Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Kerry in 'Foreign Policy'

John Kerry discussed a Democratic foreign policy in, appropriately enough, Foreign Policy magazine in March/April of 2003. In that essay Kerry stated:

I support the Bush administration’s goal of a regime change in Iraq. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is a renegade and outlaw who turned his back on the tough conditions of his surrender put in place by the United Nations in 1991. But the administration’s rhetoric has far exceeded its plans or groundwork. In fact, its single-mindedness, secrecy, and high-blown phrases have alienated our allies and threatened to undermine the stability of the region.

This is entirely consistenet with Kerry's recent comments at the Grand Canyon in which he said he still would have voted to give President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq, even if he had known in October 2002 that US intelligence was flawed, that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, and that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

BC'04 is portraying Kerry's statement as both a flip-flop and a vidication of Bush's policy. It is neither. Kerry is saying the exact same thing he was saying over a year ago. His subsequent condemnation of Bush's handling of the military and diplomatic tasks involved in executing a policy of regime change in Iraq are completely consistent with his earlier and current statements.

That said, I personally disagree with Kerry's viewpoint. I do not think that the sorts of disasters which have befallen us in Iraq are the product of poor leadership, though Bush's is extraordinarily poor, indeed, so much as the inevitable wages of neo-imperialism. All the more ironic is the juxtapositon of James Judis's new article 'Imperial Amnesia' in Foreign Policy this month. (Free registration required). The irony comes in the form of thematic similarities between Kerry's article and Judis's, especially their references to Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. For both writers, these Presidents are touchstones of their articles, but Kerry emphasizes a determination to have an active and engaged foriegn policy, while Judis instead highlights the lessons learned about trying bringing democracy to foreign soil by force.

Undoubtedly, there is a dimension of political neccessity to Kerry's position on Iraq. There isn't time to give most of America, terrified by a new conflict whose rules they do not comprehend, a good history lesson before the election. Kerry must advocate a muscular and aggressive security policy to ensure people of his strength. But he does America, and himself, no good by staying in the kiddie batting cage with Bush. He needs to play in the big leagues where he belongs and insist that force cannot solve all our problems, and 'regime change' always becomes a continuation of imperialism by other means. Imperialism has never been the midwife to democracy as neo-Conservatives claim. Imperialism always has been an abject failure in terms of security, democratic values, and human rights, and it always will be. Our good intentions cannot make it so.


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