Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Clint Taylor: "Elliot - you better vote Bush"
Here is an email Clint Taylor sent me yesterday. As many of you know, I'm torn between voting Bush and Badarnik (Liberterian Party).


You’re not shy about your conflict over whom you will vote for. Will you vote for Bush, or withhold your vote and assent to Kerry’s leadership? Bush has expanded government! He’s not for abortion rights! He’ll empower a shadowy Christian theocracy!

Well, Hamlet, do you expect the supporters of the various candidates to come to your dorm and give you a power point to resolve your political identity crisis?

Because I will, if that’s what it takes. I’ll do anything legal and ethical that might help convince you George Bush deserves your vote in Ohio. It’s that important.

This is about more than the two candidates that are running and their records (or their lack thereof.) It’s about the judges they will appoint, the advisers they will heed, the message they will send to the rest of the world.

You could get tied up in intellectual knots computing the lesser evil. You could assign weighted balances to various issues and run regressions on their departure from your positions. Or you could step back and look at the big picture:

This election is a referendum on the relationship of America to the rest of the world. Bush stands for the proposition that it is all right for America to go on offense to protect our security. Like we did in Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Kerry says he believes that, but he hasn’t really projected that image well. He could do so if he wanted to; but even while he swears he’ll hunt down terrorists and kill them he sounds like he’s trying to convince himself. With good reason: he voted against Iraq I. He voted for Iraq II but then switched his position. He militated against anti-communist activities in Central America because (according to the Boston Globe) they reminded him of Vietnam. He served admirably but then returned and castigated U.S. involvement there even as he slandered American troops as butchers, renegades, and rapists. I think the only war he was for was part of the drug war, when he voted for the invasion of Panama in 1989.

Kerry’s slogan is “safer at home, more respected abroad”. The two are, sadly, mutually exclusive. Before September 11 we were somewhat more respected abroad, or at least marginally less detested, even as the hijackers planned our destruction. If we are less respected now, we are also safer at home thanks to the elimination of the Taliban, the capture of Saddam, and the disarming of Libya.

A side effect of our offensive operations has been the extension of democracy and human freedom where it hasn’t ever taken root before. Women vote in Afghanistan. Iraq is a mess but they’re having elections; the mass graves have been opened, and Uday’s rape rooms are closed. The Iranian mullahs are desperate and walking a nuclear tightrope that I suspect will be neatly snipped soon after the election. Bashar Assad is showing a little perestroika. Aristide is out of Haiti; Charles Taylor—a repugnant cannibal—is out of power in Liberia. These aren’t accidents: because tyrants are America’s natural enemies, we are sowing the seeds of democracy on their graves. Which has never been a popular thing to do.

Kerry, meanwhile, needs to review Machiavelli’s dictum that it is better to be feared than loved. He proposes truckling to the Iranian mullahs and offering to give them nuclear fuel, and “calling their bluff”. Why? Does this man seriously doubt the Iranian mullahs are bluffing when they say they want a peaceful reactor? Is he that credulous? Now this isn’t like giving them a ready-made bomb; he might argue; if they try to turn this into highly enriched uranium the inspectors will catch them.

He’s crafty, this John Kerry. I’ll bet when he was a prosecutor, he would evaluate whether a suspect was a murderer by handing them a pistol and seeing whether he shot anybody with it. This was the logic that motivated the 1994 agreed Framework with North Korea. That worked brilliantly, until North Korea just threw out the inspectors, turned off the cameras, and opened up Bombs R’ Us.

Kerry’s logic on Iran will have us repeat that performance. And Iran, unlike North Korea, has already been tied to terrorism. The one I remember most vividly is the car bomb at a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994. Killed 85 people, and scared the living crap out of my girlfriend who was studying abroad not too far away. That was the second bombing in Buenos Aires; they blew up the Israeli embassy a couple of years earlier. (Here’s a link: http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/europe/08/22/britain.argentina/) As I married that girl and she is now the mother of my daughter, I have a selfish interest in making sure that Iran will not repeat that stunt with a nuclear weapon. I want Iran armed with spitballs, not our own troops. I don’t need to call their bluff. They’re not bluffing.

If Kerry is for calling bluffs, then he ought to have supported the invasion of Iraq. If Saddam had in fact secretly, illegally destroyed or given away his weapons to preserve their power as a deterrent, then that was a bluff. And like John Wayne in True Grit, twirling his Winchester and shouting “FILL YOUR HAND, YOU SON OF A BITCH!”, Bush called his bluff.

But I’m leading up to something here. You’re a libertarian, Elliot, and I’m more of a conservative and I certainly don’t take your support of a conservative candidate for granted. And even though you might like the expansion of liberty abroad, you’re probably worried about the state of it at home.

You should. Because Bush’s offensive strategy against terrorists is better for our liberties than Kerry’s defensive, consensual strategy. We need to defend the borders better. But to defend the borders without addressing the source of the problem means that we’re just buying time and we’re living in fear. Kerry has said he’d like to see terrorism reduced to a nuisance like gambling or prostitution. But that’s silly; we don’t quake in fear, worrying that we will be propositioned by some busty jihadi in fishnets. Conversely, the Indians that run our casinos might host the Syrian Wayne Newton, but they’re not going to blow up a Jewish Community Center. Terrorism, by definition, cannot be a nuisance, and nuisances do not inspire terror. They inspire indignation, maybe even outrage, but not terror.

Terror is the intended result of terrorism, however, and it is a very corrosive product. It eats away at our liberties. It rots our civility and it numbs us to the many awful things done to fight it. McCarthy exploited terror about communism (much of which was justified.) Putin is using it to consolidate power in Russia. Some say Bush is using it to consolidate power here. Of course, “some” are wrong.

Nine-Eleven’s terror had one salutary effect in that it dissolved a little of the crusted lime that held our anti-terror bureaucracy in place. We were free to ask questions and re-configure things. And the guys who wrote the Patriot Act noticed that we weren’t able to fight terrorism even as efficiently as we fought drug traffickers. They looked around and saw a number of walls and inefficiencies hobbling our law-enforcement and intelligence services, many of them put there by Americans who simply did not trust America to defend herself. And everyone, even drug warriors like me, agreed that we at least ought to be able to use the same tools and strategies to fight terrorists that we were able to use to fight drug traffickers.

Everyone but John Kerry, I should add—but that’s another article in pre-publication right now. And of course, it’s not that the drug war has worked out so great, rather, that if the CIA wants to talk about intelligence with the FBI to stop a terrorist, they should get to. If they want to get a FISA warrant from a judge to wiretap a suspect, they can. There’s no documented abuse of Patriot Act powers; the library search provision hasn’t even been used. It’s hardly a power grab.

All the same it’s regrettable that we’ve had to make some of those changes in evidentiary standards. It’s regrettable we need to talk about stuff like “moderate physical pressure” and “unarmed combatants” and “racial profiling” the ugly neologism of “homeland security”. But we do need to talk about it, because we are at war, and we are on the defensive. But we are on the offensive, too—we are undermine radical Islam where it grows. We’re not managing it. We’re ending it. Slowly but surely, across the world, we’re suffocating it like we did Communism. And someday radical, fundamentalist Islam will be remembered like the only like the extinguished Thuggee murder-cult in India (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/features/thugs/ ). Can you name a single Thuggee martyr who was crushed under the boot of British colonialism? Nope. Just the generic word “thug” brings them to mind now and then. (And by the way, Hinduism, the larger religion of which the Thuggees were a perversion, is doing quite well without them, last time I checked. There were Muslim Thuggees as well, but not anymore.)

This is not some Orwellian perpetual war. We beat Nazism by going on the offensive. We beat Communism by a hundred ugly proxy wars and rebellions around the globe. We will vanquish radical Islamism and perhaps leave some lasting democracies in its wake. And we will still be America when we finish.

A vote for Bush is a vote for a winnable, finite war on terror.

Contrast this to Kerry’s cosmopolitan approach to this war. He demands compromise, and burden sharing, and a defensive posture. He wants to manage the problem. He wants to regulate it. It’s “primarily a law enforcement problem”.

Like gambling. Like prostitution. Like the war on drugs, except that Kerry actually advocated... ahh, there I go again. Anyway, a daily event. No biggie. An “acceptable level of violence” as was decreed in Northern Ireland in the ‘80’s. A nuisance. A government program like poverty, a fake, platitudinous war, not a real one. Like the weird dystopia in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, with bombs going off in shopping centers and a horrendous totalitarian mechanism torturing people to catch the anarchists.

I won’t have that here. I’ll make some compromises while I have to, with the understanding that this is temporary, while we fight the war over where it belongs. And I will only make those few compromises because we are willing to fight the war where it belongs. But not forever. Not that sort of perpetual management of terror. Not in America.

Now when we do fight, Senator Kerry insists we will bring our respectful partners along. We will compromise and deal. That’s necessary, to a point. But did you hear John Kerry say in the first debate that:

If the president had shown the patience to go through another round of resolution, to sit down with those leaders, say, "What do you need, what do you need now, how much more will it take to get you to join us?" we'd be in a stronger place today.

What if he’d said that? Those leaders would have realized “Wow, this guy’s desperate!” What would they have said then? How about, “We need you to join the International Criminal Court!”

Or, what if they had said, “Rejoin Kyoto!”
Or “Ratify the Law of the Sea!”
Or “Give us MFN trade status—as you overlook our own protectionism”
Or “Let us install international observers at your next election.”
Or “Ease up the visa scrutiny on our (Yemeni, Egyptian, Arabian, etc.) applicants!”
Or “Double your foreign aid to us!”
Or “Please enact some sensible gun control policy!”
Or “You know, if UNESCO just had another twenty billion dollars…”
Or “Give us some of that sweet nuclear fuel you’re passing out like Halloween candy!”
Or “Apologize for (Allende, Mossadegh, Crazy Horse, Noriega)!”
Or “Give up YOUR nuclear arsenal!”
Or “Grant a general amnesty for every illegal Mexican in your borders!”
Or “End the death penalty!”
Or “Leave (Chavez, Mugabe, Arafat, Castro) alone.”

We would not be in a stronger place today.

Saddam would.

This litany of potential demands just shows how terrible a Kerry foreign policy would be for American liberty. For if these things were asked, he would consider them. If he refused, as I hope he would, we would really be no better off than we are under Bush. But if he said yes…

And he would.

I don’t trust John Kerry at the negotiating table. I don’t trust him because he basically is campaigning on begging for world approval, and gives us no clue of how far he is willing to bend to accommodate foreign leaders. Today the anti-Semitic former Prime Minister of Malaysia endorsed Kerry, and so did the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister. What will their payoff be if Kerry wins? What could they possibly want that we ought to give them?
The sad thing is it isn’t even necessary. Bush has done a fine job managing an alliance. Consider this, from his speech in New Jersey today:
“America is safer today because Afghanistan and Iraq are fighting terrorists instead of harboring them.”
We are safer today and we are freer because of that. And so are Afghanistan and Iraq.

I understand why you don’t like Bush. But Kerry wants to manage the war indefinitely. That’s bad for our liberties. And “global test” or no, he will beg for an alliance when we need to exercise our power abroad. How much of our liberty will this need for affirmation cost us? He’ll leave us no freer, I guarantee that.

Bush wants to win. His vision of the war is sweeping, true, but ultimately, it’s finite. After a long slog, fundamentalist Islamic terrorism can go the way of the Thuggees if President Bush is allowed to keep the pressure up.

Please help him do so, Elliot. Our lives and our freedom might just depend on it.


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