The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, May 30, 2004

Kerry: pre-emption with coalition?

Kerry's topic of the moment is foreign affairs. On May 29, I mentioned an interview in which he seemed to be pointing in the right direction - that is, away from a liberal version of the PNAC crusade.

Before the interview, there was the speech - in Seattle on May 27 on Security and Strength for a New World.

In which he says about his strategy for the War on Terror
This strategy focuses not only on what we must do, but on what we must prevent. We must ensure that lawless states and terrorists will not be armed with weapons of mass destruction.

Four words: North Korea and too late.

He explains:
Any potential adversary should know that we will defend ourselves against the possibility of attack by unconventional arms. If such a strike does occur, as commander-in-chief, I will respond with overwhelming and devastating force. If such an attack appears imminent, as commander-in-chief, I will do whatever is necessary to stop it. And, as commander-in-chief, I will never cede our security to anyone. I will always do what is necessary to safeguard our country.

He uses the I-word, note. A formulation not quite as restrictive as Daniel Webster's in the well-known case of the Caroline - but recognising the need to weight the balance against war. What do what is necessary means it's harder to judge.

Kerry is, of course, doing the minimum - what Howard Fineman calls the sock-puppet strategy: to do nothing to get in the way of ABB sentiment, as Iraq goes down the toilet, and the Administration's rows become ever more public.

I mentioned on May 24 Sandy Berger's piece in Foreign Affairs which suggests to Kerry a policy scarcely less strenuous than Bush's. Casting an eye over the text again - I really must get round to reading the thing properly! - I note this, on the North Korean nuclear problem:
The worst option is one in which cash-starved North Korea becomes a supplier of nuclear weapons to al Qaeda or Hamas or to radical Chechens, who then deliver them to Washington, London, or Moscow.

I suspect that the residents of Seoul, cowering beneath the batteries of rather tasty North Korean artillery, may not agree [1]!

(Berger is described here as an outside adviser to John Kerry.)

  1. The most cursory search produces this, this, this and this. No analysis: but it looks like plenty of WMD - CW, in fact - and loads of guns and missiles to deliver it. And more conventional weapons, too, of course.


Kerry gives us the old walk softly and carry a big stick line. The speech of Theodore Roosevelt in which he first brought the line to prominence was given at the Minnesota State Fair in St Paul on September 2 1901.

(The speech was delivered as Vice-President: William McKinley was assassinated on September 14 1901.)


According to David Sanger and Jodi Wilgoren of the New York Times, in the interview- which must have been to several papers at once - that I mentioned in my May 29 piece:
While critical of Bush for making military pre-emption a central doctrine, Kerry insisted he would be willing to use it as a "last resort."

I'd like to see Kerry's view on paper in his own words - or written by one of his hacks, at least - before firming up any judgement on what his policy is on pre-emption. Will that happen before November? Is the Pope Jewish? Meanwhile, we have to make do with interviews and Sandy Surrogate...

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