Posted on September 30, 2004


Unfriendly Persuasion

Kerry's diplomacy has failed already


Daniel Clark


A September 18th article in the New York Daily News quoted a French government official, who said that his country will not be sending any soldiers to Iraq, even if John Kerry is elected president. "We don't need more targets in Iraq," he explained.

Kerry's pillar of strength

How can this be? The French, Kerry constantly reminds us, are among our most trusted "allies." They've been with us through thick and ... well, through thick, anyway. In fact, it's fair to say that over the years, the French have been as stalwart in defense of our country as their own. The Massachusetts senator so values their friendship that he considers any alliance without them to be illegitimate.

He says that "our allies" -- his shorthand for France, Germany and Russia -- have only been alienated by President Bush's "failed diplomacy," and would otherwise have been perfectly eager to join us in Iraq. If Kerry is elected, he promises that he can get these willing but foolishly mistreated "allies" not only to help out, but to shoulder so much of the burden that he can bring large numbers of American soldiers home. As it turns out, there's one slight flaw in this plan of his: he's not omnipotent.

It can't be more obvious that these countries are determined not to cooperate with us against the remnants of a regime with which they had close economic and military partnerships. However mesmerizing a speaker Kerry might imagine himself to be, it is not within his power to change these nations' policies. He could only have any reasonable expectations of doing so if he held some powerful leverage over them, which he does not claim to have.

This is not France

Indeed, he condemns the Bush administration, without evidence, for having exerted that kind of power. The senator has repeatedly insulted our partners in the war by calling them a "coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and extorted."

Bush calls our alliance the "coalition of the willing." What Sen. Kerry is proposing is to bring along those nations that are unwilling. Yet he has decried the very idea of bringing any bargaining chips with him to the negotiating table.

Unable to site specifically what Bush has done to offend "our allies," Kerry presents the issue as a contrast in personalities. He therefore bases his promise to "bring our allies on board" on his personal gift for persuasion, which has been curiously latent throughout a 19-year career, during which he has not shepherded a single bill through the Senate.

Kerry casts Bush as the impetuous, unyielding Texan, who thrusts open the swinging saloon doors without any regard for who might be behind them, then strikes a match against the scruff of the nearest bystander, and pushes two people apart to make room for himself at the bar. His foil, Kerry, plays the refined New Englander, the skilled diplomat who is finely attuned to European delicacies, and shrewd enough to coax unlikely concessions that could not be won with force. To those who agree to see the two men this way, there's no doubt which one would make the more skilled negotiator.

John Kerry: Diplomat

That depiction is belied by the senator's oafish denunciations of those nations that are truly allied with us. When he impugns the motives of Australia, Italy, Poland, Japan, the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, El Salvador and the others, he is conferring a moral superiority upon those who have obstructed us. Since he doesn't specify what we did to "bribe" and "coerce" the coalition members, or what can be done to bring "our allies" into the fold, it is not illogical to infer that he views support for the U.S. and Britain as itself a moral failing, and opposition to our efforts as itself virtuous.

Even if Kerry genuinely believes that Bush should have been able to persuade "our allies," his alienation of the coalition was not a necessary component of that argument. It would have been perfectly simple for him to express gratitude toward those nations that are fighting alongside us, while charging that the president hadn't done enough to bring others along. Instead, he has publicly deemed our friends' sacrifices to be worse than meaningless.

In a Kerry presidency, this irrational animosity toward the coalition would reduce if not eliminate our international support, which he claims is too sparse already. Why should Italy, for example, continue to put its people in harm's way, when the new leader of the coalition resents its participation, and continues to pine away for France instead? Why, moreover, should Italy maintain a presence there when Kerry has cited increased European involvement as his strategy for an American withdrawal? Should they be more dedicated to the mission than we are?

Furthermore, Kerry has had little to say about our closest and most powerful ally, Great Britain. Does the senator consider the British to be helping us bribe and coerce the others, or are they among the supposedly bribed and coerced? Either way, he has insulted them, but that's not the half of it. Kerry said in his speech at the Democratic National Convention that his plan was "to bring our allies to our side and share the burden." When he finally realizes that the French are never coming to our side, will he improvise by imposing more of the burden on Britain, and will Tony Blair be left to mend a then-fractured coalition?

Even if "our allies" were not bent on defying us, Kerry would need to explain why they would be preferable to the allies we already have. Why France and not Italy? Why Germany and not Poland? Why Russia and not Australia? We currently have thirty allies. Would it be wise to trade them for three?

The fact that a Kerry victory would lead us to such discussions means that his diplomacy, while still in its theoretical phase, is already a failure. If we allow him to put it into practice, the coalition will splinter, the new Iraqi government will lose support, and the United States will appear dramatically weakened. If those results are not what Kerry has in mind, then he is every bit the diplomatic incompetent that he incessantly accuses Bush of being.



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