The Occupy Tea Party Platform, Part IV: Foreign Policy

Defense spending makes up about 20%, a full fifth, of the U.S. federal budget; Social Security and various health-related programs like Medicare each make up another fifth apiece, so those three things by themselves make up 60% of government expenditures, and since things like Social Security and Medicare are trust funds separate from the rest of the budget, defense spending represents upwards of a third of the average American’s tax dollar, maybe close to half. The United States spends close to 5% of its GDP on its military, and represents over 40% of all the world’s military spending, meaning it spends nearly as much on its military as all the other countries of the world combined. Yet for supposedly fiscally minded conservatives, defense spending represents the untouchable third rail of American politics.

In the years since 9/11, there’s been an increased emphasis on the armed forces as American heroes and on “supporting the troops” as “defenders of America’s freedom”. The theory goes that we need to keep our military as strong as possible to keep up the fight against terror and defend America’s freedoms and status in the world. But when America spends nearly as much on our military as all the other nations of the world combined, doesn’t this reasoning start to ring a little hollow?

“Defending America’s freedom” may have been an important goal during the Cold War when it was important to keep pace with the Soviets, but the Cold War’s been over for over twenty years now. In recent decades, America’s military might has tended to undermine America’s security more than safeguard it. America has been accused of inadvertently building the Taliban and Osama bin Laden during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, and 9/11 was in part a reaction to America’s support of Israel and military presence in the Gulf even then. America-backed coups during the Cold War have also contributed to anti-American sentiment in those countries in the present day, most famously in Iran; for much of the 20th century, some on the left have accused America’s military of advancing the interests of big corporations first and foremost.

Before the two World Wars, America had a long tradition of isolationism that dated back to George Washington, with conflict with other countries mostly involving the Americas themselves, and with the exception of the Napoleonic Wars (which took the form of the War of 1812 in America) stayed out of Europe’s conflicts. After World War II America, along with the Soviet Union, found itself the leading world power by default with Europe in ruins, and needed a strong, active military presence to support its allies and fend off Soviet influence. The Cold War lasted so long that by the time it ended, one needed to be on the verge of retirement to remember a time when America didn’t have some sort of enemy to fight, and some wondered what would fill the void left by the collapse of the Soviet Union. For some people who only remembered the Cold War-era state of global geopolitics, the War on Terror was a godsend.

The real answer, though, was that nothing was going to fill the void, or at least nothing needed to. With America being the only nation with enough power to really make a huge dent in global geopolitics, and no real interest in doing so (at least directly), the pacifist streak dominant in intellectual circles since World War I could truly start to come to the fore and it became possible for the vast majority of the world’s nations to live in peace and harmony, competing only economically if at all. Today’s global priorities involve improving the well-being of people all over the globe and bringing them into this new global order, and we’ll explore some of them later in this series. To maintain this peace, the nations committed to it need to have enough of a “big stick” to effectively settle disputes, especially those threatening the global peace itself. Right now most of the military force enforcing this peace comes from the United States, precisely because a significant element within it doesn’t believe in the peace. This both allows the American Right to claim that it is only because of American military protection that Europe enjoys the life it lives, and the US itself to exploit “peacekeeping” missions for its own aims. The rest of the world needs to be willing to share more of the military burden to enforce the peace, and the US needs to let them.

Smart Tea Partiers recognize the absurdity of the United States’ military outlay in comparison to the actual need for national defense. But the movement’s intellectual godfather, Ron Paul, seems to be looking in the opposite direction as the rest of the world, supporting a neo-isolationism and withdrawing the United States from international organizations. Conservatives have long hated such organizations as threats to American sovereignty, but it seems disingenuous for them to support such neo-isolationism on the one hand and free trade with the nations such a pullout would antagonize on the other. For the United States to stop meddling with other nations’ affairs is welcome, but I’m not convinced pulling away from the rest of the world entirely and hiding in a corner is even an option anymore. The mere fact that organizations like the UN could be a threat to American sovereignty shows the fruitlessness of the exercise; some sovereignty has to be surrendered just to get along with the rest of the world. It’s true that the UN has been a massive disappointment at meeting it’s goals, but to pull out could destabilize the world order, depending on the reason for doing so. The United States bears a lot of the responsibility for the UN’s failures in the first place.

The United States’ decision not to participate in the International Criminal Court was seen in some corners as an excuse for the US to pull off war crimes if it wanted to. Things like that would be far less of an issue if the United States were to stop meddling in other nations’ affairs. Rather, the conservative desire to pull out of the UN seems to be rooted more in a fear that it represents a potential world government. That’s a legitimate, if long-term, concern and one the nations of the world may need to be on guard against, but several issues simply need to be managed on a global scale, even though there exists nothing that can enforce anything on a global scale effectively. The United States has as much of a stake in these issues as anyone else and I can’t imagine that staying out of global efforts to resolve them will actually be beneficial to the United States, especially in the long term.

For example, if the United States were serious about adopting a non-intervention policy its response to accusations that Iraq and Iran were developing nuclear weapons would be to allow international weapons inspectors to determine that. If they did, and intended to use them against the United States, the US could then defend itself against those countries, and ideally the international community would support the US in this. Even if the US had a strong enough military to crush Iraq or Iran and destroy their nuclear capabilities on their own, would it really be in their best interest to reject the support of the rest of the world? Or consider the action taken to support the rebels in Libya; followers of Paul would oppose it because the United States didn’t have a clear national interest in bringing down Qaddafi. Does that mean the United States isn’t committed to the spread of democracy around the world? Should a movement intent on giving power back to the American people be indifferent to the people of another country?

It’s time for America to adopt a policy of live and let live, no longer tinkering with other countries’ governments and only antagonizing them in the long term. The specifics of the policy are understandably controversial; more left-wing activists would support a doctrine of international cooperation, while Paulites would support a neo-isolationism. The former strikes me as more realistic, not only given the current world order but also because the government has already proven its propensity for defining the “national self-interest” in whatever terms it wants, terms that often end up not being in the “national self-interest” in the long term. We’ll stay in Afghanistan long enough to give it a modicum of stability, continue working to support a normalization of relations between Israel and Palestine, and work to build a strong international community that can be a strong advocate for peace around the world. Perhaps the peace and brotherhood America can form with its fellow nations can serve as a model for how we can live at home.

Examining the Democratic Platform Part IV: “Ending the War in Iraq”, “Defeating Al Qaeda and Combating Terrorism”, and “Preventing the Spread and Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction”

This is continued from Parts I-III of my examination of the Democratic Platform. I’ll make every effort to put in two more examinations today.

Part I showed the Democrats’ commitment to social issues, particularly health care. Part II, “Renewing American Leadership”, shows that the Democrats don’t want to be seen as slouches in protecting our national security. You’ll notice I’ll be referring a lot to Parts I and II of my Republican Platform examination, because this will be treading a lot of the same ground. You wouldn’t know it from the opening paragraph, which talks about how great leaders have come along at opportune times in American history, how they helped America lead, and it concludes with this very audacious statement: “Just as John Kennedy said that after Hoover we needed Franklin Roosevelt, so too after our experience of the last eight years we need Barack Obama.” Obamessiah much? Besides, wasn’t the crisis Hoover left FDR with the Depression, which you covered in the last part, not foreign-policy related?

Today, we are again called to provide visionary leadership. This century’s threats are at least as dangerous as, and in some ways more complex than, those we have confronted in the past. They come from weapons that can kill on a mass scale and from violent extremists who exploit alienation and perceived injustice to spread terror. They come from rogue states allied to terrorists and from rising powers that could challenge both America and the international foundation of liberal democracy. They come from weak states that cannot control their territory or provide for their people. They come from an addiction to oil that helps fund the extremism we must fight and empowers repressive regimes. And they come from a warming planet that will spur new diseases, spawn more devastating natural disasters, and catalyze deadly conflicts.

That last sentence, of course, is critical. But how will the Democrats deal with these issues?

We will confront these threats head on while working with our allies and restoring our standing in the world. We will pursue a tough, smart, and principled national security strategy. It is a strategy that recognizes that we have interests not just in Baghdad, but in Kandahar and Karachi, in Beijing, Berlin, Brasilia and Bamako. It is a strategy that contends with the many disparate forces shaping this century, including: the fundamentalist challenge to freedom; the emergence of new powers like China, India, Russia, and a united Europe; the spread of lethal weapons; uncertain supplies of energy, food, and water; the persistence of poverty and the growing gap between rich and poor; and extraordinary new technologies that send people, ideas, and money across the globe at ever faster speeds.

Barack Obama will focus this strategy on seven goals: (i) ending the war in Iraq responsibly; (ii) defeating Al Qaeda and combating violent extremism; (iii) securing nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists; (iv) revitalizing and supporting our military; (v) renewing our partnerships to promote our common security; (vi) advancing democracy and development; and (vii) protecting our planet by achieving energy security and combating climate change.

Most people would agree with all of those goals except #1. But I hope they’re not in order, unless they’re in reverse order, because that would imply that combating climate change is the last priority on the board. Unfortunately, they pretty much match up with the section headers.

“Ending the War in Iraq”:

To renew American leadership in the world, we must first bring the Iraq war to a responsible end. Our men and women in uniform have performed admirably while sacrificing immeasurably. Our civilian leaders have failed them. Iraq was a diversion from the fight against the terrorists who struck us on 9-11, and incompetent prosecution of the war by civilian leaders compounded the strategic blunder of choosing to wage it in the first place.

Presumably “civilian leaders” implicitly blames Bush while skirting any blame in the direction of military leaders like David Petraeus.

We will re-center American foreign policy by responsibly redeploying our combat forces from Iraq and refocusing them on urgent missions. We will give our military a new mission: ending this war and giving Iraq back to its people. We will be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely remove our combat brigades at the pace of one to two per month and expect to complete redeployment within sixteen months. After this redeployment, we will keep a residual force in Iraq to perform specific missions: targeting terrorists; protecting our embassy and civil personnel; and advising and supporting Iraq’s Security Forces, provided the Iraqis make political progress.

Everything sounds good, but I think some people might be suspicious of the “residual force” you’re keeping in Iraq.

At the same time, we will provide generous assistance to Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons. We will launch a comprehensive regional and international diplomatic surge to help broker a lasting political settlement in Iraq, which is the only path to a sustainable peace. We will make clear that we seek no permanent bases in Iraq. We will encourage Iraq’s government to devote its oil revenues and budget surplus to reconstruction and development. This is the future the American people want. This is the future that Iraqis want. This is what our common interests demand.

Again, all sounds well and good. Look back at my Republican Part II: how does this compare with the Republican strategy? They wanted “success” in order to “deny al Qaeda a safe haven, limit Iranian influence in the Middle East, strengthen moderate forces there, and give us a strategic ally in the struggle against extremism.” None of those are really mentioned in the Democratic plan, though some may be mentioned later. The Democrats want to “give Iraq back to its people”; depending on the temperament of the Iraqi people that could either be at odds or in line with the Republican goals, and if the former, simply pulling out and letting “the Iraqi people” have their way could prove to be a mistake in the war on terror. But even then, from the standpoint where we like to think of ourselves as a good people, wouldn’t turning Iraq into a puppet state be almost as bad if not worse? (Some of the Democrats’ other words, like being “as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in”, seem to indicate that they will indeed pay attention to “conditions on the ground” and “the essential advice of our military commanders”.)

And as soon as you hit the next section, you know the Democrats think of Iraq much as they think of the current economic crisis – get past it as quickly as you can and move on to Afghanistan and Pakistan. “Defeating Al Qaeda and Combating Terrorism”: “Win in Afghanistan”:    “Our troops are performing heroically in Afghanistan, but as countless military commanders and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledge, we lack the resources to finish the job because of our commitment to Iraq.” So, GOP, you challenge our assertion, as you see it, “that America can succeed in Afghanistan only by failure in Iraq”? Then you challenge the judgment of our “military commanders” and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs!

“We will send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan, and use this commitment to seek greater contributions–with fewer restrictions–from our NATO allies.” Compare this to the GOP’s “Additional forces are also necessary, both from NATO countries and through a doubling in size of the Afghan army.” No commitment to lower restrictions on what NATO can do, presumably to “protect US sovereignty”, but it sounds like the GOP wants more commitment from the Afghan army and less American meddling. Of course, maybe the US needs to secure the country before the Afghan army can do a damn.

“We will focus on building up our special forces and intelligence capacity, training, equipping and advising Afghan security forces, building Afghan governmental capacity, and promoting the rule of law.” So the Dems do want to boost Afghanistan’s own forces. So the GOP is focusing more on “a nationwide counterinsurgency strategy”, and keeping the Taliban and al-Qaeda out, and does spend one sentence on work between the “international community” and the government of Afghanistan to fix “illegal drugs, governance, and corruption” problems. Sounds like the Democrats want to take care of the latter two themselves. And while the Republicans vaguely support a “counterinsurgency strategy led by a unified commander”, the Dems want to “build[] up our special forces and intelligence capacity”. But wait, there’s more!

We will bolster our State Department’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams and our other government agencies helping the Afghan people. We will help Afghans educate their children, including their girls, provide basic human services to their population, and grow their economy from the bottom up, with an additional $1 billion in non-military assistance each year–including investments in alternative livelihoods to poppy-growing for Afghan farmers–just as we crack down on trafficking and corruption. Afghanistan must not be lost to a future of narco-terrorism–or become again a haven for terrorists.

So the Democrats also want to crack down on drugs, and they spend half a sentence on keeping out the Taliban and al-Qaeda, neither of which are mentioned by name. So the Democrats pretty much agree with all the Republicans’ priorities but they would add one more: economic development. That may make up for the short shrift given to keeping out terrorists, since wealthy nations tend not to have a lot of terrorists (and when they do it tends to be in poor communities).

“Seek a New Partnership with Pakistan”:

The greatest threat to the security of the Afghan people–and the American people–lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train, plot attacks, and strike into Afghanistan and move back across the border. We cannot tolerate a sanctuary for Al Qaeda. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and NATO–including necessary assets like satellites and predator drones–to better secure the border, to take out terrorist camps, and to crack down on cross-border insurgents.

The GOP section on Pakistan was literally as long as I put it in Part II of my examination: two sentences long and with absolutely nothing challenging the government or suggesting it’s been less than cooperative in cracking down on Al Qaeda forces within its borders. Nothing on any of this. And the Dem solution seems to make sense. “We must help Pakistan develop its own counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency capacity. We will invest in the long-term development of the Pashtun border region, so that the extremists’ program of hate is met with an agenda of hope.” All important things (investing in economic development again!) and all things the GOP doesn’t touch with a twelve-foot pole.

We will ask more of the Pakistani government, rather than offer a blank check to an undemocratic President. We will significantly increase non-military aid to the Pakistani people and sustain it for a decade, while ensuring that the military assistance we provide is actually used to fight extremists. We must move beyond an alliance built on individual leaders, or we will face mounting opposition in a nuclear-armed nation at the nexus of terror, extremism, and the instability wrought by autocracy.

Compare that to the Republicans “support[ing] their efforts to improve democratic governance and strengthen civil society”. Everything the Democrats say here makes sense based on what I know about Pakistan – if we give too much outward support to an unpopular dictator we risk becoming unpopular ourselves, and that certainly can’t help our efforts in the war on terror there. Yet the Republicans just say “Pakistan? Yeah, they’re good people, a good strategic ally on the war on terror. Can we talk about something else?”

“Combat Terrorism”:

Beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan, we must forge a more effective global response to terrorism. There must be no safe haven for those who plot to kill Americans. We need a comprehensive strategy to defeat global terrorists–one that draws on the full range of American power, including but not limited to our military might. We will create a properly resourced Shared Security Partnership to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation with countries around the world, including through information sharing as well as funding for training, operations, border security, anti-corruption programs, technology, and targeting terrorist financing.

“Shared Security Partnership”, from the party that brought you “English Language Learners”. Clearly the Democrats are still committed to fighting the war on terror, and they’re willing to use the military to do so, among other approaches. The SSP is really just enhancing relationships with other nations’ security and intelligence agencies.

We will pursue policies to undermine extremism, recognizing that this contest is also between two competing ideas and visions of the future. A crucial debate is occurring within Islam. The vast majority of Muslims believe in a future of peace, tolerance, development, and democratization. A small minority embrace a rigid and violent intolerance of personal liberty and the world at large. To empower forces of moderation, America must live up to our values, respect civil liberties, reject torture, and lead by example. We will make every effort to export hope and opportunity–access to education, that opens minds to tolerance, not extremism; secure food and water supplies; and health care, trade, capital, and investment. We will provide steady support for political reformers, democratic institutions, and civil society that is necessary to uphold human rights and build respect for the rule of law.

So the Democrats think that by being good guys who practice what we preach and don’t offend Muslims, they can undermine the intellectual underpinning of extremism. Oh, and economic development is good as well, as is providing support for democratization. Which might undermine the otherwise-reasonable don’t-offend-and-develop approach, for reasons I covered when examining the Republican Platform: is the Muslim world culturally ready for democracy? Perhaps a successfully democratic Iraq could help make it so. And maybe the Democrats only want to support pre-existing “democratic institutions” and “political reformers” that are working within the system. The closest thing the Republicans had to this was their “Middle East” section, which was as much concerned with the state of Israel and organizations like Hamas and the Arab nations as it was with Islam in general; they had a one-sentence acknowledgement that there are “good” Muslims and praised the pre-existing movement towards democratization and development, which might be seen as claiming the Democrats shouldn’t throw money away on something happening already.

“Secure the Homeland”:

Here at home, we will strengthen our security and protect the critical infrastructure on which the entire world depends. We will fully fund and implement the recommendations of the bipartisan 9-11 Commission. We will spend homeland security dollars on the basis of risk. This means investing more resources to defend mass transit, closing the gaps in our aviation security by screening all cargo on passenger airliners and checking all passengers against a reliable and comprehensive watch list, and upgrading plant security and port security by ensuring that cargo is screened for radiation. To ensure that resources are targeted, we will establish a Quadrennial Review at the Department of Homeland Security to undertake a top to bottom assessment of the threats we face and our ability to confront them. And we will develop a comprehensive National Infrastructure Protection Plan that draws on both local know-how and national priorities. We will ensure direct coordination with state, local, and tribal jurisdictions so that first responders are always resourced and prepared.

Aside from defending mass transit, which sounds like a waste of money more suitable in an absolute war zone like Israel (unless of course you build the mass transit we need), and the fact that the watch list needs to not contain people added for what appears to be pure political purposes, this is all good. We need to look at Part I of my Republican platform examination for the GOP plan, and the GOP “homeland security” section has nothing whatsoever to do with the Democrat “secure the homeland” section. The GOP does “acknowledge and appreciate the significant contributions of all of America’s First Responders, who keep us safe and secure and who are ever ready to come to our aid”, but mentions nothing to support them.

The Democrats here support endorsing the 9-11 commission’s report, tightening aviation security, screening cargo for radiation, instituting reviews to target spending, a comprehensive “Infrastructure Protection Plan”, and coordination with smaller jurisdictions. The Republicans support “public-private partnerships” to defend privately-owned “critical infrastructure”, “remov[ing] barriers to cooperation and information sharing”, “modernized 9-1-1 services”, ability to thwart “cyber attacks”, “monitor terrorist activities while respecting…civil liberties, and protect against military and industrial espionage and sabotage.” Hmm, I suspect the next section, and maybe even the next subsection, may touch on these GOP topics…

“Pursue Intelligence Reform”:

To succeed, our homeland security and counter-terrorism actions must be linked to an intelligence community that deals effectively with the threats we face. Today, we rely largely on the same institutions and practices that were in place before 9-11. Barack Obama will depoliticize intelligence by appointing a Director of National Intelligence with a fixed term, create a bipartisan Consultative Group of congressional leaders on national security, and establish a National Declassification Center to ensure openness. To keep pace with highly adaptable enemies, we need technologies and practices that enable us to efficiently collect and share information within and across our intelligence agencies. We must invest still more in human intelligence and deploy additional trained operatives with specialized knowledge of local cultures and languages. And we will institutionalize the practice of developing competitive assessments of critical threats and strengthen our methodologies of analysis.

Let’s see… gimmicks… supporting improved information collection systems and more sharing of information… make sure our agents have better knowledge of the places they’re going to be deployed to… and a last sentence that’s kind of hard to parse. The Republicans supported beefing up intelligence agencies with raw numbers, “integrat[ing] technical and human sources”, and getting intelligence information to the President and generals quicker. They also supported the formation of a “Joint Committee on Intelligence”. The speedier rate of getting information to “the warfighter and the policy maker” is probably the best part of all of that, and some parts of the Democratic plan, such as the NDC, may have that in mind.

“Preventing the Spread and Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction”:

We will urgently seek to reduce dramatically the risks from three potentially catastrophic threats: nuclear weapons, biological attacks, and cyber warfare. In an age of terrorism, these dangers take on new dimensions. Nuclear, biological, and cyber attacks all pose the potential for large-scale damage and destruction to our people, to our economy and to our way of life. The capacity to inflict such damage is spreading not only to other countries, but also potentially to terrorist groups.

In other words, “See, Republicans? We care about bioterrorism and cyberwarfare too!” But what about chemical weapons, and are you focusing too much on nations and saying “oh, yeah, and these days these sorts of things are getting in the hands of terrorists too”?

“A World Without Nuclear Weapons”:

America will seek a world with no nuclear weapons and take concrete actions to move in this direction. We face the growing threat of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons or the materials to make them, as more countries seek nuclear weapons and nuclear materials remain unsecured in too many places. As George Shultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn have warned, current measures are not adequate to address these dangers. We will maintain a strong and reliable deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist, but America will be safer in a world that is reducing reliance on nuclear weapons and ultimately eliminates all of them. We will make the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide a central element of U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

This is a paean to pacifists, but the Democrats have already shown they aren’t a pacifist party by leaving a “residual force” in Iraq and increasing our presence in Afghanistan, among other things, and it starts to make people think the Democratic Party is a bunch of goody-two-shoes who are soft on confronting other nations when necessary. But nuclear weapons are possibly the most dangerous weapons out there, and we need to have a “deterrent” while reducing the worldwide number of nuclear weapons to zero. The Republicans also called for “reducing the world’s nuclear stockpiles and preventing proliferation” and “reducing the size of our nuclear arsenal to the lowest number consistent with our security requirements and working with other nuclear powers to do the same”, so they may have the same goal.

But rogue nations and terrorists could, even in a world without nukes, create and use their own nuclear weapons and catch the worldwide community off their guard. Are you prepared to deal with that potential threat and secure nuclear materials? Come to think of it, the only thing you really say you’re going to do now is “maintain a strong and reliable deterrent”, but you don’t say much about securing those materials that “remain unsecured in too many places”. At least the Republicans, in addition to their own “end nuclear weapons” program (which given evidence elsewhere in their platform I’m skeptical about), want to “improve our collective ability to interdict the spread of weapons of mass destruction and related materials, and ensure the highest possible security standards for existing nuclear materials wherever they may be located.”

Well, that question may be answered, because the next subsection is “Secure Nuclear Weapons and the Materials to Make Them”:

We will work with other nations to secure, eliminate, and stop the spread of nuclear weapons and materials to dramatically reduce the dangers to our nation and the world. There are nuclear weapons materials in 40 countries, and we will lead a global effort to work with other countries to secure all nuclear weapons material at vulnerable sites within four years. We will work with nations to increase security for nuclear weapons. We will convene a summit in 2009 (and regularly thereafter) of leaders of Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council and other key countries to agree on implementing many of these measures on a global basis.

Well then. More specifics, but is four years (oh look, just in time for Obama’s reelection campaign) going to take too much time, and how will you improve America’s ability to perform its role in the nuclear security regime? Both parties seem to support much the same things, but the Democrats seem to place a higher priority on it, because the Republicans just move along to their missile defense scheme.

“End the Production of Fissile Material”:

We will negotiate a verifiable global ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. We will work to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons technology so that countries cannot build–or come to the brink of building–a weapons program under the guise of developing peaceful nuclear power. We will seek to double the International Atomic Energy Agency’s budget, support the creation of an IAEA-controlled nuclear fuel bank to guarantee fuel supply to countries that do not build enrichment facilities, and work to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

It’s a short paragraph, but the entirety of the coverage it gets in the Republican platform is “In cooperation with other nations, we should end the production of weapons-grade fissile material”. This is essentially the same thing with more details and a pledge to work within the existing framework through the IAEA and NNPT, while not cutting off nuclear supplies for nations that want peaceful power entirely. In previous posts, I have listed my concerns with peaceful nuclear power; it doesn’t entirely stop global warming and it has its own concerns. Clearly the Democrats place a higher priority on controlling nuclear proliferation. Republicans just wanna build missile defense and tap our phones. Which is the real national security party? And they aren’t done! “End Cold War Nuclear Postures”:

To enhance our security and help meet our commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, we will seek deep, verifiable reductions in United States and Russian nuclear weapons and work with other nuclear powers to reduce global stockpiles dramatically. We will work with Russia to take as many weapons as possible off Cold War, quick-launch status, and extend key provisions of the START Treaty, including its essential monitoring and verification requirements. We will not develop new nuclear weapons, and will work to create a bipartisan consensus to support ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which will strengthen the NPT and aid international monitoring of nuclear activities.

This gets no coverage in the Republican platform at all, and it’s really following up on the prior anti-nuclear planks and helps complete the anti-nuclear program.

“Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons”: “The world must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That starts with tougher sanctions and aggressive, principled, and direct high-level diplomacy, without preconditions.” Whoa, whoa, whoa. I hope you’re prepared for the complaints from Republicans about the “without preconditions” line. Tougher sanctions? Good. Diplomacy, in and of itself? Good. “Without preconditions”? Who would have to fulfill the preconditions? Would Iran want the United States to, say, ensure Iran can continue its nuclear program, or would the Republicans want to demand Iran stop it? Actually there’s something to be said for both sides here; the Republicans want Iran to “improve its behavior” first, but that may just allow Iran to hold any negotiations hostage by not doing so. The Democrats want to launch into negotiations right away, but that might allow Iran to continue its bad practices. I’d need to get the opinion of experts: what do they think is the best approach here? I’m not sure about this one. Regardless, sanctions are important.

We will pursue this strengthened diplomacy alongside our European allies, and with no illusions about the Iranian regime. We will present Iran with a clear choice: if you abandon your nuclear weapons program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, you will receive meaningful incentives; so long as you refuse, the United States and the international community will further ratchet up the pressure, with stronger unilateral sanctions; stronger multilateral sanctions inside and outside the U.N. Security Council, and sustained action to isolate the Iranian regime. The Iranian people and the international community must know that it is Iran, not the United States, choosing isolation over cooperation. By going the extra diplomatic mile, while keeping all options on the table, we make it more likely the rest of the world will stand with us to increase pressure on Iran, if diplomacy is failing.

That sounds all well and good. The Republicans want to make clear that “the U.S. government, in solidarity with the international community, will not allow the current regime in Tehran to develop nuclear weapons.” Their strategy involves “a significant increase in political, economic, and diplomatic pressure to persuade Iran’s rulers to halt their drive for a nuclear weapons capability, and we support tighter sanctions against Iran and the companies with business operations in or with Iran.” So they won’t negotiate at all until Iran “improves its behavior”, and the Democrats are providing an incentive for the Iranians to improve their behavior. I actually like the Dems’ strategy better here.

“De-Nuclearize North Korea”:

We support the belated diplomatic effort to secure a verifiable end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and to fully account for and secure any fissile material or weapons North Korea has produced to date. We will continue direct diplomacy and are committed to working with our partners through the six-party talks to ensure that all agreements are fully implemented in the effort to achieve a verifiably nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

The Republicans don’t even give Korea its own heading, after putting North Korea in the “axis of evil” six years ago. The Democrats only want to “secure” North Korea’s nuclear materials, the Republicans want their “dismantlement”. But they do want a “nuclear-free Korean peninsula”, but then again they want a nuclear-free world as well. It sounds good but for how little the Republicans say on this issue, it may be tougher.

“Biological and Chemical Weapons”:

We will strengthen U.S. intelligence collection overseas to identify and interdict would-be bioterrorists before they strike. We will also build greater capacity to mitigate the consequences of bio-terror attacks, ensuring that the federal government does all it can to get citizens the information and resources they need to help protect themselves and their families. We will accelerate the development of new medicines, vaccines, and production capabilities, and lead an international effort to detect and diminish the impact of major infectious disease epidemics. And we will fully fund our contribution to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and work to ensure that remaining stockpiles of chemical weapons are destroyed swiftly, safely, and securely.

Intriguing and concerning. A sentence on strengthening US intelligence that’s short on details on how they’ll do so without getting into sketchy Constitutional territory. But ignoring the old line on how “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, they then talk about “mitigat[ing] the consequences of bio-terror attacks,” and then almost goes into a tangent; I’m surprised they don’t try and tie this back to health care reform. I mean, “an international effort to detect and diminish the impact of major infectious disease epidemics”? That’s hardly only a terror thing. Certainly a worthy goal, but I’m not convinced the Democrats will make prevention enough of a priority. “Chemical weapons” are not mentioned anywhere in the first part of the Republican platform.

“Stronger Cyber-Security”: “We will work with private industry, the research community and our citizens, to build a trustworthy and accountable cyber-infrastructure that is resilient, protects America’s competitive advantage, and advances our national and homeland security.” That’s it. One single solitary sentence on cyber-security. To be fair, about the only thing the Republicans want to do to protect us from cyber-attack is passed a beefed-up FISA bill, and here it’s more efficient to adopt a cyber-fortress to keep cyber-attacks from breaking into our critical infrastructure. The Democrats are the only ones who – so far – have come close to supporting that, but it’s clearly far from a top priority. Perhaps I should look to the last part for more assurance of Democratic leadership on this issue – but even there the closest they came to touching on beefing up security was “establishing a national interoperable public safety communications network to help first responders at the local, state and national level communicate with one another during a crisis” and something about “strengthening privacy protections”.

It’s the same old story with the Democrats. By and large, I agree with them more than I do the Republicans, but there are enough areas of concern that you can see why a little less than half the country – and sometimes, even more – vote for the GOP every election. Oh, and I’m already over 5000 words – I warned you we were going to slow down once we reached a part where the Democrats and Republicans were covering the same ground… (To be fair, I’m stopping well short of 6000 words this time, unlike previous examinations.)

Examining the Republican Platform Part II: “Securing the Peace”

This is continued from Part I of my examination of the Republican Platform, which actually drew a comment ostensibly from the executive director of the Platform Committee. Which considering some of the stuff I’ll have to say about the platform today, is supremely ironic.

“Securing the Peace”: You can learn a lot not only from the order of the topics of each part of the respective parties’ platforms, but on the order of topics within those parts and how much time is spent on them. The Democrats, aside from a paragraph on the current economic crisis, hit the ground running with a very long dissertation on health care, which tells you that’s the issue they care about most of all. The Republicans start out talking about foreign affairs, and specifically national security and beefing up our military, before moving on to foreign relations and diplomacy, which would seem to show you they’re very gung-ho and macho. Yet “Securing the Peace” is probably longer than the other two sections of the first part put together.

“The Republican vision of peace through strength requires a sustained international effort, which complements our military activities, to develop and maintain alliances and relationships that will lead to greater peace and stability.” So to some extent, you believe in speaking softly and carrying a big stick, but you’re also willing to use said stick to get your peace along with getting everyone to help you in your “military activities”. Should I be scared that you intend to try and achieve peace through “military activities”?

“Promoting Human Rights and American Values”: “The international promotion of human rights reflects our heritage, our values, and our national interest. Societies that enjoy political and economic freedom and the rule of law are not given to aggression or fanaticism. They become our natural allies.” Sounds good, but there is evidence that spreading “American values” has met resistance in some parts of the world, and we need to be aware of that and know how to deal with it.

Republican leadership has made religious liberty a central element of U.S. foreign policy. Asserting religious freedom should be a priority in all America’s international dealings. We salute the work of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and urge special training in religious liberty issues for all U.S. diplomatic personnel.

To be successful international leaders, we must uphold international law, including the laws of war, and update them when necessary. Our moral standing requires that we respect what are essentially American principles of justice. In any war of ideas, our values will triumph.

I’m… not sure what the first paragraph is trying to say. I’m not even sure what it means. I mean, of course religious liberty is a good thing, but are we going to try and impose it everywhere like we tried to impose “democracy” on Iraq, or are we going to avoid offending nations that don’t have it? What did the USCIRF find, exactly? The first sentence of the second paragraph starts out well, but “update them when necessary”? You can’t do that unilaterally, you have to get international cooperation, that’s why it’s called international law. If I knew what you had in mind I might feel a bit better about it, because it might just be common sense for all I know.

State Department Reform
Advancing America’s values should be the core mission of every part of the federal government, including the Department of State. America’s diplomatic establishment must energetically represent our country’s agenda to the world. We propose a thorough reform of its structure to ensure that promotions and appointments are based on performance in supporting the nation’s agenda. Our diplomats must be the best our country has to offer, and America’s diplomatic abilities must be an integral part of America’s national security system.

Hopefully “advancing America’s values” doesn’t mean you’re going to use an organ devoted to diplomatic relations with other nations and use it to try and convert other nations, other cultures, to our way of life unilaterally. I’m not sure what “represent[ing]” and “supporting the nation’s agenda” means – does it mean that, or does it simply mean representing American interests to other nations? If the latter, good; if the former, it would seem to imply a misunderstanding of the role of diplomats. I’m tentatively hoping it does mean the latter, but the unclear wording concerns me.

Public Diplomacy
Throughout the Cold War, our international broadcasting of free and impartial information promoted American values to combat tyranny. It still does, through Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio/TV Marti, and it remains an important instrument in promoting a modernizing alternative to the culture of radical terror. Getting America’s message out to the world is a critical element in the struggle against extremism, and our government must wage a much more effective battle in the war of ideas.

Wow. A plank of a major party platform outwardly supporting international propaganda. I mean, I don’t want to say that I don’t want to continue programs that help deter people from terror, but is it not possible that the idea that America is trying to indoctrinate the youth and subvert them into good little American operatives is serving as a piece of propaganda for extremists and actually serving as a recruiting tool? I’d like to see the actual numbers and studies analyzing the effectiveness of this sort of thing. And you’re still trying to propagandize Europe?

Human Trafficking
Generations after the end of slavery in America, new forms of bondage have emerged to exploit men, women and children. We salute those across the political spectrum who have come together to end the commerce in our fellow human beings. We advocate the establishment of an Inter-Agency Task Force on Human Trafficking, reporting directly to the President, and call for increased diplomatic efforts with foreign governments that have been negligent toward this evil. The principle underlying our Megan’s Law – publicizing the identities of known offenders – should be extended to international travel in order to protect innocent children everywhere.

Finally, a plank in this section I unequivocally support. My only concern has to do with the “Inter-Agency Task Force on Human Trafficking” and its status as something close to a Cabinet-level agency. There might be other examples of this sort of thing, I don’t know, but are you really going to take away that much in the way of resources that could have, I don’t know, gone towards national security?

“Sovereign American Leadership in International Organizations”: “The United States participates in various international organizations which can, at times, serve the cause of peace and prosperity, but those organizations must never serve as a substitute for principled American leadership.” If you’re saying they can’t serve as a substitute I’d agree with you pending agreement with the premise; if you’re saying they shouldn’t, I say if they’re better than “principled American leadership” at “serv[ing] the cause of peace and prosperity”, then by all means cut them loose!

“Nor should our participation in them prevent our joining with other democracies to protect our vital national interests.” That certainly sounds good but it almost seems to be pointing towards going over the head of the UN and other international organizations to do whatever we want. If a nation is using the UN to block action against them (or even an ally) that the rest of the world backs, of course we should be able to join with the rest of the world in taking that action anyway, but that’s almost a specialized case. The UN is at least supposed to be representative of the world, and if we decide we’re going to go over their heads we should be ready to face the consequences. And this “joining with democracies” better not be of the form “you’re with us or against us”.

“At the United Nations, our country will pay a fair, but not disproportionate, share of dues, but we will never support a UN-imposed tax.  The UN must reform its scandal-ridden and corrupt management and become more accountable and transparent in its operations and expenses.  As a matter of U.S. sovereignty, American forces must remain under American command.” First sentence makes sense, but I might be swayed by some of the reasons the UN might “impose” a “tax”. I have never heard of the UN’s “scandal-ridden and corrupt management”; if it exists it should be fixed, but where did that come from? And will you also support, say, Canadian forces having to remain under Canadian command, or Chinese forces remaining under Chinese command?

“Discrimination against Israel at the UN is unacceptable.  We welcome Israel’s membership in the Western European and Others Group at the UN headquarters and demand its full acceptance and participation at all UN venues.” The UN kind of has to walk a tightrope here between supporting Israel and courting the support of nations that hate Israel’s guts. The UN needs to take an impartial stance in the Middle East, condemn all atrocities by both sides, and not be seen as supporting one side or the other, because that’s its role in all conflicts, to be an impartial mediator. Of course “discrimination against Israel” should be out, but hopefully it doesn’t mean treating Israel as a perfectly 100% legitimate state that’s not the subject of constant controversy over its very existence either. And I have no idea what “the ideological campaign against Vatican participation in UN conferences and other activities” is.

“Because the UN has no mandate to promote radical social engineering, any effort to address global social problems must respect the fundamental institutions of marriage and family. We assert the rights of families in all international programs and will not fund organizations involved in abortion.” I think most “organizations involved in abortion” don’t require people to have abortions in any way. They simply provide them. “Social engineering” would be taking that away. You would refrain from funding any perfectly legitimate organization that did a gazillion things to help developing countries rise themselves out of poverty just because they performed abortions? Or were even “involved in abortion”? (In fact, there are concerns that this policy actually breeds abortions by cutting off supplies of other forms of birth control, but those organizations should just suck up and follow it, right? I mean, this is blackmail!) Or are you concerned that the UN is promoting homosexuality, a more legitimate concern? I mean, how is the UN not respecting the “fundamental institutions of marriage and family”? And how would you deal with a culture where the “fundamental institutions of marriage and family” are very different? Would you “respect” them or attempt to impose a Western model?

You’d even “reject any treaty or agreement that would violate those values”? Even ones dealing with other topics, like “the UN convention on women’s rights, signed in the last months of the Carter Administration, and the UN convention on the rights of the child”? So you won’t support women’s rights because the document proclaiming them dared to mention abortion? Is it that much of a poison pill? You’re not even objecting on religious or moral grounds, you’re talking about “the fundamental institutions of marriage and family”. That’s scary; maybe you don’t support women’s rights beyond abortion, because you’re saying “if you have sex before marriage [presumably even by rape] tough bupkis, you gotta carry the baby to term”, which hardly protects “the fundamental institutions of marriage and family”. Worse, you’re screwed if you have an unintended baby after marriage, which implies the Republicans might believe in a “traditional marriage” scheme where the woman is subservient. Not saying it’s necessarily the case, and I don’t even like abortion, but this is just a little concerning.

“For several reasons, particularly our concern for US sovereignty and America’s long-term energy needs, we have deep reservations about the regulatory, legal, and tax regimes inherent in the Law of the Sea Treaty.” See here for what this is all about. Oddly, outright objection may be a minority opinion even within the Republican Party, as the Bush Administration supports ratification. Still, I can’t say the anti-ratification side doesn’t have good points.

“To shield the members of our Armed Forces and others in service to America from ideological prosecutions, the Republican Party does not accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court over Americans.” That’s been a big bone of contention with other nations in the world, because it effectively lets our “Armed Forces” get away with bloody murder without having to go through an international tribunal. Still, shielding the military from “ideological prosecutions” – prosecutions designed solely to embarrass America – is a legitimate concern… “We support the American Servicemembers Protection Act, to shield U.S. personnel and officials as they act abroad to meet global security requirements.” …but if this still calls back to the previous sentence, this really does say we can get away with bloody murder, at least as phrased. Unless and until the United States submits to some sort of controls against war crimes, we’ll never have the standing in the world we should.

“Helping Others Abroad”: Begins with some empty praise for the people who “combat disease and poverty around the world”, and a call to “[i]nclud[e] the world’s poor in an expanding circle of development” through “the Republican approach to world trade through open markets and fair competition”.

It must also be a top priority of our foreign policy.  Decades of massive aid have failed to spur economic growth in the poorest countries, where it has often propped up failed policies and corrupt rulers. We will target foreign assistance to high-impact goals: fostering the rule of law through democratic government; emphasizing literacy and learning; and, concentrating on the foundations for economic development—clean water, agricultural improvement, and microcredit funding for small enterprises.  Maternal and child health, especially safer childbirthing and nutrition, must be priorities, especially in countries affected by epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

So the Republican idea of aid to developing countries is not just ordinary charitable donations of food and money, but trying to institute democracy and actual, substantive infrastructure improvements that can actually have a long term impact. I agree with all of that, except once again, we need to make sure that if our democratization attempts meet resistance, we can identify it and deal with it and not have a repeat of Iraq.

Further, we call for the development of a strategy for foreign assistance that serves our national interest.  Specifically we call for a review and improvement of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 oriented toward: alignment of foreign assistance policies, operations, budgets and statutory authorities; development of a consensus on what needs to be done to strengthen the non-military tools to further our national security goals; greater attention to core development programs – education, child survival, and agricultural development; and greater accountability by recipient countries so as to ensure against malfeasance, self-dealing, and corruption, and to ensure continued assistance is conditioned on performance.

The last clause is the only one I would worry about. The accountability measures need to be effective and themselves not prone to “malfeasance, self-dealing, and corruption”.

“Strengthening Ties in the Americas”:

Faith and family, culture and commerce, are enduring bonds among all the peoples of the Americas. Republicans envision a western hemisphere of sovereign nations with secure borders, working together to advance liberty and mutually-beneficial trade based on sound and proven free enterprise principles.  Our relations with our immediate neighbors, Canada and Mexico, are grounded on our shared values and common purpose, as well as our steadily increasing trade. We pledge to continue this close association and to advance mutually beneficial trade agreements throughout Latin America, promoting economic development and social stability there while opening markets to our goods and services. Our strong ties with Canada and Mexico should not lead to a North American union or a unified currency.

Your second and penultimate sentences wouldn’t be talking about the eminently controversial NAFTA and successors, would it? Most of this is good, at least if you accept the underlying principles, most of which are basic economics. I know the last sentence should be reassuring to some people…

Two factors distort this hemispheric progress.  One is narco-terrorism, with its ability to destabilize societies and corrupt the political process.  In an era of porous borders, the war on drugs and the war on terror have become a single enterprise. We salute our allies in the fight against this evil, especially the people of Mexico and Colombia, who have set an example for their neighbors. We support approval of the free trade agreement with Colombia, currently blocked by Capitol Hill Democrats and their union boss supporters, as an overdue gesture of solidarity for this courageous ally of the United States.

Wait, so do Republicans think if Democrats are concerned about Columbian crackdowns on unions, it must be because they’re in hock to “union boss[es]” and not out of general concern for the welfare of the people of Columbia? I certainly think your concern is appropriate…

“The other malignant element in hemispheric affairs is the anachronistic regime in Havana, a mummified relic from the age of totalitarianism, and its buffoonish imitators.” I never thought I’d see a phrase like “buffoonish imitators” in a major party platform. Didn’t Castro take power in the late 50s? By “the age of totalitarianism” are you basically referring to the Cold War? Because for some reason I’d go further back with that term…

We call on the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean to join us in laying the groundwork for a democratic Cuba.  Looking to the inevitable day of liberation, we support restrictions on trade with, and travel to, Cuba as a measure of solidarity with the political prisoners and all the oppressed Cuban people. We call for a dedicated platform for transmission of Radio and Television Marti into Cuba and, to prepare for the day when Cuba is free, we support the work of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba.  We affirm the principles of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, recognizing the rights of Cubans fleeing Communist tyranny, and support efforts to admit more of them through a safe, legal, orderly process.

Most of this sounds good, but it’s not entirely without controversy. I mentioned my issues with transmission of American propaganda into foreign nations earlier.

“Advancing Hope and Prosperity in Africa”: This section follows what’s becoming a pattern: three paragraphs, the first of which describes the situation and the US role, followed by two paragraphs of policy positions. In this case, the first paragraph contains a recognition of the sad situation in Africa, with almost as much of the Republicans tooting their own horn: “Republicans have faced up to each of those challenges because, in addition to humanitarian concerns, the U.S. has important security interests in the stability and progress of African nations.” “Republican-sponsored legislation has brought jobs and investment to sub-Saharan Africa. To continue that progress, we advocate continued expansion of trade with African nations.” That’s important, but it’s not much better if Africa becomes the new Taiwan.

The second paragraph is basically a condemnation of the situation in Darfur, a call for a stronger response from African leaders, and a pledge to support them and “secure a comprehensive and humane settlement for the people of the southern and western Sudan.” Military involvement is not mentioned. Maybe the Republicans do realize that war is not always the answer. The third paragraph condemns the situation in Zimbabwe, and a call for sanctions against the Mugabe government, “free elections, and the restoration of civil government in Zimbabwe.” Well, that’s just head-slapping common sense.

“Partnerships across the Asia-Pacific Region”: A change in format here. For the next three sections, we start with an overview paragraph and then sub-headings for several different nations. Skip the praising of several different nations, including Australia and “our Freely Associated States in the Pacific Islands”, which makes “English Language Learners” sound like normal English. Actually, I take that back. Praising Japan and “look[ing] for Japan to forge a leadership role in regional and global affairs.” Praising South Korea and its vigilance “against the tyranny and international ambitions of the maniacal state on its border.” America wants “the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, with a full accounting of its proliferation activities.  We look toward the restoration of human rights to the suffering people of North Korea and the fulfillment of the wish of the Korean people to be one in peace and freedom.” Praiseworthy goals, and hopefully international cooperation is part of this in the Republicans’ minds. But it’s telling that this sentiment is placed in the introductory paragraph and isn’t broken out into a sub-heading.

India We welcome America’s new relationship with India, including the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Accord. Our common security concerns and shared commitment to political freedom and representative government can be the foundation for an enduring partnership.” Korea doesn’t get broken out into its own heading but this sort of empty platitude does? Note to self: Look up “US-India Civil Nuclear Accord”.

Pakistan We must expand our ties with the government and the people of Pakistan.  We support their efforts to improve democratic governance and strengthen civil society, and we appreciate the difficult but essential role Pakistan plays in the fight against terror.” And we also need to make sure Pakistan is playing that role, and not giving safe haven to terrorists without pursuing them. Otherwise worthy goals.

Our policy toward Taiwan, a sound democracy and economic model for mainland China, must continue to be based upon the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act. We oppose any unilateral steps by either side to alter the status quo in the Taiwan straits on the principle that all issues regarding the island’s future must be resolved peacefully, through dialogue, and be agreeable to the people of Taiwan. If China were to violate these principles, the U.S., in accord with the Taiwan Relations Act, will help Taiwan defend itself.  As a loyal friend of America, the democracy of Taiwan has merited our strong support, including the timely sale of defensive arms and full participation in the World Health Organization and other multilateral institutions.”

The bit about “oppos[ing] any unilateral steps by either side to alter the status quo” seems odd until you focus on the “unilateral” part, and the second half of the sentence: the line is a paean to the PRC that the United States is serving as an impartial mediator and will make sure that if the status quo does change, it changes in a multilateral, peaceful way. But it’s still odd, because the rest of the paragraph is praising Taiwan’s status as a “democracy” (twice) and “a loyal friend of America”. Everything here makes sense, though. Individual citizens might object to the tightness between Taiwan and the United States, especially as described in the last sentence, but if you take it as given you see how important it is to stand by Taiwan’s side.

We will welcome the emergence of a peaceful and prosperous China, and we will welcome even more the development of a democratic China.  Its rulers have already discovered that economic freedom leads to national wealth; the next lesson is that political and religious freedom leads to national greatness. That is not likely to be learned while the government in Beijing pursues advanced military capabilities without any apparent need, imposes a “one-child” policy on its people, suppresses basic human rights in Tibet and elsewhere, and erodes democracy in Hong Kong.  China must honor its obligations regarding free speech and a free press as announced prior to the Olympics.

All of this is worth supporting for a variety of reasons – the Tiananmen Square riots suggest China may well be culturally ready for democracy, even though they were, what, 20 years ago? And China is just too big for America to plausibly turn it into a vassal state.

The next paragraph starts with noting how “trade with China has created export opportunities for American farmers and workers” (some people might disagree with that statement), while the WTO and the world community (okay, technically the “marketplace”) have helped with “openness and the rule of law”. “We must yet ensure that China fulfills its WTO obligations, especially those related to protecting intellectual property rights, elimination of subsidies, and repeal of import restrictions.” The first half of the sentence and the first obligation listed, and to a lesser extent the last obligation, are all eminently agreeable, but… doesn’t the United States use subsidies? How much of the last two “obligations” are just “we want a bigger piece of the China pie”? In foreign affairs, the United States has two primary goals: to further our national interests, and to lift up all the people of the world. These last two “obligations” are aimed at the first goal, but their role in the second, especially the elimination of subsidies, is questionable. Certainly China would benefit from free trade, and the “repeal of import restrictions” is actually noble even when viewed from the eyes of the first goal.

A paragraph on Vietnam focuses on “accounting for, and repatriation of the remains of” Americans who were killed there, and continued repression of human rights and religious freedom, and the retribution by the government of Vietnam against its ethnic minorities and others who assisted U.S. forces there.” Both of these are important matters.

Burma We urge all the nations of East Asia to join the world-wide effort to restore the suffering people of Burma to the democratic family of nations. The military dictatorship in Burma is among the worst on the planet.  Its savagery demands a strong response from the world community, including economic and financial sanctions and isolation of the illegitimate regime.” This is a strong position, but fairly recently stories about how little the military junta cares about its people were all over the news. So I agree with this in full, assuming the Burmese people are primed and yearning for democracy, and we don’t attempt to turn Burma into a vassal state.

“Strengthening Our Relations with Europe”: We have “shared culture and values” with the people of Europe, and the Republicans want to especially give a shout-out to our friends in Great Britain. “The enduring truth – that America’s security is inseparable from Europe’s – was reaffirmed by our European allies after September 11, 2001.” NATO is stronger by the addition of new members in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Republicans want to leave NATO membership open for “all democratic nations who share our values and meet the requirements for NATO membership”. Would that include countries like Israel and Australia? In all seriousness, the Republicans move on to playing up missile defense systems again, this time “NATO-endorsed” ones to protect European allies from missiles from Iran, and gives a shout-out to Poland and the Czech Republic for allowing such systems in their countries (and condemns Russia for trying to intimidate former Soviet bloc nations into not doing so). That’s not the best thing for Russia to be doing, but again, are these missile defense systems effective or are they a waste of resources that would be better spent on things like intelligence and diplomacy?

There’s a two-sentence short paragraph supporting “reconciliation efforts in Cyprus and Northern Ireland” and condemns rising violent anti-Semitism “in Europe and other areas of the world”, both noble causes.

Americans and the Russian people have common imperatives: ending terrorism, combating nuclear proliferation, promoting bilateral trade, and more.  But matters of serious concern remain, particularly the Russian government’s treatment of the press, opposition parties, and institutions of civil society. It continues its aggressive confrontations with its neighbors, from economic intimidation to outright warfare, and has aligned with dangerous anti-democratic forces in the Middle East.  As a condition for its continued acceptance in world organizations, Russia must respect the independence and territorial integrity of all the nations of the former Soviet Union, beginning with the republic of Georgia, and move toward a free and democratic society.

All important causes and good things to be supporting. There is some reason to think that Russia may have had reason to intervene in Georgia and overstepped its bounds, using a territorial dispute as a pretense for a full-on invasion, so hopefully the United States will also not abandon its role as an impartial mediator, and won’t let Russia start a new Cold War.

I’m fast approaching five thousand words, if I’m not over it already, and I’m losing more sleep tonight, but I’m almost near the end of the whole part. But bear with me if this last subsection is a little rushed. “The Middle East”: Starts with praising the democratizing direction of change in the Middle East, where “the overall trend has been toward cooperation and social and economic development, especially with regard to the rights of women.” Most governments in the region have supported the war on terror, and the Republicans give a shout-out to nations that have reached some sort of peace with Israel, tentative though they may be.

Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah should be isolated because “they do not meet the standards of the international community.” If so, I agree. “We call for the restoration of Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty and the full implementation of all UN resolutions concerning that country.” Not sure what’s even going on there, but sounds good as the GOP describes it. Finally, the GOP reassures people that they are not against Islam or the Arabs, that “the extremists we face are abusers of faith, not its champions”, and gives a shout-out to the contributions of “American Arabs and Muslims”.

Israel Israel is a vigorous democracy, unique in the Middle East. We reaffirm America’s commitment to Israel’s security and will ensure that Israel maintains a qualitative edge in military technology over any potential adversaries.” Well, that’s not going to help you build your relations with the surrounding Arab nations. I hope you’re also going to make sure Israel doesn’t get aggressive. I mean really, “a qualitative edge in military technology over any potential adversaries”? Is Israel part of the United States now? “Israel must have secure, defensible borders and we support its right to exist as a Jewish state able to defend itself against homicide bombings, rocket and mortar fire, and other attacks against its people.” Some people might not support that, and at the moment I’m neutral, but if it does have the right to exist of course it has the right to defend itself.

We support the vision of two democratic states living in peace and security: Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital, and Palestine. For that to become a reality, the Palestinian people must support leaders who reject terror, embrace the institutions and ethos of democracy, and respect the rule of law.  We call on Arab governments throughout the region to help advance that goal. We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel.

No. F*** no. A two-state solution with “Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel” will not work. Period. The Arab world will not stand for it. It is too pro-Israel, unless Israel becomes a place welcoming to all faiths and ethnicities. The only solution that will work in a million years is one that includes Jerusalem – and by extension, Israel/Palestine – being a place of openness to all faiths. It is too important to at least three religions for it to be otherwise. For that to become a reality, the Republicans’ middle two sentences are still of immense importance, perhaps even more so, so believe it or not I by and large support this part, I just think the underlying plan needs quite a bit of work. Maybe the Republicans are willing to put in that work, or at least throw out their plan if political realities prove it infeasible:

The U.S. seeks a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, negotiated between the parties themselves, without the imposition of an artificial timetable, and without the demand that Israel deal with entities which continue to pledge her destruction.  At the heart of any peace process must be a mutual commitment to resolve all issues through negotiation.  Part of that process must be a just, fair, and realistic framework for dealing with the Palestinian refugee issue.  Like all other elements in a meaningful agreement, this matter can be settled only on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect today’s realities as well as tomorrow’s hopes.

First of all, you need to make sure all parties aren’t stalling, so if you don’t have an “artificial timetable” you need accountability. Second, unfortunately, Hamas and Hezbollah are too powerful for Israel to ignore. Either you suck up and negotiate with terrorists or you don’t negotiate at all until you’ve crippled them, because if Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations, that means they have one heck of a trump card and can hold up negotiations they don’t recognize. The rest is eminently agreeable.


A stable, unified, and democratic Iraqi nation is within reach.  Our success in Iraq will deny al Qaeda a safe haven, limit Iranian influence in the Middle East, strengthen moderate forces there, and give us a strategic ally in the struggle against extremism.  To those who have sacrificed so much, we owe the commitment that American forces will leave that country in victory and with honor.  That outcome is too critical to our own national security to be jeopardized by artificial or politically inspired timetables that neither reflect conditions on the ground nor respect the essential advice of our military commanders.  As the people of Iraq assume their rightful place in the ranks of free and open societies, we offer them a continuing partnership.

Wow, only a single paragraph on the ongoing situation in Iraq. Didn’t I hear that Iraq was demanding some sort of timetable for withdrawal? Hardly “politically inspired” I would hope, and at least partly driven by “conditions on the ground”. Most of the sentiment is hard to disagree with as phrased, actually.

In the seven years since U.S. troops helped topple the Taliban, there has been great progress – but much remains to be done.  We must prevail in Afghanistan to prevent the reemergence of the Taliban or an al Qaeda sanctuary in that country.  A nationwide counterinsurgency strategy led by a unified commander is an essential prerequisite to success.  Additional forces are also necessary, both from NATO countries and through a doubling in size of the Afghan army.  The international community must work with the Afghan government to better address the problems of illegal drugs, governance, and corruption.  We flatly reject the Democratic Party’s idea that America can succeed in Afghanistan only by failure in Iraq.

Pacifists probably hate this part, but they probably gave up long ago. The first two and penultimate sentences are the most agreeable. So is the part about doubling Afghanistan’s own army, which would seem to indicate a strengthening of Afghan sovereignty. I’m not qualified to talk matters of military strategy, but the third sentence certainly sounds good. We’re already pulling out our troops from Iraq anyway, and we’re close enough to achieving our goals there we can knock that out and then jog over to Afghanistan. If you’re thinking the last sentence is probably a distortion of the Democratic position, you’re probably right.

We close out with “Iran”, where the Republicans claim the Iranian people “seek peace and aspire to freedom. Their current regime, aggressive and repressive, is unworthy of them.  The Iranian people, many of whom risk persecution to speak out for democracy, have a right to choose their own government.” Which certainly seems to be saying Iran is ready for democracy. Certainly it’s ready for something better than its current government. “As a rogue state, Iran’s leadership supports terror, threatens its neighbors, and provides weapons that are killing our troops in Iraq.  We affirm, in the plainest words we can use, that the U.S. government, in solidarity with the international community, will not allow the current regime in Tehran to develop nuclear weapons.” Certainly an agreeable point.

We call for a significant increase in political, economic, and diplomatic pressure to persuade Iran’s rulers to halt their drive for a nuclear weapons capability, and we support tighter sanctions against Iran and the companies with business operations in or with Iran. We oppose entering into a presidential-level, unconditional dialogue with the regime in Iran until it takes steps to improve its behavior, particularly with respect to support of terrorism and suspension of its efforts to enrich uranium.  At the same time, the U.S. must retain all options in dealing with a situation that gravely threatens our security, our interests, and the safety of our friends.

Wouldn’t some sort of dialogue be necessary to speed along the process of lowering support of terrorism and suspending uranium enrichment? To be sure, tighter sanctions – to instill a drive to negotiate – would certainly help. The wording and position of the last sentence indicates that the Republicans would be willing to engage in “unconditional dialogue” if things got desperate, but it could also indicate we really could be singing about “bombing Iran”…

Whew! Was that a long one or what? But we’ve cleared out this part and there’s still plenty more to come!

Examining the Republican Platform Part I: Preamble, “Defending Our Nation” and “Supporting Our Heroes”

We’re far from done examining the Democratic platform, but as I’ve found out most of what I need to know on my principal issue and as this experiment is taking WAY longer than I had hoped, and as I’m having trouble properly critiquing the Dems when I’m only being exposed to their side, we’re moving on to the Republican platform and the wonders it may have in store for us, and how Americans may assess both parties’ platforms. The first thing I notice, aside from the longer length (which is really due to more page breaks), is that the Republicans, at least superficially, make their platform read more like a book. In addition to the PDF I’m working off, you can also read the platform as a series of HTML pages, and in the PDF everything is in a two-column format. The Democrats appear to use Times New Roman for their preamble, and a web-style form where extra spacing, not indents, mark paragraphs; the Republicans use a more stylish font and use indents to mark paragraphs. The preamble comes before the table of contents and reads more like an introduction than the summary-cum-speech the Democratic preamble reads like, and the table of contents lists just each part and not a full outline of each part like the Democratic platform.

But what about the preamble itself? Like the Democrats, the Republicans proclaim their platform

the product of the most open and transparent process in American political history. We offer it to our fellow Americans in the assurance that our Republican ideals are those that unify our country: Courage in the face of foreign foes. An optimistic patriotism, driven by a passion for freedom. Devotion to the inherent dignity and rights of every person. Faith in the virtues of self-reliance, civic commitment, and concern for one another. Distrust of government’s interference in people’s lives. Dedication to a rule of law that both protects and preserves liberty.

To this list, there is not really a good equivalent in the Democratic preamble; there are a couple of lists that come close but perhaps the best example may be the preamble as a whole, or maybe its own first paragraph. I would quibble with a couple of things – I don’t want an overly optimistic patriotism that fails to recognize certain flaws. Other than that all of this at least sounds good, but again, can we trust the Republicans to bring any of it? And I’m not sure our “faith in the virtues…” is particularly well placed at this moment.

The Republicans are no less scared of taking a shot at the Democrats as the Democrats are of taking shots at Bush:

We present this platform at an uncertain point in time. Our country remains at war and committed to victory, but reckless political forces would imperil that goal and endanger our nation. In the economy and in society at large, it is a time of transformation. But the American people will meet these challenges. Even with its uncertainties, they embrace the future, but they are also too wise to rush headlong into it. We are an adventurous, risk-taking people, but we are not gamblers. A sound democracy trusts new leadership but insists that it demonstrate the old virtues: the character and the command that, in times of conflict and crisis, have led the Republic through its trials.

The Republicans proclaim their foundation on “proven truths and tested wisdom” and that the platform “shows what the American people can accomplish when government respects their rights, conserves their resources, and calls upon their love of country. It is not a tribute to bigger government.” (Man, for a party that was in power for 12 years in Congress and the last 8 years in the presidency, they sure do love their small government tack!) These sort of even emptier platitudes continue for a while, including proclaiming themselves “a party – as we are a nation – of mavericks” and “the one party that speaks to all Americans – conservatives, moderates, libertarians, independents, and even liberals.” This sort of thing continues for a while, with no overview of the current situation or overview of what the Republicans are actually proposing, as in the Democratic preamble. It does end “[w]ith gratitude for eight years of honorable service from President George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the Republican Party now stands united behind new leadership, an American patriot, John McCain” and an invocation to the Almighty.
So I’ll move right along into Part I, “Defending Our Nation, Supporting Our Heroes, Securing the Peace”. Unlike in the Democratic platform, parts aren’t given numbers so I’ve added them. It’s telling that the Democrats start with the economic crisis and helping the American family, and the Republicans start with military matters.

Three decades ago, in a world as dangerous as today’s, Americans of all stripes came together to advance the cause of freedom. They had witnessed the wreckage of inexperienced good intentions at the highest levels of government, the folly of an amateur foreign policy. And so, in defiance of a world-wide Marxist advance, they announced a goal as enduring as the vision of Isaiah, to “proclaim liberty to the captives,” and summed up America’s strategy for achieving that end in a timeless slogan: Peace through strength – an enduring peace, based on freedom and the will to defend it.

That goal still requires the unity of Americans beyond differences of party and conflicts of personality. The rancor of past years must now give way to a common goal of security for our country and safety for our people. For seven years, the horror of September 11, 2001 has not been repeated on our soil. For that, we are prayerfully grateful and salute all who have played a role in defending our homeland. We pledge to continue their vigilance and to assure they have the authority and resources they need to protect the nation.

The last sentence is the only really “overview” part of this brief introduction.
“Defending Our Nation”: “The Current Conflict Abroad”: “Our first obligation is the security of our country.” There, I’ve affirmed it. Keeping us safe keeps everyone safe to enjoy everything else.

The waging of war – and the achieving of peace – should never be micromanaged in a party platform, or on the floor of the Senate and House of Representatives for that matter. In dealing with present conflicts and future crises, our next president must preserve all options. It would be presumptuous to specify them in advance and foolhardy to rule out any action deemed necessary for our security.

Um. Okay. I get your point, but can I get at least a broad idea of what approach you’d take? Would you favor diplomacy first, or just charge in with guns a-blazin’? Are you really willing to throw out any principles if it’s “necessary for our security”? Come to think of it, you don’t really make the point that it would be dangerous to “specify them in advance”, so you’re basically saying, you don’t have a plan and you’d just like to do whatever you want. After the unpopular Iraq war, how can we trust you with that power? Or is this like the Democrats and the economic crisis?
“Homeland Security”: “The security of the country is now everyone’s responsibility,” proclaim the Republicans. “The fact that eighty percent of our critical infrastructure is in private hands highlights the need for public-private partnerships to safeguard it, especially in the energy industry.” I’ll keep this in mind; I can certainly see the thinking behind it.

Along with unrelenting vigilance to prevent bioterrorism and other WMD-related attacks, we must regularly exercise our ability to quickly respond if one were to occur. We must continue to remove barriers to cooperation and information sharing. Modernized 9-1-1 services must be made universally available and be adequately funded. We must be able to thwart cyber attacks that could cripple our economy, monitor terrorist activities while respecting Americans’ civil liberties, and protect against military and industrial espionage and sabotage. All this requires experienced leadership.

All well and good – you better make sure you do respect Americans’ civil liberties, is all I have to add. Presumably the “experienced leadership” line is taking a shot at Obama.
“Terrorism and Nuclear Proliferation”: Man, the Republicans are not shy about taking shots at Democrats:

The attacks of September 11, 2001 were a pivot point in our national experience. They highlighted the failure of national policy to recognize and respond to the growth of a global terror network. They should have put an end to the Democrats’ naïve thinking that international terrorists could be dealt with within the normal criminal justice system, but that misconception persists.

Um… first of all, 9/11 happened on Bush’s watch. Whose “failure of national policy” was it? And since the terrorists weren’t even pursued prior to 9/11, how did 9/11 prove they couldn’t be “dealt with within the normal criminal justice system”? There’s a point to be made that “international terrorists” should be dealt with internationally, but the Republicans don’t really say so, so for all I know they just want to deal with terrorists or even people they think might have a tiny chance of being terrorists however they want.
“The gravest threat we face – nuclear terrorism – demands a comprehensive strategy for reducing the world’s nuclear stockpiles and preventing proliferation. The U.S. should lead that effort by reducing the size of our nuclear arsenal to the lowest number consistent with our security requirements and working with other nuclear powers to do the same.” Sounds all well and good. “In cooperation with other nations, we should end the production of weapons-grade fissile material, improve our collective ability to interdict the spread of weapons of mass destruction and related materials, and ensure the highest possible security standards for existing nuclear materials wherever they may be located.” Again, can’t argue with that.

But that is not enough. We must develop and deploy both national and theater missile defenses to protect the American homeland, our people, our Armed Forces abroad, and our allies. Effective, layered missile defenses are critical to guard against the unpredictable actions of rogue regimes and outlaw states, reduce the possibility of strategic blackmail, and avoid the disastrous consequences of an accidental or unauthorized launch by a foreign power.

Ooo…kay. I’ve heard bad things about the effectiveness and expense of such schemes. But we do need to protect against, say, an unprovoked, out-of-nowhere attack from North Korea, not let ourselves be blackmailed, and not let dumb mistakes start World War III. The middle option, and to some extent the first suggests just the opposite of what the Republicans had proposed in the previous paragraph – improving our military power – but mistakes could happen (although World War III hasn’t started yet) and I’d like to make sure we have a strategy. I’ll see if the Democrats propose anything that might actually work.
But oh look! We have an answer to at least the first! “Better Intelligence – the Key to Prevention”: “Intelligence is America’s first line of defense. We must increase the ranks and resources of our human intelligence capabilities, integrate technical and human sources, and get that information more quickly to the warfighter and the policy maker. The multi-jurisdictional arrangements that now prevail on Capitol Hill should be replaced by a single Joint Committee on Intelligence.” All very well and good, though I don’t know what the real impact of creating a “Joint Committee on Intelligence” would be.

Intelligence is Key to Fighting Bioterrorism and Cyberterrorism
Bioterrorism and cyberterrorism, once the stuff of science fiction films, are immediate threats to our nation’s health and safety. Our food and water distribution systems require special vigilance. By the same token, a well-placed cyber-attack could cripple our economy, shut down our energy and transportation systems, wreck our health care delivery systems, and put millions of lives at risk. Although our country has thwarted new terrorist attacks since 2001, those threats do persist. That is why our reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was so vital, and why the Democrats’ opposition to it was so wrong.

This makes it sound like the GOP reformed FISA to improve our intelligence agencies’ ability to stop bioterrorism and cyberterrorism, a laudable goal, and nothing more. But without details, I don’t know if there aren’t good reasons for the Dems to oppose it.
“Immigration, National Security, and the Rule of Law”: “Immigration policy is a national security issue, for which we have one test: Does it serve the national interest? By that standard, Republicans know America can have a strong immigration system without sacrificing the rule of law.” Which means we can continue letting in the immigrants that make this country great, but presumably we aren’t letting in criminals and terrorists. Or, as they put it later, “terrorism, drug cartels, and criminal gangs”. So of course the first subheading is “Enforcing the Rule of Law at the Border and Throughout the Nation”, which lets you know where the GOP’s real priorities lie. Still, this subheading talks about laudable goals: “allowing millions of unidentified persons to enter and remain in this country poses grave risks to the sovereignty of the United States and the security of its people. We simply must be able to track who is entering and leaving our country.” I don’t disagree with any of that, although if they’re perfectly innocent and not a threat to our sovereignty they shouldn’t just be kicked out.

Our determination to uphold the rule of law begins with more effective enforcement, giving our agents the tools and resources they need to protect our sovereignty, completing the border fence quickly and securing the borders, and employing complementary strategies to secure our ports of entry. Experience shows that enforcement of existing laws is effective in reducing and reversing illegal immigration.

So the Republicans are all about enforcing the law. Support our border agents, fence ourselves off, “secure our ports of entry”. “Reducing and reversing illegal immigration” might hint at a disdainful attitude towards immigrants. Rather than track down the bad apples that would undermine the rule of law, the Republicans just want to seal ourselves off. This perhaps becomes especially pronounced in the next paragraph:

Our commitment to the rule of law means smarter enforcement at the workplace, against illegal workers and lawbreaking employers alike, along with those who practice identity theft and traffic in fraudulent documents. As long as jobs are available in the United States, economic incentives to enter illegally will persist. But we must empower employers so they can know with confidence that those they hire are permitted to work. That means that the E-Verify system – which is an internet-based system that verifies the employment authorization and identity of employees – must be reauthorized. A phased-in requirement that employers use the E-Verify system must be enacted.

It’s clear that the Republicans’ concern is not solely with the rule of law. Crack down on illegal workers whether they want to destroy America or not – and their employers as well. “Those who practice identity theft and traffic in fraudulent documents” I’m okay with cracking down on, but let’s also make it less necessary. It’s also clear from the bit about E-Verify that by “employers” in the first sentence the GOP means employers who knowingly employ illegals, presumably out of fear those employers are trying to undermine the “rule of law”. Never mind that those illegals might be contributing to our economy. I agree with the whole E-Verify bit but I think I see it very differently than the Republicans see it.
“The rule of law means guaranteeing to law enforcement the tools and coordination to deport criminal aliens without delay – and correcting court decisions that have made deportation so difficult.” Of course due process should be in place here, but if someone is convicted with a crime serious enough to warrant deportation of course we should do so. “It means enforcing the law against those who overstay their visas, rather than letting millions flout the generosity that gave them temporary entry.” Of course, but maybe we should find out why people overstay their visas instead of renewing them if they need to. “It means imposing maximum penalties on those who smuggle illegal aliens into the U.S., both for their lawbreaking and for their cruel exploitation.” Agreed, but what do you mean by “maximum penalties”, and are you willing to scale it to the level of exploitation? For example, if a bunch of people form a cooperative to sneak across the border, is there any “exploitation” here?

It means requiring cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement and real consequences, including the denial of federal funds, for self-described sanctuary cities, which stand in open defiance of the federal and state statutes that expressly prohibit such sanctuary policies, and which endanger the lives of U.S. citizens. It does not mean driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, nor does it mean that states should be allowed to flout the federal law barring them from giving in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens, nor does it mean that illegal aliens should receive social security benefits, or other public benefits, except as provided by federal law.

So much for states’ rights! Seriously, the idea that it’s OK to be an illegal alien in some places and not in others is kind of ridiculous (not to mention, really does undermine the “rule of law”), but I would think what would be needed is some sort of reform that reduces the demand for such cities. Rewarding illegal aliens is not exactly okay, but shouldn’t we have a process for verifying them and making them legal? I mean, when I think of a “strong immigration system” I think of a system that welcomes the world’s detritus with open arms, “your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” but still puts them through a system that keeps the country safe and secure, allowing immigrants to contribute to the American economy without undermining our security. Or am I just stuck in the 19th century?
“We oppose amnesty. The rule of law suffers if government policies encourage or reward illegal activity. The American people’s rejection of en masse legalizations is especially appropriate given the federal government’s past failures to enforce the law.” “Assume legality first and ask questions later” certainly is not a good idea, but it seems that “the federal government’s past failures to enforce the law” is part of the reason some people are proposing amnesty, because it would take forever to process all the legalization requests. Here’s a thought: How about if we work to help Mexico improve its economy and living standards, so we’re no longer half of one of the largest disparities in living standards across a border on Earth and so we don’t have the entire population of Mexico looking to hop the fence?
Fortunately, the Republicans are also at least willing to pay lip service to my idea of a “strong immigration system”, because the next subheading is “Embracing Immigrant Communities”, and it’s full of the sort of empty platitudes you’d expect from people campaigning for immigrant votes. Here are the actual points of policy: “Both government and the private sector must do more to foster legally present immigrants’ integration into American life to advance respect for the rule of law and a common American identity. It is a national disgrace that the first experience most new Americans have is with a dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy defined by delay and confusion; we will no longer tolerate those failures.” Amen! “In our multiethnic nation, everyone – immigrants and native-born alike – must embrace our core values of liberty, equality, meritocracy, and respect for human dignity and the rights of women.” Ideally, yes please!*

One sign of our unity is our English language. For newcomers, it has always been the fastest route to prosperity in America. English empowers. We support English as the official language in our nation, while welcoming the ethnic diversity in the United States and the territories, including language. Immigrants should be encouraged to learn English. English is the accepted language of business, commerce, and legal proceedings, and it is essential as a unifying cultural force. It is also important, as part of cultural integration, that our schools provide better education in U.S. history and civics for all children, thereby fostering a commitment to our national motto, E Pluribus Unum.

Ah, here’s a way to say “we support immigration” while still scoring political points! I smell an undercurrent of “durn forinners and their durn gib’rish”. Ideally, if English “has always been the fastest route to prosperity in America”, immigrants would learn English of their own accord. This ties in with what the Democrats were talking about with regards to multiculturalism and learning new languages. I can tell the Republicans are probably greatly concerned about the Democrats’ proposal for children to learn at least one other language.
So let’s see… I hope we can all support the Democrats’ proposal for increased funding for bilingual “English Language Learner” classes. But should we also ask our own kids to learn one other language? Dems would say we should in order to compete in the global economy, Republicans would say it would undermine English’s central status as our national, “unifying” language. But nothing says everyone has to learn Spanish; some people could learn French, some German, some Japanese, some Farsi. English could remain the one language that unifies us all as Americans, but at the same time we can also compete and trade with nations that aren’t part of the British Commonwealth.
The last sentence is certainly something no one could disagree with if they consider themselves patriots, although hopefully the US history lesson is a bit deeper than “we’re so great, we’re greatly greatly great”. This subheading ends with a thank-you to immigrants in the military, and how it’s a reminder to “the institutions of civil society of the need to embrace newcomers, assist their journey to full citizenship, and help their communities avoid patterns of isolation.” I’m not sure how that squares with all the roadblocks the Republicans threw up in the first subheading.
(*=trying to stifle guffaws of laughter)
Finally: “Welcoming Refugees Our country continues to accept refugees from
troubled lands all over the world. In some cases,
these are people who stood with America in dangerous
times, and they have first call on our hospitality.
We oppose, however, the granting of refugee status on the basis of lifestyle or other non-political factors.” What? What does this even mean? Are you saying that if someone is kicked out of, say, Saudi Arabia because they’re gay you wouldn’t grant them safe haven? Or does it mean something else? Because if you’re saying that, you’re kind of breaking the spirit of our reputation of welcomeness for the sake of paltry political disputes… I hate to bring Hitler into this sort of discussion, but it’s kind of like refusing to take in refugees of the Holocaust…
“Supporting Our Heroes”: Unlike the last section, this section contains an introduction of sorts, trying to take credit for “the best-manned, best-trained, best-equipped, and best-led military in the world” and accusing Clinton of “neglect[ing] and under-fund[ing]” it. “Our Armed Forces today are modern, agile, and adaptable to the unpredictable range of challenges in the years ahead. We pledge to keep them that way.”
“Providing for the Armed Forces”:

The men and women who wear our country’s uniform – whether on active duty or in the Reserves or National Guard – are the most important assets in our military arsenal. They and their families must have the pay, health care, housing, education, and overall support they need. We must significantly increase the size of our Armed Forces; crucial to that goal will be retention of combat veterans.

No one, certainly no patriot, would disagree with the first two sentences, but “significantly increase the size of our Armed Forces”? “[R]etention of combat veterans” that just want to go home? I thought pacifists would hate the Democratic preamble, but this makes the Dems sound like kumbaya-chanting hippies! Didn’t the Republicans already make our military “the best-manned… military in the world”? Why do they feel the need to add more people to “our Armed Forces”? I really want to find out what it is that makes the Republicans think we need to boost our military even more because I don’t want some sort of militaristic bully as a home country and I want a reassurance the Republicans want peace. And this is in their public party platform? Really, what is it?

Injured military personnel deserve the best medical care our country has to offer. The special circumstances of the conflict in Iraq have resulted in an unprecedented incidence of traumatic brain injury, which calls for a new commitment of resources and personnel for its care and treatment. We must make military medicine the gold standard for advances in prosthetics and the treatment of trauma and eye injuries.

Absolutely agreeable from top to bottom, but you haven’t exactly answered my question… “We must always remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice; their families must be assured meaningful financial assistance. It is the solemn duty we owe and honor we give to those who bravely don the uniform of freedom.” Again, completely agreeable.

National Guard and Reserves
We pledge to maintain the strength of the National Guard and Reserves and to ensure they receive pay, benefits, and resources befitting their service. Their historic role as citizen-soldiers is a proud tradition linking every community with the cause of national security. We affirm service members’ legal right to return to their civilian jobs, whether in government or in the private sector, when their active duty is completed, and we call for greater transition assistance from employers across the nation to smooth their return to the work force.

Once again, completely agreeable, though the significant presence of National Guard troops in Iraq is a cause for concern.

Personnel policies
The all-volunteer force has been a success. We oppose reinstituting the draft, whether directly or through compulsory national service. We support the advancement of women in the military and their exemption from ground combat units. Military priorities and mission must determine personnel policies. Esprit and cohesion are necessary for military effectiveness and success on the battlefield. To protect our servicemen and women and ensure that America’s Armed Forces remain the best in the world, we affirm the timelessness of those values, the benefits of traditional military culture, and the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service.

I can’t help but wonder if “through compulsory national service” is a shot at the Democrats’ attempts to mandate community service. If so, it’s actually a decent point. Not sure whether I like or dislike the exemption of women from “ground combat units”. For the most part, the last couple of sentences sound good, saying we need camaraderie to have the strongest military we can, but I’m not sure how government policies can benefit that goal – and the one specific they provide, “the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service”, is kind of scary. That, like the need to exempt women from “ground combat units”, is a real difference of opinion and it’s probably on shakier ground.
“Fulfilling our Commitment to our Veterans”: “To military personnel who have served honorably and then retire or leave active duty, we owe a smooth transition to civilian life. Funding for the programs that assist them should be sufficient, timely, and predictable and never be subject to political gamesmanship.” As always seems to be the case, I can’t disagree.

Economic Opportunity for Veterans
Returning veterans must have access to education benefits, job training, and a wide variety of employment options. We want to build on the bipartisan expansion of the GI Bill by encouraging private colleges to bridge the gap between GI Bill education benefits and tuition costs. We will strongly enforce the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act so that returning veterans can promptly return to their former jobs. Our existing “veteran preference” regulations must lead to real action, not hollow promises. We encourage private businesses to expand their outreach to the veterans community, especially disabled veterans.

All sounds good, assuming there isn’t anything insidious behind it, and while “veteran preference” sounds like a version of affirmative action, if you’re a patriot you probably think it’s a fair one.

Veterans’ Health Care and Disability System
We will hold the VA accountable for tangible results and steady improvement of its services. The VA must become more responsive and more efficient by eliminating its disability backlog and reducing waiting times for treatment. To ensure that the VA provides veterans with world class medical care, both at its own facilities and through partnerships with community providers, we must recruit the next generation of highly qualified medical professionals.

I hope you have a real plan to make the VA more efficient that doesn’t involve shortchanging veterans receiving treatment. I’ll keep in mind that you want top-flight medical professionals to go to the VA; can’t quite remember if the Dems took a stand on where the best doctors should go when they were spouting off about health care. “Where distance or crowding is an obstacle to traditional
VA facility-based care, our veterans should be
provided access to qualified out-of-network
providers.” And of course, the Republicans’ solution to everything, as always, is privatization! To be fair, this talks about cases where the VA isn’t available anyway, so ideally veterans would get the next best alternative. “We call for greater attention by the VA to
the special health care needs of women veterans,
who will comprise an even larger percentage of VA patients in the future.” Sounds fair enough, though ideally the VA is already making plans.
“The VA’s current disability compensation formulas need to be restructured and modernized. Those who have borne the burden of war must have access to training, rehabilitation, and education. Their families and caregivers deserve our concern and support.” For a patriot, the last two sentences make sense, but I’m not sure what you think is wrong with the current formulas for these purposes…

We pledge special attention to combat stress injuries. There must be adequate counseling when veterans return home – for them and their families. They should have ongoing professional care, whether in a VA facility or closer to home, so that the natural and usually temporary responses to the horrors of war do not become permanent conditions. We recognize the need for more mental health professionals who can give the highest quality treatment to our veterans.

This may be one of the most important parts of VA care, so I applaud this sentiment as well. The mental and psychological scars of war may be as bad if not worse than the physical scars. This heading ends with applause and a call for support for non-profit organizations that provide their own help to “veterans and their families”.
The last subsection is very short so I’ll plow on even though it may put this post further past 5,000 words than it would have been short of that number if I had stopped before talking about veterans, if that makes any sense. “Procurement Reform”:

The military’s partners are the men and women who work in the defense industry and civilian sector, supplying the Armed Forces with weapons and equipment vital to the success of their mission. To ensure that our troops receive the best material at the best value, we must reform the defense budgeting and acquisition process to control costs and ensure vigorous and fair competition. We will not allow congressional pork to take the place of sound, sustained investment in the nation’s security.

Ah yes, once again big praise for the private sector, specifically the infamous military-industrial complex! Actually “control[ling] costs” is very important because I’ve heard too many horror stories about no-bid contracts resulting in poor treatment for our men and women in Iraq, but “control[ling] costs” is the closest the Republicans come to recognizing those shoddy conditions and their cause. Well, and “vigorous and fair competition” presumably means no more no-bid contracts either. But do we really need to change the system or just install controls to prevent bypassing it? And is it telling that this issue gets a single paragraph?
Hopefully with just this one post, and the first two for the Democrats, you already see a significant difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats hit the ground running with as many social issues as they can shake a stick at, with a very long section on health care reform. Republicans are all about national security and our military. We’ll see what happens when both parties dabble into each other’s fields later in the week. As for how long we’re going, we’ve made it to what Acrobat calls page 13 of 67, so we could be good for five parts… but a significant number of those pages contain nothing of substance. Stay tuned.