Obama vs. Romney: There Goes One Lesser-of-Two-Evils Argument

Kevin Drum, the Leonidas of the left 49-yard line, predicts the ways in which a Romney presidency would differ from an Obama presidency. Drum assumes that Romney would have a Republican majority in the Senate, so this is not a best-case scenario for liberals. I scanned the list for anything related to foreign policy and civil liberties, and here’s all I found:

We might stay in Afghanistan significantly longer than we would otherwise — though I’m not sure about this. …

Romney has talked tough on China, but that’s just campaign bushwa. He’d quickly find out that his options are extremely limited on this score. On foreign policy more generally, Obama is actually fairly tenacious, despite Romney’s bluster to the contrary, and I doubt that Romney would be able to move much further to his right.

So, on two sprawling issues that could make a difference in a tight race, it’s practically a wash. No wonder liberals have aimed so much ire at another Republican.

Damn You, Ralph Nader and Katherine Harris!

Of all the daily affirmations liberals tell themselves, none soothes me more than the one about how an Al Gore presidency would have spared us the Iraq War. Why, wasn’t Al suitably smug about Dubya’s “cowboy” act in 2002? Didn’t Michael Moore open Fahrenheit 9/11 with a long rehash of hanging-chad chicanery? Who among us doesn’t yearn for the invention of time travel so that someone might mow down a certain consumer advocate with a sporty Corvair?

And yet … well, there is this from the Oct. 11, 2000, presidential debate:

MODERATOR: Well, let’s stay on the subject for a moment. New question related to this. I figured this out; in the last 20 years there have been eight major actions that involved the introduction of U.S. ground, air or naval forces. Let me name them. Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo. If you had been president for any of those interventions, would any of those interventions not have happened?

GORE: Can you run through the list again?

MODERATOR: Sure. Lebanon.

GORE: I thought that was a mistake. [See below.]

MODERATOR: Grenada.

GORE: I supported that.

MODERATOR: Panama.

GORE: I supported that.

MODERATOR: Persian Gulf.

GORE: Yes, I voted for it, supported it.

MODERATOR: Somalia.

GORE: Of course, and that again — no, I think that that was ill-considered. I did support it at the time. It was in the previous administration, in the Bush-Quayle administration, and I think in retrospect the lessons there are ones that we should take very, very seriously.

MODERATOR: Bosnia.

GORE: Oh, yes.

MODERATOR: Haiti.

GORE: Yes.

MODERATOR: And then Kosovo.

GORE: Yes.

Democrats: Check the fine print.
So Gore had supported seven of the eight “major” U.S. military actions of the preceding two decades. Oh, make that all eight; he must have forgotten that he supported the U.S. intervention in Lebanon too. Less than a week before the bombing that killed 241 American servicemen in Beirut, Rep. Albert Gore Jr. was the subject of a story in The New York Times. He was asked about Lebanon:

Why had he voted to continue the presence of United States troops in Lebanon for 18 months? “The decision to send troops to Lebanon was not well thought through,” Mr. Gore said, “but since they are there and there are now negotiations with the Syrians, it would be a mistake to remove them.

“It’s important to learn the right lessons of Vietnam,” he continued. “A cat that sits on a hot stove won’t sit on a hot stove again, but he won’t sit on a cold stove, either.”

Well, cold stoves can get hot mighty quickly, but that’s no reason for a cat to just steer clear of stoves, is it?

Why am I revisiting all this ancient history? Here’s Al’s old running mate in Tuesday’s USA Today:

No one doubts that the road ahead for Iraq, under even the most optimistic scenario, will continue to be challenging. There is a world of difference, however, between a future in which Iraq’s inspiring but fragile democracy perseveres, versus one in which the country collapses back into civil war, becoming a failed state in the heart of the Middle East.

There is likewise a huge difference between a future in which Iraqis can secure their country for themselves, versus one in which Iran seizes controlling influence over Iraq’s security and politics.

In order to decrease the risk of the worst case scenarios for Iraq and America, our military leaders have long argued that it is critical to keep a small U.S. force in Iraq after this year, since the Iraqi Security Forces still lack key capabilities and the country’s stability is not yet secured. In fact, every military leader I have spoken to in recent years with any responsibility for Iraq has told me we must keep at least 10,000 troops there after this year to ensure that our hard-won gains are not lost.

It is therefore profoundly disappointing that, after all America and Iraq have been through together, President Obama and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki could not find the will or the way to reach agreement for a small U.S. force to remain in Iraq after this year, and instead gave up trying.

This decision stands in striking contrast with the spirit of the remarkable men and women in uniform who pulled Iraq back from the brink of chaos just a few years ago, and who refused to give up or accept failure even after all hope was seemingly lost.

This failure puts at greater risk all that so many Americans and Iraqis fought, sacrificed and, in thousands of cases, gave their lives to achieve. It also hands a crucial strategic opportunity to the fanatical regime that controls Iran and that threatens us all.

Rather than trying to portray the failure of these negotiations as a success, the Obama administration could still restart its efforts to reach agreement with the Iraqis to allow a small U.S. force to remain. For the sake of our national security, and all of the blood and treasure we have spent in Iraq, we should do so.

Don’t fret, Joe. Obama’s busy right now. But once he’s safely ensconced in a second term, he might be willing to have a beer summit with the 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee and reexamine this rare lapse in judgment.

Why Are People Grudgeful?

Timothy P. Carney weighs in on the “Cato purge”:

[Brink] Lindsey will be portrayed as a martyr, excommunicated for his heresies from the Right’s dogma. In this role, he joins neoconservative writer David Frum, who was driven from the American Enterprise Institute after praising Obamacare.

Lindsey and Frum followed parallel paths. In 2002 and 2003, Lindsey – contra most libertarians – prominently beat the drums for invading Iraq. Meanwhile, Frum played the conservatives’ Robespierre, trying to purge from the Right those who opposed the invasion, whom he slurred as “unpatriotic conservatives.”

Lindsey, when he admitted in 2006 that invading Iraq was a mistake, still billed himself as “extremely controversial” and open-minded in the face of dogma. Frum, today, basks in the Left’s praise as an independent thinker. But Lindsey and Frum, in backing Bush’s invasion then and supporting Obama now, were the opposite of dissidents: They consistently supported those in power who were fighting for more power.

This pattern doesn’t make Lindsey or Frum sycophants, but it undermines their claim to be dissidents.

Amen.

The reason I keep banging on about Iraq War supporters – including the “born-again doves” – is simple: The road out of militarism and empire runs through the ruins of the Washington establishment that got us here.

First, there must be some penalty for supporting wars of aggression, even in a non-governmental role. I don’t mean a legal penalty, obviously, but shaming, shunning, boycotting, and the like. But everywhere you look, the very people who sold the Iraq War have not only not paid for their bloodthirsty idiocy, they’ve often been promoted. Second, as long as even “reformed” warmongers hold positions of influence, there’s always the danger of relapse. Clearly, the personality defects that contribute to the endorsement of monstrosities don’t go away quickly, if ever. For example, here’s one ex-Bushbot-turned-Obamaton sticking it to the White House’s critics:

Personally, I’m not satisfied with the job they [Obama & co.] are doing (unemployment is horrible, they’ve spent too much time negotiating with Republicans, the drone wars, the civil liberties issues, Lloyd Blankfein is still a free man, etc.), and think there have been some real failings and some real let-downs. But I will belly crawl over broken glass while someone pours lemon juice and rubbing alcohol on me to vote for the Democrats in November.

Note how drone wars and civil liberties fall behind “negotiating with Republicans” on this list of sins. To paraphrase Mick Jagger, could you use a lemon-squeezer, dude? I volunteer.

I could go on – there are so many targets – but instead, I’ll leave you with a thought experiment. Imagine that the invasion of Iraq had succeeded on the war supporters’ own terms, and the U.S. had crushed all armed resistance within a few months and set up some plausibly “pro-American” Potemkin democracy that didn’t need a foreign army to defend it from the citizenry (this requires a lot of imagination, I know). Let’s assume that the U.S. military had accomplished this by really taking the gloves off, as many war supporters urged in the days when the occupation began to implode. Thus, in our counterfactual, the Iraqi civilian casualty count is roughly the same as the actual count today, anti-American sentiment is inflamed throughout the Muslim world, and Iran is the unquestioned dominant regional power, all for a preventive war against a fabricated threat. Do you think that our born-again doves – much less the dead-enders who still think the war was a good idea – would have had any moral or even practical second thoughts? Or do you think they’d be doing a sack dance in the peaceniks’ faces and demanding the destruction of the next country on their list?

UPDATE: I think this sort of amends-making is a wonderful idea, but I suggest it for people who have abetted acts of mass destruction. How many prosthetic limbs could the Brinkster buy with his disposable income? Shoot, Andrew Sullivan could probably fund half a dozen orphanages across Iraq if he cut his personal expenditures back to bare subsistence levels. Let’s make this happen!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpCghKWnzC0[/youtube]

How idiots win hearts and minds – – –

ORZALA ASHRAF: What would you expect from those children who lost their feet or their arm or their mother or their father during that kind of bombing? What would you expect from them? Do you expect them to join the peace process? Do you expect them to say, “I have excused you”?… –Rethink Afghanistan: Filmmaker Robert Greenwald Launches Film Opposing Escalation of War