October 10, 2004

John Kerry's Conservatism

I'm not the only one who thinks George W. Bush is the real liberal in this election and that John Kerry is the real conservative. And when I say Kerry is a conservative I do not mean that as a compliment. Neither does Roger L. Simon.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 12:43 PM
Comments

An excellent article. But his analysis applies to Libs in general, not just John Kerry. It's probably why so many ex-Libs have found it so easy to join the conservative camp these days.

Posted by: David at October 10, 2004 02:29 PM

It should be noted that the conservative camp has both "right-wing liberals" as well as "right-wing reactionaries" in it. The problem is that the word liberal has multiple meanings, especially when it isn't capitalized.

Posted by: FH at October 10, 2004 02:44 PM

FH: It should be noted that the conservative camp has both "right-wing liberals" as well as "right-wing reactionaries" in it.

Yep. And the "liberal" camp has both left-wing liberals and left-wing reactionaries in it. That's why I like the middle now.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 02:50 PM

Oh jeez Michael,
Haven't the terms "liberal" and "conservative" been abused into meaninglessness enough already?

Now we throw into the mix: liberalism equals a return to the fantasy that the best way to encourage liberal ideas in other countries is through military invasion - and conservativism shall apply to all not willing to jump on that boat.

I aint buying. I think Simon has become, especially over the past few months, a thoroughly disreputable propagandist. Seems reminiscent of the old marxist shtick he probably used to employ for the other side - using language for its emotional effect, irrespective of any real meaning. I bet he always considered his enemies "reactionaries" - now that he changes his politics, his new enemies are new reactionaries. And anyone who doesnt buy into his new militaristic causes is a "conservative". Talk about relativism! What garbage - its just trying to insult people with the terms he knows they reject.

I know he is your buddy, so I will forgo the extended rant....

Posted by: Tano at October 10, 2004 03:26 PM

I don't have enough brain cells to waste on Roger Simon's hate-filled and moronic propaganda.

Posted by: Mork at October 10, 2004 03:55 PM

Tabo: Haven't the terms "liberal" and "conservative" been abused into meaninglessness enough already?

Sure. But Roger clearly says Kerry is conservative by temperament. And I don't see you can argue with that. At least not when it comes to foreign policy.

liberalism equals a return to the fantasy that the best way to encourage liberal ideas in other countries is through military invasion

No, not necessarily. It depends on which country we're talking about here. We can influence liberal ideas in Jordan (with its reasonable, moderate king) without ever resorting to violence. But do you think it was possible to encourage liberal ideas in Iraq by doing anything else? Iraq was a full-bore totalitarian police state. It was primed to get even worse when Uday and Qusay took over. And it would have been even worse still if Iraq under any of the Saddam clan were to buy a nuke off the shelf from, say, North Korea or Pakistan. The entire Middle East would have lived under the shadow of a totalitarian mini-superpower.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 04:02 PM

Mork,

Hate-filled and moronic propaganda from my pal Roger? How would you like to get your first troll warning, buddy? I've listen to a lot of complaints about you and never once given you a warning. That ends now. You want to argue with me? Argue with me. You want to fling back-alley slanders at people who you know are my personal friends? Post somewhere else. Your call.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 04:06 PM

You got the bit about brain cells right.....Heh.

Posted by: Eric Blair at October 10, 2004 04:07 PM

Mork,

I fail to see the "hate" in Simon's propaganda. Would you care to point it out to me, or are you going to settle on being just another slogan mongering Liberal. Don't you get sick of the slogans? They make you look a lot worse than the people you direct them at, but you don't see that.

Posted by: David at October 10, 2004 04:10 PM

David: I fail to see the "hate" in Simon's propaganda.

That's because there is none whatsoever. Mork just decided he wants to be a troll in my eyes as well as everyone else's.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 04:15 PM

"liberalism equals a return to the fantasy that the best way to encourage liberal ideas in other countries is through military invasion"

No, such actions do not encourage liberal ideas. Such actions are necessary to kill or capture those who would hinder or repress those ideas. Democracy and liberalism grow from ground stained in blood. Thomas Jefferson realized that over 2 centuries ago. Its still valid today.

Posted by: FH at October 10, 2004 04:23 PM

Why is this even an argument?

A person who seeks to return to status quo would be called what? Certainly not "liberal".

While a person who seeks to implement policies designed to spread democracy throughout the middle east is called what? Certainly not "conservative".

Bush may not be a "liberal", but on foreign policy - he's no "conservative".

I am a proud liberal republican. I'll do whatever I can to help elect centrists like Norm Coleman and Rudolph Guiliani. And I'll smile that satisfied smile when gentlemen like Tom Delay retire or fade away.

Posted by: Terry at October 10, 2004 05:07 PM

I cannot properly claim to be Roger L. Simon's friend, but I have read his site regularly for about 6 months, and have trouble believing anybody actually thinks--in good faith--that he peddles hate, or anything close to it. Unless, that is, it is "hateful" to have strong opinions about the pesky little War on Civilization we're currently engaged in.

Posted by: TLR at October 10, 2004 05:18 PM

So Michael, do you think that Bush is a liberal by temperament?

If you want to use the personality-based meanings of the term, then I still find Kerry to be liberal (curious about the world, willing to incorporate new information, not overly bound by traditional approaches etc.).
Bush, it seems to me, is still very conservative - the opposite of the qualities listed above. Just because he gravitates to the use of force to advance democracy, rather than other means, does not make him "liberal". It may make him aggressive, but that does not equal liberalism.

But this is all off base anyway. Bush went into Iraq with the intention of taking out Saddam, establishing a few permanent bases, installing Chalabi, and hoping he wouldnt cause too many problems. The great democracy project only arose once it became clear we had a chaotic situation on our hands that we would be responsible for solving.

Posted by: Tano at October 10, 2004 05:30 PM

Mork - from Roger Simon's blog:

"Never mind that the United Nations has done nothing against a whole litany of contemporary carnage from Rwanda to Darfur. Never mind that the United Nations under Oil-for-Food has put the Mafia to shame as a brokerage house for mass theft. Mr. Kerry will run back to the Society of Kleptocrats to reassure them it's going to be business as usual."

"All this talk of nuance is simply a mask for stasis. These "subtleties" of thought are almost never original, merely idea rotation for its own sake, going nowhere and deliberately so. The real(motivating) idea is not to move. No wonder he is so appealing to the solons of the Mainstream Media who benefit so greatly by this status quo. The problem is - the status quo these days is death."

Since when is the criticism of racism, genocide, theft and conservative, stasist attempts to preserve the status quo defined as 'hate-filled'?

Posted by: mary at October 10, 2004 05:33 PM

I have read his site regularly for about 6 months, and have trouble believing anybody actually thinks--in good faith--that he peddles hate,

I don't think Liberals accuse others of "hate" in good faith; I think they use that term in bad faith. Like so many other words, they've taken the word 'hate' and given it a political slant in order to coerce and silence people they disagree with. That's what they do with words and language-- they manipulate it for their own dishonest purposes.

Posted by: David at October 10, 2004 05:42 PM

Never mind that the United Nations has done nothing against a whole litany of contemporary carnage from Rwanda to Darfur.

Oh really? Tell that to the peacekeepers in Haiti from Chile and Brazil who have been trying to bring aid to the people still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Jeanne; the same peacekeepers who are risking their lives. Tell that to the survivors of those 3 UN High Commission for Refugees who were hacked to death and whose bodies were burned in East Timor. Tell that to my cousin Luis who spent nine months as a UN peacekeeper in Angola in 1998. He faced daily dangers from mines, rebels and malaria in that order. A sargent under his command was murdered. Tell that to the UNHCR people working in refugee camps to help the people of Darfur.

Tell that to the widow of Sérgio Vieira de Mello who spent much of his career in some of the world's most dangerous places at the most dangerous times: Bangladesh during the early 1970's, Cyprus shortly after the Turkish invasion, Lebanon during the early 1980's, Bosnia in the early to mid 1990's, Kosovo in the late 1990's, East Timor from 1999 through 2002 and finally Iraq where his dedication to improving the lives of those less fortunate than him cost him his life.

Regarding his comment about Jimmy Carter and Chávez, I think you know what I have said about Chávez in the past and that I certainly hold no brief for him. However, the Carter Center and the OAS both certified the election results after an audit had taken place. If Roger would bestir himself and look at the history of the recall effort, he would know that the role the Carter Center played in both the recall signature drive as well as the reparos process lead me to the conclusion that the recall would not have happened at all if it were not for the Carter Center.

What I have no use for are people from either left or right who make sweeping generalizations about individuals and groups.

Posted by: Randy Paul at October 10, 2004 06:01 PM

Tano: So Michael, do you think that Bush is a liberal by temperament?

I would say "radical." He is a radical Wilsonian. And Wilsonianism is left not right.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 06:10 PM

Since when is Iraq an "incipient democracy". That is a real stretch of the imagination. And the invasion of Iraq was only one of many reasons, and not the most important, why Libya did what it did. And the United Nations is incompetent and corrupt about many things, but useful and helpful about other things. Even Bush and Powell deigned to go the UN. Why shouldn't Kerry.?

In any case case, Simon does not even address Kerry's other foreign policy ideas that are in the Batt article. Those are the crux of how he differs from Bush, and that is what people should be discussing, not whether he is liberal or conservative, and whether he goes to the UN or not. I find Kerry's foreign policy ideas much more compelling than Bush's. Bush has gotten us in an enormous mess in Iraq, somewhere where we did not need to be. We can fight the jihadists and keep the US safe, without getting ourselves in the quagmire that we are in in Iraq.

Posted by: miriam at October 10, 2004 06:20 PM

Wilsonian?

As in woodrow? Mr. League of Nations? Mr. Multilateralism?

How can you equate a man who dreamed of the establishment of international bodies enforcing a rule of law, with someone who would have been only too pleased not to have even had to bother with the UN - and whose followers show contempt not only for the organization, but for internationalist principles behind the organization?

Posted by: Tano at October 10, 2004 06:36 PM

John Kerry adheres to a 55-year-old approach to foreign policy called "containment" which was formulated during the Truman administration as a way to keep the Soviet Empire from expanding. (Incidently, containment owes not a little of its pedigree to the pre-Civil War approach to slavery: keep it in the South, and don't let it expand into the Western territories.)

John Kerry also believes in a realist foreign policy (or realpolitik) most famously championed by Henry Kissenger in the 1970s. In so many words, "those dumb Arab wogs aren't capable of democracy; put a strongman over them, and keep the oil flowing."

While "liberal" and "conservative" have been beaten into the consistency of tapioca as labels, few would argue that those two strands of foreign policy above are deeply status quo, and thus reactionary.

Whether you agree with him or not, George Bush is pushing a radically new approach to foreign policy which replaces containment with preemption and realpolitik with democratic internationalism. It harks back to FDR's "arsenal of democracy" and JFK's "bear any burden" policies. This democratic idealism died in Vietnam, and now Bush is bringing it back. You can read into that last sentence whatever you like. Liberal or conservative, I would call the Bush Doctrine progressive.

When it comes to foreign policy, the current Democratic Party has no right to call itself anything other than reactionary.

Posted by: Matt Ward at October 10, 2004 06:40 PM

Tano,

Woodrow Wilson believed above all in democracy, and saw the League of Nations as a tool for championing democracy.

I think he would reject the current United Nations as a corrupt, reactionary and anti-democratic institution.

Wilson believed in national determination, and would have been horrified by the "one-world government" dreams and goals that many, many current leftists have of today's United Nations.

Posted by: Matt Ward at October 10, 2004 06:49 PM

Tano,

The UN does not enforce the rule of law. It never has and it probably never will.

Remember, also, that George W. Bush went to the UN for "his" war. Bill Clinton did not. I prefer Clinton's approach. Bush could still be a little more "liberal" than he is. Deferring to an unelected body that puts genocidal regimes on its "Human Rights Commission" is not liberal.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 06:53 PM

Tano, have you paid the slightest bit of attention to the "Oil for Palaces" scandals? Those of us who have contempt for the United Nations have good reason.

Again, if Messr. Kerry had a plan to radically overhaul the United Nations to turn it into a real body that would champion Univerals Human Rights, I would listen. (Actually, I'm sure he has a plan, and I am listening, but these damn crickets keep getting in the way...)

But hey, Kerry still isn't Bush, so be happy.

Posted by: Mark Poling at October 10, 2004 06:55 PM

I think Michael T. is pretty close to the mark in descibing G.W. Bush's approach to the Middle East as "liberal". No less a conservative pundit than George F. Will has described Bush's outlook as "stunningly anti-conservative".

The thing is, based on Kerry's comments in the article mentioned (and in recent statements), I think I'd call him a fantasist rather than a conservtive.

The very idea that he's upset no one talks about the "road map" to peace in Palestine (probably because it was an hallucination to begin with), his obsession with the U.N. (which serves no real purpose except to place dictators and tyrannts on an artificially leveled playing field with democratically elected leaders), his belief that "tough sanctions" will scare Iran out of it's nuclear ambitions (much as they were supposed to scare Saddam out of power after the first Gulf War); all that leads me to place his "ideology" in the world of make-believe rather than any traditional political camp.

Posted by: Leathan LUnd at October 10, 2004 07:00 PM

Michael,
So tell me again, how is Bush a Wilsonian?
Simply because, unlike Clinton, he actually did go to the UN (after having to have been publicly pressured by his dads foreign policy guys)?

And what did you mean by saying Bush could be a little more liberal - right after stating that you prefered Clinton's ignoring the UN? Is that what makes one a liberal? Is that what makes one Wilsonian? I dont follow the logic.

Posted by: Tano at October 10, 2004 07:02 PM

"his belief that "tough sanctions" will scare Iran out of it's nuclear ambitions (much as they were supposed to scare Saddam out of power after the first Gulf War)"

The sanctions against Iraq were not meant to scare Saddam out of power, they were meant to prevent him from rearming, and that is precisely what they did.

Posted by: Tano at October 10, 2004 07:04 PM

What I have no use for are people from either left or right who make sweeping generalizations about individuals and groups

Randy Paul - Tell that to Francis Bok who, like many black Sudanese children, was enslaved by wealthy Muslims. From the review of his book, Escape from Slavery:

Raiders have routinely kidnapped children as young as seven, often brutalizing and torturing them, and cutting off a child's arm or leg if an escape is attempted. One ten year old had nails driven through his knees. Bok was beaten and fed little more than garbage for ten years.

Apparently Mr. Bok was not impressed by the UN’s nonexistent efforts to help him, or to end slavery in the Sudan, because he recently attended a protest against the UN’s inaction in Dafur.

The rally was sponsored by the American Anti-slavery group. Many Sudanese and Mauritanians (also victims of slavery) attended the rally against the UN’s inaction.

They know about how much power the Arab bloc has in the UN – and, as any African could tell you, the Arab bloc is not opposed to slavery or genocide. They’re for ‘peace’ – just like the UN.

According to ‘international aid workers’, the United States is ‘hyping’ the problem in Dafur. They claim that the Americans are doing this because they don’t approve of the genocidal Islamist government in the Sudan. Now why would Americans be so silly? Why can’t we follow the advice of the peacemakers and the aid workers and learn to live peacefully with genocidal zealots?

Here’s a description of the ‘action’ taken by the UN in Rwanda.

And if you would bestir yourself and learn more about the Carter Center, you would find that the Saudi government and the bin Laden family have contributed many millions to Jimmy. (see page 31) Yet another Arab bloc, influencing the decisions of the ‘peacekeepers.’

Roger was discussing Rwanda and Dafur, and it’s a fact that the UN has not wanted to take action in either case. It’s a fact that that UN has a long history of inaction and corruption. As a result, many thousands of innocent people have died. Those are facts, not a sweeping generalization.

Posted by: mary at October 10, 2004 07:06 PM

Tano - If the sanctions against Saddam's regime prevented him from rearming, given the fact that they also allowed Saddam to build palace after palace and bribe the U.N., all while his people starved, can you really trumpet them as a success. Can you really recommend such "tough sanctions" as a viable "stick" to wield against such regimes?

Posted by: Leahtan Lund at October 10, 2004 07:11 PM

Tano: So tell me again, how is Bush a Wilsonian? Simply because, unlike Clinton, he actually did go to the UN?

No, I wasn't being all that serious when I said that. That's why I put "liberal" in quotation marks.

The UN does not do what most of its cheerleaders think it does.

Randy Paul (see above) defends some of the good things the UN does do, which is fine and good. But the UN's good deeds are limited.

Overthrowing tyranny and building democracy is its place is not something the UN has ever done. Nor is it a globo-cop that enforces the rule of law. There is no such thing in this world.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 07:13 PM

Mary, you are not propounding facts, but crude distortions. THe UN, as an institution, has no authority to involve itself in crises. It derives whatever authority it has from the direction of the permanent members of the SC. Kofi can do nothing unless he is directed to by the member states. You want more done - the problem lies in Washington, Paris, Beijing, London and or Moscow. Not in New York.

"According to ‘international aid workers’, the United States is ‘hyping’ the problem in Dafur"

That is the worst type of cheap propaganda. What 'international aid workers' are you talking about? Which ones said what? The very existence of the Darfur problem on the world's agenda arises from the work of international aid workers, and they are at the forefront of those demanding action.

Posted by: Tano at October 10, 2004 07:15 PM

Leahtan,
Sure. They accomplished their purpose regarding security. Just do so in the future in a manner that prevents the corruption. Live and learn.

Posted by: Tano at October 10, 2004 07:18 PM

Tano: That is the worst type of cheap propaganda. What 'international aid workers' are you talking about?

Follow her link to The Guardian and read it yourself. This is the second time today you have dismissed someone else of peddling "propaganda." Knock it off.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 07:23 PM

"But the UN's good deeds are limited.

Overthrowing tyranny and building democracy is its place is not something the UN has ever done. Nor is it a globo-cop that enforces the rule of law. There is no such thing in this world. "

How can I argue with such a set of truisms?
Has there ever existed on earth a person or institution whose good deeds were not limited?

THe UN was not established as an institution to overthrow tyranny. Overthrowing tyranny is a fine and wonderful thing. It just isnt what the UN was intended to do. Nor was it ever intended to be a global cop.
So why do you make it sound like these are somehow relevant criticisms?

BTW, I think Kerry is far more of a Wilsonian, for better or worse...

Posted by: Tano at October 10, 2004 07:26 PM

Mary, Michael,
Allright. I apologize, I should have followed the link.
Never mind....

Posted by: Tano at October 10, 2004 07:32 PM

Tano: The UN was not established as an institution to overthrow tyranny. Overthrowing tyranny is a fine and wonderful thing. It just isnt what the UN was intended to do. Nor was it ever intended to be a global cop.

I'm glad we see eye to eye on this. That's why we can't trust the UN to enforce the rule of law (international or otherwise) or remove tyranny from the earth. Those duties are not the UN's job.

The UN sometimes does good relief and humanitarian work. The UN is also useful as a place where every nation in the world can air grievances to every other nation.

It isn't worth much else, and I find it hard to take people seriously who think it is worth much else. (Unless there is some other minor detail I'm forgetting at the moment. If so, Randy Paul will surely remind me.)

I certainly don't accept the idea that the UN has the right to veto US foreign policy or that Woodrow Wilson would ever have permitted an unelected body to stand in the way of making "the world safe for democracy," as he put it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 07:39 PM

Tano: Allright. I apologize

Thanks. No big deal.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 07:40 PM

I can hardly believe we are at a point where the disastrous world view of Jimmy Carter is actually touted postively and a presidential candidate intends to implement it. You can argue reasonably that Bush has done this or that wrong, that Iraq was a mistake or fought badly. But how can any normal person object to the idea that the United States must stand removed from the cesspool that is the United Nations, form its alliances on an ad hoc basis and use a combined carrot and stick approach to deal with the bad actors of the world? This country has NO tradition of permanent alliances for VERY good reasons. NATO is dead. France and Germany are not allies. They are at best neutrals. We MUST not rely on them nor defer to them. They need us MUCH more than we need them. The UN Security Council is a sick joke. I would vote for a candidate who called for its abolition. Every day I see more and more reason why Bush, flaws and all, MUST win this election.

Posted by: Doug at October 10, 2004 07:50 PM

I apologize..

Tano - no problem.

Posted by: mary at October 10, 2004 07:52 PM

Mary,

Here's what Roger wrote and what I posted:

Never mind that the United Nations has done nothing against a whole litany of contemporary carnage from Rwanda to Darfur.

He wasn't limiting it to Darfur and Rwanda. I brought up examples that contradict his generalizations. The UN has done some good things and they have dropped the ball on occasion. The Clinton Administration also dropped the ball on Rwanda as did most of the world.

East Timor was a UN success story. Rwanda was a UN failure as well as an EU and US failure. The ongoing efforts in Haiti have been successful so far, but there is a long way to go. The UN and the AU forces in Liberia have brought peace and satbility to that country. UN peacekeepers played successful roles in Angola and Sierra Leone. The UN played a major role in brokering the end of civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala. These are facts.

Roger made a sweeping generalization; I'm not going to fall into that trap. I'm more than willing to acknowledge the UN's failures, especially in Africa. If you're going to report the story accurately, however, one should acknowledge the successes.

Posted by: Randy Paul at October 10, 2004 07:53 PM

I think by your definition of "conservative", I probably am too - and that's why I support Kerry. If people want something, they'll upset the applecart of their ruling class to do it. I want my government to go out and kill the terrorists. Grand plans about remaking the world into democracies just ring hollow, especially when its obvious that this gang is all hat and no cattle and unwilling to do the real things on the ground to make them happen by any stretch of the imagination.

Posted by: Oliver at October 10, 2004 07:54 PM

Bush may indeed be more liberal in his grand view of foreign policy, but that's about it I'd say. On social issues, he's effing draconian. On economic ones, a big spender, I'll admit, but less of a big spender than his opponent and a supply-sider none the less.

And, remember back in the 90s when the Democratic Leadership Council touted the saying, "conservative means to liberal ends"? Well, the ends are what matter right? So couldn't you also make the case that Bush's idealistic foreign policy is but a "liberal mean to a conservative end or set of ends"...security, stability, order, etc etc? If that's what he's really after, as I believe it is (as I also believe he's correct in taking that position, for the record), is it really liberalism at all? Keep in mind, I'm not denouncing it here. Call it whatever you want, I want more of it. I'm just posing a question.

If Bush believes in a foreign policy of "liberal ends to conservative means", I don't think it's entirely accurate to say that John Kerry is for the inverse, either, the inverse being "conservative means to liberal ends". John Kerry's foreign policy is more like "conservative means to who the hell knows".

It's the one thing besides the fact he wants to drill for more oil in America that I'll say I like about this President: He gets the vision thing. In other words, he has a set of ends in mind and he's going about it the right way (when he actually follows through, that is). I wish I got the same feeling from Kerry, but I don't. Watching the two of them debate foreign policy is like watching Bush-41 challenge his incumbent son.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at October 10, 2004 08:03 PM

It isn't worth much else, and I find it hard to take people seriously who think it is worth much else. (Unless there is some other minor detail I'm forgetting at the moment. If so, Randy Paul will surely remind me.)

I think that the work of the World Health Organization is hardly minor. Consider what they have done to help eradicate polio in places like India.

Posted by: Randy Paul at October 10, 2004 08:03 PM

It isn't worth much else, and I find it hard to take people seriously who think it is worth much else. (Unless there is some other minor detail I'm forgetting at the moment. If so, Randy Paul will surely remind me.)

I think that the work of the World Health Organization is hardly minor. Consider what they have done to help eradicate polio in places like India.

Posted by: Randy Paul at October 10, 2004 08:03 PM

Sorry for the double post. The browser crashed before it posted so I hit the refresh button.

Posted by: Randy Paul at October 10, 2004 08:04 PM

'If people want something, they'll upset the applecart of their ruling class to do it.'--Oliver

Maybe it's just me,but the use of the term'ruling class',pretty much told me everything I needed to know about the reference point for this post.
All memes;all the time.

Posted by: dougf at October 10, 2004 08:04 PM

Michael,
So who has ever claimed that the UN should have a right to veto our foreign policy?

If our security is at stake, not even President Kucinic would care what they thought.

For less critical foreign policies, then it is, as you point out, a forum where nations can discuss and can work out their foreign policies. As such, it is a forum for all of our non-military global leadership. And it can, and does, provide the framework for global treaties - which are the substance of international law.

Leaving aside the UN for a moment - I think the underlying issue here is this. Do you buy into the position, that it is our responsibility to use our military to overthrow tyrannys around the world and build democracies in their place? Does that work? Is it appropriate for us to do that? Note: the issue centers on the use of the military - for non-military promotion of democracy is non-controversial.

Posted by: Tano at October 10, 2004 08:06 PM

Randy: I think that the work of the World Health Organization is hardly minor.

True. I figured you would remind me of something.

I'm not knocking the UN for that kind of thing, obviously.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 08:06 PM

Tano: Do you buy into the position, that it is our responsibility to use our military to overthrow tyrannys around the world and build democracies in their place?

It is no one's responsibility, per se. But if we don't do it, no one will.

"Never again" actually means something to some people.

But we're talking in generalities at this point. You're asking me if saving Bosnia and Kosovo were worth doing. And I think the answer is yes.

Iraq is different, though because Iraq is in the heart of a region that exports a genodical ideology where we are the targets. Middle East politics absolutely is our business because Middle Eastern political science killed thousands of Americans. It is a problem that affects an entire region, of which Iraq is a part. In no way is this limited to Afghanistan.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 08:15 PM

Does John Kerry want to prove that he is a liberal? In that case, he should come out for the legalization of mind altering drugs. Our current policy unwittingly aids the Islamic nihilists. I will even vote for Kerry if he does so. Should I hold my breath?

Posted by: David Thomson at October 10, 2004 08:17 PM

Okay, shit, I just screwed up a paragraph ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL to understanding what I was trying to say. I meant to say the following:

"If Bush believes in a foreign policy of 'liberal MEANS to conservative ENDS', I don't think it's entirely accurate to say that John Kerry is for the inverse, either, the inverse being 'conservative means to liberal ends'. John Kerry's foreign policy is more like 'conservative means to who the hell knows'."

And, if I can add a corollary to that; John Kerry's position is pretty much the position of all foreign policy realists. Foreign policy conservatives believe in defending the "national interest" and other quasi-imperial things like that. Foreign policy liberals believe in spreading freedom and liberal-democracy and aiding in humanitarian efforts wherever they can. As opposed to those two camps, realists believe in not fucking with the status quo and that it's not a good idea to intervene for either humanitarian reasons or in the interests of the national interest (oil, etc etc etc).

Now that I think about it more, I think Bush is probably 66% foreign policy liberal and 33% foreign policy conservative. He's more hesitant than most foreign policy libs to intervene for humanitarian reasons but a hell of alot more willing than the old-school realist Republicans that opposed Bosnia and Kosovo under Clinton. It's that 33% conservative thing that kills me, when he hands out no-bid contracts and such.

Kerry is more like: 66% foreign policy realist and 33% foreign policy liberal. Kerry is all about humanitarian efforts, so long as they are extremely small scale (ie NOT IRAQ).

Ofcourse, this typology fails to account for the differing levels of hostility to "internationalist" foreign policy. You've got internationalists and anti-internationalists in every camp. Fucking political science fails me, again!

Posted by: Grant McEntire at October 10, 2004 08:21 PM

Tano,

I have to tell you something. When I say "the left" has become conservative, I'm not just mouthing off in some hare-brained attempt to be insulting. I am having the exact same argument with you right now that I had with conservatives five years ago. You are saying the exact same things that I used to hear from them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 08:27 PM

Grant,

Yeah, I think that's about right. I'm glad at least one Kerry supporter understands what I'm saying here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 08:29 PM

Grant,
I dont think I can agree that 'realists' are not interested in defending interests, like oil. Understanding our economic dependence on oil, and thus the need to protect the supply is basic realpolitik 101.
I think your definitions of realist and conservative are switched. It is the conservatives who would tend toward isolationsism. Realists toward simply protecting the empire (oops, sorry, dont mean to be provacative), I mean the extended set of national interests, and liberals with thier Carteresque emphasis on human rights and democracy.

By those measures I think neither candidate is conservative, and both are a mixture of realist and liberal. The difference is one sees possibilities in non-military means and pursues that to a further extent, while the other seems willing to rely on the hammer more quickly.

Posted by: Tano at October 10, 2004 08:38 PM

Michael,
I dont really see the difference between us as starkly as you do. I supported Gulf War 1, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. I would certainly support any war that implemented a "never again" policy.

Our difference is on Iraq. I wont pretend that your full reasons for supporting the war are contained in your last post, but looking just at that, you seem to be saying that since jihadism grew in the middle east, we therefor had a right to invade Iraq, despite the fact that is was the arab country least infected with the jihadis. In other words, some middle-easterners committed an atrocity here, therefor we can do whatever we damn please anywhere in the region.
I dont find that to be very liberal.

Posted by: Tano at October 10, 2004 08:47 PM

TANO...

Yeah, I think you're right in one regard. I shouldn't have used the word "conservative". Conservatives are and always have been all over the map on this. Alot of Republican conservatives are realists and alot of realists are Republican conservatives. And I don't think "conservative" foreign policy is necessarily isolationist. NeoCons sure as hell aren't isolationists (maybe looking after the "national interest" all the while, but none the less).

All these typologies of mine completely break down once you factor in the issues of unilateralism and multilateralism. That's the problem with political science I think, sometimes. When you try to come up with stuff like this, to be truly accurate or as close to accurate as you can be, you have to take it to way more than one or two dimensions. Even three usually doesn't work. It just gets to a point where you're adding on new dimensions ad nauseum, yet still unable to construct something with no contradictions. Political science has its limits, that's for sure.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at October 10, 2004 08:48 PM

PS...

To illustrate my point, you'd have to have AT LEAST the following foreign policy spectrums on top of one another to even come close to making it work:

-Interventionist vs Isolationist.
-Altruistic vs Self-Interested.
-Multilateral vs Unilateral.

And there you are already at 3 dimensions, so anything else you tack on is purely hypothetical and impossible to construct in the real world. And some of these spectrums don't work together, anyway. Like, how can one be both Isolationist and Altruistic at the same time? Problems abound.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at October 10, 2004 08:55 PM

Matt has an interesting take on the Bai article. Perhaps it's time to get past the PTS from 9/11 and start dealing with the world as it actually is.http://yglesias.typepad.com/matthew/2004/10/more_bait.html

Posted by: alan aronson at October 10, 2004 09:09 PM

MJT writes: Deferring to an unelected body that puts genocidal regimes on its "Human Rights Commission" is not liberal.

No, but it is kind of funny*, much in the same way this is:

Libya gives human rights prize to Venezuela's Chavez

*funny defined as "sad and/or pathetic." Always cool to get a "human rights" prize from an unelected dictator, though.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at October 10, 2004 09:43 PM

Thanks for the link to the Matthew Yglesias article. I've never seen the wrong idea about the Middle East and Al Qaeda explained so clearly.

Whereas Yglesias seems to take Bush to task for not focusing exclusively on NGO's like Al Qaeda, I think the truely deluded view is to pretend that organizations like Al Qaeda are somehow discreet, isolated groups that receive no support or encouragement from their surrounding cultures (and regimes).

Posted by: Leathan at October 10, 2004 09:59 PM

Tano: some middle-easterners committed an atrocity here, therefor we can do whatever we damn please anywhere in the region.

But that is not my position. I don't think we can do anything we please anywhere we feel like doing it.

It would not be okay to invade Jordan, for example. And it would not be okay to carpet-bomb Fallujah.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 10:11 PM

Michael - Yes, middle east politics is our business, but that doesn't mean we have made the US safer by invading Iraq. Do you feel safer now that we are in Iraq? I don't. Saddam was bad enough, but where we have got ourselves now is much, much worse, and much more dangerous. And why do we remain friends with the one country exporting the most virulent ideology of all - Saudi Arabia. You know perfectly well that they have funded all the madrassas all over the world. They are responsible for bringing up a generation of millions of young men who hate the US and all non-Muslims. Yet they are our "allies". Why are we doing absolutely nothing to decrease our dependance on their oil? What has Bush done to decrease that dependance? Nothing, nada. All you gungho-keep-the-troops-in-Iraq, what kind of cars do you drive?(I drive a Corolla). How many of you have children in the military, on the front lines?(I have a son who is a helicopter pilot in the Army). How many Iraqis do we have to kill to get them under control? Then how many Syrians, Iranians, Indonesians, Pakistanis. Are we going to conquer the entire middle east? We don't need to do this to keep ourselves safe and prosperous. There is another way.

Posted by: miriam at October 10, 2004 10:25 PM

Michael,
OK then, so how do you draw the line from 9/11 to a justification for invading iraq? Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. And yet you used references to 9/11 for the justification you gave above.

Let me put the precise question like this. Since all we are left with now, at best, is that Saddam had some intent to restart wmd programs under the right conditions, sometime in the future, and an entirely hypotheical possibility that he might then go on to give them to terrorists once he had them, would you still justify the war (if you could have known then what we know now) on grounds arising from 9/11? (leave aside for a moment any other reasons you might have had).

Posted by: Tano at October 10, 2004 10:25 PM

Tano: OK then, so how do you draw the line from 9/11 to a justification for invading iraq?

Because we had to start somewhere and Saddam deserved it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 10, 2004 11:39 PM

Because we had to start somewhere and Saddam deserved it.

Had to start what?

Posted by: Mork at October 11, 2004 12:21 AM

Mork: Had to start what?

Sigh. Big sigh.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 11, 2004 01:29 AM

Sigh. Big sigh.

No, seriously, what?

What are we doing in Iraq that we "had to start" doing?

And, BTW, are we succeeding?

Posted by: Mork at October 11, 2004 02:44 AM

Don't play dumb with me, Mork.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 11, 2004 02:49 AM

Not playing dumb at all...

But why Iraq? Why not Iran, the other "axis of evil" partner in the region actually now developing nuclear weapons technology. And, far be it for me to defend Mork, but are we succeeding in Iraq? Be honest with yourself, Michael.

I'm not about to say "had to start what". You know me better than that. I know what we have to do. But the way things are going over there, it deserves more than a sigh. Saddam deserved it. So what? Alot of folks deserve it. The Iranian mullahs deserve it. That's for sure.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at October 11, 2004 04:13 AM

Because we had to start somewhere and Saddam deserved it. - MJT

Had to start what? - Mork

Creating a void for Islamofascists to fill in Iraq, silly.

Posted by: kc at October 11, 2004 06:58 AM

Events so far are showing that "we" are succeeding in Iraq. Slowly, but progress in undeniable.

But since such an endeavor takes time, those addicted to soundbite news and TV shows that resolve the world's problems in an hour are going to be disappointed when its going to take years for this to play itself out.

Be honest, Grant, your posts fail to demonstrate any great thought on the situtation.

Why Iraq? In short:
Record of use of WMD's.
Record of financing terrorism.
Record of contacts with Al-Queda. (Which would likely increase after Afghanistan was cleared).
Record of attacking neighbors.
Despotic regime reviled by everybody.
Hussein in violation of enough UN resolutions that any action against him had legal basis.
Iraqi military in weakened condition.
Iraq in strategic geographic position that furthers goal of containment of Syria and Iran.
Much greater chance of Iranains overthrowing mullahs, than Iraqis overthrowing Hussein.

There's a start. I'm sure others can add more.

Posted by: Eric Blair at October 11, 2004 07:30 AM

Michael,
As you may imagine, I dont find your answer persuasive. "We had to start somewhere" seems to indicate that you think that the appropriate response to 9/11 was to remake the problematical corners of the world by force - even if the problems in particular corners were not the ones that were responsible for 9/11. In other words, 9/11 freed us, morally, not just to destroy those who attacked us, but to take advantage of our overwhelming military force to resdesign the world to our liking.

Of course, such a doctrine shares some fundamental similarites (albeit some differences) with the attitude of colonial powers in the past, and/or the general attitudes of great powers throughout history. Every country occasionally suffers from attacks or other events that could be seen as justifications for invoking such a doctrine - as Putin darkly hinted after Beslan - (paraphrase) "we now feel unconstrained about striking anywhere outside our borders". What this doctrine actually comes down to is that the bar for going to war - for ALL countries, is now lowered to anything that could in any way be linked to an argument that we "need to start somewhere".

All this is totally at odds with the great liberal strain of American foreign policy, starting with Wilson, and firmly established by FDR and Truman - and followed by all since then, till W. This tradition explicitly decreed that we should move beyond such attitudes (given the experience of what eventually comes of it), and to build insitutions through which conflicts could be resolved peacefully if at all possible. And of course, inherint in that approach is the rather obvious corollary that force, when used, is justified only against the actual perps.

You mentioned earlier your disappointment in UN -type insitutions for their failure to be any sort of a global cop. I think we need to admit that global policing is going to be an ever expanding responsibility. We use the idea of policing within societies, and war for those outside of society. As globalization increaess, and the world becomes more inter-dependent, we will want and need to bring more and more countries into the "respectable" global community - and thus the enforcement will be policing more than war. And with that shift, comes constraing rules on the use of force. We do not bomb a neighborhood because one of its citizens commits a murder - we rigorously hone our efforts to find the actual perp, and leave the rest of the people in peace. I think you recognize this (e.g. your aversion to carpet bombing Fallujah).

But the doctrine you gave us is completely opposed to this tendency - it is a justification for using force against nations that did not attack us - thus undercutting all of our own efforts to enlist other countries in the respectable international community. If the big dog will attack you even if you did not attack him, then the international rule of law thing is seen as a sham, and we revert to the law of the jungle that brought us all the horrors of centuries past.

I recognize that some might find that appealing, because, for now, we are kings of the jungle. The liberal tradition however, was all about using our predominant position to set into place something fundamentally different - the insitutions of a global community that could permanently civilize the jungle. Those intoxicated with our predominant power seem willing to abandon that effort, and that is not a good thing.

Posted by: Tano at October 11, 2004 09:01 AM

Thoughtful post, Tano.

I too see serious potential for problems in this age of 'pre-emptive war'.

We invaded Iraq, because we feared that Saddam had WMD's and would give WMD technology (or at least the knowledge)to Al-Queda, for use against us. This made him a valid target.

However, let's look at this critically for a moment.

Saddam has had the 'knowledge' and devices since before sanctions were imposed. Al-Queda has launched attacks on the US since those same sanctions were imposed. If Saddam was going to give Al Queda WMD's or WMD knowledge, why would he not have done it in 1993 after the first WTC attack? Why not after the USS Cole attack, why would the man wait a decade to help these terrorists, if indeed, he was going to help them?

But, now we come to the facts. We know now, that Saddam did NOT have WMD's to give to terrorists. We know that he had retained the knowledge (I'm not sure how one doesn't retain the knowledge unless we expected him to kill all of his scientists),but we find no evidence that he gave such knowledge to Al-Queda, nor that he was planning on giving this knowledge to Al-Queda.

Our pre-emptive war was to Stop Saddam from helping mount an attack on the US (hence the term pre-emptive), there is no evidence that he planned to mount an attack, or support an attack on the US.

This is the problem with pre-emption. Pre-emption assumes that we have some fore-knowledge of what is going to happen. In this case, some people thought that we had the knowledge... it appears now that we did not.

So, America is not 'safer' after the invasion of Iraq, simply because there is not tangible, quantifiable proof that Iraq posed an imminent threat to America.

Maybe we can say that we are safer, since we've broken Al-Queda's core network... but we won't know that for another five years or so (there was a seven year gap between the WTC attacks).

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 11, 2004 09:26 AM

So I guess Tano has some serious disagreement with Kedwards position (if there is one).

MATTHEWS: If you knew last October when you had to cast an aye or nay vote for this war, that we would be unable to find weapons of mass destruction after all these months there, would you still have supported the war?

EDWARDS: It wouldn’t change my views. I said before, I think that the threat here was a unique threat. It was Saddam Hussein, the potential for Saddam getting nuclear weapons, given his history and the fact that he started the war before.

Is Edwards one of those you consider intoxicated with our predominant power to abandon the "global effort"?

Posted by: d-rod at October 11, 2004 10:04 AM

Grant: Saddam deserved it. So what? Alot of folks deserve it. The Iranian mullahs deserve it. That's for sure.

Agreed. Here's a key difference, though. Iran has a chance to fix its own problems by overthrowing the regime. The odds of that happening in Iraq any time soon were absolutely zero.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 11, 2004 11:04 AM

Tano,

After Pearl Harbor, the first place we launched a ground invasion was in...North Africa. Why not Japan? Why not Germany?

Think strategically, my friend.

We are going to be at this for a very long time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 11, 2004 11:07 AM

Tree Rat said:This is the problem with pre-emption. Pre-emption assumes that we have some fore-knowledge of what is going to happen.

No, it meant that "we" have some knowledge of past actions and can interpolate those past actions into possible future courses of action.

To wit:
--Saddam has used WMD's in the past. He could use them in the future.
--Saddam has supported terrorism financially and materially in the past. He could do the same in the future.
--Saddam attempted to develop nuclear technology in the past. He could do so in the future.

--Combine all of those, and what do you get? Perhaps not an imminent threat, but one certainly worth dealing with. What part of "Not waiting for the threat to become imminent" don't you understand?

Posted by: Eric Blair at October 11, 2004 11:19 AM

Michael,
We invaded North Africa because that is where the enemy that had declared war on us (Germany and its allies) were.
Saddam was not an ally of Al-Q, nor did he declare war on us.

Posted by: Tano at October 11, 2004 11:57 AM

d-rod,
The interview you link was done a year ago. Edwards explains his view with reference to his ongoing belief that there was, in fact, some nuclear potential danger.
He also said, further down, and more relevant to this discussion:

"You sort of-implicit in that question was that the assumption that I believe that the Bush policy on preemptive strike is correct. I don’t.

I don’t think we need a new doctrine. I think that we can always act to protect the safety and security of the American people..."

Posted by: Tano at October 11, 2004 12:10 PM

Eric,

--Saddam has used WMD's in the past.

Not against America.

He could use them in the future.

Except we now know that he didn't have any to use

--Saddam has supported terrorism financially and materially in the past.

Not against America.

He could do the same in the future.

Except we now know that he did not havew a working relationship with any terrorist group that was targeting America.

--Saddam attempted to develop nuclear technology in the past. He could do so in the future.

Except we now know that he was further away from getting nukes than he was at the end of the Gulf War. In fact, we now know that Iran and N. Korea (both of which, we're told, have working relationships with terrorists... Iran supposedly even helped with 9/11) not only 'could get nukes in the future', but either have nukes or are actively working to get nukes.

I don't think that Bush Lied. I think he believed that Saddam had WMD's. However, we now know that information was incorrect. We pre-emptively invaded a sovrign country on bad information. We now know that Saddam was not an immediate threat to the US or any other country. We know that he wanted to get WMD's... living that close to an enemy like Iran would make me want WMD's too.

The world IS better off without Saddam. However, our first try at pre-emptive war was based on bad information. What's to say that our next pre-emptive war won't be based on even worse information? Pre-emption requires the 'best guess' based on whatever evidence is at hand, we now know that the evidence at hand is often incorrect.

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 11, 2004 12:32 PM

is often incorrect.

that should be "could often be incorrect"

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 11, 2004 12:34 PM

I do have a great deal of difficulty in pasting the old labels on Kerry and Bush--in part because I believe the old labels are just that: old. I think Grant came up with a pretty good framework above to look at positions, but even then I am not sure how valuabe any schema is. This is the way I see the candidates. I think both are committed to the security of the country because that will be their duty as president; I think Bush is more inclined to use preemptive action than is Kerry (not the Kerry wouldnt do it). I think Kerry is more disposed to use international organizations than is Bush. I think both (rhetoric aside) understand the importance of oil and the need to have access to oil--its an American national interest. I dont agree with Kerry's approach on giving nuclear materials to Iran and I think the failure of the European powers augers ill; I think returning to a bilateral approach in North Korea isnt a good approach because it cuts the Chinese out of the picture, and they are the ones with most leverage over NK. It is those foreign policy approaches that make me inclined to vote for the President this time around. It is NOT a useless label that means nothing unless we devote a lot of time and energy in defining out terms first.

Posted by: RogerA at October 11, 2004 12:43 PM

Tree rat, disembowelling his argument: ...living that close to an enemy like Iran would make me want WMD's too.

And gee, exactly WHY was Saddam in that situation?

Yer making me laugh here.

And yes, prememption will mean making decisions with information that could be incorrect. But that doesn't mean one should go ahead and act.

Posted by: Eric Blair at October 11, 2004 01:05 PM

"But that doesn't mean one should go ahead and act."

Talk about those Freudian slips....

;-)

Eric, we'll just have to disagree, I don't think that attacking a country based on what we think it might, maybe, someday do in the future is wise. You, apparently do.

Not much else to say on the subject, I guess.

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 11, 2004 02:34 PM

Tosk was fine with the status quo in the Middle East that gave us 9/11.

Bush wasn't. Bush decided that the wretched state of politics in the ME was our problem, and we had to do something about it -- redefine the governments and ultimately the societies of the middle east by bringing political and economic liberalization to the region. And he is doing it.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at October 11, 2004 04:27 PM

redefine the governments and ultimately the societies of the middle east by bringing political and economic liberalization to the region. And he is doing it.

The problem, Matthew, is that the goal you propose is manifestly not a result that can be achieved by force of American arms.

And wishing it otherwise won't make it so.

Posted by: Mork at October 11, 2004 06:45 PM

Tree Rat: I'm not saying that the course of action isn't without risk. Obviously it is. But in this case it was better than doing nothing.

Mork: Two Words: Germany. Japan.

Posted by: Eric Blair at October 11, 2004 08:08 PM

I feel that the folks (Michael Totten, Roger Simon, and Andrew Sullivan) who say that Matt Bai's article showcases Mr. Kerry's conservatism are making a good point.

Most of the right-wing attacks on Mr. Kerry's position in the Matt Bai article have been pretty silly, basically the Republican equivalent of the Democrats's unseemly glee when the President said "I don't think you can win it[.]"

Diplomacy is not a dirty word. I hope that President Kerry will do a better job in diplomacy than President Bush has done. Mr. Kerry says he wants to "lead grand alliances", and I hope he does. But to what end?

When it comes to means, I prefer Mr. Kerry's proposed emphasis on diplomacy. But when it comes to ends, I prefer the President's radical idealism to Mr. Kerry's conservative realism.

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