July 7, 2004
Kerry's planBy James Arlandson
In a Washington Post op—ed article, John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, adumbrates a plan, of sorts, for Iraq. He writes the piece so he can appear in—touch with the events in Iraq. But he keeps it vague and platitudinous so he can adjust his 'plan' as events evolve over there.
The terrorists not only in Iraq but also around the world surely must view Kerry as wishy—washy. His editorial in the capital's largest newspaper does nothing to dispel their (sadly) accurate perception of him.
An ole fashioned exegesis of his plan is in order.
1. Realism and idealism are the leitmotifs of Kerry's editorial, but he is vague.
'Our foreign policy has achieved greatness only when it has combined realism and idealism, our sense of practicality and our deep commitment to values such as freedom and democracy.'
Does 'idealism' mean the Wilsonian exportation of democracy? He seems to think so, but that is precisely what Bush is doing right now — Bush has Wilson's mantle.
Or, does 'idealism' mean Reagan's sunny optimism? Reagan saw the US as a shining city on a hill (taken from the New Testament). Per contra, Kerry, returning from Vietnam, accused his fellow soldiers of widespread atrocities. So it is more likely that Kerry would have protested a Reagan rally in the 1970s because Kerry saw the US as a dark city on a hill —— Eliot's wasteland or Tolkien's Mordor.
Does 'realism' imply realpolitik, the iron and blood of Bismarck? Not likely, for 'iron' connotes military hardware, and Kerry voted against numerous bills that would have strengthened the military with improved technology.
Does 'realism' mean the hard—hitting policies of Reagan, who ordered the liberation of Grenada from communism and told Gorbachev to 'tear down this wall'? Not likely, for Kerry voted against the First Gulf War, so if his view had prevailed, Saddam would still occupy Kuwait and dictate to 'dogs' (as Saddam called the Kuwaitis).
Does it mean that we should 'get real' because things are going terribly in Iraq (they actually are not)? This seems the likely connotation, because if he hops on the bandwagon of Bush critics on the Iraq War, he can perhaps inch his way up in the polls.
2. On the economic front, Kerry proposes that our allies should have 'fair access' to contracts to rebuild Iraq, but he is revisiting old history.
'. . . that means giving them [allies] fair access to the multibillion—dollar reconstruction contracts. It also means letting them be a part of putting Iraq's profitable oil industry back together. In return, they must forgive Hussein's multibillion—dollar debts to their countries and pay their fair share of the reconstruction bill.'
This canard has already been digested months ago, even though Kerry says in his editorial that we should not 'revisit history.' The Administration is currently awarding contracts to over 60 allies who are in Iraq rebuilding it, and the other 'Allies' (Russia, France, and Germany) have already exempted themselves, though Germany recently seems willing to help.
Could it be that Kerry is representing some foreign leaders whom he claims that he met in New York restaurants, e.g., French and Russian diplomats?
3. Kerry proposes that we should convene a conference of Iraq's neighbors, but the purpose of the conference is unclear or already enshrined in the new government.
'We should convene a regional conference with Iraq's neighbors. Such a conference would have two goals. First, it should secure a pledge from Iraq's neighbors to respect Iraq's borders and not to interfere in its internal affairs. And second, it should commit Iraq's leaders to provide clear protection for minorities, thus removing a major justification for possible outside intervention.'
Kerry is actually talking about Syria and Iran, and indeed they should respect Iraq's borders and not interfere in their internal policies. But a conference is not the answer, because it is the terrorists who are snaking their way across the borders, and they, sadly, have not signaled any interest in attending such a conference or in listening to the results. Instead, it is better if the US military secure the borders and ensure non—interference in the internal affairs by outside groups.
The protection of minorities is best done through Constitutional means, not another conference, and when I read the Iraqi (provisional) Constitution, minorities are protected in a Bill of Rights.
In that same paragraph, Kerry advocates appointing a high commissioner.
' . . . [W]e should jump—start large—scale involvement with an international high commissioner to coordinate economic assistance and organize and implement these diplomatic initiatives.'
The appointment of a high commissioner should now devolve to the Iraqi government, and they have a cabinet, and part of the mission of the cabinet surely includes coordinating economic assistance and diplomatic initiatives—two quite vague terms. To appoint a high commission without consulting the Iraqis (Kerry did not say only with Iraqi consent) would be a diplomatic faux pas. Besides, another bureaucrat is exactly what is not needed. Let the Iraqis decide who gets to rebuild.
4. Kerry proposes that the Coalition should get NATO involved, but that idea is in process now, so Kerry's proposal is not innovative.
'Then, having taken these dramatic steps, we could realistically call on NATO to step up to its responsibilities. Our goal should be an alliance commitment to deploy a major portion of the peacekeeping force that will be needed in Iraq for a long time to come.'
That is precisely what Bush as been working toward, a work in progress. Does Kerry have any specific plan to trigger their involvement? He doesn't mention one.
5. Kerry perceives that a missing ingredient inside Iraq is a
'political accommodation among Iraqis,'
but he does not perceive that this is the entire goal of the Iraq War, and that millions are already practicing that, if I understand him correctly.
'Inside Iraq, the overriding need is for security, and the essential participants are the Iraqis themselves. The missing ingredient in this quest so far is a political accommodation among Iraqis. Each Iraqi group —— the Kurds, the Shiites and the Sunnis —— has to feel it will have safety and a fair share in Iraq's future. Yes, let the Iraqis move forward with their schedule for elections and the writing of a constitution, but all must realize that the results of these elections and the constitution will hold only if the parties know they can protect their basic interests."
What does 'political accommodation' mean? Reporters (Karl Zinsmeister, Fred Barnes, and John Pollock) coming back from Iraq have recounted that everywhere in towns and cities, local mayors and councilors are being elected.
In that excerpt, Kerry says that Iraqis can hold their elections in January 2005, and then he says that 'all must realize' that 'the results . . . will hold' only if each party can 'know they can protect their basic interests.' Again, that is vague. How does one person get another person to 'realize' something? This is an epistemological gap that Kerry does not fill. How and what do they realize and know? Results of the elections? And how do they know it? By 'peaceful negotiations' and not by 'civil warfare'? Kerry seems to think so, as he continues in the same paragraph:
'Helping Iraq come together this way, by peaceful negotiations and not by civil warfare, is the realistic way to secure the loyalty of Iraqis to their new state, and the best way to give them a future to defend.'
The US generals stopped short of storming Fallujah because they saw the need to negotiate. How is Kerry's wish (it is not a plan) any different from what has been occurring now?
The US military has smashed the Muqtada al—Sadr brigade until the brigade 'negotiated' a truce, and only time will tell if it holds. Perhaps the terrorists were willing to 'realize' their basic interests and to 'negotiate' at the end of a rifle.
Consequently, in his implicit criticism of Bush that Iraq should
'come together . . . by peaceful negotiations and not by civil war,'
Kerry does not seem to understand that it is not ordinary Iraqis who refuse to negotiate and who choose to follow violence, but it is the terrorists. Kerry is advocating a policy that twenty—four million Iraqis already agree with and follow.
The peaceful Iraqis have already 'realized' their own interests and are working with political parties to secure their freedom. A recent poll, reported in the Washington Post (June 25, 2004), says that 68% of Iraqis are happy with their new government. Kerry is too late.
Kerry is proposing policies that revisit old history (let France bid on oil contracts); policies that are already in place (no outside interference); policies that are in progress (NATO cooperation and Iraqi 'political accommodation'); or policies that are unnecessary (appointing a high commissioner).
It is precisely Kerry's lack of perceptiveness and innovation that makes him weak and susceptible to criticism. He thinks that he gets to say everything, but doesn't realize that amounts to saying nothing.
Jim Arlandson (Ph.D.) teaches introductory philosophy and world religions at a college in southern California. He has also published a book, Women, Class, and Society in Early Christianity (Hendrickson, 1997)