Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Kevin Drum's Questions, My Answers

· Considering how Iraq has gone so far, do you still think that American military power is a good way to promote tolerance and democracy in the Middle East? Has your position on this changed in any way over the past two years?

I would never use the word “tolerance” as an ideal any military promotes. That is not the job of a military. It may a goal of a “provisional authority,” but not a military. A military can be a means to the end of democracy. Any “hearts and minds” work that an actual military does should be seen as extra and treated as such. As for my position on Iraq, in general I still think it was better to have removed Hussein than to have allowed him to continue to rule Iraq. On a point by point level, I think we could have done things better. Troop commitments and especially placements after the fall of Saddam’s regime could have been handled better.

· Shortly after 9/11, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said publicly that they thought the attacks were well-deserved retribution from God in response to moral decay — as personified by gays, feminists, the ACLU, and NOW. Do you worry that Falwell and Robertson are identified by many as the face of the Republican party? Do you think President Bush has sufficiently distanced himself from them and their followers?

I will not defend Falwell and Robertson, now or then. I would like to see more distance between The President and them, yes.

· Is democracy promotion really one of your core concerns? Just how far are you willing to go to demonstrate your credibility on this subject? Note: President Bush's policy toward either Pakistan or Saudi Arabia would be excellent case studies to bring this question to life.

How many fronts do you want to open, Kevin? Fighting every battle at once is not a very good idea, from my perspective and it certainly does not demonstrate credibility on the subject. Pakistan has gone along way to help us. This was a tremendous risk for Musharraf and pushing for even more is quite a stretch. How does pushing them to the breaking point help us in fighting al Qaeda? Unlike Eastern Europe, for example, pro Western democracy advocates in the Middle East and Southeast Asia face considerably more internal hurdles.

· On a related note, which do you think is more important to the Bush administration in the short term: preservation of a stable oil supply from the Middle East or spreading freedom and liberty throughout the region? Would you be interested in seeing the records of Dick Cheney's 2001 energy task force to verify this? Please be extra honest with this question.

Given its importance to the entirety of Western economies stable oil supplies are not the trivial issue that some would like to make them and certainly not mutually exclusive with promotion of democracy as your question proposes. Spreading democracy must be weighed against many factors, including world economic stability. In purely voyeuristic terms, I’d very much like to see the records. I’m not sure that the records are crucially important to understanding our policy with regard to Iraq. Regardless of their content, as it related to this question, would they shed more light on the issue than things Bob Woodward has already written? I don’t know, obviously, but I suspect not.

· A substantial part of the Christian right opposes any compromise with Palestinians because they believe that Jewish domination of the region west of the Jordan River is a precondition for the Second Coming. Is this a reasonable belief? Or do you think these people qualify as loons who should be purged from the Republican party?

Since The President is already on the record favoring a two state solution to Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the “substantial part” is less relevant than you suggest. As for the Second Coming and this group of believers, if you read history you will find that there was plenty of “end of days” talk around the turn of the first AD millennium just as there is now. Perhaps it is a natural human reaction in some to associate the end of the world with the end of a century and perhaps it is lunacy. Frankly, I just don’t care what they believe. I cannot find anything at all in me that can get me worked up about people who hold these views. As I said, the President has a policy and it is, by the way, an extension of the policy held by the previous administration, which if memory serves me was made up of the opposing party.

· Yes or no: do you think we should invade Iran if it becomes clear — despite our best efforts — that they are continuing to build nuclear weapons? If this requires a military draft, would you be in favor?

“Best efforts,” of course, is the subjective out for those who would oppose this action on any grounds. I am not eager to invade Iran or any other country. If a vast majority of the US public agreed that “best efforts” had been made it is an easy yes. I would not agree if it required a draft and I suspect the vast majority of Americans would oppose it as well. Hopefully this is concise enough an answer. Otherwise, yes and no, in that order.

· If President Bush decides to substantially draw down our troop presence in Iraq after the January 30 elections, will you support that decision? Please answer this question prior to January 30.


· Would you agree that people who accept Laurie Mylroie's crackpot theories about Saddam Hussein's involvement in 9/11 might be taking the threat of terrorism a little too seriously? What do you think should be done with them?

No, I think they are not treating the issue seriously enough. I think they should be given the same consideration as Jim Condit Jr.


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