Thursday, October 21, 2004
# Posted 11:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Building "firehouses in Baghdad"--a notion Kerry has repeatedly mocked--is not only something we owe the Iraqi people, it stems from the fundamentally liberal premise that social development can help defeat fanaticism. Abandoning that principle under pressure from Howard Dean is the most disturbing thing Kerry has done in this campaign.Ouch. But here's the crux of TNR's argument against Bush:
The common thread is ideological certainty untroubled by empirical evidence, intellectual curiosity, or open debate. The ideology that guides this president's war on terrorism is more appealing than the corporate cronyism that guides his domestic policy. But it has been pursued with the same sectarian, thuggish, and ultimately self-defeating spirit.Even though my endorsement of John Kerry focused on his prospective policy for Iraq, I should also have mentioned how strong my instinctive discomfort is with a President who betrays absolutely no desire to measure the actual impact of his policy choices against his initial expectations.
The obvious counterpoint to this argument is that John Kerry's Clinton-esque obsession with processing ever more information results in exactly the sort of paralysis that the United States cannot afford in the midst of its War on Terror.
My preferred counterpoint to this argument is that John Kerry's inconsistent approach to critical issues such as the war in Iraq reflects a lack of firm principles much more than it does an inability to make decisions. Kerry has made decisions -- he simply made them in response to the pressure generated by Howard Dean and then remade them in response to the pressure generated George W. Bush rather than focusing all along on the pressure generated by the situation on the ground in Iraq.
While this sort of inconsistency is an obvious source of concern, my wager on Kerry reflects my belief that it would be in Kerry's own self-interest as President to "finish the job" in Iraq.
But that's not what I wanted to write about (again). I want to focus on the instinctive discomfort with George Bush's policymaking habits that so many hesitant Kerry supporters have. I think that Dan Drezner is talking about essentially the same thing when he talks about preferring a solid process to solid principles/instincts.
As a professional researcher, I think I simply find it almost impossible to trust someone whose thought process is apparently so different from my own.
In theory, I am sure that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld all believe in evaluating the relevant data and adjusting their decisions to reflect reality. Thus, when I say that I object to the way that this administration makes decisions, I am saying that I do not believe that it has lived up to the intellectual standard it presumably accepts.
So, if my preference for Kerry reflects my general intellectual style, am I engaging in an idiosyncratic sort of identity politics? Perhaps. In my own mind, I am making an empirical judgment about George Bush's ability to adapt to new information and new situations. But I also firmly believe that I have to defend that proposition instead of taking it for granted.
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