Sunday, February 08, 2004

Kerry solicits votes from Islamic journalists 

The English-language TehranTimes.com received an email from the Kerry campaign, excerpted below:

As Americans who have lived and worked extensively overseas, we have personally witnessed the high regard with which people around the world have historically viewed the United States. Sadly, we are also painfully aware of how the actions and the attitudes demonstrated by the U.S. government over the past three years have threatened the goodwill earned by presidents of both parties over many decades and put many of our international relationships at risk.

It is in the urgent interests of the people of the United States to restore our country's credibility in the eyes of the world. America needs the kind of leadership that will repair alliances with countries on every continent that have been so damaged in the past few years, as well as build new friendships and overcome tensions with others....

The current Administration's policies of unilateralism and rejection of important international initiatives, from the Kyoto Accords to the Biological Weapons Convention, have alienated much of the world and squandered remarkable reserves of support after 9/11. This climate of hostility affects us all, but most especially impacts those who reside overseas. Disappointment with current U.S. leadership is widespread, extending not just to the corridors of power and politics, but to the man and woman on the street as well.

Is it just me, or is this email both substantively and procedurally troubling?

It is substantively troubling, because it is not at all clear what the Bush Administration has done to America's "credibility." True, the failure to find WMD has perhaps undermined the faith of foreigners in our ability to gather or analyze intelligence, but most of those foreigners also believed that Saddam had WMD, including the Arabs and Iranians he was trying to impress or deter, as the case may be. Surely, however, the credibility of our threats has increased considerably. Osama Bin Laden specifically and publicly claimed that America would not have the stomach to fight a war that involved American casualties, and we didn't under prior administrations. Now we have, and terrorists and nations have had to revise their view (see, for example, Libya's disgorgement of its atomic weapons program). Is there any reasonable argument that the Bush Administration has not increased American credibility in this very important respect?

As they have since the Nixon years, the Democrats do not understand the difference between being believed -- which is the sine qua non of credibility -- and being liked, which is entirely different. This is not to say that it isn't also important to be liked, and it may be that more countries would help with the war on terror if the Bush Administration were not so ham-handed. But it is very hard, it seems to me, to argue that Bush has hurt American credibility with the people for whom it matters: the people who will try to kill us unless they are deterred.

The email is also procedurally troubling. Precisely why is a Democratic candidate for the presidency sucking up to foreign journalists, particularly those from manifestly hostile countries with government-controlled media? Is their approval necessary to John Kerry's campaign, or is it that he simply seeks to be loved by people who despise us? Exactly why is he undermining our foreign policy? Because he hopes for American failures abroad in the next nine months?


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