Correction: In “Kerry’s War Strategy,” David Corn mistakenly reported that Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution favors a withdrawal of troops from Iraq by the end of the year. Daalder notes, “My position on troops is (a) we haven’t had enough and still don’t; (b) NATO should take over the mission; and (c) we should stay as long as there remains a need for them and they’re wanted by legitimate Iraqi authorities.” He would like the first set of elections in Iraq, now scheduled for the end of the year or early next year, to happen sooner if possible. (6/16/04)
On the day Senator John Kerry gave a Big Speech on national security, Win Without War–a coalition of forty-two antiwar organizations–called for the Administration to set a specific date for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. (It did not say what day that should be.) The week before, James Steinberg and Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution proposed that the United States declare it will recall its troops by late 2005, after the election of an Iraqi government and the adoption of a Constitution. (Steinberg was a deputy national security adviser for President Clinton.) Their Brookings colleague, Ivo Daalder, also an alumnus of Clinton’s national security team, favors a pullout by the end of this year.
But Kerry, although he blasted Bush for his arrogant, reckless, counterproductive foreign policy, made no reference to removing troops by a particular date. He reiterated the position he had laid out weeks earlier: Internationalize the mess in Iraq, bring in more NATO troops, appoint an international high commissioner, expand the training of Iraq’s security forces. In pursuit of stabilizing Iraq, he has even been open to deploying more US troops in the short run. Kerry is nuancing his way through the dilemma of Iraq and consequently has not unveiled a bold approach that stands in sharp contrast to the Bush policy, which has been drifting (reluctantly) toward his ideas. Kerry’s take boils down to this: Bush screwed it up–I can do better. This is indeed an important distinction, and perhaps it’s the best Kerry can offer since he’s not calling for disengagement. But if a policy (if not yet a political) split is developing between Kerry and antiwar Democrats, how might he respond?
There are debates on Iraq within Kerry’s foreign policy team. “For a while,” says one of those advisers, “the debate was whether it was better not to offer an Iraq plan. Now there’s a continuing discussion on how to deal with the changing realities in Iraq.” This conversation is taking place within a senior group of a dozen advisers headed by Rand Beers, a counterterrorism specialist who resigned from the Bush White House. The group includes James Rubin, a former State Department spokesman; Nancy Stetson, a longtime Kerry Senate aide; Jonathan Winer, a former Kerry aide and past State Department official; Lee Feinstein, former deputy director of the State Department’s policy planning staff; Daniel Feldman, a former Clinton National Security Council officer; and former ambassador Joseph Wilson. Several foreign policy bigfoots–Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger, Richard Holbrooke, Senator Joe Biden–regularly counsel Kerry. The important discussions come, according to another Kerry aide, when Kerry talks to “whoever he trusts, like Holbrooke and Berger. He’s been on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He carries a lot of this around in his own head. He has strong ideas himself.”