We have been dismayed most of all by Mr. Kerry’s zigzags on Iraq, such as his swervings on whether Saddam Hussein presented a threat. As Mr. Bush charges, Mr. Kerry’s description of the war as a “diversion” does not inspire confidence in his determination to see it through. But Mr. Kerry has repeatedly pledged not to cut and run from Iraq, and we believe a Kerry administration would be better able to tackle the formidable nation-building tasks that remain there. Mr. Kerry echoes the Bush goals of an elected Iraqi government and a well-trained Iraqi force to defend it but argues that he could implement the strategy more effectively.
Mr. Kerry understands that the biggest threat to U.S. security comes from terrorists wielding nuclear or biological weapons. He pledges to add two divisions to the U.S. Army; try harder to secure nuclear weapons and materials around the world, and improve U.S. preparations for a bioterrorism attack. There is no way to know whether he would be more successful than Mr. Bush in slowing North Korea’s and Iran’s march toward becoming nuclear-armed states, but he attaches the right priority to both problems. He is correct that those challenges, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, call for the kind of sustained diplomacy that has been missing for four years. We hope he would be firmer than Mr. Bush in standing up to the genocide unfolding in Sudan.
We do not view a vote for Mr. Kerry as a vote without risks. But the risks on the other side are well known, and the strengths Mr. Kerry brings are considerable. He pledges both to fight in Iraq and to reach out to allies; to hunt down terrorists, and to engage without arrogance the Islamic world. These are the right goals, and we think Mr. Kerry is the better bet to achieve them.
—“Kerry for President,” the reactionary knee-jerk pose of the Washington Post, October 24, 2004.
Reality, after five years of the Obama administration making a hash of the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Israel:
“Should John Kerry, given his commitment and the direness of the situation, pack his bags?” asked Aaron David Miller, former Middle East negotiator, at an event this week at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
“No,” said Shibley Telhami, an Arab-Israeli author, University of Maryland professor, and occasional advisor to the U.S. government. “We have to figure out a role to play, but the question is, where’s the influence going to come from? Who’s got the leverage with the two parties? … I don’t really see the U.S. as having a particularly strong hand in trying to stop the Israelis from doing anything they want to do in Gaza.”
Robert Danin, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that a Kerry visit would be a poor substitute for a more comprehensive effort by all of the other officials in the U.S. government to engage both sides at the working level. That could be much more effective than a high-profile, one-off high-level Kerry visit.
“Now is a time for active American diplomacy at the level below John Kerry,” he said. “I think we’ve gotten trapped into a mindset that either John Kerry does it or it doesn’t get done.”
—“Everyone Says John Kerry Should Stay Out of the Middle East,” Josh Rogin, in the Daily Beast, the publication that the WaPo foisted Newsweek on for a dollar.