- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 29, 2004

One reason John Kerry will lose the foreign-policy debate tonight in Coral Gables, Fla., is that he is a pessimist and a defeatist.

His recent broad-side attacks on President Bush’s war against terrorism are right out of the Vietnam-era: Blame America. Blame the commander in chief. Blame the military. Assume we will lose.

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi of Iraq seemed to grasp the danger in this when he spoke in the Rose Garden last week: “When political leaders sound the siren of defeatism in the face of terrorism, it only encourages more violence.” Compare that line to one Mr. Kerry delivered at New York University: “We have traded a dictator for chaos that has left America less secure.”

Less secure? Is he nuts? The U.S. took out the Taliban in Afghanistan. With the help of Pakistan we are destroying the al Qaeda organization. We have taken out Saddam, who, by the way, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was planning an attack on the United States.

Mr. Kerry, who despicably agrees with Kofi Annan that the Iraq war was somehow illegal, calls Iraq a “profound diversion” from the battle against al Qaeda. But former allied commander Tommy Franks says in his book that “we entered Iraq with 9,500 troopers in Afghanistan. And by the time we finished major combat in Afghanistan — or in Iraq — we had 10,000 troops in Afghanistan.”

Do we need Mr. Allawi to remind us Iraq is a “country emerging finally from dark ages of violence, aggression, corruption and greed”? Mr. Allawi underlined the fact more than a million Iraqis were murdered or disappeared under Saddam, with at least 300,000 found in mass graves. Mr. Allawi concluded, “My friends, today we are better off, you are better off, and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein.”

Mr. Kerry may correctly say Iraq has become a terrorist haven. But we have engaged the forces of Islamo-fascism and terrorism on their turf rather than ours. Surely this has made America safer.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has established a forward military beachhead in the heart of the Middle East. This will enable the U.S. to respond quickly to potentially aggressive actions from Syria, Iran and others. Think of it as keeping troops in South Korea or Japan or Germany during the Cold War. It’s a vitally important strategic objective.

In his speech before Congress, Mr. Allawi chronicled progress in quelling the terrorist insurrection and laying the groundwork for free elections. Most — 14 to 15 — of the 18 Iraqi provinces are stabilized. Najaf and Kufa are in better shape. Secretary of State Colin Powell has made it clear the U.S. military soon will mop up in Ramadi and Samarra, before tackling Fallujah. Mr. Kerry apparently doubts the U.S. military, but they will not let us down.

According to Iraq the Model, an Iraq-based blog, there’s no bad news out of Duhok, Samawa, Diwanya, Kerbela, Irbil, Ammarah, Kut, Hilla, Rawa, Haditha, Ana, Rutba and Heet. The Kurds enthusiastically embrace the election outlook up north. The Ayatollah Al-Sistani is a strong supporter of elections in the Shi’ite south. Mr. Allawi and other observers also confirm oil pipelines are being repaired, homes are being rebuilt, hospitals are working, and millions of kids are back in school.

Defeatism is the hallmark of the Kerry policy, so you won’t hear the candidate mention any of this. Instead he’ll whine about internationalizing the war, while neglecting to mention that U.N. Resolution 1546, which passed in June, endorsed the Iraqi interim government and pledged support for the upcoming elections. The Group of Eight major industrial countries, the European Union and NATO issued formal statements of support.

Problems in Iraq? Absolutely. A quagmire? Absolutely not. Mr. Allawi a strong ally? Definitely. “But a puppet of the United States, [where] you can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips,” as top Kerry adviser Joe Lockhart put it? Nonsense. Pure partisan political pap. And the solutions Mr. Kerry puts forward — training Iraqi security forces, rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure, holding elections in January, bringing in more allies — are already being undertaken by the Bush administration.

This is World War IV, as Norman Podhoretz recently put it. Mr. Bush understands this. Mr. Kerry does not. In essence, it’s a vision thing — a key difference that will surface in Thursday’s debate. Mr. Bush’s vision is to use American power to promote democracy and freedom in a vital part of the world that has become unimaginably dangerous. Mr. Bush’s vision is also one of optimism, of America’s ability to succeed in a humanitarian operation that will make the world a better place and leave America safer and more secure.

Mr. Kerry has no such vision. He is a pessimist and a defeatist whose campaign is doomed to fail.

Lawrence Kudlow is a nationally syndicated columnist and is chief executive officer of Kudlow & Co., LLC, and CNBC’s economics commentator.

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