Tuesday, June 08, 2004

A Departure from Reality 

" This year's presidential election so far offers a choice in foreign policy, between a neo-Wilsonian who has made the promotion of democracy and human rights a central tenet and an old-school realist who believes it more sensible to focus on managing concrete threats to U.S. security"

This is the contrast made by columnist Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post between Bush and Kerry. He goes further in comparing Bush's policy and thinking not only to Wilson but Carter "on a rhetorical scale." This view, however, fails to recognize the key difference between Bush and both Wilson and Carter, this difference being that under Bush’s guidance there are about 50 million people who now breath the air of freedom and stand poised to enjoy the blessings of democracy. In this regard, one would be more accurate to compare the rhetoric of Bush with that of Reagan, another president whose action in tandem with rhetoric was essential in the freedoms now enjoyed throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics. Of course, it is easy to understand how Mr. Diehl fails to see this, as he demonstrates his detachment from reality in bemoaning the "stunning incompetence of [democracy promotion] in Iraq." That he makes this pronouncement on the heels of the ahead of schedule sovereignty turn over and in the face of planned elections later this year is evidence of either a blind departure from the conventions of logic or blantant denial. If this is an example of "stunning incompetence" I invite Mr. Diehl to provide a counter example of competence.

To contend with the piece's characterization of Kerry's position again stretches logic and evades a key point of the so-called Bush doctrine. Fundamental to the doctrine is teh commitment to not wait for threats to metastasize before dealing with them. I am reminded of an experience in my youth, when we were living in a less educated rural area. My mother was having lunch in a small diner when a fire erupted in the kitchen. They evacuated all the patrons and, before long, the volunteer fire department showed up. Their first priority, of course, was to pose in front of their engines so the local paper could get some good shots. One patron pointed at the diner, thick black smoke billowing from every opening, and asked the chief why they weren’t fighting the fire. "That's not fire," he answered, "that's smoke, and you can't fight smoke." Soon thereafter the roof collapsed, and as the flames shot into the sky the chief cheerfully said, "Now there's a fire! We can fight that," and so they did. While I fully recognize the danger of a preemptive policy, I would still rather have a nation policy of aggressively defeating emerging threats rather the just managing concrete threats.

The final departure from fundamental logic is in the author’s confidence that Kerry would actually be successful in "managing concrete threats to U.S. security." The main basis for this confidence was that his "smart focus" on repairing the damage done to U.S. alliances will somehow be a panacea to inoculate all our national security concerns. Not only does this completely ignore the strong, continuing and uninterrupted cooperation the U.S. has had in Iraq with both its strongest military (U.K.) and economic (Japan) allies, but extrapolates conflicts chiefly with four countries (Germany, France, China and Russia) as indicative of the entire world. But let's look at what these damaged alliances really mean to our national security. In no case has the alleged disruption been reflected in trade, so there has been no economic repercussions that may, indirectly, affect national security. As such, we must look at the military effect for the most part. In the case of both Russia and China, with whom we have never had close military ties, this is completely a non-issue. Likewise for Germany, as one would not expect military support in times of external crisis given the restrictions imposed by their Constitution. This then leaves us considering France who, while not militarily insignificant, is still not a showstopper to anything we may need to do. Of course, there are the intangibles, such as international respect, support and cooperation, but considering the back-room dealing that was being done with our enemies while these countries ostensibly were our allies, one is very tempted to say good riddance to bad rubbish.

Despite the token admissions of a lack of post-Sept. 11 vision, this is largely dismissed by Mr. Diehl as seemingly being more significant for the perception of threat than a realization of actual threat. This and his faithful intoning of the "Iraq is a failure" mantra in the face of all contradictory evidence leads me to conclude that while we may disagree if Kerry is a realist, I have no problem asserting that Mr. Diehl certainly is not.

In case you were wondering, the diner burnt to the ground.

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