Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 11, 2004
POLITICS: Kerry At War, or, Rather, War At Kerry

Many people, starting as usual with Powerline, are piling on John Kerry's answers in this NY Times Magazine profile of his foreign policy views. Geraghty says that it "confirms every conservative’s worst fears and suspicions about Kerry’s views on how to fight terror." Eugene Volokh is appalled by Kerry's analogy of terrorism to illegal gambling and prostitution, our responses to which "are examples of practical surrender, or at least a cease-fire punctuated by occasional but largely half-hearted and ineffectual sorties." Maguire notes Kerry's hesitancy to talk even to the sympathetic ears at the Times, and points out, "if Kerry does not think he can communicate clearly with a Timesman, how can we take seriously his belief that he can sell his message to a cold, uncaring world?" Lileks, as usual, offers the most cutting critique of Kerry for saying that "[w]e have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance":

Mosquito bites are a nuisance. Cable outages are a nuisance. Someone shooting up a school in Montana or California or Maine on behalf of the brave martyrs of Fallujah isn't a nuisance. It's war.

But that's not the key phrase. This matters: We have to get back to the place we were.

But when we were there we were blind. When we were there we losing. When we were there we died. We have to get back to the place we were. We have to get back to 9/10? We have to get back to the place we were. So we can go through it all again? We have to get back to the place we were. And forget all we’ve learned and done? We have to get back to the place we were. No. I don’t want to go back there.

There's more; read the whole thing.

The profile is an astonishing caricature of Kerry, and all the more frightening because it doesn't seem that the writer - this is the Times Magazine, after all - wants to do a hatchet job on Kerry. There's the elitism:

When I asked Kerry's campaign advisers about these poll numbers [on Bush's advantages on national security], what I heard from some of them in response was that Kerry's theories on global affairs were just too complex for the electorate and would have been ignored . . .

There's the insistence on a posture of seeking the approval of other nations:

''I think we can do a better job,'' Kerry said, ''of cutting off financing, of exposing groups, of working cooperatively across the globe, of improving our intelligence capabilities nationally and internationally, of training our military and deploying them differently, of specializing in special forces and special ops, of working with allies, and most importantly -- and I mean most importantly -- of restoring America's reputation as a country that listens, is sensitive, brings people to our side, is the seeker of peace, not war, and that uses our high moral ground and high-level values to augment us in the war on terror, not to diminish us.''

This, by the way, is precisely the usage of the word "sensitive" that so many Democrats said Kerry wasn't using when Dick Cheney mocked him for using the word to describe the proper approach to the war on terror. There's the use, as Prof. Volokh suggested, of obviously losing efforts as a role model:

[W]hen I spoke to Kerry in August, he said that many of the interdiction tactics that cripple drug lords, including governments working jointly to share intelligence, patrol borders and force banks to identify suspicious customers, can also be some of the most useful tools in the war on terror.

I'd agree that these can be useful supplemental tools, all of them - in fact, several of the Patriot Act's provisions are modeled on what we could already do in drug investigations - but I'm sorry, the war on drugs is just not a winning model.

There's the telling contrast on the role of states:

Bush, like Kerry, accepts the premise that America is endangered mainly by a new kind of adversary that claims no state or political entity as its own. But he does not accept the idea that those adversaries can ultimately survive and operate independently of states; in fact, he asserts that terrorist groups are inevitably the subsidiaries of irresponsible regimes. . . Kerry's view, on the other hand, suggests that it is the very premise of civilized states, rather than any one ideology, that is under attack. And no one state, acting alone, can possibly have much impact on the threat, because terrorists will always be able to move around, shelter their money and connect in cyberspace; there are no capitals for a superpower like the United States to bomb, no ambassadors to recall, no economies to sanction.

Again, half right - it's true that Al Qaeda's operations seem starkly nihilist and anarchist . . . except that it does aim at a political vision of a radical Islamist caliphate, and it has gained crucial advantages from states who tolerate it.

There's the complete misunderstanding of how we introduce democracy in the Middle East:

''You can't impose it on people,'' he said. ''You have to bring them to it. You have to invite them to it. You have to nurture the process.''

Um, yeah. And how would the people of Iraq and Afghanistan have gone about acepting that invitation, precisely? How do you deliver it to the people of Syria?

''We need to engage more directly and more respectfully with Islam, with the state of Islam, with religious leaders, mullahs, imams, clerics, in a way that proves this is not a clash with the British and the Americans and the old forces they remember from the colonial days,'' Kerry told me during a rare break from campaigning, in Seattle at the end of August. ''And that's all about your diplomacy.''

Leave aside that "the old forces they remember from the colonial days" would include the French (and the Turks) but not the U.S. And that the Saudis, for one, were never colonized. Is Kerry unaware that the religious leaders in many parts of the Islamic world are either part of the governing apparatus (Iran) or on the public payroll (Saudi Arabia)?

''I know Mubarak well enough to know what I think I could achieve in the messaging and in the press in Egypt,'' Kerry went on. ''And, similarly, with Jordan and with King Abdullah, and what we can do in terms of transformation in the economics of the region by getting American businesspeople involved, getting some stability and really beginning to proactively move in those ways.

Mubarak is, at best, an evil to be tolerated while we work on the heart of the region. Kerry thinks he can be helpful? And "getting American businesspeople involved" - yeah, I'm sure lots of companies will want the kind of good press that Kerry has given to Halliburton for its work in Iraq. What's most ominous about the "American businesspeople" line is the suggestion that the solution here is an economic one, which completely misreads the political-religious nature of the problem. Islamism isn't communism; you can't break it just by touting the free market.

''I mean, you ever hear anything about the 'road map' anymore?'' he asked, referring to the international plan for phasing in peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which Kerry supports. ''No. You ever hear anything about anything anymore? No. Do you hear anything about this greater Middle East initiative, the concepts or anything?

Perhaps Kerry can enlighten us on whether he thinks the Palestinians have cooperated with the "road map" sufficiently to move down that road.

In all of this, Kerry intends to use as leverage America's considerable capacity for economic aid; a Kerry adviser told me, only slightly in jest, that Kerry's most tempting fantasy is to attend the G-8 summit.

No, I can't satirize that. How could you?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:22 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

He's pandering to the "I wish it would just all go away, why can't things be like the used to be" sentiment.

I know there are a lot of frustrated folks out there that wish we could go back. The point is we can't. We can never again afford to ignore growing threats against our country.

President Bush realizes this and Kerry doesn't.

IMO-Kerry would say anything to get elected.

Posted by: roux at October 11, 2004 11:22 AM

Stupid ass republicans need to wake up. You losers are simpily just patheic.

John Kerry would give anything to protect this country including giving his life. The man still has bullets in his body from serving his country.

Bush on the other hand is a whinning little scraed chicken s--t. Not only did he get his dad to make sure he would not have to risk his life by getting him out of nam, he didn't even show up for his walk in the park service in the gaurd. He does not care about this country! He is to much of a coward to be President. On 9/11 he froze up like a little child when he was told America is under attack. He more scared than any man I have ever seen in my life. He sat there shaking scared like a child for seven minutes, yes seven minutes. When JFK was killed in Dallas he was told that he probaly would be shot, but he went out any way to give the people a scense of security. This is why we have a VP, "W the President" is nothing but a patheic coward!!!!

By the way I would never want to end up arm by arm in a battle with any republican. The way you small minded children act like war is nothing just proves that when it comes down to business you chicken hawks will freeze up at the time of real combat. For example "W the President" rushed to war becuase he doesn't really know what it is, because he actually tought he accomplished the mission and look where we are now.

Wake up everyone the Democrats are the ones who have won ever war America has faced. If you really belive in security with results you will vote democrat!!!

Posted by: Ryan at October 15, 2004 5:19 PM
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