Kerry Ain’t No Alternative

One of the more amusing spectacles of these less-than- amusing times is the emergence of a Kerry fan club among European anti-war enthusiasts. To support him in the hope that he would make American military policy more dove-ish is absurd. All the evidence is that he will do the exact opposite…

From the Gaurdian: Why Kerry is bad news anyway…

Kerry has declared that he wants to increase the US Army by two divisions, more than the total of Continental Europe’s intervention troops. That too is a credible promise, in part because Iraq has exposed an acute shortage of ground forces and an excess of navy and air force personnel. But beyond any specific policy positions, there is Kerry, the very combative man.

In the televised debates, when President Bush spoke of “defeating terrorism”, Kerry invariably spoke of “killing the terrorists”. This was not just an electoral pose: the words accurately reflect thecharacter of the man. He is a fighter, a two-fisted brawler. In all his past electoral campaigns, successful or otherwise, he was always the more aggressive candidate, ready to make wild accusations he knew to be false in the hope that some voters would believe even the incredible.

At the moment he is telling older voters that Bush has a secret plan to cut their pensions by 45 per cent, and younger voters that Bush has a secret plan to re-introduce compulsory military service.And Kerry was certainly a fighter in Vietnam. Like many other well-born Americans of the time, Kerry already opposed the war as contrary to US strategic and economic interests (not as a pacifist)when he volunteered for an extra tour of duty in Vietnam, having already served his compulsory year safely aboard ship.As all the world knows by now, he won a Silver Star by beaching the boat he commanded, to jump off in pursuit of a Viet Cong guerrilla,whom he shot dead. He did not have to be in Vietnam, he could have been at home; he did not have to beach the boat – the standard tactic would have been to pull back from the shore all guns firing, not ram the prow into the mud.

And as commander of the boat, he did not have to chase the guerrilla himself.He did it all simply because he is a fighter, and a ferocious one. I am quite certain that if Kerry had been president on September 11 he would have reacted more violently than Bush, sending bombers into Afghanistan, not just Special Forces scouts, and demanding immediat eco-operation – or else – from Saudi Arabia, not just Pakistan.European anti-militarists have really picked the wrong guy as their hero.It is true that Kerry opposed the 1991 Gulf War (as did Senator Nunn, among other certified hawks) but he urged the use of force in Bosnia, regretted the failure to invade Rwanda before that, approved the Panama intervention of the first President Bush and was an enthusiast for the 1999 Kosovo war, before voting in favour of the war in Iraq.

If Kerry is elected next month, he will certainly not act out his apparently clear-cut opposition to the war by immediately withdrawingUS forces from Iraq – although even the Bush Administration is pursuing a form of disengagement, striving to add to the number of Iraqi police and National Guard as quickly as possible rather thansending more US troops. With a rifle strength of well under 60,000,there are not even enough American soldiers to control the Baghdad area, let alone the whole Sunni triangle. Kerry is unlikely to change course. He too will pursue disengagement,with the aim of leaving Iraq to its elected government after January,with as much of an army, national guard and police force as can be built up in the meantime.

The only difference – and here is the greatest irony – is that Kerry would almost certainly disengage more slowly than Bush simply as a matter of political positioning: he is the one more vulnerable to accusations of abandoning Iraq to Islamic fanatics, warlord-priests and Saddam loyalists.It is not just over Iraq that the hawkish Kerry will confound European liberals. He has harshly criticised Bush for not being tough enough with Iran – another irony, because it implies a preference for unilateral action rather than the multilateral diplomacy he supposedly espouses.

Iran’s fanatical priests and Revolutionary Guard thugs, having fakedthe last elections, now rule the country behind the increasingly thin facade of President Khatami’s elected but powerless government. The extremists have been playing a diplomatic game with the E3 – Britain, France and Germany – and with the International Atomic EnergyAuthority, while using Iran’s oil revenues to import all the missile components and nuclear equipment they can.

The Bush Administration has looked over the options for direct action,everything from air strikes to sabotage but, increasingly committed inIraq, it has done nothing. It has instead focused on diplomacy to restrict Iranian imports of forbidden materials from Russia and China,and on intelligence operations to shut down smuggling networks. All that is crucial, because in spite of boasts of self-sufficiency, Iran can do little on its own.

Gaining time is important: the fundamentalists are increasingly unpopular, they represent a shrinking minority of the most backward village population (and that, too, only in the half of the country that is inhabited by Persians as opposed toother ethnic minorities), and they will not be in power for ever.What would Kerry do differently? Nothing much either way, most likely,but it is simply an administrative inevitability that the air strike and sabotage options will be examined once again.

One wonders how The Guardian’s editorial would read if bombs ordered by a Kerry White House were to start falling on Natanz and Arak, where the major nuclear facilities are being built.As for the more prosaic business of day-to-day military policy, Kerry is unlikely to change the Bush plan of removing US forces from Cold War garrisons in western Europe and Korea.

Kerry advisers also agreewith all the “transformation” programmes of the Bush Administration -the change to aircraft without pilots, to air bombing instead of artillery, to command networks instead of hierarchies, to lighter, higher-quality forces.Unless Kerry really does ask Congress for the money to add two Army divisions, one will need a microscope to tell the difference inmilitary policy if Kerry wins the election. Perhaps The Guardian and its readers should take a close look at those pictures of Kerry with his shotgun after last week’s goose shoot: there goes a genuineAmerican hawk, red in tooth and policy. ”

Now that is what I call a misdirected Peace Movement…!