Saturday, October 16, 2004

Quarter Over

Finals are over and I'm happy about that. I think I did well on my Intro final and I know I aced my Japan final. So we'll see how the grades turn out in a week. One note about my paper situation. Where my Intro professor marked me down because of theory, my Japan professor not only loved my paper, she requested that I provide a pristine copy that she can use as an example for future students. I'd say we have a bit of a disjuncture here.

I got the job at Baker Botts, meaning that I'm once again returning to the legal world. I don't start for another week, which kind of sucks, but it will be nice to earn some money. Plus I'll meet some actual, real live Brits along the way.

Politics:

First, more scandal. Youth voter participation group Rock the Vote is urging Bush and Kerry to have a debate on the likelihood of a draft being instituted to keep the US in Iraq. It's a real issue because at current force levels, the US can not continue to maintain 130,000 troops in Iraq and hope to deter North Korea, as well as maintain forward deployment capabilities in the future. The other trend is that reservist recruiting is down because when before, recruits knew there was a possibility of going to war, now they know there is a certainty. The President, in all his wisdom, says that we don't need a draft and that the all volunteer army is working. But that's not what military leaders are saying behind the scenes. It's going to be a stark choice - drawdown US forces in Iraq or find a way to increase the size of the US military.

At any rate, Rock the Vote has been publicly asking for this debate because they think it's an important issue, especially to young voters. Well, apparently RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie didn't like that much and he issued a cease and desist order to the organization threatening to remove it's 501c3 status (tax-exempt) if it did not stop talking about this issue. Ladies and Gentlemen, your Republican party. That's right, when a non-partisan group raises policy issues potentially damaging to the President, the GOP says "stop or you're going to be sued". I don't think this is the Republican party of yesterday. This is the Karl Rove party.

Plea:

This goes out to all potential Bush voters that read this blog (Mother).

This election is about Iraq. On the domestic front, the differences are subtle (small changes in the tax code, funding priorities will change, one likes to spend and not pay for it, the other likes balanced budgets). The one exception is the environment where Kerry would actually give enforcement money to the EPA so that they can stop polluters. (No one talks about the environment, but Bush's admin has been the worst environmentally in the history of the EPA.) There may be a Supreme Court justic or two in the next term, but it's silly to base a vote on that because it's completely unpredictable and the Senate check on nominations usually prevents true radicals (like Robert Bork) from getting to the Court (Scalia excepted). On the "hot button issues" like abortion and gay marraige, the next President is unlikely to have any effect because those are primarily state issues - not federal.

SO, the issue is Iraq and the War on Terror. Like him or not, there's no doubt that Bush has the country entangled in a war that we can not win, in a nation that will not become stable, and a quagmire that will not go away. Therefore, America must select the candidate best prepared to deal with Iraq and the ever looming war on terror (and al Queda's 18,000 new recruits that they now have because the US went into Iraq).

As some of you may have picked up in the debates, and as this article makes clear (and since you need to be a subscriber, you can read the relevant portions by scrolling down to Oct 14, 3:31 pm here), there is a HUGE difference between the two candidates on this issue. The basic point is that the Bush administration sees the conflict as one between states and the Kerry team sees the post cold war era as particularly dangerous because of sub-state actors. See, the war on terror is NEVER going to be won if it attempts to take on nations, because nations are wise enough to know that aiding terrorists leads to grave consequences. Deterrence still works. This is exactly what General Wesley Clark was talking about and it's still a relevant problem today.

Traditionally, foreign policy has been a GOP strength. That's largely because of Nixon, Reagan, and George Bush I. While each had their domestic shortcomings (and two of the three had huge scandals - not a good batting average), they each achieved good policy. After failing in Vietnam, Nixon opened up China, something that proved an effective counter balance to the Soviets in Asia. Reagan successfully played power politics with the Soviets and brought a quicker conclusion to the Cold War than most expected (even after failing in the Middle East). And George Bush I effectively prosecuted Gulf War I as well as being generally solid on the transition from Cold War to his labeled "New World Order".

The thing is, though, whether by choice or because of domestic scandal, Clinton topped them all. The world was much more unstable during Clinton's terms than it was during the previous administrations. State sovereignty broke down across the globe, terrorism rose up (for the first time in the US), and regional divisions on trade rose up. It was a much more difficult environment to manage and while he started slowly, he rose to the challenge admirably. Think about it - Clinton was instrumental in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, he kept the Israel-Palestinian peace process on track (and had a final settlement on the table in December of 2000 that the Israeli's were ready to sign but that Arafat just couldn't bring himself to), he effectively combined military force and peacekeeping in the Balkans and former Yugoslavia, and he refocused US foreign policy toward sub-state actors and terrorism in response to the World Trade Center bombing of 93. You can criticize Clinton's policies, but as Bush says, foreign policy is "hard work", but "it's necessary" and it doesn't always work out the way you intend.

The Bush admin, however, has fundamentally misread the war on terror because it fails to acknowledge that the day of sovereign states challenging the US is over. Until and unless a great power emerges that could compete with the US capabilities, the greatest threat is from sub-state actors. That's why building a missile defense system is assinine. The nuclear threat isn't from North Korea - nothing changed in the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine. New nuclear powers are a problem, but they don't represent a "grave" threat to the United States because they could never hope to destroy more than one US city while we could devestate every inch of their country with the push of a button. No, the greatest threat to US national security is from terrorists sneaking nuclear weapons across the border on ship or truck and blowing up a city. Only one candidate understands that. Only one candidate is likely to focus on that mission. It doesn't mean that you need a "plan", it's more of an attitudinal shift in all levels of the federal bureaucracy. George Bush is leading the nation as if the "war" on terror can be won by trouncing regional powers. Not only has that strategy failed, it's created 18,000 new recruits for Osama bin Laden.

That's why John Kerry is the ONLY choice in this election.

5 Comments:

Blogger steve said...

Just a bit of Devil's Advocate here, as this blogger and I generally see eye-to-eye on the political situation here in the US.

This latest blog states tha the focus should be on sub-state actors, and that new nuclear threats are NOT the main threat to US national security... but havent the previous blogs stressed that North Korea and NOT Iraq shouldve been our focus?

3:12 PM  
Blogger SJH said...

AT: Devil's Advocate

Yes, North Korea/Iran were more present dangers than Iraq. However, this post was directed at the War on Terror - not foreign policy in general. North Korean and Iranian prolif are distinct problems for the regional security situation, but those nations are unlikely to ever challenge the US. Ironically, the demolition of Hussein's regime is Exhibit A for rogue nations everywhere.

One argument I did not make earlier is that some say Rogues that prolif will distribute Nuke tech/bombs to terrorists. That is a risk and I'll not discount it. However, it is much more difficult to do that because uranium/plutonium, etc are traceable. Meaning that if that did happen and there was a nuclear event in the US, it would easy peasy (as the Brits say) to find out where the bomb came from and then you got Iraq II on a much worse scale (for the rogue).

The point is, Bush should have focused on containing Iraq, North Korea, and Iran and resisted the massive military commitment that we're currently embroiled in. Of course, I know you know that, but I like to clarify.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

To call anything that Clinton, or anyone else, did with the former Yugoslavia as good is asinine! Well I guess you can as long as you disregard that the US, UN, etc took forever to act on the issue. So yes, after the years of genocide, they finally were successful at initiating "peace".

Also your Al Qaeda numbers are less than solid, while there may never be a true way to report with accuracy, to give those numbers absolute credence is a mistake. I think the fact that they were forced to fight soldiers for a year instead of civilians hurt more than that article stated.

As for Iraq, we are there. We are in it. Pulling out at this point for the sake of it is a mistake.

6:48 PM  
Blogger steve said...

Pull out altogether... probably a bad idea. But scale back greatly and gradually... probably should. Bottom line is that that region has been a hotbed of hostility since the inception of Israel, but was perhaps the closest to peace it has ever been in the last few years... until Bush went in and fired the hell up out of that region. We'll see how it ends I suppose (and the offer to IM is still open).

8:33 PM  
Blogger SJH said...

AT: Clinton

Look, IR isn't easy. Even with a preponderence of power, the US still has vast trouble getting nations to do what we want. That being said, Clinton did the best he could. The UN was dragging ass in Bosnia, which is why Clinton pushed for NATO to get involved. But even NATO dragged ass because of French/German opposition to air strikes. While there was vast genocide, to put that on the feet of Clinton is inappropriate. He had two options: work with the world or go in alone. The world is notorious for being slow to respond to genocide (i.e. Rwanda). What Clinton ended up accomplishing there was remarkable because he took opposing parties, sat them down in Dayton, and used the threat of force to create a peace settlement. With a limited set of options, he accomplished a lot.

8:19 AM  

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