Friday, February 20, 2004

Ideological Purity and the War on Terror

Lileks points to a disturbing attitude among conservatives towards Bush:
Woe and gloom have befallen some on the right. Bush has failed to act according to The Reagan Ideal.
And if a Democrat takes office, and the Michael Moores and Rob Reiners and Martin Sheens crowd the airwaves on Nov. 3 to shout their howls of vindication? If the inevitable renaissance of Iraq happens on Kerry's watch, and the economy truly picks up steam in the first few years before the business cycle and Kerry's tax hikes kick in? If emboldened Islamist terrorists smell blood and strike again? Fine. Maybe the next Republican president will do everything they want.

Now I could understand this attitude if these conservatives felt as many Liberals seem to feel, that Bush is another Hitler and the concentration camps and the end of democracy are right around the corner. I could even understand it if they believed that Bush's path in the War against Terror is no more effective than John Kerry's. I don't believe that is the case.

Kerry's stance on the War against Terror is the same failed policy we tried in the 90s: treat terrorism as a crime and rely on the cooperation of our recalcitrant friends and our outright enemies to fight it. This may net a few terrorists, who can be indicted, tried, and sentenced to life in prison (assuming our anti-death penalty allies would extradite them even if we promised not to seek the death penalty), but it would not destroy or even significantly damage the terrorist organization which seeks to kill us. During the Nineties there was a steady increase in the boldness and effectiveness of terrorism attacks, including the first World Trade Center bombing, the embassy bombings, the USS Cole attack, until it finally culminated in 9/11. Al Qaeda is not destroyed, and even if Osama bin Laden were caught tomorrow, it would still be a threat. Right now it is on the run, under pressure, with many of their commanders caught by our military forces, but if we let the pressure drop for four years, they will be able to rebuild, and they will certainly attack again.

If you disagree with the above paragraph, then I'm not addressing you. If you do agree, and yet don't plan on voting for Bush because he's not conservative enough, then I'd like to know how many lives you are willing to sacrifice for ideological purity.

Some have said that if it were a choice between Bush and a more conservative candidate with the same plans for the war on terror, they'd vote for the more conservative candidate. I disagree. If Bush were a Liberal Democrat (while retaining his current foreign policy views and actions) and his opponent were the second coming of Ronald Reagan who said the same things about terrorism as Bush, it would make me sick to my stomach, but I'd probably still vote for Bush. The reason is that it's not just what he says about terrorism, but what he has done and continues to do about it, despite the hardship and despite the criticism from both the Left and the Right, that wins my trust. That's something that any other candidate would have a hard time proving without actually having held the Office.

The fact that Bush is a center-right candidate and an Evangelical Republican settles my stomach, and makes it an easy choice. I might wish his views were closer to mine, but I don't know of anyone alive whom I'd rather have as president right now.

Update: A bit of judicious editing to make it read better. Nothing substantive.

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