The Magazine

Iraq One Year Later

From the March 22, 2004 issue: Real and important progress has been made in this momentous, and at times trying, year.

Mar 22, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 27 • By ROBERT KAGAN and WILLIAM KRISTOL
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The reality of the present is that the window of opportunity is closing on our ability to bring peace to Iraq. . . . Losing the peace in Iraq is not about terror alone. It is so much bigger than that. . . . If we lose Iraq, Iran becomes an incredibly empowered nation; Syria becomes more emboldened; Turkey, an Islamic government, seeing a failed state on their border, becomes more radicalized; Iran, surrounded by the failed states of Iraq and Afghanistan, puts in jeopardy the very existence of Pakistan. . . . Losing the peace would reinforce the view held by the extremists in the Arab and Islamic world that while the United States can project power, we have no staying power, and that all they have to do is wait us out. . . . It would confirm the concerns of many moderate Arab regimes expressed before we went to war with Iraq that we would not finish the job. Our credibility in Iraq and the region and across the globe will be at rock bottom if we do not successfully secure the peace. America and Americans will be far less secure to boot.

Senator John McCain at the time accused Kerry, and John Edwards, of pandering to Howard Dean and the liberal base of the Democratic party. "They know better than that," McCain chided. Kerry may know better, but McCain was right about Kerry's political calculations. In an interview after the vote, Kerry attempted to explain his decision by pointing to a poll the previous week which showed that many voters in three early primary states said they preferred a nominee who voted for the war but who was critical of Bush's handling of Iraq after the war. Kerry was pleased to report he had received an ovation at a Democratic rally when he spoke of his vote against the $87 billion. "I think over time it's sinking in,'' Kerry told reporters. "I think I was prescient. I think I showed leadership.''

We don't think so, and we wish the Democratic party had chosen someone with a better understanding of leadership. But now that Kerry is the nominee, we trust that serious Democrats will do their best to see to it that their candidate expresses a commitment like the president's to finishing the task in Iraq. Real and important progress has been made in this momentous, and at times trying, year. There should be no debating the need to persevere.

--Robert Kagan and William Kristol