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.
• 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.