|I have a somewhat off-beat view on this that agrees with the spirit but not the letter of Hospers's essay. I'm interested in what anyone thinks about it.|
The fundamental issue confronting Americans is the war on Islamic terrorism, not Bush's supposed theocratic propensities. The fact is, no matter how theocratic Bush is, for him to do any real damage to our social system, he has to ram his policies through Congress. And it is simply not plausible to suggest that Congress is a theocratic institution, or that Bush will succeed in any fundamental way at theocratizing the United States. (Neither the "Wilsonian" aspects of the Iraq war nor the controversies about gay marriage are counter-examples to that, for reasons I can explain if anyone wants an explanation.)
By contrast, Islamic fundamentalists have enunciated the proximate goal of killing four million Americans when possible. Their remote goal, however crazy, is the re-establishment of the Islamic Caliphate, and they regard us as the basic obstacle to that.They may not reach that goal, but they can do plenty of damage en route to it.
So the real question confronting us is not, "How do we stave off Republican theocracy?" That question has to take a backseat to "How do we take the fight to the external enemy, deny them sanctuary, and achieve victory?" The urgency of the first issue is not remotely comparable to that of the second. Neither are the demands.
But as far as victory is concerned, it is not clear to me that Bush is superior to Kerry or that Kerry is superior to Bush. On the plus side, Bush is committed to victory. On the minus side, Bush is an idiot. No: I mean, he is really an idiot.The guy has no concept whatsoever of the need for a grand strategy, or how to implement one. He is basically letting his generals and advisors run the show, and they are as interested in fighting each other as they are in fighting the enemy. Pardon my Jersey dialect--not to be confused with Brooklyn dialectic--but you can't win a war by shit-eating slogans like "Bring 'em on!" "Dead or alive!" "No king but Jesus" and the rest of the BS that Bush has been peddling. History tells us that wars are won principally by leadership, and the fact is, Bush can't lead. Worse yet, he evokes such a powerful reaction that that gets in the way of his minimal ability to lead. That may not be his fault, but who cares? We have to win. If he's in the way, he's got to give way to someone who can win.
Kerry has his problems as a wartime candidate. The guy is so bloody confused about so many things, he deserves to be smacked. (Or, out of deference to Joe Rowlands, perhaps I should say: I know he deserves to be smacked.) But the fact is, once he becomes president, some of the things he's confused about are going to be decided for him, and I have some confidence he will shape up and face the music. He may be confused about Iraq, for instance (should we have gone?), but if he becomes president, that question will become a moot hypothetical issue, and he'll just have to face, squarely, what we have to do. Given his wartime experience, I think it is possible that he will have a better grasp of how to be an appropriate civilian leader of the military--he'll see that contrary to so many stupid claims, the military has to be led to victory; it won't go there automatically. He is also clearly more intelligent than Bush, which is a plus. Anyway, darn it, people like him, and that is a plus for a nation at war. It sounds stupid (it is stupid), but Kerry just might do what Bush was going to do anyway, and if so, the country might say, "Oh, well, I guess it's got to be done. I mean, President Kerry says so." If that's what it takes, I don't care. Put him in office.
None of this is enough to get me to vote for the guy, but it's enough for me to kinda hope he gets elected. I could easily go the other way, however. As far as I'm concerned, the best policy is whatever will help us win the war by inflicting the greatest harm on the enemy and courting the least for us. Bush, Kerry...whatever. Just win, baby.