Kerry’s Iraq Plan May Be Much Less Daft Than It Sounds

John Kerry was not my first choice candidate, but I've always thought he was basically ok. And after the debates I felt better about him. Nevertheless, as is inevitably the case, there are a handful of policy areas where I disagree or find him wanting. One is the slightly protectionist tinge to his rhetoric (but note that the other guy is even worse on fair and free trade: actions, like the steel tariff, speak louder than words).

Probably my least favorite Kerry policy has been his 'plan' for Iraq, which I took to be a politically expedient non-starter. About the only thing I found plausible in Bush's reactions to Kerry was his question as to why on earth any ally of ours would want to step into the Iraqi quagmire caused by Bush's horrible errors of judgment. Ok, that's not exactly how Bush put it, but it's close enough to make the point.

But see reality: It turns out Kerry may know what he's talking about (spotted via Talkleft): the Germans have opened the door to entering the Iraq coalition in a Kerry administration. Advantage Kerry.

It may be of course that the Germans are just blowing smoke because they so hate GW Bush that they want him out of office. Think about that: Normally incumbents support each other internationally, or at least stay neutral. Now here's another one of our major allies who so hate the current administration that they're willing to go out on a limb for the challenger. (South Korea is an earlier example: they loath and despise current US policy on North Korea and regional security. I bet they don't like Bush protectionism either.)

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5 Responses to Kerry’s Iraq Plan May Be Much Less Daft Than It Sounds

  1. Altoid says:

    Yes, I think there’s something to the idea, and someone (I’ve forgotten who) laid it out plainly a few weeks ago– in Kerry’s view, there isn’t nearly as much at stake in Iraq as there is for bush. Where bush is playing it as the Wilsonian reconstruction of the world, Kerry sees it as a mess we have to get out of now that bush has thrust us in it, and to do so in the most constructive (or least destructive) way possible. It can’t be done by us just bugging out. Kerry has also signalled he’s much more willing to take other nations’ views into account on other issues, making them more willing to help us there, so long as we have no intentions of using Iraq as a strong point in the future.

    Where bush really can’t get anyone’s cooperation is not so much because he’s had us do it all ourselves, it’s because he intends for the US to dominate the place as far as the eye can see. Neither the Europeans nor the Russians will lift a finger to help him do that. And they’re moving much closer together now, largely because of Iraq. But they all have a stake in stability there, so long as it doesn’t become just an American base the way the Philippines were in Asia for so long. Any American president who doesn’t have those kinds of ambitions will get some help (and will be able to keep the Russians and the Europeans a little further apart, which is better for us in a realpolitik sense).

    Ambitions to use Iraq as a military strong point have never made sense to me, so Kerry’s position makes a lot of sense to me, and I do think it can work. The real fly in the ointment would be if he pursues a Clintonian economic policy. That might incline some other countries that got hammered on trade to back away from Iraq. But I don’t think that’s quite so likely because of the stake they do have in some longer-term stability there.

  2. The reality is that European troops will not help in Iraq at this point. They will be perceived as more “Western” influence….

    the only real solution (and Kerry clearly understands this) is a pan-Arab/Muslim “peacekeeping force”. And that ain’t gonna happen if Bush stays in the White House.

    The whole world understands the dangers of a “destabilized” Iraq, but sees that problem as less of a threat than Bush’s obvious (and obviously stupid) plans to control mid-east oil. The world would prefer to have Bush’s armies pinned down in Iraq, and thus not be able to invade Iran or Syria, than provide Bush with a “victory” that would only encourage his imperial ambitions.

  3. Observer says:

    Paul is correct, but what the Germans were talking about today was less about troops than the fact that they would be very interested in participating in an international conference on Iraq reconstruction. I have no doubt that such a conference would be well attended by Arab states as well, and would result in a transition plan to an international occupying/reconstruction force with large Arab partipation. Part of the plan would be stabilization, part of the plan would be reconstruction.

    Very likely such a plan, if believed by Iraqis, would result in a cease fire in the insurgency. The locals want peace and reconstruction … they just don’t trust the Americans to do it right.

  4. Eli Rabett says:

    You missed the real news:

    1. The EU and Turkey are preparing for formal talks on Turkey joining the Union http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3682172.stm
    http://europa.eu.int/comm/enlargement/docs/newsletter/latest_weekly.htm#E
    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/apmideast_story.asp?category=1107&slug=Turkey%20Kurdish%20Hopes
    2. The Turks and Kurds are talking on an official level.
    http://www.kurdmedia.com/news.asp?id=5582
    Evidently interesting and productive things are being said. Note that part of the EU conditions on Turkey have involved the treatment of Kurds.

    A deal is taking shape

    a. Turkey becomes a member of the EU.
    b. The Kurds renounce aspirations for a Kurdistan encompassing parts of Turkey and Iran as well as northern Iraq
    c1 Turkey gives substantial autonomy to its Kurdish region (think Calalona).
    c2. The Iranians also agree to substantial autonomy for their Kurdish region
    d. A federal state is formed in Iraq, with Shia, Sunni and Kurdish cantons, the division of Kirkuk and the northern oil regions being the most difficult parts.

    Naturally all this has to happen at once. And that folks is why we all NEED the EU because a doesn’t happen without them. The UN is key to b and c as guarantors. d will cost a LOT of money, that’s the US, but still less than an occupation.

  5. Altoid says:

    And a lot of what Eli Rabbett is talking about won’t be possible if the US insists that it has to have over a dozen active military bases in Iraq and that its government must be responsible to the American embassy.

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