What Would Demos Do?


With the war looking grimmer by the day and everybody from Cher to Jessica turning on Top Gun and Rumstud, voters are beginning to wonder just how the Democratic contenders for the presidential nomination might get us out of this hellhole. Of the nine candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, four supported the war: Gephardt, Kerry, Edwards, and Lieberman. Kucinich, Moseley Braun, Sharpton, and Dean were opposed. Clark went back and forth but said on several recent occasions that he opposes it.

Here’s a glimmer—and it’s only a glimmer, because most of them are so annoyingly vague—of the direction of their proposed policies:

John Kerry: The Massachusetts senator supported the war, but he says Bush misled the nation. He says other nations should be involved in rebuilding and security. In an August interview with NPR, Kerry said, “I think we should be going to the United Nations. I think we should be involving NATO. I think we need to put other troops on the ground. We need Arab-speaking troops, we need Muslims. We need to have the shared responsibility for the winning of the peace, which is what these people should have known to begin with and what many of us warned them about.” Kerry is pushing for a multinational military force, recruited within the UN but under U.S. command.

Howard Dean: The former Vermont governor and current front-runner opposed the war, and he wants an international approach for the future. On NPR in July he said, “Now that we’re there, we can’t leave. We cannot allow chaos or a fundamentalist regime in Iraq because it could be fertile ground for Al Qaeda. First thing I would do is bring in 40,000 to 50,000 other troops. I’d look to Arab countries, Islamic countries who are our allies, NATO, the United Nations. General [Eric K.] Shinseki, before we went in, said that we did not have enough troops. The administration ignored that advice. It turned out to be true. It was a good thing that Shinseki give us that advice. It was a bad thing the administration ignored their own military expertise. . . . We’re gonna be there for a long time in Iraq. We can’t leave, because if we do before there’s established democracy, many worse things will happen to both the Iraqi people and to America if the terrorists move in.”

Al Sharpton: He was against the war, and he favors a multinational strategy via the UN. “I have a policy,” he says, “of saying that we need to develop a balanced strategy of creating allies around the world, supporting democratic movements around the world, and not having an inconsistent pattern of saying we’re going to be with the most cruel reactionary dictators if they serve our interest and then make them the pariahs when we decide they do not.”

Joseph Lieberman: The Connecticut senator supported the war and currently advocates an international administration—not a U.S. occupation—to be headed by a trusted “ally from the Arab world.” He would “let the Iraqis, who have a good reputation at managing their own oil industry, continue to do that. And have some kind of international board to oversee it to make sure the proceeds, the profits, were going to benefit the Iraqis.”

Dennis Kucinich: The former Cleveland mayor and current House member opposed the war from the start and favors turning over efforts to the UN. “The president must go to the UN and announce the U.S. intention to hand over all administrative and security responsibilities to the UN,” he says. “The UN would help Iraqis move quickly toward self-determination—administering oil revenues, contracts for war repair. Close down the occupation authority and suspend all reconstruction contracts. Bring U.S. troops home as UN troops are rotated in—hopefully by the New Year. Soon after the UN enters, hold a national election to send delegates to a constitutional convention that will draft a new constitution, followed by nationwide elections to install an elected government.”

Carol Moseley Braun: The former Illinois senator opposed the war, supports internationalization, and wants to use funds earmarked for Iraq here at home on various social programs. “The notion that we won the war against Iraq is like saying we won a war against Arizona,” she says. “But having said that, the question becomes again whether it was the right course, whether this unelected president had any right to send American men and women into harm’s way.”

Richard Gephardt: The Missouri congressman supported the war but says Bush should’ve sought UN and NATO involvement. “We were right to prevent the day when Saddam Hussein could threaten his adversaries with nuclear or biological weapons,” he says. “But we were wrong to short-circuit the world community, to effectively shut them out when they felt we hadn’t made the case.”

John Edwards: The conservative North Carolina senator supported the war and says reconstruction should be internationalized, probably through NATO. Edwards is a bureaucratic tinkerer, and in his world, peacekeeping forces should come from NATO, supplemented by U.S. forces. “If Saddam is gone,” he told NPR, “America does not want to be alone, or alone with Britain, responsible for helping reconstruct Iraq, for multiple reasons. It will decrease the chances of success, it puts the burden on the American taxpayer, and it makes us more of a target as opposed to a circumstance in which we have significant international support.”

Wesley Clark: He’s been back and forth on the war. Clark thinks the future of Iraq should be decided through multilateral institutions such as NATO and the UN, and that we need to get Europe involved. America isn’t much good at nation building, he says. Leave that to the UN. As for the army, the retired general says, make sure you’ve got enough force to win.

Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel, Sheelah Kolhatkar, and Alicia Ng