Monday, August 30, 2004

The Leadership Issue

Going into the Republican convention, which starts today, I am intrigued by one remark repeated over and over by many Bush supporters. They say he is a proven leader based on his actions after the 9/11 attacks. The implication is that Gore or Kerry wouldn't have done as well.

Come on. Bush's response after 9/11 was to invade Afghanistan and remove the Taliban, who had harbored Osama bin Laden and enabled him to run his network of terrorist training camps. I hate to tell Bush supporters this, but as Tom Friedman, a respected writer on middle eastern issues said, "that was a no-brainer." Any 7th grader could have figured that out. It was not brilliance, but a mere accident of history that Bush was there to do it and not someone else.

It is Bush's handling of the more complicated matters that followed which really demonstrate his leadership abilities, or rather the lack thereof. If Bush was really a world leader like, say, his father, he would actually have the world following his lead. But outside of Afghanistan and the pursuit of Al Qaeda, the world is not following. It is in fact turning the other way. Many Americans are doing the same, and this self proclaimed "uniter" has divided the nation and the world like never before.

Bush's handling of Iraq has been sloppy at best. From the premature "Mission Accomplished" boast to the Abu Ghraib fiasco Bush and his team have been bumbling their way through. They failed to secure Iraq's borders allowing terrorists in to take root where none existed before. Paul Bremer censored that fellow Al Sadr's newspaper, an act which not only violated our own principles of freedom of speech (and made us look like hypocrites), it turned the spotlight on a marginal opposition player and turned him into the most influential opponent of the post-Saddam war. Now our military is stretched thin and, because of Bush's go-it-alone arrogance, we are unable to rally the support of our allies and we are forced to rely on exhausted soldiers to keep Iraq intact. God help us if Al Qaeda establishes a foothold in another broken down country for we won't have the resources to invade again.

Among those making the claim of Bush's proven leadership after 9/11 is Senator John McCain. But to his credit, McCain also says that John Kerry is a good man, a proven leader, and would also make a good president. The difference, which McCain fails to state publicly, is that Kerry understands the intricacies of world affairs far better than Bush, and would thus make wiser choices, make more realistic committments of military resources, and engage in better diplomacy so that the world will again follow our lead.
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