What would a President Kerry do in Iraq that is
different from what President Bush is doing? A week ago, George
Will on ABC's This Week said you can't even get a tissue paper between
the positions of Kerry and Bush. The more valid point was made yesterday on
Meet the Press by
Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee,
when he argued that Kerry can rally the world to help share in reconstructing
Iraq, politically and physically, where there is no chance President Bush can.
Here is how he put it in response to a question from Tim Russert:
"John Kerry's going to end up as president of the United States, God
willing, where he is going to have to tell the French and the Germans and the
rest, 'Get over it. You don't have George Bush as an excuse anymore. Move. Get
"And the fact of the matter is I see from my perspective, Tim,
trying to stand back from it is hard. I mean, I'm obviously partisan on this.
But if you stand back from it, does anybody think there's any possibility in
a second four years George Bush is going to be able to rally the world to help
us carry the burdens on anything? I mean, I'm not being facetious. I see no
reasonable prospect of that. John Kerry will. Now, maybe it won't all work out
the way it's supposed to. It's the only hope we have, and we cannot carry this
burden alone, and I don't mean just Iraq. You have to have international cooperation
to deal with the big problems we're going to face, and they relate from terror
all the way to HIV and infectious diseases to ethnic cleansing.
"And the irony is, what frustrates me, is this president, God love
him, has made us weaker than before. I was the guy, as you remember, that pushed
the last president before him, Clinton, to get into Bosnia and Kosovo. I beat
up and about the head everyone who would listen to get involved. Can you imagine
after the way George Bush has handled Iraq, another Milosevic, us being able
to gain the support, Democrat or Republican president, to use force legitimately?
I think he's and we've got to restore that. We've got to restore our
credibility. And I don't see how George Bush can do that."
It's not going to be as easy as telling the leaders of France and Germany
to "get over it," but Biden's point is a powerful one. And the reason
it rings true is that political leaders in the rest of the world, whether they
are democratically elected or not, must have the support of their own people
if they are to pitch in and help the U.S. dig itself out of the mess in Iraq,
and as we are now seeing the animus toward Mr. Bush around the world is not
receding, but gathering steam. Political leaders like the president of the Philippines
have no choice but pull out their troops when the price of remaining in what
remains of the coalition is political defeat.
In the August 30 issue of Pat Buchanan's American
Conservative, Eric S. Margolis writes about the "Coalition of the
Coerced," noting that for "World leaders, following George W. Bush
is a good way to lose power." Here is some of his analysis:
"The bombs that killed 200 people in Madrid just before the March
elections did not terrorize Spaniards into quitting Iraq, as enraged American
neocons falsely claimed. This attack crystallized public anger over the misbegotten
Iraq expedition. Spain's new Socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Zapatero, made
good on campaign pledges by immediately joining the Coalition of the Unwilling
by withdrawing troops from Iraq, a move that was wildly popular in Spain. Honduras
and the Dominican Republic followed suit. ...
"After none of the fabled WMD were found, Poland's former prime minister
expressed grave doubts over keeping 2,460 troops in Iraq, but elected, in spite
of intense domestic opposition, to maintain them until the middle of next year,
a decision likely encouraged by lavish stipends from Washington. The Netherlands
has announced it will withdraw it 1,100 contingent by mid-2005. Norway, New
Zealand and Thailand, all smarting from public protests, will pull their token
units out of Iraq by this September. Ukraine, which sent 1,600 soldiers to forestall
U.S. criticism of its egregious political corruption, is considering a pullout.
"Most of the Coalition of the Willing were promised cheap Iraqi oil
by Washington, or oil concessions. But as resistance forces sabotage Iraq's
oil pipelines, these promises are coming up short, and plundering Iraq's wealth
is turning out to be a challenge.
"Ironically, far from building a powerful coalition to garrison Iraq
under U.S. command, what President Bush has really managed to do is to provide
formerly rudderless left-wing parties around the globe with a red-hot new cause
with which to rally and electrify their supporters. At the same time, he has
made himself the most detested man in world affairs. Those conservative governments
that continue to support him and the U.S. occupation of Iraq do so at their
peril and are becoming alienated from their own voters. In short, Mr. Bush has
done more to electrify the International Left and give it a sense of common
purpose than anyone since Che Guevara."
This is an accurate picture of the hostility the rest of the world feels toward
President Bush, not the political leaders themselves, but the people. His unfavorable
ratings are generally between 70% and 80%, going higher in the Muslim world,
90% in Morocco and 96% in Jordan, for example. Sen. Biden's point about it being
a practical impossibility that Mr. Bush could rally the world now or in a second
term at the moment seems a sound assessment. Yet if Senator Kerry makes it to
the Oval Office, it's clear he will have to woo the people of the world in order
to rally them, not just issue a fresh set of orders to his counterparts in global
capitals. How to do that? That's another story.