Friday, October 15, 2004

The Wrong Side of History

It was refreshing to read Tim Bray's blog this morning. It seems he has finally decided along with other world citizens to make the case for firing George W. Bush. It's about time. A lesson learned by some in the US after VietNam and the crises of race in the 1960s is that one can outlive the war and the crises, but afterwards face a terrible moment of self-realization that one was on the wrong side of history. In the technical debates that many of us here are engaged in day to day, this can be costly in terms of career or marketshare, but in the political debates, this can be costly in terms of real freedoms, and of the respect and safety of the world. It can be the difference between a future for our children here in the US, and there in Canada.

The US is a superpower and it is often arrogant about that. It leads many to believe in an unconsidered way that we can do anything, go anywhere, that our will must and can always prevail, that failure is not only not an option, it is not a possibility. This is the situation today. I can show the extremists the blogs that state clearly how many non-US citizens of the world think about the Bush administration and our conduct since 9/11. They will reply with the unconvincing but covering answer that "Democrats always say that" and "We don't need to approval of the world to defend outselves." Both are true. Both are irrelevant to this issue because the reality brought home to the US in VietNam was that even with superpowers, one cannot always use them to prosecute a war. As Sean Connery's character asks in the remake of "The Untouchables", "What are ya willing to do?" Power based on our nuclear arsenal is almost useless and that is why disarmament and work to stop proliferation became important. A weapon that is unthinkable to use is also useless.

So short of turning the world into a cinder, what are we willing to do? Will we continue to send forces into civil wars where there is little chance that we can prevail, but we can occupy? Will we use these forces to stop Iran from possessing arms that half-a-dozen other countries also possess with Iran knowing that proportional response is still the basis for our defense?

The most hopeful thing I've heard came not from these bloggers but from my doctor and his assistant yesterday after the third debate. They said, yes, we've finally decided to vote for John Kerry. When I asked why, they said simply, "He's smarter."

When it gets down to choosing a leader, one wants not to choose based on some misguided perception of our role in the world or even our relationship to God, but based on the competence and experience of the candidate, not his arrogance. This election is too close to call. If I had to predict based on what I know about typical American electoral behavior, George W. Bush is going to win.

So I thank the efforts of the citizens of the world. I only wish you had reconsidered your positions earlier, spoken louder, and helped to restore some margins of safety. Like it or not, understand it or not, we are in this together. A world where terrorists proliferate is a very unsafe place to be but a world in which superpowers find themselves confronting not only terrorists but their former allies through mistaken leadership that cannot accept the limits of their powers is far far more dangerous.

Being on the wrong side of history is bad. Not knowing it or failing to learn from it is worse, not only for your pride, but your future. We are in this together.

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