Why I plan to vote for Bush (Full version)

In his acceptance speech, Kerry made it clear that he prefers to keep the front of the war on terror at home and not attack the terrorists abroad:

And the front lines of this battle are not just far away – they’re right here on our shores, at our airports, and potentially in any town or city. Today, our national security begins with homeland security.[…]
We will add 40,000 active duty troops – not in Iraq,[…] And we shouldn’t be opening firehouses in Baghdad.[…]
That’s the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.

So Kerry will ignore the point that the best defense is a good offense, pull out of Iraq, and wait until the terrorists attempt to produce a big crater in downtown New York. But when they do, don’t worry “help is on the way”:

the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to.[…]
Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. […]
Before you go to battle, you have to be able to look a parent in the eye and truthfully say: “I tried everything possible to avoid sending your son or daughter into harm’s way. But we had no choice. We had to protect the American people, fundamental American values from a threat that was real and imminent.”

So, when the attack happens someone will respond swiftly and certainly in some way (to provide help?). He himself, however, would do nothing unless there is a real and imminent threat of yet another attack. Consistent with the policy he has advocated since we were last attacked on 9/11, he would not attempt to punish the perpetrators and he would not attempt to make sure that they were not able to do it again if they so chose. Instead, he would go back to what he was doing before, attempting to “to rebuild our alliances, so we can get the terrorists before they get us” and ignoring the fact that doing so sometimes requires that we go to war even when an attack is not imminent and even when we face uncertainty about whether a particular attack is even planned.

It is heartening to know that Kerry might do something when we can see Iran fueling nuclear missiles on their launch pads and programming them to attack us. But even then, how do we really know that they will actually press the launch button? Perhaps its all just a drill and not a real attack. At very least, once we know for certain that it isn’t a drill, we know that he would not give the UN (or France) a veto over us acting. However, I wonder why it is even a subject for discussion. Is he implying that he would give them a veto otherwise or that he would not do anything otherwise that would even cause the veto issue to come up?

In the real world, certainty is something we have only after the fact and imminence means waiting for the danger to gather to the point that another country thinks an attack might actually be succesful. I prefer a President that recognizes that we have to act long before a threat is imminent. Bush has conducted amazingly successful wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan and combined those achievements with amazingly succesful diplomacy to encircle Iran, a country that is hosting Al Queada leadership, training other terrorists, developing nuclear weapons, and threatening to attack both the US and Israel. Allowing the threat from Iran to develop and bringing our troops home is about as stupid a policy as one can think of!

In the comments on the prior version of this post, Nicholas argues that “We need a bipartisan, multilateral policy. That’s what Kerry offers. We need more troops in uniform and on the ground in Iraq. That’s what Kerry offers.” Except Kerry specifically denied that we need more US troops in Iraq (see above quotation!) and failed to specify what other troops are capable of replacing ours. Lets be clear here, non-US-NATO members together have a grand total of 55,000 troops deployable for expeditions. These troops are, by and large, poorly equipped and poorly trained. (see here for more info). Given that we do have troops and contractors from many other nations already helping us in Iraq, absent some specific sense of what troops we are talking about, I’m going to take this multilateralist rhetoric as completely platitudinous.

As for bipartisanship, it would be nice if Kerry and the Democrats base gave some hint that they didn’t view Bush as a greater evil than Osama or Saddam. The repeated lying about this administration in an attempt to win an election is unseemly. The fact that much of the mainstream of the Democratic party has actually joined the tinfoil hat crowd is downright scary. Appealing for bipartisanship on behalf of a Senator who voted for the war before and after he voted against it and who retained Joe Wilson and Richard Clarke as major forien policy advisors is just rich with irony.

I have multiple friends working at or near the targets specified in the most recent terror alerts. The notion that we would not to everything possble to prevent an attack strkes me as nutes. The notion that if they do attack, we would not respond actively and vigorously to hunt them, their families, their friends, and their sponsors down is even more nuts. But thats what Kerry seems to believe, and thats is why I will vote for Bush in November.


8 Responses to Why I plan to vote for Bush (Full version)

  1. nicholas says:

    while more nuanced, your reading of the speech strikes me as, well, quite ungenerous (to put it mildly). but since you’ve got the full quotes there, readers can decide for themselves.

    i do have to point out the impressive fervor of your assertion that Bush has prosecuted two “amazingly successful wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    there’s the nub of this thing right there. if you think the wars in afghanistan and iraq have been “amazingly successful,” then you SHOULD vote for Bush.

    but surely you recognize that this assertion is not universally accepted, even among those who supported both wars (as I did and do).

    i think you’re also missing some perspective on the threat that a nuclear-armed saddam and/or iran would pose. it’s not simply a matter of giving a dirty bomb to a terrorist to attack new york.

    the truth is, _we’d survive_ such an attack — economically, politically, and socially.

    i’m not downplaying that threat – it’s terrible. but a parallel threat is the threat of nuclear attacks on mideast oil production.

    3 or 4 good hits on key saudi oilfields, for instance, would remove “swing” production from the global market and send the price of oil very, very high for a very long time.

    add hits on kuwaiti and iraqi production, and you’d have iran in a position to dictate the price almost unilaterally.

    there is zero chance, in other words, that iran is going to launch nuclear missiles _at the US_. that’s why Kerry said “US lives and values.” Make no mistake, the free flow of oil is something the US values.

    I’m not saying this as a tinfoil head. I actually think it’s vitally important. I’m just saying that to view our engagement in iraq simply in terms of fighting terrorism is dangerously unsophisticated.

    And of course, just plain dumb on its face.

    Although Bush talks about “iraq as a front in the global war on terror,” he hasn’t done much explaining lately about just _how_ fighting the insurgents in fallujah is making attacks in the US less likely. The only argument is a kind of “they’re fighting us there so they don’t fight us here.”

    But as the repeated Homeland Security warnings point out, no experts believe any such thing. We are not safe here. And no one _below_ the presidential level claims that the threat to the homeland is directly reduced by action in iraq. It’s risible. And if anyone DID try to factor it into their threat assessments for the homeland — they should be fired.

    Now, to my multilateral claims for Kerry – I agree it’ll be hard to get more boots on the ground in Iraq. But Kerry will have a much better chance of doing so. And if the day come that we DO need to go to Korea, or Iran, or Syria, he’ll have a much better chance of getting the support we’ll obviously need there (now that we’re so overextended, pursuing a 12 division strategy with a 10 division army).

    Bush took a gamble — that by acting completely unilaterally in Iraq, he’d add to our national prestige and awe in such a way that we’d be strengthened for further conflicts.

    I think he lost that gamble.

  2. Nicholas

    Perhaps amazingly successful depends on your initial optimism, but how many US soldiers and Afghan and Iraqi civilians did you expect would have to die to accomplish what we have accomplished in both of these countries? Did you expect that we would already be this close to elections in both countries? Did you expect that Iraq would have a working stock exchange? That 9/10 Afghans would be registered to vote? That no oil production facilities would have been destroyed in Iraq? That no WMD would be used ( notwithstanding warnings from Egypt and other countries in the area that they WOULD be)?

    Are conditions perfect? No. But, you would have had to have been a ridiculous optimist before the war not to be impressed with how much has been achieved at so little cost in human lives and treasure!

    I completely agree with you that we are majorly vulnerable to oil production disruption in the middle east. I would further observe that they don’t need nukes to make it happen.

    A major point of my post was that a major reason for both the Afghan and Iraq wars (and our continued presence in both countries) is/was to encircle Iran. Did you follow the link describing the Caspian Guard?

    As to the question of safety in general, we are obviously safer without Saddam in power, attempting to acquire nukes, and funding terror then we were with him doing all of those things. Iraq had an obvious involvement in the first attempt on the WTC in 1993 and there is an increasing amount of evidence that UNSCAM money was used to funding Al Queada as well as other terror organizations. They’re not doing so anymore.

    Moreover, we are also safer with US troops on Iran’s western and eastern borders.

    Re multilateralism, you really need to follow the links and get over this fantasy. Kerry has no chance of getting more boots from NATO unless he can somehow solve their economic, demographic, and technology problems. NATO (other than the US & UK) just doesn’t have the capability to deploy a substantial and effective expeditionary force nor do they have the money to make a substantial dent in the funding of ours. Test: What was the non-US contribution to the “multilateral” 1991 Gulf War?

    The main point here is that Kerry has a history of opposing all military programs. He has a history of voting to weaken CIA and special operations capabilities. He has a history of opposing almost all actual military initiatives including the 1991 Gulf War. His vote for the 2003 Gulf War was an anomaly driven by election politics and little else. He clearly doesn’t believe we need a continued US presence in the Gulf and would prefer we keep our troops, pointlessly, in Europe.

    As for Korea, we are more than capable of handling anything that happens there even while we operate in Iraq. See e.g. http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/12/Fightingintwotheaters.shtml

    You keep saying that you supported both wars. Do you now think your support was mistaken? What do you think should be done now? And, how important do you think it is to attack only when an attack is “real and imminent”?

  3. Nicholas says:

    i keep saying i supported both wars to remind you that i’m not coming from an antiwar position and trying to justify it retroactively.

    before i fully committed to both wars i asked myself 2 questions: 1) would i serve in the war if drafted/called? and 2) would i support my child if they decided to serve? I answered yes to both, and still would.

    but that doesn’t mean i want a second bush term.

    i was pleasantly surprised, but certainly not shocked, at how effectively we secured initial victory in both theaters. if we _hadn’t_, that would have been shocking.

    i _am_ surprised at how little headway we’ve made since in both places.

    i was stunned at the lack of planning for or response to the looting of iraq. i was shocked by the decision to fully disband the iraqi army. i was disappointed at the lack of followthrough in chasing the taliban in southern afghanistan, and the failure to secure any areas outside of kabul for kharzai.

    and frankly, i’m not sure we SHOULD be this close to elections in iraq – i would have greatly preferred a round of local and state-level elections before a national plebiscite.

    as dick holbrooke has said, good policy implemented poorly can become bad policy.

    i don’t doubt for a second that a President Gore would have attacked the taliban and al quaeda in afghanistan. he said as much. but i think he would have done a much better job in planning for the post-war there.

    and i am certain that a President Gore (always a hawk on saddam) would have increased pressure on iraq as sanctions began to erode – with or without 9/11.

    but i think there is every reason to suppose that a democratic administration would have done a MUCH better job in planning for and managing post-war Iraq. they certainly could not have done worse.

    i think a Kerry administration will do a better job managing the iranian and north korean threats as well.

    yes, i’m very, very glad that iraqi oil facilities weren’t destroyed during the war. but the credit for that does not belong to george bush.

    however, the repeated sabotage of oil production _since_ the invasion _does_ reflect very poorly on prewar planning, in my view, and that IS on Bush’s docket.

    w/r/t NATO, I think there’s plenty of capacity to assist in policing Afghanistan, and we would have gotten them there sooner if we hadn’t been so combative on Iraq.

    in Iraq, all i can say is that if we’d taken more time, i think we would have been able to at least get Turkish support, and quite possibly Russian support.

    and let’s go back to the “immediate” issue.

    there was _no compelling military reason_ to attack iraq when we did.

    we attacked in 2003 for only one reason: domestic US politics.

    I think George Bush decided to attack Iraq early, without international support, without a good plan for the postwar, without sufficient resources in the army, because he thought he could get the situtation under control in time for his own re-election. That’s it.

    Maybe he was right.

    But it’s no way to lead the world.

  4. ooghe says:

    thank you Nicholas, for that excellent analysis of where and how Bush’s policies ran aground, and distinguishing that from the flat out repudiation of American power that so often seems to be taken as the argument against recent foreign policy. Like you, I supported the Afghan War, for the obvious reasons. I was initially enheartened that the Administration described a creative and audacious approach to waging a counter-terror war, and was prepared to accept that this would result in actions that would likely contavene international law and boundaries a times- much in the way that police “hot pursuit” procedures do.

    I differed from you on Iraq only in that by March 2003, I believed that Saddam Hussein would likely prove not to possess what would have been necessary for the war to be seen as a legitmate use of American power, and therefore effectively reduce conditions likely to result in anti-American terrorism. Did I know that for a fact? Not at all, it was a hunch (although some of that was based on the fact that the CIA had every motivation to enable the UN inspectors to locate damning evidence, yet was unable to for reasons that are now abundantly clear)- and had Saddam’s WMD existed I would have thankfully conceded that I was wrong, and the world would have been a safer place. But as it turned out, my hunch was more accurate than Bush’s, and walking the streets of New York I feel more likely to encounter a terrorist event due to Bush’s actions rather than less.

    To me, the contours of a true war against al Qaeda would have been far less televised actions in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and quite possibly Iran. Of course, the much tauted special ops war never materialized to the extent that Rumsfeld’s technocratic belief that JDAMs will instill people with such a collective “gee whiz” that they’ll never even consider taking up arms against the US.

    As for North Korea, all I know is that prior to this administration they did not possess nuclear weapons, and now they do. That is this administration’s failure by any standard.

    Alex’s suggestion of an Iran encircled (and I would love to quiz Bush on what countries encircle Iran) seems to be a strategy drawn from the George S. Custer School of Military Theory, if by encircled we mean 1,000 Rangers in Uzbekistan, 11,000 US soldiers halfway able to quell the Taliban in Afghanistan (still capable of plotting terrorism, apparently), and 135,000 US soldiers entirely devoted to pacifying a country one third the size of Iran. Iran hasn’t been militarily degraded by 12 years of sanctions either. Were Bush to try and “take out” Iran, his generals would simply say “Mr. President, we are not at present prepared to undertake such an operation.” If Alex knows differently, I’m sure strategists at the Army War College (http://www.carlisle.army.mil/ssi/pubs/pubresult.cfm?pubid=383) would be most eager to speak with him.

    Saying that many things did not go right in Iraq, but that many successes were achieved- the lightning collapse of the Iraqi Republican Guard, elections (like you, I do not see the benefit gained from elections if they elect someone with greater antipathy towards the US than Saddam Hussein)- is a bit like a surgeon telling me how well he clipped the artery, how precisely he sutured the patient, and all in all how well the triple coronary bypass surgery was managed as the patient dies of an embolysm. It was almost a 100% success. Almost. The net result has been a minus in the war on terror, in that a generation of Arabs will now regard US soldiers as something to blow up, blame, and avoid being raped by. Terrorism has always been enabled by mass media, only thanks to Iraq the US just got cast as the terrorists in the Arab world, the cause of Arab liberalism and accomodation just got set back about twenty years, and I do not relish the consequences.

    Either way, the policy will have to change and already is. The question now is will America be able to produce leadership with greater depth of insight into this complex swirl of events.

  5. ooghe says:

    apologies- my link did not come through- it was intended to link to the paper “Strategic Consequences of the Iraq War: U.S. Security Interests in Central Asia Reassessed”

  6. Nicholas and Robert,

    Please define an acceptable level of success in Afghanistan and Iraq. I don’t want a present day view, I want a pre-invasion view of what would constitute success/failure at this point in time.

    In other words, why did the administration say it was necessary to invade Iraq and were those goals accomplished? Here’s a hint: check out the 2003 SOTU.
    Nicholas, are you seriously claiming that Bush invaded Iraq because he thought it would help him in this election!??

    Also, please show an anti-war claim about the negative consquences of invasion that turned out to be true…

    As for pre-war/post-war planning, was de-baathification a good idea? What is your view of what happened in Najaf and Fallujah?

    And Nicholas, what do you mean by international support? Do you think France or Germany would EVER have supported invasion? See the post I am about to make to my blog on this.

  7. ooghe says:

    An acceptable level of success in Iraq, to me- would have been a change in popular perceptions about the US throughout the Arab world, clear indications that an attack on the US by Iraq was imminent/and or that Iraq had been involved in 9/11, and that Iraq had been the center of gravity in international terrorism.

    Success in Afghanistan would have been had they deployed more special forces, rather than rely on Dostrum, during the battle of Tora Bora and prevented the escape of Osama bin Laden.

    But what did the administration claim about Iraq?
    Depends on what you mean by what they said, who said it, and when it was said. net result: I don’t especially care. Your emphasis on it seems to imply “Well here’s what he said in it in the 2003 SOTU- which left a fair amount of wiggle room, and here’s what happened, which can be shoehorned inside that rationale- so what’s the problem?” I would see the relevance of asking that had I initially agreed with this case, or voted for it- or in some way signified that I felt the case was valid. Instead- you seem to be saying this *was* the case, and who could possibly have disgreed with it then, so how can Bush be faulted now? If you’re saying that the Democrats are also at fault for authorizing this, and then failing to use their delegated powers to prevent it- then I agree with you- the Democrats sucked during that whole lead up, and I don’t especially like Kerry for his role in it either, which is why I originally backed Dean.
    In deciding who I will vote for, I am only evaluating whether or not I see this leadership making citizens more safe, or less safe.
    My personal beliefs (i.e., I am not speaking for “liberalism”, “international ANSWER”, Ramsey Clark, or whoever else may have made some statement I’m not responsible for)- as they stood in March 2003, and that I feel largely validated in retrospect:

    1.) Much American public support for invading Iraq was contingent on the belief that it would be a quick, simple conflict and that will clearly reveal that Saddam either possessed nuclear weapons, or was very close to having them. If this does not prove to be the case, support for the war will erode, leaving the strategy half-finished and the US less able to counter more unambiguous threats (i.e. Iran, Pakistan)

    2.) That the postwar experience will be neither a cakewalk nor will there be showerings of rosepetals. The thought that one could simply “decapitate” the Baathist regime was naive. The expectation that the postwar experience would be this, as articulated by many of my pro-war friends, will prove a costly error in judgement in the long term.

    3.) Rather than being cheap, Iraq will become a drain on the civil economy (i.e. budget deficits)

    4.) International perception (outside the Arab world) of the US as a generally benign and trustworthy force in the geopolitical will erode

    5.) Popular opinion of the US in the Arab world will become more anti-American. Efforts to counter this (Al Hurrah, Radio Sawa) will not prove effective countermeasures. The rate of terrorism will not decrease.

    6.) North Korea will strengthen it’s position during this time, and will not be cowed into ending their nuclear program because they saw what happened to Iraq. Interesting note- in time since my post a few days ago, Jane’s Defence reports North Korea is now deploying missiles capable of being launched from submarines.

    7.) US access to oil supply will be more vulnerable.

    8.) al Qaeda and their factorum will survive this blow to their central front. Resources will be diverted from securing Kabul, searching the Afghani/Pakistani border the Taliban will gain in strength.

    9.) A domino effect of liberalization will not ocur in Arab states as a result (which was a possible justification extended by more than one propronent of the war, and which would have been an appealing thought). The cause of Arab moderates and liberals will suffer- particularly in Saudi Arabia.

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