August 03, 2004

Kerry's Iraq Plan

Truth be told, at the height of the Abu Ghraib scandal, with thoughts of Dick Holbrooke at State and a Sam Nunn type of guy at Defense, I had the occasional fleeting thought that I would pull the donkey lever come November.

Of late, however, I've disavowed myself of that fleeting fancy (ed. note: Don't worry: I won't subject you to 'who will B.D. vote' for speculations going forward. Frankly, it's really no-one's business. And it's a tad prima donnaish to go on and on about it regardless. And, I guess, it likely wouldn't be much of a surprise to regular readers of this blog anyway!).

Recently, I noted how I thought much of the foreign policy jaw jaw at the Democratic Convention had, as barely concealed subtext, talk of (too hasty) withdrawal from Iraq.

Then yesterday came such stories:

"There is a potential to be able to put a deal together over the course of time," Kerry told The Associated Press in his first interview as the Democratic nominee. "At least, that is the perception that smart people like Joe Biden and, you know, Carl Levin and other leaders who've been there for a long time."

He said his fellow Democratic senators, reporting on their foreign travels, have told him, "A change in the presidency is essential to our ability to restore our respect and relationship."

But when asked for hard evidence that his victory would produce a troops-reducing deal for America, neither Kerry nor his fellow senators cite anything other than their vague perceptions and utmost hopes.

"I can't give you the details of any deal, obviously," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Monday. "You don't negotiate a deal until you have a leader who is there to negotiate a deal."

[my emphasis throughout]

This hogwash reminds me of Karl Marx's aphorism that: "History always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, and the second as farce." The tragedy was, of course, the whole (quite sad) 'peace with honor' denouement to the Vietnam war. Now cometh a farcical neo-Nixonian 'peace with honor' gambit--aka Kerry's Iraq policy.

Let's summarize 'Kerry thought' on Iraq:

1) I will be "realist" about what is achievable in Mesopotamia (insert obligatory phrase about how a flourishing Jeffersonian democracy cannot be our realistic goal in Iraq);

2) Following from #1 and contra Bush's messianic propensities I, Davos-man of the world (what with that racy dash of the French cynique), would never have buffoonishly fallen under Wolfy's Leninist utopian sway;

3) Not only will an Iraq withdrawal be facilitated because I will be more comfy installing a Shi'a strongman or such in macho-realist vein, but also because (stifle laughter here) I have a "deal" all teed up that will facilitate such a withdrawal; and

4) Therefore I will bring "significant numbers" of U.S. troops home during my first term.

As I said, first time as tragedy, second go around as farce.

Why is this a farce? Because what Kerry is basically saying is that people like Carl Levin and Joe Biden went on little senatorial boondoggles to places like Berlin and Paris. And there they found a lot of people who vented that they didn't like the cretinous Crawford cowboy. Kerry would be better, bien sur, and (wink wink) we will be more helpful in Iraq should he assume power.

I've heard this type of stuff before. A retired American diplomat who was recently at the Quai D'Orsay told me that a senior French diplomat turned to him, and in urgent, exasperated tones asked: "what are we going to do about this Bush"?, ie. how to get rid of ze bloody bastard! Then all will be well again--the intimations run...

I don't buy this line. Longtime observers of the trans-atlantic relationship well know there are much more structural and fundamental variables at play (that negatively impact Euro-American relations) than mere dislike of Simian Georgie (and/or just the Iraq war).

And regardless, the French have all of 800 troops in Afghanistan today. How many more will they move to Iraq should Kerry win? Answer: a de minimis amount, if any (and much more likely the latter, btw). Ditto the Germans. So what, pray tell, does such a secret deal consist of?

After all, Powell is already trying to cobble together a Muslim contigent. Will Kerry get a better audience in Islamabad and Algiers than Powell? Is the secret deal that Chirac will get the Algerians to send in thousand of troops? C'mon, let's be serious here!

Increasingly, I feel that Kerry's entire Iraq policy is symptomatic of and proving a foreshadowing of an abdication of an American leadership role in the Middle East. He wants us to get us out so badly that I fear he would do so under circumstances that would perhaps scuttle the Iraq project.

This isn't about sticking around ad infinitum so as to support some imagined Shi'a Thomas Jefferson busy creating an utopian oasis where the Federalist Papers are fervently read in cross-secretarian meetings halls in downtown Fallujah. But it is about preserving an unitary Iraqi state, largely democratic in orientation, that protects (critically) minority rights.

Contra this, Kerry's 'cut and run' bias would likely allow for Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to start trouble-making because of the consequent vacuum we'd leave behind. That's not only dumb policy on realist grounds; it's also pretty morally bankrupt. We can and must do better.

Posted by Gregory Djerejian at August 3, 2004 12:22 PM
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