September 20, 2004

Europeans for Bush

Why not give Bush four more years to truly, spectacularly fuck up on both the domestic and international plane? Let him give Americans a fiscal hangover that will wean them off Republicans for a generation. Let him ratchet up a culture war which conservatives are doomed to lose demographically. Make sure it is he, not a Democrat, who gets to lose the war in Iraq. It's not Europeans who are going to suffer disproportionally from four more years of Bush, but Americans (and random Muslim countries). And the prize? Chastened, sane foreign policy in the long term, to which Europeans can respond constructively.

The idea is that a Democrat president in 2008 would have a much broader mandate to start repairing the mess, both at home and abroad. The one place where a Bush re�lection would inflict lasting damage, however, is in the Supreme Court, where the winner of this election gets to stuff the court for a generation and remake American society in his image. But again, I have never understood Europeans who get upset about domestic US laws; it's not like we live there or anything. Let them have their assault weapons already. An abortion ban would even boost tourism to Europe.

On other matters, it doesn't matter if Bush or Kerry win: Both are as likely to turn populist-protectionist, depending on circumstances. Regarding that other important international issue — the environment — the US is not ready to join Kyoto-like protocols, nor will Democrats manage to pass laws that encourage European levels of recycling and resource management — for example, by doubling gas prices through taxation. With all the rest being equal then, Europeans might want to consider supporting Bush as a worthwhile long-term gambit.

Posted by Stefan at 12:03 AM GMT

Stefan -

I don't think you understand what's really at stake here. If Bush walks away with the presidency, and the GOP expands its leadership in the Senate, House or both, then it's basically the end of the Democrat Party as we've known it since the 60s. It'll need to swap out the radicals and try to appeal to some current GOP faction. Not the fiscal conservatives (because then they lose the blacks) and probably not the evangelicals (because then they lose the left-liberal moderates) but possibly the hawks, if Bush doesn't do enough to tame the Middle East, or is unsuccessful at it. Worse, it seems unlikely that one party can keep both the latinos and the blacks under one tent, since their interests are contradictory, so they Democrats have that to deal with, too. (This is why Bush won't act on Mexican illegal immigration - he expects them to become Republicans.)

If the Democrats lose this time around, they'll be marginalized like the Tories in the UK, and have to find some new raisin deeter. See, it's all about the swag - the Democrats deliver swag to their constituencies. But if they're out of power for too long, some of their constituencies will lose interest. This is already happening in South Dakota, where a natural GOP constituency has remained in sway of the Democrats because its congressional delegation punches above its weight. South Dakota's Tom Daschle was formerly majority leader, now he's minority leader, and thus the swag train has slowed. Daschle may actually be outed in November - he's trailing his GOP opponent. Knocking out Daschle in November would almost double the impact of a Kerry loss against the Democrats - a catastrophic humiliation.

The momentum is swinging agains the Democrats.

Posted by: Sterling on September 20, 2004 12:36 AM

I agree that my recommendation is somewhat of a calculated risk; still, if I believe that the trajectory Dubya is taking the country on is demonstrably unsustainable and I have the courage of my convictions, I should be willing to take the gamble... especially if in the unlikely event I'm wrong, it is not I who will be suffering the consequences disproportionally.

(I keep on saying disproportionally, by the way, because though I realize that Europe may suffer economic effects from Bush's deficit spending, I think they will be much less severe -- and it is all about how well we are doing relative to one another, in the end, no?)

Posted by: Stefan Geens on September 20, 2004 08:30 AM

I see where you're coming from, Stefan, but this strikes me as a milder version of the argument that it's good to see Iraq in chaos because it makes the neo-cons look bad. I never thought this was a responsible line of thought. And it turns out that Iraq is in chaos, and the Republicans are still likely to win the election.

Posted by: Jame on September 20, 2004 10:54 AM

No, this strikes me as quite sensible. And Jame, hoping the Americans fail dismally in Eye-raq is an extremely responsible line of thought, as failure will, while bad for Iraqis and possibly for your self image, probably save more American, Iranian and Syrian lives than will be lost in the couple of years it takes America to accept its defeat in Iraq and the years after that during which the country regains some equilibrium. Horrible arithmetic, but that's where you've put us with your clever theories.

The only danger is that Europeans give up on America in the next 4 years, as a great number are tempted to do, and try and set up international structures separate from the current US-dominated ones. Without a big stick to back them up and the will to waggle it, they'll probably fail.

Posted by: eurof on September 20, 2004 11:39 AM

Eurof, that's like hoping democracy can never work in an Arab country, or that Sadr or Baathism prevail just to prove Uncle Sam is arrogant. The costs are enormous.

You say it's better America fail in Iraq so that, what, a view that democratizing the Middle East is proved baloney? You think the outcome of this stuggle is little more than a humiliation for the US? I think the outcome is far graver and more profound than assuaging European sensibilities about crude American thinking.

Posted by: Jame on September 20, 2004 03:29 PM

A better title for this post would be "How to cut of your nose to spite your face"

Posted by: mike on September 20, 2004 03:55 PM

Since Europeans are not eligible to vote in the US elections (and I have no problems with that) it's hardly like we have a say in whether the nose will be cut off.

Posted by: Stefan Geens on September 20, 2004 04:12 PM

I'm sure Arabs can be democrats, Jame, though you might not like who they'd vote for if they were. Please read my comment before wittering on in your silly way, viz

"You think the outcome of this stuggle is little more than a humiliation for the US? I think the outcome is far graver and more profound than assuaging European sensibilities about crude American thinking."

I agree with you. American humiliation is purely a side benefit; I couldn't care less if your feelings are hurt one way or another. The argument I make is a purely utilitarian one, designed to minimize the probability of more pointless instability, death and misery, which would so obviously ensue should you follow Sterling's "Nuke the Towel-Heads if They Look at Us Funny" foreign policy and invade or attack Iran and/or Syria. Which would make Iraq look like a pleasant golfing holiday.

Luckily, it looks like you are in fact losing, so I'm a bit less worried about this happening.

Posted by: eurof on September 20, 2004 04:22 PM

Actually I would characterize my foreign policy not as "Nuke the Towel-Heads if They Look at Us Funny", but rather "Convince the Towel-Heads We Will Nuke them if They Look at Us Funny". I know you don't have much of a head for subtlety, Eurof, but this is kind of a big difference. (Unless they call us on it, in which case the outcome will be the same.)

Your eagerness to declare Iraq a lost cause is idiotic and repulsive. Of course it's a mess - but it will get straightened out. Germany was a mess for years after WW2. Iraq is not going to become a failed state like Afghanistan or Somalia. We in the U.S. want a reasonably responsive government on the path to economic growth and ongoing democratic reforms. Iraq is one of the more cosmopolitan Aran countries - if we can put it on the right track, we'll have started a new conversation throughout the Middle East.

Why you in Europe are so opposed to this, I leave to your own morbid speculations.

Posted by: Sterling on September 20, 2004 04:38 PM

For what it's worth, the "Iraq is Germany" meme seems to be losing out to the "Iraq is Vietnam" meme of late.

Posted by: Stefan Geens on September 20, 2004 04:47 PM

The "Iraq is Vietnam" meme is completely without foundation. Coalition casualties are a tiny fraction of US (or French) casualties in Vietnam, there is no enemy military, there is no war. The war is over. The U.S. won it.

Now it's just a matter of ending the post-war insurgency. The U.S. is capable of doing this very quickly if it's willing to get dirty, but it will take longer if we want to stay clean. And then there's the matter of persuading Iran and Syria to keep out of it.

Posted by: Sterling on September 20, 2004 04:58 PM

So boring. The historical analogy to Iraq is clearly the postbellum Southern States of the USA. Or Lebanon. Or the Philippines, or possibly US gov't treatment of native Americans (God, I hope not). Or, quite possibly, Iraq. Take your pick:

Posted by: charles on September 20, 2004 05:01 PM

Incidentally, Stefan, you should never take anything seriously written by Sidney Blumenthal - he is a discredited man, a proved liar and fraud. The fact that the Guardian allows his byline to appear in its newspaper is all you need to know about its integrity, too.

Posted by: Sterling on September 20, 2004 05:09 PM

This is very similar to a discussion I was having this weekend vis-�-vis Lakoff�s theories. (The fact that the democrats are structurally incapable of framing issues as successfully as the republicans). The RNC completely reconstructed its party � making it a national and hierarchically based party -- in response to Goldwater�s loss. -- That�s one reason they have a more successful command of framing the issues. This RNP was created from inception (no wonder it's been so successful in promoting its agenda).

In 1964, the republicans�fear was exactly like that of Sterling�s but flopped. They feared the demise of the republican party. The last time the republicans had f*cked up this badly (and the democrats succeeded so spectacularly) resulted in the 40-odd-year Roosevelt legacy. After a nearly 30 year legacy of the Reaganomics in 2008, people may be sufficiently disenfranchised to elect a democrat.

There are two problems with this set up as I see it. First, the dems better have somebody equal to the task � like Roosevelt & the brain trust. But, more problematic I think, is that heralds a structural change in our political system* � wherein our government is typified by wild pendulum swings in parties (and their agendas). Part of what scares me in the recent economic cycles is the abrupt swings. This paradigm (how I hate that word) is now acceptable to society, but I think inherently destructive because it�s so unstable and destructive.

*Better American historians than I can say, maybe wild swings back and forth have been the norm in politics. Have parties always dismantled and re-mantled? (sorry about the neologism there)

Posted by: la depressionada on September 20, 2004 05:44 PM

first destructive should have detrimental

Posted by: la depressionada on September 20, 2004 05:46 PM

Reaganomics. Now there's another word you don't hear very often. It's up there with Bistromatics although in terms of -ics one can't do worse than "Voodoo Economics" of Ben Stein fame in Ferris Bueller.

The old argument was that Reagan spent us so far into debt that Democrats couldn't use fiscal policy to address issues. This also made it a field day on social and environmental policies since anyone who opposed them wasn't being fiscally responsible.

Republicans don't have to hold the purse strings to control policy, they merely have to empty the coffers.


Posted by: Gherimiah on September 20, 2004 09:46 PM

As I believed in 2000 (when I voted for Nader) and this year (when I may likely do so again), if the Democratic party as it is currently constituted, and helmed by that Rovian bastard Terry McAffulie, cannot manage to rouse its historic (20c.-style, for the ever-brittle Sterling, still clinging to his belief that Delay would have supported Lincoln) base to kick that panty-waist Dubya (I can put up with a lot of bullshit hagiography, but that George Bush can been seen by anyone as a tough guy rouses the masculine identity I tried to pack away fifteen years ago so I could get laid by the radical feminists of the early 90's; would anyone here pause for even a second before wiping the floor with his fey Yalie ass?) to curb, then it deserves to wither and die. Continuing the noxious triangulation policies of the Clinton nineties will not lead to a platform that resonates with the majority and endures a generation as happened after Roosevelt, but it will land us squarely in the arms of the most awful Democratic candidate ever put forward: Hillary Rodham Clinton. It is time for the Dems to stop being a jobs program for two of the most self-interested Democrats in history.

Posted by: Mr. 99th Percentile on September 21, 2004 03:03 AM

Eurof, an American success in Iraq would generate its own momentum toward modernizing politics in the Middle East. I don't think invading Syria is necessary. Whether it is a neo-con priority, I could not say.

I'm perfectly prepared to see Arabs vote for someone who is anti-US. The status quo is already pretty hostile. But it is in the most closed societies where anti-Americanism rages so hotly. I don't see how the alternative - a French and Russian-led demolition of economic and political sanctions on the Iraqi regime - was going to improve the situation.

I'm extremely critical of the competence of the US, particularly the US military, to carry out the job in Iraq. Which is what is so frustrating: the current mess was not inevitable, although you would, I suppose, argue otherwise. But I think it's fair to say that had Bush made a sincere effort at diplomacy, and had the Europeans made a sincere effort at supporting us instead of using the war to score cheap political points at home, then a liberated Iraq would be a very different animal today.

Posted by: Jame on September 21, 2004 11:11 AM


Nobody uses the term Reaganomics anymore, because from the middle class down people are too numb by the loss of jobs, benefits and generally decreased standard of living to be incensed at the abuse. The hegemony of corporate concerns is nearly complete. It's structural. As for Bistromatics, I'd say Plasmatics -- but not often do the twains meet, huh?


Posted by: la depressionada on September 21, 2004 06:09 PM

God always punishes me when I try to be sly: twain, singular.

Posted by: la depressionada on September 21, 2004 08:02 PM

Have you considered some of the possible ramifications of Bush being President and losing Iraq to insurgents? Americans may well remember the nations that voted for U.N. Security Council resolution 1441, and then refused to implement it. They may decide that France, Iraq's biggest European trading partner, and Russia let economic interest, or in the case of France and Germany, political interest, take presidence over obligations as permanent members of the Security Council. Iraq had been a problem for more than a decade; 5,000 Iraqi children under 5 died each month, Saddam still failed to disarm in a manner sufficient to convince UN inspectors, and he still provided money to the families of Palestinians who immolated themselves along with Israelis (terrorist in the minds of many Americans, especially after September 11th).

Americans may not feel chastened at their failure, but resentment at their supposed allies lack of support on a matter seen by at least some Americans as critical to America's security. America may not end up feeling chastened, and more willing to listen to objections of other nations, but rather betrayed, and unwilling to work with nations which it feels can not be trusted.

Terrorism is not a uniquely American problem, and they may feel that Iraq, which many see as a central front in the war on terrorism, should not require a solution provided almost exclusively by America, and it's loyal side kick Great Britain.

America helped rebuild Europe after two World Wars, and deterred a third one with the Soviet Union. It should be noted that America's response after the first World War was disengagement which helped lead to World War II. Europe needs America, because frankly someone needs to hold the stick, and Europe isn't willing to buy its own.

Somalia chastened the U.S., and helped lead the way to Rwanda. The world is not yet a nice place in which nations and people all act in good faith to resolve their differences. At the very least a credible threat of force is required in many circumstances.

Americans who see Europeans rooting for their economic discomfort, generally unwilling to help in securing or rebuilding Iraq, and more motivated by a desire for profit, both political and econoimc, than a desire to advance self determination, democracy, freedom, and tolerance, are not going to be good partners. Many Americans don't have a great deal of faith with the U.N. and the oil for food scandal doesn't help. Americans need partners, but they may not accept partners that they don't trust.

French Journalist have been kidnapped; Russian schoolchildren have been murdered; Spanish trains have been bombed; Australians have been killed while on vacation in Bali. Terrorism is a problem for the entire world, and the entire world needs to convince America that others are willing to help. If Americans are wrong on Iraq, but went in for the right reasons, then try to temper their judgement, not their enthusiasm. America is a nation that takes on great projects, and quite often succedes. If their project consist of securing Americas borders, and letting the rest of the world fend for itself, Europe will not be fortunate, nor will millions in the Middle East and throughout the rest of the world.

Europeans need to understand that America considers itself to be at war with terrorist. Vietnam did not make America give up the Cold War. Failure in Iraq will probably not make America give up the war on terror. However; it stands to reason the only thing more dangerous than an arrogant superpower, is an arrogant super power with a bloody noise.

Posted by: Carl on September 25, 2004 03:47 AM

Carl, you need an editor.

And you also fall into the same routine of combatting criticism of the war in Iraq with a defence of the war on terrorism. But to do that you first have to make a straw man -- liberals who are against the war on terrorism. They might even exist somewhere, but not on this blog.

The war in Iraq was a stupid idea and counterproductive to the aims of combatting terrorism, and, I'd like to add, I told you so.

Posted by: Stefan Geens on September 25, 2004 09:20 AM

I wasn't aware I needed to find liberals against the war on terrorism (for clarity's sake I take it you are referring to contemporary political liberalism). I was under the impression that my primary criticism was that America, having already established Iraq as part of the war on terror (excluding Senator Kerry's recent possible reversal) would view failure, especially if it was seen as the result of active obstruction or lack of support from allies, not as sign they should alter their foreign policy to something sane with which Europe could cooperate, but rather might head down a more isolationist path.

As for the war in Iraq being a stupid idea and counter-productive, that is quite possible. However the other option of containment, with sanctions to keep Saddam from gaining weapons may also have been a stupid idea, and counter productive. Saddam's grip wasn't weakened by sanctions; he was placed in control of distributing supplies vital to the lives of Iraqis, which made him more powerful, not less.
Sharing responsibility for the deaths of 5,000 children under the age of 5 every month in Iraq was not a good way to bring about goodwill in the Muslim world. Removing the sanctions likely would have resulted in Saddam pursuing weapons once more, and tailoring them into something similarly effective but less harmful to Iraqis also seems a dubious proposition. Considering that Saddam cheated his way to millions of dollars under the Oil for Food Program, I shudder to think what he could have done with looser restrictions.

As a side note, the U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, part of the containment, was listed by bin Laden as one of the reasons for the creation of Al Qaeda. If the results of containment were 5,000 children under the age of 5 dead each month, and nearly 3,000 Americans dead one September morning, I think it's reasonable to assume that containment might not have been the best possible option.

The war in Iraq may have been a sidestep from the war on terror, but it still presents a unique opportunity which shouldn't be squandered due to resentment or the urge to say "I told you so." Americans feel they are at war, and to some degree, they have the right to pick and choose locations on an amorphous global battlefield.

It is possible that had there not been such repeated and obvious open divsion on the part of the West, that a more satisfactory resolution could have occurred. It is possible that if France and Russia weren't seen as putting economic interest in the forefront, that Saddam might have cooperated with inspectors to the degreee that Bush was assured there were no WMD in Iraq, and further that Iraq did not, and would not represent a threat to the United States, or its allies. Thinking the United States would be deterred from invading Iraq by a lack of UN approval or complete European cooperation was stupid and counter-productive to keeping America engaged with the wold community and interested in cooperating on a number of matters, including the war on terror.

Regardless of whether or not Iraq began as part of the war on terror, the influx of terrorist into the country, and its focus as a battlefield between Muslim extremist and Americans makes it part of the war on terror now. If America should disengage after failure and leave Europe to fend for itself that would be disastrous. I hope never to have the opportunity to say "I told you so" while European corpses burn.

I apologize about my need for an editor, but your cavalier positioning of the word "and" overwhelmed my better judgement.

Posted by: Carl on September 25, 2004 02:33 PM

You seem very taken by the "5,000 children under the age of 5 every month" dying in Iraq as a result of the sanctions.

If stopping children from dying is your overriding moral concern, I can think of much more effective ways of spending $200 billion (not to mention sacrificing the lives of 1,000 soldiers). That staggering amount of money would save millions upon millions of lives every year around the world if it were spent on AIDS medicine for the third world, hunger prevention and better hospitals. And there might even be an ancillary benefit of making the US look like a good Samaritan, raising its goodwill among the world's poor, leading to even fewer sanctuaries for the terrorists we'd all like to nab.

Posted by: Stefan Geens on September 25, 2004 03:03 PM

"Regardless of whether or not Iraq began as part of the war on terror, the influx of terrorist into the country, and its focus as a battlefield between Muslim extremist and Americans makes it part of the war on terror now. If America should disengage after failure and leave Europe to fend for itself that would be disastrous. I hope never to have the opportunity to say "I told you so" while European corpses burn."

Wait, so if the US goes in for a bogus reason, fucks up, leaves and then somehow Europe pays the price, you would get to say "I told you so?"

Posted by: Stefan Geens on September 25, 2004 03:07 PM

Please pardon me for believing there is a moral difference between suffering that is a direct result of your actions, and suffering that you fail to prevent due to inaction.

I don't think free AIDS drugs would do all that much to help the U.S. image. It already provides the most food aid of any nation. That might be dismissed as a sop to American farmers, not as helping combat hunger. Or if the food is genetically modified, then the U.S. isn't providing the type of aid that other countries most desire, because GM food is possibly dangerous, despite the fact that millions in the U.S. eat it every day.

Similarly AIDS drugs will either be a sop to US pharmaceutical companies, unless the US government allows other countries to manufacture generic AIDS drugs (which isn't the best way to convince companies to engage in expensive research). If the companies plan to make the drugs available for free or at drastically reduced prices that is one thing; however the U.S. government being generous with someone else's property is another matter.

I would hardly call the reasons that the U.S. gave for going to war bogus. I don't recall many nations standing up and saying "Iraq has no weapons." The difference was not so much about the danger, as the solution to the problem.

If the U.S. fucks up because it allies (primarily nations which it helped saved in World War I, World War II, helped rebuild through the Marshall Plan, and protected through a nearly 50 year Cold War with the Soviet Union, or else nations that benefited from the U.S. drive to end colonialism) in some cases actively obstruct, or fail to render assistance in what is widely seen as a primary, if not the primary, front in the war on terror, and then as a result of that failure the U.S. does less to help secure and protect its allies, who then suffer further terrorist attacks, then YES I would get to say I told you so. Though I wouldn't enjoy it.

Europe and the U.S. have a frightful amount of things in common, and their collective power and influence is staggering. If Iraq fails because Europe is busy with recriminations, I fail to see how that helps either side. Europe can be proven correct, and then face the consequences of a world in which the U.S. is less willing to help deal with collective security problems.

The U.S. response to World War II wasn't to tell Britain and France, "well that was a rather stupid way of dealing with Hitler." Yes you try to keep allies from making mistakes, especially repeatedly, but abandoning them isn't really a wise policy either.

Posted by: on September 25, 2004 09:27 PM

So the sanctions are our fault, not Saddam's, but the war is his fault, not ours?

Posted by: Stefan Geens on September 25, 2004 09:48 PM

"[Iraq] is widely seen as a primary, if not the primary, front in the war on terror,"

Not by anyone in Europe, probably because FoxNews has so little reach here.

Posted by: Stefan Geens on September 25, 2004 09:57 PM

Kerry has various see no evil types from the Carter and Clinton eras as Kerry's foreign policy advisers. Including Sandy Berger, Rubin (married to CNN's Annanpour) and a whole host of "let's make terrorism into a law enforcment thing and call of the military response."

The ONLY thing that gives the terrorists and their state supporters in the Islamic and Arab world pause IS the Bush doctrine. Kerry's "law enforcement" response will be laughed off by the Arab League, All Jizzeera,

If you want to go back to the bad old days of Carter with US hostages being held and nothing being done, to the bad old days of Clinton, with US embassies being blown up and nothing being done, then vote for Kerry and you will get all this multiplied by a hundred or a thousand.

Posted by: Beware of Carter Clinton Types Around Kerry on October 31, 2004 11:52 PM

Achtung Europeans- nunya. You folks have been trying to tell the U.S. what to do since day one. We are not your kids!
None of your business who we elect.
None of your business what guns we own.
None of your business how we conduct the war.
None of your business how we conduct our security.
None of your business how we recycle or how much gas tax we pay.
Your way is not the right way.
I was in Iraq. Butt-laziest men I ever saw in my life. They treat their women like animals and work them hard. They are rowdy and dangerous people locked in a time warp.

Posted by: Tony on November 8, 2004 08:05 AM