Britain has 9,000 troops in Iraq, hundreds of whom are being drawn into the less stable regions of the country at American request. For the foreseeable future, our troops will play a central role in the bringing of order to the liberated country. Mr Bush has made many mistakes in Iraq. But one thing is certain: Saddam Hussein has been deposed. Mr Kerry is not even sure that the Iraqi dictator’s tyranny would be over had he been President. “He might be gone,” is as far as he was willing to go in an interview with NBC last week.
Indeed, Mr Kerry’s position on the war could scarcely be more muddled. The Senator voted for the invasion (unlike the first Gulf War, which he voted against). However, last October, he voted against an appropriation to support American soldiers dealing with the aftermath of a war he had approved. He has said that Mr Bush failed to commit enough troops to Iraq, but at the same time has promised to start bringing American soldiers home six months after taking office. Who, then, will plug the gap? The French foreign minister, Michel Barnier, has said that France will “never” send its troops to Iraq, even if Mr Kerry does win. Germany is no less forthright. How does the Democrat candidate propose to “win” in Iraq – as he says he would – in such operational circumstances?
Mr Kerry has done everything to encourage the charge that he is stranded in the world of September 10. “We have to get back to the place we were,” he said this month, “where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance.” That would no doubt be desirable. But nothing Mr Kerry has said suggests that he knows how to achieve this goal. The intellectual vacuum at the heart of his candidacy has profound implications for Britain’s strategic interests and the lives of our troops: in both cases, this country would be better served by the re-election of Mr Bush.