With the Presidential campaign finally heading towards a climax and the baseball playoffs in full swing, I couldn�t resist jumping back into the mix here, however temporarily.
Anyway, I noted with some satisfaction that President Bush finally went on the offensive about one of the most glaring weak points in John Kerry�s various positions on Iraq: his vote against the 1991 Gulf War.
John Kerry and John Edwards have very disingenuously been holding up the Gulf War as a model of multilateral military engagement and cost-sharing. The problem is not that this isn�t true � it clearly is � but that Kerry voted against the very war which his campaign now says forms the criteria by which he defines acceptable multilateralism (i.e. virtually the entire world on our side).
A rough history follows (I apologize for any errors, but am mainly going from memory). In 1991, Saddam Hussein�s Iraq was, for the second time, on the verge of developing nuclear weapons, yet, in an act of almost incomprehensible recklessness and stupidity, invaded neighboring Kuwait prior to attaining a nuclear capability. After some hesitation, the United States led by the first President Bush decided that the invasion could not stand and developed the largest international coalition in history, backed by, among many others, the U.N. Security Council, a number of Arab allies and the indispensable sine qua non of any successful military alliance: the French.
Yet, when the vote had come before the U.S. Congress, Kerry voted against taking military action.
The U.S. alliance met every possible criteria that Kerry has articulated in his efforts to undermine the credibility of the current U.S. coalition. Iraq had unilaterally and brazenly invaded a neighbor and virtually the whole world was prepared to take action. Yet, Kerry was not.
As Bush said yesterday:
Over the years, Senator Kerry has looked for every excuse to constrain America’s action in the world. These days he praises America’s broad coalition in the Gulf War, but in 1991 he criticized those coalition members as, quote, shadow battlefield allies who barely carry a burden. Sounds familiar.
At that time he voted against the war. If that coalition didn’t pass his global test clearly nothing will. [Emphasis added].
Looking back, the consequences of inaction in the first Gulf War are hard to imagine. Saddam would have occupied Kuwait unopposed and would likely have had nuclear weapons very soon afterwards. He would have been a hero in the Arab world and would have been further encouraged to menace Israel, Saudi Arabia and other nearby neighbors as he did during the Gulf War and since. Saddam�s support for terrorism would likely have only increased and, just as worrisome, terrorist support for him would have grown.
But Saddam would�ve been virtually untouchable and protected by a nuclear shield. To be sure, there would�ve been many other unpredictable consequences (American involvement in the war was a major motivation for bin Laden), but it is very hard to look back and not see how the first Gulf War was, in every way, justified.
As John Edwards holds up the Gulf War as model of U.S. action, Kerry�s defense to voting against that action, to the extent he offers any, is that this was long before September 11th and that the world forever changed that day.
The world has indeed changed, but my fear remains that Kerry has not.
UPDATE: “I do not believe our nation is prepared for war. If we do go to war, for years people will ask why Congress gave in. They will ask why there was such a rush to so much death and destruction when it did not have to happen.” � John Kerry in 1991, justifying his vote against the Gulf War. (Via Tacitus).