Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Man Who Would Be King

It should be clear to you by now that I am more pro-war than almost all Democrats. The failure of the Bush Administration to explain its war aims disturbs me a great deal.

The failure to find WMDs does not disturb me at all. Those of us who supported the war, but not the stated rationale behind it, had an obligation to explain ourselves more publicly, to force the Bush Administration to state publicly whether it agreed with our goals, and more importantly to engage the American people in a discussion of these goals. If the American people were opposed, after a fair hearing, that opposition should have been factored in.

Our goal -- democracy in the Middle East, or at least a system in the Middle East where democracy will not be disturbed elsewhere --- will take at least 90 years or more to achieve. It took 45 years to fight and win the Cold War, and that was among people who shared our religious traditions, and saw democracy and freedom in the same way we did. Many of the Europeans had experienced some degree of freedom, and were merely trying to get back what they lost.

So as a loose rule of thumb, I am saying that it will take at least twice as long for democracy to root and hold in the Middle East, where the traditions are different, where there is absolutely no experience with any sort of freedom. That 90-year estimate is based on the notion that the United States maintain a presence in the Middle East that entire time. Those of us who believe this to be true did not state this agenda openly. We were hoping that the truth would become apparent along the way. Perhaps they might still. We have only been in the Middle East for a few weeks, especially when compared to the 90-year committment we are going to need to make.

Perhaps I am all alone out here in my analysis, but I doubt it. Anyway, the failure to state this goal openly, to see if it would respond to a thorough scrubbing, will make it almost impossible to accomplish our goal. Now the goal is being attacked by the left because the President is a conservative. Once the President is a liberal, it will be attacked from the right as a breach of American isolationism. People are saying that already, but after a liberal President is elected, those voices will be encouraged. The failure to accomplish the goal in the Middle East, once we set out on the path in Iraq, will come back to kill us.

I am terribly afraid of what John Kerry might mean to the security of Israel, and by extension to Jews everywhere. I am sensitive to the opinions of people like Charles Krauthammer and William Safire. They warn that if Kerry seeks a world consensus to solving the situation in Iraq, then the consensus solution will be to destroy Israel. Given the dynamics of the situation, the destruction of Israel will mean the destruction of a great many, if not most, Jews worldwide.

However, 80% of the Jews will continue to vote Democratic. In the end, the response to people like William Safire and Charles Krauthammer must be: If you feel that strongly about Israel, you should go and live there. If you believe that you have more influence over the future of Israel by staying in the United States and attempting to increase the influence of Jews and pro-Jewish thinking in the United States, that is more than wrong thinking. That is a death wish.

Those of us who choose to remain in America must do what we can, as Americans, to fill America's mission of more freedom. If you must tie the American mission to "what's good for Israel", you must come to the conclusion that more freedom is better for everyone, and since Israel is part of everyone (despite Europe's best efforts), more freedom is better for Israel. If the only way for more freedom in the United States is to liberate the Middle East, then the 90-year war is a good idea. If it will not lead to more freedom in the United States, it is a bad idea.

An important part of freedom is honest and open discussion of what America needs to do next. Contrary to what John Kerry says, that is not a discussion that Europeans are qualified to have. Contrary to what Orrin Hatch says, that is not a discussion that Arnold Schwarznegger or some soon to be determined Arab Prince should someday be qualified to lead. That is a conversation that only Americans are qualified to have and only Americans are qualified to lead.

If the Old World was not a sewer, most of our ancestors would not have made such a treacherous trip over here in the first place. I'm certainly not going to escape from hell, and then call the Devil up for advice.

That is not to say that America is perfect, that is not to say that America has fulfilled its promise by a long shot. That is only to say that America, over time, and not every single day, is by far the best of an incredibly motley crew.

I have no use for those who worry that America lost some moral authority in the eyes of Europeans. You could stink up the world every day for a zillion years, kill everyone you see, and not catch up to the history of European depravity.

I have no use for those who worry that too much free speech by a United States Senator running for the President of the United States gives aid and comfort to our enemies in the Middle East. I do not conduct my business, I do not tailor my freedom, for the approval of life forms who only respect a kick in the teeth.

I have said this since the day he announced his candidacy. Bush is not a Republican, and Bush is not a Democrat. Bush is a Bush.

Just as those of us who believe in the 90-year war for freedom in the Middle East were unclear about our motives for war, Bush was unclear about his. Since Bush never cleared up the confusion, we are allowed to draw our own conclusions.

Republicans have made up rationalizations for the war, and for the prison scandal, and for the disappearance of the weapons, and for every other action that this Administration has taken during the War on Terror, and for many domestic actions as well (the cost of the Medicaid proposal being just the most obvious).

The facts are controlled by the Bush Administration, and it is clearer and clearer that the facts are being suppressed. Since there are no facts, Republican rationalizations cannot possibly conform with the facts, and any overlap of Republican rationalization and the truth is the merest coincidence.

This was true of Bush 41 as well, by the way, and all this sudden Bush 41 nostalgia amongst Conservative Democrats forgets that point. Bush 41 thought that an honest explanation of his policies was beneath him. In 1992, he sent surrogates out not just to do the dirty work of trashing his opponent, but also the honest work of explaining the ruler to the masses. All of the things that Bush 41 tried to accomplish came to pass, but 41 did not get credit for them, and he did not deserve credit for them.

In a democracy, it is not enough to be right. You also have to lead the people. Governing in a democracy without revealing your true motivies did not work for 41, and whatever the result of the election today, it will not work for 43 either. Ultimately, and not very far away, even those supporting 43 are going to need to know the facts, not simply so they can bash Democrats, but so they can live their own lives.

Incidentally, despite recent jabber, including from this blog site, faith must also be based on facts, based on truth. Misapprehension of God and your place in God's order, which can be short-handed into the buzzwords a "lack of humility," can lead to actions that are not consistent with what God wants from us on Earth. If you don't have the facts, you don't know where you are. If you don't know where you are, it is hard to know how to pray. Excessive faith is just like excessive anything else.

We are drowning in words, and parched for facts, much less truth. It is impossible to determine what Bush's true intentions were, are, or will be. In such times as these, Democrats should be entitled to make things up too. Al Gore says, and I have come to believe, that Bush's entire reason for the Iraq War was to put a smokescreen in front of a domestic power grab. Since no one who may know the true facts -- Bush, Cheney, can't be more than 6 others -- will say what the true facts are, who among the Republicans has the moral standing, has the facts at their disposal, to say that Al Gore is wrong?

If no one knows the facts about the prison scandals or the missing munitions, who has the power to call John Kerry a liar? It is not enough for the President to say that no one else knows what they are talking about because only the President knows what's going on. What little we know from the 9/11 Commission tells us that the President didn't know what was going on either.

We say we are free, but we are constantly deprived of the facts and truth that are needed to maintain freedom. If we are constantly being told that the liquid in our face is rain, we will eventually believe nothing. People who believe nothing, who have lost their ability to compare different things being told to them, will believe anything that offers a change, will believe anything that strikes them as attractive. The more attractive sounding promise is always the one that makes you less free in the end. Freedom is nothing but hard work.

People who promise less have fewer points on their "to do" list, fewer points of contention amongst themselves. It is easier for them to stick together. That is why those in favor of less freedom always will have the upper hand on those in favor of more freedom. It is always more attractive to promise people less hard work. Demolition, destruction, hatred, killing, leaving the construction to be done by someone else, is always the least work of all.

Whatever I think of this or that Bush policy, whatever I think of this or that Kerry policy, who cares. It doesn't matter much, because the issue about Bush (any Bush --take your pick) transcends war and peace and tax cuts and abortion and gay rights and stem cells and federalism and the status of race and gender and God in America.

There is an election for the President of the United States. You cannot vote for a man who would be king. A man who would be king does not need the vote of the people.