Sunday, October 31, 2004

If you are still undecided, or a Bush voter, here is my last pitch to convince you to vote for Kerry.

Lets go back to much-revisited moment in the third debate:
BUSH: I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations.
Democratic operatives quickly dug out a video from an old White House press conference:
Q: Mr. President, in your speeches now you rarely talk or mention Osama bin Laden. Why is that?

BUSH: Deep in my heart I know the man is on the run, if he's alive at all. Who knows if he's hiding in some cave or not; we haven't heard from him in a long time. And the idea of focusing on one person is -- really indicates to me people don't understand the scope of the mission.

...So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you...

Q: But don't you believe that the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead or alive?

BUSH: Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.
I bring these quotes up not to score some cheap political points by bringing up Bush's misrepresentation. Rather, lets look at the substantive point he is tryingto make here.

Back in the day, when this press conference was done, the debate on terrorism split experts into two groups. One the one hand were people who believed that terrorism exists primarily due to state sponsorship. The reason suicide bombings persisted in the middle east was due to states like Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria who gave various levels of support to terrorists. By eliminating these states, we would strike a fatal blow against terorrists.

On the other hand was a group who believed that terrorism does not exist primarily because of states. Rather, terrorism was a spontaneous political movement that arose out of the poisonous political climate in the middle east. A corollary would be that a destruction of the above states would produce a rather small dent in Islamic terrorism.

In that press conference, the substance of Bush's argument was an endorsement of the first view. He is not worried about Bin Laden, he says, because Bin Laden no longer has a state. Without safe haven provided by a friendly government, he is now on the run.

It goes without saying that this view has been utterly discredited by now: we have taken out the Taliban and Iraq, yet suicide bombers persist in increasing numbers in Iraq. Terrorism has not, by any sensible empirical measure, decreased.

This is my argument against Bush: he doesn't get the war on terror. He doesn't understand the enemy we are fighting against. American troops are in Iraq today largely because of the mistaken view on terrorism held by this administration; and the President shows no signs at all that he realizes his mistakes.

The United States cannot have an effective terrorism policy as long as it doesn't understand terrorism. This, in my mind, is the most convincing case for voting Kerry: Bush, as far as we can tell, plans on pursuing the same failed policies based on the same wrong assumptions.


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