Monday, August 09, 2004

Swoon Song

Barcepundit has a piece on anti-war Europe's swooning enthusiasm for John Kerry.

"Europeans are following this election as never before because of this perception that it's also about Europe's future, though I dare to add that it is also partially because of the Iraq issue, which has inflamed the passions all over the place."

But he notes some leaders are waking up to the fact that Kerry will not run U.S. foreign policy dramatically differently from the way Bush does. The vision of a contrite America bowing to Chirac and Schroeder and doing penance at the U.N. is a fantasy.

Just maybe, too, the European elites have begun to realize that their open rooting for one candidate in an American election is going to be resented by a lot of U.S. voters, and is going to make that candidate's chances just a little longer. The old Soviet Union, back in the day, knew better than to say whether it preferred Kennedy or Nixon in the White House. If the Old European leadership doesn't realize it's regarded in vast swaths of America as little better than Khrushchev, it ought to ask around.

A Boston Globe article today suggests some of the disappointment that might be in store for "Farenheit 9/11" fans should Kerry win. Those who wish to believe the whole problem (as they see it) with America's foreign policy is Bush, should read on:

John F. Kerry for the first time Monday said he still would have voted to give President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq, even if he had known in October 2002 that US intelligence was flawed, that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, and that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Bush had challenged the Democratic nominee Friday to tell voters whether intelligence revelations since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 would have altered his position on the war. Kerry, in reply, distinguished between invading Iraq and authorizing the action. He said, "Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it was the right authority for a president to have."

Kerry said Bush then used the authority inappropriately. But he said U.S. presidents need military leverage against an enemy. When pressed by reporters, Kerry has refused to call the Iraq war a mistake. He only says he would have waged the war differently and done a better job of it. In July he told reporters he would be prepared to use a pre-emptive strike -- to "get them before they get us" -- if there was sufficient intelligence. Of course, "sufficient intelligence" is a highly subjective thing, but if he's got his CIA director telling him there's a "slam dunk" case, I suspect he'd think the intelligence was approaching sufficiency.

He said he "will never allow any other country to veto what we need to do." Last week, Kerry said that if he had been president last year, he might have ended up going to war with Iraq as well.

Tough talk on the campaign trail? Probably, in part. But it's hard to believe he doesn't really mean much of that -- that, for instance, he would disavow all possibility of a unilateral U.S. attack on North Korea if he had strong (but not definite) intelligence that it's nuclear missiles were about to be commandeered by al Qaida.

I expect, too, that Kerry is smart enough to realize that Chirac and Schroeder were fanning the flames of their native anti-Americanism to save their flagging political careers. Beyond a cosmetic kiss-and-make-up, they have no interest in seeing it end. In France, in particular, knee-jerk obstructionism of American foreign policy has been a national institution, from the time of De Gaulle.

In fact, Kerry's "tough" foreign policy rhetoric is more convincing than his appeals to the anti-war fantasy about a quick U.S. exit from Iraq. Kerry has said that by the end of his first term he hopes to replace some U.S. troops with new military complements from European and Muslim nations. Recently, he's talked as though that deadline would be even sooner, perhaps next summer.

But all along, Kerry has said he would heed the recommendations of U.S. commanders about troop levels. "If the commanders asked for it, then you'd have to respond to what the commanders asked for," Kerry said. "But my goal, my diplomacy, my statesmanship, is to get our troops reduced in number ... over that period of time. Obviously we have to see how events unfold."

That sounds less like policy than pipe dream. He's already punting the decision to the generals, and pinning it to the qualification that things start to go really fantastically well in Iraq: he mentioned the country's stability, the "training and transformation" of the Iraqi national security force, and the country's ability to hold elections. That ends up being little different than Bush's stated policies.

As for those foreign troops who would replace U.S. men and women in Iraq, France and Germany are about as inclined to march into Iraq as they are to fly to the Moon, Kerry or no Kerry. Though France might want its lucrative oil contracts back, in exchange for a few police battalion.

Iraq's near neighbors in the Arab/Muslim world are mostly autocratic, and it is against their interest to see democracy thrive and succeed in their back yard. Turkey could do the job, but it has no desire to, and you'd have to march Turkish tanks through Kurdistan, which is a recipe for disaster. A columnist over at Asia Times has been calling for a Russian presence, but given the example of Chechnya, that's likely to be a catastrophe.

The fact is, no foreign leaders or top diplomats have openly offered to help Kerry achieve the partial withdrawal. The Los Angeles Times on Monday reported a survey it had made of officials around the world, and it reported "that Kerry's troop-swap plan was seen as unrealistic and that low public support in their nations for the Iraq war made it unlikely that they would change course if Kerry were elected."