PolySciFi Blog

Thursday, September 23, 2004


More Flies with Honey

In this post, Matt responds to my response to the Kerry NYU speech. I'll respond to the substantive portions of the post in the following.

On the surreal pairs, I didn't explain why I found the pairings of statements to be surreal. Perhaps, stating why I believe so will clarify why the pairings are surreal (or more specifically logically untenable).

Surreal Pair 1 - War Rationales

  1. "He failed to tell the truth about the rationale for going to war"
  2. "By one count, the President offered 23 different rationales for this war."
The common criticism from Kerry is that Bush has done a bait and switch on why we went to war. Previously lesser emphasized rationales were given greater emphasis when the slamdunk WMD rationale (an easy to understand, easy to sell rationale with supposedly impeccable vacking) fell through. Kerry and others have seized on this to claim that Bush failed to give the true rationale when the Bush team changed its emphasis on rationales.

To make this criticism hold up, you have to assert that because of the emphasis placed on the WMD argument, the other rationales were so crowded out that they were effectively not made at all and bringing up the other rationales now is disingenuous. (Thason has taken this line in real world conversations.). However, acknowledging the other rationales, indeed criticizing the Bush team for giving too many rationales - "If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded" - means that a bait and switch has not occurred and is not disingenuous. Rather there were so many rationales heard by the public that it was confusing.

If A then not B. If B then not A.

Surreal Pair 2 - Importance of Combatting Growing Threats
  1. "Now the president, in looking for a new reason, tries to hang his hat on the “capability” to acquire weapons. But that was not the reason given to the nation; it was not the reason Congress voted on; it’s not a reason, it’s an excuse." (emphasis not in original post)
  2. The President’s policy in Iraq took our attention and resources away from other, more serious threats to America. Threats like North Korea, which actually has weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear arsenal, and is building more under this President’s watch…The emerging nuclear danger from Iran…" (ellipses in the original)
To be explicit, if it's ok to pursue action against Iran because of an emerging nuclear threat, in what sense would citing growing nuclear capabilities of Iraq not be a credible reason for war (calling it an excuse)? The rhetoric of the two criticisms don't play well together.

On the bizarre lines, Matt responds to specific points I made justifying why I thought the lines were bizarre, so I'll respond to those rather than giving a further expansion.

Bizarre Line 1 - Value of Allies
"Instead of using U.S. forces, we relied on the warlords to capture Osama bin Laden when he was cornered in the mountains."

Some allies are more equal than others and unilateralism is ok when Kerry says it is.

Matt - Um, do you really think that Afghani warlords are valuable allies of the U.S. who should be trusted to handle, alone, vital missions like OBL's capture? Hey, I'm happy Tonga joined our coalition, but I wouldn't send them to capture Jeff Foxworthy, much less a wily, wily terrorist.

It appears that Matt (and Kerry) is belittling the Afghan warlords who did the bulk of the ground fighting to defeat the Taliban. - the warlords who contributed more to the war on terror than any other ally except for the U.K. But surely this can't be right. Can it?

Bizarre Line 3 - Nuclear Club
Thirty-five to forty countries have greater capability to build a nuclear bomb than Iraq did in 2003. Is President Bush saying we should invade them?

Are Israel, India, UK, Russia, Japan, Korea, France, Pakistan, Germany, Israel, China, training terrorists in how to use WMD (Senate Intelligence Report)? Iran and N.K. may be, but we're not exactly playing patty cakes with them, either.

Matt - Would you deny that we'd have more resources for those two more serious threats if we'd handled Iraq differently?

In theory, yes. In practice, no (unless you care to define "differently" in a manner that Kerry has not yet defined to date) cause we ain't invading N.K. until we can shoot artillery shells out of the skyat a rate of thousands a minute (5-10 years from now) and I think we're just about in the best spot we could be in to put pressure on Iran (here's a hint, we weren't going to be invading from Afghanistan).

Bizarre Line 4 - Nuclear Club (focusing on imminent threat response)
"Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious? Is he really saying that if we knew there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to Al Qaeda, the United States should have invaded Iraq?"

a) Umm, no imminent threat was ever claimed (except by Edwards). Indeed the rationale was the exact opposite (SOTU 2003)- " Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?"

Matt - A. "Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints...Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. "

That's President Bush, October 2, 2002. Would you say that he's characterizing Iraq as an "imminent threat?" Or a "possibly the capability to someday pose a threat if we leave them alone long enough?"

What about this: "We are united in our determination to confront this urgent threat to America. " Is an "urgent" threat imminent? That's Bush, too. Cheney called it a "mortal" threat. Ari Fleischer called it imminent several times.

On whether or not the Bush administration called Iraq an imminent threat, I'll make the resolution of this situation real simple. If Matt convinces the guys at Spinsanity (a slightly left of center site that generally strives for accuracy in political rhetoric) that the Bush admin called Iraq an imminent threat, I'll go along and agree that Bush called Iraq an imminent threat.

Here's their lengthy and well-documented post on the subject in which they address the arguments Matt raises and determine that no statement of imminence was ever made and there are "extremely few instances in which any member of the Bush administration even suggested that Iraq posed an 'imminent threat.'"

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