Sunday, August 15, 2004

John Kerry, the Iraq war, and The New York Times 

This morning's New York Times contains a rather remarkable editorial, "wishing that Mr. Kerry would do a better job" contending with his vote to support military operations in Iraq. Here's the heart of the essay:
Mr. Kerry, as almost everyone now knows, voted to give President Bush the authority to invade Iraq, in a post-9/11 climate of fear and widespread conviction that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that might be used against the United States or its allies in the near future. Now that we know differently, some senators have said they regret their vote. Not Mr. Kerry. He affirmed once again last week that he believes he did the right thing. It was Mr. Bush who erred, he continued, by misusing the power he had been given.

Of course, John Kerry did not merely affirm "once again last week that he believes he did the right thing." John Kerry said that he would have voted the same way -- in favor of the war -- even if he had known then that we would not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This last point has been all over both the blogosphere and mainstream media -- even Bill Maher raised it repeatedly on his HBO show on Friday night, leaving Gary Hart, yet another Kerry campaign "foreign policy advisor," speechless. Why? Because it is a clear reversal of earlier Kerry statements, back when Howard Dean had him on the ropes. Then his story was that he had voted for the use of force only because he had been "misled" about weapons of mass destruction.

The Times is completely disingenuous about Kerry's revisionism:
The Republicans have made much of this record; the Kerry campaign is haunted by replays of the theme song from the old TV show "Flipper." Mr. Bush, however, has a far more dangerous pattern of behavior. On issues from tax cuts to foreign policy, the president tends to stick stubbornly to his original course even when changing events cry out for adaptation. His explanations seem to evolve every day, but his thinking never does.

Bush's apparently inflexibility indeed has its disadvantages, which may or may not outweigh its advantages. But to equate Bush's consistency with Kerry's inconsistency is to hide the ball. Kerry has not only been inconsistent in his actions, he has been wholly inconsistent in his post hoc explanations for his actions. Did he vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq because of the "misleading" intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, or would he have done so even knowing that there were no such weapons?

This inconsistency is not a big deal per se -- consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. But, and this is a huge but, we still have no idea whether John Kerry would have taken us to war in Iraq. We can suspect that he would not have because he has been a dove his entire life -- or at least since he may or may not have been in Cambodia on Christmas Day 1968 -- but from his statements to date we can only conclude that he also would have invaded Iraq. Except that he would have done it with 30,000 French soldiers who would have happily shown up if only we had said s'il vous plait often enough.

The Times does, finally, get around to trashing the myth of an alternative "more competent" Iraq war:
What we would like to hear from Mr. Kerry is how the events of the last year have changed his own thinking. He consistently describes the failures of Iraq as failures in tactics - from a lack of international support to a lack of adequate body armor for the troops [which, when given the chance, he voted against, ed.]. We're wondering if he really believes better planning or better diplomacy would have made the difference, or whether the whole idea of sending troops was flawed. Arab nations have a painful history of Western colonization, and there is an instinctive resistance to the idea of a Western occupation of Arab soil. How much does Mr. Kerry think the addition of French and German soldiers would have improved things? In retrospect, it seems that even if Arab nations like Saudi Arabia or Egypt had added their support, the outcome would have more likely been trouble for the governments of those countries back home rather than credibility on the streets of Baghdad.

The Times and TigerHawk come to opposite conclusions about whether we should have fought this war, but at least we now agree on the value of our erstwhile allies.


By Blogger Bill Faith, at Sun Aug 15, 07:46:00 PM:

At least they're admitting there are questions. It's a start.  

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