Monday, January 08, 2007

A qualification for a Presidential contender?

Photo from IndyBay

The report in yesterday's London Sunday Times Online was alarming, to put it mildly.

Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

Lots of people and media outlets have since issued denials, notably here. I don't know whether I believe the story, or the denials, or both/and -- it horrifies me that anyone thinks it is okay to talk about using nukes as instruments of policy. That is flat out suicidal and the species cannot afford to become comfortable with leaders who throw around such ideas.

This has sharpened my thinking about the 2008 Presidential sweepstakes. I don't expect to like anyone able to win the nomination of either party -- even though I'll probably have to work for the Democrat. But it seems worthwhile to pose this question about candidates: If (when) the U.S. is hit by another terrorist attack, which candidate will be most able to keep retaliation/revenge within somewhat proportional limits?

As an Arab friend said to me after 9/11, the empire was going to have to strike back -- and that led to our little adventure in Hindu Kush which still goes on, mostly with Afghan and non-U.S. casualties. It would have required extraordinary leadership not to use the U.S. military to go smash up somebody's country in order to restore the bruised egos of the testosterone poisoned. Maybe the only President this country has ever had who could have pulled that off was Lincoln. But quite a few of our past Presidents were smart enough and even moral enough not to use the excuse of 9/11 to wantonly make war. Having had a dimwitted President who enjoys waving his dick around and can't accept that he has been stymied, the next incumbent is only going to be under more pressure if (when) an occasion for military retaliation arises.

So how do the names in the hopper rank on a "likely to aim for proportionality of response" scale?
  • Clinton: lacking balls, she'd seem dangerously likely to try to prove she had some -- though Bill might know better. Ex-presidents seem to improve with distance from office.
  • Obama: maybe we have to hope his religious faith isn't for show. Any genuine connection to any faith tradition might help in such a moment.
  • McCain: having fought and lost a war, he ought to know better but a lifetime of pandering for power seems to have robbed him of any sense.
  • Edwards: haven't a clue.
  • Lots of small-timers. One may break out; don't know much about any of them.
What do you think? Who among the Presidential contenders is least likely to respond to genuine provocation with excessive, disproportionate force and violence?


sfmike said...

I don't particularly care about the 2008 presidential candidates. I'm just praying the lunatics running this country and Israel don't destroy the world before that time.

Fr. John said...

I'm not sure what proportionality looks like in modern warfare, or whether it is even possible. I think traditional "just war" norms as developed in the Western ethical and religious traditions have essentially become obsolete since the advent of aerial bombing, guerrilla warfare, and the mobilization of civilian populations in modern total war. Nobody follows them, because war as we know it essentially would become impossible.

Which is the point: war is impossible. We have to evolve toward nonviolence if we are going to survive as a species. In the meantime, however, what would "proportionality" look like in the War on Terror? Hunting down and killing known terrorists? Complete economic and military embargoes on countries that finance them?

I have trouble imagining a strategy of proportionality that doesn't encourage terrorist recruitment efforts and/or punish innocent civilians in the process.

janinsanfran said...

John: I agree of course that war itself has become morally unacceptible. It probably always was, but the technological means now available, even to non-state actors, make launching a war unthinkable to a moral actor, I hope.

That said, I don't expect our politicians to have the courage to renounce using our overwhelming force. In them, I'd settle for some common sense and humanity -- enough to act as some restraint.

Nell said...

I can't believe I'm saying this, after his role in the Balkans, but... the answer to your question is Wesley Clark.

janinsanfran said...

Nell -- I've often thought that a general might be our best bet -- and feared that the US military might get tired of being misued by civilian nincompoops and decide to rid themselves of these morons.

My relatives felt that Eisenhower showed some of the restraint we might hope for in a president, though if I'd been of age, I certainly would have preferred Stevenson.

But then, we do know that the military is quite heavily populated by theocrats of the Boykin stripe these days and that is not comforting.

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