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Allies Uber Alles

Why is John Kerry so obsessed with France and Germany?

12:00 AM, Sep 23, 2004 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
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WHAT IS IT with John Kerry and "allies?"

At some point, you have to take the French and the Germans at their word--especially when it involves not going to war--but only a little less so when it means not spending money. It takes a very willful sort of myopia to believe that, if it weren't for their irritation with President Bush, the "allies"--and this is code for France and Germany--would be standing shoulder to shoulder to us in Iraq.

Nevertheless, in his big Iraq speech on Monday where he argued that Mesopotamia was a complete mess, the number one item in Kerry's Four Points (just ten shy of Woodrow Wilson) was offering the Euros another chance to get in on the deal. Or, more politely, "share the burden with us."

Kerry reminded his audience that he has "repeatedly recommended this from the very beginning." And so he has; it's one of his few consistent positions. He also observed that "not a single country has answered the call" of U.N. Resolution 1546 for either troops or money or debt relief from Saddam Hussein's tenure. What's puzzling is not so much the fear or greed or spite of the Europeans--transforming the politics of the greater Middle East is not a task for those riddled by strategic self-doubt--it's that Kerry continues to ignore what the Euros plainly say. Almost two years ago the German foreign minister famously told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that he was "not convinced" about Iraq. There's no reason to think he's about to change that opinion.

There are several possible answers to the question of Kerry and allies. One is that he knows the Euros aren't interested in sharing any burden and, even if they had the will, haven't the ways. Western Europeans, the British always excepted, have a hard time projecting and sustaining military force to the eastern end of their own continent, let alone the Middle East. The plucky Poles have contributed a larger force to the mission in Iraq, and kept it there longer, than the Germans could have.

The second possibility is that Kerry really doesn't know any better. Though he's the son of a professional foreign service officer and is renowned for his appreciation of the "nuances" and "complexities" of international politics, he hasn't exactly been a frequent presence at Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings, as committee chairman Sen. Richard Lugar recently observed. Maybe Kerry lost track back in the 1980s, when the western Europeans were really on the front lines and the Bundeswehr was better prepared for combat. (He also seems to have forgotten that many real-life Western Europeans have answered the call.)

Or perhaps we should consider a psychological explanation. Kerry is obsessed with European approval--it is "the only way to succeed!"--in ways that defy logic. Alliances are meant to be means, not ends in themselves. Kerry often seems more interested in strategic self-esteem than in actually winning the war in Iraq. He's more concerned with hearts and minds in Brussels than Baghdad.

Any way you look at it, Kerry's biggest fear, as he has repeated repeatedly since before the beginning, is being alone in the dark world of international politics. This is, perhaps, a drawback if you're auditioning to be commander-in-chief of history's sole superpower and official Leader of the Free World.

Tom Donnelly is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard.

Previous Campaign Memos:

Kerry's Phony Foreign Forces, Would President Kerry be able to get France and Germany to help share the burden in Iraq? Chirac says, "Non!" September 22, 2004

Nothing To Do With the Truth, John Kerry continues to insist that Saddam Hussein had "nothing to do with al Qaeda." And he continues to be wrong. September 22, 2004

Lugar's Other Comments, The media played up Richard Lugar's recent remarks about President Bush; will they do the same with his assessment of Senator Kerry? September 21, 2004

For Kerry, It's Always Vietnam, The subtext of John Kerry's Monday morning Iraq speech. September 20, 2004

Kerry's Flip-Flopping on Russia, The senator has two views on promoting democracy in Russia, too. September 16, 2004

Wrong Choices, A look at John Kerry's record. September 15, 2004

Another New Kerry Position on Iraq . . . and the same one on Vietnam. September 15, 2004

Kerry and the "Direct Link," The Kerry campaign is distorting Dick Cheney's words. September 13, 2004

Kerry's North Korea Non-policy, John Kerry calls the New York Times with complaints, but no plan. September 13, 2004

If John Kerry Were President, . . . Saddam would still be in power. September 8, 2004

Kerry vs. Kerry, What does "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" mean? September 7, 2004

The Kerry Record, What John Kerry about foreign policy and defense in 1984 and 1985. September 3, 2004

It Was This Big . . ., Does John Kerry still believe that the terror threat is an "exaggeration"? September 1, 2004

John Edwards: Disrespecting Our Allies, America isn't acting alone. September 1, 2004

No Bargain, The "grand bargain" John Kerry and John Edwards are prepared to offer Iran deserves serious scrutiny. September 1, 2004