Friday, October 01, 2004


Who wins or loses a debate depends largely on how they come across. If everything each candidate said last night were true, then Kerry would come across as a strong candidate. Kerry came across the way he needed to.

But how one comes across and what's really going on in the world are two separate issues. Kerry made some strong attacks against the Bush Administration's policy in the war on terror, especially where Iraq is concerned.

One of his strong points was that US troops had Osama Bin Laden surrounded in Tora Bora with 1,000 of his followers, and that we "outsourced" the job to less competent and less motivated Afghan forces. I don't think Bush responded to this well -- he should have challenged and refuted it.

After the debate, in an interview with Tommy Franks (the guy in charge of the operation) he said that there were intelligence reports at that time that placed Bin Laden all over the Afghan map. Kerry made it sound like we knew right where he was and let him slip away.

A second point to that issue would be that the world, especially the left and the Arab world -- were desparately trying to paint the war in Afghanistan as US agression and imperialism. By coordinating with Afghan troops who know those mountains better we showed that real Afghans had both the interest in and the capacity to police their own state -- and that it was, in fact, an Afghan state, not an American "colony".

The fact of the matter is, we did not know then nor do we now know where he was at that time. We had some "dots of possibility" on the map. And there were very good reasons we chose to involve and leverage the Afghans.

Kerry also made the tired charge that the war in Iraq was about oil, citing that the Iraq Oil ministry was protected, but the nuclear power plants were not.

Question1: Which was the more likely target?
Question2: Which resource was/is the most vital for getting Iraq on it's feet again as quickly as possible?

Once again, Kerry tries to paint Bush as the Head of the Greed lobby, when there is another, better, more easily supported explanation. Quite simply, interruption of oil production would have the most devastating effect on Iraq's economy -- and come winter, Iraqi's chances of staying warm. For Iraq's new government to succeed, it must have a strong economy, and that economy comes largely from Oil.

It's also not like someone could just barge into a nuclear power plant and walk out with rods of uranium and plutonium in a suitcase.

Question3: How many of Iraq's nuclear power plants were attacked after the invasion?

Looks like Bush was right after all when you look at it that way.

Bush's counterattacks on Kerry's charges that Iraq is a diversion from the "real" war were ok, but too soft. The term "walk and chew gum at the same time" comes to mind, and would've been very effective coming from his Texas mouth. But one of Bush's drawbacks is that he's not extremely elloquent and didn't distill the (I believe correct) argument that Iraq and our involvement there from 1991 to 2003 had a lot to do with our problems in the middle east. If we could have gone in in 1991, finished the job, and gotten out, it is likely that 9/11 would not have happened. The very fact that we had an active military presence in Saudi Arabia to support the U.N. No Fly Zone policies in Iraq-- was Bin Laden's biggest gripe about the U.S. That condition would not have existed were it not for our role in enforcing the U.N.'s will after the 1991 expulsion from Kuwait.

So Iraq had plenty to do with 9/11. It probably wasn't involved in the planning and support, but that doesn't mean that the situation had nothing to do with it. Bush should've made this argument.

A big point Bush missed was that Kerry blamed the lack of body armor on Bush, but Kerry voted against the funding package that was to provide, in part, just that. He should not have let that one slip by.

Kerry kept stressing that he has a plan, but the plan seems to be that he's going to have a big meeting with world leaders, and then commit a bunch of new troops. U.S. Out of Iraq? Not under Kerry.

On the UN Rules The World issue, Kerry said the following

"No President, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you've got to do in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test, where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

For all of Kerry's posturing to the contrary, it is clear he still believes that the US needs the world's permission to do what it thinks is right. Here he flip-flops himself in the same statement.

Bush pounced on it, probably got his point across, but not with the knockout blow that should have come after that. I mean, Kerry set him up for a spike on that one. The first part of his response was good, the second could've been much stronger. But the president was playing it safe.


"I'm not exactly sure what you mean, 'passes the global test'. You take preemptive action if you pass a global test? My attitude is you take preemptive action in order to protect the American people, that you act in order to make this country secure."

The final topic I think was important was North Korea. Kerry made the argument that North Korea is nuclear because of our handling of the war on terror, and that simply is not true. Bush did not make it clear that North Korea's been thumbing its nose at us and our treaties for years, long before he ever became president. The CIA believes that they had 1 or 2 nukes before Bush ever took office. This is not a new development since we unseated Hussein and declared the "axis of evil". Kerry hinted at the idea that North Korea was a more important military target. In the Leftist simplistic "all countries are equal" view, since North Korea was a known nuclear state while we only thought Iraq was, the same solution should be applied to both in order of certainty. Of course, the fact of the matter is that as long as Saddam had oil, sanctions were not working in Iraq, whereas the North Korean economy is crumbling much like the Soviet Union's was in the last days of the cold war. The two situations are, in fact, different and different approaches make sense.

So in effect, Kerry sort of "won" the debate because he made some shaky claims that Bush did not challenge well or at all. It doesn't change the fact that Kerry was wrong, but it may change the minds of some voters if they don't get their facts from multiple sources as I try to do. Hopefully, some of the facts and arguments I've presented will come out post-debate and quell some of that, because it's the facts we need to vote on, not arguments that are off-base.

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