Wednesday, September 29, 2004

A concession

With Kerry's two big speeches last week, I must admit that he finally hit upon some criticisms of I'm sympathetic to. Yes, the Bush administration has made many mistakes in the occupation of Iraq. Almost all conservatives admit this. (This is apart from all the conservative realists who (wrongly, I think) oppose trying to democratize Iraq in the first place.) Though I think in general Kerry is being too pessisimistic about Iraq (Exhibit A), and that his campaign's public condemnation of Allawi as a "puppet" was way out of line, I must concede that many, though certainly not all, of Kerry's charges are correct.

After pointing out Bush's mistakes, Kerry's proposals to fix them are either the same as what the Bush administration is already doing or some version of "more and faster." Kerry proposes to train more Iraqi troops and policemen, which is already being done. He proposes to finish securing Russian nuclear stuff faster than Bush. He proposes to try even harder to get more other nations to help us in Iraq. He proposes to double the size of the overseas clandestine service. And so on.

Unfortunately, the reality is that, whoever becomes President in January, the trend will continue to be for other countries to pull troops out of Iraq, not for them to put in more. For example, France and Germany have repeatedly and publicly said they have no plans to sending troops to Iraq, no matter who requests them (Exhibit B). I think that our one underlying problem in Iraq is lack of troops, and that significantly more troops aren't available. Even if we reinstituted the draft today, it's doubtful it'd be soon enough to make much difference for the Iraqi elections in January. Bush's biggest mistake was not trying to recruit a bigger volunteer Army back when it would have made a difference. Now, we just have to muddle through and hope we succeed in producing a decent Iraqi security force.

Kerry has previously talked like he just wanted to pull of out Iraq and is now promising to slightly better implement Bush's Iraq policy. Adding this new fact to my weighing of the two candidates, the scales barely move. My own vote aside, in tommorrow's debate, Bush can call Kerry a flip-flopper (as if Bush needed another excuse) and claim that he's mostly already implementing Kerry's recommendations for Iraq. In this event, Kerry is left to argue that Bush is not competent enough to implement his own ideas. Perhaps Kerry could make that argument convincing to voters, but how can he convince voters that he is more competent?

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