Friday, July 09, 2004

We're at war. Time for a nap.

The popular blogger Mickey Kaus recently announced that, at least as of July 5 when the post was blogged, that he planned to vote for John Kerry in the upcoming general election. The reasons he gave were:
a) we need a break* from Bush's strident public global terror war in order to prevent it from becoming a damaging, lifelong West vs. Islam clash--in order to "rebrand" America and digest the hard-won gains we've made in Iraq and Afghanistan (if they even remain gains by next January). Plus, b) it would be nice to make some progress on national health care, even if it's only dialectical "try a solution and find out it doesn't work" progress.
The asterisk refers to an amendment that clarified the original post. Item a was also foreshadowed by an earlier reference to Peggy Noonan's article Warren G. Kerry: Will the Democrat tempt Americans with promises of "normalcy"? in which she wrote:
The American people may come to feel that George W. Bush did the job history sent him to do. He handled 9/11, turned the economy around, went into Afghanistan, captured and removed Saddam Hussein. And now let's hire someone who'll just by his presence function as an emollient. A big greasy one but an emollient nonetheless.
She concludes by challenging her readers to tell her that she is wrong, or what Bush can do about this sentiment if she is right.

I believe that the error of omission that Ms. Noonan makes in her article, and the point that I would ask Mr. Kaus to reconsider, is that the Bush administration has identified democratization of the Middle East as a key foreign policy objective for the United States. The chronic political instability of the Middle East is a major source of large scale conflicts, rogue regimes driving a major regional nuclear proliferation problem, and a global terrorist insurgency. A more stable Middle Eastern political order could therefore be a major boon the the global community, although the suspicion that it could be a major boon to the country that governed the emergence of a new political order is certain to cause tensions as well.

In this light, the "return to normalcy" is little more than a combination of some of the worst foreign policy choices of the 20th century. The notion that American victories in Afghanistan and Iraq are largely sufficient to address State-sponsored terror is nothing more than the toothlessly symbolic "message sending" that always seems to end up in either failure or appeasement, while the notion that what America needs most after an amazing victory is a long, comfortable drift is nothing more than the concept of a "strategic pause" that imediately preceded 9/11. Despite America's long tradition of "isolationism", I don't view the combination of these two policies as an election-winning foreign policy position.


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