Thursday, February 05, 2004

The Preemption Paradigm: Razor, you're right that Bush changed "the rules of the game." (We do hear quite a bit about "the Bush doctrine" and "preemption.") But I'd argue that the change Bush wrought was less a categorical change than a simple modification of the category. Why, after all, did we "preempt" the internal policies of Milosevic? He didn't have weapons of mass anything, really. As for genocide and crimes against humanity, I think Saddam makes him look like small beer in comparison. Milosevic had no designs on neighboring countries (or if he did, he was too weak to do anything about it). Nevertheless, as Wesley Clark can tell you, we bombed the crap out of him (or the Chinese embassy anyway), turned him over to be tried for human rights violations, and kept troops in Serbia, under NATO auspices, for a decade, with no sign of them leaving soon. All without the approval of the UN, mind you. That's preemptive, discretionary, non-defensive war. Plus bad intelligence (bombing the embassy, inflated "genocide" figures). Hell, the Balkans almost make the current Iraq situation look good.

As for the backtracking and evasiveness of the administration, it is an election year, and the Dems have pretty clearly announced that that they will not let intellectual consistency stand in the way of criticizing Bush. John Kerry surely doesn't mind if his critiques of the president imply that he and his colleagues tried to tell Dubya that there were no WMDs, but he just wouldn't goddamn listen. Plainly, Bush has gotten himself into a messy foreign policy spot and is trying to save his ass. Further, he seems to be on the brink of doing some stupid things (like blowing off midwifing Iraqi democracy) so that he can win a second term.

I think I've made it pretty clear that I don't relish the prospect of voting for Bush. His domestic policy is a disgrace, his fiscal discipline would make Tip O'Neill blush, and I trust his less and less to make the hard foreign policy decisions that will be required in the next four years (e.g., telling the North Koreans to get bent, supporting the pro-democracy movement in Iran, and telling Syria to sit down and behave or they might find themselves importing weapons from the U.S. -- which shipment we will deliver from 40,000 feet). Nonetheless, if it looks like my vote can keep Bush in office, I'll cast it. The Democrats' message (to a man, now that Lieberman is out) is that we return to pre-9/11 foreign policy, not piss off our "allies," and place the fight against terrorism under a law-enforcement rubric. Such ideas are, respectively, blind, stupid, and suicidal.

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