Wesley Clark has announced that he is "pro health." I'm glad he clarified that, but I still need a little help on his Iraq policy. After saying that he would have supported the congressional authorization for military action against Iraq, he reversed himself saying he would never have supported war in Iraq. The former four-star general is now saying that the congressional resolution should have instead been written to give the president some sort of leverage at the U.N. Welcome to the Democrats' Iraq quagmire.
Whereas General Clark apparently would have sought a resolution to deploy troops around U.N. headquarters, Senator Kerry has come up with a different "nuanced" position. He now proclaims that he supported the congressional resolution giving the president authorization to go to war with Iraq, but only to put pressure on Iraq. Though he seems to have a clearer picture than General Clark of who the enemy was, he forgets that that "pressure" alone did not succeed in getting Saddam to comply with U.N. Resolution 1441. What then, Mr. Kerry?
Dick Gephardt is wiggling to a different tune. He stands by his vote and thinks going to war to take out Saddam was a good idea. But Gephardt would not have followed Bush's "go it alone" policy. Go it alone, that is, with Britain and a couple dozen other nations. The Gephardt twist is very popular among Democrats.
When Democrats say that we went "alone" into Iraq, what they mean is that we didn't get U.N. authorization, or, more specifically, we did not get the okay from France and Russia who were set to veto any U.N. resolution that would have specifically authorized military intervention. So the question is, how would Dick Gephardt or John Kerry have brought along those two countries whose extensive commercial entanglements with Saddam's regime essentially ruled out their cooperation? Kerry and Gephardt and many of their Democratic counterparts seem to believe if they had been president, they wouldn't have had to deal with reality. The only reality they are dealing with is Howard Dean's polling numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire. Like a past Democratic president, many in the current crop of hopefuls seem to believe that "leadership" and "core values" are demonstrated by following polling data.
Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) complains that we "poisoned the well" with our "unilateralist" approach so that now we won't get much support from all those countries we insulted by not allowing them a veto on our foreign policy. The fact is, though, Mr. Biden, without our "unilateral" action, Saddam would still be in power and 200,000 U.S. troops and sailors would still be sitting in the Kuwaiti desert and on ships in the Persian Gulf providing the "incentive" for Saddam to cooperate minimally with U.N. inspectors. Is that the Democratic alternative?
Well, it's not the alternative chosen by all Democrats. Howard Dean, for instance, would protect us from terrorists and unstable, hostile tyrants not by taking the war to them, but by making sure all Americans have health insurance in case of attack.
Regardless of what the Democrats may say about how Bush's actions have lost us "sympathy" or "credibility" in the world, you can be sure that when Bush starts to rattle his saber, our enemies sit up and take notice. They know that when Bush says things, he means them. Now what if, God help us, John Kerry or Wesley Clark become president, and there is a crisis somewhere -- say North Korea? Say we dutifully go to the U.N. and the U.N. tells North Korea that they had better stop what they are doing or the U.N. will get very mad. And to support that threat President Kerry or Clark deploys a large military force to Asia (or to U.N. headquarters). What are the North Koreans going to think? They're going to think: well, here's a president who already said that he believes in making empty threats. And so our Democratic president will either back down or launch a war that a credible threat may have avoided.
BUT ALL THE CONTORTED ARGUMENTS about how Bush screwed up in his Iraq policy, as nonsensical as most of them are, at least qualify as legitimate policy debate. It is perfectly legitimate to argue the merits of the war, to question aspects of its execution, or to express doubt about the Bush vision of a democratic Iraq leading to a freer, more modern, and less terror-ridden Middle East. But many Democrats have been doing more than that.
Democratic congressman Jim Marshall wrote after returning from a trip to Iraq in September that "the falsely bleak picture [of the situation in Iraq] weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation and emboldens our enemy." He was talking about the negative U.S. media coverage, but the same is true of all the sky-is-falling rhetoric coming from other, less responsible members of his party. According to all the Democratic presidential candidates (with the possible exceptions of Joe Lieberman and John Edwards), we've made a real mess of things in Iraq, the situation is getting worse by the day, and the Iraqi people have lost all patience with us. Given their fascination with polls, it is odd that they ignore polls that routinely show that two-thirds of Iraqis are glad the U.S. ousted Saddam despite the destruction it involved, and are optimistic about Iraq's future.
Recently, former President Bill Clinton stated that when he left office he believed that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons, and probably also had an active nuclear program. Indeed, that belief, and Saddam's refusal to cooperate with U.N. inspectors, was why he ordered an extensive (unilateral) cruise missile attack on Iraq in 1998. The now ambivalent Senator Kerry had the same beliefs, and even indicated at the time that he didn't think Clinton's limited attack went far enough in dealing with the apparent Iraqi threat. What a difference a presidential campaign makes.
Senator Hillary Clinton has acknowledged that the intelligence information shared with senators by the Bush administration prior to the Iraq war was consistent with intelligence assessments from the Clinton administration. But now that it appears that Saddam may not have had ready-to-use chemical or biological weapons, Senator Kerry cries that he was "misled" by the Bush administration about things he thought true in 1998 based on Clinton-era intelligence. The Democratic leadership knows that this charge of "deception" is not true, and there still is a risk that we might find some nasty things buried in the Iraqi desert, but it seems to be one argument that has "traction" with voters, so they're going with it. To many Democrats, lying about President Bush, even if such lies tarnish our image abroad or undermine U.S. foreign policy, are just fine if they help to get Democrats back in power.
Some leading Democrats, particularly Ted Kennedy, go even further than Senator Kerry and others who claim the Bush administration "cooked" the intelligence regarding Saddam's weapons programs. Kennedy takes the next logical step, assigning an ignoble motive to the Bush administration's supposed dishonesty. The reasons for war, according to Kennedy, were all "made up" because Bush thought war would be good politically for Republicans. Undoubtedly, helping U.S. Republicans was the motivation for Prime Minister Blair to take what was a rather unpopular pro-war position in Britain. Kennedy's baseless assertion is as silly as it is disgusting. But, of course, his response to criticism that his remarks "crossed the line" was to attack his critics for questioning his patriotism. When Samuel Johnson said that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" he had in mind the likes of Senator Kennedy.
It is odd that Senator Kennedy, so touchy about supposed attacks on his patriotism, apparently does not think that accusing the president of sending American troops to war for base political ends is not an attack on the president's patriotism. Or perhaps it is not so odd, as many in his party seem to feel that there is nothing inherently unpatriotic about putting their own political ambitions ahead of the national interest.