July 10, 2004

John Kerry As President? Bring Him On!

PEGGY NOONAN'S GOT THE FEAR, or at least a nagging little worry:

History has been too dramatic the past 3 1/2 years. It has been too exciting. Economic recession, 9/11, war, Afghanistan, Iraq, fighting with Europe. fighting with the U.N., boys going off to fight, Pat Tillman, beheadings. It has been so exciting. And my general sense of Americans is that we like things to be boring. Or rather we like history to be boring; we like our lives to be exciting. We like history to be like something Calvin Coolidge dreamed: dull, dull. dull. And then we complain about the dullness, and invent excitements that are the kind we really like: moon shots, spaceships, curing diseases. -- Noonan at The Wall Street Journal
I like the way Peggy Noonan writes, and I like the way Peggy Noonan thinks, and I like a lot of the things she says. She's always been elegant and intelligent. You don't find that often, but it is always a treat when you do.

Because of this I fret when Ms. Noonan is vexed -- as she is in this case and not without reason. Americans do have a tendency to be a lazy, indulgent and easily world-wearied set of humans. That is, as she points out, our one of the key elements of our nature. But only one, and if at the moment it is in the ascendant, it will not always be so.

At the same time Ms. Noonan is perturbed by the idea that the American Short Attention Span Theater will hand the election to John Kerry simply because he promises less aggro and more entertainment.

Here is my fear: that the American people, liking and respecting President Bush, and knowing he's a straight shooter with guts, will still feel a great temptation to turn to the boring and disingenuous John Kerry. He'll never do anything exciting. He doesn't have the guts to be exciting. And as he doesn't stand for anything, he won't have to take hard stands. He'll do things like go to France and talk French and they'll love it. He'll say he's the man who accompanied Teresa Heinz to Paris, only this time he'll say it in French and perfectly accented and they'll all go "ooh la la!" Same Article as Above
Ms. Noonan is not alone in her fears. The military itself is getting nervous. They are waiting for
the “three year rule.” Historically, the American public will support a war for three years. If it isn’t over by then, the public mood starts to turn ugly. It’s happened in every American war that went over three years. The war on terror will be three years old in September, 2004. Recruiters are unsure what effect this will have on getting people to volunteer. While most of America’s wars have been fought with volunteers, the two big ones that went the limit without conscription (the American Revolution and the Civil War), ran into manpower problems after the three year limit was hit. But both of those wars had lots more casualties, and defeats, than the war on terror. And even World War II, as popular as it was, saw a growing amount of popular discontent by early 1945. What will happen this time around will be known by 2005, and the recruiters are not looking forward to it. -- Strategy Page
Growing voter ennui coupled with the three year rule. It doesn't look rosy for the re-election of George Bush under those circumstances, does it? And perhaps it isn't.

But, without any rude tone, let me just ask Ms. Noonan: "So what?"

Yes, let us take the bull by the horns and get to the bottom of all the free-floating angst that has been humming around just above and below the surface of the Republican media and bloggers over the last few weeks. It hasn't been an easy time. The elevation of a creature like Michael Moore to demi-god status is enough to depress Mr. Rogers. The celebrity drenched bashfests that raise millions for John/John are yet another reason to double-dip at the anti-depressant salad bar. The continuing refusal of the Kerry Campaign to release either his wife's full tax-forms or the amount he and John Edwards have spent on dental implants would hairlip a hamster with frustration. Yes, if all of these things continue to trend up and President Bush continues to trend down, we could indeed have a Kerry Triumph in November.

But again, I ask, so what. Elections are held, the people speak, you accept it and you wake up the next day and find... surprise, you are still not in control of your own history. This is the mistaken premise of Ms. Noonan's concern: "...we like history to be boring."

You see, it really doesn't matter what we like or don't like about history. History is something that happens. And, as we have all known since September 11, 2001, we are not only not at the End of History, we don't even control what sort of History happens to us. All we control is what we do about it after it has happened. That's our move on the vast chessboard of History. And that is, indeed, what we have been doing since the 11th.

Of course, you can say that we've been proactive. After all, we've gone into Afghanistan and into Iraq waving the bright banner of pre-emption and a fresh round of democracy for all. And we've had our successes as well as our setbacks.

But I keep thinking back to an off-hand remark made by a Marine colonel to a television reporter during the first few weeks of the Fallujah battle. The marines had spent no little time and lost no little blood in pushing the enemy back into several distinct neighborhoods. Looking at the televised images at the time it seemed as if the Marines had been giving the enemy Hell by the carload and the reporter asked if this 'brutal' method was going to continue at its current intensity. "Intensity?" the Marine responded. "We've just been playing pattycake with these people up to now."

On a certain level, that's what we've been doing in the last few years after 9/11 -- playing pattycake. It looks bad and for a lot of the enemy it is bad. It has been lethal to nearly 1,000 American soldiers as well. It has also been lethal to perhaps 10-15 thousand innocent civilians. But as wars go, it has still been a pattycake, pattycake time for most of the nations involved. And it will probably stay that way, regardless of who is or is not President, until ....

We all know what "until...." means, don't we. It means Until the Next 9/11.

And if there is one thing that all parts of our political system, (right, left, center, Nadar) seems to agree on it is that there will be a second 9/11 that will be as bad as or much worse than the first.

That's when Americans who want "history to be boring" will come to understand that what they want and what they get are going to be two very different things. Up until 9/11 2.0, everything we've done since the first attack has been in responsive mode; we've essentially been reacting to History. Following the second attack it will begin to occur to the country as a whole, as a very united whole that we'd best stop reacting to History and start following the Scoop Nisker approach (to paraphrase): If you don't like History, go out and make some of your own.

After 9/11 2.0, it really won't matter much who is President. American History making is pretty much going to start right up anyway. Those who stand in front of it and try to say, "Now hold on just a darn minute!" will end up a flat patch of fur on the highway. Should Kerry and his ilk be in office and attempt to stand in the way... well, that would probably lead to something like a Constitutional Crisis. It would certainly be the death of the Democratic Party once and for all. Either way, it won't be boring.

Either way, it will be the end of the Pattycake War.

I'm sad that it will cost us so many civilian American lives to shake us out of our Barcaloungers and our boredom with History, but that's the nature of History, isn't it? Either you happen to it or it happens to you.

Posted by Vanderleun at July 10, 2004 4:30 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Wow, thanks, man. That's the first thing I've read in a while that makes me feel a little more at ease about the impending quasi-revolution this crazy country seems to be facing this election cycle.

You're absolutely right, these fanatics are going to hit us again, unless we somehow miraculously stop them; but it may be what it takes to galvanize Westersn society to stand up against this wacky perversion we now know as radical islam.

Pattycake, pattycake, bakers man
Get me a government with balls, please.

Ok, it doesn't rhyme, but it's what I mean, anyway.

Posted by: rick at July 11, 2004 3:22 PM

Pattycake, pattycake, Marines, AT EASE!
Get me a government with balls, please.

The pleasure is to serve.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at July 11, 2004 3:53 PM

If Kerry/Edwards are elected it will be encouraging. Encouraging for despots, dictators, and terrorists, that is. We have to face up to the fact that the Democrat Party has evolved to be the party of hate America, permanent victims, parasites, trial lawyers, and government unions. If they are elected, they, like Clinton, will once again treat terrorists like common criminals which will delight terrorists everywhere. I don't care if terrorists strike Democrats but unfortunately, many innocents will be killed in the process. It is coming soon.

Posted by: howard lee at July 11, 2004 4:15 PM

"While most of America’s wars have been fought with volunteers, the two big ones that went the limit without conscription (the American Revolution and the Civil War), ran into manpower problems after the three year limit was hit."

Except the poster on Strategy Page is wrong - The Civil War featured conscription on both sides. The chronically manpower starved Confederacy implemented their draft laws first, IIRC.

Posted by: Brian at July 16, 2004 5:10 AM