Comparing strategic agendas
By Walid Phares, PhD
29/10/04: The last thing an expert in Terrorism or a Professor of International Relations would do is to take sides in domestic partisan battles. This includes endorsing a candidate in the classroom, pressure students to do so or else, or use air time granted for expertise to push forward one politician or another. The last thing an academic or an intellectual should do is to box himself or herself behind a party line and dedicate their entire lives to boxing other minds, particularly the youngest ones.
Unfortunately, in my last 10 years of teaching on campuses and in my past years of media appearances, I learned that the great American academic culture is full of holes, and its intellectual establishment is not so independently thinking. But that is another book to come. At the end of the day, however, experts and academics must perform their voting duties. And so they will. For my part, I will vote based on the best assessment of the past years, a projection of consequences, and a sense of History.
My vote is my own privilege and will remain so till I cast it. But I feel I should share a comparative analysis with my readers, so that they would have a wider scope of ideas. Who they will vote for is their own privilege. My concern is for them to have access to issues in the debate, which are strategic and crucial, for matters beyond elections. Hence, and outside the electoral campaigns, one should intellectually vote against Jihad, regardless of party and any other affiliation, and beyond November 2. In other words, one mustn‚€™t hurt the greater truth nor distort historical facts, so that a partisan political agenda would prevail. Whoever gains the White House will gain it next week. This essay aims at defending the veracity of facts in the middle of an electoral hurricane
Ideally people should not vote with family or clan parameters. I personally have no tribe in America and am registered as an Independent. My ballot won't be pre-determined by my profession or my zip code. I am an immigrant, but I am a citizen with equal rights to others.
So what would determine my vote or any other vote on November 2, 2004? It is a question of personal choice first, which is America's best offering to its citizenry, particularly those who experienced otherwise, at some point in their earlier lives. To name a few: Henry Kissiger, Zbignew Brezinski, Madeline Albright and Arnold Schwarzrnegger. Our vote has a main choice ahead of it. To vote narrowly or to vote globally.
A narrow view of your decision to chose a candidate, especially for the office of President, would be to look inward, as a real isolationist. To focus on your pay check only, and cast exclusively for the voice that promises to protect your personal status quo, or enhance it. It is called voting "eyes wide shut." You become self centered to an extreme, so that you'd lose the ability to enhance your chances for a better future, or save your resources from outside challenges.
Florida, my home state, provides the greatest example. A narrow vote would be the equivalent of growing your own backyard with a myriad of small plants, squeezing your wooden home with endless decorations and then shutting your eyes and ears to any news related to the brewing Hurricane over the Atlantic.
The result of your great endeavor would likely be a disaster in a Floridian environment. Your little world would be sucked in and destroyed by the largest world. I would feel more comfortable in that little world, as I have experienced until 2001. But after September 11, we live in a much greater space. Our vote has to factor events and statements from Manhattan to Tora Bora. I wish we can go back to Platoo's Cave. We simply can't. Today, the best way to protect our social benefits is to ensure that the security and the survival of the United States would be ensured. For Social Security now is defended by National Security today. Al Qaida and the Wahabi want to destroy our way of life and the outcome of years of struggle by previous generations. That is why one should vote globally.
Because of my past experience in my mother country, Lebanon, I can enlighten my vote and my audiences to higher logics. Back in the 1970s, politicians in the once stable and prosperous Lebanon often railed against those who warned about the Jihad threat. Many thought that maintaining the "good life" was to shy away from gloomy scenarios. They were wrong. History was a harsh lesson for my native small country and those who suffered the most were the poorest. Greater powers do not escape this parameter. Remember Constantinople, the capital of Eastern Christianity?¬ ¬ Its intellectuals were still debating the sex of the angels, even when the Jihadist armies were surrounding its walls. France too, knows all too well, what is ahead of its "bonne vie." America can still make this choice, while it can.
Voting globally means that you factor all of the above and reach a mature, rational and enlightened conclusion before you select your choice. To strike a balance between enhancing your personal socio-economics and freedoms, while you project your circles of analysis as far as you can. That may mean that your long-term health plan, pay check, education, freedoms are somewhat related to what a Salafi operative today is teaching to the next generation of Saudis. For your highest symbols of prosperity and security may be destroyed by men who aren't voters in your country.
Your vote, my vote, not only would defend my way of life, but can and will affect our collective futures. Furthermore, our ballots will affect the lives of millions around the world: Women, children, elderly, minorities and endangered ethnicities. If we do not understand our international environment as it is, not as we wish it to be, our vote may be ineffective and even counter-productive. For an entire decade, I have witnessed the political process and devised my selection based on this global view.
In 1992, I wasn't yet a U.S. citizen, and my choice was not for George H. Bush. I wasn't a party member, nor did I have an emotional connection from a historical perspective to any of the candidates. I preferred Bill Clinton because of what I perceived then as the negative effects of the Bush Senior (may I correct, James Baker‚€™s) foreign policies on many countries around the world - - consequences which would have an effect on the U.S. as well.
Key Bush senior officials had, for example, abandoned Lebanon and Syria, ceased the confrontation with Hezbollah, neglected the Southern Sudanese, opened the doors to the Wahabi of Saudi Arabia, abandoned the Kurds, the¬ Shiites and ChaldoAssyrians of Iraq, and were close to the Arab lobby groups in Washington.
Clinton, on the other hand, had an advanced social agenda, was a better debater and made high promises for more freedom and democracy around the world. Between a Bush Senior foreign policy team that had records of abandoning the weak and an untested Clinton Team brightening the future, the man of Arkansas won my support then.
The next four years did not produce good results. After the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the Clinton Administration ran away from confronting Jihadism. He did not denounce the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, or Slavery in Sudan, nor did he stop Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
In the 1996 Presidential election, the choice was close to none. The Clinton Administration was fleeing away from the terrorists, flexing muscle on all other evils except the most threatening worldwide. His foreign policy advisors chose to remove Colonel Cedras in Haiti, but not Saddam in Iraq. They authorized intervention in Bosnia, but didn't stop the Genocide in Southern Sudan. Clinton's opponent, Senator Bob Dole, didn't make the case for a dramatic change in world politics. His foreign policy advisors didn't distance themselves from the ones preceding the Clinton Era. The choice was between a failing foreign policy and a previous failing foreign policy. In fact, there was no real choice.
The second Clinton mandate was an all-out surrender to al Qaida, Hezbollah, the Wahabi Lobby and the Baa'thist regimes. The Taliban were up and running in Afghanistan, our U.S. embassies were hit, an al Qaida declaration of war was ignored, Hezbollah invaded southern Lebanon, Saddam was on the come-back, Iran was going nuclear, and the Jihadi lobbies were received at the White House.
Worse, the blacks in Sudan and Mauritania were sold into slavery, the students in Iran and Lebanon were brutalized, human rights activists were jailed all over the region, women were stoned in Kabul and the Salafi were massacring seculars and rock singers in Algeria.
The 2000 elections were mirroring the previous ones. It was clear that a Gore Administration would have extended the same tragic policies in the Middle East, ballistically. But the George W. Bush campaign didn't offer a significant alternative agenda at the time. Many chose "W," however, because a Gore Era would have been cataclysmic, in their eyes.
Then came September 11.2001 and the world changed, radically. We didn‚€™t change it, the Jihadists did. I didn‚€™t mutate, but around me the American people was transformed in 45 minutes. The President could have acted differently. His new advisors could have suggested another outlook; they didn't. This still escapes me. Historians will tell us why.
The decisions of the President and his speeches came the closest possible to my logic and my historical experience, let alone to my research. Not totally overlapping, but in comparison with his critics, his public agenda shined. George W. Bush finally answered Osama Bin Laden. The man of the White House was filling the gap of a whole decade of presidential void in resistance to Terrorism, including the last year of his own father's administration.
From the day of President Bush's speech to Congress, to the date of this column, the President's words and actions were in line with the logical direction of History. He simply mobilized America, informed the world and sent an unmistakable message to the terrorists that they are the enemy of a war they declared: Things very basic that should have been performed a decade ago.
Had the two candidates running today for the Presidency been equal in their strategic agenda, Senator John Kerry would have been in the sense of History, and possibly winning the War on Terror. The gap between the two strategic approaches to world affairs and America's survival is too wide, too deep. President Bush's car is smoking, limping, with a low vision, and rolling slowly, under shelling, on a bumpy road, but it is heading in the right direction. Senator Kerry's car, is neat, shiny, convertible, and fast, but rushing in the wrong direction.. Here's why..
Next Chapter: Voting Against Jihad (II)
Staying the Course of History