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Thursday, January 22, 2004

A Former Student Asks For Buggy Views of the Democratic Contenders

Matthew Mishory, a very good student with a flair for web-site development --- he's already a professional without having finished his undergrad studies --- has asked for some buggy views of the contenders vying for the Democratic Party nomination. The buggy prof himself, remember --- despite his support of President Bush's foreign policy revolution --- is a Democrat who didn't vote for Bush in 2000. Though leaning that way this time, his final choice when it comes to the ballot-box will hinge on three things:

  • the state of our economy then, especially whether it's creating lots of employment and looks like being able to sustain high-level growth for years;
  • the transforming revolution in Iraq, and US fortunes in the wider war on terrorism;
  • and the Democratic nominee and his own concrete plans for dealing with the first two challenges just mentioned.



Many thanks for the query. A confession: a big problem of illuminating the Democratic primary contest now unfolding is getting hard, down-to-earth information to generalize about. As things stand, almost all the candidates have dealt in slashing negativism or hey don't-ask-for-more generalities . . . Howard Dean, in some ways an admirable man who rose above his plutocratic background and ski-bum days, then became an MD, then a good moderate governor, probably self-imploding because of his attack-dog style and endless torrents of criticism aimed at President Bush. Democratic anger, it turns out, has its limits . . . all to the good.

As a general thing, I'd say that no candidate --- Democrat or Republican --- who doesn't tell us which programs he will expand or create and which ones he will cut back or end, and how much they will cost or save, is doing anything but waffling. Bush is no exception.


The Candidates

Joe Lieberman is the only candidate who hasn't hemmed-and-hawed on supporting the war with Iraq or the Bush foreign policy, despite some concrete and probably sound criticisms of the way it's been administered. He's a known Clinton moderate in domestic policy, also a man of moral force. See the informative L.A. Times story, full of details, about his rebuke to Clinton on the Senate Floor that earned his colleagues' respect. The trouble is, he has little or no chance to get the nomination. General Clark did offer a concrete detailed plan for tax changes, though without any estimate of how they might bring the budget deficits down other than saying he'd tax the wealthy and well-to-do more. Loose talk about consulting our allies more is so vague as to defy any description.

So, I suspect, we need to learn a lot more about Senator John Kerry.

A Kerry-Edwards ticket could be attractive, above all since no Democrat since Kennedy has ever won the presidency without winning several southern states. McGovern, come to that, couldn't win any state except Massachusetts --- Mondale scarcely doing better in 1984, or Dukakis winning any southern state in 1988. Kerry does need to be more concrete. On the war to destroy Saddamite Iraq and transform it --- part of a larger effort to prod big changes in the despotic corrupt Arab countries, all essentially badly governed and economic basket-cases --- he's had one leg up and one leg down, trimming here and there, rather than tell us concretely what he would do differently.

As for Edwards, he seems a decent guy, very young-looking for his age, and genial, and a Southerner, but . . . well, where does he stand on any big issue in concrete detail? If any visitor can answer that tomorrow, you will be celebrated on this site the day after. General Clark, who complained rightly when he was head of NATO and in charge of fighting the demagogic Yugoslav regime of having to get every bombing operation approved by Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Rome, London, and so on, has suddenly discovered that he would now consult far more with the EU members of NATO than Bush did. What exactly does that mean? Handing the French a veto in NATO or the Security Council over US policies around the world?

Mulitlateralism is a means to achieving foreign policy aims, not the aim itself. It can create the illusion of something being achieved, when in truth it only encourages inaction when action is needed. Worse, it can embolden Islamo-fascist terrorists or the North Koreans to write us off as weak-willed gas-bags . . . a big problem for us in dealing with the terrorist challenges that emerged after 1979, something pointed out at length and with skill by none other than James Woosley, our former outspoken CIA head.


But . . .

whether any Democrat will be Bush is another matter --- especially if the economy continues to improve. With a 59% approval rating, a 65% support for his policies in Iraq, and a strong economy despite the problems of job-creation so far, he will have to bungle badly --- or suffer a series of bad misfortunes at home or abroad --- to lose. Or so it seems.



So let's say that, beyond these general and fairly trite remarks, I've nothing to offer here other than this: I myself wouldn't support a candidate who isn't willing (as David Frum and Richard Perle put it in The NY Times recently):

1) to clearly go after terrorists no matter where, especially once a government on whose territory they are operating refuses to shut down their network or can't or is fearful of trying;

2) to destroy a terrorist-supporting regime or force big changes in its behavior by a combination of credible coercive diplomacy and some promised rewards for clear change.

In particular, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, and even Pakistan are problems for us; so is North Korea on a different level, though containing it in Pacific Asia, surrounded as it is by stable and powerful states, isn't equivalent to a Syria, Iraq, Iran, or Pakistan with WMD and terrorists on their soil. Pakistan is a big problem. Musharraf owes us. We need to pressure him to be bolder in dealing with home-grown terrorism and Pakistani nuclear and missile proliferation; we also need to strengthen the Indian-Pakistan détente and help mediate a settlement of Kashmir once and for all. The Saudi gangsters need to turn off their oil-financed hate-machines, at home and abroad. As for clerical-fascist Iran: well, probably a violent revolution will be essential; the hardline mullah fanatics are not going to be willing, it seems, to cede to even moderate mullah forces. Meanwhile, the population remains hostile to the diehard militants and their disastrous reign, not to mention showing friendliness to the US.

The gangster Baathist-state of bankrupt Syria, now that it has 140,000 American troops on its borders, may change on its own. We will need clear evidence of this. It has to negotiate a settlement with Israel over the Golan heights; shut down its support for Hamas and Hezbollah; end its occupation of Lebanon; end its WMD programs; and support a US-mediated peace between Palestinians and Israelis --- a two-state solution. Or else.

Diplomacy can and should always be tried in these and other case --- with allies, with neutrals, on hostile governments --- but there are limits. President Bush is right to insist that multilateralism is not an end in itself, only a means. Endless palaver at the UN is not a solution to anything, just the contrary. Those who exaggerate the UN's authority --- moral, diplomatic, or whatever --- should be asked to tell us how they justify the fact that Syria is chairing the Security Council, Khadaffi's Libya the UN Human Rights Commission, and --- were it not for our toppling Saddam and his brutal regime --- Saddamite Iraq would be chairing the UN Disarmament Commission. As we mentioned before --- it's worth underscoring again --- empty declarations not backed by concrete threats and promised rewards for changed behavior are a formula for disaster . . . something, come to that, of an EU specialty, which unfortunately President Clinton's administration also indulged in when it came to Taliban Afghanistan and Al Qaeda.


What Followed?

The record of their hollow rhetoric and non-credible threats is clear. Nothing effective was done. We paid a big price for that in the massacres of 9/11.

Worse, all that such hot-air statements did --- whether backed up or not by ineffectual cruise missile strikes a la Clinton --- was increase the contempt for us in Islamo-fascist circles and embolden them to attack us in the future. Those who want the evidence for this can click on the link earlier to the James Woolsey article.

And remember: however much damage terrorists can do by means of conventional arms would pale by comparison with the effective use of biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. Those rogue states that are producing them are our enemies: either their regimes will have to be destroyed or forced --- compelled --- to clearly alter their behavior. Is Libya a sign of this? Possibly. It shows the benefits of effective sustained coercive diplomacy of a credible sort, bolstered by the destruction of Saddamite Iraq and the humiliation of its brutal megalomaniac dicator. Still, we have to remain vigilant even over Libya. Encouraging as Khadaffi's latest concessions on paper are, the follow-through in concrete, clearly monitored and confirmed disarmament of his WMD is what counts.


Illusions, Self-Deception, and Wondrous Rhetoric

Let the EU Continentals who think their freedom is due to the League of Nations, the UN, or multilateral conferences --- after WWII, Nazi occupation, and the cold war ---- continue to criticize us on those scores. The cemetaries of France and other liberated countries are filled with the bodies of American, British, and Canadian dead in two huge wars. The 19- and 20-year old paratroopers who jumped out of a thousand transport planes and gliders on the night of June 4th, 1944, into a cold, moonless night over Nazi-occupied Europe weren't motivated by high-sounding platitudes pronounced at Geneva, the site of the League of Nations, nor were the tens of thousands who stormed the beaches later that day at Normandy. West Europe was liberated because of them, men like my dad --- a volunteer the day after Pearl Harbor despite being four years older than the legal limit. Asked by the recruiter who knew him personally what the hell he was doing, he said simply: we need to kill as many Nazis and Japanese as possible now, that's what I'm doing. He was put into the medical corps. The infantry post he wanted seemed too strenuous. Less than 3 years later . . . well, those of you who saw Saving Private Ryan know what the life expectancy was of unarmed medics on those beaches.

Sooner or later, anyway, even the delusive castle-chasing of the EU illusionists will likely be shattered by blood-shattering realities.

Meanwhile, those of you who know nothing of the ease with which even most West Europeans were willing to collaborate with the Nazis might rent the lengthy docu-video by a great French film-maker, Marcel Ophuls --- the son of the great Hollywood refuge-director: Le Chagrin et La Pietie, The Sorry and the Pity. Not only were most Frenchmen willing to collaborate, some of those interviewed by Ophuls can't ever remember that they were occupied during the war. What, there were Germans in our town? Even in countries with vigorous undergrounds --- France, Holland, Norway, Italy, or Denmark: never mind the opportunistic Swiss and Swedes who were neutral and profiting from the war --- the SS had no trouble raising volunteers for SS-Divisions. Lots of them.

Nor any trouble save in Denmark and Bulgaria and Finland getting the local police authorities to round up and send off Jews by the millions to slaughterhouses run by the Nazis and their local collaborators in occupied East Europe. Swiss factories hummed during the war, selling chemicals and other crucial munitions to the Nazis, even as their neutrality protected them from allied bombs. Swiss banks did even better. Minor players in international finance before WWII, they emerged with huge sums of gold and dollars and British pounds to become giants after 1945. And strangely, in a country where local jails keep such finnicky records that they can look up and tell you what a prisoner had for lunch on June 13th, 1912, the Zurich railway station can't find its records for hundreds of Nazi trains transporting Italian Partisans and Jews to extermination camps across their alleged neutral rail lines. Oh mein Gott! So sorry, mein Herr . . . but our records for the years 1942-1945 seem to have lots of inexplicable gaps. Sie wissen ja, wie das so geht: you know --- big eye wink here --- how things are, nicht wahr?

The same story of sorts in Sweden, Its ore-deposits were also important to the German war-making in WWII, even as the government in Stockholm let the Nazis transport troops between Norway and Finland on their alleged neutral railway lines. Maybe a little bombing of those lines and bridges and transport centers might have brought them back to reality.


Something Else Too

I would add a third criterion to judge any Presidential candidate in foreign policy:

3) Will that candidate, including President Bush, pledge to take strong action to deal with a clear case of genocide as in Rwanda in 1994, another example --- morally scandalous --- of Clinton inaction?

Kosovo, I add, was not a case of genocide. The war was justified for other reasons, not least ending the disastrous wars in the former Yugoslavia and destroying a repugnant regime in Belgrade causing trouble. That, however, the US would do nothing when a large portion of an ethnic group was being slaughtered in Rwanda is a source of national disgrace. It should not be repeated in the future. Anywhere. Whether we have to supply all or most of the troops for armed intervention to stop it is a secondary matter. [The French and the Belgians, for those of you who don't remember, had UN peacekeeping forces on the ground in Rwanda when the grisly slaughter began. Their response? To withdraw them as soon as possible. I don't recall much in the way of a rousing campaign to end the slaughter by the EU populations and their leaders at the time, only temerity . . . as disgracefully by our country's leadership. Nor did the UN peacekeepers stop the massacres of Bosnia Muslims until Clinton decided to use force belatedly in 1995. What did the UN do to help the Kurds being butchered by Saddam's biological and chemical weapons in the late 1980s? What did the US do? It's all a monumental disgrace. When women and children are being killed off in huge numbers like so much animal wastage by murderers, there's only one response: a quick murdering of the murderers.]

The Liberian model of intervention --- where massacres were going on --- wasn't genocide, but could be a good example of diplomatic initiatives and an American lead for some of the worst cases in Africa. The East Timor example, where we played a large logistics role for a peacekeeping intervention undertaken by Australians and Pacific Asian countries can also be built on. Three earlier buggy articles this last August tried to illuminate the problems and successes here, especially Liberia. But where hundreds of thousands or millions face extermination, we need to act forcibly and promptly.