A Vote for Senator Kerry
Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Making Up My Mind
There are a lot of little reasons why I should be voting for the re-election of President Bush, for whom I gladly cast my vote in 2000. The one big reason why I will vote for Senator Kerry next Tuesday is that he is an internationalist, as am I, and Mr. Bush has become an imperialist – one whose decisions as Commander-in-chief have made the world a more dangerous place. Until this week, while I had privately decided to vote for Kerry, I had not planned to share that news with you until after Election Day. But I have been getting lots of mail from website fans urging me to vote for Kerry, or to help them decide between Kerry and Nader. Or from my Wall Street clients urging me to vote for Bush for all the little reasons – economic, social or political – of the kind that led me to the Republican Party in 1968 after my early adult years as a Democrat.
A week ago, my old friend Pat Buchanan endorsed the President’s re-election in his American Conservative magazine, entitled “Coming Home.” I told him his column was well-reasoned and beautifully written, but I could not agree with his argument that conservatives should not vote against Mr. Bush in order to punish him for Iraq because they would only be “punishing America.” The fact is, while neither Pat nor I consider ourselves “imperialists,” I actually believe in the international institutions that were designed in the last year of World War II, with the United Nations at the core, and he does not seem to trust them at all.
As an “America First” nationalist, Pat is an Old Guard Republican who vehemently opposed the war in Iraq because he never believed Baghdad was an imminent threat to our homeland. My opposition was based on the conviction that Saddam Hussein had been rendered powerless as a threat to the region, that he had been disarmed and could be kept that way by the United Nations inspections regime -- and that the goal of Team Bush had from the start been an imperialist one. Yes, the United States is at the pinnacle of world power and has great responsibilities to be the manager of world affairs. I’ve never believed in the neo-con Project for a New American Century’s concept of directing that power at preventing another country from replacing the U.S. at the top of the heap. The very idea is a dark one, I think, even sinister, far more insular than Pat Buchanan’s nationalism. It conveys to the world that we are going to do what we wish and need not even explain our motives -- because we have the power to do so.
If there is anything I’ve learned about Senator Kerry in this campaign, it is that he is an internationalist who believes in hearing out and taking seriously the opinions of the other countries of the world. When he says that if he had been President, we would not have gone to war with Iraq, there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that he is telling the truth. And it would not have been because the U.N. Security Council would not have given him “a permission slip,” but because the rest of the world could plainly see that the diplomacy of the U.N. was working, that UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had concluded there were no existing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and no WMD programs in operation. If Saddam Hussein had shown any resistance, Mr. Bush would have gotten the UNSC resolution he wanted and Senator Kerry would not now be able to make the case that the war was a great mistake.
At the outset, I said I decided this week that Mr. Bush had made the world a more dangerous place with his unilateral decisions, I had to add in the news that came from the IAEA about the disappearance of 380 tons of weapons from a cache 30 miles from Baghdad. Senator Kerry has sharply criticized President Bush for not securing this arms depot from looters. Vice President Cheney responded by pointing out that since the war ended, 400,000 tons of weapons have been destroyed. Cheney misses the point, and in a way so has Mr. Kerry, by saying the missing explosives no doubt have been used to kill American troops with roadside bombs. The reason the IAEA got involved in the 380 tons and not the other 400,000 is that the small cache contained explosives capable of setting off nuclear weapons. It is a far more serious problem than Kerry realizes.
When President Bush 18 months ago indicated he no longer trusted the IAEA inspection regime and would have our forces disarm Saddam, the IAEA inspectors left Iraq and have not returned since. As soon as the war formally ended last year, the IAEA asked U.S. permission to return to secure those sites that contained dual-use materials that could be used for WMD purposes. The Al Qaqaa site near Baghdad was one of them, containing HMX and RDX explosives of the type a terrorist would have to have in order to set off a nuke in an attack. As Gordon Prather explained to me when he learned of the missing explosives: If a terrorist group were to get their hands on 100 pounds of highly enriched uranium, it would be relatively easy for them to make a nuke of Hiroshima power. They could, say, load it into a truck and cart it into Washington on Inauguration Day. But without HMX or RDX, they could not detonate the nuke, and it would be impossible for terrorists to make the explosives suitable for the triggering device on their own. The process is more complex than making the nuke.
What Prather fears is that Iraqi scientists had already cast some of the HMX into the lenses needed in such a device, lenses the IAEA had under its control and seal, and that these are now loose in the region. “Can you imagine, the IAEA had nuclear materials in Iraq under seal dating back to the 1970s and none of the seals were broken even during the Gulf War. It was our responsibility to secure those sites as soon as we went in and instead looters have carted them off. Amazing.”
By this time, with one revelation after another of the mismanagement of foreign policy and national security under President Bush, I’d hoped he would find a way to signal the electorate that things would be different in a second term; that would require a change in personnel at the top. It would have meant Dick Cheney’s replacement with a GOP internationalist. It would also have meant a clean sweep of the neo-cons who cooked up the war -- and who misled a President who did not have the experience to be able to figure out he had been manipulated into realizing their imperial fantasies. Sadly, there is no indication a second term would be any different than a first, as all the speculation we read on personnel still has Cheney in the driver’s seat with Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld readily at hand.
Because Mr. Bush has told us repeatedly about how he is strengthened by his faith in God, with that faith sustaining him through his tough decisions, it goes without saying that it he is re-elected he will be filled with the spirit of vindication. There not only would be no changes in the team’s view of how the world must be dealt with. There would also be less restraint in George W. Bush's willingness to shape the world to his divinely inspired vision.
I’ll still vote Republican for the rest of the ballot on Tuesday, where I find the smaller issues more to my taste in the G.O.P. But I will cast my first vote for the Democrat in a presidential contest since I pulled the lever for Lyndon Johnson in 1964. And I will do so with enthusiasm for the Senator's views on how to manage the world, having come to appreciate the way his mind works. It changes with new and better information. If he does win, he will have a Republican House and probably a Republican Senate to work with, finding acceptable common ground on important domestic issues. But most of all, I think he will little by little make the world a less dangerous place than it has become these last four years.