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Thursday, June 17, 2004

The changing of Presidents

Micheal Barone writes in the LA Times about changing president's during war and what differences there would be between a Kerry Presidency and a second Bush term.

Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations argues that a Kerry foreign policy would not be much different from George W. Bush's. He would be boxed in, Mead suggests, by events: As Kerry has said, he would not withdraw from Iraq; he would have to be concerned about Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs; he would largely continue our policy toward China (not much altered since Richard Nixon went to Beijing); he would not be able to propitiate a France whose central foreign policy aim is to block U.S. power. There is something to say for Mead's argument, but I take a different view. Bush, in his formal National Security Strategy statement and in his actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, has transformed U.S. foreign policy more than any president since Truman. The very violence of Kerry's denunciations of Bush; his contempt for the president, which he makes no effort to conceal; the suggestion that America under Bush is totally isolated from the world — these positions will have consequences. They affect what other nations and what the terrorists think the U.S. will do and thus have a role in determining how they will act.
It is pretty tough to tell what a President will do with the events they encounter during their presidency. After all, George W. Bush campaigned on a humbler foreign policy and no nation building. I fully expect that John Kerry would do his best to make America strong and to prosecute the war on terror. However, our enemies would view a Kerry presidency as a victory. Bush's loss would be viewed as repudiation by the electorate of the policy of pre-emptive attack and of aggressively confronting rogue regimes. It would also fuel the belief that Americans are too adverse to casualties to seriously prosecute a war. It is hard to believe that this would not embolden the regimes in Damascus, Tehran, and Pyongyang. As President, Kerry would have to find some way to reverse this belief. A large portion of his base seems to be opposed to military actions under any conditions, which would limit his options. America will survive if Kerry is elected president. At the best we would likely return to a more Clintonesque foreign policy largely focused on terrorists as criminals with a focus on the law enforcement aspects of defeating terrorism, and the core problems of terrorists will be left to the future. At the worst, we would suffer another horrendous attack, once again rousing America and probably leading to a Bush-like aggressive foreign policy. I believe that aggressive confrontation with terrorists and rogue regimes is inevitable. We will not have peace in our time. Pre-emption, aggressive disarming, of any rogue nation that seeks weapons of mass destruction is necessary to ensure that the worst weapons do not fall into the hands of terrorists. We need to give these regimes a clear choice: The way of Iraq or the way of Libya. There can be no third option. Any nation that supports terrorists or purposely allows them to operate in their territories will have to be considered enemies. This doesn’t necessarily mean an immediate military attack, there is a place for diplomacy, but diplomacy must be backed by credible force and therefore there must be a limit to our patience. In the long run the only cure for terror is the enlightenment of the Arab world. Democracy, guaranteed human rights, and free-market capitalism are the tools that will allow that to happen, all three are necessary and none alone are sufficient. I believe that in many cases, this will not happen through internal reform alone and military intervention may be needed to remove tyrants. With these beliefs, and the belief that how we prosecute the war on terror is an issue that makes all other political issues largely irrelevant, I can do nothing other than support President Bush in this election.


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