Iraq 1991, yes. Iraq 2003, no. Kosovo: yes. Afghanistan: definitely. Somalia? No. Rwanda? Probably.
Howard Dean, the presidential candidate most identified with opposition to the war in Iraq, returned to his critique of President Bush's foreign policy in a raucous rally on Sunday.
Two days before the New Hampshire primary, Dean delivered his standard case for his candidacy, stressing fiscal responsibility, health care and his grassroots support. But as he addressed a packed gymnasium on the campus of Plymouth State University, he tweaked his usual stump speech to include a more lengthy section on foreign affairs.
Dean is down in the polls, and so is Iraq: Most surveys indicate it is far less important to voters than health care or the economy.
But the war in Iraq is a key issue for Dean's support base, and with the forecast for primary day predicting messy weather, the candidate whose base is more energized might beat expectations.
Foreign policy is also an area when U.S. Sen. and Vietnam veteran John Kerry, who has stormed to a huge lead in most polls, is typically given an advantage over Dean.
A Dean staff member estimated Sunday night's crowd at between 1,400 and 1,600. A police officer said the rally occupied two-thirds of a gym that seats 850 people, but there were seats on the floor and many people standing.
"What we need is America is a government that's going to stand up for ordinary people against special interests and corporations," Dean said. A case in point, he argued, was the Iraq war, which he opposed when polls suggested most Americans supported it.
And while insisting he was "not here to bash another candidate," he questioned why Kerry had opposed the 1991 Gulf War, which Dean supported, but backed the more recent one.
His critique of Kerry and President Bush evolved into a declaration of foreign policy principles.
Dean says he backed the 1991 war because Iraq had invaded Kuwait and set the oil wells on fire, causing widespread environmental damage.
He supported the war in Afghanistan because the United States had been attacked, and the war in Kosovo because "we have an obligation, in the face of the failure of international organizations, to stop genocide."
"Patience and judgment" are what is required to conduct foreign policy appropriately, Dean said; "Cooperation, not confrontation" would underlie his administration's policy.
Force is appropriate only when the U.S. is attacked, when there is an imminent threat, or "a situation of genocide where force is a last resort," and where "it will not result in an undue risk to American troops," Dean said.
Given that qualifier, Dean said he would not have sent troops to Somalia, but might have dispatched them to Rwanda.
Supporters of the Iraq war argue that Saddam Hussein had committed genocide. Dean's critique put him on the side of all successful recent U.S. military engagements, and against only the one that ended in failure, Somalia, and the one that continues, in Iraq.
Dean accused Mr. Bush of misleading the country about the Iraqi threat, of failing to address the risk from Russian uranium stockpiles, and of mishandling North Korea.
"The president doesn't understand defense," Dean said, arguing that under Mr. Bush, the erosion of goodwill toward the United States hurt the country's security.
Defense depends not just on a strong military but also "on having a set of high moral principles and ideals," he said.
"I promise that on Tuesday if you elect me president of the United States I will restore the honor and respect of this country," he added.
At one point, as Dean's voice began to rise, a supporter warned him not to "get angry." Dean continued to self-deprecate about his now infamous speech after the Iowa caucus. He quipped: "You know, sometimes when I think of George Bush I could just scream."
Dean never screamed, but did refer to the "right-wing" drift of the country, and, in what might have been another bid to his progressive base, Dean mentioned the civil unions legislation he signed while governor.
Dean's wife, Dr. Judith Dean Steinberg, who has not been a regular presence on the campaign trail, attended the rally and introduced the candidate. After receiving a standing ovation in the middle of her remarks, she grinned and said, "I'm not used to this, but you guys are great."
The one-time frontrunner, now a fading second is most polls, told the crowd to bring a friend to the polls. He closed with a call to "stand up for what we believe in." The crowd answered with the thunderous chant, "We want Dean. We want Dean."
Outside, one attendee said she liked the focus on foreign policy. Then she asked "Will all those people in there go vote for him?"
By Jarrett Murphy