Between Iraq and a hard place
OK, so John Kerry's Iraq position(s) is becoming a bit of a joke. His big problem is that, like the president, he refuses to admit that he made a mistake, so over the summer he continued to claim it was OK to vote to authorize war, but that the president had bungled the job. Now, he says the war was a mistake to begin with. I agree, but it's now all too easy for the president to paint Kerry as a waffler who sees four sides of a two-sided issue. It's too late for Kerry to transform himself into Howard Dean. Remember how Kerry was supposed to be the electable one? As one of my readers once said, Thanks Iowa.
David Brooks brings Kerry's dilemma into relief, though I take issue with some of the neocon columnist's arguments. Such as:
The 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.
Rhetorically, 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?
First of all, the world does not appear to be safer--at least so far. History may prove me and all other war opponents wrong. In the short term, innocent Iraqis are suffering as they did under Saddam, only now, U.S. soldiers and civilian workers are added to the death toll. Plus, al Qaeda now has another front on which to attack U.S. interests and whip up anti-American fervor. As for whether the troops have died for nothing--well, that will be history's judgment. It pains me to suggest that brave young American men and women are dying in vain, but if they are, it's no reflection on them, but on the government that sent them on their mission in the first place.
The big question that remains is whether the continued presence of U.S. troops is helping the situation or hurting it. It's one thing to have opposed the war--as Kerry may or may not have done. It's quite another to cut and run when doing so may condemn a nation to a violent and protracted civil war, and perhaps leave the United States vulnerable to even more terrorism.