Wednesday, May 2, 2007

On War

The other day, I had an interesting conversation with a professor whom I respect very much (names are not important for the sake of this post). I (jokingly) asked him if he would be voting for Hillary, and he responded that she is the only Democrat who he would consider voting for. Taken aback, I asked why. He said that she seems like the only Democrat who would be willing to use force in response to a terrorist attack, pointing, for instance, to Obama's statement that he would more or less "call the police" in response to a terrorist attack. This seems like a common criticism of this lot of Democrats. Indeed, Rudy Giuliani has implied numerous times that Democrats are unwilling to respond effectively to terrorism.

I think that is a criticism that we should look into. Certainly, some Democrats (e.g. Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel) have made clear that they do not view war as a legitimate tool of foreign policy.

But, they're the crazies.

Despite Obama's "call the police" remark (perhaps I shouldn't use quotes; it is not a direct quote, and he made an attempt at legitimizing himself), I do not believe that he (or any other Democrat, except for the aforementioned loonies) would be unwilling to respond to a 9/11-type terrorist attack with force. Certainly, he may be hesitant to do so, and the public, given recent history, may be more hesitant to rally behind such a war, but is hesitancy a bad thing? Wars should be debated; other options should be seriously considered. If this war in Iraq has taught us anything, it should be this: rushing into war is not good.

I agree whole-heartedly with anyone who states that we need a president who always keeps war as an option on the table. War, from time to time, is a necessary evil. And I think that all serious political candidates realize and accept that. But, given that the focal point of the 2008 election will be the Iraq war, it makes sense for Democrats to position themselves as anti-war per se, and not simply anti-Iraq war. After all, the public (or at least Democratic primary voters - more on that in a second) does not want to hear "I want to get us out of Iraq, but I might start another war before McCain can sing 'Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.'"

Plus, I think there is something to be said about what we can call the "primary conversion." As we see with the Republicans, the three main candidates, who have very moderates pasts, are all positioning themselves (perhaps with a slight exception given to Giuliani) as conservatives. The Democrats are doing something similar. Given that primary voters are mainly the more liberal Democrats, it would not make sense for candidates to be hawkish. Please do not take this as a defense of the "primary conversion." I have lambasted McCain in the past for his newfound conservatism; I am not happy that Obama and gang are pandering to the Kucinich brand of Democrats (i.e. hippies).

Main point: despite what stupid things Obama may have said (for such an eloquent man, he really blew it at that debate, eh?), I think any Democrat would handle a terrorist attack in a responsible (albeit less hawkish) manner.


Anonymous said...

This is generally why I have a problem with people who claim the United States was unreasonable in its decsions to attack Afghanistan who aren't hardcore pacifists (i.e. Quakers or hippies). In my mind, Afghanistan was a knee-jerk reaction - you attack me, I attack you. It's a sorry way to conduct business, certainly, but it's not a particularly American fault in this instance, it's just human nature.

Anyway, my point was that I agree - whoever the next president is, be they Republican or Democrat or even (gasp) Libertarian, would react in a similar fashion to a terrorist attack on American soil, i.e., track down and try to punish those responisble. To not do so would basically be saying "I would really like to get demolished in my reelection bid!"

Anonymous said...