Monday, November 01, 2004
As I suggested yesterday, Megan McCardle has written the best post on the libertarian case for Bush, saving me lots of work. Rather than struggling to think up new ways of writing what she has written so well, I will refer back to her arguments when I agree with them, and will focus on issues that are important to me that she did not address, or considered differently than I would have.
This post will consist of three parts. The first part will discuss my predilections and assumptions about the world, and my reaction to Kerry and Bush as people. I think it is important to own up to our biases in these matters -- if my vote turns, in part, on my emotional reaction to a candidate, you should know that. The second part will discuss domestic policy, and the third part will discuss foreign policy.
Predilections and assumptions. As a persona on television, which is as close as I expect to get, I much prefer George Bush to John Kerry. I know that is baffling to many people -- probably most people in the world and even some significant proportion of TigerHawk readers -- but I can't help it. It isn't because I think that Bush is tremendously appealing, but I believe him to be honest in his emotions and able to laugh at himself. I believe that John Kerry is neither honest in his emotions nor able to laugh at himself. While I might link to various examples that would support these beliefs, people who disagree with me could probably cough up countervailing links, so I'm not going to bother.
But my preference for Bush over Kerry "as people" is largely because Kerry gives me huge cold pricklies. Yelling at the Secret Service agent on the ski slope revealed a strange temper that I can't identify with. It is one thing to get mad at an injustice or a personal attack. But to get mad because you fall down while skiing? And then to call the guy who is going to take a bullet for you a "son of a bitch"? I feel I know why Bush gets angry in public, but I do not understand what does and does not set off John Kerry, and that makes me uncomfortable with him.
What about brains? The received wisdom among the chattering classes is that Bush is a dope. Not only is this obvious from the rantings of the left, but it is the clear consensus of any pot luck supper in Princeton or any other college town. But is it accurate? For a dope he has managed to accomplish an enormous amount. You may hate what he has done, but it is hard to argue that he hasn't achieved more of what he has hoped to do than most presidents. True, Bush is inarticulate, especially when comparing his individual sentences to those of John Kerry or any other graduate of Yale. But if instead you measure Bush by his ability to make people understand what he intends to do and why he intends to do it, he is at least as successful as John Kerry. Moreso, in my opinion.
I am also concerned that John Kerry -- like most lawyer-legislators -- does not understand executive function. The skills of a legislator or a lawyer are wholly unrelated to effective executive leadership, and may even be a burden in the very different job of chief executive. I feel this particularly acutely, in that I was trained as a lawyer and found myself (a few years back) suddenly in the job of chief executive officer of a very troubled company. I learned that the skills of a lawyer -- the ability to argue each side, the ambition that everything be well thought through, the tendency to see risks more readily than rewards -- can make it very difficult to give the people who hope to follow you the unambiguious, unnuanced, unwaivering leadership that they crave. Lawyers can overcome the tendencies of their profession with either talent or practice, but John Kerry's service in the Senate and campaign for president have given no good evidence that he has. I am very concerned that a Kerry's White House would find itself gripped by "analysis paralysis," much as Carter's was.
Related to this is my tremendous sympathy for George Bush. Osama bin Laden transformed his world less than a year into Bush's presidency. Bush had to make a great many decisions very quickly, only some of which are revealed on this election day. While certain of Bush's decisions seem incorrect in retrospect, that can be said of many decisions of even the best executives. And even those decisions that seem incorrect in retrospect are not certainly incorrect -- who knows what would have happened in any given case had Bush made a decision differently? The question is whether Bush makes decisions well, not whether he is right all the time against a post hoc standard.
Does Bush make decisions well? By and large I think that he does. He seems to decide quickly. Quick decisions are vastly preferable in most situations to extended deliberation, which only serves to confuse the message of the ultimate decision. Bush seems to take a lot of opinions into account, notwithstanding accusations from the left and various disgruntled corners of the executive branch (Bob Woodward's books, Bush at War and Plan of Attack, make it very clear that Bush is calling the shots in everything that matters, not Dick Cheney or Karl Rove -- don't take my word for it, read Woodward). Finally, Bush sticks with decisions that he has made, which is an enormously important trait in a leader.
I also have a view of the economy that would support re-election. I think that the economy is doing extremely well considering (a) the bursting of the NASDAQ and telecom bubbles that had ballooned during the Clinton administration, (b) the crisis in corporate governance and accounting that derives from the excesses of the Clinton bubble, and the tremendously chilling prosecutions and new legislation that arose therefrom, (c) the attacks of September 11, and (d) the dawning understanding that we are probably facing a twenty or thirty year period (at least) of geopolitical uncertainty and instability. Frankly, I am astonished at the strength of the economy, all things considered.
Finally, I am not troubled that the Bush administration advocated hard for the war in Iraq or that it made arguments for the war that in retrospect were not the best arguments. In a democracy, when a chief executive decides that a particular course of action or a particular public policy is the way to go, he then has to sell that policy to internal and external actors. All politicians argue for their policies, and challenge both facts and arguments that run against their policies. There are those who would say that war is no run-of-the-mill policy, and that the decision to go to war is a particularly momentous one that should not be sullied by advocacy. Poppycock. Our leaders have always argued for war, and those who have opposed them have always claimed that those leaders were dishonest or self-interested or otherwise motivated by illegitimate considerations. Those who argue that Iraq is inconsistent with American tradition in these matters do not know our history. Granted, they might deplore that history and cry that presidents ought not advocate war as if it were any just any other policy, but I do not agree that the advocacy for the Iraq war departed from American practice in such matters.
There are also a few issues that I do not care about.
I do not care about what either John Kerry or George Bush did or did not do during their Vietnam-era service. I think that John Kerry's definition of himself by reference to his service in Vietnam was an almost criminally incompetent campaign tactic -- did he delude himself into thinking that John O'Neill had vanished from the surface of the Earth? -- but I do not care whether or not the Swifties have a case.
I do not care very much about the abortion fight. Sorry. I believe that abortion should be lawful, but I also believe that Roe v. Wade is a terrible decision, and that we would be better off in the long run if we fought over abortion in the legislatures, rather than in the courts.
I do not care very much about either gun control or capital punishment. Sorry again. I think that the advocates of both are grossly overstating the benefits, and the opponents of both are grossly overstating the attendant costs to our liberty.
I do not care very much about Guantanamo Bay. I know there are people who do, and that I should respect their opinions, but a few hundred locked-up Taliban and fellow travellers does not really trouble me. Do I wish we had a better way of separating combatants and non-combatants? Yes. Do I blame the United States for this or the Islamist soldiers who refuse to wear uniforms? I blame the Islamists. Sorry.
I do not care about dirty politics, or at least petty dirty politics. Low-grade intimidation of voters, registration of dead people, the theft of yard signs -- these are all part of our glorious political tradition. I don't condone them, but I don't care very much if they happen, either.
I do not care about "flip-flops" or minor inconsistencies or conflicts of interest. All bullshit. The only interesting question is whether a candidate's position on a subject will be reasonably predictable. I am not, therefore, concerned that John Kerry has flip-flopped on Iraq, but whether I feel I can predict how he will react in various situations and whether I would share the predicted reaction.
I do not care about First Ladies, or prospective First Ladies.
I also do not care about the Halliburton kerfuffle in any way, shape or form. It is unfortunate that Dick Cheney used to be its CEO, but there are few, if any, companies that can do what Halliburton can do in the dangerous parts of the world. The Democrats both attack the Administration for being slow to reconstruct Iraq and demand that all contracting toward that end be done in the most formal, transparent and time-consuming manner imaginable. Kerry's attacks along these lines are shameful, even if politically irresistable.
There are probably other basic predilections or assumptions that influence my view of this election, but it is time to move on to domestic policy considerations.
Domestic policy. To make it easy on you, the loyal reader, I will send you back to Megan's post when she makes the argument better than me. Indeed, I'll even take domestic issues in her order of presentation, rather than their order of significance to me.
The Environment. Slightly for Kerry. See Megan.
Education. Bush by a landslide. The Democrats are in thrall to the NEA and its cognates, which prevents them from advocating any reform that requires that teachers be held accountable, whether by objective assessment, standardized test scores or the market.
Health care. This is a topic about which I could write pages. Suffice it to say that as much as I deplore Bush's triangulating Medicare drug benefit program, Bush at least understands that we will destroy the inventiveness of our biotech and medical device industries if we crush the returns that they earn on their investments. We should contain costs by reducing utilization, much of which is entirely unnecessary, not by controlling prices for products or services. Neither candidate is very creative on this topic, but Kerry's plan would be a disaster.
Gay marriage. This almost made it into the "don't care" category, but I do oppose the Family Marriage Amendment. Fortunately, it stands precisely zero chance of passing, so while I agree with Kerry's position on this subject, that agreement does virtually nothing to move my vote-o-meter.
The Supreme Court. Bush by a hair, because I prefer pro-business judges and I think that a Republican is much more likely to appoint them. However, it strikes me as possible that a President Kerry could appoint pro-Roe justices with a sufficiently pro-business bent that he could get them through the Senate, and that wouldn't be disastrous from my perspective. On the original civil rights, Kerry-appointed justices would probably be better for the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth amendments, but worse for the first and second.
Economy and trade. I'm with Megan -- there is very little the president can do to deal with the economy over the short term. On trade, hideously stupid steel tariffs notwithstanding, Bush is much better than Kerry. Do not hope that John Kerry will embrace Bill Clinton's surprising and gratifying commitment to free trade -- his attacks on outsourcing and "Benedict Arnold CEOs" are enough to put him into a protectionist box from which it will be hard to emerge. And, as Megan points out, Kerry nominated a serious protectionist as his running mate.
"Corporate welfare" and tax policy. Kerry on the former, Bush on the latter (except insofar as it constitutes the former). Bush has shown no tendency at all to reign in rifle-shot subsidies and other benefits for big corporations. While I am far from an expert on the subject, my understanding is that the energy bill that Bush has been pushing for is the porkiest thing on the planet not made by Oscar Mayer. Megan has other examples. But on taxes, Bush has the right instincts. He has imposed a larger percentage of the total tax burden on the top 10%, equalized the treatment of capital gains and dividends, and attempted to abolish the inheritance tax. All good moves.
Poverty policy. I don't know a lot about this at any useful level. Here's Megan:
Liberals will scream, but George Bush gets this one. Kerry has one plan I like--increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit--but the rest of his programme is just standard Democratic same-old, same-old. I think raising the minimum wage is a moderately bad idea, and will have at best a trivial effect on welfare policy (most former welfare mothers already make above what John Kerry is proposing to raise the minimum to; the hike will disproportionately benefit middle class teenagers.) I wrote a piece on poverty recently, and what struck me is how excited the Republicans were about eradicating poverty, compared to the Democrats; Republicans are actually trying to change the environment in which poor kids grow up, rather than just raising the amount of money they spend. Education is a major piece of this, and there also George Bush has won my heart.
Entitlements. Again, Megan:
George Bush. For all the hysteria, Bush's plans for Social Security and Medicare are excessively modest. But he's a dynamic go-getter compared to Kerry, whose plan for Social Security is to stand there watching while it collapses around our ears, and who wants to make Medicare more insolvent....
Face it, team, we are in tough shape here. The choice is between a party that recognizes that we have a huge medium and long-term problem with entitlements, and which has some insufficient reforms that push us in the right direction which it trots out when it doesn't think the geezers will smack it, and a party that thinks the current situation is just fine, or even that entitlements should be expanded, and which does everything it can to get the geezers to smack the first party. And if you're a geezer, well, sorry, but you're probably doing your bit to suck the life blood out of us.
Civil liberties. Kerry. Both sides, as Megan says, "are for the excrable" war on drugs, and the direction only got worse under Clinton and Bush. As implied above, liberals tend to hate the first amendment (particularly the free speech clause and the free exercise clause, although I admit they tend to like the part about freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and no establishment of religion) and the second amendment, but they would probably come up with a more active plan to get people out of Guantanamo.
Budget deficits. Megan calls it "even-steven," weighing Bush's hideous record and Kerry's expansive promises. I'm going to give this one to Kerry, but not because of who he is or his ambitions. I just think that divided governments run tighter budgets than united ones, and the Republicans in Congress would "stop him before he kills again," as it were.
I'm going to add a couple of issues that are important to me, even if Megan didn't raise them.
Tort reform. The tort system, and our litigiousness in general, is an enormous burden for our economy, is destroying our creativity, and is sucking the fun out of everything. We simply need to make it a lot more difficult to bring a lawsuit, and a lot less attractive to be a plaintiff's lawyer. This is obviously a huge argument. Suffice it to say that the dream is alive with a Bush administration and a Republican Congress, and it is deader 'n' dead in a Kerry/Edwards administration. This is a huge issue for me, and however little the president can effect change, I want the chance that change will be effected.
Attitudes toward business. In the last few days, Eliot Spitzer has emerged as the lead horse for attorney general in a Kerry Administration, with multiple mentions in the MSM. Who knows whether or not it is true, but nobody has denied it and I have seen no other name floated. In a normal year, I would cast my vote for Bush purely to avoid the risk that Spitzer would get the job. And even if you persuaded me that Spitzer would not become the attorney general, Kerry has run a very anti-business campaign -- he called CEOs traitors ("Benedict Arnold CEOs") for building or buying products from outside the United States. I've been a CEO. My company built its products in Israel. Oh, that reminds me.
At some level, there are not many people left out there to persuade, yet it remains the issue in this election. John Kerry thinks it is so important, he has spent virtually no time talking about any of the lengthy domestic policy proposals that he has posted on his web site. Victor Davis Hanson puts it thusly:
Had Lincoln lost the 1864 vote, a victorious General McClellan would have settled for an American continent divided, with slavery intact. Without Woodrow Wilson's reelection in 1916 — opposed by the isolationists — Western Europe would have lost millions only to be trampled by Prussian militarism. Franklin Roosevelt's interventionism saved liberal democracy. And without the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan and his unpopular agenda for remaking the military, the Soviet Union might still be subsidizing global murder.
Notwithstanding Kerry's claims that he would stay the course but just do everything more intelligently, most Americans sense we are at a similarly momentous turning. That is why people are so passionate about this election. Well, if Kerry's claim is that he is going to "stay the course" but be more competent, why the passions? Because almost nobody -- not Kerry's opponents and certainly not his supporters -- believe that Kerry is sincere. The only difference between Kerry's supports and his opponents -- I'm talking about the passionate ones, now -- is that the former are hoping he is insincere and the latter will hope, in defeat, that he is not.
Regular TigerHawk readers already know that I believe that war with Iraq was necessary and virtually inevitable, even if one might have delayed it for a couple of years or managed it differently. What about the charge of incompetence?
I have spent a good part of the fall reading scathing attacks on Bush's conduct of the war on terror and the war in Iraq, including Against All Enemies and Imperial Hubris, the Atlantic, various screeds in The New York Review of Books, and Andrew Sullivan's blog every day. Without hashing it all through, I think that the charges of incompetence are grossly overstated. Yes, there are any number of decisions that any commander-in-chief, or any battlefield general, would love to "do over." However, I know of only one significant decision in the last three years that I think was idiotic on its face, and that was the disbanding of the Iraqi army with no plan for mustering out. That particular decision was historically stupid, in that unemployed soldiers -- or brigands or routiers or whatever you want to call them -- have been one of the world's great scourages for millenia. I am beyond troubled by that decision, but partly because it contrasts so sharply with so many other successes.
Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the Bush administration managed to fight a very light-footed war, remove the Taliban, deprive al Qaeda of its base of operations, kill some indeterminate number of the enemy, and incur very few casualties. Today, there is a virtual consensus in the press, anyway, that Afghanistan has made tremendous progress in the last four years. Virtually all honest observers are astonished by how well the elections went, and how weakened the Taliban are. There has been no generalized resistence against the United States or any of the other Western countries with operations there, which is itself remarkable considering that country's legendary xenophobia.
The criticisms of the war in Afghanistan come from two different objections, and they are not consistent. The first, from Kerry advisor Richard Clarke, is that we went in too soon, without taking offers of support from our NATO allies and with insufficient ground troops to accomplish our objectives. The second, from the "anonymous" author of Imperial Hubris, is that we were criminally late in getting into Afghanistan (there should have been a 24 hour war plan on the shelf), we should not have dithered around waiting for our allies to get their act together, and that all opportunity to destroy al Qaeda's leadership was lost in the first days after September 11. Who knows who is correct? The interesting thing, though, is that Kerry has blended these two inconsistent attacks in his own rhetoric, and was also quite clearly on record in 2001 that we were approaching the war the right way. The flip-flopping is not intrinsically offensive, but it does make it difficult to predict how Kerry would have conducted the war. And it smacks of the worst sort of Monday-morning quarterbacking. Krauthammer, today:
With his endlessly repeated Tora Bora charges, Kerry has made Afghanistan a major campaign issue. So be it. Who do you want as president? The man who conceived the Afghan campaign, carried it through without flinching when it was being called a "quagmire" during its second week, and has seen it through to Afghanistan's transition to democracy? Or the retroactive genius, who always knows what needs to be done after it has already happened--who would have done "everything" differently in Iraq, yet in Afghanistan would have replicated Bush's every correct, courageous, radical and risky decision--except one. Which, of course, he would have done differently. He says. Now.
Read the whole thing if you think that Kerry is even slightly coherent on Afghanistan.
Afghanistan also represented a huge triumph of American diplomacy. We could not have fought that war without turning Pakistan, virtually the only ally of the Taliban, to our side. We won basing rights in various "Stans" notwithstanding objections from Russia and China, and our special forces were able to cobble together a victorious army out of the heretofore incompetent Northern Alliance, which had just lost its only able leader the day before September 11. Gentle reader, this is diplomacy of the finest sort.
We will see how history records our war in Afghanistan. History takes a long time to deliver its verdict, and there is every possibility that our transformation of Afghanistan will fail. But we accomplished our strategic objective -- we destroyed al Qaeda's refuge -- and we did so with remarkably little bloodshed to date. Afghanistan has more hope today than since before the Soviet invasion, and there is as much reason to glory in its liberation as to fret about what might yet go wrong.
Iraq. This is no place to argue out whether we should have invaded Iraq. Most readers know that I supported the invasion, and still do. I supported the invasion for reasons unrelated to the war on terror, which is different than the reasons offered publicly by the Bush administration. As I have said before, I am not troubled by the idea that an American government would not publicly state every argument for an invasion, and since my arguments were well and widely articulated by smarter people than me long before the war, opponents of the war cannot be said to have been kept in the dark. Those who pick apart the justification for the war purely on the discovery after the fact that Saddam had not actually re-started his WMD programs and that containment was working have failed to say how they would have dealt with the looming collapse of containment.
The more challenging arguments against the Iraq war take two forms. First, there are many people -- John Kerry, the Democratic Party, virtually the entire academic left and even some formerly pro-war pundit types -- who argue that the invasion and the occupation were handled incompetently. These critics point to various specific decisions that they would not have made, the insurgency there as proof that bad decisions were made, and the alleged growing dissatisfaction among Iraqis with the American occupation. Second, there are many people (virtually the same people), who argue that in any case Iraq was a frolic and a detour from the war against al Qaeda, and probably even counterproductive. These critics argue that Iraq sapped our ability to fight al Qaeda and specifically to hunt down Osama bin Laden (accusing us of having "outsourced" the war in Afghanistan), and that the war in Iraq is al Qaeda's best recruitment tool.
I have read at least some of the long exposes about the poor planning for the post-war, the arrogance of the civilian leadership of the Pentagon, the dissing of the State Department, the reliance on the Iraqi National Congress, the appointment of CPA more for their political connections than for their experience, and so forth. A lot of it is very disturbing on its face and raises serious questions about the competence of various specific people. However, for various reasons I am not sure that any of this adds up to a reason to vote for John Kerry.
For starters, it is not clear to me how many of these stories are inside-Washington payback. It is obvious to everybody that the civilian leadership of the Defense Department, the military leadership, the State Department, the CIA, the current White House staff and various Clinton-era alumni have been and still are engaged in a massive bureaucratic war over American foreign policy. All sides in this dispute are leaking like wild, desperately trying to make other actors look venal or corrupt. Don't believe me? Compare Against All Enemies with Imperial Hubris. Richard Clarke identifies the CIA and the Defense Department as the root cause of our inability to drive al Qaeda to ground. "Anonymous" is savage in his attacks on the State Department and the Clinton and Bush National Security Councils, and takes the view that the only institutions between us and disaster are the Clandestine Service of the CIA and the United States Marines. Both authors spill gallons of ink essentially settling scores, and I think that is what drives a tremendous amount of the reporting out of Iraq right now.
That having been said, there are a several things that may be said about the management of post-war Iraq. First, we now know that many decisions and actions should have been taken differently. With the exception of the disbanding of the Iraqi army, however, I am unaware of any major decision that was obviously incompetent when made. I find it hard to believe that a Gore administration (for instance), had it worked up the energy to fight this war in the first place, would not have made some fairly horrendous different mistakes. How could it not? You can only hope to be right more often than not, and you can never know what would have transpired had you decidedly differently.
Second, while it is obvious that post-war Iraq has turned out poorly compared to the expectations established by the Administration, it is far from clear whether it is going badly in light of what we have learned about the state of Saddam's Iraq after the invasion. That is, we know now that Saddam's Iraq was in musch worse shape both economically and politically (particularly regarding the extent of Iran's influence among the Shia) than our previous worst estimates, and that the humanitarian catastrophe there was on the verge of compounding. Not only is this reassuring to those people who supported the war largely on humanitarian grounds (I was not one of them), but it means that we have to measure recovery in Iraq against a different standard than our pre-war expectations.
Third, mistakes notwithstanding, we have also to consider what will happen in the next couple of years. John Kerry has failed to articulate any strategy for Iraq other than his famous plan to substitute French and German soldiers for American soldiers -- which even Kerry no longer believes is possible -- and otherwise pledge to be more competent. But why should we believe that he will be? You have to assume that Kerry's appointees will somehow do a better job than Bush's. While it is an article of faith among the Bush-haters that Kerry's team will be better, the Democratic Party is not so deep in competent foreign policy leadership that I am persuaded that a Kerry administration might not make similarly momentous mistakes.
Fourth, I am very concerned about changing horses in the middle of this particular stream. I cannot believe that al Qaeda and the Islamists will not view Bush's defeat as a weakening of American resolve. I cannot believe that Kerry's election will not shatter the confidence and prestige of the Allawi government -- Kerry's campaign already called the man a "puppet" with no correction or retraction, so Allawi and all of Iraq knows that Kerry holds him in contempt. Under the circumstances, it takes a huge leap of faith to believe Kerry's naked claim that he will be more competent than Bush, however incompetent you might think the Bush administration has been.
However justified the war in Iraq on geopolitical grounds, has it hurt our efforts in the war on Islamist jihad? While there are a thousand versions of this argument, the two most frequently offered War-on-Terror reasons against the invasion of Iraq are that it is a distraction, and that it is inducing more people to join the fight against us. I believe that the first argument is very weak with very little evidence to support it. Having made the decision to proceed in Afghanistan with a very light presence -- a decision motivated in no small part by regional diplomatic considerations and by Afghanistan's ancient reaction to full-fledged occupation -- it is hard to see how the invasion of Iraq sucked resources away from Afghanistan. We weren't going to commit heavy resources to Afghanistan in any case. Sure, there were examples of special forces units being moved to Iraq for a tour, but by and large the strategy for Afghanistan called for an American presence that was so small it would have been sustainable under almost any circumstances. You might criticize the "light touch" approach in principal, but I am not convinced that we were forced into it by the war in Iraq.
The second question is whether the invasion of Iraq has induced more Islamists to take up arms against us. It almost certainly has, but that is not in itself a measure of strategic failure. Sometimes more of the enemy take up arms because they believe that their position is worsening. In the case of Iraq, I believe that the enemy is pouring men and arms into the country precisely because it fears that representative government, in some reasonably legitimate form, can take root there. Prime Minister Allawi and Ayatollah al-Sistani are proving to be remarkable, courageous patriots, and they stand some measurable chance of establishing the most decent government in the Arab world. The enemy fears this, because it will have meant that the draining of the swamp will have begun. That the fighting has intensified as the prospects for a decent government have improved is not necessarily bad news. It may be evidence that Bush is correct that the Arab world can be transformed.
Whether or not the war on terror generated the best reasons for the removal of Saddam Hussein, there is no question that the occupation of Iraq will have a tremendous impact on the course of the war on terror. I, for one, believe that Iraq still has the potential to be a brilliant victory in that war, or a catastrophic defeat. Because I believe that the chances for defeat will increase considerably if our enemies doubt our resolve, and that the election of John Kerry will be seen as a waivering of our resolve, the re-election of George Bush -- blunders and all -- offers the greatest chance for victory.
I'm getting tired and you're getting bored, so I want to touch upon two or three other foreign policy matters, and then I will conclude with my endorsement and a prediction.
Israel. Bush by a landslide.
I am a strong supporter of Israel, but not because of my admiration for Israelis or my religious beliefs. I support Israel for two reasons. First, I believe it is generally in our geopolitical interests, almost no matter how much it pisses off the Arabs. I appreciate that one might write volumes in support or denunciation of my point of view and there is no space for it here. Suffice it to say that there is no force in the region more capable of deterring a nuclear Iran than Israel -- indeed, it may be our only ace in the hole in that frightening situation.
My second reason for supporting Israel is that I consider the Palestinian Arabs to be our enemies. Yeah, I know, they are downtrodden, abused, and the worthiest cause on whole goddamned planet according to the United Nations, most NGOs, and every college-town liberal in the universe. But they turn my stomach. The Palestinian Arabs have supported the enemies of America at every opportunity. During World War I they supported the Ottoman Turks. During World War II they supported the Germans. During the Cold War they supported the Russians. During the first Gulf War they sided with Saddam Hussein, even when everybody else in the region at least nominally lined up for Kuwait. And on September 11, 2001 they danced in the streets.
Not only have the Palestinian Arabs lined up against the United States at every opportunity, including on several occasions before the establishment of Israel or the emergence of American support for Israel, but they invented the terrorism that so infects our world. The Palestinians taught al Qaeda's ancestors how to kill by suicide, and we should not forgive them for that.
The United States should only support the Palestinians to the extent it is useful in manipulating the rest of the Muslim world to our advantage. Otherwise, I really couldn't care less what the Israelis do to them.
Iran. Bush has taken a clear stand on Iran, "worked with our European allies," and armed Israel with 500 bunker-buster bombs and 5000 precision-guided missles in case diplomacy does not work. Bush's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have not only served their proximate objectives, but they put American soldiers into every country that borders Iran. Kerry, on the other hand, proposes offering the Iranians nuclear fuel. He believes that Iranian rejection of this offer would "prove" that Iran was enriching fuel for the purpose of building a weapon, as opposed to the "peaceful" purposes it claims. This bit of legalistic judo illustrates precisely why Kerry makes me nervous. He feels the need to establish Iran's motives through some maneuver, rather than just saying what everybody knows: Iran, sitting as it does on a sea of oil and gas and riddled with geological fault lines, has no need whatsover for nuclear power plants. Its only motive for enriching uranium is to build a bomb. There is no thinking person in the world that doubts this. The idea that we must trick the mullahs into revealing their true motives through a cold offer of fuel is laughable.
Grand strategy. Like it or not, George Bush has articulated a grand strategy for the destruction of Islamist jihad, and is methodically working both short and long-term tactics to weaken the enemy. To the scorn of millions, he has declared that the United States will not tolerate the harboring of terrorists, and that we will no longer sustain the dictatorships of the Middle East. His strategy may require compromises along the way, just like the Cold War, and it may suffer defeats, just like any war, but at least he has a strategy. John Kerry and his supporters give the strong impression that they desperately wish there weren't a war, and that in any case it should be handled tactically as situations arise. He has utterly failed to articulate a framework that we might use to understand what he would do differently than George Bush. Where is Kerry's grand strategy? Can anybody say what it is, other than to wish that we could return to the 1990s?
The Endorsement: Notwithstanding enormous misgivings and no small amount of nervousness, I do not see how I can vote for anybody other than George W. Bush.
The Prediction: John Kerry with at least 290 electoral votes.
Who knows? He may surprise us.
I love reading the howls and barks of the numerous angry white men/chicks who've coalesced into the tribe of ripping all things Kerry/Democrat. Now, if your prediction is correct, the tribe should be whooping it up around the electronic campfire for hundreds of nights to come!
You sound like those meticulous political scientists at Dusseldorf University in 1932, briefing Paul Hindenburg as to why he should partner with the anti-Communist frontrunner for the position of Chancellor of Germany.
It's interesting how you deride liberals, as if the moniker conservative has some platinum lilt to it that makes it the moniker of choice these days. You may deride liberals all you want, but if being a conservative means that I have to cast my lot with Trent Lott, Tom DeLay, John Ashcroft and a president who thinks that the Almighty deigned him to hold the office, then call me a liberal. That said, you write eloquently as usual, but it's clear that you didn't have the time to write the short, good, punchy stuff that you normally write. Thanks for the post.
Great job Tigerhawk.
I do not share your misgivings nor do I believe Kerry will win, but you are very thorough in making your case for W. At the end of the day, I think the final fence-sitting voters will ask some variation of the following three questions:
1. What is Kerry's "plan?"
2. What has he done in twenty years as Senator to prove he can carry out his plan?
3. Has he shown any signs of leadership ability? Can he get high-quality people to join his mission and help him carry out his plan?
How could they possibly answer other than thus?:
1. I don't know. Kerry said it was on his web site, but all I could find there was criticism of the Bush Administration. In fact, I don't recall that Kerry ever said anything about his vision for the future because he has spent so much time harping on the mistakes that he thinks were made by the Bush Administration, no matter how trivial those mistakes might have been;
2. Very little. There isn't one accomplishment Kerry can point to as significant without smirking at the absurdity;
3. No. His best chance to demonstrate leadership was as an officer in the Navy, but most of his Swiftboat colleagues now wish they had carried out battlefield justice on him;
There is little to support voting for Kerry other than hatred of Bush, and if voters are still on the fence this late, they probably don't hate Bush.
Most polls show 3% to 7% of likely voters are still undecided. I think most of them break for Bush and he wins 290 to 300 ECVs. Unfortunately, thanks to 20,000 lawyers, I don't think we'll know for sure until December.
Hedge Fund Guy