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August 10, 2004

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Appalled Moderate

Kerry's response to the question was absolutely reasonable and consistent with his worldview. As President, knowing what we know now, he would have wanted the authority to go to war with Iraq. That authority is a huge bargaining chip. It's a message to Europe that "hey, I can go to war any time I like. If you don't like that, let's talk about some serious actions we can take against Iraq."

Did he say, "I would have gone to war with Iraq, knowing what we know now"? No. Will he? I doubt it. If that question ever gets answered, it will be a two paragrapher about process and negotiaition and evaluation of our needs and planning and discussions with allies about solving the Iraq problem once and for all and the consequences of letting Iraq drift. And, maybe, after all that, going to war anyway, hopefully with allies, but without them if necessary.

The answer will not satisfy you, I'm sure. Because it will show the workings of mind which seems rather Henry Kissinger realist, where the deal sometimes seems more important than the objective. But in the case of Iraq, this probably would have worked better than what we got.

Appalled Moderate

Kerry's response to the question was absolutely reasonable and consistent with his worldview. As President, knowing what we know now, he would have wanted the authority to go to war with Iraq. That authority is a huge bargaining chip. It's a message to Europe that "hey, I can go to war any time I like. If you don't like that, let's talk about some serious actions we can take against Iraq."

Did he say, "I would have gone to war with Iraq, knowing what we know now"? No. Will he? I doubt it. If that question ever gets answered, it will be a two paragrapher about process and negotiaition and evaluation of our needs and planning and discussions with allies about solving the Iraq problem once and for all and the consequences of letting Iraq drift. And, maybe, after all that, going to war anyway, hopefully with allies, but without them if necessary.

The answer will not satisfy you, I'm sure. Because it will show the workings of mind which seems rather Henry Kissinger realist, where the deal sometimes seems more important than the objective. But in the case of Iraq, this probably would have worked better than what we got.

HH

"Consistent with his worldview" is not "consistent with previous statements," of course.

Appalled Moderate

HH:

Point out the inconsistency. To me, it looks like we've gone from "yeah, probably" to "yes, I would have voted that way."

Paul Zrimsek

I have to disagree with HH just this once. Kerry has maintained all along that his vote for the war authorization wasn't a mistake; all he's doing here is reiterating that. What his reasonable and self-consistent statement was NOT was an answer to the question he'd actually been asked.

But I thought "Hey, I can go to war any time I like" was the sort of arrogant unilateralism we were supposed to be avoiding.

ed

Hmmm.

"But I thought "Hey, I can go to war any time I like" was the sort of arrogant unilateralism we were supposed to be avoiding."

Interesting point.

The fact however is that we could not go to war anytime we liked. The weather is an enormous factor in Iraq, as happened, and could affect events in very negative ways. One inescapable problem is that the M1 Abrams tank uses a gas-turbine engine, essentially a jet engine, and not a diesel. If you thinking maintaining a disel is tough in windy, sandy, gritty conditions, try it with a gas-turbine.

Then there's the fact that it takes time to assemble forces. Once assembled you have a relative narrow window of opportunity to use those forces before you must either start force rotation or disperse them back to barracks.

The French and German position was that America could go through the massive disruption and expense of maintaining 150,000 soldiers in the field while they played their inspection games. The reality is that such nonsense was not only not acceptable, it was also not possible.

Appalled Moderate

ed:

What you're saying sounds like WWI logic: Once we mobilize, we have to go to war. That's a pretty good argument for getting all your allies on board before engaging in public saber rattling. This is what George Sr did, and George W did not do.

Paul Z:

The demonization of unilaterlaism is something I don't agree with. Every nation retains the right to act in its own self-interest. Really, the question I have on Iraq is whether we did that.

In any event, I think fear of US unilateral action would have gone a long way to bringing Euro politicians on board, if the whole thing had been managed quietly, without the bravado. The thing to remember is that the politics of the Iraq invasion is that any politician who has supported our action has ended up weaker as a result. And by the time of March, 2003, it was pretty clear that the politics was going to work out that way. If W had not swaggered around on this issue, the politics of the matter would probably have been far less toxic for our fellow NATO members.

TM

Well, I agree that Kerry ducked the question. "I voted for diplomacy" has been his standard position; critics mock that as "I voted for diplomacy, just not Bush's diplomacy", providing a subtle reminder that it was always going to be Bush's diplomacy that we got.

Paul Zrimsek

I see from reading the news just now that Bush has responded quite cleverly: by treating Kerry's statement AS IF it had been an affirmative reply to his challenge, instead of the evasion it actually was. And then trumpeting Kerry's supposed change of heart as a vindication of his own policy, and putting the burden on Kerry to explain that it was just another sidestep.

ed

Hmmm.

"What you're saying sounds like WWI logic: Once we mobilize, we have to go to war. That's a pretty good argument for getting all your allies on board before engaging in public saber rattling. This is what George Sr did, and George W did not do."

WRONG.

What I wrote, and I was very very clear on this, is that you cannot keep an amry mobilized forever. Remember the circumstances? The units were assembled, spent some time training to hone their skills. Then they had to wait for months while the UN got it's crap together.

You cannot maintain an army in the field indefinitely without damaging that army in significant ways. This means you cannot maintain an army in the field indefinitely period. At some point equipment must be maintained, soldiers rotated home, etc. Additionally the cost of maintaining an army in the field is substantial.

In this instance I'm not talking about political will, which is what you're describing. What I'm talking about is practical necessity.

ed

Hmmm.

"That's a pretty good argument for getting all your allies on board before engaging in public saber rattling. This is what George Sr did, and George W did not do."

WRONG there too.

If you'll remember Bush did assemble all of his "allies" prior to assembling the troops. Then after he had assembled the troops he was stabbed in the back by France and Germany.

ed

Hmmm.

"In any event, I think fear of US unilateral action would have gone a long way to bringing Euro politicians on board, if the whole thing had been managed quietly, without the bravado."

WRONG.

US unilateral action has nothing to do with anything. It's all about money. French politics revolves around kickbacks. Chirac was acquiring significant amounts of money from Saddam through kickbacks. He didn't want to give this money up because this is how political parties in France are funded.

Additionally Germany had enormous financial ties with Saddam and Russia, gifted with 1.2 billion barrels of oil by Saddam, also had many financial reasons for supporting him.

This has nothing to do with unilateralism and everything to do with money.

Or haven't you noticed that the same people who were screaming about "unilateralism" were/are now yelling about why America and Bush don't deal with North Korea?

Why? There's no money in North Korea.

Appalled Moderate

ed, ed, ed...

1. Sending the troops in to sit around in Kuwait was a decision Bush made that he did not have to make. CoC certainly could have waited to send the troops, and nobody would have complained. I agree that once he did that, it was pretty clear there was no way we weren't going to war. But really, how pathetic is this excuse? "We went to war and killed people 'cause we just couldn't keep soldiers sittin around forever." Puhleez. Let's just say that the morality of that remark is pretty dubious.

2. I do suspect money had something to do with French actions. But other nations opposed the Iraq war because their peoples opposed it -- strongly. And that is due, in large part, to the way Bush decided to conduct himself during the run up.

ATM

The "swaggering" really started after the German Chancellor snatched electoral victory from defeat in mid 2002 by engaging in an anti-American campaign. There wasn't really anything said in between that point and the "axis of evil" statement regarding Iraq that made continental Europeans oppose the war. They weren't going to be with us regardless. They would prefer for us (and Britain) to continue to contain Iraq while Saddam takes pot shots at our planes and lines up to invade Kuwait a second time and al Qaeda opens up a second front against our containment operations and attacks us at home. Meanwhile they profit from sanctions, and curry favor with the dictators of the region.

Let's face it, Europeans want us to pay for their defense, but don't care about our other obligations and will in fact create a more dangerous environment for us with regards to our obligations to defending non-European nations. Hence, France and Germany talk about selling weapons to China.

Terry

"Sending the troops in to sit around in Kuwait was a decision Bush made that he did not have to make. CoC certainly could have waited to send the troops, and nobody would have complained."

I like the way that you are using the "snapshot in time" approach to making your argument, ignoring both whatt came before and what came after.

What you are ignoring is that this was coming on the tail-end of 12 YEARS of trying to get Saddam to come clean on his WMD programs. What you are ignoring is that the weapons inspectors had not been in Iraq for 4 YEARS prior to this and were only there at the time BECAUSE of the buildup of troops. What you are ignoring was that the troop buildup was as a result of complete and total frustration with our "allies" over the US and GB's attempts to rebuild the sanctions regime, during which our "allies" decided to completely abandon the "smart" portion of the "smart sanctions" and just settle for emasculating the sanctions. What you are ignoring is the apparent willingness of our "allies" to allow the US and GB to keep the huge military presence that we were maintaining, the military presence that was responsible for the fact that ANY progress was being made at all, in the field while the UN twiddled around and "investigated" for another 5 years.

"I agree that once he did that, it was pretty clear there was no way we weren't going to war."

Unless you are a mindreader who can say for sure that no matter what, Bush was gonna pull the trigger, you don't that. What you do know, according to official US policy declared by the POTUS and Sec. of State, is that there were PLENTY of opportunities after the buildup of troops began for Saddam to resolve the situation. He could have complied with the UN resolutions. He could have behaved in such a manner that he did not cause Hans Blix to conclude that "Iraq had not really accepted the fact that they were going to have to disarm." Instead he played games. He could have accepted the fact that, even if he didn't have ANY stockpiled WMDs (a fact NOT established beyond a reasonable doubt at this point), he was not going to be able to just hold his WMD programs in abeyance until the pressure eased (see pretty much all of the Kay Report except for the two sentences quoted repeatedly by the press).

Instead, he played games and depended on our "allies" to keep the US from acting. Instead, he depended upon the US falling victim to the "Vietnam Syndrome" and the sheer expense of our military operations and relieving the pressure. Instead, he counted on the fact that Bush was just building up the troops as a "bargaining chip," much as Kerry has claimed that he would have done and as Chirac and Schroeder assured Saddam that he was doing. Then he figured that the US would look for some "face-saving" method to back down, Chirac would present the UN with some tough-sounding but meaningless resolution for poor Bush to support, and then Saddam and our "allies" could get back to the serious business of engineering the final collapse of the sanctions regime.

"But really, how pathetic is this excuse? "We went to war and killed people 'cause we just couldn't keep soldiers sittin around forever." Puhleez. Let's just say that the morality of that remark is pretty dubious."

Sorry to sound rude, but this is just bull. The reasons for going to war after the buildup were exactly the reasons for starting the buildup in the first place. Noncompliance, WMD, terrorist links, atrocities, collapse of the sanctions regime, etc. They did not suddenly change to "We're just gonna do it now 'cause we spent all this money."

Change your phrasing to "We're going to war because we have given you chance after chance, 12 long years of chances, and, knowing that this is your final opportunity, you STILL will not cooperate." That would be more accurate. The buildup happened because the POTUS had finally decided that, after 12 years, the situation in Iraq WAS going to be resolved one way or the other. Saddam CHOSE the painful way.

"I do suspect money had something to do with French actions. But other nations opposed the Iraq war because their peoples opposed it -- strongly. And that is due, in large part, to the way Bush decided to conduct himself during the run up."

I'm sorry, so what? I mean, who cares? There would have been NO runup and NO progress if Bush had not conducted himself the way that he had. There would have been a bit of noise, some flack at the UN, and the we would have settled back to the slow degradation of the sanctions regime. France would have followed the money, as would the Germans. Without the buildup of troops we had absolutely no way to leverage their opinions. Hell, Putin has admitted that the Russians KNEW that Iraq was planning terrorist attacks against the US prior to the war and Russia STILL opposed the war.

Sorry, but if you believe that the French,, Germans, and Russians would have gone along if only Bush had been more charming, then you are full of crap. If instead, you believe that we should have heavily bribed France, Germany, and Russia with diplomatic and other concessions to go along , then who is being morally dubious now? The war on Iraq was either the right thing to do or not. The support of our "allies" has nothing to do with that, ESPECIALLY if their support is only given because it was bought.

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