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Jewish World Review March 14, 2003 / 10 Adar II, 5763

James Lileks

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Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history | Turkey kicks the US right where it hurts, and how does Bush respond? In his press conference, the President described them in high-school yearbook terms: a friend, an ally, bosom buddy, best friends 4ever. That's your unilateralist cowboy speaking, your nuance-free arm-twisting bully unschooled in the clever palaver of international diplomacy. Now let's examine the statements of presidential hopeful John Kerry. Sour, dour, determined to wake America to the need to get Syrian blessing for the war on Iraq, Kerry blasted our allies with the following characterization:

"The greatest position of strength is by exercising the best judgment in the pursuit of diplomacy," he said, "not in some trumped-up, so-called coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted, but in a genuine coalition."

That would be a coalition in which French is spoken without shame. Leave aside the fact that we have been pursuing diplomacy for six months, and that a reasonable observer might conclude that diplomacy does not wish to be caught. Forget Kerry's suggestion that strength isn't expressed by aircraft carriers, but by a rowboat full of "statesmen" so adept at double-talk that they can't order lunch without praising breakfast, brunch, supper and a midnight snack. Forget all that. Just consider what a leading Democratic candidate said about Britain, Australia, and nations recently released from the Soviet yoke: "the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted." Whores at best, corrupt at worst. Wouldn't "a coalition of the billing" have been a tad nicer?

You take your allies where you find them. In WW2 old twinkle-eyed Uncle Joe was on our team, so we refrained from pointing out that the man had carpal tunnel syndrome from signing death warrants. You want to turn on your friends for personal political benefit, wait until the war is over. Is that too much to ask of a wannabe Commander-in-Chief?

In order to beat Bush in 04, the Dems need one of two things: a foreign policy failure or a foreign policy success. If the war has nasty consequences, they'll be on record with a dozen TOLD YOU SOs. We should have bowed to the UN. We should have let inspections continue until Saddam had nothing but a sharp letter opener, and his biological weapons consisted some ancient takeout from the back of the fridge. We should have kept our troops in place to keep the pressure on. Oh, and if North Korea erupts in a final spasm of stupidity and starts a war, it'll be Bush's fault for putting all our troops in the Middle East to put pressure on Saddam, instead of piling 250,000 men in the DMZ where they could be wiped out in a few hours of shelling. Lose-lose for the military is win-win for the Dems.

If the war goes well, and '04 sees the US in an unparalleled position to remake the Middle East, the Dems will point out how they were on board all along --- and now that the danger's past, we must address our aching domestic needs, like a 17% increase in Federal funding for women's college wrestling programs. Expect to hear about our old pal the Peace Dividend the moment someone scrapes bin Laden's DNA off a Tora Bora cave wall. Game over, stand down, unclench, relax. If things get scary and hairy in days to come, well, the nation's strategic reserve of Bushes isn't dry yet. Someone nukes Baltimore, elect a Jeb.

It's a smart strategy, given the historical tendency of the American electorate to forget history. But our allies may not be so quick to forgive. The Australians, for example, might recall that they stood with America because they believed we shared a common foe. And should America need Australia again, they might recall President Kerry's dismissal: bribed, coerced, bought or extorted.

"That's a knife," Crocodile Dundee famously remarked. Kerry would agree, and think: it'd look even better sticking out of your back.

JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks