So you say you’re still undecided….
Looking for a last-minute guide to make up your mind? You can access my reasons for voting for Kerry by clicking here. Go read the Economist as well — these paragraphs ring true for me: Invading Iraq was not a mistake. Although the intelligence about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction has been shown to have ...
Invading Iraq was not a mistake. Although the intelligence about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction has been shown to have been flimsy and, with hindsight, wrong, Saddam’s record of deception in the 12 years since the first Gulf war meant that it was right not to give him the benefit of the doubt. The containment scheme deployed around him was unsustainable and politically damaging: military bases in holy Saudi Arabia, sanctions that impoverished and even killed Iraqis and would have collapsed. But changing the regime so incompetently was a huge mistake. By having far too few soldiers to provide security and by failing to pay Saddam’s remnant army, a task that was always going to be long and hard has been made much, much harder. Such incompetence is no mere detail: thousands of Iraqis have died as a result and hundreds of American soldiers. The eventual success of the mission, while still possible, has been put in unnecessary jeopardy. So has America’s reputation in the Islamic world, both for effectiveness and for moral probity…. This only makes the longer-term project more important, not less. To succeed, however, America needs a president capable of admitting to mistakes and of learning from them. Mr Bush has steadfastly refused to admit to anything: even after Abu Ghraib, when he had a perfect opportunity to dismiss Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, and declare a new start, he chose not to. Instead, he treated the abuses as if they were a low-level, disciplinary issue. Can he learn from mistakes? The current approach in Iraq, of training Iraqi security forces and preparing for elections to establish an Iraqi government with popular support, certainly represents an improvement, although America still has too few troops. And no one knows, for example, whether Mr Rumsfeld will stay in his job, or go. In the end, one can do no more than guess about whether in a second term Mr Bush would prove more competent…. Many readers, feeling that Mr Bush has the right vision in foreign policy even if he has made many mistakes, will conclude that the safest option is to leave him in office to finish the job he has started. If Mr Bush is re-elected, and uses a new team and a new approach to achieve that goal, and shakes off his fealty to an extreme minority, the religious right, then The Economist will wish him well. But our confidence in him has been shattered. We agree that his broad vision is the right one but we doubt whether Mr Bush is able to change or has sufficient credibility to succeed, especially in the Islamic world. Iraq’s fledgling democracy, if it gets the chance to be born at all, will need support from its neighbours—or at least non-interference—if it is to survive. So will other efforts in the Middle East, particularly concerning Israel and Iran. John Kerry says the war was a mistake, which is unfortunate if he is to be commander-in-chief of the soldiers charged with fighting it. But his plan for the next phase in Iraq is identical to Mr Bush’s, which speaks well of his judgment. He has been forthright about the need to win in Iraq, rather than simply to get out, and will stand a chance of making a fresh start in the Israel-Palestine conflict and (though with even greater difficulty) with Iran. After three necessarily tumultuous and transformative years, this is a time for consolidation, for discipline and for repairing America’s moral and practical authority. Furthermore, as Mr Bush has often said, there is a need in life for accountability. He has refused to impose it himself, and so voters should, in our view, impose it on him, given a viable alternative. John Kerry, for all the doubts about him, would be in a better position to carry on with America’s great tasks.
However, in the interest of fairness, go read the Bush endorsements from Virginia Postrel, Megan McArdle, and Greg Djerejian. Postrel’s detached endorsement of Bush is the mirror image of my attitude towards Kerry:
Bush leaves me cold and always has. I never wanted to hang out with him, so I don’t take our policy differences personally. I never idolized his leadership, so I don’t feel he’s failed me. He gets my vote in part because I don’t identify with him. He’s just a hired hand, and he’s better than the alternative.
I feel somewhat despondent about voting against my party — but reading this Guardian story about Tom Wolfe’s attitudes towards New York society, particularly the closing paragraph, reminds me of the occasional virtues of going against the grain:
Parting cordially, it seems strange that such an effervescent maverick, such a jester at the court of all power – all vanity, indeed – should so wholeheartedly endorse the power machine behind George Bush. And so an obvious thought occurs: perhaps Wolfe is jester at the court of New York too. Would he really be happier away from New York, out on the plains, in the “red states” where everyone at dinner parties votes for Bush? Wolfe’s eyes revert to that mischievous glint, and he allows himself a smile. “I do think,” he admits, apparently speaking for himself, his country and his president, “that if you are not having a fight with somebody, then you are not sure whether you are alive when you wake up in the morning.”
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and the author of The Ideas Industry. Twitter: @dandrezner
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