Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Global Test?

In the presidential debate last week, Sen. John Kerry, the nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States, in response to a question from moderator Jim Lehrer about the United States and the "concept" of preemptive war, said,
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, through 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.
(emphasis added)

In an effort to clarify what he meant about a "global test", Sen. Kerry has said,
The test I was talking about is a test of legitimacy — not just in the globe, but elsewhere," he said. "If you do things that are illegitimate in the eyes of other people, it's very hard to get them to share the burden and risk with you.

Leaving aside the "not just in the globe, but elsewhere" part of the statement (others have done a much better job than I might be able to do lampponing this point), I'm wrestling with the meaning of what candidate Kerry is trying to say -- and I have to say that his clarification doesn't really offer much assistance to the effort. Other commentators have offered their interpretation, to the effect that the "global test" is one by which the U.S. government is able to demonstrate to the world community that the use of force is a legitimate response to the situation at hand.

This still begs the question of who it is that determines whether the demonstration is satisfactory; or what the U.S. response should be if the president at that time fails to "pass" the "global test." I'm not at all opposed to building coalitions, or of others criticizing American actions, or contemplated actions. I am opposed to the establishment of a set of conditions whereby the decisions of our government are dependent upon the approval of those who are indifferent, or even hostile, to our situation.

Well, while we wrestle with the serious matters, we can always take a break by putting ourselves in the Oval Office, or another such setting, and taking the Global Test for ourselves. Try it, and see how you'll do...