Peoples political ideas spring from an underlying coherent model of reality. Understanding that model is key to predicting their future behavior. In last night’s debate Kerry revealed a key component of his world-model.
From the Debate transcript:
And part of that leadership is sending the right message to places like North Korea.
Right now the president is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research bunker-busting nuclear weapons. The United States is pursuing a new set of nuclear weapons. It doesn’t make sense.
You talk about mixed messages. We’re telling other people, “You can’t have nuclear weapons,” but we’re pursuing a new nuclear weapon that we might even contemplate using.
Not this president. I’m going to shut that program down, and we’re going to make it clear to the world we’re serious about containing nuclear proliferation.
In Kerry’s world model controlling nuclear proliferation is about moral suasion. He would contain the threat of rouge nuclear entities by making nuclear weapons a moral taboo. To create this taboo, we must lead by example and refuse develop new nuclear weapons. Our shining moral example will create a world in which it will be difficult for any national or sub-national political entity to justify creating, stealing and using nuclear weapons of their own.
At his heart Kerry is a talker. His core skill is political persuasion. He wants fiercely to believe in a world where any problem can be solved with enough articulation. He honestly believes that he can convince anybody to do anything. In his model, the US does not need nuclear weapons, especially new types of them, because they are superfluous when moral example and negotiation can easily contain the nuclear threat.
Sadly, Kerry doesn’t understand that violence isn’t about moral standing, it is about physics. Violence is the directing of matter and energy against the human body such that the body ceases organic functioning. If you have a great enough power to direct enough matter and energy against your fellow humans then you don’t have to give a damn about your moral standing in the eyes of others.
The minds that created and celebrated the 9/11 attacks are not going to be swayed or deterred in the least because the U.S. self-righteously refuses to build new weapons. Instead, like all militaristic enemies we have faced, they will interpret it as a sign of our effete decadence and lack of martial virtue. North Korean will not be impressed by our refusal to create weapons that might destroy their underground facilities neither will the diffuse moral condemnation of the world community mean much to a regime will to let millions of own people starve to death.
Kerry’s model of international relations and the means and methods of stopping violence is badly broken. He is wedged firmly up the highest spire of the the Ivory Tower. He will unilaterally surrender the physical tools we may need to prevent mass-casualty violence in exchange for a dubiously useful moral superiority. If that moral stance fails to forestall the violence he, or more likely his successors, won’t have the tools to physically stop it.
(Update: From reading comments here and elsewhere on the same subject I am reminded that many people think that “bunker buster” implies a very large destructive bomb. The opposite is true. What makes a weapon a “bunker buster” is the ability of shell of the projectile to punch deeply into the ground. It more akin to an ice pick than a sledgehammer. The original bunker busters used in the first gulf war were made from the barrels of large navel guns filled with 250lbs of explosives and fitted with guiding fins. In terms of their bang they were rather small, hardily larger than some artillery shells. What burst the bunker is the where the weapon detonates not how large the explosion is.)
(cross posted at Shannon Love’s Blog)