Something for nothing

Something for nothing
: Iraq is turning into a bad campaign issue for both candidates.

The Washington Post editorial page today calls John Kerry on a flop (half a flip-flop) on Iraq. When he was fighting anti-war Howard Dean, Kerry set democracy as the goal in Iraq and now he has lowered that standard. The Post quotes him:

“…I have always said from day one that the goal here . . . is a stable Iraq, not whether or not that’s a full democracy.” …

Where once he named democracy as a task to be completed, and the alternative to “cutting and running” or a “false success,” Mr. Kerry now says democracy is optional. Where once he warned against setting the conditions for an early but irresponsible withdrawal of U.S. forces, now he does so himself by defining the exit standard as “stability,” a term that could describe Saudi Arabia or Iran — or the Iraq of Saddam Hussein.

So Kerry will cut and run to contrast himself with the prowar George Bush.

At today’s ASNE lunch with Bush, Burl Osborne asked — in response to the Post — whether democracy in Iraq is desirable or necessary. You can guess what Bush said. And here’s what the Post said:

There is no question that achieving even a rudimentary democracy in Iraq will be tough, and weakness in administration planning and implementation has made it tougher. At best democracy will take years to consolidate; at worst, it will prove unachievable during the U.S. mission. The past weeks of violence have been, or should have been, sobering to any observer. Yet on goals Mr. Bush is right, not only in a moral sense but from the perspective of U.S. security too. Iraq is a country of diverse communities; if its differences are not arbitrated by some form of democratic politics, then it can be held together only by brute force. The wielder of that force is likely to be hostile to the democratic world and, like Saddam Hussein or the mullahs of neighboring Iran, to seek defense by means of terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.

We believe a successful political outcome is still possible; others disagree. But Mr. Kerry’s shift on such a basic question after just a few months is troubling and mistaken.

As Micah Sifry has said and said again, Kerry “can’t beat something with nothing.” Now he’s offering less than nothing: defeat and desertion and no democracy. For shame.

: But Bush took his blows on the Post op-ed page. Fareed Zakaria echoes a theme from Tom Friedman and others: We need more troops in Iraq. We need to bring order.

Iraq remains unstable and insecure. If this problem isn’t solved, the United Nations can sprinkle all the magic dust it wants and it will not matter.

In fact, things could get worse. After July 1, the United States will have to combat insurgents by working through a sovereign Iraqi government that will have its own constraints….

The blunt truth is that we still need more troops in Iraq. Yes, it would be nice to have foreign troops or to have well-trained Iraqi forces. But for now neither option exists. We have a choice between more American troops and continued instability.

You can’t beat something with less than enough.

The sad truth: Neither side is offering a plan for Iraq.