Sunday, October 10

Bai on Kerry

In a NYTimes magazine article (login required), Matt Bai presents a more detailed view of Kerry's strategy on Iraq than I've seen. I have a few thoughts to offer:
  • Bai presents Kerry's position as "complicated". Bai says, When I asked Kerry's campaign advisers about these poll numbers, what I heard from some of them in response was that Kerry's theories on global affairs were just too complex for the electorate and would have been ignored -- or, worse yet, mangled -- by the press. ''Yes, he should have laid out this issue and many others in greater detail and with more intellectual creativity, there's no question,'' one adviser told me. ''But it would have had no effect.'' Now in my line of work, which is writing computer programs, complexity often comes with the territory. The mark of a good programmer is one who can distill a complex situation to simple essential details. This takes work. Bad programmers take a complex problem and solve it with complex programs. In Physics, Einstein's genius was to strike to the heart of a problems with a simple direct solution. I am suspicious of the claim that Kerry has a complicated "strategy" to solve the problem. Successful strategies are not "complicated". In the battle of Midway, the Japanese had a complicated strategy. They lost. If Kerry's strategy is still complicated, then he still needs to think about it. If it stays complicated, then he just doesn't have the brainpower solve the problem.
  • Bai says plainly what I've been harping on for a while is that in Kerry's view, that the 21st century will be defined by the organized world's struggle against agents of chaos and lawlessness, might be the beginning of a compelling vision. The idea that America and its allies, sharing resources and using the latest technologies, could track the movements of terrorists, seize their bank accounts and carry out targeted military strikes to eliminate them, seems more optimistic and more practical than the notion that the conventional armies of the United States will inevitably have to punish or even invade every Islamic country that might abet radicalism. However, this misses the point of the Bush doctrine. Which is that State sponsored terrorism must be quelched. I read (alas somewhere, but I forget where), that when a state is actively chasing terrorism internally, terror cells have difficulty growing past 60 (and with modern information sharing 60 seems large to me). But when a state tacitly allows (Iraq) or state allied with (Afgan) terror, those cells can grow to much much larger sizes. And from what I understand the Administration is doing(!!) all the other law enforcement related methods of attacking terror at this time. However, we also have to stop state sponsored terror, which can require war. We don't have to punish or even invade every Islamic country that "abets" radicalism, we just have to convince the world, that allowing or abetting it has serious consequences, see Libya as an example.
  • Bai and Kerry don't subscribe to the theory that you can force democracy "at gunpoint". As has been pointed out numerous times, "like we learned in Japan and Germany after WWII?" This argument at best shows an alarming lack of historical perspective.
  • Bai and Kerry don't subscribe to what Bush calls "our deep faith in liberty", what they term "viral democracy". "Viral Democracy", well coining that phrase takes the "un" out of un-biased reporting. Furthermore, no reasons are given for why it might not work.
  • Others have suggested that the difference between the left and the right is that the left believe people are inherently "good" and the right does not. One could argue that Kerry's naive belief in the over-arching power of diplomacy demonstrates that this may be the case.