Those Elephants in the Living Room
Earlier today, Paradox published a short article titled Bush Abdicates Presidential Leadership on Iraq. There, he made the point that when it comes to bringing the Iraq misadventure to a close, George W. Bush by his own words is not a "leader" but a blind delegator of the greatest powers the Constitution devolves upon the presidency -- the authority as commander in chief to make war and peace.
What Bush is saying, here, is that it's the general's responsibility to decide when we get out of that utterly futile hellhole, not his. Of course there are never, ever any specific criteria offered to define what "completed" really means.
It is a telling point. But many of the following reader comments seem to assume that Paradox's argument is confined to the question of which candidate, Bush or Kerry, has the better plan for extricating the U.S. from the 'Mess' that has been made of 'Potamia.' I think his point is even bigger than that.
The larger question is not what differences may exist between the two candidates about how to clean up the mess Bush created with his Iraq invasion, or even the closely-related question of whether Bush acted in the best interests of the United States when he delegated to the war lords and Pakistan the job left undone in Afghanistan.
As with most messes, the slob who made it (you know who you are, guys) seems not to fully appreciate how really awful it is; and those called in to clean it up (sound familiar, ladies?) will have to do the best that can be done with a bad situation.
The bigger question inferentially raised by Paradox is which of the two candidates, Bush or Kerry, can we trust not to create bigger messes in the future? Which one truly comprehends, and will himself prudently discharge, the great responsibilities of the Office of President?
It sure as heck isn't Bush-and-Cheney. They have repeatedly demonstrated 'naive radicalism and operational incompetence' in foreign affairs. They have alienated our strongest allies... squandered the good will and support of the rest of the world after 9-11... sent soon-to-be-more-than a thousand American youths to their deaths in Iraq on false and shifting grounds unsubstantiated by facts... failed to competently plan for a peaceful post-war Iraq... installed a foreign government there without so much as a thin veneer of legitimacy (much less one based on democratic selection processes)... looked the other way as corporate cronies looted Iraq's miserable coffers... and saddled the children and grandchildren of America with unprecedented debt that can be repaid only by raging inflation and a dramatically lower standard of living.
The multiple mistakes that brought about this mess in Iraq and endangered the future of America were born of blind adherence to a mistaken ideology, rank ignorance, laziness, artless diplomacy, obduracy, and what might be characterized, charitably, as disdain for our democractic processes.
But that was then. What about now? The biggest question facing the American public on November 2 -- all of those big elephants sitting around the living room we really should be talking about -- is "Which candidate do you trust to make good decisions over the next four years? Which candidate do you believe is less likely to create an awful mess of things?"
Which of them, Bush or Kerry, has the wit and the will to read voraciously, study intensively, and solicit a wide variety of expert opinions on available options for avoiding 'the blowback of unintended consequences' as we deal with a nuclear Iran?
Which of the two candidates is more likely to show the patience and skill necessary for re-enlisting the comparatively moderate and largely secular Assad Bushara of Syria in the war on terror after 9-11?
Which candidate has the subtlety of mind and the will to restore Afghanistan to... a course... pointed toward moderation, secular modernity and development?
Who between the two candidates will at long last see that the Homeland Security department will make us 'as safe as we need to be in light of the threats we face'? Which of the candidates will improve on the dismal record of the Department Homeland Security in securing only 7 percent of our seaports and inspecting less than half of the foreign ships that off-load there?
To ask these questions, and many others, is nearly to have them answer themselves. The November 2 election is about the future, not the past. But if Shakespeare (and, inferentially, Paradox) are right that "the past is prologue," then reelecting Bush when he insists he is running on his record promises only more of the same for the next four years.
Electing Kerry doesn't. And, for me, that by itself is a vast improvement.