Across the Bay

Friday, August 20, 2004

Kerry and the ME

Here are a few pieces on Kerry and his supposed position on the ME. One is by Matt Welch, who actually goes beyond Kerry to touch on the Democrats more generally. On Kerry's pathetic position, Welch writes:

"There is indeed considerable merit to the notion that a nation at war should be focusing on 2004 instead of 1968, but if Kerry's convention performance was any guide, his go-to selling point for taking the reigns of the "war on terror" is the fact that he was piloting swift-boats up the Mekong back when Osama bin Laden was busy trying to grow his first beard.

Those of us anxious to hear some actual specifics about what a Kerry foreign policy would be for, especially in the Middle East and Central Asia, were instead treated to a smorgasbord of what Democrats these days are against: alienating allies, manipulating intelligence, cutting benefits for military veterans and going to war against Saddam Hussein's regime in the precise way that President George W. Bush went to war against Saddam Hussein's regime.

Another piece is by Amir Taheri on Kerry and the Arab opinion. The best line in that piece belongs to Iraqi columnist Adnan Hussein, quoted by Taheri:

"The Arabs have never known what is good for them ... This is why they hate Bush. But what is Bush saying? He is telling them that their regimes are corrupt and bankrupt and that they have no future without democracy."

Michael Young also gave his two cents in two pieces: the first in the Daily Star and the second in Reason.

The DS piece tries to make sense of Kerry's ambiguous statements on Iraq, showing that he'll say just about anything to get into office! The Reason piece critiques Kerry's statements on the ME in his acceptance speech:

"It was remarkable that in his acceptance speech, Kerry mentioned not once what he intended for the Iraqis. Absent, too, was any mention of democracy in the Middle East. Why should a U.S. presidential candidate even bother with this? Because, as 9/11 showed, it has implications for American security. Kerry has largely avoided linking terrorism to political realities in the Middle East. That would mean addressing the neoconservative critique that only by democratizing the region and removing autocratic regimes whose stifling policies have helped generate Islamist violence can the U.S. guarantee its own long-term security."

The piece concludes:

"As in Vietnam, a Kerry administration might soon conclude that a pullout short of success might, in fact, not be that damaging to U.S. interests.

Kerry is deluding himself if he thinks the solution in Iraq is bringing in allied soldiers so the U.S. can shrink its presence. No one, whether in Europe or the Arab world, wants to be cannon fodder for John Kerry. Worse, as they contemplate Kerry's absence of ambition in Iraq, as they try to decipher his contradictory statements on U.S. military policy there, as they ponder that his staying power in Iraq may be limited, and as they search for something substantive on the Middle East in his acceptance speech, the allies must be thinking that this is the guy who may turn Baghdad into Saigon, circa April 30, 1975.

Unfortunately, the US public still hasn't internalized the need for democratization in the ME and its crucial importance forUS security, as Young noted. In a post on Reason's Hit and Run, Young quotes a disturbing poll:

"Low on the list of foreign policy priorities was Bush’s goal of promoting democracy in the Middle East, which appears to have little traction; it was listed by one in four Americans, unchanged since October 2001."

This brings up a point I once raised, and one that Lee Smith recently touched on in a piece in Slate>:

"The Bush administration gambled that it could invade Iraq without revealing its real reasons for doing so and without losing the support of the people who will ultimately decide whether venturing American lives and money was worth it. After all, we know we are at war, not just because the president told us, but because our enemies have done so in word and deed. So, there are two ways to look at our current predicament: 1) the government lied to get us into the Iraq war, and the inevitable result is a series of mistakes and miscalculations; or 2) Iraq is just a campaign in a war we were already fighting, and both lying and confusion are essential parts of all wars. However, the press seems to be confused because it's not really sure we're at war.
The press isn't thinking hard about these matters because it's not convinced that this war might affect them personally.
" (Emphasis added.)

This supports Welch's reporting of the negative reactions at the DNC to statements that actually dealt with the ongoing war (on al-Qaeda, not in Iraq!). It seems that the public does not get it, and I'm not sure whether they would have even if Bush had not brought up the WMDs (which was viewed as the only thing that might "affect people personally" in the short term) and had relied exclusively on the democracy argument. What a pity for all involved.