Kerrey’s Clarity

Bob Kerrey’s “The Left’s Iraq Muddle” gives voice to a position we are not surprised to hear from him, but have begun to fear few with a D after their names hold (always with the exception of Lieberman). Clearly prompted by much that he is heard from his own party and from cliches that he knows don’t make sense, Kerrey argues:

American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq’s middle class has fled the country in fear.
With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.

One of our more irritating commentors a few days ago summed up his definition of the “liberal” position: a position of love, not hate; those on the other side wanted to kill those different and he preferred the hearts and minds approach. It is good to see Kerrey deal with such self-deceptions and a thuggery that masks (if only for itself and those who echo its assumptions) selfishness & isolationism as altruistic and virtuous affection for the “other.” Kerrey may be a “liberal,” but he doesn’t buy into hypocrisy. He describes what it is; it is perhaps their insecure mastery of facts that leads those like Kucinich and Ron Paul to a consistency; recognizing the emptiness of that position has led those polled to put them in the 0 category. Some argue they are not “for” a dictator, but why else would they consider the flyovers of Kurdish territory the decade preceding this war a provocation and not a protection.

Some who have been critical of this effort from the beginning have consistently based their opposition on their preference for a dictator we can control or contain at a much lower cost. From the start they said the price tag for creating an environment where democracy could take root in Iraq would be high. Those critics can go to sleep at night knowing they were right.

They may sleep well because cynicism about human nature often provides the most useful gauge of human behavior. And if these people consider themselves full of the fruit of human kindness rather than base cynicism, we might think about the assumptions of the Democrats who now argue it is only our presence in Iraq & Afghanistan that has let the previously “contained” Iran pose a threat. Don’t tell me that it is a position you have taken because of your affection for the “other,” your desire to win “hearts and minds,” your love of mankind. Certainly don’t tell me this and turn around and criticize the use of “he” in a general form because it offends your feminist soul.

Kerrey’s argument notes that the way we have gone to war has not always been successful, but

No matter how incompetent the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents, Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before. And no matter how much we might want to turn the clock back and either avoid the invasion itself or the blunders that followed, we cannot. The war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is over. What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq.

His simple phrasing – “What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq” frames the current surge and the mounting deaths in an appropriate way. Indeed, he observes:

Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn’t have lasted a week.

Again, he acknowledges a liberal “talking point” that he senses, as do most of us, as a straw man; then, he embeds his own firm conviction:

This does not mean that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11; he was not. Nor does it mean that the war to overthrow him was justified–though I believe it was. It only means that a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would hand Osama bin Laden a substantial psychological victory.

This is from a man who knows how horrible and devastating war can be – on the body, on the conscience, on the country. This is from a man who sat on the 9/11 Commission.

10 thoughts on “Kerrey’s Clarity”

  1. On September 13, 2002, just as Congress was debating whether to approve a resolution providing President Bush the authority to use force against Iraq, former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE) wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

    “The real choice is between sustaining a military effort designed to contain Saddam Hussein and a military effort designed to replace him. In my mind the case for the second choice is overwhelming. … Regime change is the only way we can safely reduce our military commitment to the region.”

    In calling for regime change, Kerrey displayed an inability to comprehend the predictable chaos that would ensue. The intelligence community warned the Bush administration in January 2003 that regime change “would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict.”

    In December 2003, an undeterred Kerrey claimed that he had been vindicated and Iraq war critics would ultimately be proven wrong. “Twenty years from now, we’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who says it wasn’t worth the effort,” he wrote.

    Today, Bob Kerrey (D-NE), unrepentant over his failed Iraq war predictions, returns to the Wall Street Journal op-ed page to blast “American liberals.” In making his argument that democracy can indeed be imposed by military force (apparently by overlooking the Iraq war), Kerrey writes:

    “American liberals need to face these truths … [A] unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would hand Osama bin Laden a substantial psychological victory.”

    Perhaps he should have thought about that before advocating regime change as “the only way” to “safely reduce our military commitment to the region.” By staying in Iraq as an occupying force, the U.S. is helping inflame the terrorist movement. But Bob Kerrey has never understood that from the beginning, so why would he understand that now?

  2. Alexander Perry,
    You trace Kerrey’s history well, leaving out his stand on the issues of the nineties. Are you Faiz Shakir? If so, you might have merely linked us to your post at Think Progressive rather than merely repeating it on our blog.  If not, you might note that this site expects acknowledgement by its writers and commentors of who actually wrote what they are posting and where it was posted or published previously.

  3. Apostasy. If he hasn’t already been kicked out of the Leftists’ clubhouse, this will do it. Prepare for ostracism, Bob Kerrey.

  4. Certainly don’t tell me this and turn around and criticize the use of “he” in a general form because it offends your feminist soul.

    Get rid of a secular dictatorship where women could be professionals and replace it with a theocratic-leaning democracy? I can’t imagine why any feminist would oppose that!

  5. An ideological feminist, perhaps, would make the choice you presume. Or someone who blurs all major distinctions.

    The government under Saddam sanctioned rape rooms and supported marauding sons in acting out their sexual desires. A woman could rise in the government if she was capable (both morally and intellectually) of genocide. On the other hand, the government we are defending, the government that others want to overthrow, is building schools for girls that its opponents would turn into a burning pyre on which these girls would be sacrificed for the purity of an ideal that finds their education heretical. Your thrust is cute but lacks clarity of thought. You confuse who we are fighting with what we promote. This is the kind of thinking that sees the two Abu Ghraibs as equivalent.

  6. An ideological feminist, perhaps, would make the choice you presume.

    As opposed to one that, y’know, doesn’t care about women.

    On the other hand, the government we are defending, the government that others want to overthrow, is building schools for girls

    You forgot to mention that the schools are freshly painted. I mean, that just goes so well with your delusion that women are doing better in the newly fundamentalist Iraq.

  7. Was life better in Iraq under Saddam’s secularism, Jpe?

    You seem to be conceding the opposite argument, since the most you are able to do is lob cheap shots on the margins.

  8. Life was in fact better under Saddam. Yes. He was a terrible human being. Yes. He was a killer. But then the country functioned better than it does now, and infra structure was better than it is now; and Iraq held Iran at bay–which is no longer the case. And if Kerry was a total dummy, as noted, he merely adhered to the current policy brought about by President Bush…why not denounce them since Iraq is a total failure.

  9. -Infrastructure was worse under Saddam. He notoriously neglected public works and oil infrastructure, electric generation, public health, etc.

    -Corruption was at least as bad as it is now. And of course there was much less accountability in govt.

    -Free markets were suppressed. (There has been an economic boom, and a boom in property values starting around the time it became clear that we would invade.)

    -“Iraq is a total failure” — your opinion, not fact. A reasonable person might say that there have been good and bad consequences of our involvement. “Total failure” is so willfully negative as to be silly.

    -Many fewer people are being killed now. A bomb here, a bomb there, many tragedies. But no more Halabjas, no more mass graves, no more children’s prison or rape rooms, no more terror as an administrative tool.

  10. By the way, Still, Kerry adhered to the charming pattern of his life and Kerrey to a policy not unlike Bush’s. Bob (if not John) has been consistent – from ten or fifteen years ago to now.

    And, of course, Jonathan is right.

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