For me the election comes down to the advisability of the war in Iraq, and the candidates, based upon their mutual emphasis on the matter, seem to agree.
By way of perspective, I am a social liberal, an economic moderate, and, since 9/11, a defense hawk. I agree with the notion of getting them before they get us, and the wisdom of an aggressive offense being – in the long run – the best form of defense.
Sen. Kerry speaks about only 5% of containers being shipped into the U.S. being inspected, and I agree that this is a source of concern, but circling the wagons is always going to leave space between those wagons and it will always be possible for determined, ideologically-crazed murderers who worship death to squeeze through those spaces.
The best hope for security really IS to stop the terrorists at the source by capturing or killing them, by dissuading those who might aid, support or sympathize with them that their jihad is pointless, and by spreading liberty, as free people are least likely to feel the need or desire to engage in terrorism. If this is the “neocon” worldview, then so be it.
Does this sound naive and utopian? Perhaps in the short run it is – look at the mess in Iraq, and there is no question that right now it IS a mess. But we are at the beginning of the process: radical change of any kind tends to release competing forces that appear anarchic and that cost real lives, suffering, pain and resources. War always looks like an miasmic mess from the inside and while it is ongoing, just like a hurricane or a tornado, but there IS an end to both kinds of whirlwinds, though riding both out requires determination, vision, perspective, and some luck.
But does that mean the change is not worth the cost? That is a very reasonable and arguable question and I respect the views of those who do not share my perspective, we simply disagree.
Ultimately it’s very simple: was Iraq under Saddam Hussein a threat? The question is not did he have WMD, it would appear he did not. It would appear the combined intelligence of the Western world rather sucked, and there is zero doubt in my mind that the members of this administration viewed the available intelligence in a light most favorable to their own agenda: they wanted to go into Iraq. But this is not the same as lying.
So was Saddam a threat? The only reason he didn’t have WMD anymore was because of an ongoing, expensive, and onerous international system of sanctions that Iraq’s open and secret (France, Germany, Russia) allies were doing their best to subvert and undermine. The sanctions and military efforts and expense required to enforce them could not have been sustained forever. When they would have ended – either officially or by the time they were completely breeched unofficially – Saddam would have resumed his efforts to obtain and create WMD. The Duelfer Report confirms this, just as it confirms that Saddam did not currently have WMD.
Therefore, in the medium or, without question, long run, Saddam would have once again become a threat, jsut as he has been in the past – to his neighbors, his own people, and to the United States, toward whom he has expressed nothing but hatred and contempt. More specifically, there are reasonable arguments that link Saddam to the first WTC bombing in 1993, and there is debatable but ultimately not dismissable evidence that Saddam backed a plot to kill George H.W. Bush in April of ’93. Ergo, he had the will, and ultimately, one way or another, would have regained the means in order to carry out that will. Saddam was a dangerous malignancy that would have inevitably metastasized.
But, doesn’t that apply to all kinds of countries, including the other two-thirds of Bush’s own Axis of Evil, Iran and North Korea? Why yes it does, but for a variety of reasons practical, logistical, political, and (oh no, you mean anyone in the current government cares?) diplomatic, it was simply not feasible to invade and overthrow the governments of either North Korea or Iran. This is the subject of another discussion, but is anyone going to tell me we could have, or could now (including if we hadn’t invaded Iraq) directly effect regime change in either of these countries by overt military action? Reality counts because we live in the real world – you do what you can when you can. We had to start somewhere and Iraq was the most reasonable, possible place to start.
If Iraq was indeed a threat or would have been if foreseeable events were to come to pass (the sanctions being subverted or lifted), then regime change was the right thing to do because the cost of dealing with what appears to me to have been an inevitable problem was only going to grow over time – I believe it was and it was, therefore, despite reservations about social policy, the environment, and separation of church and state, I can only logically vote for Bush. And with only two weeks left to go, I can’t foresee my position changing.
A final note: despite my reservations on a policy level with both candidates, I do not see my vote as a matter of “the lesser of two evils.” I respect and admire John Kerry, agree with him on a number of issues, believe he is sincere and that his changes of opinion and policy are not only, or even primarily, politically motivated.
I also believe he loves this country just as much as George Bush or I do. And while my differences with Bush are real and strong, I do not believe he is stupid, or evil, or insincere or a liar. He is a manager and a very good one: he is not a puppet – he is the one who pulls the strings.
I believe both candidates can ably run the country and that is the beauty of the two-party system: the candidates are forced toward the middle, they are forced to reach a consensus with the 60% or so of the nation in the middle, so that while things DO change from administration to administration, there is more continuity than discontinuity.
We all know, deep down, no matter how hard we fight the fight and bitch and moan during the election process itself, that we can live with the result even if it goes against our wishes. That is very comforting knowledge to hold.