Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Global Test: An Easy "A"

BUSH: Let me — I’m not exactly sure what you mean, “passes the global test,” you take preemptive action if you pass a global test.
September 30th debate

Let me enlighten you, Mr. President, it’s pretty simple. It’s what you would have been able to do if what you said was true.

Kerry: 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.

-September 30th debate

I don't know what's so mystifying about this global test. Hell, let's just call it what it is: the smell test!

All this test is about is whether the case for going to war can face the scrutiny that our societies, domestic and foreign, will place upon it. If the case doesn't have credibility, we don't.

Kerry's next lines embody the central reason for this. Some may arrogantly presume that allies aren't worth the trouble of explanation, but the kind of implicit trust we need to smoothly act in international territory is an essential part of why Bush's imploding case on Iraq is not a scandal we can or should move on from. Because of the faulty rationale George Bush chose to use for the extreme remedy of pre-emption, our ability to use real evidence, good evidence to back our efforts in the war on terror, has been hamstrung.

Three groups of people need to be able to trust the president's word implicitly- The American people, The United States Armed Forces, and the international community.

The American people, if misled, will be warier about engaging in even the necessary wars, and will be less likely to enlist and serve their country.

The U.S. Armed Forces, if misled, may become uncertain about their mission, about the morality of their cause, and will experience added anxieties on top of those that naturally occur in war. The lack of a true cause will encourage lapses in discipline, in character, and in human rights enforcement that will become problems of their own in relation to those the soldiers interact with.

And the international community...

We don't need anymore runaround than we already get in the international community. Before Iraq, even if our foes would not acknowledge the truth, we could persuade others that our case merited action, and could pressure those nations attempting to weasel out of the consequences of their actions with the nations who believe us.

Now, fewer nations believe us. Is it all over for American credibility? No. But it has been damaged in certain regions of the world more than others. Unfortunately, the bulk of that damage is centered in just that region where we needed our word to be valued: The Middle East. Bush can draw a whole vintage of whines about mixed messages, but the most mixed message possible is a faulty case for war in somebody's backyard. Do we need our allies in the region wondering whether we got things right, or worse whether we think it necessary to do so?

In the end the strongest message, the least mixed message we can send the international community, our troops, and our fellow Americans, is that our nation acts with the truth on its side.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at October 1, 2004 9:12 PM