Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 15, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

THE FOREIGN POLICY CHOICE....Dan Drezner is still mulling things over, but his p-value is now at 80%. That is, he's now 80% sure he'll vote for John Kerry this year.

Why the 20% doubt? In a generally interesting post about his foreign policy concerns, Dan explains that "I remain unconvinced that Kerry understands the limits of multilateral diplomacy."

If the Senator from Massachusetts thinks that improved style, greater diplomatic efforts, concerted multilateral coordination, and even copious amounts of American aid can get India and Pakistan to sign on to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, or create a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace, then, well, he's drunk too much of the multilateral Kool-Aid. Bill Clinton who epitomizes the kind of diplomatic style Kerry could only hope to achieve invested a fair amount of diplomatic capital on both of these flash points, during a time when America's global prestige was greater than today and in the end achieved very little of consequence.

This is the flip side of the Bush team's seeming inability to understand the limits of threats, bluffs, and military action, which looks to my eyes every bit as naive as Kerry's rose-colored view of diplomacy. I frankly doubt, for example, that Kerry has much chance of ever getting any serious multilateral support for Iraq given the mess Bush has made of things but at the same time I don't think that Bush even understands that Iraq is a mess. What's more, neither he nor his advisors appear to have learned any lessons at all from the Iraq debacle, and Donald Rumsfeld in particular seems to remain astonishingly blind to the importance of peacekeeping and nation building in a post-9/11 world. There are blind spots on both sides.

In the end, though, I think Dan's ultimate take is about right:

Given the foreign policy stakes in this election, I prefer a leader who has a good decision-making process, even if his foreign policy instincts are skewed in a direction I don't like, over a leader who has a bad decision-making process, even if his foreign policy instincts are skewed in a direction I do like.

Bush has simply made too many mistakes, and he's made them because of a deeply ingrained tunnel vision combined with a disastrously poor decision-making process. Neither of these things is going to change, and at some point you have to face up to the fact that this means he's almost certain to continue making disastrous decisions throughout a second term.

Kerry will certainly make mistakes, and he will likely learn the limits of diplomacy as well, but the alternative is far worse. Bush, after all, neither admits nor learns from his mistakes. Kerry does.

Kevin Drum 7:24 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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