Friday, October 08, 2004

A Question of World View and Character 

When Hugh Hewitt posed the question asking "What do Kerry's answers to [Thursday]'s press inquiries tell us about Kerry's world view and character?", he was referring to answers that in the press have been highlighted as including a proven false assertion that Bush fired Gen. Shinseki (presumably for having the "wrong" answer on required troop levels) and Kerry's likening of Iraq to Lebanon (but only "figuratively speaking"). I'll be gracious and assume the bogus allegation of firing was not an intentional false statement but just a toss-off of a talking point he'd either heard or been briefed on before. The Lebanon reference is either more dramatics, evoking the image of sectarian violence that plagued Lebanon or a complete disregard for the fact that much of Lebanon's violence was initiated on behalf of the occupying force, Syria. In fact, the only valid similarity between Iraq and Lebanon is that much of the terrorist violence in both countries has been directed by Damascus.

I will, then, concentrate on the exchange much of the press has chosen to ignore. I will try to be fair and summarize Kerry's basic position on Iraq and Saddam Hussein in the following way: "We had him under wraps and we could have kept the sanctions in place. Although I agreed he was a bad guy and needed to go, there was no compelling reason to force him to go at that time." I think this a fair paraphrase of the statements he has made and more consistently matches with most things he's said on the topic.

I will give him a partial pass on the sanction issue because with our veto power in the Security Council we technically could have kept them in place indefinitely, regardless of the propriety of doing so. I would, however, in return like him to explain how joining with England against France/Russia/China when we wanted the UN to go (back) to war and enforce its resolutions is different from siding with England against France/Russia/China when they would have wanted the UN to lift Iraqi sanctions, because everybody knew that day was coming. Especially in light of the Duelfer report that clearly shows that Saddam was investing a lot of time and capital to reach that day as soon as possible. I also characterize this as a partial pass because I have graciously not brought up that the sanctions we could have kept in place were not, in light of the abuses of the OFF program, producing the desired effect. So while we possibly could have prevented him from starting more overt WMD programs with sanctions in place it realistically did nothing to promote regime change or weaken the Ba'ath party.

The second part of Kerry's "Iraq/Saddam position" was presented with the caveat that he "voted for the authorization, because [Saddam] presented a threat", but that the authorization was used in the "wrong way." He, perhaps unknowingly, reveals what he felt was the right way when he later says "If I'd been president, I'd have wanted the same threat of force." He didn't say he have wanted the same authorization or option or choice, but the same threat. Despite all his rhetoric on "restoring credibility" he completely fails to grasp that a big reason we had to invade Iraq was to preserve the credibility of any future threat of force. For twelve years we, through the UN, had threatened Saddam. The Duelfer report clearly shows he didn't believe the credibility of that threat even up to the invasion itself. After we proved to Saddam and the world that our threat was credible, however, Libya did not wait to be threatened. There comes a time when words have failed and nothing but action will suffice to communicate. I will not try and second guess Kerry, and so must assume that he fails to recognize that we had reached that point. Such misjudgment in future confrontations could have deadly consequences.

While this is the "meat" of his Iraq position (and, in his own way, he has been consistent in the position I described above), there is so much additional information in his response with which to evaluate the candidate. He references the 60 countries with known Al Queda cells and "35 to 40 countries [that] had ... more ... capability of creating weapons, nuclear weapons" than Iraq so quickly and with so much passion that one wonders if he ever took the time to consider that most of the countries he is talking about are either our allies or working with us. For example, yes, there is Al Queda in England, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Australia, and on and on, and we are actively working with law enforcement in all these countries to find and eliminate the threat posed. Why would we invade them? Using John Kerry's logic we would have to be poised to invade ourselves, as there are certainly active Al Queda cells in the US. In his list of "evil" weapon manufacturers I'm sure we could find all our major allies in addition to his specific references to Russia and China. I wonder if he is being dramatic or sincere when he questions why we would invade Iraq and not Russia or China. I feel almost silly writing it down, as the reasons are intuitively obvious, but since he asked here are a few off the top of my head:

1. Russia and China, while often adversaries to one degree or another, are not openly avowed "enemies" of the US. Once upon a time a little-known organization called Al Queda declared war on us and we ignored it at our peril. Should we have repeated the pattern with Iraq?
2. Russia and China do not exist as totalitarian regimes to be exclusively used by a single megalomaniac (although Russia is dangerously veering in that direction)
3. Even if we wanted to, invasion of Russia or China would be logistically and militarily impossible. If you've got a forest to chop down why not start with the trees you can reach.

Overall, though, this equating of Saddam and Iraq with every country that has Al Queda or produces weapons is the most telling indicator of his pervasive liberal moral equivalence. It's not Saddam or his friends or intents that were of concern to him, but those evil weapons. At his core, John Kerry still believes in arms controls. If we can just sit down and negotiate with them and show our good intentions we can get them to stop building those evil weapons. Well, I've got a news flash: it didn't work for Carter with the USSR and it didn't work for Clinton with the DRPK and it didn't work in 1922 with the signing of the Washington Naval Treaty. It's OK for us to have nuclear weapons because we are a free, just, moral country. It's OK for the UK to have nuclear weapons for the same reasons. Personally speaking, if Australia or Italy or Poland announced tomorrow that they, for some reason, decided they wanted nuclear weapons I wouldn't loose a night's sleep. That's because I don't fear the technology, but rather the way in which individuals may want to use it. I never thought of it before, but the liberal nuclear-freeze, no nukes, anti-genetically enhanced foods, gun-control mentality is really just a form of neo-Luditism. Take me back to the Farm, Comrade.

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