Monday, October 25, 2004

John Kerry's Dangerous Vision

Stephen Morris, writing in The Australian, analyzes John Kerry's worrying foreign policy beliefs and their potential consequences in Danger Man John Kerry:

Kerry's 34-year record in public life indicates that he never understood what the Cold War was about and that he does not understand the nature of the US's rogue-state or Islamist terrorist enemies now. Those who see in him a moderate realist replacing the idealists of the Bush administration will be disappointed.

Mr. Morris identifies two recurring themes in Kerry's record:

  1. A desire to subordinate U.S. policy, and particularly U.S. military action to UN control (i.e., the "global test") and
  2. a streak of moral relativism that leads to accommodation of dictatorships.
Kerry's need for UN approval is well known:
In 1970, during his first run for Congress, Kerry told the Harvard Crimson that he wanted US troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the UN. He made a UN mandate a condition for the deployment of US forces in later years. He was able to get behind Bill Clinton's deployment of US forces in Bosnia because Clinton had kept them under the tight rein of the UN permanent representative.

As The Washington Post recalled last week, discussing the possibility of US troops being killed in Bosnia in 1994, he said: "If you mean dying in the course of the United Nations effort, yes, it is worth that. If you mean dying American troops unilaterally going in with some false presumption that we can affect the outcome, the answer is unequivocally no."
What's less visible is his habit of cozying up to dictators.

In 1970, while still a reserve officer in the US Navy, Kerry undertook private contacts with the Vietnamese communist delegation in Paris. In his 1971 speech he is remembered and reviled by many veterans for accusing all American soldiers of committing atrocities and war crimes. What has been overlooked in his 1971 speech is that he also supported the Vietnamese communist cause, mouthing every plank of their political platform as his own. Were these extreme left-wing views merely the misadventures of a war-embittered youth? Hardly.

Kerry continued to pursue Hanoi's foreign policy interests in the Senate, even at the expense of his often-stated preference for the UN. In 1990, in a rare act of post-Cold War political unity, the UN Security Council approved a plan to end the war in Cambodia with a UN temporary administration to organise elections in the country. This was the plan, remember, that the Australian government and then Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans were deeply involved in realising. Yet Kerry opposed it. Instead, he wanted the Vietnamese-installed Hun Sen, formerly of the Khmer Rouge, to organise elections.

It seems that Kerry's preference for a UN role in conflict resolution is mainly to shackle American power, but not the power of his favourite little dictatorships.

Kerry's support for dictatorship and opposition to concern for human rights in Indochina continues to this day. When the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in 2001 to legislate in favour of human rights in Vietnam, Kerry bottled up this bill in the Senate to prevent it from reaching the floor for a vote.
Upon reflection, this makes sense, dictatorships make up a large part of the UN constituency. Apparently, Senator Kerry is not choosy in his pursuit of foreign approval.

What would be the consequences of these traits, should Kerry be elected? Mr. Morris presents an all too plausible scenario:
Kerry's strategy towards North Korea and Iran will be: engage but never intimidate. His policies on Southeast Asia and Central America were thus. Bush will be more cautious about deploying the military than he was in 2003, but will do so if he needs to. Kerry, by contrast, will only deploy force against North Korea if it invades the South.

Kim Jong-il and the Iranian mullahs will agree to talk while they build up their nuclear arsenal and its delivery systems. Eventually Kim and the Tehran clerics will have enough nukes to sell some to al-Qa'ida, or give them to Hezbollah. This is not a high-risk policy for them. With proliferation of nuclear weapons, given their relatively small size, there is no reason why the source of the weapons should be necessarily traceable. This would be especially so after a North Korean-manufactured nuclear device in a shipping container has been detonated in New York, London or Sydney, or an Iranian-manufactured device is detonated by Hezbollah or al-Qa'ida in Tel Aviv.