George Will

Here is John Kerry's dilemma: What, if anything, can he say about this? Should he charge that the military decision about the timing of the offensive that must precede Iraq's elections is being controlled by political calculations about the U.S. elections? Can he find electoral traction by charging, plausibly, that administration incompetence is one reason the Iraqi police and military are unready to be much help in the fighting that evidently will be done in November and December?

Most of Kerry's dilemmas are of his making ? his dreamy belief that even with a war raging he could campaign on domestic issues; his Jackson Pollock canvas of positions on the war. But now his dilemma is that in U.S. politics, optimism is mandatory, even ? no, especially ? when it is dubious. Everybody has a game face on. Too bad this is not a game.

Time will tell whether Allawi will ride the whirlwind or be consumed by it ? whether he will be Iraq's Alexander Kerensky. Allawi certainly seems tougher than that mild Russian who briefly held power in Russia in 1917, during a semi-democratic moment after the czar and before the Bolsheviks swept him, and parliamentary government, aside. Kerensky died in New York in 1970.

When President Bush proclaims, as he regularly does, that "freedom is on the march," he cannot be thinking of Russia. Across its 11 time zones, freedom is in retreat, again.

When Allawi addresses a joint session of Congress Thursday, he will stand where British Prime Minister Tony Blair stood in July 2003 to proclaim that it is a "myth" that American and British "attachment to freedom is a product of our culture" ? a myth that "freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law" are Western rather than universal values. Allawi will not say anything less plausible to an audience that is sadder, and perhaps wiser, than it was 14 months ago.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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