October 21, 2003


Waiting for Democrats on Iraq (NY Times, October 20, 2003)

Virtually all the Democratic presidential contenders are now skewering one or another aspect of the administration's flawed postwar policies. But many of these same candidates voted for the war. (Representative Richard Gephardt even appeared beside Mr. Bush in the Rose Garden last fall to urge Democrats to vote for a war resolution.) Mainstream Democrats did the country no favor by failing to raise more questions earlier about the administration's unilateral approach to Iraq. Those who want to take over the making of foreign policy should spell out their own ideas for fixing what is wrong in Iraq and suggest how they would respond to similar crises.

Almost all the Democratic contenders talk about enlisting more help from America's allies and the United Nations. What's missing is an explanation of how they would achieve this desirable goal given the obvious reluctance of many countries to contribute troops as long as America retains exclusive political control. Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman are headed in the right direction when they suggest putting the U.N. in charge of Iraq's political reconstruction and transferring more authority to Iraqis. Sharing power might also bring more competitive bidding for contracts.

On another big issue, Senators Lieberman and Kerry are right to call attention to the strain Iraq places on the army and reserves. Senator Kerry usefully suggests expanding the active-duty force by 40,000, half of them specialists in the postconflict assignments now falling to the reserves. Other candidates need to address this issue. One of them in particular, Gen. Wesley Clark, has the expertise to speak knowledgeably about it.

The candidates also need to tell Americans where they stand on the larger issue of preventive war. The prewar intelligence failures in Iraq and the failure, so far, to find threatening unconventional weapons strike at the basic premises of Mr. Bush's alarmingly novel strategic doctrines. What alternative ideas do the Democratic contenders have for handling threats like North Korean, and possibly Iranian, nuclear weapons programs and for dealing with countries that give aid and sanctuary to international terrorist groups? And what would they do to keep Afghanistan, the scene of America's first post-9/11 war, from falling back into chaos with a revived Taliban?

This is all certainly true, but where are the bold ideas of the Times editorial board, which has felt no compunction about back-biting at a commander-in-chief in time of war?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 21, 2003 12:07 AM

Well, as far as NKo goes, as well as countries sheltering and sponsoring terrorists, it would seem that the lessons of WW II and the Cold War point to one conclusion.

Active pressure, to the point of armed conflict, if need be. Certainly one wouldn't want to publicly rule out a military option BEFORE engaging them.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 21, 2003 2:58 AM

Doesn't the Cold War suggest that if we'd just ignored the USSR they'd have collapsed in the '50s?

Posted by: oj at October 21, 2003 8:42 AM


I dunno. I'm not qualified to speculate about what might've happened if the USSR had not had an external enemy.

However, given what actually happened, it seems that the approach of denying the USSR further conquests, as well as constantly pressing their industrial capacity to its limits, was effective. The Afghanistan debacle was damaging for them, psychologically, militarily, and demographically. The US was instrumental in arranging for the USSR's failure, and the defeat for Russia was probably worth the emergence of bin Laden, to the US.

However, I do agree that if the US could afford to ignore Islamic fundamentalism, it would probably consume itself. The sticking point ? Oil.

Which is why I support a massive, deficit inducing programme of alternative energy research. It wouldn't cost more than Desert Shield through the present, and would certainly be far less expensive of human lives.
GM is already betting their future on a hydrogen car.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 22, 2003 5:00 AM

An embargo would force alternatives.

Posted by: oj at October 22, 2003 7:59 AM

True. However, the best time to repair your roof is BEFORE it rains.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 22, 2003 8:37 PM