Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Dave Challenge

You know, having done some perfunctory research, I reckon Al Gore would have done a pretty good job.

Q. Would September 11th have unfolded in a similar fashion?
A. Yes, I think so. I don’t believe the left-wing blogosphere when it says that the intelligence failures were all in Bush’s eight months, and I don’t believe the right-wing blogosphere when it says that the intelligence failures were all in Clinton’s eight years. I think the problems in the American intelligence services were bipartisan.

Q. Would Afghanistan have been invaded in a similar fashion?

A. Yes, I think so. The difference Al mentions is that he would have more troops on the ground, and I believe him, since nation-building was a big Clinton-era thing and the Democrats LBJ and Truman were the lads who got lots of troops on the grounds in the last two big ground wars in Asia.

Q. Would Afghanistan be better off now?
A. Pretty definitely. The idea that nation building is something that they might have to do has really had to be hammered home to the Bush administration with a two-by-four, but Gore would have grasped it from the start.

Q. Would Iraq still have been invaded?
A. This is the big question. Regime change irrespective of the presence of weapons of mass destruction was a Clinton administration policy, and after September 11th I think the combination of possible intent, probable capability, and easy-to-knock-the-stuffing-out-of-nature of Iraq would have made it an obvious target for any hyperpower government worried about terrorism. I think iraq still would have been invaded. I think the pro-war/anti-war dynamic really was government/opposition, not right/left. Gore would have been Blair. He would have weighed the strategicl pros and cons and gone to war over the opposition of much of his own party. There is a mainstream current in the left-leaning blogosphere that believes someone came up in early 2003 or late 2002 waving a piece of paper and shouting, ‘Mr President! Mr President! Here is incontrovertible proof that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction and no program to acquire them!’, and that evil Mr Bush told them to bugger off, but good, saintly Mr Gore would have immediately said, ‘Oh, that’s alright then, We’d better stand down then, and leave Saddam in power.’ I do not place much credence in this story.
Maybe Gore would have been more successful in gaining the support of the United Nations, but I don’t think so. He probably would have spent more time in pursuing the UN path, and depending on domestic politics might have been tempted to leave Iraq for his second term. I would assume he would get a second term, what with the increased benefits of incumbency in times of crisis. I don’t think we need pay to much attention to what Gore says he would have done, when he’s talking now: the internal dynamics of his party have changed too much in the past few years.

Q. Would Iraq be better off?
A. I think if there had been an invasion there would be a lot more troops on the ground, which would be a good thing. It is very hard to say. The longer the invasion was foreshadowed before happening, the longer Saddam (and Syria and Iran) would have had to prepare, but then the invasion was foreshadowed for a very long time already. I can imagine a scenario in which the US decides to go for funneling money to opposition groups within Iraq and hardening sanctions, with the result that in April 2003 a ground force rolls in from Iran and kicks over the enfeebled regime. We would have all the bloodshed we’ve seen in places like Anbar province, and another godawful mess in Kurdistan, but there wouldn’t be any television cameras to show it to us so it wouldn’t matter.

Q. What about Israel?
A. I think Israel has put off a lot of unilateral actions this century because of an expectation that the US would take care of things for it. I’m not sure if this would still have been the case under Gore, but with Vice President Lieberman I’m guessing yes, Israel wouldn’t have been tempted to take care of Saddam itself.

Q. And what about Kyoto?
A. Well, the President of the United States is not a despot, and I think Gore would have had a tough time getting it ratified by a Republican-controlled congress. I’m quite certain that congress would have remained Republican-controlled, what with the traditional American habit of keeping government divided- like our entrenching different parties at the State and Federal level. The last six years have been unusual and unfortunate that way. Of course, I don’t mind about the very-bad-and-expensive-sentimental-gesture protocol not being ratified, but on balance it would have been a splendid thing if the United States had kept different parties dominating the legislative and executive branches. The costs of government wouldn’t have ballooned out so spectacularly, and there wouldn’t be so much quasi-dictatorial Homeland Security legislation. Another thing we surely wouldn't have with President Gore is such a sickly, poisoned, vile political atmosphere in the United States, with both sides saying such awful things about each other. After all, the Republicans just moved on when Kennedy stole the election from Nixon.

Q. So what’s up with you and chimpface, Clam? It sounds like you’re convinced Gore would trounce him, foreignpolicywise (if there was such a word, which I doubt).
A. Single issue thing, remember? Basically, its never been about the foreign policy. It’s about those two conservative Supreme Court Justices.


Dave said...

You know, this all sounds pretty damn close to what I envisaged (except Point The Last, and therein lies the crux, I guess). Almost all of my anger towards the Bush administration can be put down to its essential lack of competence by comparison to the stunningly boring but entirely qualified Gore (and yes, Lieberman, whom I dislike and mistrust on a few issues, but I can respect as basically having a brain).

Mind you, I don't know that Gore would have been a lock for a second term, unless as you point out he had enough sense to push action on Iraq back until after the votes settled.

Serious question: is being a single issue voter just a case of denial? Even allowing for the fact that I can't get behind your specific single issue, I really do have trouble understanding the mindset of a single issue voter - after all, it's not as if I can dismissively ascribe your focus as ignorance of broader issues.

(Sorry if that all looks like a change of subject, by the way).

Dr. Clam said...

One of the arguments I came across in that left-wing blogosphere I keep talking about is that the Republican-dominated congress would have stopped Gore going to war in Iraq because they would have wanted a Republican Commander in Chief to get in in 2004 and reap the glory, but that is another one of those arguments I don't find very convincing.
I'm quite happy to answer your serious question, but I'm not sure what you mean by 'a case of denial'. So first I must call for clarification. Do you mean:
Since I find it proverbially difficult to make up my mind, might I have seized upon this one issue as a litmus test I can apply to see which team I should barrack for?

Dave said...

Careless wording that, but I'm not sure if I can explain what I did mean. What I'm trying to get at is what, in making decisions about your preferred candidate based solely on one issue which in and of itself will (to my observation) never be the main point of contention in a presidential election, to the exclusion of all other issues, do you effectively marginalise yourself in the decision-making process in some way?

I haven't put this well. I certainly don't mean to diminish the abortion issue - I'm just questioning the whole single-issue (of any kind) mindset I guess.

Dr. Clam said...

I have noticed this is my 200th post, which naturally reminds me of January 26th 1988, which I spent fare-evading my way around the Ruhr with Sandor, Marco, and Ellen Bock. One thing I still have from that time is a copy of Frank Herbert's The White Plague which liberated me from the feeling of inferiority I had felt in trying to follow the more mystical bits of the Dune books. Reading Frank trying to sound profound in the same way about biochemical stuff I actually knew something about, I realised that all that profound-sounding mystical guff about the Kwisatz Haderach et al. was just waffle.