Wednesday, April 12, 2006

# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I VOTED FOR KERRY BEFORE I VOTED AGAINST HIM: As Sanjay anticipated, it may be about time for a mea culpa. On Tuesday, October 19th, 2004, I endorsed John Kerry, albeit it with a very long list of reservations.

If any of you Bush-supporters are looking to say "I told you so", you will find plenty of good material in my post. It's almost as if everything Kerry said this past Sunday on NBC was designed to show just how little I understood the candidate I was voting for. For example, I wrote:
In contrast to Dan [Drezner] & Greg [Djerejian], my most profound concern about Kerry is his naivete with regard to multilateral diplomacy. Rather, it is his total resistance to making about any positive statement about the importance of ensuring a democratic outcome in Iraq. [Emphasis in the original]
Well, at least I didn't persuade myself that Kerry really cared about democracy in Iraq. In fact, I asked whether:
If I expect the Kerry administration to be more competent [than the Bush administration], shouldn't I expect it to be more competent at achieving precisely the objective I opppose, i.e. the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq before there is a democratic order in place?

My answer to that question is 'no'. Ironically, I believe that it is Bush's uncompromising commitment to promoting democracy in Iraq and throughout the Middle East that will tie Kerry's hands.

In a more abstract sense, I also believe that the values embedded in American political culture will limit Kerry's options. When America occupies a foreign nation, it cannot withdraw before establishing some semblance of a democratic order.
And here is where we enter the realm of speculation and counterfactuals. Would Kerry as president be different from the Kerry who said all those absurd things this past Sunday?

Perhaps. But the same critics who blasted Kerry for all of his flip-flopping should recognize that such a malleable individual might behave very differently with the weight of the presidency on his shoulders than he does now as a senator from the bluest of the blue states. On the other hand, winning the presidency might have liberated Kerry from the moderation he imposed on himself throughout the campaign, allowing his true liberal self to emerge.

Bottom line, there is no question that I have egg on my face. How could I endorse a candidate whose values are so diametrically opposed to my own?

On top of that, one has to recall that Iraq hadn't yet held a single election in November 2004. Only the most naive optimists would've expected at the time that Iraq would've held three successful elections, with the Sunnis participating in ever greater numbers and terrorist attacks going down.

That would seem to be proof of how wrong it was to endorse Kerry because of his presumed competence and in spite of my principles. And yet, the American public has become more and more disenchanted with the war in Iraq since the 2004 election.

I don't blame them. Our political culture values decisive military victories. Counterinsurgency wars provide none. The constant chaos and terrorism create an impression of political failure in spite of the success of the elections. And the one-by-one deaths of American soldiers hurt more than anything else precisely because there is no hope for a decisive victory on the battlefield.

As a student of democracy promotion and counterinsurency, I see things very differently. I see great failures of planning in Iraq, but also the outline of a successful strategy.

I also know that my judgment of the situation is profoundly influenced by my desire to see freedom take root in the Middle East. And there comes a time when you have trust your values, because the facts on the ground do not speak for themselves.
(18) opinions -- Add your opinion

What's the bottom line David? Do you believe it was a mistake to endorse Kerry in the last election? Yes or No?
I knew that I could not vote for a man who hates to go to restaurants because "I can never make up my mind."
Kerry was just as stupid every day on the campaign trail as he was on MTP, and you critiqued his stupidity more than once. And there was that long article in the NYTimes about his "gather all the parties around a table" fantasies. None of this is new.

I remember sending you a scandalized email after reading your Kerry endorsement, which threw out everything you knew was true and replaced it with wishful thinking.

My favorite Kerryisms took place during the debates, for all America to see.

One was was calling our coalition allies "bribed and coerced" and practically calling PM Allawi a "puppet," seemingly with no awareness that he was going to have to spend a large chunk of his presidency engaging with these people, and then claiming to be better at diplomacy better than Bush.

My second favorite Kerryism was his ranting about how Osama was still at large, as if that mattered in Nov 04. Osama was boxed in and not running things anymore, the action had moved on. Kerry has no idea how to think strategically; he can't see the forest for the trees. Either that, or he was engaging in demogoguery by using Osama as a hot button. Either way bad news.

And when almost all your fellow front-line managers, and your boss, and his bosses all the way up to admiral (including former POWs and Congressional Medal awardees) go out of their way and spend a lot of their own money to give you a bad job reference. . . . it might behoove people to at least give them a respectful hearing, given that most of them worked with the guy every day for 4 months.

Well, I could go on. If Kerry had been elected he would have been neck and neck with Carter for Worst POTUS Ever.
I expect you voted for Kerry because he was a Democrat and you vote for Democrats. The rest of the argument was just rationalizing the forgone conclusion. I mean, it's not like Kerry's character was any sort of mystery.
Let's be fair everyone. Bush and Kerry both suck in their own way. (BTW, I told everyone that neither of them would be above thiry % by '06, I was wrong.) Both canidates had something, you hoped, to offer and it was a close election. Kerry would probably bug out and Bush would stay longer then he should.

US, UK, Australia, Poland or anyone else in the coalition cannot stop a civil war in Iraq. Third world countries are third world countries because of their culture not their condition. El Salvador is a good example. A democracy in Iraq isn't going to save Egypt, Saudi or any other cesspool. It's almost like they cannot stay on topic or something.
I asked the Senator about the $84 billion on Hardball before the election. He's clearly a fence sitting, indecisive sob. But I still voted for him b/c the POTUS makes me laugh- at, not with. It’s hard to take policy seriously when you're in tears.

: )

I don't know why it's necessary to explain or defend your endorsement of Kerry just because you think he'd make a terrible president. Very few people go into the voting booth and pull the lever for the person they think best for the job. They pull the lever for the person they think best among the choices offered.

There are a lot of people I'd rather see president than Bush, but Kerry isn't one of them. But whatayagonnado? I can understand people thinking there are a lot of people they'd rather see president than Kerry, but Bush isn't one of them.

I can't really blame them, even though I disagree with them. There isn't much I like about Bush's domestic policy, but right now I think foreign policy is more important and the Democrats don't have one of those. So I think Kerry voters are irresponsible, but they're not required to think foreign policy is more important than domestic, even now.

In short, you don't make the best choice, you make the best available choice. And live with it.
I agree with Ignatius' comment above. I voted for Harry Browne in 2000 simply becuase I found Bush too almost not be interested in the job. It was like what does he really want to do here? In '04 I did vote for Bush only because I believe in his Foreign Policy - namely bringing (or trying to bring) democracy to the Middle East. As the WSJ put it a few days ago, "Does anyone have a better idea?" Bush's domestic policy has been a trainwreck, and I fear I'll be paying taxes out the ass for as long as I live now thanks to his blank check spending, but if he ends up being the guy who got the ball rolling on a stable and peaceful middle east, well then maybe higher taxes aren't that bad of a trade.

One more thing I encourage everyone to go and find that exhaustive newsweek article on both the Bush and Kerry 04 campaigns. It came out after the elections. Newseek had a reporter embedded in both camps. It's clear after reading that article how bad Kerry would have managed this country. To put it plainly, he CAN NOT make a decision.


I quit reading your blog when you endorsed Kerry for president. Not because I don't read blogs from the left side of the bolgosphere, I do all the time, but because it showed a lack of intellectual honesty on your part that made me question your opinion on anything you wrote.
In the last twenty years I've had to endure endless arguments with my very political family where they will not acknowledge facts because they are inconvenient. I'm always the bad guy for causing emotional trauma to my siblings by forcing them to stay on topic and deal with facts. If I hear, "It's a failure of imagination..." one more time...

It bothers me not at all that you have honestly reviewed and honestly recanted your endorsement for John Kerry. I genuinely wish more people who made your choice had the integrity to revisit it. It is a failure of integrity not to do so with such overwhelming evidence.
More to the point though, Kerry's line now is very very consistent with Djerejian's take on him during the campaign.

I don't have much good to say about this President (although I think the amazing upturn in US/China relations during his first term, and in US/Russian relations same, and the simultaneous improvement of relations with India, China and Pakistan, are _amazingly_ underrated miracles). And (God forgive me) I've worked on Kerry Senate campaigns as a volunteer. But it seemed far too clear during the election that Mr. Kerry was looking for an excuse to declare a pullout before 2006.

But I don't mean to be mean, especially since David's public re-evaluation here is commendable whether right or wrong. More mea culpas from both sides of the aisle, please.
don't feel bad, David. I voted for Bush (twice) and now feel we would be better off had he lost.

Does John Kerry have non-negotiable principles?

For a statement of real progressive principles see what Norm Geras et al at The Euston Manifesto are up to. I signed the manifesto and am pondering what else I could do to help. As a bonus I acquired a hopeful outlook for today - I'm fairly certain you'll have a least a big smile after reading
If the American public has become more negative, it has to be because of the constant negative drumbeat of the liberal MSM, beating on the topic. I suspect that Kerry was shading his position, trying to look more moderate than he really is, in the 2004 campaign. I suspect that his real position has not shifted much since the 1970's. Look at his cozying up to the Sandinistas, bqck a ways. Those seem to be his real stripes, and you can like it or not.
Please, please, please students of history tell me one instance where foreign intervention and coercion have brought 'democracy' to a sovereign peoples? I am still amazed that intelligent Americans can still genuinely believe that they can facilitate democracy in the Middle East regardless of the historical, cultural and social schisms there. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY AGAINST THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE THERE! Please educate me, why have there been no democratic institutions in majority of the Arab world for the past say thousand years? What is the underlying ingredient that allows this status quo to persist? And what can the Americans do differently to alter this? Can they convince Mubarak, the Saudi Royal family and the Jordanian king to hold free and democratic elections? Or are we appealing to the inherent consciousness of the Arab street that aspires for greater freedom? And what catalyst can we provide to spur them in to action that the past 1000 years has not managed to do? And how do you reconcile our liberal democratic interpretation of 'freedom and democracy' with their rigid, paternalistic cultural and religious heritage?

My opinion is that people who believe in spreading democracy are either naïve, ignorant, arrogant or just plain self righteous. More importantly, they are people with very little understanding of the developing world. As someone eloquently pointed out, Third World countries are Third World because of their underlying mentality and culture. The British tried to save Africa from Africans and failed miserably, so too are we on the thankless and foolhardy path of saving the Middle East from the Arabs……………….
In response to the previous post, I ask, "What's the better plan?" Should we move towards total isolationism? How is that viable?

I remember Appartied, the GOP were proud supporters. That was the official positon. My senator (Lugar) was against it and it cost him any chance at a leadership position. Funny how the kool-aide drinkers are for or against just about anything "their guy" says? because in those days it was the Dems who was interested in liberating. so this spot here is just proving itself to be another kool aide stand.
Kerry -- Bush...Like there's a serious difference between these two. there are both awful

Actually Bush is a lot like Clinton: good lair with a nice smile who people either love or hate.
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