October 05, 2004

surfacing, though briefly

So it's crunch time in the most important election we're likely to face in our lifetimes, and I've been nowhere to be seen for lo these many weeks. What gives?

The usual suspects could surface now and serve as superb excuses for my extended absence, but life honestly is pretty damn good and I'd feel like a democrat if I whined about how busy I am. So I will instead chip in with a tiny little set of remarks on the last debate, and promise to have more exciting stuff this weekend.

The first debate: eh. I considered it a draw, a generally fairly uninspired draw at that. So 2/3 of dentists think chewing sugarless gum is better, and 2/3 of viewers thought Kerry "won" the debate. From what I've read and heard, the claims of "winning" were primarily on form and style, not substance.

The President slouched and appeared tired. He also, unlike the absentee senator, works for a living in between campaign stops. The office of President cannot be as desultorily exectuted as Kerry fulfills his senatorial job duties.

The President appeared annoyed, like he didn't want to be there. The President has had to put up with some pretty stupid criticisms from the left, and an opponent who can hardly be pinned down on most positions for long enough for Bush to even attempt to respond to it. Frankly I'd be irritated with the whole process by now too.

Actually, I am. I'm frustrated that we as a nation have such a maddeningly short attention span and so little sense of history and, further, so little patience in difficult work that we are 30 days to an election, with still a roughly 50% chance of embracing the appeasment policies of Neville Chamberlain and Jose Luis Zapatero. We are but three years removed from 9/11, and essentially it is forgotten. Oh, it's remembered in an intellectual sense, naturally, but we've forgotten what it was about and what it meant and how in those first dazed days afterward we all mentally swore--those who weren't already prepared to surrender, at least--that justice would be done, no matter how long the mission or how many the sacrifices.

George Bush to a joint session of congress on 9/20/2001:

Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. (Applause.)


This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.

Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. (Applause.) From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.


I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people.

Maybe we all thought he was kidding. Maybe we thought it was just Dad telling us he'd beat up the bogeyman if he ever came out of our closets in the middle of the night, and we felt better knowing there was someone willing to be tough so we could go to sleep. But Dad actually found a bogeyman in the closet and has periodically been beating the crap out of him with a bat, and now we kind of find the whole thing disquieting and wish it could just end so we could, after all, just go to sleep.

In September 2001 we all embraced the notion of a long war to eradicate the enemy who had just bloodied us so badly. How quickly we lose interest. How quickly we set additional conditions for our ongoing support. How quickly we raise the standard of certainty required for action so high that we can't attack anyone without enough evidence to stand up in a court of law or a corrupt and profoundly anti-American United Nations.

The disappointing thing about this election is that so much of what has been done and said has been for the sake of swaying the undecideds. Sadly, anyone who at this late stage hasn't decided whether it's safer to go after terrorists at their house, or just hope they can't kick through the deadbolt on our own front door, is a prevaricator. A prevaricator is likely to vote for Kerry because Kerry is a prevaricator. Kerry may be the second smartest man alive (after, naturally, Bill Clinton), but that just makes it easier to spot possible problems with a plan, and ultimately conclude that all things considered it may be safer to do nothing than to act without complete certaintly.

I much prefer President Bush sending the Marines to hunt terrorists in Iraq, than to accept John Kerry's glib assurances that if America is Attacked, then he will respond swiftly and certainly. Playing lawyerball with the terrorists is dangerous, and does have the ability to get an unseemly large number of us killed, no matter how offended the two Johns may be by the suggestion. Their judgment just isn't sound, and they will err on the side of passive defence rather than the opposite. If mistakes are to be made, and surely they will be, I'd much rather they err on the side of killing more terrorists before something worse even than 9/11 visits our shores, than in making nice with France.

Posted by JKS at October 5, 2004 06:32 AM
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