Monday, July 24, 2006

That's Why They Call Them Counterfactuals

This remark by John Kerry has been getting some attention in the blogosphere:

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D- Mass., who was in town Sunday to help Gov. Jennifer Granholm campaign for her re-election bid, took time to take a jab at the Bush administration for its lack of leadership in the Israeli-Lebanon conflict.


"If I was president, this wouldn't have happened," said Kerry during a noon stop at Honest John's bar and grill in Detroit's Cass Corridor.

Bush has been so concentrated on the war in Iraq that other Middle East tension arose as a result, he said.


First, we state the obvious. Governor Granholm is a capable executive with a track record that merits her re-election. I hope she plays a role in national politics soon. Kerry helps her re-election bid not by association but as a foil.

Second, we read through to the end of the article and find something deeply puzzling. Consider:

Hezbollah guerillas should have been targeted with other terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida and the Taliban, which operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Kerry said. However, Bush, has focused military strength on Iraq.


"This is about American security and Bush has failed. He has made it so much worse because of his lack of reality in going into Iraq.…We have to destroy Hezbollah," he said.


If he is going to use both "targeted" and "destroy" to describe the U.S.'s posture toward Hezbollah, then he must be talking about military strikes. Hezbollah did not launch an attack on American soil--why target them militarily? And if they were to be targeted for what they did do recently to the Israelis--kidnap two soldiers--then why wouldn't Saddam Hussein be targeted militarily for what he did to the Israelis--paying the families of suicide bombers who killed innocent Israeli citizens (to say nothing of what he and his revolting sons did to innocent Iraqis)?

I don't think we can have it both ways. Either the international community is willing to step in with its full range of economic and militarily tools to prevent violence against civilians or it isn't. And if it isn't, why should we expect a better outcome than what we are seeing in the Middle East?

8 comments:

Arun Khanna said...

You missed the obvious contradiction. Senator John Kerry is against Israel's attacking Lebanon but feels U.S. should have attacked Hezbollah in Lebanon.
On a different note, why do some U.S. politicians think Israel is the 51st state of the U.S.? As a verbal jibe, it is supposed to be U.K. In reality it is Puerto Rico.

Bibamus said...

This is weak stuff. Your distaste for Kerry seems to have clouded your reasoning here.

You are right that he can't have it both ways if you load the dice by equating "military strikes" (what Kerry would seem to be advocating against Hezbollah) with "invasion and occupation" (which is what Kerry opposes in Iraq).

But, of course, the one is not the same as, not even tantamount to, the other. And you know that.

Andrew Samwick said...

Kerry used the word "destroy." I'll be pleased if military strikes short of invasion get get the job done. But if they don't, then destroy would seem to require occupation and invasion. Time will tell.

ishmaelabroad said...

I could argue that the IRA has been more or less "destroyed" through a combination of diplomacy, strong police work, occasional paramilitary actions, and a long period of gritting and bearing it.

So even the case that military strikes were the only way to end Hezbollah's terrorist activities is disingenuous. And that is what we are talking about here: ending the terrorist and militia actions of Hezbollah. If they were content to be a vaguely responsible political party and play by international rules, we would be satisfied (see Kaddafi, Muamar).

Bibamus said...

Fair enough. But I take Kerry's remarks to mean, at least in part, that our ability to strike/destroy Hezbollah or invade/occupy Lebanon is so severely degraded by our commitments in Iraq as to be essentially infeasible.

This seems to me to be a reasonable (and correct) point, Kerry's position on the war in Iraq notwithstanding.

Now, Kerry's implied critique of the war in Iraq, which I take it is the part you choke on, is perhaps another matter. At the very least I think we owe reality the debt of acknowledging that Saddam's support of suicide bombers had nothing at all to do with our going to war in Iraq.

Andrew Samwick said...

In the event that we were not in Iraq, and Kerry were President, and Hezbollah were behaving as it currently is, I cannot imagine that President Kerry would be suggesting that the US take a military posture against Hezbollah. He would be suggesting something a bit more ... nuanced.

So I don't think it is our engagement on the ground in Iraq that prevents us from doing anything in Lebanon. What prevents us from doing anything in Lebanon is the desire not to have the aggression there be associated with both Israel and the US. I think that would carry the day regardless of who is President.

Sadly, Saddam's support of suicide bombers in Israel had nothing--and his brutal treatment of people trapped within Iraq's borders had little--to do with our going to war in Iraq.

PWN said...

I agree that President Kerry would not suggest a military posture against Hezbollah, and that the current conflict would almost certainly have happened regardless of whether Kerry beat Bush in '04.

American politicians like to claim greater control over international affairs than reality would justify. Kerry is no exception.

I read Kerry's comments as 1) ridiculous and 2) good politics. He can take a cheap shot at Bush and most Americans are likely to believe him. For example, 50% of Americans currently believe that Iraq had WMD; if a false statement gets enough press, people start to believe it.

Most Americans have no idea why Hezbollah and Israel are fighting (or where to find them on a map). It is like telling people that the high gas prices are due to Bush invading Iraq and his mishandling of Katrina. It isn't true, but people believe it

Bob Dobalina said...

First, we state the obvious. Governor Granholm is a capable executive with a track record that merits her re-election.

Why is this obvious?