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  • Free-Fire Zone

    Campaign commentary from the left and the right
    Have a question? E-mail our columnists!

    Wednesday, September 29, 2004

    What I'll be looking for 

    I have a strong libertarian streak, which tends to push me to the conservative side on fiscal issues and the liberal side on social ones. I'd like to see a smaller federal government that sticks to the few things it should do and does them well and otherwise leaves us pretty much alone. It should stay out of the boardroom and the bedroom. Under ordinary circumstances, that perspective would be uppermost in my mind in looking at presidential candidates.

    But these are not normal times, and our circumstances are anything but ordinary. The war on terror is so important as an issue that it overshadows everything else. This is a fight for the future, against murderous thugs who play by no rules. If we don't get it right, civilization itself is at risk.

    The preliminary buzz, unfortunately, makes it sound like the debate is going to focus so heavily on Iraq that this larger perspective might be lost. If all we hear about are that Iraq has been mishandled (gee, mistakes, in a war? do you think?) or that we can do this and that to get out of a stabilized Iraq, both Bush and Kerry will have missed the point. If this truly is a global war and Iraq was a logical step after Afghanistan (I happen to think so), the appropriate thing to ask is, what next? What about North Korea? What about Iran and the rest of the Mideast? How do we balance the continuing need for safety with civil-liberties concerns? How do we persuade the rest of the world that it is in its best interest to be on the right side in this war? (Not, I would suggest, by sending ones sister to our strongest ally and telling its people they are fools for standing with us.)

    I'm tempted to say John Kerry is simply not serious about the need to get this war right, but the truth is that I simply don't know. The problem isn't so much that he flip-flops but that he uses "nuance" as an excuse not to take a clearcut position; he wants to have it both ways and, depending on his audience, emphasizes one portion of his position or another. I think he's been fairly consistent - invading Iraq would have been OK at some time, but at a later time in a different way - and mostly wrong.

    I do think Bush is serious about the war, and I hope he has the courage to say what should be said: We'll have to be in Iraq for the long haul. It's not a stopping-off point but a launching point. We do need to bring the troops home - but through Tehran. That rogue state is the next-most imminent threat in the war on terror, and the idea that it will negotiate something honestly with the rest of the world is ludicrous.

    Before anyone asks, yes, my world view has been shaped in large part by Vietnam. The lesson I took away from that national trauma was: Never go to war except as a last resort; once you're in it, the only moral choice is to commit everything you have to winning it as quickly and decisively as you can. I believe the day we left Saigon, after more than 50,000 Americans died, saying to the Vietnamese people, "Sorry didn't mean it; just kidding," was one of this nation's darkest days.

    The stakes are so much higher this time around. We dare not flinch.

    posted by Leo Morris at # 3:48 PM




    TowarnickyMorris

    On the left: Carol Towarnicky, chief editorial writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, from a liberal point of view.

    On the right: Leo Morris, editorial page editor of the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel, from a conservative point of view.


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