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January 25, 2004

BUSH AT WAR....Armed Liberal asks today, Are we at war? Good question. So let me take this chance to follow up on my earlier post and toss off a few reasons that regardless of whether we actually are at war, I don't think George Bush considers us to be (seriously) at war.

This is not a garden variety partisan policy dispute. It's war, and if George Bush considered it to be truly serious he would have done everything he could to build a bipartisan consensus and wide public support for his actions. But he didn't. Off the top of my head, here are five examples of the kinds of things he would have done if he really thought terrorism was a threat on the level of World War II or the Cold War:

  • As many war supporters have pointed out (for example, Glenn Reynolds here and here), Bill Clinton has been rather supportive of the war on terror and of muscular national security in general. If Bush were serious about the war, he would have enlisted Bill Clinton's active support wherever he could, regardless of his personal feelings toward the guy. He's an ex-president and the most prominent Democrat and internationalist around, and his backing would have helped build support both domestically and internationally.

  • He would have worked with Democrats from the beginning on the idea of creating a Department of Homeland Security. And he wouldn't have held things up by insisting on union busting activities that he knew perfectly well would spark outrage among Democrats.

  • After his UN speech, he would have floated proposals designed to demonstrate that our goals in Iraq were not motivated strictly by oil. For instance, he might have agreed beforehand to allow the UN to control all oil contracts and civil rebuilding contracts. These demonstrations of goodwill might not have gotten France on board (though who knows), but they might have gotten many other countries on board and certainly would have muted suspicions about our motives abroad. Remember, in the end it wasn't just France that opposed us. We couldn't even get a majority of the Security Council on our side.

  • He could have helped garner additional Arab support by placing increased public pressure on Israel over the settlements and the wall. This is something Bush could have gotten away with since his position as a supporter of Israel is rock solid.

  • He might have made a serious call to reduce U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil by, for example, proposing a steep increase in the gasoline tax or higher CAFE standards.

There's a common thread to all of these: they are things that normally George Bush wouldn't want to do. And that's exactly the point, since one way to show seriousness is to demonstrate concretely that you're willing to sacrifice other lesser goals in order to gain support for your higher goals. This is, for example, what FDR did when he said that "Dr. Win the War" had replaced "Dr. New Deal." On the other hand, if your actions are confined solely to things that you've always wanted to do anyway, the natural conclusion is that you're using the war simply as an excuse to press forward with politics as usual.

Despite the fact that this is a global war that requires broad support over long timescales, George Bush has not tried to gain Democratic support; he has not engaged seriously with the international community; he has not asked the American public for any kind of sacrifice; he has continued to push a divisive domestic agenda; he has shown little interest in funding anti-proliferation efforts; he has declined to put adequate resources into Afghanistan; he has done nothing to fix an intelligence operation that's quite obvously broken; and he has stonewalled every investigation into the failures that allowed 9/11 to happen.

In light of this, just how seriously do you think George Bush takes the fight against terrorism? I'd say, not very.

Posted by Kevin Drum at January 25, 2004 06:11 PM | TrackBack


Comments

Remember the joke a couple of years ago about GWB only being one heart attack away from the Presidency. Cheney is safe in his "secure undisclosed location." He does not need to care about terrorism.

Posted by: ____league at January 25, 2004 06:22 PM | PERMALINK

I don't recall that, say, FDR, or Truman, or LBJ doing things like this. But, then again, perhaps they didn't think that they considered the country to be "(seriously) at war" either.

Posted by: Al at January 25, 2004 06:23 PM | PERMALINK

Al doesn't recognize the rationing of food and rubber as seriously treating WW2 as a war, apparently. Gimme a break, Al.

Kevin, this sounds like you've been reading Emile Zola; J'Accuse!

Posted by: Linkmeister at January 25, 2004 06:26 PM | PERMALINK

Terrorism isn't a big problem for the U.S., so why should any voter or politician take it seriously.

According to my stats, driving is the far greater threat. In fact, the amount of money we spend to fight terrorism may kill us before the Islamics do.

Nor will the fight against terrorism be a big issue in the election, war rarely is.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 25, 2004 06:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, i think you missed the obvious #6: despite the vastly increased spending requirements that his strategic approach to terrorism (beefing up the military, invading afghanistan, invading iraq), he forged on with the same approach to tax cuts that he'd had before spending needed to be increased.

Al, don't embarass yourself. Kevin has directly pointed to you the famous FDR line, which he demonstrated in practice. Truman became president very late in WW II, and the Korean War, while not insignificant, wasn't the struggle that world war ii was. Nonetheless, his problem was the still-strong isolationist wing of the Republican party.

LBJ had, in fact, very strong support when he began to expand the war in Vietnam (the Tonkin Gulf resolution passed 98-2), although it too was no world war ii. It was only after several years of expansion that a significant anti-war movement got underway, and LBJ's problem with the war was on the Democratic flank. Nonetheless, when he concluded that he had become the issue, he announced that he wouldn't run for re-election, in order to attempt to maintain national unity for vietnam (even though privately he had grave doubts about the whole enterprise).

Saying "i don't remember" when you "don't know" isn't your finest moment, Al....

Posted by: howard at January 25, 2004 06:31 PM | PERMALINK

Another thing he might have done: see to it that the troops have all the equipment they need and do not pay a financial price for fighting on our behalf in Iraq. Some soldiers have had to buy their own flack jackets, and hazard allowances have been cut when they should have been increased.

Bush doesn't even consider our operations in *Iraq* to be a war in any serious sense of the word.

Posted by: Michael at January 25, 2004 06:32 PM | PERMALINK

That's nt what I'm saying, Linkmeister. I'm saying that the items that Kevin points to are NOT indicative of whether a President thinks we are "(seriously) at war".

For example, how much did FDR use Herbert Hoover during WWII? Uh, try virtually not at all. How much did LBJ use Richard Nixon during Vietnam in, say, '66? Again, not at all. Does that mean that they didn't believe us to be "(seriously) at war"? Nope.

Kevin apparently believes that Bush can only believe us to be "(seriously) at war" if he turns into a liberal (i.e., more UN control, higher CAFE). How completely silly. If Kevin wanted us to believe that this isn't merely partisanship, he would have listed items that are NOT merely liberal policies. Heck, I almost expected the last items to be "if Bush considered us really at war, he'd try to make women happy be turning pro-choice."

Kevin's list is merely pure partisanship. Nothing more.

Posted by: Al at January 25, 2004 06:34 PM | PERMALINK

A grand post. As good and trenchant as anything I've seen on this topic.

And what a marvelous bulleted list that simply jars the memory.

For example:

He could have helped garner additional Arab support by placing increased public pressure on Israel over the settlements and the wall. This is something Bush could have gotten away with since his position as a supporter of Israel is rock solid.

Almost begs one to respond:

Oh yeah...how is your roadmap to peace going Mr. President?

The so-called "roadmap to peace" is now about as viable a phrase as the "the information superhighway."

It was dead before it was born, because the current President is more worried about going on a long-distance run and a vacation, then in trying to ameliorate the future.

What a worthless turd of a man.

Posted by: -pea- at January 25, 2004 06:36 PM | PERMALINK

..but it's a "different" kind a war, ain't it?

Brad DeLong says you've joined the ranks of the shrill. Is that true?

Posted by: soup at January 25, 2004 06:37 PM | PERMALINK

It's a war, but not terrorism. Al-Qaida is more like the cosa nostra, or Archer-Daniels-Midland, a stateless entity bent on evil. A sack of criminal shit, best rooted out by a cooperative Coalition of the Civilized, headed by some Elliot Ness of the New Millenium. Unfortunately, we've got this really, really big army capable of acting alone, and we need an enemy shaped to our own strengths. So, we declare war, even though war is really a dispute between states. Besides, reducing war to a metaphor dragoons all sorts of exciting possibilities into the fray--authoritarian legal structures, cool hardware, and many chances to flag-wrap. It's just so much more fun than police work and prosecution, even if the latter are both proper in scale and comfortable for our democratic institutions.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at January 25, 2004 06:37 PM | PERMALINK

Re Cheney: the Russians are now reporting that Boris Yeltsin's absents were not the result of binge drinking, but a half-dozen heart attacks. Yeltsin recovered in an undisclosed secure location.

Kevin, you assume that our intelligence system is broken because of the intelligence used by the Bush administration. The Bush administration didn't trust the intel community and grabbed raw intel data and used their own people as analysts.

The intel professionals have been making it known that they didn't support many/most of the Bush claims.

The Brits intel complained about the Blair government "sexing up" its intel reports.

We don't know what information Bush had before 9/11, because he refuses to cooperate.

The intel community and the Pentagon both need modernization and the money to do their job properly, but they aren't allowed to specify what they want.

Bush is going to blame the intel community; David Kay and others have already launched the meme.

Posted by: Bryan at January 25, 2004 06:38 PM | PERMALINK

"Kevin's list is merely pure partisanship. Nothing more."

True, but have you ever read Tacitus blog?

Posted by: Matt Young at January 25, 2004 06:40 PM | PERMALINK

"It's a war, but not on terrorism."

Gotta use that preview feature.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at January 25, 2004 06:41 PM | PERMALINK

Great comment.

Posted by: CK at January 25, 2004 06:50 PM | PERMALINK

Brian C.B. really nails it above. If Bush took the conflict with terrorism seriously, he would have though out the factors that make it different from a conventional war and put huge amounts of money and planning into making those elements work. Homeland security technology -- our ports are still not safe. Domestic anti-terrorist intelligence -- he has actively blocked any effort to investigate and fix the flaws in FBI procedures that helped lead to 9/11. Police coordination and cooperation with foreign nations to get terrorists -- he has alienated nation after nation. Seriously targeting the actors who fund and support Al Qaeda -- how much attention have you seen to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan vs. Iraq, Iran, and Syria? The latter three did not support Al Qaeda, the former two did.

Instead, he has rushed to jam the anti-terrorist struggle into the mold of a conventional war between states. And he has directed the conventional war at traditional enemies of the U.S. and Israel (Iran, Iraq, Syria) rather than the actual forces behind Al Qaeda. Why? Because particular interest groups within the Republican party have material and ideological interests in doing it that way.

Posted by: MQ at January 25, 2004 06:50 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin --
Your list of five points is absurd.

1. How do you know Clinton would have agreed to help Bush sell the war? Clinton is as intensely political as they come, and why would he make things easier for the opposition?
Also, as was mentioned above, there is no history of presidents getting their predecessors inovolved in anything but the occasional state funeral.

2. Homeland Security. Why should Bush meet the Democrats' demands? Why shouldn't the Democrats meet Bush's demands? Its absurd to say that bipartisanship only comes when the guy you dislike (Bush) comes around to your side. He used some tactics to get the Dems to come around to his. Why is that not a sign of bipartisanship?

3. Getting the UN to adminster the Iraqi oil? Do you know what a corrupt disaster the Oil for Food Program turned out to be? Why would one trust the UN to do the right thing the second time around when it comes to Iraq's oil?

4. Putting pressure on Israel re the fence and the settlements. I guess he could have, but his choice was to put pressure on Arafat to stop the suicide bombings. He chose one side, not the other. Why is that a sign that he doesn't think we are at war?

5. He could have asked for higher CAFE standards. Instead he asked for greater domestic production of oil. The best solution probably lies somewhere in between, but why don't you complain that the Democrats don't think we're at war because they chose one side of the argument rather than the other.

It seems that you think he should give in to the Democrats on a series of issues to convince you that he is serious about the war.
That is exactly the problem the the Democrats will have in November, viz. the country thinks of them as the party that needs to have several pre-conditions before they think of the war on terror as a serious issue. The Democrats give off the impression that while, sure , they take the war on terror seriously, they won't act on it until their union base is satisfied, their environmental lobby is satisfied, their UN-suck up lobby is satisfied, etc., etc.
I think you'll have a hard time convincing people that the Democrats are more serious about this war than Bush is.

Posted by: fw at January 25, 2004 06:51 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin's list is merely pure partisanship. Nothing more.

Al, you simply don't have the credibility to be taken seriously when you say this.

Posted by: taktile at January 25, 2004 06:53 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Matt. What's your point? Are you trying to say that Tacitus would post that Bush doesn't consider us to be "(seriously) at war" because he didn't, e.g., pursue some set of conservative policies?

Posted by: Al at January 25, 2004 06:53 PM | PERMALINK

Al, FDR brought prominent Republicans like Henry Stimson (Hoover's Sec of State) and Frank Knox (Alf Landon's running mate in 36) into his cabinet as Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy, respectively. Hoover, as a wildly unpopular former president, would not have been an asset to anybody in the same way that Clinton would be today. The appointment of Stimson, the virtual embodiment of the Republican east coast foreign policy establishment, surely means something.

Posted by: John at January 25, 2004 06:54 PM | PERMALINK

While I agree that the President doesn't really act like a President at war ought to act, I don't think that failure to enact Democratic policy wishlists is evidence of that.

Posted by: Tacitus at January 25, 2004 06:58 PM | PERMALINK

fw

Whenever Bush had a choice between a policy that others would buy into or a policy that would be opposed he chose the latter. Example: On homeland security, why did he bother with the union thing? It was sure to cause problems and I doubt that even you would argue that union members are less patriotic.

Former Presidents often work with later Presidents. Carter is a good example.

Posted by: ____league at January 25, 2004 06:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Remember, in the end it wasn't just France that opposed us. We couldn't even get a majority of the Security Council on our side."

Thats being pretty generous. We could not even get Mexico or Canada, and even our bribes were being rejected by others. The question is not who opposed us, but who was with us.

Posted by: chris/tx at January 25, 2004 06:59 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin's list of bullet points assumes Bush understands the need to do these things to be serious about the war. But, Bush is a shallow fellow of such meager historical understanding he can not even perceive the danger of ignoring newspapers and relying on Andrew Card and Condi Rice briefings for his news.

Intellectually, Bush is a kid playing with tin soldiers on Mummy's carpet. It not lack of serious intent he displays, it is an inability to intellectually grasp the seriousness of war.

Posted by: horseloverfat at January 25, 2004 07:01 PM | PERMALINK

Al -- Truman used Hoover after WWII in an area he was an expert...rebuilding Europe. Hoover was a Quaker. FDR didn't need Hoover to win support for the war during the fighting. After Pearl Harbor, the nation was united in their support of the war.

Posted by: cafl at January 25, 2004 07:02 PM | PERMALINK

fw, if by "this war" you mean the policy of pre-emption aimed at anyone we don't like, then no, no one is going to convince anyone that the dems can fight "this war" better than Bush.

The problem is "this war" has nothing to do with the problem of islamic fundamentalist terrorism, and hasn't since we began pulling resources away from the struggle against al qaeda in order to enter into this protracted, highly problematic excursion to rebuild iraq as an example for the middle east (or something along those lines).

A dem is fully capable of convincing America that acting without thinking doesn't advance national security, and that taking the islamic fundamentalist threat seriously isn't the same as (in general garner's famous words) pounding on your chest and saying it's great to be an american....

Posted by: howard at January 25, 2004 07:03 PM | PERMALINK

Tacitus, in all seriousness, which of kevin's list is a "democratic party wishlist?"

Posted by: howard at January 25, 2004 07:05 PM | PERMALINK

I seem to recall that there were bipartisan majorities in congress for the Patriot Act, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Posted by: Ugh at January 25, 2004 07:05 PM | PERMALINK

Al,
During WWII Herbert Hoover headed Committees that provided relief to the countries overrun by Germany and was unavailable for government service, although he was asked.

After the war he headed the commission that studied the problems of famine in post-war Europe for Truman.

Hoover headed both the first and second Hoover Commissions for Presidents Truman and Eisenhower on the reform of the executive branch.

Hoover's greatest accomplishments were after his Presidency and he was honored for them.

Nixon became involved in California politics after losing to Kennedy.

I realized that not everyone is old enough to have lived through these things, but there are books and Internet search engines.

Posted by: Bryan at January 25, 2004 07:13 PM | PERMALINK

So, Al. "Pure partisanship" is somehow ungood? Coming from you, that's pretty funny.

To my dismay, I would agree with you. Kevin is stretching a bit here, but even at the height of WWII and some rather vicious partisan campaigning in the '44 election, FDR didn't call the republicans traitors. Truman didn't call them traitors (just bastards, but that's kinda generic). And LBJ didn't have to ask for their support, since by 1964 they had become the "nuke 'em till they glow" wing of American politics.

But look on the bright side. The "who lost Iraq?" debate\smear campaign will be soon upon us. I am of the opinion this will be a partisan battle you will undoubtedly relish.

Posted by: bobbyp at January 25, 2004 07:19 PM | PERMALINK

Bush is "rock solid" on Israel because he won't make a serious fuss over the wall, settlements.

Other than point two, which as has been pointed out could go either way, this list is solid. I tend to think Bush wanted DHS as an issue and the union busting was convenient, but the Democrat's insistence on serving their consituents (unions) was also put above the goal of immediately increasing homeland security. Both sides put political concerns ahead of problem solving on that one.

and the CAFE standards would help the problem of gulf oil dependence, but wouldn't fundamentally change the dynamic. More domestic production would do nothing to help that problem (Alaskan oil is sold to Asia ect.) but does function as a convincing political cop out to your average voter. The only solutions to that problem are long term, and since Bush and everybody else talks game on fuel cells it's hard to see how this is a test of seriousness.

Posted by: Wes at January 25, 2004 07:19 PM | PERMALINK

Afghanistan, yes. The Patriot Act, right after 9/11, yes. Iraq, yes - with the administration sounding the alarm about the 'vast stockpiles' of WMD's, and ties between Saddam and Al Qaida, and in general, blowing smoke up our asses.

Posted by: Barry at January 25, 2004 07:20 PM | PERMALINK

Bush is seriously having a war, a holy war which he is aiming not only at Muslims, but at Democrats, and liberals, and basically anyone who disagrees with him on anything. He's at war with you, and me, and my mother, and well, the list is long and getting longer.

Posted by: QrazyQat at January 25, 2004 07:21 PM | PERMALINK

I guess I still don't understand why conservatives consider Bush the more competent wartime leader by foregoing the support of major international players. It seems to me that petulantly pursuing war without a competent follow-up plan isn't so much hawk-like as it is just stupid. Anyone can make war with our military and win. It's like doing dishes with a dishwasher. But if you don't know how to put them away afterward, have you really "done the dishes?" (crappy analogy the sole property of Kevin R. Corp.)

Posted by: Kevin R. at January 25, 2004 07:26 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I think this is an outstanding post.

And I too would like to hear more of Tacitus's views on this wishlist. It may be a Democratic wishlist, but if the net effect is to advance the war effor then it shouldn't that make it a Republican wishlist also? Isn't that the very point of Kevin's comment at the end?

Posted by: alexis at January 25, 2004 07:37 PM | PERMALINK

I will know when we are at war. When we see a draft, when we are forced to shut our lights off at night for fear of bombings, when we are using stamps to buy sugar and fuel - then I will know we are at war. Until then I am kidding myself.

Posted by: Cliff at January 25, 2004 07:44 PM | PERMALINK

Al,

By characterizing everything Kevin mentions as "liberal" partisanship, you tacitly admit that everything Bush has done is conservative partisanship, and you are supported in this view by the Administration themselves, with their talk of driving a wedge through America.

What is your point?

Posted by: scarshapedstar at January 25, 2004 07:48 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone remember the economic push after 9/11? The economy was lousy and getting worse, and Republican politicos were making the rounds on television trying to convince people that shopping was an act of patriotism.

What a missed opportunity. What a bloody embarassment.

Posted by: Jonathan Dworkin at January 25, 2004 07:54 PM | PERMALINK

I think taking down the Taliban and the Saddam regime at a cost of over 600 dead and billions in treasure to be a sign that George Bush takes the fight against terrorism seriously. Certainly more serious than the previous administration who threw cruise missiles at empty pharm factories.

I would agree that Kevin's wish list is just more partisan sniping.

Posted by: russ e at January 25, 2004 07:55 PM | PERMALINK

Also, two words, Operation Ignore.

Condi Rice called the Clinton Administration (yeah, russ, the one that wasn't serious) "Obsessed with bin Laden."

And then there was 9/11.

'Nuff said.

Posted by: scarshapedstar at January 25, 2004 07:58 PM | PERMALINK

And, I guess I'll add, Bush is serious enough about terrorism that I'm starting to see a gun aimed at Syria, offering the Libyan deal or the Iraqi deal.

Posted by: russ e at January 25, 2004 07:59 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, we are currently experiencing a war on terror? But what did invading Iraq have to do with it? The problem is that the Bushies have connected the two.
What are the real motives behind the war in Iraq? I don't think it was oil. I think the defense industry was looking for a place to dump excess inventory and advertise new 'smart' technology. The orders are pouring in and they will be rolling in the dough-re-mi. They really used the neocons. Must be nice to have friends in the white house. Makes that silly Lincoln bedroom fiasco during the Clinton administration look amateurish.

Posted by: redkimba at January 25, 2004 08:10 PM | PERMALINK

I guess what I don't understand from Kevin's post is the following: why is that that Bush's decisions not to pursue liberal policies provides evidence of WHETHER he considers us "(seriously) at war" as opposed to simply criticisms of HOW the war is being fought.

I mean, is it true that "if George Bush considered it to be truly serious he would have done everything he could to build a bipartisan consensus and wide public support for his actions"? No. Bush may have believed that it was more important to use the methods he thought best to fight the war than simply to pursue a "bipartisan" policy. Alternatively, he may have thought that pursuing a bipartisan policy would not significantly add to our ability to fight the war (although I doubt this).

Accordingly, because the premise of Kevin's post is false, the conclusions he draws are also likely false.

Posted by: Al at January 25, 2004 08:19 PM | PERMALINK

The only war Bush is interested in is the ongoing War on America's middle class. Rich folks battle the downtrodden masses.

It's been going on a long time. Terrorism is just another code word, a weapon to be used for the Repigs (or whatever these Bush fanatics call themselves)... to commit crimes against regular folks.

Posted by: Jay R. - Oregon at January 25, 2004 08:20 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Tacitus: Never criticize Israel.

Seriously, Kevin, I think the problem is that responsible conservatives look forward to November and see themselves either voting for the maniac currently in the White House, or else ... Anyone But Bush. Or staying home, of course: though my definition of "responsible" includes voting in elections.

I was impressed by a recent post by Tac that someone here linked to, to the effect that Bush & Co were getting to the point where he was almost ready to consider not voting for them... but point 4 on your list falls right into the area of Tac's Unbudgeable Prejudices. We all have them. Mine is that Bush & Co must not be allowed to gain a second election as we now know they cheated to "win" the 2000 election: I am a believer that criminals should not, so far as we can permit it, be allowed to enjoy the rewards of their crime. Tacitus's TUP involves Muslims and Israel.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 25, 2004 08:23 PM | PERMALINK

Tacitus is clueless. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Kevin's list of points is indeed a "Democratic party wishlist". That's *exactly why* Bush would do them if he were serious about a war on terrorism. Tacitus himself has previously written that the fight agaisnt Communism succeeded because there was broad, bipartisan agreement on it, and contrasted that agreement with the current division of the country. In order to get bipartisan agreement, you have to do exactly what Kevin said, "demonstrate concretely that you're willing to sacrifice other lesser goals in order to gain support for your higher goals".

Posted by: Rich Puchalsky at January 25, 2004 08:26 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a big one -- he would have asked for the war vote AFTER the 2002 elections, instead of insisting the vote be held before the elections. This was INTENTIONALLY divisive, using the war as a wedge issue.

Posted by: Dave Johnson at January 25, 2004 08:30 PM | PERMALINK

A bit off-topic, but it's what comes to mind at the moment:

I think Bush's handling of the war in Iraq has left him with little credibility in Congress now, given how the causus belli of the war, those alledged tons of WMDs, weren't really there in the first place. For that, the Bush administration has no one to blame but themselves, especially since they repeatedly made grand claims about them for several months up to the start of the war. I doubt Republicans in Congress are eager to give Bush carte blanche again for a war on Syria, and will instead use their power of the purse to restrain any moves Bush may make in that regard.

Posted by: David W. at January 25, 2004 08:32 PM | PERMALINK

In addition to the comments posted above about President Roosevelt's appointing Republicans Knox and Stimson to his cabinet as Sec'y of War and Sec's of Navy in the run-up to WWII and President Truman's appointing ex-President Hoover to chair the Commission on the Re-organization of the Executive Branch (Hoover Commission) during the Cold War, some other examples of treating a war like a war and being bi-partisan:

During the Civil War, the Republican Party renamed itself the National Union Party to show that it welcomed War Democrats. In 1864, a southern, pro-union Democrat (Andrew Johnson) was the National Union candidate for V.P. That's roughly the equivalent of the Republicans this summer nominating Joe Lieberman for V.P. to run with Bush. (Of course, Johnson became President when President Lincoln was assasinated.)

During WWII, President Roosevelt appointed many Republicans to the group that was drafting the U.N. Charter to make support for the U.N. as bi-partisan as possible (in part, because of what the then-Republican Senate did to Woodrow Wilson's League of Nations in voting down the Treaty of Versailles at the end of WWI). Arthur Vandenburg is probably the most famous of the Republican Senators that Roosevelt appointed, but there were others (IIRC).

Also, IIRC, during the various strategic-arms negotations with the Soviets during the Cold War, the various Presidents almost always appointed a member (or two) of the other party to high positions in the U.S. negotiating team.

Posted by: Civil-Rights Lawyer at January 25, 2004 08:33 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a big one -- he would have asked for the war vote AFTER the 2002 elections, instead of insisting the vote be held before the elections. This was INTENTIONALLY divisive, using the war as a wedge issue.

Bingo.

Posted by: David W. at January 25, 2004 08:34 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and the main point of the post? No, Bush doesn't take the "war on terrorism" that seriously: I've never believed that he does. 9/11 was the best thing that could have happened to Bush II, and Bush & Co have done their best to profit by it: I mean electorally, though there's certainly been enough pork piled up for Bush supporters.

You forgot a couple of other things that would have indicated that Bush takes the "war on terrorism" seriously: the fact that the bin Laden relatives in the US were rushed out of the country at the earliest possible moment before they could be questioned by the FBI: and the fact that, to Bush & Co, the Saudis are still their best buddies. Both of which say to me that Bush & Co take the attitude of knights in armor to the deaths of 3000 kerns, as immortalized by T. H. White in The Once And Future King: but God knows, Bush is no Arthur.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 25, 2004 08:35 PM | PERMALINK

Arthur Vandenburg is probably the most famous of the Republican Senators that Roosevelt appointed, but there were others (IIRC).

Vandenburg was also an important partner who President Truman turned to for support in Congress to pass the Marshall Plan, BTW.

Posted by: David W. at January 25, 2004 08:35 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't it Clinton who made overthrowing Saddam official US policy. He must have been some crazy neocon not taking the war agianst terrorism seriously.

And didn't bin Laden plan 911 when Clinton was in office?

And don't you see how stupid this line of argument is? The same things you are saying about Bush can be said about Clinton.

Posted by: Neil at January 25, 2004 08:38 PM | PERMALINK

Good post, Kevin.

Dave Johnson: Here's a big one -- he would have asked for the war vote AFTER the 2002 elections, instead of insisting the vote be held before the elections. This was INTENTIONALLY divisive, using the war as a wedge issue.

Just another of the numerous instances of everything that Bush does being geared toward his primary domestic political goal, which it to be elected to office (not "re-elected", incidentally, to be precise).

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald at January 25, 2004 08:39 PM | PERMALINK

"And, I guess I'll add, Bush is serious enough about terrorism that I'm starting to see a gun aimed at Syria, offering the Libyan deal or the Iraqi deal."

Do you really, can you possibly imagine, an invasion of Syria right now? or are you envisioning this gun in a dream?

(and you should look into the "libyan deal" a little closer, as if "the stick" was presented without the "carrot"!!! and as if this began with the Iraqi invasion)

one recent story on Libya is here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/23/opinion/23LEVE.html?ex=1075438800&en=19e19be0a64e5d91&ei=5062

really not a serious comment

Posted by: splash at January 25, 2004 08:40 PM | PERMALINK

Neil, we know the same kind of things that we say about Bush can be said about Clinton. We know this because the raving righties do it all the time: criticize Bush, and a raving-rightie will pop up with (usually) some variation on "But Clinton was worse!" Usually they're lying. But sure, they can say the same kinds of things about Clinton as we say about Bush: doesn't have to be true, they just have to keep saying it.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 25, 2004 08:43 PM | PERMALINK

I think Kevin's argument is flawed, since in order for it to apply we have to assume that the solution the war on terror is a huge expenditure of arms and money. However I think it's been mentioned many times on this site that in fact WoT is more a battle of ideaologies. So if we ASSUME that the correct solution to WoT is showing that the admin has unstoppable butt kickin' resolve and are generally not be messed with, then all of Kevin's points would actually distract from the message.

Posted by: ExLurker at January 25, 2004 08:46 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, the point of Kevin's post is that to be considered "(seriously) at war" one should bring in your opponents, not thse that already agree with you. Accordingly, FDR bringing in Republican internationalists does NOT provide evidence for his post. If FDR considered us "(seriously) at war", he would have brought in Republican ISOLATIONISTS - i.e., those who were against him, rather than those who were already with him. FDR bringing in Knox and Stimson is the equivalent of, say, Bush bringing Zell Miller int his cabinet -- not really evidence of bipartisanship, since Knox and Stimson were already notorious internationalist hawks. To Kevin, I guess, FDR would only have thought us "(seriously) at war" if he had brought in Senator Taft.

Posted by: Al at January 25, 2004 09:08 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry to pick on you, Al, but you're asking for it.

Accordingly, because the premise of Kevin's post is false, the conclusions he draws are also likely false.

This is bad logic.

If the premise is false, we don't know whether the conclusion is true or not.

Live by the logic sword, die by the logic sword.

As for the DHS, it's a fucking joke.

The main problem, which the creation of DHS did nothing to solve, was the compartmentalization of intelligence.

Interagency working groups coupled with reform of sevaral agencies would have been fine to do the job. Instead we got big fat want machine number two.

Posted by: praktike at January 25, 2004 09:12 PM | PERMALINK

kefin y r u so partisun? dare is know gwater byepartisunship den da byepartisunship ov hour gwate leeder jorge w bush.

gawd bwess da twupes and jorge w bushe.

Posted by: al at January 25, 2004 09:16 PM | PERMALINK

Another point: Bush made this whole thing clear from the beginning when he made his "I think I am Jesus" statement: "Either you're with me, or you're with the terrorists."

This is straight out of the Bible, "He who is not with me is against me." It's in Mark somewhere.

Posted by: praktike at January 25, 2004 09:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Tacitus himself has previously written that the fight agaisnt Communism succeeded because there was broad, bipartisan agreement on it,"

This argument is Tacitus' cover for the disaster that is Reaganism. We now know what true conservatives knew all the time, communism fell of its own weight. The trillions of squandered resources wasted by Reagan probably only prolonged the reform and collapse of the USSR, and left the USA with a multi-generation legacy of debt.

Tacitus is desparately trying to avoid the same historical result as Bush squanders trillions more on a strategy that ultimately will only prolong Islamo-fascism.

At this point, the correct strategy should be, exit Iraq, hold Afghanistan, and build a Nixon doctrine of detante with the Islamo-fascist nations. Bush has put us right back into the position that LBJ put us in 1968, except Bush has added another Reagan legacy of trillions squandered.

The same group that mis-read the USSR and brought the Reagan disaster are the same ones who brought about the Iraq mess.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 25, 2004 09:19 PM | PERMALINK

praktike - that's why I wrote "the conclusions are LIKELY false". Yes, it's true that the conclusion may be true. But you don't get there from where Kevin started.

Posted by: Al at January 25, 2004 09:24 PM | PERMALINK

FDR bringing in Knox and Stimson is the equivalent of, say, Bush bringing Zell Miller int his cabinet

It's not unreasonable to have internationalists like Stimson named Secretary of War when you're fighting a World War. So stop moving the goal posts and concede the point. I swear, the besotting vice of the blogosphere is how winning the argument becomes the only thing that matters. Trust me, I'm married and I've learned the hard way that winning *isn't* everything... ;-)

Posted by: David W. at January 25, 2004 09:29 PM | PERMALINK

da point ov kefins post is dat to be "(seriously) at war" FDR wood half 2 bwing in nazis. 2 kevin FDR wood half ben only "(seriously) at war" if he bwought in adolf hitler.

gawd bwess da twupes and jorge w bushe.

Posted by: al at January 25, 2004 09:31 PM | PERMALINK

praktike - that's why I wrote "the conclusions are LIKELY false". Yes, it's true that the conclusion may be true. But you don't get there from where Kevin started.

Nope. We know nothing about the conclusions.

Posted by: praktike at January 25, 2004 09:36 PM | PERMALINK

bush was serious about having a war for a couple of months and then lots of parades and stuff. un fortunately his war is a disaster due to the incompetence and/or dishonestly of everyone in his administration. i really believe that the whole point of this war was to create an image of goober as a victorious warrior. they tried it with the carrier landing campaign ad, but the mission isn't accomplished. this is an unnecessary disaster of a war and bush started it. he needs to spend more time with his family.

Posted by: Olaf glad and big at January 25, 2004 09:42 PM | PERMALINK

What stands out there is the jab at France. If takes a truly skewed worldview, and one would think an overreliance on right wing talk shows for news, to assert that France was the only country against us.

Indeed, practically the entire world was, and even those "free" countries like Spain and Italy for instance did so against the overwhelming passions and opinions of their people.

So no qualification is really necessary that, in fact, other countries were opposed to us. The onus of such an emphasis on support ought to be not on who opposed us, but who supported us, and why.

France, Germany, and Russia were the big three who opposed us, and politically astute to do so since their people were 80-90% opposed to the action.

Posted by: Jimm at January 25, 2004 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

Jimm: add in Turkey to the significant countries who opposed the US invasion. A majority of the Turks were against it: the Turkish military was for it: the Turkish government was offered a staggering bribe by the US: and turned it down. (There were fears of a military coup at the time: I don't know how realistic those fears were.) Given Turkey's strategic importance as a base, Turkish opposition against US bribes was significant.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 26, 2004 01:39 AM | PERMALINK

George W. Bush is up for the worst president ever. He's in way over his head, and he doesn't care. He doesn't care about the welfare of anyone outside his own circle of comfort. He hasn't ever admitted that he was wrong. His arrogance reflects the worst kind of aristocratic privilege. Just another argument against enshrining dynastic families in the American system.

I didn't start off as a Bush basher. But this unelected right-wing radical has put MY family in jeopardy for generations. Shame on us if we don't toss his tush out come November.

Posted by: unbelievable at January 26, 2004 05:25 AM | PERMALINK

Jsergislac: You've got the Turkish situation about right, but the Tukish prime minister was for permitting American use of Turkish territory, but his Parliament defeated his motion in what was portrayed as a demonstration of Turkish democracy. The Turkish Armed Forces, which have meddled in government before in their self-appointed role as guardians of the Kemal Attaturk heritage, kept strictly neutral in deference to popular sentiment, but made their wish to cooperate with the Americans known.

Everybody's favorite neocon, Richard Perle, made a trip to Turkey before the parliamentary vote in which he made a statement that was read there as a thinly-veiled call for the Armed Forces to intervene. No doubt, much popular Turkish love for the United States was generated as a result.

Let's all remember that, the Thursday before the Monday Security Council vote on a second resolution, Bush boldly, publicly claimed that, no matter what, the US would call the vote so that members would have to "show where they stand." Reading between the lines, the strategy was to get a majority favoring war and make France use its veto. Monday, the United States declined to call the vote, indicating that it was likely to go 9 against a new motion, 3 votes for it. France would not have had to use its veto, since the motion would have fallen on its own. Better to backtrack from Bush's statement and continue to claim that "it's France alone that frustrated us." Of course, the British leak that American intelligence was trying to spy on the temporary Security Council members did quite a lot to anger the UN delegates from those countries, and firmly terminated American hopes for Chile's vote, given that country's record with the CIA.

The United States was dismissed by Mexico even after we offered Mexico significant immigration reforms. We were dismissed by Chile even after we threatened to delay the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (which we did, in a fit of pique that calls into question the supposed benefits of the agreement to the United States). It simply isn't possible for the United States to have handled this matter worse. It was so poorly handled that, at the time, I remember thinking that Cheney and Rumsfeld had deliberately set Colin Powell up for a fall. The "grown-ups are in charge," indeed.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at January 26, 2004 05:51 AM | PERMALINK

"Everybody's favorite neocon, Richard Perle, made a trip to Turkey before the parliamentary vote in which he made a statement that was read there as a thinly-veiled call for the Armed Forces to intervene."

It occurs to me now that this incident should be filed away for consideration whenever Perle speaks publicly, or whenever one hears the Administration claim to be supporting "Middle Eastern democracy."

Posted by: Brian C.B. at January 26, 2004 05:54 AM | PERMALINK

You missed one other sign that would have indicated Bush was serious about war: He would have had an exit strategy for Iraq and a post-war plan for rebuilding that nation's infrastructure and government. Where is Bush's Marshall Plan?

Posted by: Shelley of Westchester, IL at January 26, 2004 06:37 AM | PERMALINK

Spot on Calpundit! I disliked him before the "war", detest him now.

Posted by: JM at January 26, 2004 07:16 AM | PERMALINK

I think the reason Bush didn't try for more partisonship or int'l. cooperation is because his advisors told him this would be easy. CIA estimated Saddam spent $1.9 billion on defense in 1999 the latest available figures. Rummy initially wanted to invade Iraq with only 25,000 special forces and heavy airpower. Cheney and Perle were saying Iraq's military would surrender en masse and we'd be greeted as liberators by the downtrodden. Wolfowitz told him we could decapitate the leadership and install Chalabi and friends and be out in 60 days. What little rebuilding required (thanks to our smart bombs) would all be self financed by Iraqi oil. Rove told him he could steamroll the Dems in 2002 election with the issue and he'd be sitting in re-election clover come 2004. This would be a piece of cake and he wanted all the credit for himself.
It's the kind of thing a president who only gets information from his advisors would think. He was just as isolated and ignorant of the real situation as Saddam.


Posted by: Mark Garrity at January 26, 2004 07:27 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin -- great post. This is a winner. Hope to see it picked up.

Posted by: MattB at January 26, 2004 08:03 AM | PERMALINK

While Kevin's bullet-points are quite cogent, even if there can be quibbles with the details thereof, the principle factor that animates the Bush II Administration is, and always has been, an utter, self-righteous and arrogant disregard for any and all opinions contrary to its own preconceived ideological notions and obsessions. 9/11 was an enormous tragedy for the US (and NOT just for the immediate victims), but Dubya's (and his neo-con gang's) speedy misappropriation of the WTC and Pentagon disasters (or more precisely the desire for quick and bloody vengeance for them) will, IMO, go down in history as one of the US's major foreign-policy mistakes, on a par with Vietnam as a "wrong turn".
One has to look no further back than the Afghanistan campaign to see the pivotal point: that campaign produced excellent results: the victory over the Taliban and its allies was quick (albeit far from "complete")- the US had significant international support (political AND military) - a reasonably acceptable alternative government was swiftly in place, and the war's most vocal opponents were soon proved wildly wrong by events ("brutal Afghan winter", etc). And a breeding ground for Islamofascist terrorism was wiped out.
Contrast that with the results of the Iraq campaign: a similar military result: but at the cost of severely damaging America's standing in the world, HUGE expenses - stretching well into the future, and little if any real progress made in dealing with the real Islamist threat (unless denying al-Qaeda the use of Baghdad as a transit point is such a crippling blow).
However, the "war" IS useful for a lot of things: its allows GWB and his minions (or handlers) the opportunity to wrap almost any policy they want to push in a camo uniform and a flag - and bash any opposition as unpatriotic.
Several blogosphere analysts more expert than I have long noted that the "War on Terror" should have as strong law-enforcement and intelligence/counterintelligence components as military ones: The Bush Administration so far seems to have ignored the first, failed to utilize the second, and fixated on the third: mostly, IMHO, because the military provides the best photo-ops and political fodder for the media.
Pathetic.

Posted by: Jay C. at January 26, 2004 08:11 AM | PERMALINK

but the Tukish prime minister was for permitting American use of Turkish territory, but his Parliament defeated his motion in what was portrayed as a demonstration of Turkish democracy.

"Portrayed"? It was a demonstration of Turkish democracy, and a pretty sound one, too.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 26, 2004 08:33 AM | PERMALINK

Not to fixate on Senator Vanderburg, but, contrary to Al's implication, he was indeed an isolationist when President Roosevelt brought him into the U.N. Charter process (IIRC) and became an internationalist as a result of that experience.

Posted by: Civil-Rights Lawyer at January 26, 2004 09:40 AM | PERMALINK

Great post. Interesting that your pragmatic suggestions are interpreted by some as a "partisan wishlist." Just goes to show...

Posted by: Realish at January 26, 2004 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Mark Garrity:

"I think the reason Bush didn't try for more partisonship or int'l. cooperation is because his advisors told him this would be easy. CIA estimated Saddam spent $1.9 billion on defense in 1999 the latest available figures. Rummy initially wanted to invade Iraq with only 25,000 special forces and heavy airpower. Cheney and Perle were saying Iraq's military would surrender en masse and we'd be greeted as liberators by the downtrodden. Wolfowitz told him we could decapitate the leadership and install Chalabi and friends and be out in 60 days. What little rebuilding required (thanks to our smart bombs) would all be self financed by Iraqi oil. Rove told him he could steamroll the Dems in 2002 election with the issue and he'd be sitting in re-election clover come 2004. This would be a piece of cake and he wanted all the credit for himself.
It's the kind of thing a president who only gets information from his advisors would think. He was just as isolated and ignorant of the real situation as Saddam."

Which is to say that, when considering the invasion and *conquest* of a country of 21 million people:

1) Bush figured that everything would go according to an optimistic plan, if not better.

2) Cheney figured that everything would go according to an optimistic plan, if not better.

3) Rumsfield figured that everything would go according to an optimistic plan, if not better.

4) Powell figured that everything would go according to an optimistic plan, if not better.

This is beyond an isolated leader - it assumes that (at least!) the top half-dozen people in the government are stone fools, *and* that they ignored the strenuous objections of any of their subordinates who were not also stone fools.

Posted by: Barry at January 26, 2004 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

"It's war, and if George Bush considered it to be truly serious he would have done everything he could to build a bipartisan consensus and wide public support for his actions."

Fascinating how bipartisan consensus in every detail involves Democrats getting what they want and Repbulicans not getting what they want.

Bill Clinton's support was not probably not persued for a number of reasons (including the belief that Clinton couldn't be trusted not to stab Bush in the back) but also including the fact that Clinton's policies were not nearly as muscular as you seem to believe. His dealing with Arafat in and after Camp David and his neglect of the North Korean problem after the 1998 discovery that they were cheating on the 1994 Agreement means that his policy point-of-view wasn't that exciting. Furthermore his 'cruise missle muscularism' if I may coin a phrase was part of the problem in the Middle East. (Not that he deserves all the blame, Bush I allowing Saddam's regime to survive after he invaded Kuwait was a horrible mistake from the point of view of enabling the Arab underground to believe they could win.)

Union rules for Homeland Security is a BAD IDEA. Why in the world did Democrats raise a stink on that anyway. If anything, you expect the bipartisan consensus building to run the other way on this issue.

I'll agree with you on the oil issue. If we had made policies clear beforehand that would have been better, but I don't believe it would have actually gained us any extra allies. Still it would have been a good gambit.

I think you vastly overestimate the Arab support to be gained by pressuring Israel. Or rather you overestimate the support to be gained by pressuring Israel on any of the small things you mention. I'm quite sure if we convinced Israel to extinguish itself we might gain some small margin of extra Arab support.

Dependence on Arab oil issue doesn't help at all because the rest of the world is dependent. Also notice what dependence on Arab oil means. It means that transportation and energy costs could go up dramatically if Arab oil flow were disrupted. This is damaging to the economy, therefore we are 'dependent' on Arab oil. A steep increase of the gasoline tax decreases dependence by hurting our economy. Of course if the oil flow ceased the price would go up even higher, further damaging the economy, so I'm not even sure it reduces the 'dependence'.

You might also note that true bipartisan consensus can be started from either side. All I have heard from most Democrats is that they hate Bush. What are Democrats willing to sacrifice? So far as I know the answer is absolutely nothing.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at January 26, 2004 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian wrote: "Union rules for Homeland Security is a BAD IDEA

Why? Bush never gave us a convincing answer on why he wanted to change the rules for this one department. Maybe you can do better?

Posted by: PaulB at January 26, 2004 01:47 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian claimed: Fascinating how bipartisan consensus in every detail involves Democrats getting what they want and Repbulicans not getting what they want.

Really? Now how on earth do you pull that out of Kevin's post?

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 26, 2004 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

It's a big cynical, but if BushCo were seriously interested in a "war on terrorism", then the WWII model is germane. That you will ally with a terrible regime (Stalin) to defeat an even worse enemy (Hitler).

Under this (successful precedent), to defeat a rival that has caused the most damage to America in the last 20+ years (Al Queda), one would seek alliance with natural enemies of said Al Queda. In particular, the secular Baath's of Iraq, and the hard core Shia of Iran.

Curious, instead he places them into an axis of evil.
Which suggests that "terror" isn't a big concern of BushCo.

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