A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Bush '04 and Why

When deciding whom I'll vote for in any election, I take into account a broad range of issues, but the two biggies are self-interest and party.

I won't pretend to be an even-handed observer. I am a Republican. I'm perhaps not the most conservative Republican, but neither am I the most liberal one. I have some libertarian leanings, but not enough of them to escape being tagged as a nazi or bigot by the liberal elite. And, since that elite makes its home with the Democrats, I have absolutely no misgivings about proclaiming my membership with the GOP. And, the fact that George W. Bush calls himself a Republican earns him a lot of clout with me.

But, self-interest trumps. I could go on and on about how I feel that it's a person's duty to vote for the man who would be "good for the country" and "stands up for principles" and "identifies with people like me", but that's all just pap intended to pussyfoot around the truth: People vote in their own self-interest.

All the platitudes fall under that heading. After all, if my interest is being served, I'll live in a great and good country, where my principles are upheld, and my leaders identify with me and my circumstances. An aggressive war on terrorism, tax cuts, and conservatives on the bench are all on the list as well. And President Bush sides with me on every count.

One can fairly fault the President for mistakes in Iraq, and should be given the freedom to do so without being called a traitor, whether in the unpatriotic sense, or the partisan political sense. I'm fair-minded enough to believe that a person’s disagreement with me on this matter likely stems from his or her own lack of fair-mindedness, rather than treason. Also, I understand that everyone in this country has the right to his own opinion, and is free to express it. That goes for people who fling the word "fascist" around like the fruit in Michael Moore's Halloween bag, just as well as those who use "traitor" in the same fashion.

So, I'll state unambiguously at the outset that I don't think support for John Kerry, nor criticism of President Bush, are necessarily indicative of any lack of patriotism.

However, I do believe that to assess the current war in Iraq as a terribly mishandled SNAFU is grossly unfair, and that the only way a person could reasonably come to that conclusion is to have other, extraneous issues exerting pressures from the periphery. In the blogosphere, we've all seen the letters home, written by soldiers who are disgusted at the media coverage. Almost invariably, they list accomplishments that, taken on their own merits, would have been thought impossible within two years of invading a 30-year-entrenched tyranny -- dismantling its entire government and destroying a good bit of the infrastructure in the process.

So, there have been strides made in the cause, and they have been great ones. That's not to say there haven't been shortcomings, however. There most certainly have, and that's undeniable. But those shortcomings are easily attributable to the haste with which the President went into Iraq, and I think a reasonable person could come to the conclusion that things did happen too quickly. Where I differ with most of those critics is in just how bad a thing that haste really is in the final summation.

I think a fair assessment of the President's war timing has to take into consideration a determination to be aggressive in the GWOT, and to head off threats in as early a stage as possible. The intelligence that the President relied on, and to which there was nearly universal agreement among the other nations of the world, indicated that Saddam Hussein was an immediate threat to the US and its allies. The fact that some nations preferred that the President not act on that threat does nothing to change that fact.

John Kerry made statements on the floor of the Senate, as well as in media accounts that indicate that he saw Saddam Hussein's Iraq as an immediate threat, as well. And, if you believed that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD (as nearly everyone did until the President decided to do something about it), and supported terrorism in any form (which he undeniably did), you could come to no other conclusion: Saddam Hussein had to be dealt with quickly and forcefully.

It was clear that some of our "traditional" allies didn't agree, and surely the President was keenly aware of that. And that seems to be the point that John Kerry has seized upon as his main criticism of the war, and one which he holds up as an indication of the "rush to war". But, the President's decision has to be judged based on the intelligence he was given, and implications of that intelligence, and the potential consequences of not reacting to it on time. That goes for any decision to go to war.

John Kerry likes to argue that the President disregarded other intelligence which showed that Saddam Hussein wasn't as great a threat as he had been portrayed, but the fact remains that every other credible intelligence agency on the planet had come to the same conclusion as those who provided the intelligence to the President. So, from that point, the question isn't the accuracy of the intelligence -- it's well established that the bulk of the world was no more accurate than we were, with regard to Iraq's WMD. The question is, "what do you do with the intelligence you have?"

The President chose to move forward and actively seek to remedy the situation with force. John Kerry voted to authorize that action, and supported it wholeheartedly, at first. Now, however, he asserts that he would have done it differently. Well, of course he would do it differently now. The WMD that we (and that includes him) all thought were there have turned out not to be there, after all.

But, that's not precisely what he's saying. In fact, what he is saying is that he would have given more weight to the intelligence that showed Hussein's Iraq to be a less a threat than the prior intelligence had indicated. And that's precisely where Kerry goes so horribly wrong. Because, according to David Kay, those minimalist estimates were even further off the mark than the President's assessment. Indeed, he stated that the threat in Iraq was even greater than previously thought.

But, even if it had turned out that Hussein's Iraq was really the toothless tiger that some still insist it was, the President is bound to act on threats, both actual and perceived. President Bush reacted to the threat he perceived exactly as he should have. That is, he moved forward and backed up his threat to use force against Saddam Hussein if he did not comply with the terms that the President so clearly laid out before the United Nations. In doing so, he established that the threat of force from the United States is a very credible one, and not to be taken lightly.

John Kerry would have us believe that, had he been privy to all of the intelligence, he would have acted more deliberately, thus saving the US from European scorn. To that end, John Kerry is hypothetically applying his global test. In fact, what he is saying is, "I will more gracefully consider the opinions of those nations who are angered by our presence in Iraq, and will be more pliable with our allies." And, that does sound nice and friendly when you accept it at face value. But, when you consider that those allies came to their conclusions based on very similar intelligence estimates, it becomes clear that: (1) our allies don't all believe that it's best to act aggressively on perceived threats, and (2) our allies aren't looking out for America's best interests.

Since France, Germany, and Russia all opposed military action despite coming to the same intelligence conclusions as the US with regard to Iraq, you have to ask just why it is that they came to such distinctly different conclusions with regard to how to deal with the problem. That's assuming, of course, that they perceived it as a problem to begin with. I'm willing to grant that assumption based on the basic, if naive, belief that nations act much like rational human beings, in that they tend to act in their own self-interests.

Since it's given that the intelligence used was essentially similar, that all believed that Saddam and WMD were a bad combination, and that all nations tend to act in their own self-interests, the only way to explain their opposition to action is that they have interests that differ from those of the US. And, that's been established beyond doubt to anyone who's heard of the Oil-for-Food scandal. (That scandal justifies the use of military force on its own merits, by the way, if ceasefire agreements and UN resolutions are of any value, whatsoever.)

The message that John Kerry is sending to anyone with a slight skepticism about international politics is that he is willing to factor the interests of other nations into the equation when solving the problem of an honestly perceived threat based on nearly universally agreed-to variables. That's an awfully long sentence to describe what America should do when faced with a threat.

President Bush did exactly as he should have done as the leader of the free world. He quickly rallied what troops he could and faced down the threat, head-on, in its own back yard. He has established that America will no longer err on the side of diplomacy when it comes to terrorism and WMD. I don't need any other reason to justify my vote for President Bush.

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