by Brad WalsethAs the election looms, let us take a moment to reflect on the processes that determine which candidate we support. Clearly our economic and educational backgrounds play a role, as does our cultural status. Our moral outlook and the influence of our family traditions contribute, as does whether we see a bit of ourselves in the candidate. Understanding and relating to the speaker, and even how he looks to us affects our decision. And of course our own self-interest is involved. However, perhaps the time has come in the history of the U.S. for us to finally shake off the burdens of preconceived prejudices and inherited beliefs, and, using our best judgment, base our decisions strictly upon the facts.
Many of us will never be shareholders in a corporation, but if you were - you would have the right to vote for or against the officers in charge. If a CEO took a thriving company into bankruptcy through poor planning - which in turn has reduced the value of the stocks you rely on for your retirement, you would have the right to remove him from office. Whether the officer was for or against gay marriage or abortion would mean nothing as he would be outside his means to move policy too far from the center.
Thus is the state of modern day politics. The nature of the two major parties is not that different, and the weight of the opinion of the majority of citizenship forces them to maintain the middle ground. Therefore, we must primarily look at the primary arbiter in our choice of who governs: competence.
Put aside all preconceptions, rigid ideologies and petty party loyalties - we are bigger people than that, and simply look at the facts involved. Let us not resort to name calling or accusations of lying. Let us assume that all parties always operate above board and with the best intentions. Let us even forego blaming anyone for economic conditions - there have always been booms and busts. And a surplus can turn into a deficit even without giving it away to the wealthy. But let us examine the primary decision of the current administration: the invasion of Iraq.
Was the plan properly manned? Colin Powell, General Shinseki, Secretary of the Army General White (among others) believed we needed several hundred thousand troops to cover a hostile territory of 437,072 km with a mostly hostile 26 million people, but they were ignored, overruled and ultimately (the latter two) dismissed for not toeing the company line. Vietnam showed us we could not fight a war half-heartedly, but it appears Sec. Rumsfeld (who only originally wanted 50,000 troops - wouldn't that have been another Black Hawk Down) and his fellows feared (quite rightfully) that they would not be able to gain support from the American people for an expensive, lengthy, large-scale invasion - especially on such shaky (and forged) evidence of the existence of WMDs. Was the plan properly funded? Apparently not, for the president is now calling for another 75 BILLION! of our tax money. Was the plan properly laid out which would provide for the aftermath of the war? Hmmmm... Were all elements thoroughly investigated so that no surprises (like missing explosives and nuclear material, or outside insurgents entering the country) would occur? Was an exit strategy included? Was the step of declaring war only considered as a last resort? Were all our diplomatic options fully explored? If all these were taken into account, why was the Iraqi military allowed to disappear into the shadows with their weaponry, why are we allowing human rights abuses and subverting the Geneva accords (which further turns the Arab world against us), and why does only 2% of the Iraqi populace support our presence as liberators?
If after all this the plan made sense strategically such lapses may be forgiven, but in alienating further the Arab community, engaging the suspicion and wrath of much the rest of the world, making the Middle-East even less stable than it was with Saddam in place, and finally stretching our military dangerously thin - how can this be said to be in our best interests? What would we do if China invaded Taiwan tomorrow, or North Korea launched an offensive against the South? Would we fight several wars on several fronts? Isn't that what happened to Japan and Germany in WWII? Don't our leaders study history in making their decisions? This does not even take into account the skyrocketing price of oil hindering our already stumbling economy.
In the end it appears we have a president whose administration was exhumed from the Nixon era, who somehow learned nothing from the mess that was Vietnam, and whose obsession with building an American style democracy in the deserts of Arabia reminds one of the many failed crusades. Forget whether you believe Kerry is a war hero or not, or whether Bush is a fundamentalist, corporate shill and war criminal, the country is at a crossroads. Let us make this most important decision on common sense and choose our next president based on the simple matter of competence. Surely no one can disagree that the current one has had his chance and has been found lacking.
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