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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Kerry and Iraq

Peter D. Feaver writes in the New York Times about Kerry's foreign policy stance toward Iraq and how it is failing.

For months, Senator John Kerry has been among the loudest in the chorus criticizing President Bush for not persuading our allies to shoulder more of the Iraq burden. But now it is time for Mr. Kerry to start admonishing the allies. The problem today is not the administration's reluctance to woo allies, but rather the allies' reluctance to be wooed. In the past few weeks, Mr. Bush has, with the help of the United Nations, identified Iraqi leadership that appears to have sufficient domestic and international legitimacy to assume sovereignty after June 30. The next phase of the transfer of power has won unanimous endorsement from the Security Council. The Group of 8 summit meeting last week, however, showed that our on-again allies were reluctant to move beyond lip service to much real aid, either in the form of troops or Iraqi debt relief. For instance, Senator Kerry says NATO should assume a greater role in Iraq. This prospect is blocked by a stubborn president, but not the one named in Mr. Kerry's critique. Rather it is President Jacques Chirac of France who rejects a NATO role. Mr. Kerry also said that the allies would find it difficult to contribute without greater cover from the United Nations. We now have it. Why can't Mr. Kerry find it in his heart to express a modicum of disappointment with, say, the Germans, who for months have vowed not to provide troops even with United Nations endorsement, even if NATO authorizes them to do so?
I have not been very happy with Senator Kerry's method of handling this issue. In my opinion, President Bush has done everything short of giving foreign contries control of our foreign policy to convince more allies to help. France and Germany don't want to help. It is likely, in my opinion, that not only do they not want to help, they want us to fail in an effort to dimish the overwelming influence that America has on the world stage. The only way the Kerry plan would succeed is if you assume that Chirac and Schroder are letting a personnal dislike of Bush trump the national interest of their countries. This seems unlikely to me. Kerry is in the troubling position of needing to strongly critisize Bush to keep the anti-war wing of his party supporting him while making it clear that he will stay the course so as not to alienate the moderates. This has resulted in him leveling baseless criticisms.
Mr. Kerry could have inoculated himself against this criticism if he had even hinted at his displeasure that the European allies had not stepped up. He can still do so, with a few well-chosen paragraphs repeated over time, taking a stance that would also help his campaign. And since his campaign has already assured us that those leaders respect Mr. Kerry more than they do Mr. Bush, his admonition just might help — or at least clarify that the problem with getting aid from the allies runs deeper than "inadequate Bush diplomacy." Of course, there is a deeper conflict of interest here that Mr. Kerry must overcome. The president's political fortunes improve if the situation in Iraq improves, putting Mr. Kerry in the awkward position of having as much to gain from Iraqi failure as Mr. Bush has from Iraqi success.


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