Friday, October 01, 2004

Debate One: Foreign policy

Ok, enough of the levity. In all, I think we saw only one new thing in the debate last night - both candidates declared that they believe nuclear proliferation is the greatest threat to the United States today. The entire rest of the debate was a recap of several months worth of sound bites in a convenient 90 minute format.

However, something else significant did emerge. Kerry's responses were thick with comments which solidified something that was, to me, only an impression before last night.

But we also have to be smart, Jim. And smart means not diverting your attention from the real war on terror in Afghanistan against Osama bin Laden and taking if off to Iraq where the 9/11 Commission confirms there was no connection to 9/11 itself and Saddam Hussein, and where the reason for going to war was weapons of mass destruction, not the removal of Saddam Hussein.

I‘m proud that important military figures who are supporting me in this race: [38 words to deliver 4 names] — all believe I would make a stronger commander in chief. And they believe it because they know I would not take my eye off of the goal: Osama bin Laden. Unfortunately, he escaped in the mountains of Tora Bora.

And Iraq is not even the center of the focus of the war on terror. The center is Afghanistan, where, incidentally, there were more Americans killed last year than the year before; where the opium production is 75 percent of the world‘s opium production; where 40 to 60 percent of the economy of Afghanistan is based on opium; where the elections have been postponed three times.

The president moved the troops, so he‘s got 10 times the number of troops in Iraq than he has in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden is. Does that mean that Saddam Hussein was 10 times more important than Osama bin Laden—than, excuse me, Saddam Hussein more important than Osama bin Laden? I don‘t think so.

The president just talked about Iraq as a center of the war on terror. Iraq was not even close to the center of the war on terror before the president invaded it.

We can‘t leave a failed Iraq. But that doesn‘t mean it wasn‘t a mistake of judgment to go there and take the focus off of Osama bin Laden.

Saddam Hussein didn‘t attack us, Osama bin Laden attacked us. Al Qaeda attacked us. And when we had Osama bin Laden cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, 1,000 of his cohorts with him in those mountains. With the American military forces nearby and in the field, we didn‘t use the best trained troops in the world to go kill the world‘s number one criminal and terrorist.
That‘s the enemy that attacked us. That‘s the enemy that was allowed to walk out of those mountains. That‘s the enemy that is now in 60 countries, with stronger recruits.

All emphasis mine. None of this coming from Kerry is new, really; not even the language used. What's new is what this repeated stress on bin Laden reveals. The picture which seems to become clear is that, in John Kerry's mind, the war on terror is in fact a war on Osama bin Laden. This man is his highest priority. This seems to me a view that could only be held by someone who views terrorism as a product of individuals, not of an ideology wedded to a religion. He doesn't recognize that the pan-Arab component installed in that ideology admired and supported Saddam for being a strong Arab leader who stood defiant, even antagonistic, before America and the western world. He considers that this war is against terrorists, and not terrorism. This is important, since it's as close as he's likely to get to saying "I do not understand the war on terror".

Little that I've heard from him in all these many months suggests that he has answers to (or has even considered) the obvious questions that should arise: what happens when we do finally get bin Laden? Is that it, then? The war's over? We win, no more terror, the world is safe, and everyone can go home? No, of course not. Would it even disrupt any of al-Qaeda's current plans, divert its intentions? Not at all. So then, what would be different if he hadn't slipped into Tora Bora? Would 3-11 have been averted? Riyadh? Beslan? No, no, and no. But yet, in almost every statement on the war on terror, he takes the opportunity to reaffirm that he does indeed consider bin Laden to be the paramount objective.

I would not hand a scalpel to someone who does not understand anatomy. Heck, I wouldn't hand a hammer to someone who didn't understand carpentry. In this election cycle, I will not hand control over the war on terror to a man who demonstrably does not understand it.


Blogger Tom said...

Good catch, Doug, on the fixation with OBL. With Kerry one wonders if he actually thinks that catching or killing him will end Al Qaeda, or if he's just saying it because he thinks that's what people want to hear. We'll never know, because he so changes with the political winds.

Assuming that Kerry meant what he said, then he is poorly informed as to the nature of Al Qaeda. One of the reasons for it's success is the decentralized nature of it's organization. Cuttting off the head is fine, but the arms and legs can survive on their own. OBL may be the leader, but it does not depend on him. We're not talking Nazism here, which required the person of Adolf Hitler.

And of course he's just plain wrong when he says that Saddam's Iraq was not a center of terror.

10:25 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Gee, Tom - 8 years on the Senate Intel Committee and you're suggesting that he doesn't understand the nature or structure of al-Qaeda? You'd almost think he wasn't really ther- oh, right... the Comittee is somewhere in Cambodia.

Check your calendar, John; you'll be CinC the day after the one marked "hell freezes".

12:48 AM  

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