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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Yes, our allies notice when Kerry mocks them

One lesson that I'm trying to absorb is the degree to which the internet — along with global television news channels and other high-tech media — are transforming our international information-age society.  In my own blogging, I'm far too often guilty of thinking of my audience as if it were limited to the USA.  And yet, with one click of a hyperlink, I can tell at a glance that fully ten percent of the visits to my own website come from longitudes that don't pass through the USA; and I suppose that some unknown portion of the remaining ninety percent could be from Canada, Mexico, or Central or South America. 

If even BeldarBlog is being read in Poland and Pakistan and Australia, what chance is there that John Kerry's vastly more public, vastly more widely repeated comments about those countries won't be?

This morning, an emailer from Down Under pointed me to this op-ed in The Australian, that country's largest-selling newspaper, which was extracted and adapted from an article in The Weekly Standard by Gerald Baker, who's the U.S. editor of The Times of London.  So one presumes that in addition to the internet-savy Aussies who've been following US politics online, some millions more of their countrymen will learn today, if they hadn't already, about what Mr. Baker aptly characterizes (in a bit of American slang that I gather has gone world-wide, or at least to Oz) as John Kerry's "dissing so comprehensively the role played by US allies in Iraq":

LAST year, John Kerry told supporters that the more than 30 nations in the international operation to remove Saddam Hussein represented a "trumped-up, so-called coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted".

Evidently pleased with this formulation, the Democratic presidential candidate revisited it last week. Promising again to build a real coalition to replace the one in Iraq, he heaped contempt on the efforts of those countries already there.

"When they talk about a coalition — that's the phoniest thing I ever heard," Kerry said. "You've got 500 troops here, 500 troops there, and it's American troops that are 90 per cent of the combat casualties and it's American taxpayers that are paying 90 per cent of the cost of the war." Never mind that Italy still has 2700 military personnel in Iraq, Britain has 8000 troops, Poland has 2400, Ukraine 1500, the Netherlands 1400, Romania 700 and South Korea 600.

True, these are small numbers compared with the vast US force. But most of these nations are also supporting US-led operations in Afghanistan and, given in many cases their exiguous defence budgets, their contributions are not insignificant to the countries themselves. And, strikingly, despite Kerry's scorn, they have borne a sizeable, roughly proportionate burden of total casualties. Meaningless to Kerry, of course. All just "window-dressing", in another of the senator's memorable recent phrases designed to prettify George W. Bush's "unilateral" war. It is odd to hear a candidate, who has made rebuilding relations with US allies a central part of his campaign platform, so casually dismiss the efforts of so many of those allies.

Some of my readers, in comments dissenting from my recent rants on this subject, have argued that Kerry's really just attacking Bush for failing to build a broader consensus and larger coalition.  Well, a politician who is statesmanlike and careful with his language — sensitive and nuanced, shall we say? — could perhaps have done so.  He could have prefaced his attacks on Bush — at least some of them, surely! — with words of gratitude and appreciation for the faithful allies that the US does have.

But John Forbes Kerry — the son of a career lawyer-diplomat, the multi-lingual product of elite Swiss boarding schools and bike-rides past the Berlin Wall and summer holidays in Brittany — hasn't. 

If his intent has been to tar only George W. Bush, he's used too large a paintbrush, and wielded it sloppily.  However far ahead a Kerry Administration might start off with the French or the Germans or the Belgians or the Luxembourgians, will that make up the ground he's lost with the Albanians, Armenians, Australians, Azerbaijanis, British, Bulgarians, Czechs, Danes, Dominicans, Dutch, Estonians, Georgians, Hondurans, Hungarians, Italians, Japanese, Kazakhstanis, Latvians, Lithuanians, Macedonians, Mongolians, Nicaraguans, Norwegians, Pakistanis, Poles, Portugese, Romanians, Saudis,  Singaporeans, Slovakians, South Koreans, Spaniards, Thais, Ukrainians, — and yes, even the Micronesians? 

(My list is drawn largely from this Congressional Research Service report (at page 40 of the .pdf file) of countries who've pledged forces in Iraq, plus a few other countries that I recall seeing elsewhere as having cooperated to one degree or another with the Bush Administration in the Global War on Terror.  Yes, some of those countries — Spain, for example — have withdrawn their troops, but that does not diminish the appreciation we owe them for the time their troops served.  Others — the Saudis, and probably several other countries that I haven't named — will be snickered at by skeptics as having been insincere or ineffective in their efforts; but again, one does not gain or retain friends by mocking countries' positive steps.)

Posted by Beldar at 09:25 AM | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Yes, our allies notice when Kerry mocks them and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» red pepper afterglow from f/k/a

Tracked on Sep 15, 2004 4:17:29 PM


(1) Dafydd made the following comment | Sep 14, 2004 3:29:35 PM | Permalink

Is it possible that Kerry is only echoing the analysis of his top candidate for Secretary of State, Jacques Chirac, who famously opined that European countries hoping to join the EU, and who had the bad manners to support the US call to oust Hussein, had "missed a good opportunity to keep quiet?"


(2) Arvin made the following comment | Sep 14, 2004 7:07:24 PM | Permalink

Fantastic points beldar!.. For a man who stakes his campaign on building a 'broader coalition' he has done greater damage to that coalition than a thousand pre-emptive wars could ever do.

That said, I think our current coalition partners would still be able to put aside the campaign rhetoric, and work with any president for the greater world good.. But if Kerry (should he be elected) continues to take warm dumps all over the coalition, then he will find himself isolated.. This time the isolation will be real and not some trumped up democratic talking point.


(3) GT made the following comment | Sep 14, 2004 8:18:57 PM | Permalink

Bush is utterly HATED in the rest of the world and Kerry is, by far, the preferred candidate by the immense majority of people outside the US.

So if it's the opinion of our allies that you are wondering about...

(4) Stan made the following comment | Sep 15, 2004 4:35:32 AM | Permalink

It's your country GT, so vote for who you like. But don't speak for the rest of us. Your intellect has its limits.

(5) GT made the following comment | Sep 15, 2004 8:06:48 AM | Permalink

I don't know where you live Stan but if you are outside the US and support Bush you are an endangered minority.

(6) Scott made the following comment | Sep 15, 2004 10:19:35 AM | Permalink

Let's get real here for a minute. The world hates Bush because of his policies. Why? Because they are so disimliar to their own. And so you should ask yourselves. Do you want a country like the other countries of the world or a country as great as America!!

The world doesn't like Kerry because he's likable, they like Kerry because he's a liberal wishy-washy who's weak on defense. Him being in power will diminish America and that's what the world wants. Except for notable countries like Poland who much prefer Bush. Funny how they've so recently faced oppression and communism. Their memory hasn't lapsed like other ingrateful countries--say France.

(7) Alan E Brain made the following comment | Sep 15, 2004 10:58:50 AM | Permalink

Oh, we know what Kerry's been saying. And a few months ago, we would have felt insulted.

But we also know the lead Bush has got, so what Kerry says is irrelevant. If the situation changes, we'll take notice, but until then, we have more important things on our mind than what some no-hoper candidate is spouting today.

(AEB - Canberra, Australia)

(8) David Gillies made the following comment | Sep 15, 2004 1:53:37 PM | Permalink

I'm a Briton living in Costa Rica. I was outraged when I first heard Kerry spouting this line. It's fair to say that many of the troop commitments have been small (although as you point out, not insignificant to the countries in question). However, one cannot dismiss the UK commitment in like fashion. British armed forces at the time of the invasion were FORTY FIVE THOUSAND. That is a lot of people. It requires expenditures of billions of pounds. So far nearly 70 UK personnel have lost their lives.

John Kerry can get stuffed. And contra some of the statements here, support for Bush outside the USA is not as unusual as you might think.

(9) John F made the following comment | Sep 15, 2004 1:56:54 PM | Permalink

Speaking as a Briton, Senator Kerry's statement about "the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted" certainly annoyed me when I heard of it.

Kerry becoming President would not in itself undermine my support for alliance with America.
But if he were, for a lesson in political realities I might suggest he try looking to Paris first for support in a crisis.
Best of luck.
Regarding France, he should realise that their attitude is best summed up by the line from The Godfather:
"It was nothing personal, it was just business."

Generally, I would be more comfortable with the prospect of Senator Kerry's leadership if I had any idea what, precisely, his policies would be, and some idea of a strategy behind them.

GT stated "if you are outside the US and support Bush you are an endangered minority."

What concerns me is not being a minority, but being endagered. And events indicate there are really dangers actors in the world today: see Bali, Madrid, Beslan, Iranian nuclear programme etc.

John F (Birmingham, UK)

(10) David Blue made the following comment | Sep 15, 2004 9:06:20 PM | Permalink

AEB is right. John F. Kerry's remarks are noticed in Australia and not liked, but they remain irrelevant as long as he remains an irrelevant loser.

I'm another pro-Bush guy. We are all in this war, all the way, whether we like it or not. Bali proved that. I want our side to fight to win. I know George W. Bush isn't kidding, so I hope the Americans re-elect him, and I'm sure they will. Besides, with George W. Bush you get Colin Powell and Richard Armitage, and Richard Armitage always makes a great impression on me: down-to earth, friendly, knows the region.

Another (and "slightly" more important) Bush-backer is Vladimir Putin. He needs to deal with an American President who's predictable and clear in his intentions, and George W. Bush is. Besides, Putin too now seriously wants to win his part of the Global War on Terror.

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