For some of you, voting Republican in the coming elections is an obvious choice. And though I've come to the same conclusion, it was far from obvious to me. In this unusually long post, I'll attempt to explain why.
There is presently a debate among Objectivists regarding how to vote in the midterm Congressional elections, and I've found it very informative. This is not meant to be a survey the entire debate but merely a highlighting of what I see as the most important aspects. (I urge you to read the following articles and not settle for my summaries, which may inadvertently mischaracterize the authors' views.)
Broadly speaking, some Objectivists argue for an across-board vote for Democrats with the aim of punishing Republicans for waging a losing, self-sacrificial half-battle against our enemies abroad, and for expanding the government and promoting a religious political agenda at home. In this view, the altruistic/mystical philosophy driving many Republicans is a serious threat to our freedoms, particularly in the moral vacuum created by the nihilistic left. The hope is that a Republican defeat will check the religious right's ascent to power and eventually clear the way for better candidates, such as those willing to truly fight for America's interests. The Objective Standard has a number of good articles explaining this view in detail:
Why I Will Not Vote for Any Republican by John Lewis.
Notes on the Coming Election by Craig Biddle.
The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism by C. Bradley Thompson.
"Just War Theory" vs. American Self-Defense by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein.
Other Objectivists argue for continued but qualified support of Republicans to protect Congressional leadership positions from antiwar Democrats and in hopes that Republicans can be pressured into waging a real war. They basically agree that many Republicans (and Americans in general) are often motivated by bad philosophy but also see enough good philosophy mixed in (such as individualism and secularism) that most serious threats to our freedoms are limited. Since leftist-dominated Democrats have nothing to offer, either domestically or abroad, it is only the Republicans, despite their theocratic tendencies and open embrace of socialism, who offer any chance of defeating the enemies at war with us. Robert Tracinski at The Intellectual Activist has written a number of good articles making this case:
I sympathize with aspects of both views. But what follows are my thoughts on the matter.
I remain convinced -- because of 9/11 and what I have since learned about the threat of Islamism -- that America's most pressing need is to wage an uncompromising war against Islamic theocrats and terrorists, in particular the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In the 2004 presidential election, it was clear to me that Bush was a better option than Kerry, albeit far from ideal. Bush seemed open to the idea of confronting Iran despite critical missteps in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kerry, by contrast, talked primarily about diplomatic solutions with Iran (such as the unilateral ending of our nuclear weapons research as a good-faith measure).
Two years later, as this week's mid-term Congressional elections approach, I have lost almost all confidence in Bush's and the Republicans' abilities to wage the necessary war against Islamists. Bush has certainly had his good moments, such as identifying the importance of preemptive military action and the necessity of battling states who support terrorists, as opposed to merely taking police actions against terrorists themselves. But even these have been exposed as mostly words not principles. As regular readers of this Web site know, the list of Bush's compromises since 9/11 is appalling: advocating a Palestinian state; ignoring state sponsors of terrorism; allowing for Islamic law in Afghanistan and Iraq; not waging a war to truly defeat the enemies; avoiding shrines and sacrificing troops; blindly worshipping "democracy"; indirectly supporting the Hamas government; and pursuing diplomacy with Iran.
Bush is not waging the kind of war necessary for a lasting victory, and we are losing as a result. He is willing to fight and, unlike most Democrats, appears to recognize that the threat from Islamists requires us to fight. But, hamstrung by an apparent moral uncertainty or confusion, he is not willing to fight to win. Worse still, he often sacrificially puts our troops at risk in order to spare civilians and even the enemy. Instead of rallying Americans to fight for a clearly defined victory against an obvious threat, he urges to us "stay the course" in a "long war" that is more and more about helping Iraqis and Afghans and less and less about aggressively eliminating our enemy.
Nonetheless, the fact that we are not fighting to win does not change the fact that Islamists are.
In light of this, the Democrat alternative of withdrawal from Iraq isn't much of an alternative (and I take their talk of concentrating on Afghanistan to be an expedient, election-time attempt to appear strong on defense). A poll this weekend finds that a large majority of Americas think a Democratic victory means withdrawal from Iraq. And some of our enemies are openly stating that a withdrawal from Iraq will be a sign of victory for them, another in a long line of previous American retreats, from Lebanon to Somalia, retreats that lead the likes of Osama Bin Laden to conclude that America is a "paper tiger." A Democratic victory now, in the midst of war, would be an emboldening signal of surrender to our enemies.
This includes our most threatening Islamist enemy, Iran, a state which declared war on us at its inception and reaffirms that declaration every Friday at prayers with chants of "Death to America." And unlike America, which has shown no willingness to confront Iran, the Islamic Republic has consistently brought the fight to us. It's not only Iran's past aggressions, such as the 1979 hostage-taking and the 1983 Beirut bombing of Marine barracks. And it's not only Iran's threats to annihilate our ally Israel and even attack it outright via its proxy, Hezbollah. It's also that report after report after report after report indicates that Iran is actively involved in killing our troops today in Iraq. We're already at war with Iran whether we like it or not. The prospect of Iranian nukes only makes recognizing that fact all the more urgent.
As such, I do not see the Democrat's desire to withdraw from Iraq as an option at this time.
That said, the vote-for-Democrats strategy is nonetheless compelling, not because of what it could do for Democrats but because of what it could do to both parties. Ousting Republicans could clarify issue; since Republicans deceptively pose as being strong on national security, their defeat, and the eventual Democratic collapse when faced with war, could create an opportunity for candidates to step in who might truly act to protect our long-term national security interests. Perhaps this would happen. I don't know, but it is conceivable.
However, I do know this: The enemy is already actively waging war against us, and absent a Democrat alternative for waging the war better, a retreat in the face of that war seems to me more suicidal than half-fighting. Half-fighting itself is no doubt encouraging the enemy, so it's not much better than not fighting at all. It could even be argued that in some ways it's worse. But to the extent that half-fighting has encouraged the enemy, it has done so because it's taken as a sign of weakness. And I can think of no stronger sign of weakness than a retreat motivated by a desire to disengage from the battle.
What should be done in Iraq and the "war on terror"? Quit playing defense and go on the offensive. Fight the war we've avoided. Stop placing concern for civilians above concern for our troops. Kill the militia leaders and those willing to fight for them; disband and disarm the rest. Cut off the flow of weapons and fighters from neighboring countries. Cease all advocacy of "democracy" as a viable political solution in the Middle East -- it's not and never was (just look at the results). If possible, reclaim control of governing Iraq and Afghanistan and impose a relatively free form of government, or leave them to their own devises. And, most importantly, take the fight to the main source of Islamic totalitarianism: Iran. What would be a better example to Iraq and Afghanistan that we will not tolerate Islamist regimes?
Will Bush adopt even a few of these measure? Perhaps, but the prospects are worse than dim. Certainly the leftist-influenced Democrats will not. I'm hoping that it's still possible to influence Republicans and other Americans to begin fighting to win. However, voting for Democrats in order to hasten a change for better political alternatives could be the better strategy. I'm not yet convinced we've reached that point.
Posted by Forkum at November 5, 2006 06:53 PM