Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Monday, September 20, 2004
The Hawkish Case for Totten

I am not sorry this post went so long. If Michael and I had been talking this out...we'd probably still be talking. Please read Michael's fine article first, and then my counter-argument.

I greatly respect Michael Totten for attempting to build a hawkish case for John Kerry, and I know he worked hard to build it. Nevertheless, I would not be a friend if I let the case he built stand unquestioned. As an intellectual exercise, his effort makes certain kinds of sense, it is all perfectly reasonable. The topic under discussion is not an abstract exercise in logic, though. We are discussing the direction, quality, and character of leadership of the United States and the free world. With that in mind, I am now going to take the friendliest meat axe in the world to his arguments.

Deflating the Anti-War Movement (a.k.a. Appeasement of the Chattering Class)

While it is true that many in the anti-war camp are active solely to oppose George W. Bush, it is also true that many people honestly believe that war is the single greatest evil in the history of the world. Regardless of the merits or sanity of this belief, it exists and for hundreds of thousands of people, the way they feel worthwhile as human beings is by opposing war. A lot of people who are very wealthy through no merit of their own actively seek out ways to show that they are of value by contributing to anti-war causes. David Frum in his book "The Right Man" describes an example the logic of these people with a quote from Barbara Streisand, "I know what I am talking about. I give a lot of money to environmental causes." The money you give makes the cause right.

Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people make their living from the largesse of people committed to the eradication of war; every tenured professor who is part of a "Peace Studies" department, for instance. Michael is presuming that a University department that has exactly zero metrics for the success of their graduates is going to be intellectually honest enough to re-evaluate the necessity for their existence. Electing John "Department of Wellness" Kerry to the highest office in the land is not going to do anything to diminish the anti-war industry in America or their need to secure funding. There are thousands of people who have no marketable skills apart from opposing war who are not going to retrain like crippled loggers just because logic dictates that infinite pacifism is suicidal.

Michael Responds: I do not argue that the "Peace Studies" professor will find a new job if John Kerry is elected. But the "Peace Studies" professor will not be a hero to liberals if their president gets in fight with Moqtada al Sadr or the mullahs in Iran. The "Peace Studies" professors were flatly ignored during the Balkan wars. The liberal heroes of the day were those who warned against the evils of fascism and the dangers of appeasement.

Patrick refutes: During most of the Balkan wars, the United States was not involved in the war, and so the press was not covering the professors who objected to it. This doesn't mean that they weren't saying inane things in their journals; they just weren't getting any notice. Additionally, it could be argued strongly that Peace Studies professors have little, if anything, to gain from following current events. Acknowledging the mechanics of the rude world outside has the disturbing tendency of destroying their discipline. While I suppose there is some satisfaction in the suppression of these people, it hardly seems worth electing Kerry to do so.

Flipping the Media Message

Michael wrote his article before the Rather meltdown, so I'm going to give him a pass on this, except to say that there are strong indications that the media needs a lot more confrontation to stay honest than they have been getting. Electing John Kerry does not make the media more honest just because they are less stridently opposed to the Chief Executive.

Michael responds: I did not argue that the election of John Kerry will make the media less biased. They will be biased in favor of John Kerry then as now. And because they will be biased in favor of John Kerry they will not wish to put a doom-and-gloom spin on John Kerry's efforts to stabilize Iraq. (He promised to pull troops out in four years, which is the same thing as promising not to withdraw them at all. If anything, he will send more troops.)

Patrick refutes: I can see how this could "grease the wheels" in Iraq. I am less certain that the mainstream media is going to survive the next four years intact, regardless of who is in office. Think about it this way, the faster the mainstream media disintegrates, the sooner centrist columnists will get high paid assignments. (OK, revealing my Democratic roots by holding out a patronage lure.) Honestly, electing Kerry to get positive spin on military actions is just adding another mouth to feed. Nothing is free.

Ending Bush Derangement Syndrome

A lot of people are insanely angry about Ronald Reagan and are taking it out on George W. Bush. Some people are insanely angry about Richard Nixon and are taking it out on George W. Bush. A few people are insanely angry about Calvin Coolidge and are taking it out on George W. Bush. There is a tremendous amount of transference in the political process, something that J.F. Kerry is not above taking advantage of. Electing John Kerry only defers therapy for another term; it does not treat the underlying cause. At what point in his campaign has John Kerry shown any desire to restore civility to the electoral process? The first step is admitting you have a problem, and that step becomes a lot easier on November 3rd if Kerry is on the dustbin of history.

Making the Hecklers Drive

Michael, the hecklers never drive. While there are all kinds of great stories about complainers who make good, this is not going to turn out like "My Cousin Vinny". For one thing, there is an infinite amount of distraction. The exhibitionists in New York this summer were not concerned about the genocide in Sudan; they were getting naked to support their AIDS funding. Instead of confronting clear and present dangers to the United States, the hecklers will focus on what will get them screen time. This is a class of people who define themselves by their acerbity, not their integrity.

Further, the shameful truth about liberals in power is that they have, repeatedly, turned their back on the world. For all the great experiments that liberals have tried and succeeded at, we have a disgraceful tradition of abandoning projects that got too hard or were incapable of success. Even though the need continued for some kind of action, liberals follow their enthusiasm too much. The continent of Africa exists as a bleeding testimony to the frailty of liberal conviction. Abandoning Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel to the fate of Rwanda, Somalia, and Zimbabwe is not going to be easy to explain, which is probably why John Kerry is starting now.

Michael responds: You say "the hecklers never drive." Ah. But John Kerry is a heckler, and if he wins he WILL drive and will no longer be allowed to heckle. People will heckle him instead. Those who blindly follow Democratic presidents will stop heckling because their man is driving.

Patrick refutes: I take issue with this. Sitting behind the wheel is not the same as driving. There is no proof that Kerry will drive if put in charge, which may be the reason the DNC started backing him last year. If Kerry had driven important legislation on a regular basis during his Senate career, there would be reason to believe him a driver. Kerry has no history of driving consensus in the Senate to accomplish meaningful legislation. This may be the reason we have heard nary a peep from the Kerry campaign regarding his record. In the 19th century, the United States could afford a Chester A. Arthur "go-along, get-along" presidency. The worst refutation of your case for Kerry as a hawk who can lead is his eighteen years in the US Senate.

Reuniting the Country

Michael is incorrect when he says that anti-Americanism has been on an upward tick since the Soviet Union imploded. Anti-Americanism has been on an upward tick since the Third Reich was defeated. Because the US was the healthiest power after WWII, it was the target of tremendous resentment on the part of those nations who took it in the shorts. The failure of the welfare state hasn't made us better liked, either. The American "way" is not the only way to do things, but it has the distressing tendency of being the most effective way. I hope that someday somebody else will come up and challenge the United States so everybody can do thing better. Until that happens, people are going to be blaming the United States for their failures. Electing John Kerry might well help the US in this regard, though the cure may be worse than the disease.

When Michael talks about US power being matched, he is flat dead wrong. Write this down Michael: the ONLY way that power is shown to have been matched is by total war. This is the ultimate antithesis of non-destructive testing. Civilization can take a whole lot more anti-Americanism than it can endure full scale military power testing. Bad news: China is buying the equipment to become a 21st century superpower. Good news: China is not changing the fundamental doctrine that would allow equipment synergy characteristic of US military interconnectedness. Potentially the worst news you have ever heard: China cannot admit that they are doctrinally flawed, and so they can only find out the hard way.

Ending the UN Fetish

I am not entirely convinced that the Democrats paid attention to the first rule of demon summoning: never call up what you cannot put down. The "UN approval" demon is not one that shows sign of returning to the nether regions it came from. I am even less convinced that John Kerry has the power and the will to exorcise this demon.

Checkmating the Radicals

I am not sure that John Kerry will be able to avoid putting radical leftists into positions; the ABB candidate is riding into battle on a hydra, not a horse. After the fight, there will be a lot of mouths to feed.

(Possibly) Breaking the Strategic Impasse

Harry S Truman had a world of trouble overcoming the title of the "Senator from Pendergast" because of his connections to the Kansas City boss who backed him. Even so, he had an agenda and integrity. John Kerry has an opposition candidacy, and he lacks both agenda and integrity. On November 3rd, regardless of the results of the election, all of Kerry's political capital evaporates in a frenzy of either recrimination or patronage. This is not a result that will drive military confrontation of terror sponsors and the extermination of fundamentalist sociopaths.

Michael, you did not convince me, and I doubt you convinced yourself. I have to give you credit for a game effort at an impossible goal. I respect you even more for the intellectual honesty to admit the weakness and derivative nature of the available arguments. It all seems a bit much to hope for an undistinguished candidate to discover unexpected greatness twice in a row.
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