TCS Daily

More? Or Less?

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - October 13, 2004 12:00 AM

Like any disciplined Presidential candidate, John Kerry has a number of favorite lines and arguments that he likes to present -- whether at a debate, or at a campaign event. Unfortunately, a number of Kerry's statements leave Kerry open to charges of inconsistency and - yes -- flip-flopping. Kerry's inconsistency is rarely more evident than it is on the subject of troop strength in Iraq.

Kerry is fond of repeating the charge that former Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki was "retired" by the Bush Administration for suggesting that a much larger ground contingent was needed to secure the peace in Iraq than the Administration was willing to deploy. But this charge is itself open to ridicule. For when one asks John Kerry whether, as President, he would put more American troops in Iraq if asked by the military commanders on the ground -- as Robert Siegel did in this interview with Kerry for National Public Radio's All Things Considered, one gets the following tortuous dialogue:

Siegel: What do you do if you ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff what they need to achieve their mission in Iraq and they say, "We need a lot more troops"? Do you escalate the troop levels, or do you plan for a quick or a constant exit instead?

Kerry: You have to support our troops, and you have to do what's necessary to try to make this mission successful, but they have not asked for that. I have to wait until I'm president and sit down with them and see where we are.

Siegel: But you yourself have pointed out that Gen. Shinseki, the former Army chief of staff, said there should be hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq, and you say he was fired for saying that. What if you get now the "real story," as you would say, the Army speaking candidly-

Kerry: I'll have to make a decision when I get there as to what the probabilities are. I can't hypothesize as to what I am going to find on Jan. 20-whether I'm going to find a Lebanon or whether I'm going to find a country that's moving towards an election. That depends on what the president does now.

Siegel: But-

Kerry: I think the leadership has been arrogant and disastrous.

Siegel: But should either you or whoever is president next year consider the possibility of an increase in troops? Is that even a consideration, or should it be completely off the table?

Kerry: I do not intend to increase troops. I intend to get the process in place that I described, and I believe as a new president, with new credibility, with a fresh start, that I have the ability to be able to change the dynamics on the ground.

It was like pulling teeth, but eventually, Siegel got Kerry to admit that he "[does] not intend to increase troops," presumably no matter what the military asks of him. In response, Kerry would likely stick to his tried and true promise of increasing allied cooperation and thus reducing the burden on American troops. But the countries like France and Germany continue to sink any hope that they will do anything to spell American troops even if Kerry is elected President. This means that Kerry is in the absurd position of criticizing the Bush Administration for not putting in enough ground troops -- while stating at the same time that he would do nothing as President to alleviate the situation even if the commanders on the ground ask him to and despite the fact that countries like France and Germany will not commit troops to Iraq.

In sum, John Kerry's argument boils down to blaming the Bush Administration for not having enough troops on the ground in Iraq to win the peace, while at the same time doing nothing to solve the problems Kerry claims exist. Thus far, few people have called Kerry on this inconsistency and on his refusal to acknowledge the fact that he won't receive allied help. Perhaps in the next few weeks before the election, however, someone may be bothered to ask how Kerry intends to reconcile his irreconcilable statements on the issue of troop strength. We just might get an illuminating answer from the Democratic nominee on where he stands.


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