Posted by: dougf at August 20, 2004 10:04 PM

As a Finnish-born American, I'm quite amazed how so many Americans feel a need to kowtow to European opinion - The New York Times and Kerry being the embodiment of that need. Americans don't have a proper perspective of how ridiculous this is: Europe is incredibly weak, not only militarily but, most importantly, in terms of self-confidence.

Europeans keep repeating how much historical experience they have, but that doesn't help them overcome the problem presented by parliamentary democracy, and the weak-kneed, compromise-oriented coalition governments such systems engender. If only they were blessed with a strong Constitution, which institutionalizes a tripartite checks and balances... Europhile Americans don't know how significantly superior the US Constitution is to anything Europeans have been able to devise.

The consequence of coalition politics is that welfare states balloon. Though there is always something to be said for social safety nets, in Europe's case the factors are distorted by the enormous decades-old trade surplus Europe enjoys because of access to the American worker-consumer, who, historically and presently, have always had more after-tax money to spend on imported products.

At least at the educated levels in Europe, there is great consternation that in the long run European welfare states are beholden to those ignoramuses across the pond who keep buying European labels. This is a root cause of anti-Americanism: it is based on an innate insecurity at the thought that Europe has not, after all, devised a welfare state model that can succeed on its own.

America does not need Europe (there are others we can buy from); however, Europe still needs America. So when it comes to moral guidance, America should look back to its own principles and convictions for guidance, rather than look to those who still haven't figured out how to sustain theirs.

Posted by: Finnpundit at August 20, 2004 10:28 PM

The Europeans are living in a fantasy world, I fear, thinking that they are not in danger of attack. As far as I an tell, the Islamist fascist is out to destroy all of Western Civilization, not just the U.S. and Israel.

Posted by: thedragonflies at August 20, 2004 10:30 PM

SoCalJustice: assclown-in-chief John Esposito

I read his book Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality and didn't think it was half as bad as some people say it is. He was naive about the threat of Islamism, but he supplied plenty of counter-evidence to his own thesis and weighed it into the equation. That said, I read it long before 9/11 and might have a different view if I went back and re-read it today. I remember thinking that he was blinkered but also intellectually honest. Not Noam Chomsky, in other words. Not at all. At least not then. (I have not been following him lately, so I don't know what he's been up to since 9/11.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2004 10:53 PM

Come on Grant, NO-ONE in the blogosphere knows more or draws from a wider range of sources on Iraq than Juan Cole.

The fact that he holds some opinions with which you disagree does not change that.

You can argue with his opinions on Iraq all you like, but the one thing that is unarguable is that they are better informed than any of ours.

Posted by: Mork at August 20, 2004 11:24 PM

If I may comment on Howard Dean's remarks?

Can they be fairly paraphrased to: "For two years I've been slamming Bush for holding the UN in contempt, but the genocide in Sudan and the UN's failure to do something about it shows that I was wrong. The UN deserves contempt!"?

Posted by: Michael Brazier at August 21, 2004 12:30 AM

Michael Brazier,

That is one way to put it. It's also worth mentioning that liberal intellectuals were the ones who taught me to despise the UN. I have not forgotten Bosnia.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 21, 2004 12:38 AM

International relations seem so simple to me in that they follow Churchill's description that, loosely: Nations do not have friends, they have interests.

We no longer share a security interest with Europe. Thus, we do not feel the need to win their unequivocal support for our actions, nor do they feel the need to put aside their objections to what we seek to do in order to secure our support for protecting them.

As for Howard Dean, the cited paragraphs give me the impression of a thoughtful man analyzing a complex and difficult situation. Should he continue this way he has the potential to be Karry's McCain. Quite different from the "Deaniac" that ran for President. YEEEE-AAAARGH!

Posted by: steve at August 21, 2004 05:50 AM

>>>"Come on Grant, NO-ONE in the blogosphere knows more or draws from a wider range of sources on Iraq than Juan Cole."


Your statement typifies the Liberal belief that if only the rest of us rubes had as much information as you do we'd all turn into Libs just like you. It's wrong. The more I know, the less Liberal I become. Juan Cole is solidly Liberal, and it's not because he has more sources than we do. And we all know Libs give tyrants and thugs a pass these days.

Posted by: David at August 21, 2004 07:44 AM

MJT: You could be right, but I suppose one's assclownness is in the eye of the beholder.

Here is Esposito in 1997, at a conference in Malaysia on Islam, defending the notion that suicide bombings are legitimately Islamic (much to the surprise of the Muslim author of the story):

However, surprisingly, Esposito added, "Although I have not read or come across the actual 'fatwa', as a rule, we must not be too quick to draw upon the 'bid`a' gun against anyone, not least of whom the Sheikh al-Azhar."

Meaning he doesn't think anyone should be "too hasty" in denouncing the idea that suicide bombings are contrary to the tenets of Islam, that Cairo mosque being one of the most important in Sunni Islam. He also managed to offend the conference moderator, also a Muslim, in the process:

At such a point, the moderator for the session Prof. Syed Hussein al-Attas of Malaya University intervened and unequivocally stated that "such suicide bombings are unIslamic. How does anyone justify throwing a bomb into a bus filled with people who are not belligerent, let alone kill oneself in the process? And we know from the primary sources [Quran and Hadith] that women and children, the old and the sick are to be spared during battle. These suicide bombers are different from the Japanese kamikaze, whereby the latter would commit an act of selflessness, brought about by desperation, against legitimate military targets."

Esposito Malaysia Conference

BTW, and this wasn't exactly a non-controversial or "pro-Western" moderator or conference. Also on that same panel with Esposito was a chap named "Dr." Roger Garaudy, who has been convicted in France for writing and disseminating Holocaust denial "literature." His basic "theory" being that Jews fabricated the Holocaust to gain world sympathy so they could steal "historic Palestine" from the Arabs.

Roger Gaurady Google Search

Cool circles Esposito runs in. He's a big time apologist. And 9/11 was the best thing that ever happened to the Esposito's and Cole's of the world.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 21, 2004 08:23 AM

I think it is clear that Dean and his statements are a negative for Kerry's campaign.

This leads me to believe that:

1) Dean is an operative for Karl Rove and a front for the GOP, much like the "Swiftees"

2) That the Democrats, the party of liberalism and free speech, must surpress Dean's column through the FTC and by any other means

3) That Big Media should do their democratic, non-partisan duty and ignore anything Dean says

4) That "liberal blogs" should do their role and do the same

Posted by: Liberal, 2 legs bad, 4 legs good at August 21, 2004 09:03 AM


IF you want a great analysis of the mental dillusions, biased single mindedness tunnel vision, and mental/moral gymnastic equivocating of Juan Cole you only need read the blog of a LEBANESE Middle East doctorate student.

Oh - he does know about the Middle East
UNLIKE JUAN COLE, he has lived in the Middle East.

Cole Nidre
The Arabist Mind - Deir Yassin and Sudan Genocide

Posted by: Mike at August 21, 2004 09:43 AM

The Trifecta from Hell

A Perfect example of the UN, the Arab League, and Colin Powell -- at work. Marvel at the sterility.
The UN, to no one's surprise, issued a toothless resolution on the Darfur genocide, threatening -- get this -- not "sanctions," for that's too harsh of a word, but "interruption of economic, communications or diplomatic activities." Woooo, scary!!
This "PC resolution" has been claimed, rightly, as a victory by the murderous Khartoum government. In the words of the gloating Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail -
"The friends of the Sudan and the Sudanese diplomacy have succeeded in trimming the resolution and curbing its extremity and aberration."
Posted by: Mike at August 21, 2004 09:49 AM

Back to Esposito's book, Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality.

Here's one guy who thinks it's a reality:

Bali bomber pledges fresh attack
UNREPENTANT Bali bomber Imam Samudra has warned he will continue to wage jihad if a recent constitutional court decision means he is set free.

Vowing to carry out more bombings against "unbelievers", Samudra said: "I want to continue my Jihad Fie Sabililah (violent holy struggle).

"I want to go to Moro (in the Philippines). I want to go to Afghanistan. I want to go to Israel to kill Sharon."

Speaking from his death-row cell in Bali's Kerobokan prison, Samudra vowed to kill again. "If I get the death penalty, I will die a martyr's death. If I'm free, I'll bomb again. You got it?"

The 33-year-old field commander of the Bali bombings that killed 202, including 88 Australians, said he would "slaughter Bush" if a recent change in Indonesian legislation meant he was released from custody.

Esposito's probably equally unrepentant in his belief that America and the West are to blame for creating people like Samudra. The twisted madrassa that spawned this guy? Our fault too.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 21, 2004 10:00 AM


Bingo. Terrorism isn't a threat; but if it were a threat, it would be America's fault. Terror loving Libs like Esposito can't lose.

Posted by: David at August 21, 2004 10:42 AM


I don't think the Swift boats are typical. I think they are atypical. They are all veterans who knew Kerry, most very well and other than their hatred of Kerry seem to be apolitical. Contrast that with the Democratic leaning groups, many of whom are "former" Democratic political operatives that are hard to distinguish from the Kerry campaign and the DNC intself. Nevertheless, I have come to firmly believe, character counts. Not whether you have made mistakes in your life, we all have. But you get a picture of someone. Sometimes it's accurate and sometimes not. If we had studied the character of Lyndon Johnson prior to his becoming president we might have predicted what happened viz a viz Vietnam. Sometimes presidents surprise us in a positive way. FOr example FDR, Lincoln, Truman and, in my opinion GW Bush. Some are unholy disasters who have seriously damaged this country. I count Jimmy Carter in this group. I also think CLinton's weaknesses of character prevented him from acting in a timely fashion to protect us from the current threat. Every day that the campaign continues makes me think that Kerry is another Jimmy Carter. I do not agree that you can conclude that either man will do the same thing. Not when all, friend and foe alike, acknowledge the radical departures of this administration and the flack Bush is taking from all sides. A man who will simply say anything at anytime is not qualified to be president. I think many Democrats have simply lost their moorings. They believe their own spin and believe the rest of the nation is believing it as well. I am going to go out on a limb here and you all can call me on it if I am wrong. I predict that within one month, Bush will be comfortably ahead and he will stay there. At that time you will see every dirty trick conceivable played by the allies of Kerry, if not the DNC itself. They will be ineffective and Bush will win comfortably. The Democrats will then have to decide where they go next.

Posted by: Doug at August 21, 2004 11:54 AM

Doug, you're not going to move to France if Kerry wins, are you?

You write: are all veterans who knew Kerry, most very well and other than their hatred of Kerry seem to be apolitical.

I'm not sure that's true - John O'Neill wasn't even in Vietnam the same time Kerry was.

Some of these people knew Kerry in Vietnam, but most didn't. One thing is for certain, they all hate him, and it's most likely due to the fact that he called them all war criminals on national television. So their hatred is pretty understandable.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 21, 2004 04:27 PM


There's a really interesting article in the Weekly Standard about Kerry v. Bush in terms of their military service records, written by someone who no doubt is voting for Bush.

Marching to November

FOR THE PAST couple weeks Republican activists have bent themselves to the task of proving that John Kerry, who was awarded five medals during four months of service in the Vietnam war, isn't a war hero, and the marvelous intensity of their exertions started me thinking.

As normal Americans lose interest in politics, and as their moderating influence fades from the general conversation, politics has become increasingly the plaything of obsessives. And what obsessives bring to politics, unsurprisingly, are their own obsessions, rooted in the uneasiness and insecurities that we all share to one degree or another.


The same frustration led directly to the bizarre outcome of this year's primaries, when Democrats nominated a charmless and undistinguished candidate whom no one seemed to like very much and who displays a dazzling lack of the most elementary political skills, such as being able to deliver a speech without boring half his audience into paralytic catatonia.

But he had a single qualification that overwhelmed his many shortcomings. John Kerry is a war hero. John Kerry fought Charlie in 'Nam. John Kerry wore the brown bar and ate the chop-chop. John Kerry was in the shit and came out alive. (Democrats can speak the lingo too, you know.) So who you calling a "peace party" now? Huh?


But now Republican activists are forcing on the campaign obsessions of their own--almost a mirror image of the Democrats' desperate overcompensation. The dissonance and frustration this year's election rouses in the mind of the dedicated Republican cannot be underestimated. Conservatives actually do revere the military, without reservation. It is not their inclination to debunk combat heroes. Some Republicans, when they drink enough beer, really do wonder whether civilian control of the military is such a great idea. For them, it was never plausible that our boys in Vietnam had "personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads . . . cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians," and so on, as young John Kerry testified they did.

Yet in 2004, Republicans find themselves supporting a candidate, George W. Bush, with a slender and ambiguous military record against a man whose combat heroism has never (until now) been disputed. Further--and here we'll let slip a thinly disguised secret--Republicans are supporting a candidate that relatively few of them find personally or politically appealing. This is not the choice Republicans are supposed to be faced with. The 1990s were far better. In those days the Democrats did the proper thing, nominating a draft-dodger to run against George H.W. Bush, who was the youngest combat pilot in the Pacific theater in World War II, and then later, in 1996, against Bob Dole, who left a portion of his body on the beach at Anzio.

Republicans have no such luck this time, and so they scramble to reassure themselves that they nevertheless are doing the right thing, voting against a war hero. The simplest way to do this is to convince themselves that the war hero isn't really a war hero. If sufficient doubt about Kerry's record can be raised, we can vote for Bush without remorse.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 21, 2004 05:49 PM

I personally have no problem with someone representing the Democratic Party surpressing people's right to free speech. Afterall, these "swiftees" are really just Bush operatives. And if we have to sacrafice liberalism to stop Bush, so be it.

Posted by: blue state voter joe at August 21, 2004 08:48 PM

I'm not sure if blue state voter is just joking, or if it's another example of Liberal self-parody.

Posted by: David at August 21, 2004 09:17 PM

So Cal,

I will not move to France, a country I detest, nor will I be leaving my home of New York CIty. I will pray for the best and hope I'm wrong about Kerry. I am not obsessive about Kerry's war record. I am obsessive about the stunning hypocrisy the Democratic party is showing, which has been well documented by many former Democratic bloggers including CHarles Johnson, Roger Simon and Instapundit. As God is my witness had Kerry not made his lousy four months of swift boat service the very centerpiece of his campaign while ignoring the really wrong method of protesting he engaged in when he got home, I would have NO interest. Indeed, Clinton's avoidance of the draft never bothered me nor, obviously does Bush's national guard service. My concern is that the Democratic party has nominated a cypher whose only qualification is that he served four months in a combat zone. We could have nominated Timothy McVeigh on those credentials (if he were still alive and all but you get the point) These swift boat vets ARE obsessed with Kerry. They hate him. Why is that? Aren't you even interested to know? O'Neill did know Kerry, he took over Kerry's swift boat when he cut out and he knew Kerry's crew quite well. He got to know him even better when he debated Kerry in 1971 when Kerry still used that absurd Kennedyesque accent. As for the Weekly Standard, I am not a Republican so the things Republicans dislike about Bushm his failure to toe the conservative line on many issues, bothers me not at all. I like him. I trust him. I think he's doing what he thinks is best for the nation and I agree with his approach. I think most Republicans agree with that and when reminded of the facts, I suspect a good percentage of the swing voters will as well. That's why I think he is going to win. But do not mistake me for a foaming at the mouth conservative. I am not one.

Posted by: Doug at August 21, 2004 09:34 PM


I don't normally agree wih Dean, but he has a point here. Doesn't take it far enough, however. The events in Sudan are not a test of the trans-Atlantic alliance. They present the question of whether democratic civilized nations can (and will) act to stop the killing. Japan should be just as interested as Australia as India in this venture. The problem with Dean's approach is a reliance on a UN full of non-democratic nations (so nothing gets done because 'there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I') and NATO (which is not really structured for this mission -- as you point out, it is structured to repel a Russian land attack). If the chancellories of civilized democracies cannot, within one week, with our modern instantaneous communications, agree to put a stop to the Sudan killing, then these diplomats are worthless. It should be up to the civilized nations of the world, not up to reified institutions like the UN and NATO, to react in ad hoc fashion to this humanitarian disaster. If the blood-letting can't be stopped, it is our fault, not the responsibility of beaucratic institutions.

For the benefit of some of your commenters, we have fought very few wars with allies which were considered at the time as major economic and military powers. Australians fought very bravely with us in the Pacific theater in WWII, but Australia at that time was a minor player on the world scene. Ditto our 'allies' in Korea and Vietnam. We had no 'allies' in the Mexican War and the Spanish-American War. As for 'preemption,' or wars that were necessary as opposed to a matter of choice, its hard to make a case for 'necessary' beyond the War of 1812 and the war against Japan. Don't get me wrong, going to war against Germany in December, 1941 was the right thing to do. I'm only saying that, in December 1941, the case for 'necessary' was certainly harder to make against Germany than that for war against Japan. That's why I'm uncomfortable with the 'necessary' standard pushed by Kerry and Dean. Intervention in Sudan might not be 'necessary,' but its the right thing to do.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at August 21, 2004 09:49 PM

Ah...thank you for the Weekly Standard article. Regardless of their ideology, an ideology I personally by and in large don't share, they're refreshingly honest now and again. Like a conservative TNR, perhaps, if only a bit further removed from the political center. I respect the hell out of those guys for articles like this.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 21, 2004 10:35 PM

I find Juan Cole provides a good site to point to sources about iraq I might miss otherwise. Sometimes he points to arabic-only sources that I never find in english. I'm willing to believe that those things were actually written or spoken in the arabic media.

Cole's attitude is kind of like a spectator watching a train wreck from a safe distance. "It appears that 3/4 of the automatic brakes that are supposed to stop each car individually failed, and so there were a number of cars derailed. This will slow down the recovery because they must deal with the cars that are partly blocking the rails before they can drive off the others. The tracks won't be clear until every car is clear, but they can remove them from both ends." "Oh, now the train that was supposed to remove cars from the north end has itself derailed. They should not have taken that turn so fast, probably they thought the emergency justified breaking the regulations. This will more than double the time to get the tracks cleared because they cannot approach from the north until the rescue wreckage is removed." "These fires are unexpected. And it appears that the onboard firefighting equipment is depleted, both on the wrecked trains and for the remaining rescue team. It's long been agreed that CO2 fire extinguishers are not adequate for firefighting because they are too convenient for cooling cases of beer. They tend not to be available when needed. New firefighting supplies will have to come from the south, nearly three hours away. It is again unfortunate that the north track is blocked since the nearest supplies there are only an hour away."

He points out some obvious incompetent behaviors by americans but he doesn't usually suggest proactive behaviors that would work better. I haven't seen him do apologetics for arabs, kurds, etc, but he tends not to point out their incompetence either. He mentions that Sadrists intimidate people and sometimes steal, and car bombers etc tend to make no effort to spare innocent iraqi civilians. But those are just things for americans to take into account while working toward american goals. Kind of like a sports announcer, sometimes it's obvious what isn't working, sometimes mistakes are very obvious, but it's hard to give advice about what would win.

Michael Totten doesn't provide the quickest or most detailed news, I wouldn't read him for that. But he provides empassioned moral arguments and he starts interesting discussions. Juan Cole doesn't have a comments section at all. Two completely different roles for completely differeng blogs.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 22, 2004 07:07 AM

Esposito's probably equally unrepentant in his belief that America and the West are to blame for creating people like Samudra. The twisted madrassa that spawned this guy? Our fault too.

Sometimes people make arguments that are easy to mistake for moral arguments. It goes like this: When we do things that are self-defeating, we might benefit by looking at our goals and how to achieve them and stop doing the things that interfere with achieving what we want. This is sheer common sense.

But there is a moral argument that sounds very similar. It can be argued that when we do evil things, by some sort of karma we get evil things happening to us in return. The solution is to stop doing evil.

Lots of people don't believe in karma. Often evil people do great evil and suffer no bad result in this world. Often the evil consequences get passed off onto somebody else entirely. Like, I can easily imagine Bush passing off the presidency to Kerry. He can say "OK, you win. I'm giving you this country in great shape. The economy is strong and getting stronger, jobs are growing, we're winning two wars. Iran is intimidated and about to back down, north korea too, the terrorists are in full retreat, the french are sheepishly making up, the deficit is down, tax revenues are increasing because of the tax cuts since everybody is making more money. Now it's your turn. Don't mess it up." And Kerry can get blamed for every horror that Bush leaves to him while Bush relaxes in his 3-year-old mansion in Crawford or wherever he chooses to go.

Moral karma probably doesn't work. But if somebody thinks we're being self-defeating we can look at it and see if we agree, and come up with better approaches if we do agree. It isn't a matter of passing out blame. It's more that we can change our own behavior toward our own goals a lot easier than we can change somebody else's behavior to achieve our goals.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 22, 2004 07:39 AM

And since when has 'cowboy' been an insult? I think it's pretty cool when people call Bush a cowboy. We're America goddamit.

Posted by: David at August 22, 2004 07:44 AM

"Cowboy" means self-sufficiant, individualistic, freedom-loving, strong self-esteem, respect for nature, thriving in a tough world.

If you still don't see "cowboy" as an insult, then you don't belong here. Go to Free Republic like the other extremists.

Posted by: Sundog at August 22, 2004 08:25 AM

Regarding the New Republic: As a long time subscriber (now ex) I can tell you that the journal that was at one time edited by Andrew Sullivan and the late great Michael Kelly has gone from being the voice of neo-liberalism to the mothpiece of the DNC. With very few exceptions, their writers are hack apologists for Democratic shortcomings and it seems the majority of the articles are tenuous and sometimes dishonest attacks on Republican positions (and sometimes on Republicans themselves) Just read the Weekly Standard or Commentary to see what real intellectual thought is (whether you agree or not) It's too bad because centrist liberalism (such as it still exists) needs a voice.

Posted by: Doug at August 22, 2004 08:30 AM

>>>""Cowboy" means self-sufficiant, individualistic, freedom-loving, strong self-esteem, respect for nature, thriving in a tough world."

Everything the Europeans are not (and their neo-European friends here in America).

Posted by: David at August 22, 2004 10:23 AM


I could not disagree more about TNR. I still have a subscription and it's still the least partisan opinion magazine. Yes, it is left-of-center, but it is closer to the actual independent center than the Weekly Standard or Commentary. And I like the other two, as well. I'm not knocking them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 22, 2004 10:24 AM


TNR is not close to non-partisan. Read it carefully. Many articles is an attack on Republican or conservative policies. Nothing wrong with that. But notably missing are the attacks on paleo-liberalism that was a hallmark of the mid nineties when Kelly and Sullivan were there. Furthermore, the mag seems to have glossed over the scandals and corruption surrounding Clinton and the DNC while focusing on every single negative Republican thing there is. They have recently gotten into conspiracy hawking by publishing reports of an "October Surprise" involving the capture of OBL. TNR now seems largely about process not ideas. What should Kerry say to beat Bush? How can he counter this or that weakness? But much less about real ideas and thought. But worst of all, TNR seems to believe the most lunatic things about Bush. I don't agree with him on all of course but I don't see him as the most right wing president ever. I just don't see the evidence. TNR was a supporter of the Iraq war for solid neo-lib reasons but turned against it I think wrongly. Neither the Weekly Standard nor Commentary are "neutral" of course. But they do not hold the water for the Republican party but rather for the neo-conservative ideology. I don't see TNR playing this role anymore for neo-liberalism. A lot has to do with the editor and I think Peter Beinart has really let that mag. deterorate. Re-read the mag from the nineties when Kelly and Sullivan ruled, particularly Michael Kelly to see what great political neo-liberal writing is. Kelly and Sullivan were jettisoned because they refused to carry the water for a president they considered corrupt and unworthy. BTW, let me plug the posthumous collection of Kelly's work "Things Worth FIghting For." This MUST be read by anyone interested in great great observational writing. I re-read my copy all the time. One thing in TNR's favor is that it remains a hawkish supporter of Israel as well as the realist policies of the Sharon government. This is largely due to the influence of publisher Martin Peretz.

Posted by: Doug at August 22, 2004 08:05 PM


I have read Kelly's book, and also his previous book Martyr's Day. Both are excellent.

I've been reading TNR since the Sullivan days. And there are still enough gripes about paleoliberalism that TNR is still considered "right-wing" by leftist fools.

It is a liberal magazine. I'm not saying it's not. But I do think it is the least dogmatic of the bunch, and less partisan than anything on the other side of the aisle.

I don't agree with everything published in there, but then I never ever did. Nor do I agree with everything published anywhere else.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 22, 2004 08:49 PM


We agree on this. TNR is far and away the least dogmatic of the liberal magazines. But that's not saying much and I miss the old TNR. I'm glad you read Kelly's book. His death is a tragic loss to the truth seekers of the world as well as to his friends and family.

Posted by: Doug at August 23, 2004 05:40 PM

"Cowboy" often means individualistic etc.

But in organizations that need to function smoothly, "cowboy" means "loose cannon". Cowboys in software development teams come up with quick fixes that work in their own context but that don't work with what the rest of the team is doing, that are poorly documented and idiosyncratically written. Cowboys are not team players.

Cowboys in management come up with harebrained schemes on short notice.

Unfortunately this meaning seems to fit Bush much better. He hasn't been much of a rugged individualist, but he's let a bunch of cowboys do a lot of policy for him.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 24, 2004 08:37 AM
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