The Magazine

Taking Flip-Flops Seriously

From the September 20, 2004 issue: on fundamental matters of war and peace, John Kerry will not or cannot hold to a position under pressure.

Sep 20, 2004, Vol. 10, No. 02 • By ROBERT KAGAN and WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Given this reality, it seems to us there has always been a responsible and defensible stance for a Democratic presidential candidate to take. It would be the position taken, for example, by Senators Joseph Biden, Evan Bayh, and Joseph Lieberman--supportive of the war but critical when necessary. Each has been unwavering on the importance of rebuilding Iraq. Each supported the $87 billion supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan. Each has expressed unhappiness with the Bush administration, while insisting that the United States must remain committed to achieving success in Iraq. These senators are not alone. This is also the view of much of the Democratic foreign policy establishment. It is the view of most former Clinton administration officials, people like Sandy Berger, Richard Holbrooke, and Thomas Donilon.

Unfortunately, it is not currently the view of John Kerry. Maybe Kerry will change his position again, under a different set of pressures. But that won't alter the fundamental truth about his character. If Kerry can throw Iraq overboard in this campaign, he will do so as president. It is that lack of commitment today, much more than anything in his past, that makes John Kerry unfit for command.

--Robert Kagan and William Kristol