Distinctions without differences
Andrew Sullivan aptly notes that there isn't a whole lot of difference between the Bush and Kerry plans for Iraq, mainly because there aren't a lot of options. I was happy to see Sullivan remind everyone that Kerry's "nuisance" comment isn't a whole lot different from something Bush said over the summer:
Throughout this week, the president has pounced on Kerry's assertion in a New York Times Magazine interview that he wants to return to the days when terrorism was a mere "nuisance." Here's how Bush described the difference in approach on the campaign trail: "I couldn't disagree more. Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance. Our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying terrorists, and spreading freedom and liberty around the world." But, of course, that is what Kerry says as well in his more stirring moments. Bush, for his part, earlier this year blurted out that the war on terror could not be won like a conventional war, with an armistice signed on an aircraft carrier. And no president can guarantee the complete abolition of terror as a tactic. So the slow reduction of Jihadist terrorism to a minimal and far less threatening level is, in fact, the aim of both candidates. Bush stresses democratization more powerfully; Kerry is more concerned with nurturing alliances. Both are right. But the different emphases do not, in practice, lead to radically different options. Kerry is not going to try and destroy nascent democracy in Iraq; and Bush is not keen on alienating allies if he doesn't have to.