It seems that going to war was a politically and economically sound decision for the Republicans. A pre-emptive war seems like a risky political gamble and reminds me of Minority Report (or “Wolfowitz’s Report”). Furthermore when the war turns out to be based on misinformation and degenerates into incredibly costly (in money and lives) guerilla warfare you might think that the gamble backfired. Apparently a large number of conservatives are quite frustrated with the Republican administration painting its foreign policy into a corner and refusing to admit that this whole plan of war with Iraq was probably a bad idea. However when you read this argument, it seems that this war really is money in the bank for the Republicans. As long as they don’t lose this election. And here is how they might not:
Things are looking up for Bush et. al. and the reasons lie in what seems to be a clever and successful strategy to further polarize the American public. It is well known that war can polarize politics within a population, especially when accompanied by statements by the President such as: “you’re either with us or against us.” Additionally I have noticed that debates that degenerate into personal attacks are also more polarizing than debates that are concerned with complicated and hard issues like the economy, healthcare, poverty, or even how to reduce the threat of terrorism. Often these latter types of issues require middle ground which is not a common thing to find these days. Issues like military records are nice and simple since typically you believe either that Kerry (or Bush) was a loyal serviceman or that he was not.
The 9/11 advantage
The horrific event of 9/11 has benefits for the Bush administration’s campaign. There are not a lot of good reasons on paper to keep Bush in power (see this data) but emphasis is being successfully moved away from the data and towards the issue of war leadership, claiming:
- that Bush is the best suited candidate for helping reduce terrorism threats to the US and cooperating with other countries to around the world in combatting terrorist organizations
- that a vote against Bush increases the likelihood of another 9/11. Cheney did clarify his comments here and said he was refering to the probability that Kerry would drop the Minority-Report-attack-policy which Cheney seems to believe could have prevented 9/11.
Thanks to a successful mudslinging campaign many people do believe these premises. Others, myself included, feel that:
- global terror levels have increased since the start of the war on terror, and particularly Iraq
- that Bush has not shown much interest in international cooperation or much understanding of foreign affairs
- and finally that the audacity of the pre-emptive strike policy probably increases the likelihood of being targeted for more attacks
USA 2004 Election Decision Reframed..or Defamed?
As such, the election has been reframed into a simple question of whether the people think Bush or Kerry is a better war-on-terror leader. This is precisely what the Republicans want voters to be thinking about, and is the only way the Bush administration will see another term.
The Bushiad and the Idyossy
On a more lighthearted note check out The Bushiad and the Idyossy an impressively epic parody based on Homer’s Illiad and the Odyssey. It is truly astounding how this election has inspired a ton of creative outpourings, many available thanks to the wide world of blogs.