Monday, October 25, 2004
1. The GWOT is not as “big” of a war as the Administration holds.
2. The campaign in Iraq is a disaster (or cluster f*** in her terms).
3. The most important issues that need to be addressed are financial solvency, health care progress and energy/environmental policy.
I will try and address each of these, either within the scope of these assumptions or in an attempt to modify these assumptions.
1. The Global War on Terror (GWOT). Like many considered people, while I don’t think the term is accurate in describing the struggle in which we currently find ourselves, absent another commonly used moniker I will have to rely upon GWOT. I agree with what I read to be her assessment that the major goals are to deny the WAY while addressing the WILL. I believe that America is safer from the doomsday scenario she addresses than we were on 9/10 for a number of reasons. We have taken great strides to deny terrorists a WAY to obtain such destructive means through unprecedented financial cooperation with countries around the globe. We have denied them physical facilities and infrastructure in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Philippines and other countries. We have largely placed them on the defensive, thereby denying them the leisure to plan and prepare operations at their own pace. While the country may not feel as safe as it did before 9/11, that sense of security was false, for we were in more actual danger then. I liken it to the man with high blood pressure. He was already sick, but just didn’t know it until the stroke. After he may feel worse, but since he’s being treated he may actually in a less dangerous health condition.
I also think that the potential for a catastrophic attack are very small, but the risks involved are so great that we must keep strong efforts in place. I can’t begin to imagine the financial impact and societal changes that may result from the effective removal of a major metropolitan center. Imagine half of downtown Chicago contaminated by a radiological dispersion device (i.e. "dirty bomb"). Even low-level contamination that poses no significant health effects will still effectively kill the city due to the psychological effect. Hell, one attack would kill cities across the country. After Chicago got hit how many people do you think would be on the LIE or Path going to work in NYC the next morning? While the risk is low, the potential effects are so great that we have to deal with it. While many may feel President Bush isn’t doing enough (not strengthening the borders, continuing problems at INS, container inspections), the fact that others feel he has gone too far (Gitmo, Patriot Act) just illustrates that he is conscious that while we must protect ourselves we also must do so in a way that preserves our national moral character and civil liberties. Like the President, I believe that the best way to do so is to remain offensive, denying the terrorists the time, opportunity and resources to plan the catastrophic until they are defeated.
As both Bush ("un-winnable") and Kerry ("nuisance") both ineloquently said, this victory will not be strongly marked. But I agree with Bush that victory for us, in the long haul, relies upon victory and liberty for Muslims. There will likely always be fanatics in Islam, just as there will likely always be Nazis in Germany and nationalists in Japan, but the key difference is to have a political structure and economic prosperity that marginalizes rather than empowers this extremism. John Kerry's expressed emphasis on "stability" in Iraq but not necessarily democracy as an expediency to withdraw troops forfeits the long-term victory for a short-term political goal. I am confident that Bush will keep this vision in the second term.
2. The Iraq "quagmire". I have often, in blog comments, asked a question to the "Iraq as disaster" crowd that noone has ever answered. If Iraq is such an unmitigated disaster, please provide a counter example of another operation of a similar scale and goal that is considered successful. While I would never deny the personal tragedy each death and injury represents, it defies logic to describe Iraq a failure or disaster based upon casualties alone. Likewise, the duration of hostilities, while far exceeding the attention deficit MTV standards common in America, is not excessive when compared against historical examples. I am assuming in this, of course, that Jane does not subscribe hook-line-and-sinker to the Doom and Gloom reporting of the likes of the Guardian, but recognize that there is also progress. Relying upon this, the only reasonable basis for one to conclude the Iraqi campaign is a disaster is if one feels the campaign itself was unnecessary. I will assume this is the meaning behind her reference to it as a "boondoggle." While I have written on this before, I will try again to present my reasons in support of the Iraqi campaign in a concise, clear manner.
If one believes that Islamic terrorism must be confronted, then it is logical to assume that such confrontation will largely happen in the Middle East. Some cite Saudi Arabia as the source of Wahabbism and, therefore, the most important target of our efforts (not necessarily military, but potentially so). Others look to Iran, their strong track record of terrorist support, anti-American regime and nuclear ambitions. And then, there’s Iraq. Did we have to go in, or did we choose to? Hopefully I will show that, eventually, we would have had to go in and that, rather than wait for circumstances to dictate to us we chose the timing to best suit our needs. The invasion of Iraq was executed with the following four goals:
2.a. Deny terrorists material and resources. I will not insult Jane by listing the reasons "Bush lied" is, itself, an untruth. With the international assessment that WMD and/or materials were available to Saddam the only way to guarantee they would not be passed to a third party to conduct a surrogate attack against the US was to capture the weapons by removing Saddam. The only other potential set of events that may have had the same result were revolution or military coup, both of which had been tried before and neither of which were remotely successful. As the Duelfer Report illustrated, even absent WMD Saddam was committed to retaining the knowledge and capability for future applications. Also, while not demonstrably complicit in 9/11, Saddam ties to and support of terrorists was clear and undeniable. Given his vindictive nature and historically poor judgement, id ther any doubt that if he felt he had plausible deniability he would have provided WMD assistance to other enemies of the US? In fact, according to President Putin, such warnings were detected by Russian intelligence several times in the run-up to the Iraqi campaign. As we said earlier, the short-term key to the GWOT is denying terrorists support and material. As long as Saddam remained in power that was impossible.
2.b. Demonstrate US resolve. A key motivation in the 9/11 attacks was the perception that America was a "paper tiger" and, if struck hard, would fold. In Saddam’s Iraq we had an enemy of the US in power, thumbing his nose at us and gaining power, support and stature from the same. In pursuit of the previous goal we had obtained repeated UN resolutions that were consistently ignored or subverted. Failure to act in this circumstance would only have reinforced the image that precipitated Al Queda’s action. On the other hand, aggressively following through on the stated goals of regime change set a clear example for other hostile nations that in the GWOT rhetoric would not rule.
2.c. Establish a solid presence in the region. While not advertised as such, I am sure this was a critical aspect of the decision. If one presupposes that the option of executing military action in the Middle East will be required to effectively fight terrorism, one must ask from where would military action be staged? While we established a presence in Afghanistan, it is not particularly suitable for this purpose due to its remote location. At the time of the Iraqi campaign we had a presence in Saudi Arabia, but not only was this presence cited as a motivation in the 9/11 attacks, but if KSA were to be a potential hotbed of activity it made no sense to position a small force there that largely relied upon the host nation for protection. Access to Iraq provides us a central location that borders not only KSA but also Iran and Syria, the three main sources of support for international terrorism. Presence in Iraq provides us exactly the position and staging needed to maintain our options in the region. Besides, if action becomes necessary against Iran, evaluate for yourself the potential military advantages of launching such action from Iraq rather than relying almost entirely upon sea-based power projection with an avowed enemy (Saddam’s Iraq) on your flank. As for KSA, imagine staging an action against them without a suitable alternative supply of petroleum. You may have noticed I consistently refer to the Iraqi "campaign" and not "war." This is because I believe our action in Iraq are as integral to overall victory in the GWOT as the North African or Italian Campaigns were to victory in Europe in WWII.
2.d. Building Islamic and Arab and allies. In the end, Kerry is right when he says that the long-term success of the GWOT will rely upon our allies. He is wrong, however, to assume these pivotal allies to be European. The most important allies we have in Iraq are the Iraqis. That is why I felt his snub and dismissal of Prime Minister Allawi to have been particularly egregious. In a free society the basest elements still exist, but are much less likely to collect and metastasize into the level of threat that exists today. Success against radical Islamic fascists can only be accomplished by either killing them all or changing Islamic society. Any rational person would prefer the latter, and only in partnership with freedom and peace-loving Muslims will it happen. Dismissing Iraqi allies as "puppets," being associated with those who refer to terrorists killing Iraqi children and disrupting Iraqi life as "freedom fighters," ignoring the sacrifice of patriotic Iraqis by repeatedly saying Americans are doing "90% of the dying" is not the way to win hearts and minds.
John Kerry, despite his flavor of the week quote, does not believe in the mission in Iraq, and, therefore, cannot succeed. Even if he is pressured into remaining in Iraq his support of the goals will be half-hearted and everyone knows it, especially the bad guys. In his campaign John Kerry kept subconsciously inviting comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam. I fear that under John Kerry that comparison will be more evident.
3. Financial health and responsibility. I, too, would have liked to see less of a drunken sailor attitude toward domestic spending from this Administration. I understand the "pay me now or pay me later" argument for funding Medicare prescription drugs in the hope of curtailing future more expensive treatments, but also know that obtaining an impartial evaluation of the financial risk/benefit is near impossible. I also wish Bush could have moved on Social Security a bit harder, but I am confident he will in the second term. First, as a lame duck he can be more aggressive with his agenda. Second, Social Security reform is the only domestic agenda issue from the 2000 campaign he hasn’t acted on, and I think this was not for a lack of desire but because of practical reasons mandated by the unexpected advent of the GWOT. The bottom line is that Social Security is a ponzi scheme and if action is not taken to instill some reasonable financial model into it collapse cannot be avoided. Kerry has not a single plan to save Social Security other than more of the same.
4. Health care progress. The promise of free, available, high quality health care for everyone sounds good, but is not logically possible. Treated like a commodity, health care is a finite resource. Without a financial incentive to self-regulate access either service quality will suffer or rationing will be necessitated. Neither offers a long-term positive vision of health care in America. Despite Kerry's frequent insistences during the second debate that he was not proposing a "Government Health Care Program," at the minimum it sounded like "Government Health Insurance Program." Considering this pretty much is what Medicare is, who could convincingly present that idea as a solution to high costs? If this is a concern, I fail to see how one could not choose Bush.
5. Energy and environmental policy. Jane credits Kerry in this regard, but I wonder if some of this might be based upon the presumed Democrat ascendency in this area. This is not my forte, but a big red flag always goes off in my head whenever any politician proposes radical reform or action based upon the assumption that the Global Warming theory is proven science. Yes, the potential for harmful environmental effects from emissions needs to be looked into, but basing policy on unfounded claims or emotion never bodes well. If I had my druthers, we’d overhaul nuclear power regulation to make it an industry that can be profitable while remaining safe and tap into ANWR to supplement until we get some new plants online.
6. Character and integrity. Finally, as Jane herself said, Kerry changes his position too much. I understand changing one's mind, but I also think many of his supposed "flip-flops" seem too politically convenient at the time they happen. The county's motivated and on the march so I'll vote to authorize the war. Howard Dean is polling well with an anti-war position so I'll vote against the supplemental authorization. Despite his warts, bumps and malapropisms, Bush is Bush. If he says, "give up your weapons or we'll come take them," he means it (Kerry actually said he voted to give the President authorization to threaten force, not to use it). Libya, too, seems to believe President Bush. Perhaps part of it is my military background, but I cannot trust a man who will lie and demonize others for his own political purposes and then, 30 years later, claim his moral superiority based upon the exact same service he denigrated in others. In rough waters a ship with no rudder will be blown wherever the wind goes.