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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
No WMD? No Matter
Now that it seems clear that there will be no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, you might wonder if my sense of betrayal is setting in. A year ago I was firmly against any war in Iraq, mostly on the "distraction" grounds that Bob Graham points to. I thought it was the wrong time, seemingly with no provocation, and simply the fulfillment of the Bush family vendetta. However, as the administration began to strongly hint at the inevitability of a war to change the Iraqi regime, the benefits of such a confrontation became more apparent. Then, once Colin Powell went to the U.N. and laid out the grand case for military confrontation, I jumped on board and have been a strong believer in the justification for war.
My reasons weren't completely the same as the administration's, but I felt it was the right thing to do. Saddam was evil. His regime was not consistant with a progressive Middle East, or world. He had tortured and killed thousands of his people and put them in the position of suffering by using the international sanctions against his people as yet another tool of manipulation over their lives. This alone might not be enough, but the fact that he did not yet have deterable weapons made the liberation of an oppressed people a priority.
But wasn't Saddam close to aquiring those deterable weapons? That's what Bush and Blair told us. They led us to believe it was a mere six months or so until Saddam would finally have the fissoning material that would make him invincible. We were supposed to trip over them left and right once we waltzed into Iraq. But where are they? Where are the weapons?
Now that the war is over and the country has been picked apart by our military, not to mention the looters, it now seems that we won't find any weapons. So does this make the entire war unjustified? In my eyes, not at all. I almost see it as a welcome surprise. If Bush knew all along that no weapons were there, then certainly I will be concerned. However, the simple lack of weapons alone shouldn't negate the benefits of the campaign. Remember, a people is now free. Did you hear about the Iraqi man who had lived inside a wall of a building in Baghdad for something like 15 years so that he wouldn't be tortured and killed on the spot for his crime of speaking out against Saddam? That justifies it on its own. The veracity of our leaders is another thing all together.
Sure, ask for the facts, but we did the right thing. We liberated a country while we could. If it turns out that intelligence truly indicated an imminent threat from Iraq, and that this was what our leaders were acting on, then no harm done - just a fortunate mistake. Better safe than sorry. I don't buy the administration line that America itself was threatened by Saddam, for the connection to terrorists just wasn't there. Saddam was a regional threat, and in our role as world superpower, a threat anywhere in the world was our responsibility.
If our leaders acted in good faith, then no harm done, and in the process we have made the Iraqi people free. If weapons eventually show up, then all the better. But on its own the lack of weapons isn't a deal breaker. It shouldn't have been the number one justification in the first place. Making people free if we have the opportunity should always be an American priority. With power must come responsibility for the ills of the globe. We owe it to the world.
Yesterday I was reviewing some of the event invitations for our candidate with a senior staff member and after a few from groups that represent particularly thorny issues, he paused and began ranting about the direction of the Democratic party. It went something like this:
"Look, we get all sorts of invites from abortion groups and gun groups and various other hot issue groups, and really all they are looking for is a chance to attack the candidate on the one particular issue and ask why he isn't as perfect as they would like. They want a candidate who will do everything they want, but all their event does is hurts the candidate. It just provides them an opportunity to hurt him. Rarely will an event like this help us out much.
"If they thought about it they would realize that this doesn't help them in the long run. I mean, do they really think Bush is going to be a better alternative? Do they think that they will get a better position on these issues from a Republican? They need to realize that in the end the Democratic party is their best shot and they need to stop looking for every opportunity to bring down the candidates."
And he was right of course. This whole primary season is built for the left wing of the Democratic party. That's a huge part of the reason why Dean is doing so well. He's the most liberal of the major candidates, but in the end, he'll get slaughtered by Bush in the general election. I know "electibility" is a dirty word to some Democrats, but regardless, it's true. Do we really want to beat Bush or do we just want to repeat 1984 and 1988 (set the map to those years to see the disaster)?
Frankly, I think the state of Texas is missing its idiot and we would be wise to return him to them. Caving to the activist left of the Democratic party will only result in four more years of Republican control of the White House. The faster Democrats realize this, the better our chances are.
I recently started working at the campaign headquarters for a major Democratic presidential candidate. (Those of you who personally know me know which one it is, but so as to not let any important details of the campaign fall into the wrong hands, I'll keep the candidate's identity under wraps.) I've only worked there a few days now, but it really impresses me how a whole national presidential campaign is run by just a few bright go-getters. Just think about it: 250 million people will be represented by one man, and the entire effort to get that person elected is on the shoulders of just a handful of people. Instead of just watching the news of the latest horrible tax cut and releasing a quiet, under-my-breath grumble about the inequality of it all, I can actually help my candidate speak out in an effective way that will make the American people realize how stupid the tax cut really is. I can help my candidate create change. That opportunity doesn't happen every day.
Seeing the operations of a campaign up close really is a sight to see. It makes me realize how fragile democracy really is. We put the collective will of an entire nation of people in the hands of one man. And it could be the very man that I literally bumped into this morning. Could be. That man could, in about a year and half, be the most powerful person in the whole world. Wow.
From the outside a presidential campaign seems like a mammoth operation that involves tons of people. Literally it does, but being a part of the process makes me realize how much can change by how hard each person works at making the candidate's campaign a success. I work in scheduling and advance and so I field the requests for the candidate to speak or attend everything from grandma's backyard BBQ to a NAACP forum debate. I help separate the junk from the gold. And, not to inflate my importance at all, but even the impression of relevance that I get about a particular event proposal could, in some distant way, make or break the campaign, and with it, change the course of American history. But that's just self-inflating nonsense, right?
Surely I don't have that influence, for I am merely an intern helping to develop the minute by minute schedule for the candidate, but being a part of the campaign makes me realize how far taking an active role in national events can influence the future of America, and the world. It sure feels good.