Monday, September 20, 2004

The Alliance Builder?

An interesting take on how the poodle sees alliances and alliance buliding. It is rather revealing that johnny boy feels better with Jacques "The Weasel" Chirac, then his band of brothers in swift boats. - Sailor

The Alliance Builder?

By Carroll Andrew Morse
Published 09/20/2004

As coverage of the Swift boat veterans and the Bush national guard stories enters a phase revealing as much about the media as it does the candidates, let's take a moment to remember how who did what 30 years ago became an issue in the first place. From the beginning of his campaign, Senator John Kerry trumpeted his Vietnam service as a key qualification for the American Presidency. The idea was that Americans wanted a leader who was, quite literally, battle-tested.

Kerry and his surrogates claimed that soldiers who had served with Kerry would vouch for his fitness as a leader. To help dramatize this point, Kerry's campaign ran an advertisement that included a 1969 photograph of Kerry with 19 of his fellow Swift boat commanders from Vietnam.

The use of the photo presented a problem. According to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, "Of 19 Swift boat skippers pictured other than Kerry, 12 consider him unfit, 2 are neutral, two have died, and 3 now support Kerry. Four other officers were not present for the photo session; all oppose Kerry."

The dissention between the veterans is telling. As TCS's Lee Harris has observed, much of the apparent irrationality in the method that Americans use to choose a president serves an important purpose. The purpose is to expose the potential leader of the most powerful nation on earth to a "grueling series of artificially induced crises that simulate those he will ultimately have to face as president. The American electoral process is, in a way, like the simulated testing done by the manufacturers of automobile tires -- we want to know which ones are reliable before we put them on our cars, rather than afterward…"

John Kerry was handed what should have been a baby-step in the presidential-simulator. Manufacture an alliance of veterans. For a candidate who is centering his foreign policy on the notion of building alliances, creating an alliance of men with whom he shared common background should have been an easy task.

John Kerry failed to build a credible alliance. Unilaterally speaking for the group of 23 veterans represented in the 1969 photograph highlighted the failure. His use of the photograph was based on a fraudulent coalition of just 3 of the 23.

The only thing that mattered to Kerry about the 19 men in the photo was how their image could be used to advance his leadership ambitions. He ignored the fact that they might not want to be used as part of his campaign. The views and concerns of the little people did not matter. He failed the fundamental challenge of alliance building -- accommodating people with disparate interests.

What does this tell us about the kind of alliances that John Kerry seeks to build? Perhaps Senator Kerry believes that he will do a better job with Jacques Chirac and European diplomats than he did with the Swift Veterans because he believes that Europeans more readily identify with him than his band of brothers does. This seems to be the argument Howard Dean is making for Kerry. In a PBS interview at the Democratic National Convention in July, Dean cited the fact that "He's [Kerry is] the son of a diplomat. He's spent time in Europe" as a primary alliance-building credential.

More troubling is the fact that a scaled-up version of ignoring the little people is the preferred alliance building procedure for international bureaucrats and the diplomats of old Europe. When promoting tranquility amongst a few hundred members of the diplomatic class meant ignoring basic concerns of tens of millions of Iraqis living under a dictator, the ordinary Iraqis' concerns were ignored. Presently, delays in taking meaningful action in Sudan put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk, yet the delays persist. They persist because finding language that serves the political interests of the diplomatic corps is given a higher priority than saving lives. John Kerry's treatment of the Swift Veterans -- his assumption that everyone should quietly subordinate their individual interests to the political interests of a leader -- uncomfortably echoes this alliance building procedure.

The author is a TCS contributor. He recently wrote for TCS about the Carter Center and the Venezuela election.

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