There are a few things that I’m not very proud about. Many find my love of Billy Joel unfortunate and my fascination with the European techno star Blumchen simply atrocious. I drink far too much coffee each day and my constant ramblings about the hit TV sitcom “Charles in Charge” have begun to worry my suitemates — though my distaste for Suzanne Sommers in “Step by Step” has assured them that I’m not completely insane. But after hearing John Kerry’s speech on Sept. 20 — dubbed his best, most coherent yet by Democratic friends and media activists alike — I continue to be unapologetic about my support of President Bush in the upcoming election. After a botched push to paint himself as the right choice for a “more secure America” Kerry has turned his focus — much to the glee of his new set of Clintonite advisers — to the war in Iraq.
Is this a smart move on the part of the Kerry team? Absolutely — while I firmly believe that we have made progress in the region, the difficulties we continue to face in reconstructing Iraq are a point of weakness for the Bush administration. In looking at the words of the “sensitive” John Kerry, however, I see neither a coherent plan of action, nor an accurate representation of the current state of the conflict. Though Kerry continues to attack the president for being “overly optimistic,” he has been reluctant to practice what he preaches: the diplomatic renaissance promised by Kerry has no basis in reality while his ever-shifting positions on the war evade coherence and clarity.
I know it can be hard to take a leap of faith with a Republican — picture Katherine Harris mouthing “trust me” with outstretched arms — but Kerry’s rhetoric should confound voters regardless of political affiliation. Kerry, for example, has charged that the president misled the nation by purporting a link between Iraq and al Qaeda and based war rationale on incorrect weapons of mass destruction data. These WMD accusations are incredibly misleading: they are based on information gathered during our occupation of Iraq. After having searched all relevant facilities, we know that the threats of Iraqi WMD capacity were exaggerated by Saddam Hussein. Kerry has been quick to point out that there was no “imminent threat” posed by Iraq; President Bush has also acknowledged various miscalculations made by the administration along the way.
John Kerry must differentiate, however, between mistakes and preventable mistakes. The president cannot be faulted for the failures of our intelligence-gathering community. Based on the information provided by our armed forces, the CIA, Russia, Jordan, and Egypt in 2002, Bush had no choice but to act in Iraq. Subsequent reports analyzing intelligence data have vindicated both President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair: neither leader was judged to have misled the public based on available information. If we were able to foresee these future developments, should we still have invaded Iraq? Bush has outlined a convincing rationale for war unrelated to WMD; Kerry, after going back and forth over the past few months, has concluded otherwise. Kerry must realize, however, that going to war based on what was known in early 2003 is a completely different issue. Indeed, Kerry has offered little more than 20/20 hindsight in his criticisms of Bush’s foreign policy.
The second criticism outlined by Kerry has been disputed by both the Bush administration and members of the Sept. 11 panel: while Saddam Hussein may have had no direct role in the Sept. 11 hijackings, there is an undeniable relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. Vice-Chairman Lee Hamilton, for instance, has stated that there was no “difference of opinion” between the Bush administration and the Sept. 11 Commission with regards to the Saddam Hussein-Osama bin Laden link. Commissioner John Lehman, meanwhile, has asserted that documents released on June 20, 2004, indicate that an “officer of Saddam’s Fedayeen– [was] a very prominent member of al Qaeda.” The attacks of Senator Kerry in this regard are simplified and misleading. Despite his efforts to show otherwise, Kerry cannot credibly argue that Iraq was unrelated to the greater War on Terror. For better or for worse, Kerry has taken a position almost identical to that of Howard Dean in the presidential primaries: what the senator once termed irresponsible and outrageous has become the basis of the new Kerry platform.
Kerry has argued that America must internationalize the war in Iraq. If elected president, he has promised to “rebuild and lead strong alliances so that other nations share the burden with us.” Apparently, our current alliances hold no value to Kerry: he has spoken out against the supposedly faux multilateralism of Bush, and denounced current members of the international coalition as being threatened and “bribed” into action. Kerry’s plan to supplement our current troop commitments with contributions from other countries neglects vast disparities in military technology between the United States and Europe and the deep hostility of the French and German populations to any involvement in Iraq. With Chirac and Schroeder facing resounding defeats in upcoming elections — approval ratings are absolutely dismal for both candidates — there is no likelihood that either politician would undertake unpopular steps to “legitimize” the American invasion. Convincing European parliaments that they have a vested interest in Iraq is a near impossibility; growing deficits and a wide array of pressing social concerns will sufficiently dissuade France and Germany from increasing military commitments abroad. Moreover, “Iraq” has become the symbol of the growing transatlantic divide: to “cave in” to the United States in this matter is unacceptable to European politicians and publics alike.
The designs of John Kerry are filled with inconsistencies and contradictions; instead of capitalizing on liberal antiwar sentiment with charged but largely empty rhetoric, Kerry must come forward with realistic and well-grounded alternatives to the Iraq policies of the president. I’m looking forward to the debates — maybe John Kerry will surprise me with a new position.
Al Jiwa is a junior in Pierson College. He is the president of the Yale College Republicans.