John Kerry came to New York University and did
something amazing. He uttered a series of clear,
declarative sentences on the subject of Iraq.
Many of these sentences directly contradict his
past statements on Iraq, but at least you could
figure out what he was trying to say.
Kerry argued that Iraq was never a serious threat
to the United States, that the war was never justified
and that Bush's focus on Iraq was a "profound
diversion" from the real enemy, Osama bin Laden.
Kerry argued that we are losing the war in Iraq.
Casualties are mounting, the insurgency is spreading,
and daily life is more miserable.
Kerry argued that in times like this, brave leaders
should tell the truth to the American people.
Kerry reminded his audience that during Vietnam,
he returned home "to offer my own personal voice
of dissent," and he's decided to do the same thing
now. The parallel is clear: Iraq is the new Vietnam.
Kerry declared that it is time to get out, beginning
next summer. The message is that if Kerry is elected,
the entire momentum of U.S. policy will be toward
getting American troops out of Iraq as quickly
as possible and shifting responsibility for Iraq
onto other countries.
crucial passage in the speech was this one: "The
principles that should guide American policy in
Iraq now and in the future are clear: we must
make Iraq the world's responsibility, because
the world has a stake in the outcome and others
should share the burden." From a U.S. responsibility,
Iraq will become the world's responsibility.
said the United Nations must play a central role
in supervising elections. He said other nations
should come in to protect U.N. officials. He called
for an international summit meeting this week
in New York, where other nations could commit
troops and money to Iraq. He said NATO should
open training centers for new Iraqi soldiers.
talked about what other nations could do to help
address the situation in Iraq. He did not say
what the U.S. should do to defeat the insurgents
and stabilize and rebuild Iraq, beyond what Bush
is already doing. He did not say the U.S. could
fight the insurgents more effectively. He did
not have any ideas on how to tame Falluja or handle
Moktada al-Sadr. He did not offer any strategy
he did, more than at any time in the past year,
stake out a clear contrast with Bush.
president's case is that the world is safer with
Saddam out of power, and that we should stay as
long as it takes to help Iraqis move to democracy.
Kerry's case is that the world would be safer
if we'd left Saddam; his emphasis is on untangling
the United States from Iraq and shifting attention
to more serious threats.
this was his best foreign policy speech by far
(it helps to pick a side). Politically, it was
risky. Kerry's new liberal tilt makes him more
forceful on the stump, but opens huge vulnerabilities.
Does he really want to imply that 1,000 troops
died for nothing?
picking the withdrawal camp, he has assigned himself
a clear task. Right now 54 percent of likely voters
believe that the U.S. should stay as long as it
takes to rebuild Iraq, while 39 percent believe
that we should leave as soon as possible. Between
now and Nov. 2, Kerry must flip those numbers.
of course, Kerry's speech is completely irresponsible.
In the first place, there is a 99 percent chance
that other nations will not contribute enough
troops to significantly decrease the U.S. burden
in Iraq. In that case, John Kerry has no Iraq
policy. The promise to bring some troops home
by summer will be exposed as a Disneyesque fantasy.
to the point, Kerry is trying to use multilateralism
as a gloss for retreat. If "the world" is going
to be responsible for defeating Moktada al-Sadr
and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, then no one will be
responsible for defeating them. The consequences
for the people of Iraq and the region will be
if the whole war is a mistake, shouldn't we stop
fighting tomorrow? What do you say to the last
man to die for a "profound diversion"?
that is what the next few weeks are going to be
about. This country has long needed to have a
straight up-or-down debate on the war. Now that
Kerry has positioned himself as the antiwar candidate,
Posted: September 27, 2004