Tactics and Substance in the 2004 Elections GoogleNews: Howard Dean

May 12, 2004

by V

FT Critique

Yet another biting critique of the Bushists, this time from Martin Wolf in the Financial Times. There are several lines that Kerry would do well to lift:

The saviour of democracy is run by a unilateral bully via Interesting People
...So what is wrong with this administration? Put simply, it fails to understand the basis of US power, mis-specifies US objectives and is incompetent in executing its intentions. As a result, the position of the US - and so of the west - is worse, in significant respects, than it was the day after September 11 2001. Then, a huge proportion of humanity viewed the US as the victim of an outrage. Today, after the revelations of the treatment of prisoners in Iraq, it is seen as a perpetrator of them. Then it had the support of all its allies, now it can rely on the public's sympathy in very few.

Let us start with the administration's faith in the application of US military power. This is a double error. The first lies in its exaggerated belief in force. The US was able to defeat the armies of Saddam Hussein, but a civilised occupying army cannot coerce the obedience of a population. The second error lies in its belief in the irrelevance of allies. A country containing 4 per cent of the world's population cannot impose its will upon the world. It needs permanent allies, not reluctant stooges, willing acceptance of its leadership, not sullen acquiescence. The contempt shown by leading members of the administration for those who disagree with it is now matched by the hostility of those whipped by their scorn...

...the behaviour of the guards at Abu Ghraib is the natural, almost the inevitable, consequence of the position in which the administration has - in its pursuit of its war on terrorism - put detainees. These are neither prisoners of war nor criminal suspects. Instead, they are in a legal limbo for as long as the US decides that this so-called "war" continues. Interrogators have absolute power and, as Lord Acton pointed out, absolute power corrupts absolutely...

...It is impossible to exaggerate the dangers attendant upon a US failure in Iraq: jihadis would conclude that they had now defeated a second superpower; friendly regimes would be shaken; and US prestige would be destroyed. Iraq is not another Vietnam. It is far more dangerous than that. While this venture was never going to be as militarily perilous as that war, this time dominoes could well fall. An incontinent US withdrawal could be a deciding moment in the relationship between the US and the Arab, if not the entire Muslim, world.

The US has, rightly or wrongly, staked its prestige not just on getting rid of Saddam Hussein, but on leaving behind a thriving country. If, instead, it leaves behind despotism or chaos, it will be a grievous defeat, with huge long-run consequences. Responsibility for such a failure must rest with the White House. It cannot be blamed on any subordinate department, not even the defence department. This is the president's policy and responsibility. The buck stops there.

Crafting a foreign policy for a new era is hard. The last time this had to be done was in the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman more than half a century ago. ... Now, a task even more complex has fallen on this president. He is not up to the job. This is not a moral judgment, but a practical one. The world is too complex and dangerous for the pious simplicities and arrogant unilateralism of George W. Bush.
The whole column is worth your time.

Tweaked to sound more American, that could be the first half of Kerry's nomination acceptance speech. (The second, of course, being: 'what I will do instead').
Posted by V at May 12, 2004 11:05 AM

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