Stability Versus Democracy

John Kerry [otbblog/jamesotb] is sounding an interesting new theme on Iraq:

Sen. John. F. Kerry on Wednesday stressed that the chief interest of the U.S. should be to build a stable Iraq, but not necessarily a democratic one — a view at odds with President Bush’s vision of the troubled country’s political future.

“I have always said from day one that the goal here … is a stable Iraq, not whether or not that’s a full democracy,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee told reporters after conducting a town hall meeting at the City College of New York in Harlem. “I can’t tell you what it’s going to be, but a stable Iraq. And that stability can take several different forms.”

Kerry’s remarks, although not a change of position, stood in sharp contrast to Bush’s comments Tuesday about the importance of establishing a democratic Iraq. And Bush campaign aides on Wednesday unleashed their harshest critique yet of Kerry’s stance on the conflict, accusing him of undermining U.S. troops in Iraq.

At his news conference, Kerry hastened to add that the U.S. should not give up on the effort to bring democracy to Iraq.

“You leave with stability, [and] you hope that you can continue the process of democratization. Obviously, that’s the goal,” he said. “With respect to getting our troops out, the measure is the stability of Iraq.”

Rob Targorda notes that this is ironic, in that it puts Bush much further into the liberal internationalist tradition than Kerry. He also wonders about the political wisdom:

Frankly, I’m surprised that the senator’s campaign is engaging in “talk about what are the realistic terms about the transfer of power.” I would have thought that, since Bush has already done the dirty work of invasion and occupation, Kerry would seek to reclaim the mantle of democracy promotion by accusing the administration of ineptly implementing it. But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, Kerry is casting internationalism as deferral to world bodies and removing ideals from the top of the agenda.

Ironically, too, is that it seems to suddenly converge with the position of Charles Krauthammer.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, 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. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    So, he’s given up on Democracy for Iraq, and then he hasn’t.

    This is new for Kerry?

  2. McGehee says:

    “I was against democracy in Iraq, before I was for it.”

    I guess one of his handlers reminded him that giving up on democracy in Iraq would mean believing that “those people” couldn’t possibly make democracy work. Which would give lie to the name.