Allies Uber Alles

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This column from The Weekly Standard was written by Tom Donnelly.

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.

By Tom Donnelly