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Jewish World Review August 20, 2004 / 3 Elul, 5764

Diana West

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Kerry's Middle East myopia | Remember when Gerald Ford declared there was no Soviet domination of, well, Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe? That stunner of a blooper helped doom his 1976 White House bid against Jimmy Carter.

And speaking of Jimmy Carter, remember when the erstwhile Georgia peanut farmer got his first inkling of the perils of Soviet expansionism? It was December 1979, and Moscow had just sent 80,000 troops into Afghanistan. Carter declared that this particular act of aggression "made a more dramatic change in my own opinion of what the Soviets' ultimate goals are" than anything else he'd noticed during nearly three Cold War years spent in the Oval Office. Better late and all that, but such self-professed naivete helped cost Carter re-election in 1980.

Now, John Kerry has joined this exclusive club of presidential candidates who reveal a memorably shocking failure to grasp not just realpolitik, but just plain reality. In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars — an appearance fraught with historical irony given Kerry's former role as spokesman for the now-defunct Vietnam Veterans Against the War — John Kerry let fly a foreign policy gaffe of considerable heft.

In repeating his customary critique of Bush for not having garnered international support for the war in Iraq — as usual, dismissing the sacrifices of Great Britain, Poland, Italy and others — Kerry stated: "Every Arab country has a stake in not having a failed Iraq, but they're not at the table. Every European country has a stake in not having a failed Iraq, in not having a civil war, but they're not at the table." Which is to say, in Kerry's world, every country, European and Arab alike, would sit down to discuss Iraqi stakes at his White House table. (No word on seating arrangements for African, Asian and Latin American countries.) I can hear it now: "Let's have some more of that American Way," says France. "Pass the women's rights," says Saudi Arabia, "and let's hear it for religious freedom in Iraq." "More tolerance and free elections," say Syria and Egypt.

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Having very recently considered France's treacherous opposition to American victory in the Middle East from its place at the head of the anti-American "Eurabian" bloc, I'm going to give the Euro half of Kerry's extremely troubling declaration a pass. Besides, it is also true that some European countries do indeed root for a democratic Iraq, which is why they are assisting us already.

That leaves Kerry's Arab blooper. "Every Arab country has a stake in not having a failed Iraq," he says. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but ... no, they don't. In saying so, Kerry has revealed a dangerous myopia. In his hazy, rosy vision, nothing would please the dictatorships of the Middle East more — from Syria's Baathist regime, to Saudi Arabia's sharia-based monarchy, to Egypt's de facto police state, to Iran's non-Arab proto-nuclear mullah-ocracy — than to see religious liberty, legal equality and a host of other freedoms flourish in a tolerant, democratic Iraq. Welcome to John Kerry's world. Too bad the rest of us don't live there.

The fact is, the Broader Middle East Initiative, the ambitious, status-quo-busting Bush plan to expand liberty in the repressive, terror-exporting regimes of the Arab world — thus expanding the security of the United States and the rest of world — is hardly a crowd-pleaser in most Arab countries. Indeed, President Bush's calls for reform and democracy echo chillingly through the palaces and throne rooms of despotic Arab regimes. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa probably summed it up best when, according to journalist Amir Taheri, he described the liberation of Iraq as "the opening of the gates of Hell." Interestingly enough, Taheri also writes that Mr. Moussa recently told a European diplomat visiting Cairo that Mr. Kerry would be able to "close those gates."

As Taheri puts it, pan-Arab nationalists revile the United States for toppling Saddam Hussein's regime, because in so doing the United States also toppled the myth of an Arab superpower that would lead Arabs to socialist unity. Proponents of pan-Islamic rule, meanwhile, interpret the call for greater freedom in the Arab world as, according to a recent sermon, "an act of cultural aggression." Either way — and despite what John Kerry says — scant few countries in this totalitarian Arab bloc are rooting for a democratic miracle in Iraq chalked up to the United States.

Kerry's drastic, and drastically dangerous, misunderstanding of this challenging dynamic should prove as telling as both Gerald Ford's refusal to acknowledge the grip of tyranny in communist Eastern Europe, and Jimmy Carter's ignorance of Soviet perfidy. If, that is, anyone in the Kerry-covering media bothers to notice.

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JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2004, Diana West