April 13, 2004

Kerry: Turn Iraq Over to the U.N.

This is the best Randy Beers can come up with?

Sadly, it barely merits a substantive response.

The money graf:

"In recent weeks the administration -- in effect acknowledging the failure of its own efforts -- has turned to U.N. representative Lakhdar Brahimi to develop a formula for an interim Iraqi government that each of the major Iraqi factions can accept. It is vital that Brahimi accomplish this mission, but the odds are long, because tensions have been allowed to build and distrust among the various Iraqi groups runs deep. The United States can bolster Brahimi's limited leverage by saying in advance that we will support any plan he proposes that gains the support of Iraqi leaders. Moving forward, the administration must make the United Nations a full partner responsible for developing Iraq's transition to a new constitution and government. We also need to renew our effort to attract international support in the form of boots on the ground to create a climate of security in Iraq. We need more troops and more people who can train Iraqi troops and assist Iraqi police."

Kerry isn't even gracious enough to praise Bush for letting U.N. representative Lakhdar Brahimi run the ball a bit on developing a "formula for an interim Iraqi government."

So there is the little verbal epingle about "acknowledging the failure of its own efforts"--rather than flatly stating the Adminstration is moving in the direction that Kerry desires.

But second, and quite damning, Kerry would have us state in advance that we will support any Brahimi plan.

What if, for instance, Brahimi's deal with Sistani and Co. calls for a draw-down of U.S. troops to levels inconsistent with ensuring Iraqi security during the nascent days post-sovereignty hand-over?

Or does too little to protect minority rights allowing for a crude Shia majoritarianism to emerge (to compensate, perhaps, for his perceived pro-Sunni leanings)?

No matter.

Kerry's policy prescription would leave us high and dry without recourse.

Turtle Bay (or the French and Germans) will decide for us how best to manage our exit and the key electoral modalities.

So basically, Kerry is calling for two handovers then.

First, handover sovereignty to the Iraqis (per Bush's plan) and, second--handover U.S. decision-making on Iraq to the decisive, resolute club over at United Nations Plaza.

But Kerry, who doesn't quite come out and say it in his WaPo piece, really aims to do one better.

He simply wants to replace Jerry Bremer with Lakhdar Brahimi!

Don't believe me?

How else to analyze his policy when you look at this news ticker item I pointed out yesterday (about Kerry wanting to replace Jerry Bremer to de-Americanize the occupation) with this NYT article.

Key graf:

"Asked what he would do in Mr. Bush's place, Mr. Kerry pointed to the presence in Iraq of Lakhdar Brahimi, a top adviser to Secretary General Kofi Annan.

"He's one of the most skilled and capable people with respect to Iraq and the Middle East," Mr. Kerry said. "He can talk to all the parties. He would be a perfect example of somebody to whom you could ask to really take over what Paul Bremer's doing, de-Americanize the effort and begin to put it under the United Nations umbrella."

Kerry's Iraq policy then, cutting through all the chaff, is pretty simple: Bremer out, Brahimi in (read: U.S. out, U.N. in).

Put differently, let the U.N. have veto power over key issues that will determine the outcome of the most critical American foreign policy challenge facing the United States in recent memory.

As someone who kicked around Croatia and Bosnia through the 90's, observing the impotence of the United Nations at close hand as "safe" havens like Zepa and Srebrenica so ingloriously fell to Bosnian Serb genocidaires, I'd have to advise Randy Beers and John Kerry that this proposed "policy" is a non-starter among those who seriously care about stolidy pursuing the objective of a viable, unitary and democratic Iraqi state.

Put differently, if you care about the future of Iraq, a Bush vote is looking better than a Kerry vote right now--despite all the recent difficulties, despite the fact that Bush didn't put in enough troops early on, despite not having enough constabulatory forces on the ground (including better trainers for nascent Iraqi forces), despite early errors like disbanding the entire Iraqi army.

You know, I would have respected Kerry more, for instance, if he developed a serious argument as to why the sovereignty handover needs to be delayed, about some joint U.S.-U.N. transition period to allow for more time to get the security situation under control--whilst negotiating voting arrangements and the like with Sistani and other key Iraqi leaders with such increased U.N. cover in place.

But Kerry appears more amenable to peddling a chimerical 'solution' of simply handing over the mess to the U.N.--a recipe for disaster.

Kerry also writes:

"We should urge NATO to create a new out-of-area operation for Iraq under the lead of a U.S. commander. This would help us obtain more troops from major powers."

Of course it would.

Which is why Colin Powell has already been working this issue since at least the beginning of this year.

Ditto this:


"But to maximize our chances for success, and to minimize the risk of failure, we must make full use of the assets we have. If our military commanders request more troops, we should deploy them."

Again, of course. Don Rumsfeld has already been saying this ad naseum for at least a year.

Now maybe he didn't really mean it (I have know way of knowing).

But regardless the Bush team is now addressing this issue (if belatedly and in too few number).

So Kerry's Iraq policy (if you can call it that) boils down to this: 1) proposing policies that Bush's team already have in place while 2) proposing to handover our policymaking authority to the U.N.

Put differently, where's the beef?

Answer: There isn't any--except for expropriating currently existing Bush policy (and pretending it's a new Kerry idea) or suggesting we handover decision-making, re: the most critical foreign policy challenge on our plate, to the United Nations.

It's not pretty, is it?

A final note.

While Kerry has very little of note to say-- Dave Ignatius has a piece in the same WaPo space worth reading today on how a 'New Deal' for Iraq is urgently needed.


Reader DA writes in:

"The UN Food for Oil Scandal should make EVERYONE much more skeptical about ANY role for the UN ANYWHERE -ESPECIALLY IRAQ!"

Not a bad point.


Several readers have pointed out this passage from Kerry's op-ed to me:

"The United Nations, not the United States, should be the primary civilian partner in working with Iraqi leaders to hold elections, restore government services, rebuild the economy, and re-create a sense of hope and optimism among the Iraqi people. The primary responsibility for security must remain with the U.S. military, preferably helped by NATO until we have an Iraqi security force fully prepared to take responsibility." [emphasis added].

True, Kerry says the U.S. must retain the "primary responsibility for security."

But I remain fearful that his inclination to allow U.N. negotiators free rein in hammering out going forward nation-building arrangements will have collateral impact on our security posture in country that Washington won't necessarily fully control.


Reader ML writes in:

"I do wish that Kerry and others would not use words like "restore," "rebuild," and "re-create" rather than "develop," "build," and "create" in passages such as the following:

The United Nations, not the United States, should be the primary civilian partner in working with Iraqi leaders to hold elections, restore government services, rebuild the economy, and re-create a sense of hope and optimism among the Iraqi people.

Perhaps I'm being paranoid, but I think the sense such statements leave is that we have destroyed all these things. I especially take issue with "re-create a sense of hope and optimism."

Next there will be talk of beating back Iraqi national malaise or bringing myriad misery indicia to bear to better gauge the situation...

Posted by Gregory at April 13, 2004 09:23 AM
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