I have believed all along that this election was enormously important, perhaps as important as in 1980, when I thought that a Carter reelection might well tip the world balance of power against us. This time I feared that a Bush defeat might have two disastrous consequences:
The world at large would view it as a rejection of the war against the terror masters, thereby strengthening the forces of appeasement in allied countries, especially in Europe;
The Middle East in particular would view it, as Putin rightly said, as a victory for the terrorists–thereby producing a surge of support for the terror network, including money from mugwump rulers in places like Morocco and Jordan, and a groundswell of new volunteers to inflate the terrorists’ ranks.
I did not believe that “policy would be more or less the same” with the Democrats in charge. I believed they would rush toward reconciliation with our European critics, U.N.-ify our Middle East policy, stand by while Iran acquired and tested atomic bombs, and then appease the mullahs–setting the war back by at least two years.
Thank heavens we will not know all that now. And as the election returns rolled in from Ohio, I was struck by one of the basic patterns in the history of American foreign policy: how often we are saved by our enemies. Over and over again, our enemies have forced us to do things we wouldn’t have done if we had been left to our own devices. We were torpedoed into the First World War by German U-boats. We were bombed into World War II, just in time, by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. We were dragged unwillingly into the Cold War by Stalin’s impatient power grabs. We were forced into the Gulf War by Saddam’s hasty invasion of Kuwait (if he had waited a year or two, we would have dismantled a considerable portion of our military). And we were terrorized into the current unpleasantness by the attacks of September 11th.
Left to our own devices we’d have stayed home in every case, because most Americans don’t like foreign adventures and are happy to be at home. Something usually has to happen to get us to act.
Metaphorically, something similar happened in Ohio. You may recall that the Guardian, the leftist British newspaper, convinced its readers to participate in a letter-writing campaign to the residents of Clark County, asking them to vote for Kerry to save the world from Dubya. It seems this brilliant idea sprung at least in part from the pale white forehead of Sidney Blumenthal: the loyal manservant of Hillary Clinton in the White House; the creator of the short-lived doctrine of the “Third Way” that was to have united “progressive” leaders in America and Europe; a regular contributor to the Guardian; and, along with Michael Moore, a pundit on the BBC’s election-night coverage.
To say this scheme backfired is to fail to give it proper credit. It ranks right up there with the worst political schemes, ever. It so disgruntled the Buckeyes that the Guardian called it off after a few weeks. And its impact on American political history seems to have been considerable. As the excellent Peter Roff of UPI tells us, “Turnout in Clark County, according to unofficial data from the office of Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, was almost twice what it was in the 2000 election when Gore defeated Bush by 324 votes out of 35,644 cast. Tuesday, Bush carried Clark County by 1,620 votes, winning almost as many votes–34,444–as were cast for both Bush and Gore four years before.”
Obviously, the Guardian didn’t deliver Ohio to the Republicans, but it certainly helped. And it’s quite possible that, as news of the scheme spread around the state, there was a ripple effect.
So, as we quite properly commend the electorate for its good judgment, we should be grateful to our outspoken enemies at the Guardian for having done what they could to guarantee our victory.
Maybe we should organize a mass letter-writing campaign.