Help is Not On the Way


On Iraq, John Kerry may not be all that different than George W. Bush, though he has bent himself into a pretzel to dissipate that impression. But one thing that I still can?t figure out is this business about not sending more troops to Iraq. While Kerry didn?t rule that out in the past, he has favored asking other countries to contribute troops.

At the same time he said in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention that he would add ?40,000 active duty troops ? not in Iraq, but to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended and under pressure.?

On Sunday, asked about whether he would send more troops, Kerry replied: ?I don't envision it. I believe that my leadership and my plan to approach these countries ? and I'm not negotiating it publicly ? I know what I want to do. I know what I believe can be achieved.?

OK, so here is a cautious Kerry, who isn?t negotiating publicly, presumably because it might weaken his bargaining hand when he approaches those allies that, he says, the Bush administration has alienated. But then he goes out and blows the whole thing by making it fairly clear that he will not increase troop levels in Iraq ? a fairly irresponsible vulnerability to so brazenly telegraph to both friends and foes, who will surely use that to assume a Kerry administration has little staying power in Iraq, and act accordingly.

This is reminiscent of Bill Clinton in Kosovo. Initially, the president refused to commit ground troops and made that fairly clear; Milosevic, sensing American reluctance, held out against weeks of destructive air strikes. Only when Clinton changed his mind and the threat of a ground war became very real did the Yugoslav leader fold.

Whether there are enough soldiers or not in Iraq is not for me to say, nor is Kerry obligated to boost troop numbers. But that?s the kind of information that is better kept to oneself, even during an election campaign. Plus, go figure why Kerry has actually compounded this mistake by earlier ruling out sending to Iraq the 40,000 new troops he intends to raise; after all the Arabs and Europeans are, at best, likely to agree to dispatch only token forces, assuming the Iraqis agree, which is far from certain. Shouldn?t Kerry be cutting himself some slack here?

Worse, isn?t he sort of doing what he accuses the Bush administration of having done ? namely paying a high price today because it initially tried to fight the Iraq war on the cheap by limiting the number of American soldiers deployed?

NEXT: Tough Call on Terror Alert

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  1. Young,

    What, you’re shocked that a politician is being inconsistent?

    As to the issue of troop deployment, neither Bush nor Kerry really have much in the way of immediate or short-term options – the troops just aren’t there for a major build-up.

  2. Jack, Michael Moore is the one that kills rabbits, however only for documentary purposes.

  3. Kerry’s argument on Meat [sic] the Press, is that we have to get the U.S. troops out of Iraq because it costs too much and the bloodshed is too horrible to withstand. He says that as a newly elected president, he will have a fresh start and real credibility with all the countries in the world – all of them basically hate us now, you see.

    The only problem with this, is that it is the exact mindset that convinced bin Laden and Hussein that the U.S. could be pushed around, that our threats to enforce disarmament treaties and our military / social work efforts to relieve war torn regions could be easily thwarted. In other words, the easiest way to encourage a bully to hit you, is to try to run away.

    There was no word on how Italy, England, Australia, Poland, the Ukraine, and a host of smaller countries who have been helping in Iraq feel about Kerry’s assertions that it’s a unilateral U.S. effort. Nor was there any explanation about why France and Germany – that’s who we’re talking about here, right – would leap into Iraq so that all the U.S. forces could go home. Or is Kerry proposing an Iranian peacekeeping force? Just wondering.

    To say that he’s basically indistinguishable from Bush on the Iraq question is, as Mr. Kerry would say, un-nuanced.

  4. Ah, another blog post in which Michael Young shrieks, “More blood! More death!” I’m frankly surprised the man isn’t biting the heads off of baby rabbits in public at this point.

  5. “I know what I want to do. I know what I believe can be achieved.”

    It looks to me like he’s keeping his options open, in case the situation changes, rather than committing himself to a course of action that might make sense now but be inappropriate in three months. I don’t see him ruling out more American troops. I see him saying he’d prefer not to send them, and doesn’t think he’s going to have to. What’s the problem?

  6. the problem, joe, is that you can’t make another post crucifying the candidate of the Enemy Party is you admit that kerry is leaving himself plenty of room to maneuver while articulating a political position. but i’m sure mr. young could speak to that at least as well as i.

  7. lol … “… if you admit”, of course.

  8. To put it in the terms of Kerry’s anti-Vietnam war testimony, his Iraq policy is that he will talk the French and the Germans into providing the last men to die for a mistake.

    Does anyone thik this is likely to happen?

  9. “I would just like to point out to the American people that even if I do the same thing as Bush, it will be for good Democrat reasons, not inappropriate Republican ones. Plus, I don’t smirk. Halliburton.”

  10. Since when have election promises meant anything anyway? No one takes campaign promises seriously anymore, so he hasnt really hurt his bargaining power by tipping his hand.

  11. Since when have election promises meant anything anyway? No one takes campaign promises seriously anymore, so he hasnt really hurt his bargaining power by tipping his hand.

  12. Josh wrote: “Since when have election promises meant anything anyway?”

    Well, remember “Read my lips, no new taxes”?

    Could we be moving to where “troops” substitutes for “taxes.” We’re not quite there yet, but worth pondering.

  13. Ah, another blog post in which Michael Young shrieks, “More blood! More death!”

    You believe that increasing troops levels in Iraq would lead to more blood and death? Hm. What’s your basis for this assertion?

    What gets me is: Kerry has completely ruled out increasing troop levels in Iraq. He has also denied that he plans to reduce the overall number of troops in Iraq; he just wants other nations to share more of the burder (the rational response to that idea is “AHAHAHAHA”). So overall troop levels should neither increase… nor decrease? Are we to believe that Bush has precisely the correct number of troops in Iraq? Is that what the Democratic candidate for President is claiming? Bush launched the war with too few, began the occupation with too few, but at this particularly moment — through, presumably, sheer coincidence — he has precisely the correct number over there?

    I’m not asking Kerry to commit to putting more troops over there. But it would be nice if he at least PRETENDED like he gave a shit about the troops over there, and their needs, and what they’re trying to accomplish. If he at least pretended like he’d given five minutes’ thought to the war we’re involved in.

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