Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A collection of political thoughts

I am well aware that one should not talk politics in polite company, but the virtue of this being a personal blog more than anything else is that I get to say whatever's on my mind.

1) I watched some highlights from Bush' final State of the Union speech and I can't help but think that in Bush's head the definition of bipartisanship is "both parties do what I tell them to do."

2) My politics are basically moderate Democratic except that I, like many, have a sort of libertarian strain in which I very much appreciate the ideas of federalism, states rights, and small government. For instance, while I very much know the human need for universal health care (and I would benefit enormously from it personally), I periodically just don't think the government should be required to provide health care to all. Part of life is that we are born, we have healthy spells, we get sick, we get better, and we eventually die. Falling ill is part of life. I can testify to that over the last month. Should the government really be involved in it if here are no issues of general public health such as epidemics? But at the same time as soon as you allow for government provided education, I can't find a way to not allow government provided health care. We provide universal education because of the various benefits an educated citizenry provides to the nation. A healthy people provides similar benefits. In the end, I usually end up voting rather typical Democratic positions because I've never found a coherent way to incorporate my small govt philosophy into other things I believe. For instance, I am a believer in the government doing fewer things well as opposed to many things in a mediocre fashion. This translates into cuts of programs the government should not be involved in. But cutting what? What political philosophy do I have that justifies certain governmental actions but rules out others? None. So this part of me sits on the side, waiting to be relevant.

3) OK, this could become a rant. Let's see. I like McCain just fine. I agree with him on some policies and disagree on several others. But I basically respect him as far as I know him, which is little. However, I don't think I could ever vote for him, all for a single reason. He seems to still think that the Iraq war was a good idea and that he's been proven right by the "success" of the Surge.

Some things need to be distinguished here. McCain had been arguing, post invasion, that we needed more military to accomplish our goals and the Rumsfeld plan just wasn't working. They eventually did boot Rumsfeld, increase troop levels, and have had some military success. I give McCain credit for that, as much as any Senator can get credit for a military strategy that he or she does not design or implement. However, this is an entirely separate matter from whether the war should have ever been initiated. If McCain is taking the limited success of the Surge as vindication of the War, then I reject it.

None of the reasons for the Iraq war hold up strategically or ultimately morally. If the war was supposed to be for national defense, there were a lot of other problems in the world that are more damaging to our long-term strategic interests than Saddam's Iraq. The Palestinian issue remains the biggest source of hatred in the Arab world against the U.S., not Saddam. If the war was supposed to be for humanitarian purposes, to free the Iraqi people from the truly brutal regime they were living under, then I respect the idea, but we should be in Sudan, Burma, North Korea, and several other places right now. But we are not, which suggests that no one actually believes this. This brings us to the notion of "preemptive war". Strike before you are struck. I have to reject this on moral grounds. Part of the trouble with being the good guy is you can't hit people before they at least try to hit you. And it turned out that Iraq provided the reason for this moral guideline. We thought they had dangerous weapons that could do sudden and serious harm to Americans, but oops, they didn't. The smallest body count of Iraqi civilians dead now is close to 90,000 and everyone knows that is too small, though we don't know how small. 90,000 dead men, women, and children, civilians, because we thought we knew something we didn't in fact know. And a simple death toll ignores injuries, trauma, and the hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis who've lost their homes. A preemptive war is supposed to prevent deaths, but we've ended up with 90,000 people, at least, gone from this world. I know they are Iraqi, not American, but they still count if you are the good guy.

This reminds me of a character in one of my favorite books, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa. The character has a twisted sense of honor such that he fights duels across most of 17th century Europe, often in the name of preventing a duel. To prevent a duel from possibly occurring in the future, he initiates one now.

Returning to the topic, now that we are in Iraq I fully appreciate the idea that we should do as much good as we can. Perhaps through the sacrifice of so many of our military, we will pull something miraculous off and Iraqis will end up in a better world than they started off in in 2003. We must hope so. But even if this is accomplished, we cannot take this as justification for initiating the war in the first place. An analogy makes the point.

Let's say I crash my car into someone else. They have serious injuries but slowly recover over many months or years. During this time they reflect on their life and where they were headed and all the mistakes they made, and so they actually build a better life for themselves. They end up happier than they were if I had never smashed their car in the first place. But does this mean I should go around ramming my car into people? No.

Rant done. :)


Ello said...

Hey Paca, Hope you are all better. I've been reading all your posts and I can see you are doing better. Although I am a registered Republican, I am only one because my mother forced me into it. At heart I am an independent. But I can't support McCain for the exact same reason and my heart is going to be for Clinton because I would love to see a woman President in my lifetime for the sake of my girls. Anyway that is my rant! Tell us more about your teaching experience!

Courtney said...

hey, the lama and i were talking yesterday and he was asking all about u, u should try to contact him, he's planning on moving back to the states soon! i'm pushing for austin personally!!! lol, everyone should move here, its fantastic!!!

pacatrue said...

It's good to hear, Ello. I need more Republican and Independent friends. If you are ever in the mood, feel free to tell me where I am wrong on stuff.

Sounds good, court.

ChristineEldin said...

Paca, are you really thinking of coming back Stateside?

Robin, Ello, and I are all in the DC/Virginia area.

Just saying the love's already there....

writtenwyrdd said...

I agree with you on all points, paca. I sure hope Clinton doesn't get teh Dem's nod, because I can't vote for the woman as I despise her ethics, too.

pacatrue said...

Chris, I am not the one returning stateside (I'm in a state now after all!); my sis is referring to the killer llama, my old co-blogger from the goatskin pants blog.

As for Clinton, I have no personal dislike of her. My main reservation is that I think the political conversation will be the same as it has been for the last 16 years or so if she is elected, even though "my team" would be on top. With Obama, there's a slight chance of changing the battles.