An old guy in the barbershop summed up this election best. Choosing between Bush and Kerry, he said, "is like being asked which of the Menendez brothers you like better." As Paul Craig Roberts wrote, it is "the worst election ever."
If we look at both candidates from the standpoint of national security, what do we see? Both talk about the subject endlessly, but neither has anything to say. On Iraq, Kerry, like Bush, refuses to recognize the war is lost. Kerry refuses even to say what Ike said in 1952: "I will bring the boys home." Like Bush, he pretends that the key to victory is training more Iraqi forces, as if training, not loyalty, were the problem.
The landscape is equally bleak if we look beyond the Iraqi debacle — America’s Syracuse Expedition. If a voter were trying to determine which candidate would do better at defending the country against Fourth Generation enemies, the checklist might look something like this:
- To be able to confront Fourth Generation opponents, our own armed forces must first move from the Second Generation (French-style attrition warfare) to the Third (German-style maneuver warfare, which includes a decentralized, initiative-oriented military culture). Bush has done nothing to make this happen, instead pushing us further up the blind canyon of the "Revolution in Military Affairs," where future enemies are all Second Generation state armed forces whom we defeat through superior (meaning more complex) technology. Kerry has said nothing to suggest he knows the Second Generation from Second Grade.
- Adopting a defensive rather than an offensive grand strategy. So long as we are on the grand strategic offensive, threatening to impose our ways on every one else through military force, we will be defeated regardless of how many battles we win. Like Germany in both World Wars, we will generate new enemies faster than we can defeat old ones. Bush promises in every other sentence that "America will stay on the offensive," while Kerry’s foreign policy utterances sound as Wilsonian as any neo-con. Can we be sure Kerry isn’t in fact a neo-con? No.
- Developing a "counter-terrorism" capability that, instead of pretending the whole thing is a law-enforcement problem, mimics the way Fourth Generation entities fight and turns it on them. Our armed services can’t do this because it requires a non-hierarchical organization free of the First Generation culture of order. Bush and Kerry both seem as clueless on this as Bart Simpson.
- Developing contingency plans for what we do when a Fourth Generation force such as al Qaeda nukes an American city, which is going to happen. Both Presidential candidates suggest their response will be a headless chicken act; in Bush’s case, the chicken never had a head.
- Finally, if we are to be able to fight Fourth Generation war we need to figure out what it is. The Pentagon is willfully ignorant, because Fourth Generation war doesn’t justify hi-tech "systems" and vast budgets. Which candidate will undertake the serious military reform we need to re-focus our military on war instead of on money? Bush obviously won’t, because he hasn’t. Kerry hasn’t said a word about it.
So what is a voter who cares about national security to do? Bush has already failed (spectacularly). Kerry seems to be an empty vessel. Hope would suggest a vote for Kerry. Unfortunately, hope is a fool.
What voters need to do is realize we are facing systemic failure. Our vaunted two-party system offers us two choices, neither of whom is fit to be dog-catcher of Podunk, much less President of the United States. It was the same in 2000, in 1996 and in 1992. Reagan looked good, as an actor should, but the last President we had who actually understood things like grand strategy was Richard Nixon. Oh for a happy monarchy, where Nixon would have been foreign minister for 50 years.
As for this monarchist, the political landscape seems so barren to me that it doesn’t matter much who we vote for. What we will get is more of the same. It is not just time for a new king; it is time for a new dynasty.