In his widely praised debate performance, John Kerry explained that the US always has the right to act alone, as long as the world approves first. No, I don't know what that means either - I suspect that Mr. Kerry was too busy looking Presidential and enjoying his pleasing baritone to actually consider the meaning of his words. But no matter.
A couple of thoughts - first, what about Israel? The Reps should, in the appropriate venues, tie Kerry's comment to America's support for Israel. Clearly, the UN and the world community will never endorse a US effort to aid the Zionist imperialists. Would Kerry support Israel despite its inability to pass the global test? You bet he might! But watching him explain that will annoy Kerry's Left, which is no admirer of Israel.
Secondly, the Kerry campaign has no defense of his remark - I'll excerpt Holbrooke right here to highlight their desperation:
Richard C. Holbrooke, a former ambassador to the United Nations who is a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Kerry, told reporters on a conference call that Mr. Bush's statements were a "clear-cut misrepresentation."
"Who in his right mind" would not want the support of the American people and allies around the world for pre-emptive action, Mr. Holbrooke asked.
Who, indeed? But as everyone knows (except the reporters on that conference call), the question is not whether the US would prefer the support of the world community; the question is whether President Kerry will act in the interests of the United States despite a lack of support from the world community.
Sometime in the next few days, we can expect a clarification from Team Kerry, perhaps along the lines of "I misspoke about pre-emptive war, but the President made the wrong choice about pre-emptive war. The American people need to decide which is worse."
In anticipation of the "I mis-spoke" clarification, some thoughts - first, did he mis-speak? Kerry is always extolling the virtues of internaional alliances and deploring unilateral action (where unilateral means less than forty allies). Way back in 1970, he made his famous statement in the Harvard Crimson, which I recall he has since disavowed. However, since his current "mis-statement to be" is quite similar, one might argue that it reveals his true heart. From the Crimson:
Kerry said that the United Nations should have control over most of our foreign military operations. "I'm an internationalist. I'd like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations."
I have only one hand grenade left. After Kerry reassures Isarel and annoys his Far Left wing, and persuades us that he really did misspeak, we can return to the theme of Kerry's Mixed Messages. Words, as Mr. Kerry may or may not realize, have consequences. Misunderstandings and miscalculations can lead to war - April Glaspie's controversial meeting with Saddam Hussein prior to the first Gulf War is a stark contemporary example of the problem of mixed messages.
Imagine a situation where some foreign Evil-Doer is on the verge of an act that would prompt the US to go to war. President Kerry says, "This is the line, don't cross it". The Evil-Doer thinks to himself, "Kerry's all talk without Chirac - he hasn't passed the global test and I can ignore his bluster". Undeterred by Kerry's rhetoric, the Evil-Doer acts.
Result - even if Kerry eventually goes to war, and even if that is the right action, his careless talk will have contributed to the miscalculation that led to war.
Mixed messages are dangerous. Kerry is dangerous.
MORE: Yes, there is a place for creative confusion in diplomacy - Taiwan comes immediately to mind. But I am not mixing my messages here. We are not going to deter state sponsors of terror by making our threats less credible. Kerry's debate excerpt is below:
LEHRER: New question. Two minutes, Senator Kerry.
What is your position on the whole concept of preemptive war?
KERRY: The president always has the right, and always has had the right, for preemptive strike. That was a great doctrine throughout the Cold War. And it was always one of the things we argued about with respect to arms control.
No president, though all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.
But if and when you do it, Jim, you have 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.
UPDATE: Let's see the WaPo version:
Asked about Kerry's statement that he would reserve the right to strike preemptively, Bush campaign communications director Nicolle Devenish said the Democrat contradicted himself in answering the question. "I don't know how you square those two statements," she said.
Richard Holbrooke, a foreign policy adviser to Kerry, said Kerry was stating long-standing United States policy, which is that "you don't give up the right to be preemptive, but you make sure the decisions you've made can be backed up by the facts and have support domestically and internationally."
If Holbrooke is arguing that the President must have good reasons for what he does, well, no kidding. But that is a lot milder than Kerry's "Global Test". I still lean to the "Kerry was flapping his lips, and now has to find a way to backtrack" theory. Then we can say "He was for the Global Test before he was against it", and hopefully move on to Kerry's next gaffe.