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Between the Lines

July 16, 2004

Kerry not up to the war on terror?

A couple of days ago, I noted that blogger Gregory Djerejian, whose work I admire, thinks George Bush is al-Qaida's candidate for president because "is more likely to set off the civilizational clash that [Osama] bin Laden is hoping for."

Since I don't generally favor civilizational clashes, this sounded like one more excellent reason to vote for John Kerry. But Djerejian demurred, and promised to explain why. He starts on that today, and you can read the whole thing here. But here's the core of his argument, so far (more to come, he says):

"There's a lot going on--and I'm not confident that Kerry a) fully gets the stakes and b) will field a national security team that will be up to the challenge."

Among the items he mentions are important ones that are not on the public radar yet, and may not be on Kerry's either: al-Qaida's attempts to establish footholds in failed states, which are certain breeding grounds for the despair it feeds on; its targeting of Nigeria, an important oil supplier, for jihad; and its possible plan to disrupt world oil trade by sinking ships in the Strait of Malacca, a critically important choke point near Singapore.

With threats like these developing, he questions whether Kerry has a world view spunky enough to address the challenges.

I've got to admit that I wonder, too. One of the most disappointing aspects of the Kerry campaign has been its lack of an articulate foreign policy. That's one reason why I like suggestions by Matt Yglesias, Dan Drezner and Bruce Bartlett that Kerry start naming names for key positions in his cabinet. It probably won't happen it would give the Bush campaign a wealth of new targets with which to fog the campaign and would increase the chances of unpleasant closeted skeletons coming to light. But if Kerry doesn't take this path, then he owes the country a fuller exposition than we've seen to date of what his foreign policy would be. Seeking to re-engage our European allies and to use the UN when appropriate is all well and good, but it doesn't get to the overarching questions.

On the other hand, we know the record of the Bush administration. Starting the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time (Iraq), while leaving dangerously unfinished the right war (Afghanistan). Frittering away U.S. credibility with major allies. Straining our limited conventional military forces to the point where we would be hard-pressed to respond credibly to a major threat. Contributing to the further destabilization of the Middle East. Abetting war profiteering. Setting the policy framework that allowed the abuses at Abu Ghraib. And so forth.

So what we have is a president who does not deserve re-election and a challenger who has yet to demonstrate why he deserves my vote (in foreign affairs, at least; on the domestic side there's no question).

Well, that's what campaigns are supposed to be for.

Posted by tbrown at 12:40 PM


Meanwhile, in the New Iraq

The Sydney Morning Herald's chief correspondent in Baghdad has this most interesting story about our head puppet:

"Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings." (Free site registration may be required.)

The story is based on the testimony of two purported eyewitnesses, whom the paper located, who were guaranteed anonymity for obvious reasons, who were interviewed separately without the knowledge that the other had talked, and who were not paid for their stories.

Allawi, of course, denies all. But the story is long enough and detailed enough to be credible. Perhaps most telling is the U.S. response in the last paragraph of the story:

"An emailed response to questions from the Herald to the U.S. ambassador, John Negroponte, said: 'If we attempted to refute each [rumour], we would have no time for other business. As far as this embassy's press office is concerned, this case is closed.' "

That's not a denial, folks.

On the other hand, insurgent violence continues, if anything, to increase, and many Iraqis want it quenched, whatever it takes.

Posted by tbrown at 12:34 PM




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