Friday, October 29, 2004
OBL just gave Democrats a psychological escape valve.
The early consensus conclusion is that Osama Bin Laden’s new video tape will seal President Bush’s victory next Tuesday. In it OBL spends much of his time bashing Bush, and no one believes that the American public will be intimidated (such as the Spanish were) into caving into OBL’s threats.
It has been suggested that John Kerry might gain mileage from the fact that Bin Laden is still alive. Another theory is that the attack on Bush is reverse psychology by OBL, and that he secretly wants Bush to win so as to further polarize Muslims and boost Al Queda recruitment.
When voters weigh the failure to kill OBL at Tora Bora against the prima facia display of vitriol he aims at President Bush, the scales tip heavily on the side of deciding to re-elect the man who our worst enemy obviously hates. And if this is just an elaborate ruse by OBL to deliver the election to Bush, then he will have indeed succeeded in re-electing the man responsible for killing or capturing many of his closest associates and driving Al Queda and the Taliban out of control of Afghanistan.
It’s analogous to the idea that America really loses every time we kill a terrorist, because the terrorist just becomes a martyr. And the response of most Americans is “Great. We’ll happily keep turning live terrorists into dead martyrs who can go to Heaven and enjoy their 72 virgins. Sounds like a win-win solution. It works for us.”
So let’s stipulate that Bush is now more likely to be President for another term. What will the impact be on Democrats?
The answer is that they have a perfect scapegoat for their loss. It won’t be Kerry’s fault, it won’t be the fault of their policies, it won’t be their position on Iraq, it won’t be the economy, it won’t be an inept campaign organization, and it won’t even be that the voters don’t share their values or their hatred of Bush.
The election loss will be blamed on Osama Bin Laden’s last-minute meddling in U.S. politics. Democrats will rationalize that they were headed for a narrow victory until this ultimate “October Surprise” came along.
And in some ways this will be very good for Democrats. Bush Derangement Syndrome was hitting such astronomical levels that many Democrats would have simply been unable to cope with a straightforward Bush victory. The psychological pressures would have torn them apart. Some would have been driven to violence (which we’ve already had a taste of with break-ins and assaults at various Bush headquarters around the country). Others would have concluded that democracy was dead in this country, and that tens of millions of voters were criminally responsible for ushering in the new dark age of fascism and imperialism.
Instead they can treat the election as an aberration, a momentary emotional spasm of protest against Osama Bin Laden. Their attention will shift from the supposed stolen election of 2000 to the brilliant way that OBL manipulated the American people into defeating the one man he feared the most: John Kerry.
The bad news for the Democrats is that they will fail to learn from their failures, and hence will remain stuck in the same rut caused by their positions on the issues, their incompetent candidates, and their unsuccessful strategies and tactics. Of course they won’t ever realize or admit that.
But the party of victimology will be able to anoint the ultimate political victim: John Kerry, the Democratic hero-candidate who was on the verge of victory before the terrorists managed to destroy him.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Is “Shock and Awe” a diversion?
The hot rumor that’s flying around the Internet today is that the Bush campaign is about to launch its “Shock and Awe” attack on John Kerry’s liberal Senate record, and that this is their “October Surprise”.
It sounds very plausible that Bush would hold his fire until the final month of the campaign, so the charges would be fresh in voters’ minds. Certainly there is plenty of material to attack Kerry on, and I have no doubt that a major offensive along those lines will take place.
But isn’t it rather curious that a “veteran GOP campaign operative” would leak the strategy ahead of time? Isn’t it strange that a highly-partisan web site like CrushKerry.com would publicize it? Why give the Kerry folks a heads-up?
Well, there are several possible explanations. Leaks do happen, and some people like to show off their inside knowledge to puff up their importance. Maybe the Kerry campaign won’t pay serious attention to rumors generated by right-wing blogs. And maybe it doesn’t matter if the Kerry campaign knows, because there’s very little they can do to effectively counter it.
But maybe it’s a fake-out.
Remember the first “Shock and Awe”? There were numerous news reports that the Iraqi invasion would begin with the most intense air blitzkrieg in history, to stun and overwhelm the enemy prior to the mop-up ground operations.
That’s not quite how it played out. To be sure, there was a tremendous number of high-precision bomb and missile strikes to take out specific military targets. But the real attack came from the heavily armored ground forces quickly thrusting through to the main objective of Bagdhad, without waiting weeks for the softening-up air bombardment. General Franks achieved an amazing degree of tactical surprise, at least partly due to the highly-anticipated Shock and Awe which never fully materialized.
If an all-out attack on Kerry’s liberal Senate record is an analogous strategic ploy, then what is being hidden? What could be more politically effective? Where will the main attack really take place?
It seems counter-intuitive, but I think it makes sense. The main theme of the Kerry campaign in recent weeks has been that Iraq is a failure, as proven by the facts on the ground (most especially Fallujah) and by what Americans can see with their own eyes on their TVs and in their newspapers every day.
There have been recent successes in Iraq. The battle for Samarra appears to be a big victory. General Abizaid is expected to try to replicate it in Ramadi and nearby areas so as to isolate Fallujah before mounting the final decisive battle for that city. According to ABC news, Secretary of State Colin Powell
offered a road map to the coming offensive. He said the military likely will tackle the Sunni Triangle cities of Ramadi and Samarra before attempting to restore order in nearby Fallujah, which he called "the tough one."
I, and I suspect many other people, have sort of assumed that Bush is just waiting until after November 2nd to unleash American forces on Fallujah and finally clean it out. Obviously he wouldn’t want a huge jump in American casualties right before the election, but he’s got to act before the Iraqi elections which are scheduled for January. It seems like a logical timetable, given the political realities. The insurgents and terrorists holed up in Fallujah know that a battle is coming, but they have another month before it arrives. In the meantime they can step up their own attacks and hope to undermine Bush’s re-election prospects.
What does all this add up to? The situation has all the ingredients for complete tactical surprise.
What if the forces supposedly being assembled for Ramadi instead hit Fallujah sometime in October? This would be an all-out assault, in massive numbers not seen since the end of major combat last year. The goal would be to kill or capture thousands of insurgents in a matter of hours or days and completely retake the city. In one blow, the center of resistance would be eliminated. Everything else in Iraq would be mop-up.
Politically, it would be a grand-slam home run for President Bush. All the Kerry talk about failure in Iraq and “quagmire” and Vietnam-analogies would be wiped out. Nor would it hurt Bush if even a few score American soldiers were killed in the process. The American public will accept casualties as long as they are in a winning cause. The unexpected, bold stroke would once again re-emphasize Bush’s status as a wartime President who is taking the fight to the enemy.
Kerry and the Democrats will be reduced to whinging that the “timing is suspicious” and that the attack occurred for political purposes. That won’t go over very well. The public does not expect the President to suspend war operations until an election is over or to avoid political risks. If Kerry criticizes Bush for a huge victory in Fallujah (or for on-going battles, if the fight isn’t yet over), it will telegraph the fact that Kerry can’t be trusted to be aggressive and pro-active in the Global War On Terror.
Of course I’m assuming that U.S. military forces will be successful. I think that’s a fairly safe assumption, given the track record.
So once again “Shock and Awe” may turn out to be a diversion, this time intended to surprise the insurgents in Fallujah and to whiplash the Kerry campaign.
Maybe John Edwards can sue for whiplash after his ticket crashes and burns.