June 18, 2004
WAR: The Weathervane
Over at the Command Post I note John Kerry's latest broadside against the idea that the Iraq war is part of the war on terror, and contrast it with what he said back in 2002 when he voted to authorize the war. It's Kerry's clearest statement yet that he simply wants no part of the current strategy in the war on terror - viewing the problem as one arising from the nature of the whole Middle East and requiring a regional solution - but sees the war as just Afghanistan and some parts of Pakistan where Al Qaeda remains in concentrated hiding.
John McCain, by stark contrast, has not gone wobbly at all; in this New Republic article (subscription only), despite some criticisms for how the Bush Administration handled the pre- and post-war situation in Iraq, McCain expresses no reservations about the decision to go to war based on the information we had at the time (or on what we know now), and makes clear that he buys in completely to the "neocon" vision of the war's overall strategy:
Added to th[e humanitarian] justification for war were the potential benefits to the region--the ripple effects that a free and democratic Iraqi state can still have on the Middle East. Naysayers have accused hawks of playing dice with people's lives: How could we possibly know that a democratic Iraq would have a demonstration effect on the region? On one level, they are correct; we cannot know. But we did know what would happen if we didn't try. The ossified situation in the Middle East, with its utter lack of political freedom or economic opportunity for millions of men and women, helps breed murderous ideologies that threaten the United States. And the region's autocratic but pro-American regimes are increasingly incapable of stifling these deadly, anti-Western tendencies in their own people. The Saudi regime pledges its love and respect for the United States, yet 15 of 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudi. Establishing a democratic Iraq in the heart of the region was, and remains, our best chance for encouraging the necessary transformation of the Middle East. Already, the effects of Iraq are being felt: A major reform conference recently took place in Alexandria, Egypt, and the Arab League has endorsed a reform agenda.
So, in the end, we had essentially three choices--deal with Saddam early, while we could; deal with Saddam later, after sanctions had lost force, he had resuscitated his weapons programs, and more Iraqis had lost their lives; or simply sit back and hope for the best. We were right to act. And we have paid a high price for our noble ambitions--over 800 Americans dead, well over $100 billion and counting spent on the war, disgrace at Abu Ghraib. But, when I stood in August at the mass grave at Hilla, where 10,000 Iraqis were executed--some tied together and shot so as to save bullets--I did not wish to take it all back. We believed we would be greeted as liberators, and in many places we have been--not everywhere, to be sure, but, during my visit to the country, there was widespread thanks for the coalition.
Count me with McCain on this one. We know where he stands. The best you can say about Kerry's position is that it's subject to change.
Of course, McCain isn't running against Kerry, Bush is. And I don't think Bush has ever spoken so clearly about what he's trying to accomplish in the Middle East. More importantly, it's not at all clear to me that Bush is completely committed to bringing about the necessary changes there, or that he's a good enough President to be able to accomplish it. (Plus I almost totally disagree with him on domestic issues.) So even though I tend to agree with Bush on foreign policy, I'll most likely vote for Kerry. But if it makes you feel any better, I still think Bush is going to win. Kerry's a horrible, horrible candidate.
No, but McCain is firmly in the Bush camp - if anything, he's more committed to Bush's foreign policy than Bush. That's why, with foreign policy the key wedge issue in this election, it was so silly that Kerry would consider him as a running mate, like if Mondale had picked Jack Kemp as his running mate in 1984.
I think Bush has actually been pretty clear on the overarching strategy, if you read some of his "forward strategy of freedom" speeches. Where he's come up short is in laying out more specifics on where we go from here, although as I've noted there are real drawbacks to telegraphing our punches too far in advance.
I understand that Bush can't spell everything out, but what bothers me more than that is the nagging feeling that he'll settle for a stable authoritarian government in Iraq, which would be a replay of the bad old anti-communist strategy. (The way Fallujah got resolved really bothers me, for example.) I don't totally disagree with the strategy; I'm just not convinced these are the guys to carry it out. And Bush has been such a polarizing figure that it might help our situation to just put a fresh face on it. But I haven't completely made up my mind yet.
OK, this is pretty much a non sequitur, but I just wanted to say it after yesterday's Kausfiles, where he's literally offering the Bush operatives advice on how to cause problems for Kerry. What the heck did Kerry do to Kaus? Steal his girlfriend?
"what bothers me more than that is the nagging feeling that he'll settle for a stable authoritarian government in Iraq, which would be a replay of the bad old anti-communist strategy. (The way Fallujah got resolved really bothers me, for example.)"
No, actually that's Kerry's position - he has said that he would settle for "stability" rather than reach for democracy. That's one reason I'm not voting for Kerry. Bush has been very clear democracy is his goal and he has used lessons from other nation-building efforts to go about it the right way, i.e. not holding elections right away, but letting rule of law and independent judiciary get set up first.
Fallujah was not what you think. Basically we got the Iraqis to police themselves, to take responsibility for themselves. Read this: