Monday, September 13, 2004

Election 2004 - Kerry on Iraq

Both the Washington Post in an editorial and Mort Kondracke in commentary at Real Clear Politics are asking Senator Kerry where he stands on Iraq:

The agonizing difficulties in Iraq give rise to two legitimate questions: Was the war a mistake, and what is to be done now?.
the Post asks.

The second is the more vital, but both are important subjects for the campaign. President Bush has unambiguous answers. He believes the war was right and necessary, and he maintains that his plan of training Iraqi forces while facilitating elections will help Iraq move toward stability and democracy. Both positions are subject to challenge, and we will be returning to them in future editorials. But it isn't clear where Sen. John F. Kerry stands on either point.
Kondracke puts it in simpler terms:
OK, Mr. Kerry, what would you do?
Senator Kerry recently added a new chapter to his history of flip-flops on the war in Iraq. Back in August, Senator Kerry said that "knowing then what he knew now" he still would have voted to give the President authorization to go to war. After this comment drew the ire of fellow Democrats, including representative Nancy Pelosi, who "after calling the war "a grotesque mistake," said she couldn't understand why Kerry still says he would have voted for the Iraq resolution.." (as reported in the Washington Post, Kerry again reversed his position, saying that it was "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" (as reported in the NY Times.

While, with the benefit of hindsight, Senator Kerry says he would have done "everything" differently, he still offers remarkably few details. The crux of his plan seems to be the idea that US troops will be replaced by French and German forces following the grand reconciliation that will occur once he's elected President. Given these countries' stated opposition to involvement in Iraq and their own limited military capabilities, even a flip-flop of Kerryesque dimensions by Chirac and Schroeder won't make Kerry's plan workable. As the Post points out:

But allies are not going to shoulder this burden; they are falling short even in Afghanistan, a war they supported from the start.
For better or for worse, the burden falls on us.

Senator Kerry has not articulated a meaningful strategy for Iraq. As Mr. Kondracke puts it:
What's missing from Kerry's speeches is any declaration that "we've got to win this war" or "we'll stay 'til we prevail." Americans may be dubious about whether the Iraq war was "worth it" - but they certainly don't want to lose it. That's why they trust Bush more than Kerry.