Cap'n Arbyte's



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Foreign Policy Debate

UPDATE 2004-10-06 01:28:06 UTC: Important updates inline.

I know what you're thinking. "If the good Cap'n was at the foreign policy debate, how would he have answered the questions?" What, you weren't thinking that? Well, I bet you are, now — so this is your lucky day!

All my quotes come from this debate transcript.

(to Kerry) Do you believe you could do a better job than President Bush in preventing another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States?

No. I scope this war very broadly and believe the path to victory is to pursue a Reformation in the middle east. A strain of intolerant Islamic fundamentalism has metastasized and is not willing to coexist with any different philosophy. It is bred by religious fanaticism, political repression, and cultural failure.

Reformation will take decades, and the liberalization of many nations is necessary. Afghanistan was the right place to start because it attacked us. Iraq was the right place to go next for a host of practical reasons, including its relative secularity, modernity, geography, military weakness, and lack of allies. Iran has been on the verge of democratic revolution for years but its nuclear ambitions make direct action there extremely delicate. As Iraq changes and becomes prosperous it will be a catalyst within the region for others to change as well, and the foundations of that success (liberty, capitalism, accountability, etc.) will spread and cause Islamic fundamentalism to lose its appeal.

Kerry views 9/11 as an isolated incident, or at best connected to only a few other attacks, and limits his response to al-Qaeda. Bush takes a broader view but his public statements have not gone as far as I would like. He wants to destroy terrorists and promote liberty abroad, which is great, but I do not believe he views the war quite as broadly as I do.

(to Bush) Do you believe the election of Senator Kerry on November the 2nd would increase the chances of the U.S. being hit by another 9/11-type terrorist attack?

The wording of the question is unfortunate. I do not believe the U.S. is susceptible to another 9/11-type attack for the simple reason that citizens will prevent it, as they did on Flight 93. I do believe that attacks will be attempted in the future no matter who the President is, but that they will be smaller in scale because al-Qaeda's organizational capability has been severely hurt due to the fighting in Afghanistan.

I believe the election of Senator Kerry would result in more attacks over the long term, because he would not pursue change in the mideast that would lead to permanent victory. Kerry wants to block, Bush wants to punch.

(to Kerry) Colossal misjudgments. What colossal misjudgments, in your opinion, has President Bush made in these areas?

I am sympathetic to the argument that disbanding the Iraqi military and police was a mistake, because it made it more difficult to reconstitute those bodies today. But I am no expert on such matters.

I do not find fault with Bush's decision to go through the United Nations during the build-up. Britain's help was politically impossible without having gone to the U.N., and the time spent waiting for them to act did not ultimately delay the war. The critical path was our own logistics.

It was unfortunate that Bush relied almost exclusively on the threat of WMDs in trying to convince the U.N. to act. He believed it was true (and therefore was wrong, but not a liar) and if it were true it would have been sufficient cause for the war on its own. But in my understanding of this war WMDs were not a necessary cause for action. In the 9/11 attack itself, it must be remembered, no WMDs were used.

(to Bush) What about Senator Kerry's point, the comparison he drew between the priorities of going after Osama bin Laden and going after Saddam Hussein?

As Bush said, "we've got the capability of doing both." We properly went after OBL first, but the Afghanistan effort did not require our entire military force. Tanks, for instance, were not useful in Afghanistan but were very useful in Iraq. As Bush stated, the Taliban is out of power and three-quarters of the known al-Qaeda leadership has been captured or killed, so the organization has been crippled and what remains is essentially mopping up.

I have to step out of my role for a second here and mention a bizarre statement from Kerry: "And we got weapons of mass destruction crossing the border every single day, and they're blowing people up." Huh? What's he talking about?

(to Kerry) As president, what would you do, specifically, in addition to or differently to increase the homeland security of the United States than what President Bush is doing?

I have no comment about the question or either candidate's response.

(to Bush) What criteria would you use to determine when to start bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq?

What Bush said. When the Iraqis are capable of tending to their own security, we can bring troops home. Loved his paragraph about "a free Iraq" (see the transcript.)

(to Kerry) Speaking of Vietnam, you spoke to Congress in 1971, after you came back from Vietnam, and you said, quote, How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

I have no comment about the question or either candidate's response.

(to Bush) You have said there was a, quote, "miscalculation," of what the conditions would be in post-war Iraq. What was the miscalculation, and how did it happen?

I have no comment other than to say that Bush's response was very weak.

(to Kerry) You just — you've repeatedly accused President Bush — not here tonight, but elsewhere before — of not telling the truth about Iraq, essentially of lying to the American people about Iraq. Give us some examples of what you consider to be his not telling the truth.

I don't believe Bush has been dishonest about his foreign policy. He has been diplomatic, not making some arguments that wouldn't be received well by other countries, but genuinely believed the WMD threat.

UPDATE 2004-10-06 01:28:06 UTC: Changed the corruption link and added the quote below.

Kerry mentioned the State of the Union speech, which was a definite mistake because it was Joe Wilson who lied and British intelligence has steadfastly backed their uranium claim. I do not comprehend Kerry's argument that we didn't "exhaust the remedies of the United Nations". What would "exhaustion" be — another decade of Hussein brazenly flaunting Security Council resolutions? The U.N. made it clear that they were not going to act, and in the aftermath of the war it has become obvious why — oil-for-food corruption:

The governments of Russia, France and China also blocked U.S. efforts within the United Nations to stop abuse of the program, which was designed to get food and medicine to Iraqis through limited sales of oil.

"As the program developed, it became increasingly apparent the French, Russians, and Chinese had much to gain from maintaining the status quo," a staff subcommittee memorandum states.

The United Nations is a corrupt, racist, toothless, ineffective, debating society of terror coddlers. It has negative credibility. I would join the "get the U.S. out of the U.N., and the U.N. out of the U.S.!" club except that without our veto, it would quickly act to destroy the state of Israel.

(to Bush) Has the war in Iraq been worth the cost of American lives, 1,052 as of today?


(to Kerry) Can you give us specifics, in terms of a scenario, time lines, et cetera, for ending major U.S. military involvement in Iraq?

Kerry said, "I think a critical component of success in Iraq is being able to convince the Iraqis and the Arab world that the United States doesn't have long-term designs on it. As I understand it, we're building some 14 military bases there now, and some people say they've got a rather permanent concept to them."

Oh, but we do! The United States is still involved in a military occupation of Western Europe, sixty years later. Plus consider Japan and South Korea. Iraq will (should) be like that. The U.S. is a benign occupier, and we need permanent bases in the region to carry out the remainder of the war.

(to Bush) Does the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the United States into another preemptive military action?

Less likely, and Bush gave Libya as an excellent example.

(to Kerry) What is your position on the whole concept of preemptive war?

The use of force is justified only in self-defense, and in some circumstances that includes preemptive action.

Kerry's "global test" remark is horrible. I can only interpret it to mean getting the support of the United Nations. This was impossible with Iraq because veto powers were being bribed through the oil-for-food scam. It's also horrible because consistent application would mean government by consensus — the United States' consistent use of its veto power to protect Israel does not pass the "global test".

I do not understand Kerry's respect for the United Nations. It isn't the fuzzy, friendly, well-meaning organization its charter intended. It's a cesspool of depravity, the clearest case against world government that could ever be made.

Bush brought up the International Criminal Court, but his reasons for not joining it are pathetic. The real reason not to join it is because we can't — the U.S. government doesn't have the authority to join it; it's unconstitutional.

(to Bush) Do you believe that diplomacy and sanctions can resolve the nuclear problems with North Korea and Iran? Take them in any order you would like.

Bush said yes, and I believe that's the right strategy for now.

Kerry screwed this one up, saying "I think the United States should have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes." Provide the nuclear fuel!?!? I know what he meant to say — by giving them the fuel we'd have pretext for monitoring how it's used in detail — but Kerry sounded very bad.

Kerry's bigger mistake was saying, "for two years, this administration didn't talk at all to North Korea." Bush had already argued that the 6-party talks were better than bilateral negotiations. The reason we didn't talk to North Korea for two years was in order to convince China to come to the table. China wanted us to take care of the North Korean problem for them, and it took two years for them to realize that we were serious about expecting their help.

UPDATE 2004-10-06 01:28:06 UTC: China has powerful leverage because it controls an oil pipeline into North Korea and has cut off supplies in the past to apply pressure. Also, it's possible North Korea was even more reluctant than China to participate in multiway talks. The point is, we got them, they're valuable, and Kerry would throw them away. This is a clear error in his foreign policy and is the straw that broke this camel's back — I will not vote for Kerry.

Bush's best moment of the night was when he said "the minute we have bilateral talks, the six-party talks will unwind. That's exactly what Kim Jong Il wants."

(to Kerry) … the Darfur region of Sudan. Fifty thousand people have already died in that area. More than a million are homeless. And it's been labeled an act of ongoing genocide. Yet neither one of you or anyone else connected with your campaigns or your administration that I can find has discussed the possibility of sending in troops. Why not?

Both candidates expressed their desire to work with the African Union and not intervene directly. Neither mentioned the predictable failure of the United Nations to do anything (as distinct from talking about it and wagging their fingers menacingly).

I believe that state military force should only be used abroad when it serves national security interests. What is the national security interest in Darfur? Darfur is absolutely a humanitarian catastrophe, but we're not responsible for it, and we're not morally obligated to clean it up (contra Kerry's statement). This is a good opportunity for a humanitarian mercenary army funded by private donations.

Kerry's remark likening stop-loss programs to a "backdoor draft" is shameful. Read the comments on this article.

(to Bush) Are there also underlying character issues that you believe, that you believe are serious enough to deny Senator Kerry the job as commander in chief of the United States?

Kerry lied to Congress about his Vietnam service.

(to Kerry) If you are elected president, what will you take to that office thinking is the single most serious threat to the national security to the United States?

Kerry's response was excellent until he started talking about "bunker-busting" nuclear weapons. The battle against nuclear proliferation is abroad, not at home. The United States can and should have lots of nuclear options.

Bush's response included a mention of busting the A.Q. Khan network, which is the most important antiproliferation victory I am aware of.

(to Bush) Did you misjudge [Putin] or are you — do you feel that what he is doing in the name of antiterrorism by changing some democratic processes is OK?

Yes he did. Putin is much worse than he first appeared to be.

That's all, folks. If you'd like to comment on this, don't hesitate to contact me.

Tiny Island