Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Maturian Candidate

[posted by Callimachus]

I found you a candidate for president. Too bad he's not running:

Some who have been critical of this effort from the beginning have consistently based their opposition on their preference for a dictator we can control or contain at a much lower cost. From the start they said the price tag for creating an environment where democracy could take root in Iraq would be high. Those critics can go to sleep at night knowing they were right.

The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart.

... American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq's middle class has fled the country in fear.

With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.

Bob Kerrey. Politically, he's no worse than the rest of the field this year, and the plea for calm sanity above is so much fresh air. But he's never really explained one night in his Vietnam experience and is thus, while a valuable voice in the national debate, unelectable.

Perhaps it was a terrible "fog of war" mistake. Perhaps it was something darker. The few sure facts just don't fit well. Which is a shame, too, because such experience, if it were war-is-hell and not war-crime, would give Kerrey a unique and pertinent perspective from which to lead the nation in the looming post-Iraq period, and in a time of not-quite-war-but-something-like-it. He once said: "I thought dying for your country was the worst thing that could happen to you, and I don't think it is. I think killing for your country can be a lot worse."