Squandered Opportunity

The single biggest reason I can think of why any American should not vote for Bush is the way he squandered the good will of the world after 9/11. Instead of seizing the moment to further discredit a corrupt ideology not only here at home but around the world, Bush’s poor judgment has given it strength. In May the International Institute for Strategic Studies released a report which noted that al-Qaeda recruitment has been accelerated by the war in Iraq and, as we all know, our relationships with many of our strongest and closest allies have been severely damaged. I will never shake the conviction that we failed to seize the post-9/11 moment to take the war of ideas to our enemies–instead we gave them a propaganda boon.

As for the Republican convention, there isn’t a lot to say about anything you haven’t seen on TV. The city itself is unusually empty–if you could leave, you probably did. If you couldn’t leave, but your company agreed, you are telecommuting. If you are like me, however, you are still taking that train to work–and wondering somewhere in the back of your mind if Madrid will repeat itself. Armed men patrol the streets–you literally can’t walk a block in mid-town (where my office is) without seeing five to ten cops or army types. I personally haven’t seen any of the mass protests, but upon emerging from my building on my way to the gym today I was surprised to see twenty or so cops hanging around along with an equal number of photographers. I asked them what was going on and they told me that they were expecting some sort of protest which apparently never materialized. In the locker room at the gym I hear blue collar workers ranting about Giuliani’s speech. I’ll be glad when it’s over and I only have to see security officers with machine guns at the airport.

Comments

  1. john fowles says:

    “People are afraid”–I just found that a little too pathetic (in the sense of pathos).

  2. Boston was similarly empty on Monday and Tuesday during the DNC. By Wednesday everyone had figured out that nobody was going in to town so they all came in to town and things were back to normal.

  3. Charles,

    I would be grateful if you could point me to your source regarding France’s betraying the United States’ plan of attack on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. I hadn’t heard this before reading your post and I would be a little surprised if it were true, but perhaps I just missed it.

    When the Taliban announced that Hindu’s would be required to wear an identity label, everyone immediately made the connection to the Star of David that Jews were required to wear under the Nazi regime. Lots was written on the subject.

    More generally, I received an email in which someone pointed out that I ought to be putting forth reasons why someone ought to vote for Kerry instead of saying why they shouldn’t vote for Bush. This line of thinking makes some sense–you have to believe that the alternative will be better than your other choices, and I think the criticism that Kerry has failed to articulate a cogent message as to how he differs from Bush in terms of providing national security is a fair one. Kerry has said that he would pursue a more international approach. I don’t particularly relish the prospect of shouldering the financial and military burden alone against what is sure to be a long struggle. Of course there are times when America may have to break with our traditional allies to secure our national security, but for the most part I believe that our interests are aligned. Our allies will balk, and they should balk, when we are using terror as a pretext to advance other national interests.

    I believe that a little patience and diplomacy will yield bigger dividends in the war on terror because I believe that at the end of the day this is a war of ideas and we must maintain our moral standing if we are going to win that war. If our system is seen as corrupt, if we are seen as oppressors, if we deny our own citizens due process, if we simply dismis–because they are no longer convenien–treaties that we have insisted others abide by, we will continue to damage our cause. Taken as a whole our ideas will still be better, but they won’t have the power to convince people who didn’t start out thinking that was the case. One of the main reasons we won the Cold War was because it was obvious to everyone in Soviet society that their system and their leadership was corrupt. And it was equally obvious that America had something better to offer. We still have something better to offer, but under the Bush presidency I absolutely believe we are losing our way.

  4. Charles,

    I would be grateful if you could point me to your source regarding France’s betraying the United States’ plan of attack on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. I hadn’t heard this before reading your post and I would be a little surprised if it were true, but perhaps I just missed it.

    When the Taliban announced that Hindu’s would be required to wear an identity label, everyone immediately made the connection to the Star of David that Jews were required to wear under the Nazi regime. Lots was written on the subject.

    More generally, I received an email in which someone pointed out that I ought to be putting forth reasons why someone ought to vote for Kerry instead of saying why they shouldn’t vote for Bush. This line of thinking makes some sense–you have to believe that the alternative will be better than your other choices, and I think the criticism that Kerry has failed to articulate a cogent message as to how he differs from Bush in terms of providing national security is a fair one. Kerry has said that he would pursue a more international approach. I don’t particularly relish the prospect of shouldering the financial and military burden alone against what is sure to be a long struggle. Of course there are times when America may have to break with our traditional allies to secure our national security, but for the most part I believe that our interests are aligned. Our allies will balk, and they should balk, when we are using terror as a pretext to advance other national interests. I

    I believe that a little patience and diplomacy will yield bigger dividends in the war on terror because I believe that at the end of the day this is a war of ideas and we must maintain our moral standing if we are going to win that war. If our system is seen as corrupt, if we are seen as oppressors, if we deny our own citizens due process, if we simply dismiss because they are no longer convenient treaties that we have insisted others abide by–we will continue to damage our cause. Taken as a whole our ideas will still be better, but they won’t have the power to convince people who didn’t start out thinking that was the case. One of the main reasons we won the Cold War was because it was obvious to everyone in Soviet society that their system and their leadership was corrupt. And it was equally obvious that America had something better to offer. We still have something better to offer, but under the Bush presidency I absolutely believe we are losing our way.

  5. Judy Brooks says:

    http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/19785/

    One of my favorite columnists. I may have to go buy his book.

  6. I grew up in India, in a state with a lot of Muslim extremist activity, so, I am very familiar with the current Islamofascist menage that the world faces today – as was evidenced by he attacka on 9/11. Now, while, I still support the current President, I, just cant figure out why the invasion of Iraq was necessart in prosequeting the war on Islamofascist terror, those resources, in lives and equipment etc, could be best have been used to better effect in Afghanistan, and in going after osama and his followers whereever ther are hiding in the Mid-east. Like Matthew says, the invasion of Iraq has caused us to loose all goodwill from many a nation in this world. And, bad as he was, Saddam Hussein had never let the al-Qaeda, or other fanatical Islamofascist groups take root in Iraq, because those groups would have presented a threat to Saddam’s regime. Yet, today, Iraq is overrun with Zarkawi and his gangs of terrorists, and who knows when this will end – hope it doesnot become a quagmire like vietnam

  7. I think having Afghanistan a stable western style democracy never was in the cards. We have a semi-democracy there and a reasonable amount of stability. Further unless I’m mistaken we still have 20,000 troops there looking for Al Queda cells and training the Afghan army.

    I can understand the criticism that the warlords are all still there (well minus the Al-Queda sympathizer caught last week). But did anyone really think the US could by fiat step in and get rid of tribalism?

  8. I was in Times Square yesterday and it was rather empty. You could actually walk down the sidewalk without pushing people aside to get to where you were going. In all of my years in New York I have never seen Tmes Square so deserted. (Desereted meaning you have at lest arms length width between you and the next person.)

  9. John,

    I’ve been away at a wedding and will be leaving tomorrow for a few weeks of kayaking–but while I have time I’ll respond to what you have written.

    At the Republican convention Kerry’s voting record was frequently criticized (Guiliani among others) out of context. People familiar with Washington (and even some such as myself who are not) know that politicians often vote against one version of a bill because they favor a different version–not because they are against the end result. Kerry wanted a different version of the $87 billion dollar appropriation bill because he wanted to pay for it by raising taxes on the wealthy rather than through deficit spending (see the Washington Post 9/18/03). Bush threatened to veto the Iraq spending bill if the reconstruction aid for Iraq was in the form of loans rather than grants. So yes, convention speakers were technically correct to say that Kerry opposed the bill, but they knew that he wasn’t opposing money for the Iraq war, just how it was to be delivered. This makes it a bad fact–technically true but intentionally distorted.

    I don’t particularly care for you lumping me in with Michael Moore or protestors you may have seen. In fact I consider it a smear so please don’t do it again. If you want to set up straw men you can knock down, don’t make me the straw man. Don’t respond by saying “I didn’t say you were agreeing with Michael Moore’s position–it was a hypo”. I consider that a disingenuous statement. Please make a good faith effort to work with what I write or I’m afraid we can’t have a discussion.

  10. john fowles says:

    Mathew, don’t you think you are being a little unfair and unduly dismissive of the actual message of the RNC with that last comment? It might be true of Miller’s words, but I fail to see how it applies to much else that went on there. It seems like a little demonizing of the right has crept into your own rhetoric, despite your attempts at objectivity.

  11. john fowles says:

    Mathew, during the RNC, I saw many protesters who were making such claims as “Bush has hijacked our democracy” and such things. Where do you stand on such statements? If you agree with them, perhaps you could enlighten me: exactly how has Bush hijacked American democracy? The Patriot Act? Please. The 2000 Election? Well, Gore could have called for the entire state of Florida to be recounted, but instead he only insisted on a recount of the counties that he knew were favorable to him. So exactly how interested was Gore in the democracy that Bush supposedly has hijacked?

  12. john fowles says:

    Mathew, I sincerely hope you are not about to repeat the propaganda of the left that Bush invaded Iraq for the oil to enrich himself and his friends. If you are about to say that, then I expect the next sentence to be that Bush knew about 9/11 before it happened, and didn’t do anything. And then I’ll expect you to say that Bush actually orchestrated 9/11 in a huge conspiracy to lay the groundwork for the eventual coup which either has already happened or will happen around November. (Those types of statements are actually very common in Europe and Russia [and Michael Moore]).

  13. Matthew, if you want to see protests, come down here to Union Square. It’s literally a circus (people on stilts, face painting, ridiculous costumes, people yelling, etc.) Very few police as well. Maybe because the tall, financial buildings need the security, and the squatty ones with photography and design studios don’t.

  14. Ronin,

    Your rhetoric could have been lifted straight out of the Republican convention. You tie lefty politics with hatred of America. I know, you didn’t say all lefty types hate America–you didn’t need to because the connection is implicit. You expanded the definition of our enemies from al-Qaeda to include “other Islamists”. This is another popular rhetorical move made to justify a war against Iraq because no one could make the case that it was a source of significant al-Qaeda activity. Its been said before, but the message doesn’t seem to register–most of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia–none were from Iraq. There are no credible reports of collaboration between Saddam’s Iraq and al-Qaeda. Vice-President Cheney, when asked about the supposed meeting between al-Qaeda and Saddam’s government has said that there is no proof that it didn’t happen. But of course by expanding the definition to the vague and threatening “other Islamists” and couple that with the old cliche of “euroweenies” and you can whip the crowd into a blind frenzy–and those who don’t take the bait are pilloried as America haters. Moderates and liberals have the stomache to do what is necessary (Afghanistan, relentlessly pursuing bin Laden and his minions and keeping our eye on the prize until the fight is won), but I like to think they don’t have the stomache for violence based on bad facts and worse rhetoric.

  15. Ronin,
    I find it interesting that one of your suggestions was to use the resources in Afghanistan rather than Iraq. One of the key criticisms Bush is coming under is how long do we linger in Iraq.

    Well we went into Afghanistan interupted the government and set things in motion, then when they were able to police themselves we left. Should we have lingered there longer than our welcom and turned Afghanistan into a police protectorate of the US because one man and his organization had left?

    We have to let them deal with this internally and if they ask for our support then give it.

    As for Iraq and the war on terror. Whether the information was correct or not, there was information pointing to Iraq providing financial support to terrorists. There was information pointing to WMD, and there was evidence of human atrocities.

    We may have painted a picture of WMD’s being the primary reason, but the truth is that the UN is impotent. More than a dozen resolutions had been leveled against Saddam and he failed to live up to any of those or his post Desert Storm surrender.

    Human rights violations were outrageous and the world wanted to look the other way. Allies, like France were possibly funding and supporting Saddam. I recall news articles, which are yet unresolved, that French military equiptment was found in parts of Saddam’s arsenal. The French also communicated, the US attack plan and armed forces strengths and weaknesses on the eve of the attack.

    Clearly, we could not have sat by and waited again and again for failed resolutions. There was plenty of reason for more to be done not just the WMD or terrorist talk that was publicized.

    I wonder if anyone recalls when the Taliban initially came into power. Poeple were offended at their treatment of women. Then it happened. Everyone that was not Muslim was forced to wear an insignia. No one seemed to make the connection between this and the stars in nazi Germany. Something had to happen. Its a hidden blessing that we were able to act in Afghanistan to remove that power.

  16. Rusty: you are probably right that the buildings around Union Square don’t need protection while the financial institutions and corporate buildings do because which are more likely to be vandalized and damaged by lefist protesters (who somehow think that the Left has less ties to the financial world than the Right).

    Whenever there are left-wing protests that result in violence or destruction of property, it seems extremely ironic and contradictory to me. Actions speak louder than words, and these people’s actions show what their true ideology is–far from tolerance and open-mindedness, it is a bitter demand for ideological homogeneity.

    As for Bush, 9/11, and our current foreign policy, I agree with Mathew that it is very uncomfortable, even though I might not go so far as to use the loaded phrase the Bush has “squandered the good will of the world” following 9/11. A large part of the reason for the anti-Americanism in the world has absolutely nothing to do with Bush but rather with the arrogance of incompetency. That is, when a country like France pursues a conscious and explicit agenda of countering American power whereever it can, merely because it wants to return to a bipolar world, then that is unproductive and stokes the latent anti-Americanism that abounds in countries where it is far easier to blame domestic woes on America rather than to take responsibility for corrupt politicians and business paradigms. American was already being accused of Empire-building and imperialism when the liberal god Clinton was still in power.

    But that said, I am very uncomfortable with Bush’s foreign policy and would actually like to see less American engagement around the world because the people we help are patently ungrateful for it. So there is no reason to waste American lives and money buying bombers to protect them anymore; we could better use that money building a better social infrastructure at home.

  17. The talk about pres Bush squandering the world’s supposed goodwill after 9/11 is again, nothing but the BS spouted by the lefty hate-America types at MoveOn.org and the DemocraticUnderground. Al-Qaeda and other Islamists needed to be attacked and extirpated, and too bad if the Euroweenies dont have the stomach to do what is necessary.

  18. Judy Brooks says:

    There’s no point talking about any of this. Bush is the incumbant. People are afraid. Bush will win. We’ll have another four years exactly like the four we just had. The end.

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