Kerry the anti-warrior

If John Kerry succeeds to the office he was born to, he will inherit a war he voted for but now claims he is against. It’s reminiscent of another war Kerry volunteered for but then fought against.

For the convention, Kerry's four months of service in Vietnam were laid on thick. He arrived at the convention in a boat as if he were navigating the Mekong Delta with his 'band of brothers'. (Or without them as the case may be.) I assume there were no actual Swiff Boats available to add that over the top realism to the photo op. Kerry's staged video, which he said he would never use politically, of Vietnam were played on the big screen. His salute and speech intro: "I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty." Not to mention the numerous mentions of Kerry's service in Vietnam by him and every other speaker, all to reinforce the pretense of a strong military leader.

So will he fight the Iraq war as he fought the Vietnam war? Upon returning he confessed to war crimes and labeled his fellow veterans war criminals. This is certainly part of the proud military heritage he stands on as his qualification to be commander-in-chief. The same medals Kerry claims prove his valor are the very same medals he threw away in disdain.

It's another example of the amalgamated nature of the man. For his liberal base he is solidly against the war-- says it was all wrong, botched and stillborn because of Bush's 'misleading'. (He was duped into voted for it.) To the rest of the country he tried to look, perhaps too hard, every bit the war hero standing tall as an icon of military readiness. His statements and his votes belie that image.

Maybe Kerry's real act of cynicism was his vote for the Iraq war in the fall of 2002. With that vote, he ignored everything he believed he had learned from his Vietnam experience. In retrospect, he may feel that he sold his soul to make himself electable. In the months since the war, Kerry has had to pretend he did the right thing, not only because a politician dare not admit error but because his political advisers believe that in a post-Sept. 11 world most of the electorate does not want an "antiwar" president. Throughout the long months of the campaign, Kerry disciplined himself to sound like a hawk. But in his heart, based on all he learned during the formative years of his life, Kerry is not a hawk. At the Democratic National Convention, John Edwards followed the script. Kerry followed his heart.

The ironies abound. Three decades ago, Kerry came out in opposition to the war he had fought in Vietnam. Today, Kerry extols that service so that he may safely, patriotically distance himself from the war in Iraq that he had supported. [washingtonpost]

In looking at his past and listening to what he has actually said about Iraq I still have trouble understanding exactly what his policy would be. In classic Kerry style he has tried to stake out both sides of the issue. Besides misleading the nation, the one substantive issue Kerry points to as Bush's big mistake of the war was not having allies on our side. Does he mean not enough allies? Not ALL of our allies? or just not the right allies like France? Which allies are indispensable and which are only window dressing? If the mission itself was sufficient cause to go to war why would having allies matter? And if the mission was not sufficient to go to war why vote for it?

If military action is necessary and some allies disagree, would Kerry still choose to go forward with that military action? If not, isn't that in effect the kind of veto which Kerry says he would never allow? If he would go ahead without said allies, isn't he admitting that it is a judgment call as to whether said ally is necessary or indispensable?

What if Kerry was in office and France and Germany didn't want to contribute? What then? What's his plan to win the peace-- that will not be contingent on the possible veto of any nation or institution? Kerry has explicitly said he will not send any more troops to Iraq. This leaves few options other than to just pull out as he forcefully and tirelessly advocated for in Vietnam. Because in that war we were also wrong in his mind.

He says he knows what must be done in Iraq, except that no real details are forthcoming about what that is beyond his fervent wish to be President. "I know what we have to do in Iraq. I need to be President!"

I know what we have to do in Iraq. We need a President who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, reduce the risk to American soldiers. That's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.

Bush did seek allies and did have a coalition. Allies Kerry dismissed and belittled. Is this an example of his diplomacy? Now Kerry has a 'secret plan' to get us out of Iraq. And he promises to take troops out of Iraq ASAP. Sounds like cut and run to me.

Reminded that he sounded like Richard M. Nixon, who campaigned in 1968 by saying he had a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam, Kerry responded: "I don't care what it sounds like. The fact is that I'm not going to negotiate in public today without the presidency, without the power. I'm going to do that as president. And people will have to judge my 35 years of involvement in foreign affairs, my 20 years as a Senator fighting to make things happen. That's the judgment people make in this race. It's a judgment of character," [justoneminute]

It is precisely his involvement in foreign affairs 35 years ago which is at issue. Kerry can't give his 'plan' because he doesn't have one. He has only retreat in mind. A Vietnam style defeat for a war that 'should have never been fought'.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you promise that American troops will be home by the end of your first term?

SENATOR JOHN F. KERRY: I will have significant, enormous reduction in the level of troops. We will probably have a continued presence of some kind, certainly in the region. If the diplomacy that I believe can be put in place can work, I think we can significantly change the deployment of troops, not just there but elsewhere in the world. In the Korean peninsula perhaps, in Europe perhaps. There are great possibilities open to us. [justoneminute]

This differs little from what Bush has promised all along except without the surrender.

As Robert Kagan points out, Kerry's new dictum regarding war is that we can only go to war if there's a real and imminent threat to the American people because we, "never go to war because we want to; we only go to war because we have to." This would in fact rule out Clinton's war in Kosovo, and the interventions in Somalia and Haiti. It would also rule out interventions in cases like Rwanda and the Sudan, because we are not threatened by genocide personally, only threatened with watching as it happens. I dare say it would have ruled out this Iraq war as well even with weapons of mass destruction.

But what's more disturbing coupled with that are the phrases promising to respond to attacks. That the real front on the war on terror is here on our shores, to be combated with firemen and rescue workers sifting through the rubble. Kerry's war on terror is to be fought in our malls, in our cities, and at our airports. Therefore we need to fortify our homeland and wait for the next attack so that we can then respond appropriately.

Kerry's position is a house of cards built on words calculated to give him the best advantage politically at the time they are said. Political calculations, which can change daily like the wind, in fact require nuance and complexity, something Kerry has in abundance. The only question is what will Kerry say is right tomorrow when the winds change?

Posted by Eric Simonson at August 3, 2004 4:23 PM