Saturday, October 02, 2004

Kerry's Idea of a "Grand Alliance" is a "Grand Illusion"

Senator Kerry's main argument against the President's handling of Iraq - the issue of "alliances" and "allies" - is either disingenuous, naive or both. His constant obsessing over this issue and of how we're perceived among the European elites he considers his peers is the equivalent of an unpopular high-schooler obsessing over whether the "cool" kids like him. Teen angst may make for good television, but it makes a lousy basis for foreign policy.

The Bush Administration has assembled an alliance of over 30 countries that have sent troops to Iraq. These troop contributions range from the the 8,300 sent by the UK, the 2,800 sent by Italy and the 2,300 sent by Poland to the 30 sent from Macedonia, the 45 by Tonga and the 60 from New Zealand. The list of other nations sending troops includes Georgia, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Ukraine from Eastern Europe, Portugal and the Netherlands from Western Europe, and South Korea, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand from Asia.

Kerry, who promises to be a grand alliance builder, has called this alliance a "trumped-up, so-called coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought, and the extorted." During the debate Thursday night he harped on the fact that the U.S. has borne "90 percent of the casualties ", repeating it three separate times. Does he mean to imply that the mere 10% of the casualties borne by our allies are meaningless? Tell that to the families of the 19 Italians (twelve carabinieri, five Army soldiers, two Italian civilians) who were killed last November in a suicide attack in Nasiriyah. Tell that to the families of the 68 Britons, six Bulgarians, one Dane, two Dutch, one Estonian, one Hungarian, one Latvian, 13 Poles, one Salvadoran, three Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and nine Ukrainians who have also died in Iraq.

On September 6th, John Kerry called the conflict in Iraq "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time". Thursday night he repeated this line of attack, saying "the president made a mistake in invading Iraq". But, like every other position, he tried to have it both ways. When moderator Jim Lehrer, in a departure, sprung a tough question on the Democrat, quoting Kerry's 1971 Congressional testimony "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" and asking Kerry "Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?" he answered "no". You can't have it both ways Senator. If you call the war a mistake, then dying for it must be a mistake. By saying this, you dishonor those who have paid the ultimate price to protect the rest of us.

Kerry and his campaign have also disparaged the leader of the very country who's future we're trying to secure. Kerry couldn't drag himself away from the campaign trail in Ohio to hear Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi's address to a joint session of Congress, but did find the time to bash him, saying "The prime minister and the president are here obviously to put their best face on the policy, but the fact is that the CIA estimates, the reporting, the ground operation and the troops all tell a different story,". Ever the expert, Kerry obviously knows more about the situation on the ground in Iraq than that country's Prime Minister.

The rudeness and arrogance of Kerry's remarks were exceed by those of his spokesman, Joe Lockhart, who told the Los Angeles Times: "The last thing you want to be seen as is a puppet of the United States, and you can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips." A fine way to treat a man who has put his life at risk, who has faced four assassination attempts since June, in order to help his country.

If Kerry is so keen on alliances, why is he disparaging the allies already on the ground in Iraq? Is it because the coalition is not broad enough?

It's true that the U.S. has supplied the overwhelming bulk of the troops on the ground in Iraq, but that's to be expected. The U.S. is the sole military superpower left in the world. No other country can project forces globally the way we do. Everyone else is, at best, a regional power and even those are few. Does this detract from their contributions? No. Tonga has sent 45 troops! As remote are they from the war on terror, they sent their sons to fight.

U.S. military preeminence in international coalitions has a long history. National Review contributor and talk-show host Mark Levin has compared the current U.S. led coalition in Iraq to the UN led coalition in Korea at its peak. As of this July, the coalition in Iraq is broader (32 countries as compared to 16 in Korea) and allied troops make up a bigger percentage of total forces (15.6% as compared to 10.2% in Korea). Does this illegitimate the Korean War or does the UN imprimatur cure all ills in Kerry's eyes? If the later, we're still waiting for a condemnation of President Clinton's Balkan adventures, which, like the war in Iraq, lacked UN approval.

The common wisdom is that by "allies" Kerry means France and Germany and that by "alliance" he means French and German permission. Richard Holbrooke, a Kerry surrogate and front-runner for Secretary of State in a Kerry administration, recently told German magazine Der Spiegel that " the first thing the new US president would do would be to invite the German chancellor and Chirac to the White House." In a speech at NYU on September 20th, Kerry let it be known what he would be discussing with them: "The President should recruit troops from our friends and allies for a U.N. protection force. This won't be easy. But even countries that refused to put boots on the ground in Iraq should still help protect the U.N. " That's a nice sentiment, but is it realistic? Are France and Germany willing and able to send troops to Iraq?

No and No.

Both governments have signaled their refusal to even consider sending troops. As the Washington Times reported following Kerry's comments:

Mr. Schroeder promptly punctured Mr. Kerry's balloon: "We won't send any German soldiers to Iraq, and that's where it's going to remain." French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said his government had no plans to send troops "either now or later."
Prime Minister Chirac also commented on this, saying "French policy with regard to Iraq has not changed and will not change."

And why should they send troops? Wouldn't doing so just endanger their citizens, as Kerry's sister warned Australians about their involvement in Iraq?

But lets ignore these flat out refusals for a minute. Could France and Germany send a meaningful number of troops to Iraq? Could we see French and German troops marching in to relieve beleaguered Americans?

According to Levin's figures, Korea involved 387,570 combat troops while the total for Iraq was 149,985. In terms of troops committed, France ranked 12th out of 16 nations, sending 1,119 troops. Even in the early 50's, in the halcyon days of post-WW2 French military prowess, less than ten years after they themselves had been liberated, the French were shirking their duties, supplying less troops than nations such as Thailand and Ethiopia. On percentage terms, France contributed fewer troops to the UN effort in Korea (less than three-tenths of one percent) than Bulgaria, Denmark or (again) Thailand have contributed in Iraq. They barely edge out the El Salvadoran contribution.

Germany, of course, was not involved in either; Iraq by choice and Korea occurring a little to soon after WW2 for comfort.

Following Kosovo, which was primarily an air war, the Heritage Foundation reported that the U.S. had fielded 80% of the assets used in the conflict:
To cover for the European allies' warfighting deficiencies during the air campaign, U.S. aircraft flew two-thirds of the strike missions; nearly every precision-guided missile was launched from U.S. aircraft. The European allies' technological contribution to the war effort was hampered by a lack of computerized weapons, night-vision equipment, and advanced communications resources. Air Force General Michael Short, who oversaw the NATO bombing campaign, even curtailed European strike missions to avoid unnecessary risk to NATO troops. These shortcomings are the result of inadequate defense expenditures by the allies.
In Afghanistan, where NATO supported U.S. action, there were approximately 24,600 troops before the recent ramp-up for the Afghani elections. The U.S. supplied 17,900 or 73%, NATO 6,300 or 25% and non-NATO allies 400 or 2%. Germany supplied approximately 1900 troops and France a scant 565.

The bottom-line is that France and Germany have neither the will nor the means to meaningfully contribute to Iraq. Kerry's obsessive deference to them, at the expense of allies who are contributing to efforts in Iraq, goes beyond reason. Mr. Kerry seems to be stuck in some Cold War-era mindset with visions of DeGaulle dancing in his head. The post 9/11 world has passed him by and left him unable to cope with its new realities, its new alliances. As H.J. Temple, Viscount Palmerston, told the House of Commons in 1848:
We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and these interests, it is our duty to follow.
John Kerry would be wise to listen to such advice.