Thursday, August 19, 2004

kerry = de Gaulle? what?

before launching into today's post a quick aside to say a veteran is suing Rummy and other top military officials. (i saw it yesterday but didn't know over what.) it transpires he is suing over being kept in Iraq past the end date of his contract, without being given a choice. he points out that Congress has not declared war on iraq (goodness! then what are they calling this fiasco when they talk about it in session? 'the fracas in the middle east?' or just 'iraq', perhaps?) and therefore his involuntary retention in Iraq is illegal, and perhaps the policy that called for it unconstitutional. more details as it develops, i am sure.

in the meantime, a commentary article from Today on said war in Iraq: "Will Kerry Act Like de Gaulle?"

...When Mr de Gaulle returned to power in 1958, at a moment of crisis in France's war to defeat Algerian insurgents and to keep Algeria French, he recognised that the war was futile, even if the insurrection itself might temporarily be defeated. He cut France's losses.

Defying military mutiny, despite significant resistance from French public opinion, and facing assassination attempts and a terrorist campaign directed against him and his government, Mr de Gaulle negotiated Algerian independence. It was an act of cold-blooded courage and realism. It did not leave France revealed as "a pitiful, helpless giant" (as Nixon said would be the case if the United States left Vietnam). It strengthened France, freeing it to deal with real issues of political and economic reform. ...

this is what the writer of the article -William Pfaff, whom alex appears to have researched and discovered is a columnist for the IHT- wants Kerry to do:

...If Mr Kerry is elected president, he will have the de Gaulle option. He will have a window lasting a few months during which he could reverse US policy. He could set a timetable for coalition troop withdrawals, begin them, end the construction of permanent US bases in Iraq and affirm America's intention to respect Iraq's authority over its security, its economy, its industry and the disposition of its energy resources.

Rather than try to control political development in Iraq he could support the efforts by Iraq's traditional religious and tribal leadership, together with the country's old and new secular political forces, to reestablish the representative political institutions that existed in Iraq between independence in 1932 and the military and Ba'ath party coups that began in 1958.

The conventional wisdom in Washington is that political disorder and communal struggle would follow, leading to chaos, Iraq becoming "a breeding ground for terrorism."

But Iraq already is a breeding ground for terrorism and is nearing chaos under the occupation. According to the available polls, 98 per cent of the Iraqis want the Americans to leave. It is obvious that continued occupation is worsening the situation, provoking resistance and disorder. ...

no arguments from me there on that last point. the americans have come to be viewed as an occupying army, not a liberating force, and to that end the iraqis are willing to wage urban guerilla warfare to get them to leave.

but unlike the French, the Americans really do not have the option of cutting and running, regardless of who their President is come November. if they wish to maintain their unipolar moment (that's another debate for another day), they'll need to continue to project a powerful image across the face of the earth. frankly, it doesn't matter -it didn't matter- if France disintegrated over Algeria, because the US would have cleaned up the mess (they were already there, sitting on top of West Germany, remember?) for fear of destabilising Europe.

now, however, the Americans have a reputation to defend, including their vaunted faith in the RMA. the US is no longer in a position where it can let things slide, because there is a rising challenger for its position as global superpower -economically the US is not doing as well as it was in the 1990s; there's great uncertainty over the future of free trade and so forth after November's elections; and of course Greenspan is about to retire. so who knows what will be steering this juggernaut into the next decade. it just can't afford to display that sort of military weakness and lack of resolve in the Middle East, a region not particularly known for its friendliness toward and support for the US in the first place. not to mention repercussions in other strategic interests around the world -Japan pulling away in East Asia, the Koreans beginning to rattle their sabers, tension in Europe from reduced troop levels in Germany...

having been, like Kerry, dead-set against going into this war in the first place, now i can't see any way out of it. sure it was bungled badly both in the decision-making process and the execution; and the planning was filled with faults -no post-victory plan, and yet you want nation-building? geez.- but what's done is done and we are stuck with it. for better or worse. (probably worse.) all that's left is the mammoth task of figuring out how to rebuild an iraq that isn't more actively hostile to the US that it was before.

and it could start by not trying to make Iraq into a satellite of the US in the MidEast.

ed: another perspective on What America Should Do in the future: become Fortress America ala the interwar period. See "Goal should be quick, full disengagement" for more details. a short exerpt:

PRESIDENT George W. Bush has proposed bringing home upwards of 70,000 United States troops stationed in Asia and Europe. It's a good start, but remains only a start.

Washington should withdraw all 230,000 service personnel guarding against phantom enemies in Europe and protecting well-heeled friends in East Asia. And the US should begin withdrawing them now, rather than in 2006, and finish in two or three years, rather than in 10.

The Cold War ended nearly two decades ago. America's friends face few conventional threats and are capable of defending themselves. An invasion of Europe by Martians is about as likely as by Russians. In East Asia, the dangers are more real. But South Korea has 40 times the gross domestic product and twice the population of the North. ...

Still, some US devotees of the status quo worry about the impact of Mr Bush's initiative. Charged retired general Wesley Clark, who commanded former president Bill Clinton's misbegotten war on Serbia: The move would 'significantly undermine US national security'.

But even if trans- atlantic ties loosened, the US would be better off. America's alliances are mostly security black holes, with Washington doing the defending and allies doing the carping. Withdrawal would force friendly states to take full responsibility for their own defence, which would enhance US security. ...

Finally, more troops should be brought home more quickly. US forces, now at 140,000, must be withdrawn from Iraq as well as that nation becomes responsible for its own fate. President Bush recognises that the status quo is untenable. His plan should be but the opening move towards full disengagement.


At 10:58 AM, August 19, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that Kerry was "dead-set" against going into Iraq. In fact, I believe that he was one of its advocates. Bushies, however, like to point at how fast he made a u-turn when things started going awry.

However, Pfaff does point out that Kerry is still reasonably supportive of Iraq - despite not having a particularly clear stand on the issue, which is no doubt a worrying sign. - LX

At 11:03 AM, August 19, 2004, Blogger J. said...

well he has to be supportive of iraq for two reasons:

(1) lots of americans still believe that iraq was the right thing to do; and

(2) he's not going to be able to cut and run anyway, so he'd better not promise what he can't deliver. :)

At 11:44 PM, August 20, 2004, Blogger Readymade said...

Yikes - quite the realist I see.

Fair enough, but his apparent waffling isn't helping him any. The main thing going for Kerry now is that people hate Bush more. Which doesn't make for a very secure platform.

I agree with you that the US shouldn't pull out, and that it's essentially stuck in a damned-if-you-do-damned -if-you don't position. That doesn't mean that Kerry shouldn't have a plan -- which he doesn't seem to have... I wanna seize him by the shoulders and yell, "Dammit! Get your act together ya East Coast poser!" :p

At 9:22 AM, August 23, 2004, Blogger J. said...

yeah, well, it seems that Mearsheimer really managed to suck me in. hopefully spending some time with Duncan Snidal next quarter will ameliorate the effects. i'm not too hopeful, though. =)

i agree that Kerry doesn't quite have his act together policy-wise, although as multiple pundits point out, it's hard to make concrete promises when you're not the incumbent, and terribly easy to make them and break them when you are. however, two things: (a) i agree that a lot of people are not so much for kerry as they are against bush, and (b) i don't really care. =) as long as it's not another four years of bush. i still don't think kerry could do quite as much damage to the US's position in the world as bushie has, even if kerry makes no change whatsoever to the economic policies and domestic policies, because he can talk the talk and make it look like he wants to walk the walk. bushie just -bamboozles his way through, and winds up looking like a buffoon.

in some cases, it's better to pick the devil you don't know -at least you have a hope of getting an honest, if perhaps incompentent, leader. with bushie we are sure to get both an incompetent and dishonest one.

At 2:47 AM, August 24, 2004, Blogger paul said...

Only marginally related, but here's a cute article on the French:


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