Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 11, 2003
WAR: These Are Not The Allies You Are Looking For
Rich Lowry was blogging the Democrats' most recent debate, and came up with this, on a statement from Howard Dean:
Dean also seems to have boned up on his Iraq policy, although he is still not making much sense. He calls for foreign troops from Iraq's neighbors to come into the country, apparently not noticing that that is exactly what the Iraqi's don't want. That's why there are no Turkish troops in Iraq now...
I was aghast at this; who are Iraq's neighbors besides Turkey?
I could be wrong, but I suspect that the Kuwaiti armed forces aren't particularly useful. And we sure as hell don't want Saudis, Syrians and Iranians patrolling the country if we're hoping to make it safe for democracy. Besides their other flaws - like the fact that none of them is really on our side in the war on terror, to put it mildly - they all have their own regional agendas. That leaves Jordan, which ain't much of a coalition if your alternative is scoffing at allies like Britian and Australia.
But I thought I'd check out the transcript, and Lowry doesn't seem to have precisely captured Dean's statement:
KOPPEL: Governor Dean, you no doubt...
... you no doubt heard or heard about Senator Clinton's views that we will, in all probability, have to keep if not the same number, possibly even a greater number of U.S. troops in Iraq for some extended time to come.
Do you share that view?
DEAN: I don't share that view. I think we need to bring in foreign troops. I think Senator Kerry is right.
First of all, here's what has to happen. What the United States did was appoint an governing council for Vermont -- for Vermont, for Iraq.
That was -- they'd like to appoint one for Vermont these days, I'm sure.
You cannot expect the Iraqis to think that they have their own government if we're appointing their people. We need an election.
Oddly enough, one of the mullahs over there who is a conservative Shiite is right. If you don't have an election, then the Iraqis themselves are going to have no investment in their reconstruction.
KOPPEL: And if you do have an election, then the Shiites hold a significant majority.
DEAN: They may, but it doesn't -- the Shiites are not necessarily uniform. Those people -- actually, the model is Afghanistan.
Our military did a great job in Afghanistan. And I supported the war in Afghanistan because 3,000 of our people had been killed, and I thought we had a right to defend ourselves.
But the fact is, since the military did a great job, this president has made a mess of it. He's trying to turn Afghanistan into a democratic country by signing over four-fifths of the country to the warlords.
However, the thing we ought to take out of Afghanistan is their model for how they're writing their constitution. They had an elected group of people who came to meet in Kabul for quite some time. They wrote a constitution which is an Afghan version of democracy. That can work in Iraq, and that's the first prerequisite.
KOPPEL: You're talking about doing a constitution before you have an election?
DEAN: No, we're talking about doing the election first in order to have the people who write the constitution who are not seen by the Iraqi people as stooges of the Americans.
DEAN: That's the only way to get the Iraqis to buy into their own constitution.
Then we need to go to all those countries that the president insulted on his way into Iraq and get them to rethink their policy towards helping us under the auspices of both the United Nations and ourselves.
That means a new president. This president is never going to repair the damage he did to the moral leadership of this country, because he's incapable of it. He personalizes policy difference, and that is a fatal mistake when you're running anything, whether it's a business or a state or a country.
If we do that, we will be able to do what the president's father successfully did, which is bring 100,000 foreign troops into Iraq, preferably from Arabic-speaking and Muslim nations, to internationalize the reconstruction of Iraq.
Now, the reason I agree with Senator Clinton is this. We will be able to withdraw our Guard and Reserves -- who have no business being over there for a 12-month tour of duty -- we will be able to withdraw at least one of the two divisions. But we will not be able to withdraw an American presence.
The tragedy of what we did in Iraq, which I have opposed right from the beginning, is that now we're stuck there, because there was no serious threat to the United States from Saddam Hussein, but there is a threat from an Iraq with Al Qaida in it or with a fundamentalist Shiite regime which is closely allied with the Iranians.
President Bush said a few weeks ago on a Sunday night that Iraq was at the crossroads of the battle against terrorism.
DEAN: That wasn't true before we went in, but he has made it so and he has endangered the security of the United States of America by going into Iraq and that was a mistake.
That doesn't sound quite as bad, but it's still crazy. Most of the Muslim and Arab countries aren't democracies or friends of democracies, and if we complain now about the roughness of tactics sometimes needed by Americans to pacify Iraq, what happens when the Pakistani troops or somebody opens fire on a crowd? (Or the alternative; I recall from the book Black Hawk Down the unwillingness of coalition troops from Pakistan and other places to provide support to our own troops when they got in trouble). I really don't see how other countries' troops are better equipped to get this job done, or how they'd be any less targets for terror (think of the Red Cross bombing). The only benefit they provide is that somebody else does some of our job for us. In a conflict where we need to have a long-term strategy, that's incredibly small-minded short-term thinking. And it's a long, long way from a country whose president promised 40 years ago that we would "bear any burden" for the friends of freedom around the world.