The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, October 01, 2004

Debate: initial thoughts

I feel fortunate having enjoyed the performance - transcript - with audio only. The Bush pantomime, I gather, was thoroughly cringemaking.

A clear victory for Kerry, natch - who came over as at least having a measure of competence in the subjects under review.

But - he actually used the word victory in the context of the Iraq occupation. However he defines it, just to hear the word in context gave me the jitters. Of course, it may be it's just the usual bollocks that pols say; the danger is that he gets locked in by his own rhetoric, and - a Kennedy-Johnson flashback - by a perceived need to establish Dem credentials as tough on national security.

Notably, he used the expression -
I'm going to lead those troops to victory
- just after referring to his own role in the anti-war movement in the 1970s. Some sort of overcompensation going on.

Whereas what is actually needed is a campaign to re-educate the US electorate to expect a messy withdrawal.

On waging preemptive war, Kerry said
The president always has the right, and always has had the right, for preemptive strike. That was a great doctrine throughout the Cold War.

Whereas the US strategy manifestly did not generally include pre-emption (in the George Bush sense, rather than the Caroline/Daniel Webster sense): from at least 1949 onwards, once the USSR had the atomic bomb, it was clearly a serious threat, yet the Warsaw Pact was not invaded.

And Kerry's reference to genocide in Darfur - which, as I understand it, many knowledgeable about the region dispute - is a worrying sign of incomprehension. And his contemplating sending troops
to coalesce the African Union
reminded me of those 685 US advisors to the ARVN, the maximum allowed by the Geneva Convention who, under another JFK, grew vastly in number and changed distinctly in role.

The danger with a President Kerry is, armed with his expertise (clearly superior to Bush's) and assuming victory gave him a mandate for action, he would feel confident in taking unwise action.

I want to hear words from him clearly negativing any intention to pursue any version of a PNAC-style campaign to bring democracy to the world by application of force. In fact, that he clearly eschews any forward policy of any description based on the use of force.

Pro tem, the fact that - he said it - nine of ten US divisions are taken up with the Iraq rotation is a curb on the ambitions of any president. How long will that last, though?

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