Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"What Does Your Conscience Tell You to Do?"

Bob Kerrey (not to be confused with John Kerry) has been a Navy Seal, Governor of Nebraska, U.S. Senator (D-NE), co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, and a university president. He is also a true combat hero who lost part of his leg from an enemy grenade but coolly continued to effectively command his unit. He also expresses regret for his part in committing war atrocities at Thanh Phong in Vietnam.

Kerrey’s general political position is far to the left of mine. But in keeping with his established stance on military issues, Kerrey strongly takes anti-war members of his own Democratic Party to task in this WSJ op-ed article.

Kerrey disagrees with the statement, “Democracy cannot be imposed with military force.” He says, “[T]hose who say such things seem to forget the good U.S. arms have done in imposing democracy on countries like Japan and Germany, or Bosnia more recently.”

The attack to remove Saddam Hussein was justified, Kerrey believes, because regardless of what anyone says, “Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before.” He says that this is true despite incompetence of “the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents.” He also believes that the fact that Saddam Hussein was not responsible for 9/11 is totally beside the point. But he also believes that disagreements about this are ultimately unimportant at this juncture.

Arguing for a need to look forward instead of backward, Kerrey writes, “[N]o matter how much we might want to turn the clock back and either avoid the invasion itself or the blunders that followed, we cannot. The war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is over. What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq.”

Brooking no warmth for critics that would prefer a low-cost, easily controllable dictatorship, Kerrey wonders how those that favor military intervention in Darfur today, “or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart,” can honestly think that dictatorship in Iraq is acceptable.

Kerrey asks what we would think our necessary role to be had Shiite and Kurdish insurgents overthrown Saddam and attempted to establish a democratic society only to end up facing al Qaeda forces. He asks, “Wouldn't you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end this carnage? I would.”

“American liberals need to face these truths:” Kerrey asserts, “The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it.” He notes that al Qaeda specifically targets those necessary for a functioning democracy, including “school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government.”

Kerrey then asks, “With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do?” His answer chastens, “If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power.”

Ripping on leaders who seem to be caving in to public opinion, Kerrey advises, “Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.”

While Kerrey agrees that most terrorists in Iraq are there because we are there, he argues that this is the case “because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq.” If we had installed a dictator, he contends, the terrorist “groups wouldn't have lasted a week.” Kerrey charges, “We must not allow terrorist sanctuaries to develop any place on earth. Whether these fighters are finding refuge in Syria, Iran, Pakistan or elsewhere, we cannot afford diplomatic or political excuses to prevent us from using military force to eliminate them.”

Ultimately, Kerrey seems to believe that our national ideological polarization over how to deal with Iraq ill serves us. He calls for what we have found to be elusive: “a bipartisan strategy to deal with the long-term threat of terrorism.” He quotes Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), who said, “You do not have to occupy a country in order to fight the terrorists who are inside it.”

That is certainly something worth thinking about.


Jesse Harris said...

Kerrey joins the likes of Joe Lieberman and Orson Scott Card, Democrats who know that the price of failing to establish a stable and legitimate government in Iraq is going to be higher than whatever it costs to see it through. I was among the many that was strongly opposed to going to Iraq in the first place (poorly sold, no declaration of war, not quite finished in Afghanistan, etc.), but I can't in good conscious back leaving now. We broke it, we bought it, and our national honor depends on actually carrying through on what we said we'd do.

Anonymous said...

Calling Joe Lieberman and O.S. Card "Democrats" is like calling this blog "informed and intelligent." The two don't go together. Lieberman was actually told to "get bent" by the Democrats, and ran as an independent, and Card, while an amazing writer, has never had much political savy.

We did break it, we are buying it, and how is continuing to beat our heads against the wall, instead of actually FIXING something, going to restore our tread-upon national honor? And what we said we'd do was catch Osama Bin Laden, wasn't it? How's that whole thing going for us?

Jason The said...

For a quite different perspective on Kerrey's track record:


Reach Upward said...

Jason, if you will check my follow-on post, you will note that it's not only those on the left that are bagging on Kerrey's WSJ op-ed piece. Some of the right have issues with it as well.

It is also worth noting that Kerrey is no longer an elected official. All Americans have the right to seek to influence policy, but I think it is normal and probably acceptable to accord somewhat less credibility to those that used to be policy makers than to those that are policy makers.

Bradley said...

Anonymous, you made me feel better today. Every once in a while on my own blog, a drive-by commenter will berate my blog with vicious personal smears.

To see that you believe that Reach Upward is neither informed nor intelligent is proof enough that you probably haven't actually read anything on the blog. Scott is a remarkable writer who has very interesting things to say.

If people can say such silly things about this blog, it helps me keep perspective when people say rude things in other forums as well. Keep up the good work, Scott. I'll keep reading (even if I don't comment too often).

Reach Upward said...

Thanks, Bradley. I appreciate your and Karen's blog as well.