Loose Canons

The Kerry Doctrine

The enormous imbalance in Jean-François’ thinking.

By 10.5.04

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One reason for the Dems' glee over the President's not-so-perfect performance in last week's debate is that few are paying much attention to some of the amazing nonsense that came out of his opponent. None of us can underestimate Vichy John Kerry's capacity for flip-flopping. In the debate, he seemed to reverse himself on one of the most important issues now facing America: preemption of terrorist attacks. But if you read what he said, it's no flip-flop at all: Kerry still doesn't agree that America can preempt terrorist attacks without asking "mother, may I" of Kofi, Jacques, and Gerhard.

Way back on December 16, 2003, in a much-ballyhooed major foreign policy speech, Kerry said specifically that he would abandon the policy of attacking terrorists before they have the chance to attack us. In that speech, given at Drake University, Kerry said, "We must change this course of unilateralism and preemptive war that is radically wrong…" That was, at least, consistent with what he said in April on Meet the Press, when he reiterated -- and then explained seemingly endlessly -- that the war on terror is primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation, not a military effort. (Don't look for the Drake University speech on Kerry's campaign website. It has suddenly disappeared, as he wishes the position he took would.)

In the debate, Kerry first declared Iraq a disaster: "And now we see beheadings. And now we've got weapons of mass destruction crossing the border every single day. And they're blowing people up. And we don't have enough troops there." Huh? WMD crossing the border every day? Being used to blow people up? Where's Hans Blix now that we really need him?

Jim Lehrer tried to get a straight answer on preemptive war from Kerry, and for his trouble he got a demonstration of Kerry's profound ignorance of the Cold War and a carefully parsed statement on Kerry's doctrine on the limitations that must be placed on preemption: "The president always has the right and always has had the right for preemptive strike. That was a great doctrine throughout the cold war…But if and when you do it, Jim, you've got to do it in a way that passes the test. That passes the global test where your countrymen, your people, understand fully why you're doing what you're doing. And you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

Thus, the Kerry Doctrine: before you strike terrorists preemptively, you have to have sufficient evidence to convince the world that you were right in doing it. All that gibberish proves redundantly that Mr. Kerry -- despite his repeated insistence to the contrary -- will only attack and preempt when he is confident that he will first receive the blessing of the U.N. or Old Europe or both. If you are going to be able to prove to the world that what you did is legitimate, you must prove it in the way that those whose approval you seek will accept your evidence. No one in his right mind can believe that any proof will satisfy the U.N. or the EUnuchs. So why does Kerry? In truth, he doesn't. He's not flip-flopping. He's just blowing blue smoke at the mirrors he's set up all around him.

THE GREATEST FAILURE OF Mr. Bush's performance in the debate is that he let Mr. Kerry off far too easily on that point. He could have hammered Kerry into the ground with it, but managed only to say he wasn't sure what Kerry meant. Soon after the debate, Republicans called Kerry on it. The Kerry campaign's response was a joy to behold.

According to the Washington Post, Kerry foreign policy advisor Richard Holbrooke tried to say it ain't so. "Asked what the Kerry Doctrine actually is, Holbrooke, in a conference call with reporters, replied: 'There is no Kerry Doctrine.'" You only wish there weren't one, Mr. Holbrooke. But there's no use in trying to conceal it. Kerry won't act to defend America against terrorist attack without the blessing of Kofi Annan and our Euro-betters. Conversely, he will act just as Bill Clinton did, and Jimmy Carter always wanted to. Not to defend America. Lt. (j.g.) Kerry will undo all the transformation of our military that has gone on in the past four years to remake it into the peacekeeping force the U.N. wants it to be.

The debate went, as it had to, to the question of the ongoing genocide in the Darfur province of Sudan. In response to that question, Kerry stated the second half of his doctrine: "But I'll tell you this, as president, if it took American forces to some degree to coalesce the African Union, I'd be prepared to do it because we could never allow another Rwanda." Echoing what he's been told by his Carteresque general staff, Kerry said, "It's a moral responsibility for us in the world."

In John Kerry's mind, there is a moral responsibility for America to put American lives at risk whenever there may be genocide, but we can only preempt terrorist attacks on America when we're sure that the world will agree with us after we've done it. There is an enormous imbalance in Kerry's thinking. In Kerry's mind, America apparently has more of a moral obligation to save others than we do to save our own people. Is he serious? Of course he is.

Mr. Kerry's "moral responsibility" filters national security through the clouded lens of Carterism. Carterism's first and only solid principle bases all else on consideration of human rights. If we think first of human rights, we will distance ourselves from Pakistan, Turkey, and a whole list of allies with whom we must be joined to defeat the terrorist nations. We won't use dirty, nasty people for the dirty, nasty work of intelligence and covert operations. We won't shoot first and ask questions later. We will get shot first, and then Kerry and however many of his staff survive will sit around debating just who shot us. Kerry will demand certainty in the intelligence describing terrorist threats and attacks, and when he's told that intelligence is not certain, and never was, he'll refuse to preempt or even respond.

Though he tried to, Mr. Kerry didn't really flip-flop on preemption. He doesn't get it, and doesn't want to. Preemption is the only way we can beat the terrorists and the nations that support them. We mustn't be spending the lives of our troops on the basis of some globalist "moral imperative." John Kerry doesn't see that. He can't.

Mr. Kerry is not a "9-12" candidate. The clock in his head stopped somewhere between August 15, 1969 and April 23, 1971.

TAS Contributing Editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery Publishing).

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. He is coauthor (with Herbert London) of the new book The BDS War Against Israel. You can follow him on Twitter@jedbabbin.