Folks here in Washington like to speculate about how Al Gore would have handled the war on terrorism. Gore’s pronouncements over the years, and even since Sept. 11, have been all over the map, so one can argue any side of the “what would Al have done” debate. Personally, though, I don’t see Gore standing up to France and Germany and liberating Iraq. In fact, I don’t think this would ever have become an issue in a Gore administration because I don’t see him drawing the connection between Iraq and the war on terrorism.
For a glimpse of how Gore likely would have acted, I offer this Washington Post op-ed by Leon Fuerth, national security adviser to Vice President Gore. Fuerth frets that the conquest of Iraq will convert us into an empire because it will be clear that “the United States answers to no authority other than itself when it comes to the use of military force.” How this converts us into an empire, Fuerth does not explain. Throughout its history, the U.S. (like all other nations) has not answered to any outside authority in this regard. This makes us a sovereign nation, not an empire. Fuerth asks whether “the United States considers itself bound by any international obligation if that obligation is seen as an impediment to its will.” The answer, I submit, is that the U.S. considers itself bound by those international obligations it has undertaken. The U.S. has never agreed to be bound by the U.N. Security Council when it comes to decisions about when to use force, nor has it agreed to be bound by the Kyoto Protocol, the Treaty of Rome establishing the International Criminal Court, or any of the other “obligations” Fuerth appears to have in mind. In fact, Fuerth cites no international obligation that the U.S. has not lived up to. He confuses his policy preferences with the nation’s obligations. It is frightening to think that, but for a few hundred votes in Florida, Fuerth might well be helping call the shots on matters of our national security.
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