Yesterday’s New York Times carried an account of its reporters’ interview with John Kerry: “Kerry condemns Bush for failing to back Aristide.” On Haiti, Kerry finds the Bush administration short-sighted for not having come to the rescue of its presidential wack-job. Moreover, Kerry declares the defense of the wack-job so important he would have shown his cojones and acted unilaterally:
“I would have been prepared to send troops immediately, period,” Mr. Kerry said on Friday, expressing astonishment that President Bush, who talks of supporting democratically elected leaders, withheld any aid and then helped spirit Mr. Aristide into exile after saying the United States could not protect him.
“Look, Aristide was no picnic, and did a lot of things wrong,” Mr. Kerry said. But Washington “had understandings in the region about the right of a democratic regime to ask for help. And we contravened all of that. I think it’s a terrible message to the region, democracies, and it’s shortsighted.”
The Times does not quote Kerry articulating any standard that would govern his unilateral deployment of American military force. My guess is that Kerry’s standard would have much in common with Bill Clinton’s — unilateralism is fine so long as it does not advance the national interest of the United States:
Mr. Kerry is trying a bit of election-season pre-emption of his own, attempting to short-circuit the White House argument that he is too much of a straddler, too indecisive and too captivated by the nuances of foreign policy to defend American interests.
“People will know I’m tough and I’m prepared to do what is necessary to defend the United States of America, and that includes the unilateral deployment of troops if necessary,” said Mr. Kerry, who has rarely used the word “unilateral” in the campaign except to describe how Mr. Bush has alienated allies. “But my standard is very different from George Bush’s.”
But so far, Mr. Kerry has not described that standard in detail. In the interview on his plane, Mr. Kerry said he was reluctant to define how he would act in specific situations