Internationalist Tendencies Do Not A Foreign Policy Make

by on June 1st, 2004

Sen. John Kerry has been on the stump for the last few days pushing his foreign policy/national security “message” as if it were the flavor of the week, a tried and true method of rousing the base. Although he has briefly turned to Russian nukes, the general message has been “let the United Nations do its good work.”

Indeed, Kerry has flogged this squishy line regularly since he locked up the nomination, but to date he has (a) declined to elaborate on precisely what he expects the UN to do beyond its currently cautious stance, and (b) failed to indicate why, given the UN’s spotty (to be charitable) history, they should be entrusted with the job.

Kerry says,

“I would go to the United Nations with a legitimate diplomatic effort, with humility, with a genuine effort to acknowledge some misjudgments, and to start to state clearly to the world, the way in which the world has a stake in what is happening. I would turn over to the U.N. legitimate authority for the civil reconstruction, for the humanitarian mission, and for the governance. And I would use the U.N.’s good services to help to internationalize this effort so that we reduce the sense of American occupation and the targeting of American troops.”

Begging your pardon, Senator, but “huh?”

The current administration has (minus the hat-in-hand humility and self-flagellation) done essentially what Kerry has outlined, to the extent that the UN is willing to go along with it, which has not to date been far. Let’s not forget that, while American, Spanish, Italian, Polish, British, and other (not, I would note, German or French) troops have been on the receiving end of pot shots from throughout Iraq, it was the UN that bailed out after their Headquarters was bombed, very early in the game.

Not to diminish the risk, nor the lives lost in the attack, but this is the essential issue at hand in Iraq. If you are not willing to stand firm against terrorism in Iraq — and the UN has shown repeatedly that it is not — you have no business being there until the professionals have cleared the way for you to do your work. Forget root causes, societal inequities, justifiable anger, poverty, lack of infrastructure, etc. — these are facts of life in post-conflict countries, and surely there are people in the UN that know this. But does Senator Kerry?

Until Kerry and his team come up with a more detailed explanation as to why the UN — which has shown itself to be not only bureaucratic, slothful and anti-American but also highly risk averse — should take over, given its checkered past in places like Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo, his supposed foreign policy credentials and campaign platitudes will mean nothing.

Marc C. Johnson