Kerry - consistent policy, incoherent message

September 24, 2004

Today's Fluffya Inkwire has a fascinating story about Kerry's position on Iraq. The article argues that Kerry has been consistent all along in wanting a strong policy to contain Hussein, approved of a broad-based coalition to fight Hussein if he rejected ultimatum, voted authorization for action as part of presenting a united front, but thinks that Bush went to war too quickly, too alone, and to incompenantly. In short, Kerry voted for war because he wanted to bluff Hussein, and he says that Bush told the Senate he needed the authority as a bluff. He claims not to be opposed to going to war in Iraq, but to be opposed to going to war alone, early, and incompetantly.

It is a hard position to boil down to a sound bite.

As I argued a while back, Bush and friends are short-term thinkers. In the vote for war, as in the steel tariffs and a lot of other decisions, they said whatever they had to say to achieve their policy of the moment. The only real question is whether this pattern of lies, overstatements, and obfuscations will catch up with them in November of 2004 or with the whole nation between 2005 and 2008.

Their lies make good sound bites but terrible policy, a point I am far from the first to make.

Posted by Red Ted at September 24, 2004 09:12 AM | TrackBack

I keep hearing this 'we went in alone' phrase and it just doesn't add up. England, Australia, Poland, Japan, South Korea, Italy, and so on, all the way down El Salvadore and Denmark are part of the coalition. You can claim unilateral action until election day, but that doesn't make it true.

Posted by: Ted at September 25, 2004 08:41 PM

Good point, and one that has dropped so thoroughly out of the discourse that I forgot it as well. My bad.

I should have said: small coalition consisting of the United States and England, accompanied by Poland and Australia, fleshed out with a handful of small countries, almost all from Eastern Europe or the fringes of the economic world, and completely absent of Islamic or even Middle Eastern nations.

As a practical matter, GWB made a choice to force an early confrontation with Iraq, made a choice to divert resources from Al Queda to Iraq, and then screwed up the execution of that choice so as to score an own-goal.

The only way to tie the Iraq war to the war on terror is to make the Wolfowitz argument that creating a stable democracy in an Islamic country would undermine OBL's basic premise of a war between Islam and Democracy.

But, Bush's rush to war and mishandling of the peace has made that task far more difficult than it should be, encouraged people to accept that the U.S. is a violent imperial power, and provided proof of OBL's accusations.

The small coalition and the rush to war go together. The U.N. might be almost useless and, in the case of Boutrous Boutross Ghali's people in Somalia in the 1990s, a positive bar to peace, but it is also an institution that conveys a sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval to nation-building efforts. In the absence of the U.N. and of any other comparable legitimacy-granting organization, the task was far harder than it should be, and when those difficulties are combined with poor planning for the peace, poor execution of the security situation, and failed policies by our national administrators and their (purely political Republican) staff, well, it all comes together to form a very sad and very bad picture.

Posted by: Ted K at September 27, 2004 08:41 AM
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