John Kerry’s Plan to Bring the Troops Home

John Kerry says the “Plan is to bring troops home” in his USA Today op-ed by that title. It’s an interesting start, but I have a few questions for him.

I know what our troops go through when they carry an M-16 in a dangerous place and can’t tell friend from foe. I know what they go through when they are out on patrol at night and don’t know what’s coming around the next bend. I know what it is like to write letters home telling your family that everything’s all right when you’re not sure that’s true.

Good start. Remind us that you were in Vietnam. A lot of people don’t know that.

As president, I will never send troops into battle without the right equipment or a plan to win the peace.

Actually, you voted for this war (before you voted against funding it). What equipment didn’t they have that you would have procured? The newest flak jackets and armored Humvees that weren’t in the inventory? How would you have gotten them faster? And didn’t you vote against the money to buy that stuff time and again?

I will bring back our nation’s time-honored tradition: The United States never goes to war because we want to. We only go to war because we have to.

Who wants to go to war? President Bush? The 296 House members and 77 Senators (including you and your running mate) that voted for it? Why did you support war in Bosnia and Kosovo, where there was not even the hint of danger to U.S. national security, if you oppose optional wars?

I will meet our sacred commitment to our brave troops in Iraq — to end their mission successfully and bring them home as soon as possible. At stake is whether Iraq will complete its march to democracy or degenerate into the next proving ground for terrorists.

But, if we don’t “have to” be there, why wouldn’t you bring them home immediately?

My plan is to:

̢ۢ Lead NATO to make the security of Iraq one of its global missions and to deploy a significant portion of the force needed to secure and win the peace there. NATO participation will open the door to greater international involvement from non-NATO countries.

Is this the NATO with France and Germany in it, or a different one? What would you do to make this happen, given that it hasn’t so far? Do you honestly expect us to believe that two major nation states are opposing the war effort solely because they don’t like President Bush but would go against the overwhelming popular sentiment in their countries, sending troops to die in Iraq, simply because you come to office and they like you?

̢ۢ Internationalize the reconstruction efforts in Iraq to end the continuing perception of a U.S. occupation and help coordinate the rebuilding.

It’s a little late for that, since we’ve already turned things over to the Iraqis months ago. Aside from that, what are you going to do differently to make this happen? President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have been grovelling to the U.N. for nearly two years with nothing to show for it.

̢ۢ Launch a massive and accelerated training effort to build Iraqi security forces that can provide real security for the Iraqi people, including a major role for NATO. This is not a task for America alone; we must join as a partner with other nations.

The first part of this is well underway under the able leadership of General Petraeus. NATO has already promised token support but, at the risk of repeating myself, what is it that you’re going to do to get France and Germany to play a more significant role?

• Plan for Iraq’s future by working with our allies to forgive Iraq’s multibillion-dollar debt and involve our allies in the development of a new Iraqi constitution and the political arrangements needed to protect minority rights. At the same time, we should convene a regional conference with Iraq’s neighbors to secure a pledge of respect for Iraq’s borders and non-interference in Iraq’s national affairs.

The Bush Administration has been working this one for two years. Your plan differs how?

This is not an instant solution. There isn’t one. But it’s a realistic plan to share the burden and secure the peace and bring our troops home.

With all due respect, Senator, it isn’t a plan. It’s a series of platitudes basically saying nothing more than “We’re going to do exactly what the Bush Administration has been doing but it’s going to somehow work when we do it.”

Update (1003): McQ agrees with my assessment and documents substantial progress on several of these points that has already taken place.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004, Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    With all due respect, Senator, it isn’t a plan. It’s a series of platitudes basically saying nothing more than “We’re going to do exactly what the Bush Administration has been doing but it’s going to somehow work when we do it.”

    I once challenged an anti-Bush commenter on some blog, to explain what her candidate’s plan was to do better than Bush.

    What I got was, as you say, a series of platitudes instead of a plan. And I told her so.

    I never did get a further response.

  2. Boyd says:

    I’m wondering about the part where Senator Kerry says he wants to “involve our allies in the development of a new Iraqi constitution…” I thought the Iraqis were supposed to develop their own, permanent constitution. He plans to remove that authority from the Iraqis and save it for the U.S. and our allies?

    Sounds pretty cheeky to me. I’m not sure the Iraqis would think very highly of that idea.

  3. GP says:

    No, Kerry’s “plan” doesn’t differ substantially from what the Bush administration is trying to do in Iraq.

    Kerry however is trying to exploit three important differences. The first is based on the Democratic party line that Bush never had a plan to win the peace. This isn’t true because Bush did have plan, it was just based on a mixture of naiveté, incompetence and faulty intelligence gathered from known crooks that should never have been trusted. In that light, it’s very easy for Kerry to pick up points by saying “I would have done better”. Obviously we will never know if Kerry would have, but he looks good for saying it, and Bush looks bad because he cannot say it.

    The second is that Bush has never shown a clear understanding of the problems in Iraq, or at least been able to clearly and concisely explain it as Kerry does. For many voters, Kerry’s article in USA Today or at the convention was the first time they heard these steps. Bush should have done the same months ago (he tried at the Military College, but it was a small venue and he didn’t do well with it). Now he is in the odd position of looking like he is copying Kerry’s plan (when it looks more like the other way around). Bush’s failure to do so has the added benefit of playing into the Democratic party’s other line: that being Bush is too stupid to understand complex issues and thus cannot clearly explain how the troops will come home.

    The third difference is that Kerry believes he will be more successful in convincing allies (even the Germans and French) to help out more with security, training, debt forgiveness, etc. Bush and his administration has been pretty disdainful of our allies (the name calling being the height of absurdity), so Kerry may have a valid argument here. Diplomacy is not a morality play of black and white dimensions. It’s a careful balancing of interests. The Bush administation knows this (just look at their dance with terrorist loving Pakistan and Saudi Arabia). In light of their recognition of this, Bush’s treatment of our allies is perplexing and gives Kerry another opening to say something that is unprovable (“I would never have renamed French fries” and “I will call them French fries forever”)

  4. Bill Parker says:

    Actually sounds like these two multimillionare Ivy-League guys are alot alike. I wonder if they learned that a Havard, or in the Skull and Crossbones Frat, or from all the mutual acquaintances they grew up with.

    Iraq is a mess, and the real enemy, the terrorists that attacked our country are still in Pushtun controlled Pakistan.

  5. BradDad says:

    Kerry’d better tell us about his “Plan B”, because his “Plan A” is going nowhere for the reasons discussed above.

    Oh, I forgot – “Plan B” is to “Bug Out”.

  6. Scott Reitz says:

    It is difficult to see exactly how Sen. John Kerry “plans” to bring our troops home from Iraq, Especially when he states that he will “Launch a massive and accelerated training effort to build Iraqi security forces”.

    It is true, however, that Sen. John Kerry did indeed serve in the Vietnam War. He served 4 months as a Lieutenant in the Costal Division. He had received three Purple Hearts. The first of theses purple hearts was caused by supposed enemy fire. When the two enlisted men that were with him on the exercise claim that it was caused by a flying piece of shrapnel when Mr. Kerry fired a grenade on some rocks too close to shore. The medical officer treated this wound with nothing more than a Band-Aid.

    Another interesting point is that when Mr. Kerry returned from Vietnam he accused some two million plus soldiers, whom put their lives on the line, of war crimes. Imagine how that must make our brave soldiers, whom fight for our freedom, feel to go into extremely hostile territory only to come home to the people whom are supposed to show support, accusing war crimes on our soldiers. This is to be the leader of this great nation! If Sen. Kerry cannot support the brave men and women whom fight to keep this nation great, can we support him as president?

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