Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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A recommendation for John Kerry on Iraq

Andrew Sullivan takes on the question of whether or not Iraq is another Vietnam (the answer is no) and in considering that poses an interesting question for John Kerry: What would he do if he were elected? Kerry is dodging the issue of what he would do in Iraq now, rather, he is staying in the mode of criticizing Bush for how he went in there. He recommends the following: " A neo-hawkish ouflanking of Bush is therefore a perfect electoral gambit. After all, what lies ahead in Iraq is not, in fact, a very Republican project. It’s classic nation-building - the kind of thing Clinton and Gore once favored and George W. Bush once resolutely opposed. Were Kerry to take this tack, it would, of course, be a turning point rich in irony, especially when viewed through the prism of Vietnam. Whereas Richard Nixon inherited a Democratic war, Kerry, the man who found his first fame in anti-Vietnam protests, would inherit a Republican war. Whereas Nixon was doing all he could to find a way out with honor, Kerry would be doing all he could to find a way to win for the sake of democracy. Yes, we may be seeing a strange replay of Vietnam. But in reverse. And, quite possibly, with an entirely different ending."

Discussions - 2 Comments

Don’t see it as a perfect electoral gambit. Who’s going to believe Kerry has the wisdom, will, or character to implement a more "hawkish" strategy, vs. the demonstrated resolve of Bush? Electorally, Kerry would have to jettison his entire ostrich base (a large part) and then peel off Bush supporters or independents who are realists on the war. Sounds dubious.

And was Bush "resolutely opposed" to anything resembling so-called nation-building? At the time, I thought the opposition, which I heartily shared, was to engaging over-stretched and shrinking US military forces in low-probability-of-success missions in areas not of vital interest to US national security. Haiti, Balkans, Somalia.

It would require digging out the campaign position paper on the subject to verify, but I think this point has been misinterpreted or mis-remembered for years, and one sees it all the time from observers of all stripes.

I suppose Sullivan’s point would be arguable (not a winning argument, but an honest one that deserved thoughtful refutation) if the US were at war with Iraq. But we’re not.

According to the President, we’re at war with "terrorism". Of course, any thoughtful person knows that’s not true either. In the first place, you can’t be at war with a common noun. War requires a proper noun - like a country, or a tribe, even a person.
But Potus’ semi-PC ploy isn’t fooling anyone and possibly even serves some obscure purpose, because we all know exactly who we’re at war against - the fundamentalist, jihad-loving, Jew-hating, media-manipulating, heaven-can’t-wait corner of Islam that wants to destroy America any and every way it can. (Is this all of Islam? Certainly not - it’s a small minority. However, one can persuasively argue that it’s the minority within the big Islamic tent that takes its faith the most seriously.)

In any event, here’s the point: America’s never "changed horses in the middle of the stream" (Lincoln) when it comes to being at war. The extreme example is FDR, where we kept re-electing him notwithstanding a 150 year-old, two-term tradition, for no reason other than the best reason - we were in the middle of a big war. Take a minute and run a mental checklist to convince yourself.

So if on November 9th George W. Bush is alive and the U.S. has not won the war against that faction of Islam that wants to destroy us, he will be re-elected. In the meantime, the chattering will be insufferable.

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