Democrats Defend Daschle's 'Failed Diplomacy' Remarks

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

Capitol Hill ( - Democrats continued Wednesday to defend Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's accusation that President Bush had "failed so miserably at diplomacy" even as they had to clarify the South Dakota Democrat's remarks.

As previously reported, the South Dakota Democrat defended his original statement following the Democrats' weekly policy meeting at the Capitol Tuesday afternoon.

"Well, I stand by my statement," he told reporters. "I don't know that anyone in this country could view what we've seen so far as a diplomatic success.

"A diplomatic success is what we saw in 1991. A diplomatic success is getting a broad coalition of countries," Daschle continued. "We had nearly 20 countries in 1991."

But Secretary of State Colin Powell had already declared Tuesday morning that the Bush administration had surpassed Daschle's standard for successful diplomacy.

"We now have a coalition of the willing that includes some 30 nations who have publicly said they could be included in such a listing," Powell told reporters at a briefing for the international press. "And there are 15 other nations, who, for one reason or another, do not wish to be publicly named but will be supporting the coalition."

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Wednesday morning that the sheer numbers are not the primary focus of Democratic criticism.

"The difference is this: In 1991, there were countries not only voicing their support, there were countries showing their support by sending troops to the field, risking the lives of their young men and women and also providing us with the resources to wage the war successfully," Durbin argued. "This time around, unfortunately, most of the support is vocal.

"When it comes to troops in the field, when it comes to money to execute the war," he continued, "many of these countries are not going to be there."

That was also part of Daschle's complaint Tuesday.

"A diplomatic success is having 200,000 international troops present instead of the 225,000 U.S. troops, which are present today," he said. "A diplomatic success is getting other countries to pay 90 percent of the costs incurred. All of that happened in 1991; none of that is happening in the year 2003."

Jay Farrar is vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and fought as a Lt. Colonel in the Marine Corps in the Gulf War. He confirmed Daschle's criticisms.

"It's pretty much accurate," Farrar said. "To quibble, you'd be splitting hairs on exact numbers."

Of the more than 500,000 troops that comprised the coalition force against Iraq in 1991, approximately 150,000 to 200,000 were from countries other than the United States.

"The problem with Tom Daschle's statement is that he didn't clarify what he meant by 20 countries," Farrar said. "We had 20 countries contributing forces of some sort or another."

A handful of countries contributed full military units, while most of the 20 countries sent small numbers of technicians such as medical personnel and chemical/biological weapons specialists.

Farrar said the proportionate cost of the war was also as Daschle claimed.

"Some countries paid in cash to the U.S. Most countries paid 'in-kind,'" he explained. "In other words, the Saudis gave bases and base rights and fuel to the U.S. forces, the Japanese contributed cash and vehicles and things of that nature.

"But the U.S., out of its own pocket, had to finance a very small portion of it," Farrar continued, "somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 to 30 billion."

Steve Baker, a research analyst with the Center for Security Policy, did not dispute Daschle's statistics, but he did offer some perspective on the numbers.

"That doesn't include the years that the United States and England have been enforcing the 'no-fly zones' on their own - the millions of dollars that's cost - without the help of the French and others," he explained.

Baker also noted that the number of troops from other countries participating in the 1991 coalition may have had more political than military significance.

"It's a different question of how useful they were in the big picture," he said. "It had a lot, probably, to do with the political nature of the conflict rather than an actual necessity of having them on the ground."

While Daschle's detractors and supporters debate the numbers, Baker believes they are missing the truly serious damage potentially caused by Daschle's criticism of President Bush.

"It's dangerous because you could seriously undermine the morale of the forces that are there on the ground when you have a political leader saying that the President of the United States is doing his job poorly," Baker argued. "What does that say to the troops who are going to be commanded by this individual?"

Baker also criticized Daschle for failing to understand that principle.

"Daschle's efforts are simply shameful, really," he concluded.

At a political event Monday, Daschle offered the following assessment of President Bush's efforts to peacefully resolve Iraq's refusal to surrender its weapons of mass destruction to U.N. arms inspectors:

"I'm saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war," Daschle said. "Saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country."

Daschle also stated that he believes he can publicly disagree with Bush while still supporting members of the U.S. military. But House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) agreed Wednesday that such comments undermine the country's unity and the troops' morale.

"I think it's hypocritical to say on the one hand that you support the troops," DeLay observed, "while on the other hand, you say that it's wrong, that the reason they are risking their lives is wrong."

DeLay added that he is disturbed that Daschle "is defending the position of France.

"Anybody can say anything he or she wants to. This country has a long history of defending people's right to speak," DeLay added, "but there are consequences to what you say."

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