July 29, 2004

Kerry has Muffed the War Issue

Article by William A. Niskanen:

Senator John Kerry has made increased international support for the security and reconstruction of Iraq the primary theme of his speeches on this issue. For the following reasons, however, Kerry's position is not likely to have any significant effect on U.S. policy toward Iraq:

1. The Kerry position does not now differ much from that of President Bush, in part because Bush has also recently asked for increased international support for the reconstruction of Iraq.

2. Increased international support is not likely. The United Nations and the governments of France and Germany are not likely to accept an increased responsibility for the reconstruction of Iraq that is subordinate to U.S. authority, in part because U.S. forces have yet to restore minimally satisfactory security.

3. Increased international support is not likely to be effective. The Iraqi insurgents have been as hostile to the United Nations and to non-U.S. foreign troops as to the U.S. civilian and military authorities. The insurgents bombed the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad early during the guerilla campaign and have killed or kidnapped Italian, Japanese and Spanish troops. All foreign civilian and military authorities are now regarded as occupiers.

4. The Kerry position has no political traction. For most Americans, like most Iraqis, one's attitude toward the war in Iraq is not much dependent on the breadth of the coalition supporting U.S. policy.

Moreover, Kerry's position on Iraq is probably a political loser. With no significant debate about the war in Iraq between the candidates of the major parties, those who have strongly opposed the war in Iraq are most likely to vote for Ralph Nader, and most of these votes would otherwise have been for almost any Democratic candidate.