Why I won't vote for Bush - An Essay from a Republican

Why I won’t be voting for Bush - Part 1
As a Republican, this is not an easy thing to write, but I want my fellow Republicans to understand my position. It’s not about Kerry. It’s not about the Democrats. They could nominate a two headed Rhesus monkey and it wouldn’t affect my decision. This is about Bush and my grave concerns for the direction in which this country is being lead.

For the following reasons, I will not vote for Bush.

National Security

• Afghanistan to Iraq
The US should have launched its war in Afghanistan on October 13th, 2000, the day after the bombing of the USS Cole. Or perhaps on August 8th, 1998, the day after Al Qaeda attacked two US embassies on the same day. The US certainly should not have waited until 9-11. I blame the Clinton Administration in limited fashion. The already eroding state of our intelligence services continued under their watch. But I cannot hold Clinton entirely responsible for the US’s lack of response. The political will was not there. The US was unwilling to defend itself from blatant attack. The lack of such a will can only be blamed on the US government as a whole.

Yet after 9-11, the will was there and our initial response was sound. We went into Afghanistan and drove Al Qaeda out. We accomplished the easy part of the war. Where we have run into trouble, isn’t in the fighting, but in the building.

The US is very good at blowing things up. No adversary of the United States can hold onto any piece of territory that the US has decided it shall claim. No fighter can hope to stand and fight in a protracted battle with US forces. The US is good at winning battles. It isn’t so good at winning peace. The biggest flaw the US has is its short attention span. The US likes its conflicts to be short and simple. But Afghanistan is not a simple place and building it into a nation that can stand on its own is going to take a long time. If the US fails to aid Afghanistan now, it will return to a chaotic region ruled by warlords. If the US fails Afghanistan, many of its people will have no future save that of wielding a gun and that is the type of environment in which the Taliban and Al Qaieda thrive. If we do not rebuild Afghanistan, we will have stepped on the serpent but failed to have killed it. If we fail in Afghanistan, we will have to return there in force one day to resume our skills in destruction and this will come after another horrid attack on ourselves. Victory in the war on terror is at stake in Afghanistan, so when the Bush administration runs off and starts another, totally unrelated war, they are undermining the very effort they proclaim to support.

But let’s take a moment to do something that the Bush administration has never done adequately. Define what we mean when we say “war on terror.” Do we mean all terror? Perhaps that is what the Bush administration had originally hoped for, but it has become clear that if we are to make any progress in our lifetimes on this war, it must be defined more narrowly. The real terrorist threat to the United States is the terrorist threat from Jihadis. These are radically violent Muslims whose association with Islam is as tenuous as the relationship that the racially motivated Christian Identity movement has with mainstream Christianity. The Jihadis have embraced a belief that to die for their cause is to gain entrance to heaven. The cause itself gets pretty blurred. I strongly suspect that the cause morphs itself as need to ensure that there always is a cause. For hardcore Jihadis, there is no negotiation, no means by which to placate them. Their martyrdom is their cause and they will always find an excuse to seek it. There are those who hope that, if nothing else, the Jihadis could at least be denied new recruits if the situation in which they found themselves could be improved. Indeed, for much of the Muslim world, the outlook is pretty bleak. Most Muslims live in nations ruled by corrupt leaders with poor economies and no real hope of advancement.

There is a link between Afghanistan and Iraq, but only because the Bush administration created it. By transforming Iraq from a despotic trouble spot into a shinning jewel of democracy in the Middle East, Bush hoped to establish a seed from which democracy and strong economy would grow and spread throughout the Mid-East. The problem is that there are long standing ethnic and cultural reasons why such democracies do not exist in the Middle-East in the first place. That is not to say that democracies are not possible there, but they do face difficult hurdles. And those hurdles are impossible to overcome when one doesn’t even know what they are. The Bush administration does not understand Arab culture and so its attempt at transforming that culture has been flawed from the beginning. Arab culture is older than the US government and transforming it in a real and meaningful way will take a lot of attention and time. The US doesn’t really have either, and even if it did, Arab culture is ultimately determined by Arabs, not outsiders.

I despise Saddam Hussein. I have no qualms with his overthrow and arguments that the US illegally invaded a sovereign country have no weight with me. Iraq was no more sovereign than a mafia held neighborhood can be sovereign. The problem I have with US actions in Iraq is that they have distracted us from the real threats we face in Afghanistan. Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. As much as I loved to overthrow every vile dictator on the planet, we don’t have the resources to do so and even worse, we don’t have the ability to magically create stable nations out of the aftermath of war. Rebuilding Afghanistan requires the full attention and resources of the US. Starting another incredibly difficult reconstruction process may fatally harm our chances of success in Afghanistan.

The US has around 17,900 troops in Afghanistan. We do not have enough troops to provide security for Afghanistan very far beyond Kabul, the nation’s capital. Most of the country is once again controlled by the same Afghan warlords that gave the Taliban the popular support they needed to gain control. We have over 140,000 troops in Iraq. We have over 7 times the number of troops in a nation that has never attacked the US directly. Iraq has pulled valuable US resources away from Afghanistan. We’ve captured Saddam Hussein, but after nearly 3 years we still don’t know where the man who initiated our war on terror is. If you look at the resources expended, there is only one conclusion; we’re not really serious about Afghanistan or Bin Laden.

• Continued lack of collaboration among intelligence services
In the aftermath of 9-11 much finger pointing ensued among the members of our esteemed government. One of the critical failings we were told, was that our intelligence services did not adequately communicate with one another. The FBI, NSA, CIA, and half a dozen other intelligence services didn’t share information with another. There was a constant failing in adequately passing on critical information to our border guards and Coast Guard. What was obviously needed was to combine these services into one seamless organization that could react quickly on intelligence.

What we got was Tom Ridge and the Department of Homeland Security. The CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the Coast Guard, and half a dozen other intelligence and security forces are all still separate agencies. The FBI and CIA supposedly pass information to the Department of Homeland Security. I suppose a bureaucratic bottleneck is better for sharing information than no sharing at all, but it is hardly an adequate solution. The CIA and FBI are still competing agencies that have no real incentive for sharing hard won intelligence sources. As the absence of WMD’s in Iraq has shown, our intelligence assets are still limited and cautionary discretion about the intelligence we do have is dismissed by the Bush administration if the intelligence is deemed to serve a political purpose. Intelligence should not be filtered by political concerns. Intelligence should only be filtered by relevance and reality.

Despite the pretty colored warnings that we Americans get every month or so, despite the nifty TSA logos that our bag checkers at the airport now wear, the Department of Homeland Security has done little more than move furniture around. Another layer of bureaucracy was not the solution to America’s intelligence gathering problems, but that’s what we got.

• Transformation of the US Military
Donald Rumsfeld has an unenviable, difficult job. After every war, a nation’s military tends to prepare itself to fight the last war instead of the next one. In that aspect, Rumsfeld is right, the US military needs to look ahead. But that does not mean one should toss out every battlefield lesson every learned.

Rumsfeld’s goal is to recreate the US military into a light, faster deployable military force. It does not seem to have occurred to him that arriving at a conflict quickly is worthless if upon your arrival you simply get slaughtered. Rumsfeld has continually pushed for the cancellation of what he deems as cold war relics while forgetting just what purpose these relics serve. He cancelled the Crusader Mobile Artillery unit, seemingly believing that the need for the US to be able to direct sustained heavy fire is over. Rumsfeld envisions a lightening quick mobile force that gets in and out quickly. While such a force can be useful, it cannot serve in the role that was easy to see coming, that of long term peacekeeping operations. In the peacekeeping role, by its very nature, troops have to stick around. If you want fewer casualties, you put those troops in heavily armored units and you make sure they have access to massive firepower if they need it. Rumsfeld is denying US troops the equipment they need to survive such operations. Instead of heavily armored units, he is pushing on them the Striker wheeled infantry vehicle. This vehicle in its default state is too lightly armored to sustain a hit from an RPG. It’s too large to easily maneuver through urban areas. In short, it provides nothing useful to troops engaged in peacekeeping operations.

Rumsfeld’s philosophy of smaller is better has lead to near disaster. He pressed the US military to use far less forces than initially requested for the invasion of Iraq. This meant that once Turkey denied US forces the right to cross their border, the US invaded Iraq with less than half of the forces planned. That the US military pulled it off anyway is a tribute to the courage and training of our armed forces. But such victories do not come cheaply. And having proven themselves far too often in the last decade, the US military has come to be expected to pull off the impossible on a regular basis. We have 140,000 troops trying to provide security for a population of 26 million. The post-war Iraq planning for Iraq has not been merely inadequate, it’s been almost non-existent. The Bush administration assumed that after Saddam’s fall, the Iraqi population would put aside the tremendous difficulties and disputes that exist between them, do a happy bunny hug, and form a new government that the US would approve of. That hasn’t happened and no real planning was ever done to handle that possibility. We’re down to “Hope it all works out” because that’s the only option we have left.

• Lack of Leadership
A lack of adequate planning is the result of a lack of leadership. A lack of leadership can lead directly to a breakdown in every aspect of US operations.

If the US is going to transform Iraq into a shining beacon of democracy than the US needs to provide an example of just how a good and just nation conducts itself. Obviously with so much at stake being dependent on the good conduct of its soldiers in difficult times, one would expect that strict supervision would be held in areas that most easily lend themselves to abuse, things such as the treatment of POWs for example. The worst possible thing the US could do is to take over Iraq and behave in any manner even vaguely reminiscent of Saddam. Yet that is just what happened in Abu Ghraib. It doesn’t matter that the torture in question pales in comparison to the inventive cruelty of Saddam. What matters is that it happened. What matters is that it was severe enough to leave at least one POW dead from a beating. What matters is that the horrible reputation of Saddam has been transferred and fixed upon the United States.

We have lost our credibility in Iraq.

And despite this tremendous setback, Bush has failed to hold any high level member of his administration responsible for this catastrophe. Leadership flows from the top. Leaders are responsible for the actions of those they lead. Donald Rumsfeld should be out of a job. While he remains in his position, it is clear that this administration’s leadership is ineffective and irresponsible.

• Loss of International Influence
It has never been my concern if the US is loved by other nations. But the interests of other nations often coincide, and it is in these times that a nation’s ability to influence other nations is vital in determining the course of history.

Our ability to influence other nations has been diminished under the Bush administration. By crying “wolf” over the nonexistent WMDs in Iraq, we have greatly lessened the chance that other nations will heed our warnings in the future. Now, as the US faces real nuclear threats in Iran and North Korea, our ability to bring attention to these threats has waned. Our military forces cannot do everything alone. We have expended too much political capital on Iraq for far too little gain. We have squandered out military might and influence in Iraq and now we are unable to properly respond to real threats.

The Bush Administration has made the US much less secure.

Why I won’t be voting for Bush - Part 2

**Moral Authoritarianism **
• Bush is not the leader of my church
As a true conservative, I favor as little government interference as possible. I do not want the government dictating to me the terms of my faith. I do not want the government telling me what I may or may not listen to, watch, or what to think.

Under the Bush administration we have been subjected to a constant effort to place every event and subject under God’s framework as envisioned by Bush. George Bush is not the leader of a church congregation. George Bush does not speak for God. His job is to represent every citizen of the United States. He cannot do that on a religious level. He cannot encompass nor direct the religious faith of each of the millions of citizens that live within this nation. I do not expect him to put aside his faith. But I do expect him to remember that his duty is to represent us all, not just those Americans that share his belief system. If he can only justify the actions of the US in the narrow framework of his particular Protestant faith, then he has left the majority of Americans behind. Those who find themselves fortunate enough to be represented in this narrow framework need to look at the future. Theocracy is appealing when it is your faith that is being practiced, but quite uncomfortable when your religion is no longer on top. If the state of the Union address was ended with “Buddha is with us,” would non-Buddhists be as enthusiastic about this melding of state and religion as those Christians who are pushing for that union are now?

• I do not want the government deciding what I may watch or hear
But the moral authoritarianism goes far beyond mere political rhetoric. The Bush administration seeks to actively bind me to what they believe. The FCC has cracked down on what can be said on radio. There is no hard defined definition of what is “indecent” but any station that broadcasts such is subject to massive fines. What is indecent is determined by listener complaints and so what I can hear on the radio is determined by the most prudish listeners who have the free time to call in and complain a lot. This crackdown began after Ms. Jackson’s non-thrilling halftime show incident. A half second view of a breast has turned into a crisis that has grown men and women seriously debating the use of the word “penis” on radio and television. It brings back silly memories of hush playground whispers of naughty words, only now the children run the FCC.

Such free speech restrictions are all defended under the umbrella of “We must protect the children!” Well, I watched the Super Bowl halftime show with my 3 year old niece and despite the tremendous concern for the massive psychological damage that Janet’s boobie may have inflicted on her, my niece seems to have survived the incident. Actually, she didn’t notice it. Kids that young don’t have the social understanding that they should freak out over that kind of thing. But no worry, we’ll teach it to them soon enough. What really upsets young children is violence but its boobies that we seek to protect them from. With older kids, kids who are beginning to come aware of their sexuality, I’m sure Janet’s flashing may have produced an uncomfortable moment. But it’s hardly an issue that isn’t going to come up at some point. One cannot duct tape their kid’s eyes shut in fear that a breast will pop out in front of them at some point. So they saw Janet’s breast, big deal. It was hardly as traumatic as Aunt Sue’s bathing suit incident. All I learned was not to watch Janet Jackson with my niece. I can remove some unwanted material from my niece’s attention for now, but not forever.

Meanwhile the FCC is considering passing its restrictions onto cable TV. I suppose there’s concern that John Stewart will flash a nipple or something. If I wanted to live in a puritanical society, there are places that I could go. This is the United States of America and we are supposed to have a free society where no one chooses my faith or determines what I am allowed to hear or see.

• Denial of equal protection under the law
Yet even the FCC is a mere irritation. Active government interference is what I really fear. Imagine the government deciding not just what you may listen to and watch, but who you may marry.

I do not condone nor approve of the “Gay Lifestyle.” I’m fairly certain they never asked me my opinion anyway. (Actually if they are in committed, monogamous relationships maybe I do condone it. They’d be morally ahead of most heterosexuals.) I am not their moral authority nor do I have any inclination to be so. I fail to understand why, in a nation based on religious freedom, some people are so insistent on pushing their religious views on others. But what I am quite certain of is that gay citizens of the United States have “Equal protection under the law.” Now unless those are just pretty yet meaningless words in our Constitution, that means gays should have the same legal rights as everyone else. Marriage grants certain legal rights under the government therefore the government is legally bound by the Constitution to offer all of those rights to all of its citizens, including gays. It’s that simple. Spare me any political or moral rhetoric about the sanctity of marriage. Listening to some Senator, who has been divorced three times and is currently cheating on his forth wife with two 18 year old mistresses, spout off about the sanctity of marriage is a waste of my freaking time. I don’t want to hear it. Any attempt to outlaw gay marriage is just political bullshit at best. Preventing two people from getting married does not help any citizen of the United States in anyway whatsoever. At worst, it’s an attack on our freedom. At one point in our nation’s history, we did not allow whites and blacks to marry. Now such laws are looked upon with abhorrence. Is simply choosing a new group of people to discriminate against the answer we are looking for? If so, what the hell is the question? I suspect it’s “How can I get my sorry ass re-elected without actually doing anything worthwhile?”

• Allowing moral authoritarianism to endanger national security
And here we have the link that ties together the Bush administration’s failures in protecting our national security while enforcing its moral belief structure onto US citizens without regard to those citizens’ legal rights.

One of the US intelligence communities’ biggest challenges has been to find enough language specialists that can listen in on Al Qaeda’s plans. If we know what they plan to do we can stop the next attack. If we know how and where they operate, we can crush them. But eavesdropping on the enemy is only worthwhile if you can understand what they are saying. And even if you can understand what is being said, getting those messages translated in a timely fashion is vital. It does us little good to learn that Al Qaeda planned an attack several weeks after the attack has already happened.

Arabic language specialists are one of our greatest hopes in winning the war on terrorism and we are in short supply of them.

Despite this, the Bush administration fired six of them in 2002 because they were gay. Our government fired vitally needed employees based upon what those employees might do in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Such stupidity is hard to put into perspective. An intercepted message detailing an attack that might kill thousands of Americans may be languishing un-translated in a databank somewhere because the Bush administration is upset that some of our translators dated the same gender.

I don’t care if our translators like to paint purple spots all over their bodies and swing naked from chandeliers. The safety of the United States is far more important to me than what some of its citizens do in the privacy of their own home. Apparently the Bush administration doesn’t share my sense of priority.

I’ll admit that I have always been wary Bush. His promise to cut taxes came across as a bribe to the voters to me. I have always feared that he was too easily manipulated by those whom he surrounded himself with. But I, like almost all Americans, united behind him after 9-11. I supported his initial actions in Afghanistan. But now I feel the US is hurtling down the wrong path. I believe the Republican party has become more concerned with its ideology than what is best for America and its citizens. The only way I know to shake a political party up, is to vote them out. It is my hope that the Republican party will come back stronger than before, less extreme, and more willing to embrace us moderates. And it is my hope that the United States will emerge from these present difficult times, stronger and more representative of its people.

This is one of the best, well thought out, and well written OPs that I have ever seen. I can’t argue with a single point that you made and I certainly can’t improve on the wording. Outstanding job, thank you for sharing this. I’d like to put you in charge of the Republican platform.

No, no, no! If somebody so intelligent were in charge Republicans might win. GW is their only candidate and that would make him President anew. The OP gave numerous reason why that would be bad.

I just wish more people had thought about GW’s record in 2000. I can’t think of an instance where he was in charge of the planning and operation of anything that was a success. For you Texans; How did he he do as Governor?

Wow. Would you mind if I emailed that (with your name removed) to a couple of my friends in the US? Or would you be concerned that it might become glurge?

Well said, Blackclaw. You have detailed some of my own concerns in an articulate and thoughtful manner. That said…

I still can’t bring myself to vote for Kerry. If a moderate Democrat were the nominee, I might consider breaking my 24 year streak of voting for Republican presidential candidates. But the Democrats have nominated a lefty…again.

And since we have a two party system, I am forced to choose the lesser of two evils. Since I am also a fan of pragmatism and reality over ideology, I feel I must choose Republicans over Democrats. I am beginning to believe more and more every day that the war in Iraq was a mistake and that business should have been taken care of in Afghanistan first. I also thought that a tax cut was the wrong thing to do in the face of the need for increased military spending following 9/11. Those are my problems with Bush.

As for the Democrats, I don’t wish to have the crap taxed out of me to attempt to build an ever elusive utopian society. Also in my observance, liberal Democrats seem to be ideologically opposed to the Defense Department and CIA, two agencies that we need now more than ever.

I would love to see a pragmatic, fiscally conservative moderate running for president. But faced with the choices I have, I have to reluctantly side with Bush.

“We’re on the wrong road!”

“But we’re sure making good time.”

Sorry, but Bill Clinton isn’t allowed to run again. :wink:

I’m flattered. Keep my name on it. Mail it everywhere. This is my effort to make a difference.

I understand your trepidations over Kerry. I look at it this way. I strongly suspect that whatever Kerry does can be undone much more easily than the foreign policy decisions that Bush has made. At the current rate of government expenditure under Bush - either taxes must rise or our national debt will continue to soar. As a former military man, hopefully Kerry understands the need to supply our troops with good equipment. The Kerry Edwards website pushes for a strong military, for whatever that promise is worth. Under Bush, Rumsfeld is pushing light, fast deployable equipment without regard to survivability. I’d rather vote for a promise of a strong military than support the continuation of policies that are weakening it.

Clinton did not exert the slightest effort to see whether or not the political will was there, or to build it if it turned out not to be there. For that, he is fully responsible.

Evil One, I realise that this might be unconscionable to you, but how about this for a plan: do you really think that a Democrat president, in only four years, can undo the “good” things (if there are any) that Bush has done? If not, why not hold your nose and kick Bush out so that the Republicans can put a decent GOP candidate up for presidency next time round; meanwhile campaign like mad to get people to vote GOP at the congressional election, so that an opposition Congress can shorten Kerry’s influence within two years of his election?

You aren’t forced to do any such thing. The “wasted vote” argument carries no weight with me – your vote has no measurable chance of making the difference, and so is “wasted” even if you do vote for the less evil duopoly candidate.

Had he not spent half his Presidency fending off the Ken Starr fishing expedition, he might have had the political support to take more decisive action. The Richard Mellon Scaifes of the world spent 8 years trying to undermine Clinton, then complained that he wasn’t a sufficiently strong leader. :rolleyes:

It’s difficult to view this as anything but a cynical attempt to blunt the negatives associated with years of behavior to the contrary.

jjimm-The fact that there will be Republican majorities in both houses eases my concern about a Kerry presidency somewhat. But I remember what happened the last time we had a true lefty in office…Carter. The fact that many liberal positions are based on ideology rather than reality bothers me very much. And since the federal judicial system from the Supreme Court on down is on the line, ideology must be a factor in my decision.

Back on topic (we’re in danger of getting off on a bunch of tangents, here, though that would hardly be unusual in a thread like this!):

I’ve been hearing the kinds of sentiments expressed in the OP from a variety of places, and others in the same vein (e.g., “Bush talks about helping small business, but ends up only helping his rich buddies in the big mega-corporations.”). It makes me wonder about the accuracy of the poll numbers. They consistently show Bush getting something like 48% of the popular vote, which is about what he got in 2000. It’s seems clear that he’s losing some of his 2000 supporters. I find it hard to believe that he’s picking up some 2000 Gore voters to replace the folks he’s losing. Methinks we could be in for an election surprise. A lot of things can happen between now and then, of course, so I’m not ready to place my wager!

Clinton dropped the ball on a decisive response to terrorism. The debacle of Somalia emboldened Osama himself. Al Qaeda committed crime after crime in the 90’s and watched as the US wagged its finger and buried its dead. Of course they felt that they could pull off 9/11.

As for the military, Clinton allowed it to languish while using the crap out of it for peacekeeping. The lack of funding and increased operational tempo caused talented and committed individuals to leave in droves, especially after he was re-elected in 1996. I am ex-Navy. I saw this firsthand.

My point here is that ideological priorities will eventually come to the surface in ways you might not expect. Given this reality, I do not want a liberal Democrat at the helm.

Funding was in Congressional–at the time, Republican—hands.
As defined in the Constitution.

And everybody, Reps, Dems, & the American Public, were all howling for a post-Cold War “Peace Dividend”.

Well, we all got it. On 9/11.

America forgot history. Clinton could not have changed this funding thing, whether he thought it was right or not.

Re-read the OP. Sounds to me like this is what the current administration is doing, as well. Maybe even more so.

Blackclaw, I too agree that yours is an excellent piece, and elaborates on my own feelings. The only disagreement I have is this:

Now I’m all for granting gays the legal benefits of marriage (although my libertarian side would prefer that the government not grant “marriages” to anyone), it’s just not reasonable to argue that the existing Constitution guarantees these rights. They’re just not within the original intent of the 14th amendment, or anything else.

I can’t applaud the OP with the same vigor as most others. It seems to me pathetic that it takes such a tremendous volume of evidence before Blackclaw makes such a simple and obvious decision.

Contrariwise, there’s merit to recognise in the fact that the OP considers the evidence. It is a proud step above and beyond the paranoid caricature of the Democrats are that binds Evil One’s vote.