July 26, 2004

Done deals at the Democratic National Convention.

We all know that John Kerry will officially become the Democratic party's candidate for the US presidency this week, but most of us have given little thought about the platform he's running on. As with Kerry's candidacy, the platform is a done deal, and will almost certainly contain very little that's imaginative or memorable.

But, as the editors of The Nation remind us, the platform doesn't have to be that way. At their suggestion, a whole slew of folks have offered up suggested planks for the Democratic platform, and those suggestions make excellent food for thought. (And since we know that delegates to the Democratic convention are reading this blog, excellent proposals to be offered up during the platform debate this week.)

One of our favorites (and the shortest of all) was this one:

George McGovern
George McGovern, a former US senator from South Dakota, was the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee.

Since we were promised a peace dividend once the cold war ended, since no country is now threatening us and since the terrorist threat is not a military one, the present $400 billion military budget should be cut in half, to be achieved with 5 percent annual reductions over the next ten years.

McGovern's suggestion goes right to the point: Given what Dubya has done to the budget and the deficit, any substantial new federal programs can only be funded if the military is cut back.

So, delegates? Does someone want to put McGovern's suggestion out on the floor in Boston this week?

Posted by Magpie at July 26, 2004 03:23 AM | US Politics | Technorati links |
Comments

...mmm, peace dividend.

Posted by: Darryl Pearce at July 26, 2004 06:08 AM

I like McGovern's idea... it will certainly help in reducing the national debt. If hell freezes over and Kerry runs on this idea, he must stress that a bloated military budget is useless, as was demonstrated on 9/11, and that terrorism is fought with effective intelligence agencies. I think that 5% over 10 years (which amounts to a 40% reduction, not a 50% one) is too slow, though - put me in for 15% per year for the next 4-5 years, which wil reduce the military budget by about 50-55%.

Posted by: Joe Taylor at July 26, 2004 07:12 AM

That's completely crazy. You should apply the McGovern rule to Social Security and then provide gradual increases in both Military and Space funding. Actually, much foreign aid ought to be pulled under the aegis of SOCOM. The Military still has a lot more changing to do, as it gains expertise in the back half of a war of liberation. The real shame for me, as a democrat, is that we aren't equally motivated to support security operations in the middle east. Now can we all get behind an aggressive Iran policy, please?

I just hope the rest of us wake up before it is too late.

Posted by: Rob Withers at July 26, 2004 07:49 AM

This will never fly in the current environment, although it perhaps could have been done post 9-11 if this country had real leadership (anywhere in the establishment)that realized the war on al-quaeda (not terrorism) is mainly a law enforcement initiative.

The national debt is such a huge issue right now, and with yearly deficits approaching $500bn, its not going away. According to Paul Krugman of the NYT, the onset of the Boomer retirement years, coupled with such large deficits, is going to force the country to make some very stark, perhaps crippling choices within the next ten years. One way to avoid that, and keep military levels static, is to roll back the Bush tax cuts, across the board.

Posted by: Zach at July 26, 2004 12:35 PM

Whatever happened to the openness of post-Watergate Democrat conventions? This one is totally scripted, probably not in smoke-filled rooms (does Massachusetts or Boston allow smoking indoors?), but certainly out of the public eye. Some "democratic" platform! They've probably even given Dennis Kucinich a script.

Posted by: Ted at July 26, 2004 05:37 PM

'ggressive iran policy'?

hasn't our 'aggressive iraq policy' taught any lessons about that kind of foreign/military policy?

and as for keeping military levels static, exactly *what* do we need such a huge military to defend the country against? a decent foreign policy (including support for a fair & even-handed solution for the israel/palestine conflict) would do far more to protect the US -- especially from terrorism -- than any amount of military spending.

the experiences of LBJ with vietnam and reagan with the arms race should have taught us that we can't have guns and butter both. the main reason that the national debt & deficit are such huge problems is because of our continuing choice to support a bloated and largely unnecessary military establishment.

Posted by: Magpie at July 26, 2004 06:18 PM

I assume that's 5% of the current budget, ie a reduction of about $20 billion each year. But yes, that's much too slow, and relies on the "Democrats" winning the next three elections. I'm not so keen on the effective intelligence agencies, though - civil liberties are more important! Terrorism is fought by addressing the issues that drive people to commit it, to the extent that it needs to be fought at all. The reality is that terrorism is simply not a serious threat. It can be spectacular, but pales in to insignificance compared to, say, automobile accidents. A "War on Dangerous Driving" could save _far_ more lives than the "War on Terror".

Posted by: felice at July 27, 2004 01:08 AM

McGovern was slaughtered in that election. I remember it, clearly. It was at the height of anti-Vietnam war feeling too.

Americans don't typically buy into unilateral disarmament ideas. The Euros and Canadians can get away with it. They've had US to protect them for 50 years. Who's protecting US? Only US.

Posted by: Michael Hiteshew at July 27, 2004 07:52 AM

Ted,
I read that the text of all speeches had to be approved by the DNC/Kerry campaign. So yes, everyone has agreed to be scripted.

This is the culmination of a sad 20+ year trend. But if the DNC wants to be as phony as the RNC, that's their decision. Worse, IMHO, is the way all protesters, left and right, are being treated, with the permission of, and probably mandate from, the Democratic Party. Anyone who hasn't seen photos of the 'Protest Pen' should go to http://boston.indymedia.org/newswire/display/23765/index.php - there was repression outside the DNC 4 years ago (though not as bad as at the RNC), but this is repulsive.

I've heard the right has made some use of the pen. The only use the left has made of it is to protest its existence - see http://boston.indymedia.org/feature/display/24076/index.php - That's not to say there are no protesters in town. Remember, this is the state where, after Kerry voted to give Bush carte blanche in Iraq, a protest campaign was organized starting only 14 days before the November, 2002 election. The candidate, Randall Forsberg, got 20,000 WRITE-IN votes! Despite the intense hatred of Bush by the left, there are LOTS of dedicated people that want Kerry to know

Plus there are people still around from the Boston Social Forum that ended on Sunday after almost 600 events, and from the Veterans for Peace convention. But only the younger protesters are going near the convention - once again facing up to the cops and potential incarceration.

Posted by: Rysam at July 27, 2004 08:49 AM

jeez, michael, where do you get your ideas about history?

mcgovern never proposed unilateral disarmament, or even an unconditional withdrawal from vietnam. the main reasons he lost the 1972 election were a concerted smear campaign waged by the republicans (including dirty tricks such as the watergate break-in) and the resentment of mcgovernite democrats on the part of existing democratic machines (including the daley machine in chicago). mcgovern never had a chance to get his views in front of the electorate, so the 1972 election can hardly be called a rejection of his policies (or a ringing endorsement of nixon's, for that matter).

Posted by: Magpie at July 27, 2004 09:29 AM

C'mon Magpie, McGovern should have walked away with that election. He was a war hero, an intellectual, an accomplished politician. Nixon was disliked even by Republicans. But McGovern alienated the majority of Americans with what was seen as his hopeless naivete'. He platform centered on getting out of Vietnam immediately and heavy cuts in military spending. Americans, beyond the far left, simply rejected it outright.

He got clobbered by an unpopular president. What does that tell you? To win the presidency you've to reach beyond your hard core base. You've got move beyond the wings. That is both Bush's problem and was Gore's problem. They're both driven too much by the far wings of their party. You can get to senator like that. Not to president. The 2000 election was essentially a draw for that reason.

By the way, Obama just delivered a great speech. That's the kind reachout you need to win. Pandering to the far left or the far right is a recipe for failure.

Posted by: Michael Hiteshew at July 28, 2004 03:21 AM

Magpie, you are still sleeping, I see. Believe me, I've been there myself. I have believed in something so passionately and intensely, that I miss reality and the world moves on in an unexpected direction. The brilliance of our country is that we can morph and change our worldviews, and thus change the course of America. and the world.

Today's Dem convention is filled with that rhetoric of remaining together and addressing terrorism. The problem with that rhetoric is that it builds an illusion on top of some bits of reality:

1) we can never completely protect ourselves. 90% is a fair target. We must rely on good intelligence.
2) the intelligence services are a bit slim in the HUMINT department. We cut too aggressively in the '90s.
3) there is a grave mismatch in definitions of the problems and their scope between two broad groups in America.

One group wishes to go isolationist, protectionist, and adopt a negotiation stance. The other group wants to maintain an open posture to the world economically, and take active steps abroad to address the above mentioned undefined problems.

The problem definition I run with is Thomas Barnett's ( http://thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog ). The traditional world is getting squeezed by globalization. We must help the 3rd world bridge into modern societies, not for expliotation, but to arrest it. Kerry will face the same issues that Bush faces. Iran must be delt with decisively.

"hasn't our 'aggressive iraq policy' taught any lessons about that kind of foreign/military policy?"

YES! Tons, Loads and More. Lessons learned by the military, the people of America, and the governments of the world. The military learned a lot of very useful things about how to resurrect a country and what they need to get that done. We learned that we must be even more decisive with force and that that can be used to create rather than destroy, or rather to destroy one thing to create another. Finally, we learned that there are countries that think they should oppose us, when they really need to join us. The Phillipines have some idea of what they have done, but they haven't yet paid the price they inevitably will. re: Mindanao. France is letting the Sudan off because they own the largest oil rights. So much for their "moral" compass.

"a decent foreign policy (including support for a fair & even-handed solution for the israel/palestine conflict) would do far more to protect the US -- especially from terrorism -- than any amount of military spending."

You said it! However the mechanism of that foreign policy will be the military. We have to be involved deeply in this process. What's the foreign policy we seek to address the growth of terrorism? How about we seek to really eliminate poverty and oppression in the world and do so while growing the worlds' economies? That is the our current foreign policy and it won't be changed, only the rules clarified. The military mechanism has to be both destructive, for those despots that don't liberalize and connect, and creative, to rebuild, educate and grow these countries. The UN precept of sovereignty still applies to those countries that are liberal. It no longer applies to despots that destroy their own people. It should not be too difficult to come to agreement on those countries who are not liberal. heh.

Since the military will now be doing foreign aid work, and project security, the governmnt can reorganize to make more efficient uses of funds. The Peace Corps will need military training and weapons for their security. The military will need training in medicine, political systems, negotiation, language, economics, ... There is a LOT of work to do.

"the main reason that the national debt & deficit are such huge problems is because of our continuing choice to support a bloated and largely unnecessary military establishment."

We are alone in the world in projecting security. We used the military in the 90's and we are using them now. They do incredibly important work. We know that Social Security is unsustainable and will be going away. Let's commit and make the cut (end it by year 2030) and start spending on what will create growth and opportunity in the world.

It sounds like the the Democratic party is starting to get this. I vehemently hope so. I guess it was a good ploy to have Dean push Kerry to the middle.

Posted by: Rob Withers at July 28, 2004 05:18 AM

michael: i think you underestimate the thoroughness of the republican efforts to discredit mcgovern and label him as extreme from the point it became obvious that there was a good chance he'd be the democrats' nominee.

rob: i disagree with pretty much everything you've said. continuing reliance on military solutions to foreign policy problems will only bring us more of what we've already gotten. and relying on the military as the primary engine of foreign policy will only continue the erosion of civilian control of foreign (and domestic) policy. i don't think we want to go down that road ...

Posted by: Magpie at July 28, 2004 07:10 AM

Magpie: Fair enough, but what do we do about terrorism? Do we let Iran build nukes? They have already stated what they will use them for and it certainly isn't for non-military foreign policy. The terrorists have directly stated their intentions. Shouldn't we honor our agreements with Israel? What do you propose?

Posted by: Rob Withers at July 28, 2004 07:41 AM

Fair enough, but what do we do about terrorism?

What we do about any other enterprise that kills on average about one thousand people per year...

Do we let Iran build nukes?

Yes, given that Iran is on its way to internal reform anyway, plus it won't be able to make much use of nukes.

Shouldn't we honor our agreements with Israel?

No, given that Israel is acting like a psychopathic killer lately.

We are alone in the world in projecting security.

Tell that to the 6 million Latin Americans the CIA has killed directly or indirectly... or to the 4 million Vietnamese the USA murdered, or to the 1 million Iraqis the West and Saddam jointly killed with the sanctions... Remember that a bloated military budget doesn't do an iota to prevent terrorism, and invasions only create more terrorists.

Posted by: Joe Taylor at July 29, 2004 08:43 PM

So what is the foreign policy you are proposing? Downgrade our military so we can no longer project power, leave Iran to internally reform a la Stalin and build nuclear warheads for their Shehad-4 missiles which can reach Europe, stop helping Israel and throw them to the wolves, and do penance for the chaotic situations in Latin America, where we may have helped dictators come to power for stabilities sake - our old foreign policy with which you disagree - who themselves were responsible for killing all of those people, not us. It sounds to me like you agree with our enemies and desire the same outcome.

Instead, you could acknowledge that we have done both good and bad, and that we are trying to do good this time. If we downgrade our expectations in Iraq from one of full democracy, to one off mere stability, many more millions of people in that region wiill die and the result will be a divided world. Your sourness with US foreign policy is the policy that Bush put to bed, and for that I applaude him. If people with your perspective have influence with Kerry, then I will have to hope that Bush wins the election, and learn to live with any judges he may install to the Supreme Court. If Kerry wins, and we withdraw from the region, then millions more will die in the Middle East, and you should know that it was YOUR policy which led to those deaths.

If your policy allows Iran to have Nukes, then it will be your personal responsibility for the consequences. We Americans will and should take responsibility for our personal opinions regarding the world. This is especially true of an isolationist, disengagement, laissez faire strategy that allows for dictatorships to control the UN. That is what allowed Hitler to rise to power, the lack of opposition to his publically proclaimed objectives. In a very real sense, you are providing aid and comfort to our enemy. You work to divide the resolve of our country to spread democracy, rather than offer mere stability. They are our enemy by their own declarations.

It should be possibly to come together on a foreign policy that promotes democracy, and oppose those countries that don't. We should be able to do that so that those of us who want us to lead in the world to reduce oppression can do so without the crazy religious right having undue influence. We had better get a multi-decade perspective on the world and it's changing forces (Globalization) and how that affects us. If we either fail to act or act in only a short-term maanner, then we are done for.

Let us not fold our good hand at this global game of poker. There are many that we can save by our actions. Just ask any Iraqi Shiite.

I suppose that is all I have to say here, since further discussion won't provide new ideas or commitment. It really pisses me off that the Democratic Party can't commit to fight this war. It means I personally will have to vote for Bush, because winning this war is of equal importance in history as winning WWII. Can't you see that?

I think he talks to you, Joe: http://www.iranvajahan.net/cgi-bin/news.pl?l=en&y=2004&m=07&d=31&a=5

Posted by: Rob Withers at July 31, 2004 10:38 AM

If Kerry wins, and we withdraw from the region, then millions more will die in the Middle East, and you should know that it was YOUR policy which led to those deaths.

Millions? You must be joking. The Iraq War and the cccupation have killed per annum many more times as many Iraqis as Saddam Hussien did. The Sanctions killed slightly more than the war and occupation - the result of a failed policy of containment.

If your policy allows Iran to have Nukes, then it will be your personal responsibility for the consequences.

Which consequences? Iran is not Al Qaida. Al Qaida might use these nukes. Iran won't, because there is Assured Destruction. Besides, it won't reform " la Stalin"; the USSR never had periodic anti-government protests; I have a hunch that in the last year Iran has seen more dissenting activity than in the entire Soviet Bloc in, say, the 1970s (picked because they were after the Prague Spring and before teh emergence of Solidarity).

The American military, despite what you think, doesn't do good - or, more precisely, since the Korean War, the good/bad balance has always been overwhelmingly in favor of bad. Between WW2 and the Iraq War noninclusive, the United States bombed third-world countries 22 times; of these 22 bombings, 20 clearly did not create a democracy, 1 (Serbia in 1998) was followed by democratization but it's not clear whether there was a causal link, and 1 (Afghanistan in 2001) has almost certainly not caused democratization. The USA fucked Vietnam so badly that it killed eight times as many civilians as Ho Chi Min did.

You might argue that it's possible to change that. My answer is, "Well, no." Liberals in the United States are almsot invariably Americans first and liberals second; hence, they remain bound to dangerous and false ideas such as patriotism and American greatness. I have yet to see one Democratic politician admit that the United States is not a great country and in fact its atrocities in the last half centuries have far outweighed its good deeds, and then proceed with a proposal to change that. The few people in this country who are sufficiently realistic and informed to know about the terrible foreign policy record of the USA are almost always radicals whose ideas won't improve anything.

That is what allowed Hitler to rise to power, the lack of opposition to his publically proclaimed objectives.

Two things. One, how many people and how much money do you think it would've taken to kill Hitler in, say, 1938? Not 400 billion in 2004 dollars. Two, insofar as Hitler was a threat to the region, his type of global threat is extinct; terrorism is, and whereas Hitler could be beat by a few hundred divisions from three major powers, Bin Laden can't be. Note, by the way, that I never suggested appeasement; despite what you may think, appeasement and non-military confrontation aren't the same thing.

It should be possibly to come together on a foreign policy that promotes democracy, and oppose those countries that don't.

I fail to see how bombing tens of millions promotes democracy. If the Untied States is so bent on having liberal democracies in the Middle East, it should spend money on schooling for girls, not on killing the said girls.

There are many that we can save by our actions.

There are many more that the USA destroys by its actions, and Kerry isn't going to change that. Just ask any Vietnamese. For that matter, ask any Cambodian what exactly led to the triumph of the Khmer Rouge.

It really pisses me off that the Democratic Party can't commit to fight this war.

Don't worry; the Democrats aren't any less bent on toppling Latin American socialist democracies and replacing them with fascist regimes, bombing random Middle Eastern countries, and doing nothing that will really help the world. Just look at Clinton's foreign policy record. McGovern is part of a very small minority.

It means I personally will have to vote for Bush, because winning this war is of equal importance in history as winning WWII.

Which war? The war on terrorism? Until the US government doesn't realize why terrorist exists in the first place, it won't win the said war - just look at Britain and Nothern Ireland, or at Israel and Palestine, to see how unsuccessful the blunt approach is. Besides, WW2 was total and regular; the WoT is limited and guerilla-based. The total vs. limited difference is very easy to spot: in WW2 50-60 million people were killed, vs. maybe 10,000 in the WoT, not counting the Iraq war, which had nothing to do with terrorism.

Posted by: Joe Taylor at July 31, 2004 11:30 AM

Millions? You must be joking

no. If we "cut and run" before the new Iraqi govt is established - the one after elections - then the Iraqi people will be subjugated once again. That will have a very negative effect in the broader region, basically handing a victory to the Islamists in the ongoing civil war. They really need the alternative of democracy to choose from. Read this: state of Iraq

The Iraq War and the cccupation have killed per annum many more times as many Iraqis as Saddam Hussien did

We certainly killed many terrorists and Baathists. Don't make them heroic. The insurgents are certainly killing many Iraqis, but that is their responsibility and the Iraqis know it.

I agree with you on sanctions. They never work and only allow those in charge to consolidate power. Plus it makes it damned expensive to rebuild.

Which consequences? Iran is not Al Qaida. Al Qaida might use these nukes. Iran won't, because there is Assured Destruction.

Hello!? Are you positive that they will use the same rational decisions as the USSR? Of course, there is always Hezbollah. Finally, do you really want them influencing the region with nukes? Are you aware of their actions in Central Asia? Caspian? They are an aggressive expansionary power, and they aren't spreading the memes of democracy and liberalization. Don't you dare try to claim that we aren't doing that in Iraq. You would be lying.

Besides, it won't reform " la Stalin"; the USSR never had periodic anti-government protests; I have a hunch that in the last year Iran has seen more dissenting activity than in the entire Soviet Bloc in, say, the 1970s (picked because they were after the Prague Spring and before teh emergence of Solidarity)

The USSR never had anti-government protests outside of Siberia. If we give them a pass, then surely they will surpress the protests decisively, unless the Canadians get pissed at them, of course.

The American military, despite what you think, doesn't do good

Bullshit, it isn't so black and white. First, it is the politician's policy not the soldiers. Secondly, the policy of containment drive much of those decisions. Finally we can see a policy of promoting democracy rather than stability. In fact, our goal in the Middle East is to destabilize the region. Yes it does create more terrorists, but it also addresses some of those root causes of terrorism.

dangerous and false ideas such as patriotism and American greatness

I also read your Article 14. Why don't you forego your citizenship and go live in another country? I think it is pretty shitty to take advantage of what this country stands for and offers if you work to subvert it. I think they call that sedition and it is still a capitol offence.

America finds itself the most powerful nation in history. It is also the most benign world power in history. We rebuilt all of Europe and helped free eastern Europe (with Gorbi's assistance). We will now do the same in the Middle East. Don't you think that that is worthwhile? Probably not.

The few people in this country who are sufficiently realistic and informed to know about the terrible foreign policy record of the USA are almost always radicals whose ideas won't improve anything

Sorry buddy, Marxism has been discredited. You have no claim on the truth. Leave the elitism in Europe and let the people of America decide what's best.

One, how many people and how much money do you think it would've taken to kill Hitler in, say, 1938? Not 400 billion in 2004 dollars

I was drawing a parallel to the potential threat to the system, not to the pre-emptive solution. Al'Queda and associates number in the tens of thousands and they are diffuse and partially decentralized. That is a very different situation for cutting off the head of the snake, as you point out.

Two, insofar as Hitler was a threat to the region, his type of global threat is extinct; terrorism is, and whereas Hitler could be beat by a few hundred divisions from three major powers, Bin Laden can't be

indeed, this will be as expensive as WWII. and yet still my point is clear. By not opposing the Islamists, that is the same as surrendering the Middle East to them. I don't thing that's such a good idea. Hell, Iran can already shutdown 20% of the global oil flow with just several of their anti-ship missiles (like the Chinese silkworm). That would be bad.

despite what you may think, appeasement and non-military confrontation aren't the same thing.

Oh? Do tell. Give me an example of effective non-military confrontation that doesn't involve sanctions. Note I added "effective".

I fail to see how bombing tens of millions promotes democracy. If the Untied States is so bent on having liberal democracies in the Middle East, it should spend money on schooling for girls, not on killing the said girls.

Huh?? Why don't you donate? Spirit of America. I read something about 2000 schools refurbished... It is why we are there. And what's this nonsense about bombing tens of millions? The truth can only bend so far with such propoganda.

Whatever, Joe. You are still living in the 70's when Marxism and anti-Americanism was fashionable and helped you get laid. The reality of Vietnam was France left us holding the bag there, we were supporting an installed dictatorship against an elected Ho Chi Min, atrocities were commited by us there, we kicked the NVA and Viet Cong during the Tet offensive and could have taken Hanoi, and finally, the anti-war protestors caused us to leave before finishing and many people dies at the hands of the Communists.

As far as Israel/Palestine, once again you shouldn't glorify the heroism of Palestine and you shouldn't compare Arafat to Che, although it may be an astute comparison. For good reading on reality in Palestine, read this

Iraq has everything to do with the root causes of terrorism, mainly the civil war in the Middle East that we have now stuck our noses into. We can and are making a positive difference and if the American public can maintain our commitment to it, we will prevail in bring democracy to the region. We are finally doing this for the right reasons, so quit your bitching or you will cause us to fail. In a real sense, it is your choice to make. I know what the Iraqis want you to do. They want you to put Bush in office again, because they intuit that Kerry will leave them hanging...literally.

Posted by: Rob Withers at August 1, 2004 01:13 AM