July 16, 2004

Kerry: An Effective Steward of the War on Terror?

You know, Kevin Drum asks the wrong questions:

War supporters insist that John Kerry can't be trusted with our post-9/11 foreign policy. But I'm a little puzzled about exactly what it is that they're afraid he won't do.

It's true that Kerry would not have gone to war with Iraq, and that's certainly a big difference between him and Bush. But does anyone think there are any more wars coming up in the near future?

If not, what are the hawks afraid of? What do they think Kerry will be too wimpy to do? Or is it that they do have a war in mind that they're afraid Kerry might not start? If so, I think we'd all like to hear about it. [emphasis added]

It's not about marching into Iran, Syria or NoKo Kevin.

It's more about myriad threats ranging from al-Qaeda attempting to establish beachheads in 'failed states' in Africa to al-Q affiliates trying to blow up the Strait of Malacca.

Most ships travel in isolation or small convoys, over long distances and sometimes far away from coastlines. They also carry valuable cargo or highly inflammable material such as oil or liquefied natural gas. More importantly, the key shipping routes pass through important 'choke points', such as the Strait of Malacca, which is both long and extremely narrow. An attack on a ship would not only result in extensive damage but would also cause long-term disruption to trade patterns. An oil-laden ship exploding in the approaches to a harbour would cause a humanitarian catastrophe.

The available evidence suggests that terrorists have already considered striking at maritime targets, particularly in the Strait of Malacca. Video tapes seized from Jemaah Islamiyya included footage of Malaysian maritime police patrols, an indication that this extremist organisation was observing safety procedures operating in the strait. Meanwhile, other terrorist groups - including Al-Qaeda - have already engaged in maritime terrorism against the US Navy warship USS Cole in October 2000 and against the French oil tanker Limburg, off the coast of Yemen in October 2002, which was carrying crude oil for Malaysia's Petronas company.


Western intelligence services believe that Islamic extremists are making a determined effort to penetrate West Africa, an emerging world-class oil giant, amid signs that Osama bin Laden has singled out Nigeria for jihad....

...The USA is already deploying small groups of special forces throughout the impoverished Sahel region states of Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger to counter infiltration by Islamic militants moving south from Algeria. With West Africa in danger of becoming the new battleground between the USA and Al-Qaeda, heavier oil-driven US intervention may become unavoidable - a path fraught with pitfalls and one that could have a dramatic impact on US policy in Africa.

Put differently, to Kevin's query: "(b)ut does anyone think there are any more wars coming up in the near future?"--I'd answer--we're in the middle of a war right now....

There's, er, a lot going on--and I'm not confident that Kerry a) fully gets the stakes and b) will field a national security team that will be up to the challenge.

I'm willing to hear why Kerry's the man--but I haven't heard anything persuasive to date.

In fact, I've espied pretty risible attempts to repackage himself as a wise, mature, and tough, "realist" and a lot of mushy-headed prevarication regarding what exactly should be the major strategic thrust of American foreign policy (and the manner by which U.S. power would be exerted) in a prospective Kerry administration. (Contra this, we've got--despite all the hyperbole about a 'rigid, militaristic doctrine' of preemption--a pretty solid document in the NSS from 2002. And estimable commentators like John Lewis Gaddis are pretty impressed too).

And what about, deep down, Kerry's so important gut world-view?

Robert Kagan, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said he senses that Kerry in recent years has been refashioning his foreign-policy persona, making it appear tougher, in preparation for a run for the presidency. "The question, setting aside the campaign, is: Where is John Kerry's heart?" said Kagan, who has advocated a muscular U.S. approach to world affairs. "My sense is his heart is in the anti-Vietnam, '70s-'80s left."

Yeah, that's about right.

More Saigon '75 (and, later, chit chat with the Sandinistas) than, say, strategically coherent confrontation of the Soviet Union in muscular Reaganite fashion.

And this is sure weak:

In 1995, Kerry was one of 29 senators who voted against lifting an arms embargo on Bosnia. He argued the congressional action was unacceptably unilateral and had not been coordinated with European allies. Kerry, in this instance, supported the view of the Clinton administration, but he did not automatically provide his support, according to a White House official involved in legislative strategy on the vote.

Not enough coordination with the European allies?

Well, except for coordination related to abetting the mass slaughter of Bosniaks in genocidal like actions on the European continent just a half century after the Holocaust.

But hell, the 'contact group' wasn't quite ready--and regular meetings at Davos were still going on....what's the big fuss?

Pretty underwhelming fare--n'est ce pas--fellow old Yugoslavia hand Laura Rozen (who, incidentally, runs an excellent gauchiste blog well worth reading)?

Er, more on all this soon, as the saying goes.


Laura responds. And so does Kevin (more on his thoughts likely tomorrow).


It should be noted, Bush 41 never campaigned repping that the the cavalry was rushing into Sarajevo to save lives (ie., pursuing the 'lift and strike' option).

Clinton did (ie. lied); while people died--amidst artificially raised expectations in Sarajevo that the cavalry was coming to the rescue

Please be sure to throw that into the post-mortem analysis too.

Posted by Gregory Djerejian at July 16, 2004 11:38 AM
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