Monday, November 01, 2004

The Election Tomorrow

I will disappoint some family members tomorrow. I think they deserve an explanation.

My political views are not well-represented by any political party. I'm more or less an economic "centrist:" sort of between the two parties (and no, the Republican party isn't what I'd call right wing on economic policies--not in practice, at any rate). Because I oppose abortion and slavery and redefining family and defining deviance down I suppose you'd call me a cultural conservative.

I judge that what makes us a country is not simply our laws but includes the constellation of understood obligations and courtesies that add up to "We're all in this together." Because of this I judge that "affirmative action," though sometimes necessary, corrodes the fabric of "we're all in this together" and must not be permanent. Many things that we need are purely cultural and cannot be legislated: a willingness to pick up trash off the street and not just off our own yard, if you want a trivial but significant example. We officially honor individual liberty above all things, but under the hood we rely on people's willingness to make small and large sacrifices for each other. But I saw that our media elites took hyper-individualism and have codified it in our entertainments, reporting, and even in our laws as radical judges define new rights and expand old ones.

The New York Times editorial staff seems to despise almost everything I honor. We agree that scientific discoveries are generally good things, that it is good to know about the world, and that what you call a man should be more or less courteous. That's about it. They think abortion is a right, I think it a crime. They think religion is beneath notice, I think it central to human life. They think that a man can redefine himself as anything at all, I think you lose your soul in such a focus on yourself.

Kerry's world, and the world of those he surrounds himself with, is this anti-nomian NYT world. Bush's is nominally different. I don't know the man personally, but on issues such as abortion he at least claims to be on my side, while Kerry opposes me.

I don't believe that virtue can always be legislated, but I know you can always make things worse by denying that virtue exists and by legislating the acceptance of vice.

Of course liberty is an important goal. Has Bush done such a terrible job protecting or attacking liberty? Oddly enough, when you inspect some of the terrible crimes he has perpetrated, such as hiring Ashcroft or pushing through the Patriot Act, you find that the received wisdom is wrong. The Patriot Act is little more than restating laws already passed under Clinton, with a few clarifications and even new safeguards. And what Ashcroft did turns out to be rather different from what he is accused of doing. And look at the "faith-based initiatives." There's no establishment of any religion here--you need a secular plan.

And in science Bush stands accused of politicising environmental research (which was already deeply political--I smell sour grapes), of failing to ratify the Kyoto treaty (even Kerry voted against it), of (horrors!) considering the ethical implications of stem cell and cloning research before opening the checkbook. That's it. I think high CO2 levels are an issue that we're going to have to address, but Kyoto was a joke. Watch Russia. They just ratified it, and by the terms of the treaty they'll get billions to clean up their emissions. They'll clean up on paper only, and when the time comes to come into compliance they'll abrogate the treaty. You heard it here first.

But in some sense these are peripheral issues. The first priority of a government is to protect its citizens from foreign enemies (with armies) and domestic enemies (with police).

9-11 was the most dramatic strike by our enemies, but they'd been at war with us for decades. The term "War on Terror" is misleading. We're at war with a collection of sects of Islam. Khomeini-ism and Wahabism are the most famous--the former subsidized by Iran and the latter by the Saudis. But all the spiritual heirs of the Kharijites are our enemies. Saudi money has spread the Wahabi ideology so far that it will take decades to die out even after the Saudis are destroyed. We need to maintain our determination to defeat these sects for the long haul, through years of fighting and decades of cold war.

Kerry doesn't seem to understand the first thing about what's going on. Afganistan was the main center for AlQaida, but Pakistan was the necessary secondary base. We had to make deals with Beelzebub to knock out Lucifer. Iraq wasn't a major center for US-centric terrorist groups, but it was an old enemy and in a strategic location that puts us in position to begin threatening our main enemies: Iran and Saudi Arabia. This is all pretty trivial stuff, but Kerry doesn't give any hint that he knows any of it.

So far Bush seems to get the picture. Mostly. Things have worked surprisingly well. Iraq is in much better shape than I had any reason to expect. Likewise Afganistan. And a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes. The Khan network was wrapped up and Qadafi decided to get out of the nuke business. Don't bother telling me that could have happened without the threat of force. It's not so clear that Bush understands the need for the propoganda campaign.

Kerry's advisors talk about "root causes" being poverty and Israel and misunderstandings of the US. We can't do anything about their poverty unless we invade :-( , the Arab states have decided to redefine their identity in terms of rejection of Israel and Jews, and we can't rely on them to clear up their misunderstandings of us, which is what the proposal I looked at boiled down to.

Kerry doesn't "get it." The amusing part of the situation is that the next few years aren't likely to involve US troops in any overt shooting war anyway. Just garrisons and covert operations. And propoganda, if we know what's good for us (and, curiously enough for them). I think Bush understands this war. I don't think Kerry does.

Character is always an issue. Kerry seems startlingly tone deaf when it comes to religion. When you're in a religious war (it only takes one side to make it one), that incapacity becomes a major handicap. You have to understand your enemies.

Kerry boast of nuance. Understanding nuance is important; the devil is in the details. But I listen to him, and some of what he says is nuance but a lot of it is spin and, to coin a phrase, flip-flop. Some, of course, is lies--the winter soldier testimony being the ugliest and most famous example. Kerry has a few principles: he's staunchly pro-abortion, and staunchly in favor of marrying rich. Aside from a few others like these, he's a windsock with a resonant voice.

Perhaps Kerry can grow into the job of president. I've seen nothing in his career that leads me to suspect it, though.

I'm voting for Bush.

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