Kerry’s Entangling Alliances

Americans who oppose the war in Iraq find it easy to hold President Bush in contempt – as they should, considering his deceptive and disastrous wars that have killed thousands. What’s harder is finding much to like in John Kerry. Most antiwar American voters will probably pull the lever for Kerry – or, more accurately, against Bush – but we must all come to terms with the fact that Kerry is a hawk, and a very dangerous one.

Kerry never tires of pointing out that Bush didn’t wage his “colossal error” of a war on Iraq correctly, and that Bush is all too unilateral in general. “[T]oday the agents of terrorism work and lurk in the shadows of 60 nations on every continent,” said Kerry in a typical speech in February. “In this entangled world, we need to build real and enduring alliances.”

More recently, in the last presidential debate, Kerry said:

“I can do a better job of waging a smarter, more effective war on terror and guarantee that we will go after the terrorists.

“I will hunt them down, and we’ll kill them, we’ll capture them. We’ll do whatever is necessary to be safe.

“But I pledge this to you, America: I will do it in the way that Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy and others did, where we build the strongest alliances, where the world joins together, where we have the best intelligence and where we are able, ultimately, to be more safe and secure.”

Lately, Republicans have argued that a President Kerry, having called Iraq the “wrong war” in the “wrong place” at the “wrong time,” would not be able to bring all these new allies such as France and Germany into Iraq. Why should they join an adventure when the head of the coalition thinks that adventure is a mistake?

There’s some validity to this point. But of greater concern to those of us who oppose the war is the question: What if Kerry does succeed? What if he does convince other countries to join in?

Sept. 11 engendered more good will toward America than it had seen in 60 years. Bush didn’t just squander that good will, he turned it into fear and hatred. Not just with the war in Iraq – the U.S. government has bombed and launched aggressive invasions of countless countries over the last 50 years without eliciting such a reaction – but with his arrogant attitude toward the world in general. Even when Bush seeks alliances for action, he makes it clear that the U.S. government wants help, not advice, and that it will unilaterally decide, on behalf of the world, which wars must be waged.

Kerry is right. Bush has been arrogant toward the world and he’s done a terrible job of building “real alliances,” Poland notwithstanding. Kerry is probably right that he could rekindle the warm relationship we used to have with what Bush’s cohorts degradingly call “Old Europe.” Kerry might even be right that he’ll be able to prod the French, Germans, and Russians into anteing up to continue the Iraqi occupation.

But we have to ask ourselves: Is this a good thing?

Democratic skeptics of Bush’s procedural and logistical missteps in the Iraq war, and especially of his unilateralism, have yet to answer an important but rarely raised question: Is waging a non-defensive, imperialistic war okay if you have more people on your side?

The Iraq war is a war of aggression. Although Kerry laments that the United States is absorbing “90% of the casualties” (not true – both Kerry and Bush ignore the civilian “collateral damage,” which dwarfs military casualties), the war would not magically become justified if more of the people doing the dying were subjects of other governments, cajoled by John Kerry into participating.

This war doesn’t need more participants. It needs fewer participants. It doesn’t need more countries assisting the U.S. government’s mass slaughter of innocent people. The U.S. government and all occupying invading forces must withdraw.

Taken together with Kerry’s regret that Bush has been too soft on Fallujah, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, what we see is a Democratic candidate who wants to run a more efficient, wider war, convincing other countries to take up more of the burden. And we’re supposed to regard this as an improvement over the Bush Doctrine?

The Founding Fathers warned against entangling alliances. Jefferson and Washington made the point loudly and clearly. When countries tie themselves together in mutual defense pacts and alliances, they end up participating in foolish wars out of diplomatic obligation, rather than limiting themselves to legitimate self-defense. One or two belligerents, so long as they are popular with enough other countries, can transform a regional squabble or a petty conflict into a global holocaust. This is, of course, what happened in World War I.

The U.S. government needs to stop throwing its weight around and focus instead on defending America. Getting other countries involved in defending and extending U.S. aggression is the wrong strategy.

Unlike the Republicans, I am not the least bit concerned that Kerry is insincere when he says, “In this entangled world, we need to build real and enduring alliances.” Nor am I worried that as president he will fail in this goal.

What concerns me is the very real possibility that he is sincere, and that he will succeed all too much in turning Bush’s catastrophic war in Iraq into an international cataclysm.