For much of the last century, America's defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence -- the promise of massive retaliation against nations -- means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.Kerry was questioned about preemption in last week's debate--and equivocated:
We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. (Applause.)
Homeland defense and missile defense are part of stronger security, and they're essential priorities for America. Yet the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. (Applause.) In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act. (Applause.)
Our security will require the best intelligence, to reveal threats hidden in caves and growing in laboratories. Our security will require modernizing domestic agencies such as the FBI, so they're prepared to act, and act quickly, against danger. Our security will require transforming the military you will lead -- a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.
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.As I predicted, Kerry's proposed "global test" prompted derision, confusion and mirth. For good reason--the Senator insists he would never "cede. . . the right to preempt" to any other country; his next sentence would forbid U.S. military action abroad unless it "passes the global test . . . . prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons." Not sure?--neither is Kerry! He favored preemption in October 2002, but flip-flopped a year later.
No president, though 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.
Still, assuming Kerry's weathervane swung for the last time, the election suddenly offers a clear choice: preemption or global testing? We know Bush's approach--which has its own limits, but is as protective as possible. Whereas Kerry's alternative seems powered by hope more than safety.
America's not perfect. Injustice endures; there's room for improvement. But only if America survives as a nation. Which we won't should Islamic terrorists give us the dirty-nuke-of-the-month-club for Ramadan. (Russia's seemingly already signed up for the children's version of this horror.) So remember, says James Lileks:
[I]t's the war. That's what counts. If I had a choice between an isolationist Republican who would withdraw all American troops from everywhere and cast Israel adrift, OR a Joe Lieberman Democrat who understood the threat and wanted to take the fight to them - and nevermind what our valiant allies thought, like Russia - I'd pull the lever for the D. As I've said before: we can argue about the future of Western Civilization after we've ensured Western Civilization will survive.