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An Open Letter to Andrew Sullivan
February 4, 2004
By Michael Shannon

Dear Mr. Sullivan,

I am a long time and daily reader of your blog. I read it in equal parts because of the wide range of topics you so ably address as well as for your never-failing ability to enrage me with your continued assertion that Mr Bush is our best bet to confront the most pressing problems of the day. (It is always advisable to know how the other side thinks.) It is in this light that in reading your post of Saturday, January 31, that I so greatly appreciate your admission of being "conflicted."

As you know from my numerous e-mails, I have often criticized your steadfast devotion to Mr Bush as being both unwarranted in general and in particular, too narrowly focused on his response to the events of That Day. Hearing you admit that your devotion is being sorely tested is more than a little encouraging.

To be fair; over the course of his Presidency you have found fault with much of W's agenda and methodology, particularly with how he has so badly bungled the Federal fiscal balance. However, you insist on sticking with the guy because of his record of taking the fight to those who would do us harm. Understandable perhaps given the events of these past several years but still misguided because you just so happen to be right.

The fight against Islamic extremism is an extremely dangerous one - both in terms of the damage that can be done as things stand today and even more so about how dreadful they could be in the future. The outcome of this struggle will have a profound impact on the lives of every person on this planet. But it is precisely for this reason that I find Bush so lacking.

The United States even with all of its awesome economic, cultural and, yes, military strength cannot battle this menace alone. Nor can we do it merely by wielding the sharpest and shiniest sword. It is imperative that we gather any and all friends of liberty and peace to our side to insure that this threat is forever vanquished. And, no, that does not mean that we need to kowtow to other nations to get them on our side. It means we need to lead with far more skill and wisdom than the Bush Team has shown themselves capable of.

There are any number of points to buttress this argument. For instance: France did not prevent the US from getting its final permission from the UN to move against Iraq. Blaming them is a shallow and jingoistic response to something that is far more complicated than simple name calling and finger pointing. Remember when the President said that regardless of the vote he was going to demand that the members show their cards? Well, had he followed through on that declaration and the French were the sole vote against the war they would have immediately been branded as obstructionist at best. But France was far from alone, there were by some counts as many as eight other nations that would have voted No on that second resolution. Yes they were small and "not important" but in a democratic system lack of wealth and social standing are not supposed to affect the validity of your vote. By choosing to withdraw the American-British measure from consideration - and yes, Resolution 1441 clearly states that if Iraq was found in material breach that the Council must be consulted to determine further action - Mr Bush damaged American prestige to an extent that is hard to measure.

And now, in light of the WMD debacle and the implosion of the rationale for a war that was entirely elective; short of another - God forbid - horrible attack on innocent men, women and children, who in the international community will jump to their feet to stand with us the next time we take our case to the world? To pretend that the Bush administration has not severely damaged the credibility of the US in the eyes of the world is to deny reality. Similarly to deny that they have a pronounced tendency to see things as they wish to see them is equally myopic. As an example of the latter: There are reams of evidence that the Bush team deliberately underplayed - if not summarily dismissed - the learned and detailed assessments and recommendations of how the situation in post war Iraq should be best handled; even from some of the best and brightest within the US government.

And what is the result? American soldiers are still dying on a daily basis. Yes, a Satanic loser has been removed from power and never again will be allowed to prey on anyone. And for this the vast majority of the Iraqi people are grateful. But to argue that almost a year after the onset of hostilities that Iraq has been pacified and is ready for a smooth and peaceful transition to democratic rule is delusional. And nor does it seem are we any closer to bringing to heel the men who did so brutally assault our nation some two and half years ago.

I noted at the onset on this letter that your admission to being conflicted was encouraging. I meant that as a means of taking a reading from someone who has long backed Bush's policies in foreign affairs. In actuality, if someone such as yourself is now beginning to doubt the direction and effect of those policies, than that is an admission of just how dire our situation is. And that is nothing to be encouraged about.

Mr Sullivan, the approach of the Bush team is far too one dimensional and far too headstrong to handle the complexities of the challenges we face. If we wish to prevail and prevail we must, we have to do better. Who the right person and team is to lead us to that end, I do not know. There I too am conflicted. But one thing I am quite sure of is that Mr Bush is most assuredly not that person.

Here's to hoping that you and the rest of us find him or her soon.

Contact Mike at

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