Unfortunately, Dean is a bit of a cipher. It’s very hard to judge someone based on their stated positions in a primary, because in the primaries the candidate is playing to one side of the house. Once he wins the nomination, he has to attract voters from all sides, and the positions will change.
My prediction is that no matter who wins the White House, they will continue to prosecute the war on terror pretty much the way Bush is doing. The presidency has a way of forcing people to face up to certain realities. Had Al Gore been president, I believe he would have done just about the same things Bush did.
It’s easy to say now that you need the U.N. and should have gotten them, but no one seems to want to answer the question, “But what if you don’t have a choice?” What if the U.N. winds up simply opposing what all your experts and generals say is the right course of action for your country? Do you give France and Russia a veto over your security?
The option was never, “Go into Iraq with the U.N., or go alone”, like Dean and Clark are saying. The option was, “Go into Iraq with whoever you can get, but without the U.N., or don’t go at all.” Dean acts like the U.N. just needed to be finessed, and all the ducks would have fallen into place and the free world would have marched lock-step against terrorism. That was never a realistic proposition. In the real world, other countries have interests that are not the same as yours.
If Clark or Dean is elected, they’ll make lots of noise about being ‘new’ presidents, with a fresh vision for the war on terror. They’ll make all kinds of attempts to placate other countries, to become more internationalist, etc. But once they try to do something actually hard, and get hard opposition, they’ll be forced to make the same kinds of choices Bush had to face. And they’ll probably make the same decisions.
Dean might actually turn out to be pretty good. Sometimes I think the only way you can get fiscal responsibility in Washington is to elect a Democratic president, with a Republican Congress. As Bush is showing, when the Republicans control the whole shooting match, they don’t seem to have any self control. Probably the same for the Democrats.