CQ Flashback: A Distinction Without A Difference

John Kerry continued his attempt to differentiate himself from George Bush on Iraq policy yesterday in a speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, following Dick Cheney’s widely-criticized political speech last week at the same venue. The Los Angeles Times reports that Kerry continues to expound on “international cooperation” without explaining how that differs from what the US is doing now:

Sen. John F. Kerry challenged President Bush on Friday to engage in personal diplomacy to try to repair relationships with other influential nations and gain their support for an international mission in Iraq.
During a 30-minute address at Westminster College here, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee pledged to support his rival’s policy in Iraq if Bush pursued that effort. … He urged the president to form a political coalition with the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and other nations to endorse the effort to stabilize Iraq and back the plan for an interim Iraqi government proposed by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

In other words, Kerry wants a new United Nations Security Council resolution, but he now takes care not to mention the UN. After all, a “political coalition” between the US, UK, France, Russia, and China comprises all of the veto-holding members of the UNSC. Kerry’s campaign must realize now that the electorate won’t buy any more rhetoric about coughing up control to the war on terror to the UN or even the UNSC, given the elaborate scam into which the UN Oil-For-Food program dissolved. And the primary beneficiaries of the OFF Program happened to be French, Russian, and Chinese to a smaller extent.
On the question of international participation, though, the Coalition comprises more than 30 nations already, although not the three that Kerry likes best:

The Bush campaign dismissed the speech as a rehash of steps the administration was already taking, arguing that many U.N. and NATO members were already involved in the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq.
“Sen. Kerry has constantly disparaged the coalition of over 30 nations that are making the contribution and sharing the sacrifice in Iraq,” said Bush spokesman Steve Schmidt. “The president is constantly in communication with those nations, so Kerry’s criticism has no basis in fact.”

Kerry says, repeatedly, that he will use “personal diplomacy” in order to bring the Recalcitrant Three into a new, broader coalition that will “end the sense of American occupation” in Iraq. However, he does not address exactly what he will give up in order to buy their participation; France and Russia in particular are not suddenly going to send troops to Iraq just because Kerry has a lucky face. Both countries made billions off of Saddam’s monopoly grip on oil production in Iraq before the war, both legitimately and illegitimately. The Iraqis have not shown an inclination to do preferential business with Saddam’s enablers of their oppression, post-liberation. Since their commercial interests in Iraq have been seriously curtailed, they don’t have much to gain by risking the ire of the electorate that they have deliberately kept against Iraq’s liberation, to the extent in France that people were openly rooting for Saddam to win.
Kerry’s proposal, such as it is, means one of two things. Either Kerry intends on forcing the new Iraqi government to honor contractual agreements that existed under the Saddam regime with France and Russia, thus undermining their sovereignty while forcing them to do business with the same people who cheerfully called for their continuing oppression, or he simply wants meaningless statements of support in order to claim France, Russia, and China for partners in Iraq. Either way, will this change the number of American troops in Iraq? No, since none of these countries will send significant numbers of troops either way. What it will do will be to remove Anglo-American control on the effort and instead turn Iraq into the Balkans all over again, where we have been for nine years with no end in sight.
Kerry may have dialed down the political rhetoric at Westminster, but he continues to keep substance even lower. Twenty years ago, Walter Mondale tormented Gary Hart (and everyone else) by asking him, “Where’s the beef?” every time the Senator tried to get by on mere platitudes. It seems that question has only become more applicable to this Democratic campaign.