TCS Daily

You Say You Wanna Coalition?

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - October 1, 2004 12:00 AM

John Kerry promises that he would be a better coalition builder than President Bush, a skill he says would be of invaluable assistance to the United States as it sees through its current military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and as it fights the war against terrorism elsewhere around the world. As Kerry put it in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention:

"I know what we have to do in Iraq. We need a president who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, reduce the risk to American soldiers. That's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.

"Here is the reality: That won't happen until we have a president who restores America's respect and leadership so we don't have to go it alone in the world.

"And we need to rebuild our alliances so we can get the terrorists before they get us."

But look at his campaign rhetoric, and you will see that far from being an alliance-builder, Kerry gives every indication of being a President who would spurn help and allies via a mixture of clumsy personal diplomacy and gratuitous insults aimed at America's friends abroad.

Start with Kerry's most infamous statement about the coalition helping us in Iraq. He has called nations involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the ensuing reconstruction effort a "coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted". The members of this putatively disgraceful coalition include such important countries as Great Britain, Poland and Australia.

Recently, one of Kerry's overseas campaign emissaries -- his sister Diana -- stirred the pot of demagoguery by stating, according to The Australian, that the government of John Howard in Australia has made Australians targets for terrorism by helping the Bush Administration's efforts in Iraq:

"Asked if she believed the terrorist threat to Australians was now greater because of the support for Republican George W. Bush, Ms Kerry said: 'The most recent attack was on the Australian embassy in Jakarta [in Indonesia] -- I would have to say that.'"

As if that were not enough, the Kerry campaign betrayed clumsy diplomatic instincts -- not to mention an uncommon lack of class -- in responding to this week's visit to the United States by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. According to the AP:

"'I think the prime minister is obviously contradicting his own statement of a few days ago, where he said the terrorists are pouring into the country,' Kerry said.

"'The prime minister and the president are here obviously to put their best face on the policy, but the fact is that the CIA estimates, the reporting, the ground operations and the troops all tell a different story.""

Kerry was referring to comments Allawi made Sunday on ABC's "This Week." But Allawi also expressed optimism about the mission in that appearance.

"Foreign terrorists are still pouring in, and they're trying to inflict damage on Iraq to undermine Iraq and to undermine the process, democratic process in Iraq, and, indeed, this is their last stand," Allawi said. "So they are putting a very severe fight on Iraq. We are winning. We will continue to win. We are going to prevail.'"

Kerry's chief spokesman Joe Lockhart then, exacerbated the Kerry campaign's error, saying in the LA Times:

"The last thing you want to be seen as is a puppet of the United States, and you can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips."

Both Lockhart and Kerry know that in order for reconstruction efforts to fail in Iraq, the interim government must be seen as illegitimate by the Iraqi people -- thus aiding the insurgency in Iraq. Statements belittling Allawi as a "puppet" of the United States and juvenile cracks about "the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips" do nothing, of course, to advance the reconstruction efforts. On the contrary, they only make Allawi's job -- and that of the United States -- that much harder in Iraq. And again, if Allawi and members of his interim government win in elections to be held in January of next year, a President Kerry would have to deal with the very people he and his campaign spokesman called a "puppet." This is alliance-building?

The sad thing is that in each of these instances, Kerry could have aided the creation and functioning of American alliances while at the same time making his campaign points. He could have praised the coalition helping us in Iraq, and promised to build on the efforts to create that coalition in a way that George W. Bush may not be able to. He could have praised the Australians for their help and assistance and promised to stand firm with them against terrorism by focusing the attention of the international community on al Qaeda's presence in countries like Indonesia. And Kerry could have deigned to be present in Washington when Ayad Allawi made his address to a joint session of Congress, and could have promised to be a good ally to an emerging Iraqi government by seeing through the reconstruction efforts to a successful conclusion.

Instead, in each event, John Kerry chose to score political points by insulting and alienating American allies. It makes you wonder what kind of coalition-builder he would really be.

The author is TCS contributor. Find more of his writing here.


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