Steve Martin used to have a routine in which he pretended to be a slick television pitchman, striding back and forth across the stage, calling out, “You can make a million dollars and pay no taxes! That’s right, you can make a million dollars and pay no taxes!” After several times, he finally looked straight into the camera and described his two-step plan: “First, get a million dollars. Got it? Okay, good. Now…”
The Martin plan is a fair approximation of John Kerry’s two-step solution for winning the war in Iraq: First, bring our traditional allies fully on board; and second, replace American troops with international troops to fight the insurgency and keep the peace.
Well, yeah, Step Two sounds awfully nice, but the difficulty is with Step One. To date, Kerry has provided roughly as many clues about how he’d accomplish bringing our traditional allies fully on board in Iraq as Martin did about how his listener might “get a million dollars.” Which is why the key moment in the first presidential debate–setting aside rhetorical maneuvering and facial expressions–was when President Bush cited Kerry’s declaration, in early September, that the war in Iraq was “the wrong war, in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“So what’s the message [to our reluctant allies] going to be,” Bush asked Kerry: “Please join us in Iraq…join us for a war that is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time?“
The reality is that France, Germany, and Russia are not going to spend their blood and treasure to support the American effort in Iraq simply in response to the charm initiative of a new president–especially one who’s previously characterized the endeavor as an outright mistake. Nor are they likely to be pressured into cooperation by a new president who’s previously described America’s allies as a “coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted.”
Kerry cannot accomplish the first step of his plan.
And without that critical first step, he has no plan.
–Mark Goldblatt’s novel, Africa Speaks, is a satire of black hip-hop culture.