W.W.K.D. – WHAT WOULD KERRY DO ?

Much of the contest between Kerry and Bush has boiled down to how Kerry would be different on the War on Terror from Bush. Liberals like Kevin Drum claiming he’d be far more competent and effective, hawks like myself thinking Kerry is likely to be clueless and viscerally inhibited from taking action. Then there are people who are disgusted with Bush over Iraq and are trying to rationalize voting for Kerry in hoping that he won’t sink to our worst expectations.

There’s some truth to that because much of the DC bureaucracy serves presidents of either party, remaining there from administration to administration. This bureaucratic stasis tends to provide about 80 % continuity in American foreign policy as they drag presidents through passive resistance to line up behind the status quo.

Overall, this is a good thing because the world would dislike erratic zig-zagging by the United States even more than they dislike hard-line Neocon policy. As amazing as it may sound today, the Kremlin welcomed the election of Ronald Reagan because after four years of Jimmy Carter’ incomprehensible ( to Soviet eyes) naivete, steady opposition they were familiar with and thought they understood beat a situation where the Politburo knew a miscalculation could easily occur.

In general however, only an exceptionally vigorous chief executive or one blessed with an earth-shattering circumstances – can do more than simply tinker at the policy margins and this on only one or two issues during their time in office. So, everything’s fine right ?

Well, Jeff at Caerdroia is saying ” Think again “:

“I’m hearing a lot of people lately “reasoning” that Kerry will be just fine, because he “can’t afford” to pull out of Iraq, “knows better” than to do so, or some other claptrap. I just have this to say: if John Kerry is elected president, it will be my fondest hope that he has noble goals for America and succeeds – particularly that he succeeds in defeating terrorism and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to terror-supporting states.

But, and this is a rather large “but”, I don’t expect it. When Bill Clinton was running for President in 1992, it was obvious to anyone paying attention that he was a relentlessly self-obsessed womanizer and a compulsive liar. Whether or not you think he was a useful or effective president, it’s pretty hard to deny he’s exactly what he seemed like during the campaign.

Similarly, Kerry has been quite consistent on a few points of both policy and character. A Kerry administration would shrink from conflict where America’s interests were at stake, would abandon our coalition partners and suck up to the French and Germans instead, and would give the UN an effective veto over US foreign policy. Kerry would shrink the military, stop or dramatically slow procurement of new weapons and equipment, hobble our intelligence services, allow Iran to get nuclear weapons and quite probably withdraw from Iraq before actually securing a victory there. Kerry would always choose bigger government and higher taxes over all other considerations, and would do his best to enact the most Leftist agenda ever attempted by a president. All the while, he would smugly enthuse about how all of us proles just don’t understand his intelligence and nuance. Kerry will claim that everything good is his doing, personally, and everything bad is the failure of some underling or political opponent.

Go ahead and vote for him if you think that’s best, but don’t go acting all surprised later”

2 comments on this post.
  1. Anonymous:

    Looks to me like Jeff has been drinking a little too much Kool-Aid.

    Everyone has reservations about a Kerry presidency, but continuing with Bush would do too much damage to the Core. He’s not enough of an internationalist, and that’s precisely what is needed right now. Someone to get the rest of the Core up to speed and get their troops and $$ involved.

    “A Kerry administration would shrink from conflict where America’s interests were at stake, would abandon our coalition partners and suck up to the French and Germans instead, and would give the UN an effective veto over US foreign policy.”

    But he’s never said that. In fact, he’s stated the exact opposite. I know politicians lie, but… come on! And why do people harp on the French and Germans so much? They’re not going to help us in Iraq, no matter who the president is. Kerry will be looking elsewhere from day one. Sure, he’ll try to smooth relations with our old allies, but everyone knows they’re not up to the task of shrinking the Gap yet. It’ll take years to get them moving on our side and we’ll be recruiting allies like India and China in the meantime.

    “Kerry would shrink the military, stop or dramatically slow procurement of new weapons and equipment, hobble our intelligence services, allow Iran to get nuclear weapons and quite probably withdraw from Iraq before actually securing a victory there.”

    Except he’s stated his plan to increase it by ~40,000 troops as well as double the size of our Special Forces. Claiming that he would slow weapons development and hobble intelligence services is so illogical that I don’t understand how Jeff can say this. Would ‘slow weapons development’ mean ‘scrap the missile shield?’ That’s probably a good idea. Save $$ and preserve the MAD ruleset in the Core. Otherwise, I don’t know what Jeff would be talking about. Maybe all those military budget cuts from the early ’90s, the ones that were supported by Cheney and some other hawks?

    And allow Iran to get nuclear weapons? I thought the whole idea of giving Iran the fuel was so that we could know exactly what it had, monitor the fuel, and determine if any is missing? Then we’d know if they were trying to develop nukes and threaten them with war if needed. And pulling out of Iraq would be political and national suicide, no matter how badly the Michael Moores and Naderites want it. He’s not going to do it. It would destroy our reputation in the international community for at least a decade.

    “Kerry would always choose bigger government and higher taxes over all other considerations, and would do his best to enact the most Leftist agenda ever attempted by a president.”

    I could make the argument that Bush has been choosing bigger government for quite some time now. I’m sure Kerry will enlarge the government, but is that necessarily a bad thing? He’s not going to bring back full-blown welfare. His medical insurance program uses primarily private sources. And sometimes you need to raise taxes–like when the deficit is getting too big. A deficit in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but letting it balloon up to current levels is putting too much stress on the system. And I think FDR can take credit for the most Leftist agenda of any president.

    “All the while, he would smugly enthuse about how all of us proles just don’t understand his intelligence and nuance. Kerry will claim that everything good is his doing, personally, and everything bad is the failure of some underling or political opponent.”

    From a political point of view, why the hell would he do that? He’d alienate so many people. Remember Gore and his *sighs*? And claiming that everything good is his doing and everything bad is the failure of some underling? Possibly. Its happened all the time with this past presidency, so it just might have become a White House institution.

    Sorry, its just that you have to believe that Kerry is nearly the opposite of what he’s portrayed himself as being in public. And the opposite of what everyone who knows him has said he is. And nearly the opposite of his Senate record. I don’t buy it. Not for an instant. If, after Nov. 3rd, I find out I’m wrong and that Kerry is a horrible liberal demon from the netherworld, then fine. I will never vote again after that. Or maybe I’ll vote Libertarian.

    Until then, I just hope the Kool-Aid drinkers like Jeff don’t get so pissed off enough that our government is unable to function.

    Enough of my ranting…

    I’ll just leave here saying that I got here through Tom Barnett’s weblog, and I’ve enjoyed the contributions you’ve made in fleshing out his ideas from TPNM. Keep up the good work!

  2. mark:

    Hi Anon,

    Very glad you like the PNM posts – I’ve really enjoyed the hard thinking they entailed and the communication with Dr. Barnett that resulted from wading into PNM. Global thinkers are a rarity and Tom has demonstrated that he is one of them.

    While Jeff can ( and does ) speak for himself I will just have to say that if senator Kerry is elected, I’m hopeful that you are correct. No, I don’t think Mr. Kerry will ” give away the store” but I do see him as exceedingly cautious and risk-averse which may not be best for a war. He has some good ideas and Bush has his limitations; unfortunately we do not have a choice between a more unilateralist Kerry and Bush or a more multilateral Bush and Kerry but between Bush and Kerry, as is. I think it’s pretty reasonable to differ on the two based on what you perceive as the worst case scenario. Kerry has portrayed himself as more hawkish in the campaign than his career indicates which is what I think Jeff and other bloggers like Shannon Love have harped on.

    The key of course, is who fills out an administration in the second, third and fourth tier political appointee slots. A Kerry administration staffed on DLC and Brookings recommendations will have a very different flavor from one where strange characters wander in to policy posts after being vetted by the TIDES foundation. I can easily live with the former.

    As for the French, the point isn’t that they ” hate America” – they don’t – but that they have a zero sum game view of international relations. The French are also the major advocates of the ” Post-Kantian ” view as the best new Rule -Set for the Core. This is good for them and other regional powers because neutralizing/constraining the only viable Leviathan preserves the Gap as it is – an area where smaller powers can have a freer hand amidst anarchy and closed, gatekeeper, regimes.

    Ultimately this is a bad strategy because the spillover costs of Gap problems are not containable – they leak into the Core eventually. There are other reasons for this but the problem boils down to very different conceptions of national and Core interests between Paris and Washington.