Kerry's Challenge In Showing He Is Different From Bush On Foreign Policy
Sorry I have been away the last several days from blogging. The demands of work have kept me from engaging with you here, and I am just now coming up for air. I wanted to point out two or three stories and then make a point that may sound a little too discouraging for many of you, but I want to make it nonetheless.
First, note in this Washington Post piece Monday that the US is having trouble getting UN support for our desired resolution to legitimatize the transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government. As we reported late last week, after saying for months that we were going to give the country back to the Iraqis and that they were capable of running it themselves, we now have no plans to do so, and have no intention of letting the Iraqis pass any laws or elect people we don’t like. Not surprisingly, the world community has no intention of rubber-stamping our disallowance of Iraqi sovereignty at this time, and note the resistance from Russia and China on this. Plus, the UN must be laughing at another of our demands: that the US have the final say on Iraqi WMDs, and not the UN. Since the credibility of the IAEA dwarfs our own on the issue of Iraqi WMDs, it is not hard to see we have no hand to play here.
Second, note the column by Tom Friedman in Monday’s Times, wherein he laments how badly we are thought of in the Arab and Islamic world. To show you how little Tom reads however and how naďve he really is, he puts forward three scenarios for how things may turn out in Iraq. Unfortunately for Tom, he didn’t read Woodward’s book, because if he did, he would know that Dick Cheney has been driving the administration’s policies on Iraq, and Pacemaker Dick has no intention of letting the Iraqis ever run their country any time soon.
Now on to my bit of discouraging thought. Roger Collier of the San Francisco Chronicle points out that there is little difference between Bush and Kerry on foreign policy and national security issues. In an election where it was essential for Kerry to distinguish himself from Bush in this area, for safe electoral reasons and an inability so far to clearly say what he would do differently if anything, Kerry instead has decided to argue in essence that he would do pretty much everything Bush is doing, but just do it better and more multilaterally. The problem for Kerry is that at least with Howard Dean you knew that he was 180 degrees from Bush on going to war, but would have not cut and run. By mirroring Bush on Iraq and even the Middle East peace process, Kerry shows no separation from Bush and allows, as Collier notes, Ralph Nader to step in and grab the Dean and Kucinich voters, which he is doing. For many voters, especially swing voters, they will not toss out the incumbent if they see no difference or reason to do so. And think about this: Kerry was banking on the economy still being bad as his major campaign club against Bush. It now looks like the economy will be recovering just enough through the remainder of this year for voters to give Bush a pass here as well. So if the economy is mending, no matter what will happen to it next year when the rates go up, and if there is no difference between Bush and Kerry over Iraq except alleged competence, then why would voters dump Bush for Kerry?
Unless you can get voters’ attention on the consequences to our environment, our courts, our rights, our social fabric, Social Security and Medicare, and the deficit from four more years of Bush, you will be unable to get them to toss Bush aside for Kerry as long as they see a mending economy and little difference on Iraq. Kerry will score points with swing voters on repealing the tax cuts for the well-off to pay for selected investments and bring down the deficits. But he won’t bring in enough I fear to make a huge difference. And since Kerry has regretfully signed on to Sharon’s madness in the Middle East for the sake of Jewish votes this fall, he cannot go to voters as a man who can push for breakthroughs there either. So what can he do to differentiate himself from Bush?
Well, here’s one for starters. We know that Cheney will never let the Iraqis have their country any time soon, and we know that we will be trapped there alone in a shooting gallery as a result of this asinine PNAC agenda. We also know that Afghanistan is returning to a terrorist base camp for Al Qaeda, and that President Karzai is doomed unless investment spikes upward, security improves, and Al Qaeda and the Taliban are finally beaten. Kerry can differentiate himself from Bush by proposing a swap of responsibilities whereby we gradually transition our forces out of Iraq to be replaced by Arab League and UN forces while the Iraqis take back their country under UN supervision. We would shift our forces from Iraq back into Afghanistan to finish the job we started, and finish off Al Qaeda and the Taliban once and for all in that country, and get significant commitments of investment in the process from our allies. This would draw some of the Al Qaeda forces out of Iraq and back to Afghanistan, thereby helping the UN and Arab League in Iraq.
By proposing this, Kerry can force Bush and Cheney to argue why we have to stay in Iraq when the Arab League and UN can also do it, and argue for why we shouldn’t go back into Afghanistan to finish the job Bush started, which will serve to remind voters that Bush botched the first test on the war on terra’. Voters may not be so wedded to staying in Iraq if an alternative is presented that cools down the friction there, gets others to replace our troops there, challenges Cheney’s real agenda there, and still demonstrates a total commitment to winning the real wars against terror, like Afghanistan. And you know that France, Germany, Russia, and China would like to get involved again in Iraq if we stepped aside, so this plan would have no shortage of partners. The only people who would fight it would be the PNAC crowd and the GOP's corporate checkwriters who plan to profit off of the blood of our sons and daughters in Iraq. Well, fuck them. Kerry can stand up and remind voters that our primary job was supposed to be finishing Afghanistan and getting Al Qaeda, especially Bin Laden. This would be a real plan for doing so, not for nation-building and profiteering. Let Pacemaker Dick and W try to argue why we should stay in Iraq and fail to get Al Qaeda in the process. Kerry can come across as a results-oriented guy when it comes to the war on terror, not a messianical nation-building profiteering zealot.
Just a thought.