Via Instapundit comes a link to a post on NRO’s The Corner which asks whether Kerry’s Cold War-era policy stances really tell us anything about how he would fight terrorism. I think Kerry’s Cold War-era policy stances are fair game because they reveal his fundamental model of foreign relations so starkly.
People make decisions based not on the merits of individual cases but by running the facts of each particular case through their existing models. People with different models arrive at different conclusions even if they start with the same set of facts. Even though the War on Terror is substantially different from the Cold War, Kerry still thinks about fighting terrorism using the same fundamental concepts that he used to think about the Cold War.
Kerry’s model results from a synthesis of New England puritanism, which directs the individual to look their own sins before blaming others, and the crypto-marxist conceit that all the problems of the world have their major geneses in the actions of the western commercial class. Therefore, when confronted with an external threat, Kerry’s first response is to ask, “What did we do to cause this?” His gut reaction to any attack will be to try to alter American behavior to placate the attacker.
Kerry’s Cold War stances clearly reflect this model. In a 1970 Harvard Crimsom interview, he advocated placing most U.S. foreign policy operations under the control of the United Nations. Since, at that time, Breshnev’s Soviet Union and Mao Tse-Tung’s China had vetoes on the U.N. Security Council, it says a lot about how much he trusted American decision making. For the then-25-year-old Yale graduate running for the U.S. Congress, the communist regimes were better decision makers on the just use of force than was American democracy.
In his 1971 Senate testimony on war crimes he described his opposition to the Vietnam war as a mission, “…to pacify our own hearts, to conquer the hate and the fear that have driven this country these last 10 years and more…” For Kerry, Vietnam wasn’t about fighting communism or about American strategic interest, but was a war driven by our own internal evils. Kerry truly believed that if America abandoned the area to the Soviet Union and China, peace would reign because America caused most of the violence in region. No America equaled no violence. What actually happened after we abandoned the people there is too sad for the telling.
In the 1980s, he was a proponent of the Nuclear Freeze movement (though relatively moderate compared to the rest of the opponents) and strongly opposed Reagan’s military buildup, Star Wars and the many anti-communist insurgencies the U.S. supported. For Kerry, U.S. problems with the Soviet Union resulted from U.S. ignorance and belligerence. The Soviet Union acted aggressively only out of fear of the West. If we acted less aggressively they would calm down. The fact that the Soviet Union collapsed after the US pursued a policy diametrically opposite to the one that Kerry advocated does not seem to have made any impression on him.
In 1991 Kerry opposed using force in the first Gulf War and wanted to use sanctions instead. The subsequent history of the region suggests that the most likely outcome of that would have been a nuclear armed Iraqi-Kuwati superstate perched atop a significant fraction of the world’s petroleum supply. Here Kerry did not trust that America could wisely use force. He wanted to cajole a democide into surrendering the greatest treasure ever plundered, by using economic incentives.
Kerry’s history demonstrates that his model has four main component beliefs: (1) American cannot be trusted to make decisions on the use of force by itself. Something is flawed in our culture, society and political systems that requires external actors to balance it. (2) Our external problems result largely from our own corrupt actions. Had we behaved more nobly in the past we would not have the problems we have now. Going forward, the solution to current problems is to be more virtuous now. (3) Actual military threats don’t really exist. All apparent military threats can be managed with non-military means on our part. (4) Symbolic actions are just as effective as physical actions in preventing violence.
Nothing in Kerry’s statements since 9/11 indicates that his model has evolved at all since that day. He still thinks as he did in 1970. He was wrong then and he is wrong now.
(Update: Commentator Martin Adamson points out that Communist China did not have China’s Security Council seat in 1970. They actually assumed the seat in November 1971. My mistake. When Kerry made his comments the seat was held buy the then rightwing-authoritarian Nationalist government based in Taiwan so of course Kerry could trust them.)
5 thoughts on “Kerry’s Model”
“People with different models arrive at different conclusions even if they start with the same set of facts.”
Thank you, Shannon. This is the most concise description I’ve seen of whether the glass is half full or half empty.
Kerry views government as a provider of felt needs, rights afforded by. He does not recognize Liberty is the right of man that precedes the State. He is motivated by the consensus of others, moving his positions to meet with their authority. Kerry, like Carter, does not believe America has earned its moral authority. This is a perilous misunderstanding against an enemy that thinks it has one.
Shannon, thank you for the clarity of this. It helps make his “progress” clear.
It seems to me that part of the attraction of this stance is its airy dismissal of the values of most Americans. Your earlier perceptive comment on the way Europeans misunderstand American patriotism has some application to this uneasy, Europeanized American. Kerry has some of the flaws – including the “gigolo” tendency – of a Henry James villain; these Europeanized Americans fear being patronized more than anything. They also confuse a decadent aesthetic with morality. And they are deathly afraid of being patronized. (None of us like to be patronized.) So, they patronize.
Fritz Meyer: Many are uncomfortable with this, but I find it not only moving but an argument for Bush’s definition not of our “authority” but our “duty”: “Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.” (Arrogance, it seems to me, is assuming this is what we, alone, should have.)
One bit of nit-picking: Mao’s China was not on the UN Security Council, and wasn’t even a UN member, in 1971. Taiwan was still recognised as the official Chinese government at that point.
I don’t buy the New England puritanism. How would he have come by it? Immaculate conception? He claims to have been reared in a Catholic home. Believe me, that’s not New England puritanism. Jansenism, maybe. Not the same thing. The bulk of his boyhood was spent in private school in Washington, DC and in a private Swiss school—neither are bastions of New England puritanism. Further, New England puritanism is quite Calvinistic. These things are the will of God—trials to be borne. It builds character. Now crypto-Marxism I’ll buy.
Your report of the evolution of his views is valuable. Do you believe that his positions and such changes as there are in them result from a considered, principled position or a canny navigating of the political bywaters of his Massachusetts constituency?
I’ve posted my own brief reflection on Glenn’s post here.
Thanks for the post. Very thoughtful.
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