Wednesday, August 18, 2004

President Bush is going to re-deploy troops, bringing 70,000 home from Europe and Asia. The Washington Post thinks that this is terrible. I think that it is great.

The Post is missing a few factors. First of all, the troop deployments were based on containment of the Soviet Union and Communism in general. The front line has moved. What used to be the border between East and West Germany is now just Germany. NATO and the European Union have moved east.

At the same time, China is not exactly communist any longer and is not likely to invade the rest of Asia.

An additional factor - US troops are no longer as welcome as they used to be. This is especially true in Japan, Korea, and Saudi Arabia.

There is a high cost for keeping troops overseas. The bases are expensive and the military often has to move and house entire families.

So why pay to keep troops where they are neither needed nor wanted?

That money that we spend to keep troops overseas is welcomed by the host countries even if the soldiers themselves are not but it is questionable how much good will we are buying.

Another effect of the passage of time is the end of the need for some historic aliances. NATO was created to oppose the USSR. Without the USSR then it has fufilled its purpose.

It is also being held hostage by politics. During the Iraq war, France vetoed the use of NATO troops to protect Turkey (a non-combatant) in case of attack by Iraq.

This action by France is part of a wider pattern where France in specific and Europe in general is trying to set itself up as competition to the US. That is the whole point of the European Union - to create a single economy that can compete with the US.

During the Cold War, France and West Germany had to stay friendly to the US. Without us, they might be overrun by the USSR.

Without the USSR, there is no enemy threatening France or Germany so there is no need for them to stay in an alliance in which they are junior partners.

Bush has recognized this and reacted accordingly. The Post is still mired in the past. Unable to recognize new political realities that have been building for years, they think that Bush (or better yet, someone else) can rebuild our alliances just like they were before.

In international affairs, 50 years is an eternity. In the 1960s the Cuban Missle Crisis nearly escalated into a full nuclear exchange. Now, Russia is a trading partner and many of the Iron Curtain countries are joining the EU. Even Russia might join NATO.

NATO and the European alliances existed for over 50 years but their usefullness has come to an end. They cannot be expected to last forever.

I slept through the Daily Show the first time that Clinton was on. They reran it last night. The Swift Boat Veterans' story was still breaking so Jon Stuart had to get in some digs. He read from the Democratic Party talking points - these vets did not serve with Kerry and the doctor did not treat him (both wrong).

Clinton had to get in a few digs of his own. He stated that the same people who were behind this ad were behind a similar effort against McCain four years ago.

For someone who is supposed to be brilliant with a photographic memory, Clinton really got that wrong.

The complaint is that something like the Swiftees ad was done against McCain and that this one is being produced by former McCain workers who should know better.

Got that? The people doing these ads were not the same ones who ran the anti-McCain ads. Clinton told an un-truth.

Yesterday I mentioned the Conventional Wisdom that says the race is Kerry's to lose. The more I think about it the less likely this seems.

You overturn a sitting president by putting together a personal narative proving that you will do a better job running the country than your opponent. Reagan beat Carter with a promise to improve the economy by cutting taxes. Clinton, the Man from Hope who felt our pain, pointed to the Arkansas economy as an example of wha he can do.

Kerry reminds us that he is a vet and promises to get rid of Benedict Arnold corporations that get tax breaks for sending jobs overseas. The vet part is already hurting him as reporters dug into Kerry's Cambodia claims.

Off-shoring jobs might also hurt Kerry in a debate. The movement started under Clinton. The total number of jobs lost this way is comparatively small and Kerry is on record as supporting movement off-shore as long as there are no tax breaks involved. Finally, the tax breaks are not something that Bush passed. They have been around a long time. Kerry might have even voted for one of them (this would make an interesting October surprise).

Without a convincing narative, Kerry doesn't have much to offer except for not being Bush.

That leaves Kerry a long way from it being his race to lose.

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