Thursday, April 15, 2004

Reality check time

I just got done reading Andrew Sullivan's advice to Senator John Kerry on how to produce a coherent, liberal, and electible position on terrorism and Iraq. There is also an New York Times op-ed by Paul Berman on the same subject.

The kind of discussion that Sullivan and Bremer are making here just might work to get Kerry elected, for all we know, but I think these arguments have some problems that Sullivan and Berman haven't mentioned. The most obvious one, and in a sense the most critical one, is that the dangers that "Bush's Vietnam" pose to the United States are miniscule compared to the dangers of a potential "Kerry's Weimar Republic". The geopolitical situation of Iraq does bear a resemblance to that of post World War I Germany: both are powerful regional states made temporarily anemic by war, both are sustaining bodies of armed insurgents trying to reimpose an authoritarian regime, and both are caught in the crossfire of ideologies conflicting on a global scale. Mushy, feel-good liberalism is exactly the wrong thing for Iraq right now. Would you trust the Senate's most liberal senator not to promote that in Iraq as President?

Another problem is the complaint that President Bush is too "polarizing" of a figure to effectly engage our allies in the war on terror or to bring peace to Iraq. Of course, given that President Bush is the leader of a center-right administration in a world full of center-left welfare states, it would be nearly miraculous for President Bush to have avoided becoming a polarizing figure. And why is it that disagreements over American domestic policy, which is certainly a major component of the Bush "polarization", are only supposed to impeach the credibility of Republicans on national security issues?

By the way, maybe somebody should ask Senator Kerry (and Sullivan and Bremer) if the Democratic Party's campaign to "delegitimize" the Bush administration after the November 2000 elections hampered the Bush Administration's ability to address terrorism?

A lot of this argument is misdirection. For example, Paul Bremer writes:
His national security statement of 2002 flatly declared that totalitarianism no longer existed - a strange thing to say. War requires clarity. Here is incoherence
One the other hand, the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States states that:
The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom - and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise.
Does a "decisive victory" over totalitarianism necessarily mean that totalitarianism "no longer exists"? Or to put it another way, can the President who had to replace the phrase "states of concern" with "axis of evil" in the popular lexicon really be the leader with the major confusion about the nature of good and evil or freedom and totalitarianism?

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