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.