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  • John Kerry speaks

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/...-598004,00.html

    C O V E R
    Does Kerry Have A Better Idea?
    Mistakes were made going into Iraq, he says. He'd undo them
    By NANCY GIBBS



    Monday, Mar. 15, 2004
    Some questions seem so very simple. Senator Kerry, was the war in Iraq a mistake? Was it worth the cost? And now that we're in so deep, how do we get out? Like any good politician, John Kerry knows the value of simple answers. And like any other careful student of history, he knows the risks too, for some issues just won't let you get away with a yes or a no that you can live with forever.

    And so he is an uncomfortable man right now—hoarse, tired, relieved, drinking something pink from a water bottle ("energy and vitamin C stuff," he says) and talking to TIME as he flies down to Florida, fresh off his Super Tuesday triumph. He has called unfair a question about whether the war was worth it, because we don't know where Iraq will be a decade from now. He doesn't have a detailed proposal for what to do next, just a plan for coming up with a plan. But at the very end of the interview, he gets a chance to answer a question about his answers, about why he voted to authorize the Iraq war and now campaigns against it, about the shifts and shades in his explanations that George W. Bush uses to suggest Kerry has no core beliefs at all: The President hates the word nuance—how about you, Senator?

    Kerry begins coolly: "Some of these issues are very complicated and deserve more than a simplistic this or that," says the diplomat's son, the diligent student of policy and history practically from birth, the 19-year veteran of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Davos regular with his Rolodex fat with kings and prime ministers and experts of all stripes. But as he speaks, Kerry heats up, grows loud, almost angry. His message shifts: Don't for a moment think all that worldliness means he has no convictions. Or that he is weak or a waffler or a political opportunist.

    "I don't think war is nuanced at all. I think how you take a nation to war is the most fundamental decision a President makes," he says, "and there's nothing nuanced at all about keeping your promises. There is nothing nuanced about exhausting remedies that give you legitimacy and consent to go to war. And I refuse ever to accept the notion that anything I've suggested with respect to Iraq was nuanced. It was clear. It was precise. It was, in fact, prescient. It was ahead of the curve about what the difficulties were. And that is precisely what a President is supposed to be. I think I was right, 100% correct, about how you should have done Iraq."

    When you ask Kerry whether he has a better answer for how America gets out of Iraq, he can't answer without talking about how we got in. That discussion allows him to show how he approaches the world differently from the members of the Bush Administration, sees alliances as assets rather than burdens, sees patience as a virtue and not a weakness, sees means as being as important as ends, with Iraq exhibit A. He says he learned from Vietnam, where he served as skipper of a swift boat, that you go to war only if all other options fail and that you had better make certain you are prepared to do what it takes to succeed. Whatever his criticisms of Bush's war, Kerry says, he is committed to finishing the mission. "My exit strategy is success," he says, "a viable, stable Iraq that can contribute to the stability and peace in the Middle East." Among the first things Kerry would do as President, says Samuel Berger, who was a National Security Adviser under Bill Clinton and has consulted with Kerry on the subject, would be to tell the American people to "put aside your misgivings or whatever you thought about this in the beginning. We cannot fail now."

    When it comes to Iraq's future, Kerry often sounds tougher than the President. He has accused the Bush team of considering "a cut-and-run strategy" to reduce the U.S. role in Iraq in time for the November election. "It would be a disaster and a disgraceful betrayal of principle," Kerry said in December, because stability can't come without security and Iraq is anything but secure. He says the U.S. needs more help in Iraq from the U.N. and all the parties in Europe and the Arab world that have an interest in Iraq's success. "George Bush has failed utterly in bringing them to the table," Kerry told TIME. "I find that an astounding gap in diplomacy."

    But if the heart of Kerry's approach, like Bush's, is to give the U.N. and NATO larger roles going forward, that still leaves the question of whether it would work; coordinating a multinational force can be more challenging than relying on a single nation's chain of command. Here it is Kerry's turn to balance political needs against military ones. He believes that democracy and civil society cannot be imposed on an unwilling populace, so NATO and the U.N. have a better chance of success than the U.S. acting alone because whatever Iraqi leadership emerged would be perceived as more legitimate than the puppets of an occupying force.

    As for the gritty details—how many U.S. troops are needed in Iraq and for how long—Kerry tells TIME that he "almost certainly" will send a team to Iraq "within the next few weeks or months" to help him formulate the more detailed answers that will be demanded of a nominee. "I may ask some Democratic colleagues and experts to go to Iraq and make this assessment so I have a strong basis on which to proceed." He mentions Senate colleague Joseph Biden, chief campaign foreign-policy adviser Rand Beers and longtime Kerry Senate aide Nancy Stetson. Says White House communications director Dan Bartlett, Kerry's "mission to finally understand what is happening in Iraq reveals once again that [his] attacks are based on politics, not facts."

    Whatever approach he embraces will have a better chance of success, Kerry argues, because he knows how to play well with others. In that he has much in common with President Bush—the first one, who in many ways he resembles: two war heroes of patrician bearing, solicitous of allies, multilateral by instinct, well wired through the world of international institutions. Kerry is offering a return to the Atlanticist foreign policy of the father instead of that of the son, who has charted a course that is more muscular, more unilateral, content to rely on coalitions of only "the willing."

    At the heart of Kerry's vision is the principle that in a dangerous world, you don't break ranks with your oldest allies. No nation, not even one so powerful as the U.S., can protect its interests without help. That doesn't mean never acting alone, he says, or letting France hold your policy hostage. "Look, I'm prepared to take any action necessary to protect the country, and I'm prepared to act unilaterally if we have to," Kerry insists, noting that he backed the use of force in Grenada, Panama, Kosovo and Afghanistan. "But there is a way to do it that strengthens the hand of the United States. George Bush has weakened the hand of the United States."

    Kerry's lament is not that Bush puts too much faith in the military's hard power but that he puts too little in diplomacy's soft power. Kerry would expand the U.S. Army by 40,000 troops to put some give into a military stretched thin by its commitments worldwide. But the Senator's approach to the war on terrorism involves strengthening all the tools available. He says he would create a single chief of national intelligence to end the days of multiple watch lists and computers that don't talk to one another. He would come down harder on Saudi Arabia for propagating extremism and would "name and shame" countries and corporations that in any way help finance terrorists or launder their money. He would step up the war of ideas, the kind of public diplomacy that is meant to win hearts and minds in the parts of the world where anti-Americanism flourishes, but does not lay out a specific plan for doing so beyond more money on outreach.

    As for the use of force, Kerry talks about exhausting all the alternatives first. That is what he says Bush failed to do in the weeks leading up to Iraq, at great cost. This is a source of particular anger because, Kerry says, he voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq to give Bush diplomatic leverage against Saddam Hussein, not a blank check. He says his decision was based on a clear promise from Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell that they would use force as a last resort and only with a broad coalition supporting it and that if they went to war, there would be a plan for what to do with Iraq once U.S. troops got to Baghdad. "This President broke every single promise that he made," Kerry charges, "and I'm going to hold him accountable for that."

    Kerry also implies that one alternative was leaving Saddam in power. "I never doubted Saddam Hussein's untrustworthiness and willingness to try to dupe the world," he says. "But we did have a no-fly zone over two-thirds of the country, and we had the ongoing inspections. If we could contain Russia through the cold war, certainly we could have dealt more effectively with Saddam Hussein through the international community." Kerry does acknowledge that the U.S. and the world are better off with Saddam in prison. But he argues that the ends do not justify the means, and while he refuses to call the war a mistake, he certainly implies as much when he talks at length about the ways in which America is now "weaker." Bush's "arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological" foreign policy, he says, has cost the U.S. valuable friends and business abroad, inflamed Muslim radicals, distracted attention and resources from the hunt for al-Qaeda, and established a precedent we would not want to see other countries invoke.

    Kerry sometimes presses his case too hard. He criticizes Bush for failing to get countries like Saudi Arabia to share the financial burden of the Iraq war, the way Bush's father did in Gulf War I, and suggests that their refusal calls into question the second war's legitimacy—even though the Saudis helped out back in 1991 because Saddam was threatening their oil fields. In December, Kerry asked why countries like Germany and France would cooperate in the war on terrorism "after having been publicly castigated and even ridiculed for disagreeing over Iraq." In fact, American counterterrorism officials say those two countries are among the U.S.'s most valuable allies, often better about cooperating than even the British, whose concern about civil liberties sometimes trumps security worries. Pressed on the point, Kerry folds. He says the lack of cooperation is elsewhere but is hard pressed to cite countries, finally mentioning "South Asia and the Middle East."

    The Senator asserts that Bush's "foreign policy of triumphalism fuels the fire of jihadists." That's a difficult proposition to prove or disprove, since jihadists don't register their numbers or motivations. Asked to back his argument with proof, Kerry struggles, citing "people who brief us." Plainly dissatisfied with his answer, Kerry, half an hour after the interview, finds TIME's correspondents in the back of the campaign plane. To beef up his response, he cites the national intelligence estimate "in terms of the increasing strength and organizational structure" of al-Qaeda. He smiles and adds, "I just didn't want you to think I was ..." He gestures with his hand, as if plucking something from the air. But he doesn't say how anyone can definitively link al-Qaeda's strength to the war in Iraq.

    For his part, Bush boasts that nearly two-thirds of al-Qaeda's leaders have been captured or killed. Kerry frets about Iraq's turning into a quagmire for U.S. soldiers and "a major magnet" for terrorists. Bush argues that because we're fighting terrorists over there, we don't have to fight them here at home. Bush and Kerry even argue over the very nature of the war on terrorism. The Democrats, Bush says in his speeches, "view terrorism more as a crime, a problem to be solved with law enforcement and indictments ... After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States, and war is what they got." To Kerry this is so much chest thumping and simply ignores what made success possible. It was a combination of local law enforcement and U.S. intelligence services, he argues, that tracked down al-Qaeda masterminds like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh in Pakistan. "Joining with local police forces didn't mean serving these terrorists with legal papers," he says. "It meant throwing them behind bars. None of the progress we have made would have been possible without cooperation."

    Kerry's advisers call foreign policy his passion and sound almost nervous when they say it. The last President who let his commitment to foreign affairs divert his attention from domestic concerns found himself ousted by an Arkansas Governor who knew it was the economy, stupid. But as last week's furor over Bush's use of images from 9/11 reminded us, this election will probably be unlike any other in a long time. The stakes are so high, the emotions so raw, that it is possible to imagine a sustained and substantive argument over the U.S.'s role and rights in the world becoming its central theme. That would count as a national service, if the candidates could get past the flamethrowing and lay out for the public the instincts that guide them, the hopes that they hold and the best tools to tame the fears that keep them awake at night.


    — Reported by Perry Bacon Jr., John F. Dickerson, Karen Tumulty and Douglas Waller/Washington
    “I’ve always stated, ‘I’m a Missouri Tiger,’” Anderson said March 13 after Arkansas fired John Pelphrey, adding, “I’m excited about what’s taking place here.”

    Asked then if he would talk to his players about the situation, he said, “They know me, and that’s where the trust comes in.

  • #2
    As for the use of force, Kerry talks about exhausting all the alternatives first. That is what he says Bush failed to do in the weeks leading up to Iraq, at great cost. This is a source of particular anger because, Kerry says, he voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq to give Bush diplomatic leverage against Saddam Hussein, not a blank check. He says his decision was based on a clear promise from Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell that they would use force as a last resort and only with a broad coalition supporting it and that if they went to war, there would be a plan for what to do with Iraq once U.S. troops got to Baghdad. "This President broke every single promise that he made," Kerry charges, "and I'm going to hold him accountable for that."
    That ought to shut up all those partisan folks who said simply, "Kerry voted for the war!"

    That is, if they understand the written word.
    “I’ve always stated, ‘I’m a Missouri Tiger,’” Anderson said March 13 after Arkansas fired John Pelphrey, adding, “I’m excited about what’s taking place here.”

    Asked then if he would talk to his players about the situation, he said, “They know me, and that’s where the trust comes in.

    Comment


    • #3
      Razz,

      That was a very good article.

      Thank you for posting it.
      Un-Official Sponsor of Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Razzy@Mar 7 2004, 11:24 AM
        As for the use of force, Kerry talks about exhausting all the alternatives first. That is what he says Bush failed to do in the weeks leading up to Iraq, at great cost. This is a source of particular anger because, Kerry says, he voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq to give Bush diplomatic leverage against Saddam Hussein, not a blank check. He says his decision was based on a clear promise from Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell that they would use force as a last resort and only with a broad coalition supporting it and that if they went to war, there would be a plan for what to do with Iraq once U.S. troops got to Baghdad. "This President broke every single promise that he made," Kerry charges, "and I'm going to hold him accountable for that."
        That ought to shut up all those partisan folks who said simply, "Kerry voted for the war!"

        That is, if they understand the written word.
        Well, that is easy to say now.

        I still qustion what alternatives we did not exhaust. We went to te UN twice. once we got unanimous support, the other time we had a veto threat from France.

        The only option then, was to allow the charade of inspections to go on.

        Some feel more time was the answer, some feel 12 years was time enough. I am not sure how you reconcile the two.
        Un-Official Sponsor of Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist

        Comment


        • #5
          At some point in time, we should have recognized that the intelligence was either inconclusive or faulty about Saddam having WMDs and called off the war.

          At what point do you call a spade a spade?
          “I’ve always stated, ‘I’m a Missouri Tiger,’” Anderson said March 13 after Arkansas fired John Pelphrey, adding, “I’m excited about what’s taking place here.”

          Asked then if he would talk to his players about the situation, he said, “They know me, and that’s where the trust comes in.

          Comment


          • #6
            Razz,

            I think most knew that the intelligence was inconclusive. Even more reason for the regime change. In some peoples opinion. (mine included)


            To me, the danger of Saddam was his always desire and intent alongside of the uncertainty. Coupled with location. Coupled with support of terrorism. Coupled with the instability of the political and economic climate.

            We did give him 4 months to come clean '02-'03. Even Blix reported that he had not made the fundamental decision to disarm or cooperate fully with that process.

            The question is how much time you give. Obviously now that it looks like there are no WMD stockpiles left in Iraq, some feel like more time was a reasonable alternative. Some do not. Some claim Monday morning QBing for partisan gain. Some claim systematic deceit all the way back to 1996.

            I have always maintained that there can be reasonable disagreement on the war itself, I just struggle with the disagreement on the facts leading to the war.
            Un-Official Sponsor of Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist

            Comment

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