There is a natural impulse to pounce and hold John Kerry to his latest pronouncement on Iraq -- namely, that it would be Kerry presidential doctrine to pull out of Iraq in the near future, just as it was Kerry anti-war-protester doctrine to pull out of Vietnam in the past. Partly, that impulse comes from the desire to reconcile the Kerry flips with the Kerry flops, draw a straight line, and be done with it. And partly, it's the fact that such a line of Kerry thought really does exist beneath his absurdly baroque vacillations. The guy was against the war in Vietnam, and he's against the war in Iraq -- for now, anyway.
"It is never easy to discuss what has gone wrong while our troops are in constant danger," he said in a "major" speech on Iraq this week as he prepared to discuss what he believes has "gone wrong while our troops are in constant danger." In so doing, he opened two windows into his thinking (current?) on Iraq. "We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure," he scolded. And: "Iraq was a profound diversion from that war (on terror) and the battle against our greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden and the terrorists."
On "trading a dictator for a chaos" -- much could be said about the crashing infelicity of "a" chaos, but I resist -- Kerry expresses a distressing nostalgia, maybe not so much for the ancient regime of Saddam Hussein as for what has been dubbed the "decade of defiance" preceding his removal. The era he pines for -- beginning, say, with the first World Trade Center attack in 1993 (on which Iraq left still-unexplained fingerprints) and ending after U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 was adopted unanimously in 2002 -- was not exactly a run-up to endless summer.
With Iraq having flouted 17 Security Council resolutions calling for its disarmament, international law was rendered impotent. With Islamic jihadists having murdered 3,000 Americans on 9/11 -- the hellish climax of more than two decades of attacks on Americans and other Westerners -- the non-jihadist world was struck at its heart. While the WMD that assorted intelligence agencies indicated were in Iraq have not been found, Saddam Hussein's drive to procure WMD remains beyond dispute. Put it all together and "a chaos" was looming and "a dictator" was doing what he could to, um, bring it on, including providing safe haven for Al Qaeda members.