Monday, September 15, 2008

election choices

So, in a democratic system, one is supposed to be able to choose between different options, one's "vote" supports one option or the other, and the option supported by the majority is then chosen to lead the country.

Now, although there is some concern that the supposed opposing parties are not in fact as representative of distinct alternative views as one would like, in the present circumstances, our considerations must pass beyond the parties to the candidates themselves.

Even if we manage to set aside our prejudices, and refrain from being single issue voters, there nevertheless seem to be two issues which dominate the current worries of the American populace. It would be of interest, then, perhaps, to canvas where the two candidates fall with respect to these two specific issues.

The issues at stake are (unsurprisingly) 1) foreign policy (special case: war in Iraq) and 2) the economy (foremost, really, of all "domestic" issues).

So, how do our options fare with respect to foreign policy? Well, at first, this seemed to be the great distinguishing feature between the two: Obama with an excellent record on opposing the Iraq war, McCain with a long standing record of warmongering. But, remember, the Iraq war is a special case. Really, ending the Iraq war should be a secondary goal to that of preventing future (similar) wars. Similar in what respect? Several points come to mind: 1) unnecessary from the standpoint of homeland security, 2) unethical instances of bullying societies with very different value systems from our own, 3) expensive (both in financial and humanitarian terms), 4) (perhaps most importantly) destructive to our national interests.

For example, how does the Iraq war rate w/r/t these four criteria? 1) debatable, but unlikely. Best evidence is a) no weapons of mass destruction and b) whatever training / financial support of terrorists originated in Iraq, it was minimal in its effect on the US (perhaps greater on countries of the Middle East, though); 2) again, pros and cons. The leadership of Hussein was immoral by any standards - on the other hand, the US is not the appropriate authority to instill the morality preferred by those members of the populace who did oppose Hussein; 3) expensive - unquestionable; 4) destructive to national interests: now this is the kind of subtle issue of international policy one would want a level-headed and well-informed policy maker (rather than a soundbyte-producing talking head) to analyze. On the pro side: conflict in Iraq has drawn the resources of many radical islamic groups into exactly the kind of ground war we actually have the chance of winning (and far away from American soil to boot!) On the anti side: US intervention in Iraq (along with most of the rest of post-9/11 policy) has, if anything, stirred up and encouraged anti-US sentiment in the Middle East: Al Quaeda's biggest recruiter? Us, baby. (Or: US?) Let's face up to facts, start using unbiased level-headed statistical analysis rather than error-prone dogma, and adjust our behavior in a manner that will actually help and protect us rather than simply create more terrorists!

OK, but the Iraq war was a special case. It really doesn't matter what the candidates think about the Iraq war, what matters is their foreign policy knowledge and policy in general. Ending the Iraq war should be a goal secondary to preventing future pointless (nay, damaging) conflicts of the same variety!

Well, luckily enough we witnessed a testing ground recently, the conflict in Georgia. The response of our candidates to the Georgian conflict should be an interesting testing ground for determining their foreign policy acumen. Whoops! Both demonstrated the exact same level of war-mongering idiocy. What do mean? Well, McCain advocated a hard-line anti-Russian stance, and displayed a knowledge of Georgian history disturbingly close in wording to the wikipedia article on same.

OK, but surely Obama came out strong as the voice of peace and reason? Ooops, nope, he advocated NATO membership for Georgia, perhaps failing to note that if Georgia were a member of NATO we would now be engaged in a land war with Russia!

So, both candidates equally inept and warmongering when it comes to the future dangers on the international arena, so let's turn our consideration to (2), the economy.

Unfortunately, with today's sharp downturn in response to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, both candidates showed their true economic stripes. Despite being clothed in the rhetoric of "fundamentals" on the side of McCain and "change" on the side of Obama, the concrete suggestion from both parties was clear: more regulation.

Well, but wait a minute? Warmongering and economic regulation no matter whom we pick? Is this a real choice? If this is democracy, then democracy can go fuck itself.

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