Jonah Goldberg

In one of my favorite episodes of "M*A*S*H," Hawkeye and Trapper John were desperate to procure a medical incubator. They found their way to a corrupt supply sergeant who had three. The sergeant explained that he couldn't give the docs one of his incubators because, if he did, then he wouldn't have three anymore. He'd only have two, and two is worse than three.

This seems like the perfect metaphor for the "Kerry Doctrine." With the constant promises from almost every speaker at the Democratic Convention that a President Kerry would create "strong alliances" as his backdrop, John Kerry declared this week that he will pursue a "more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side."

You know some Kerry handlers cringed when the word "sensitive" slipped out of Kerry's mouth. "Sensitive" isn't one of the adjectives most people want describing America's war on terrorism. It's like promising weapons systems "softer than a baby's bottom."

Regardless, for Kerry the vital issue is playing nicely with others. The New Republic's Peter Beinart recently wrote, "Intellectually, Kerry knows he must show he'd go after the terrorists with a vengeance. But that's not where his heart lies. The topic that arouses his greatest passion-the one that has guided his entire career-is improving America's relations with the world." In his 1997 book, Kerry called for the creation of an "entirely new, multilateral code of behavior." In 1993, during the confirmation hearings for Warren Christopher, Kerry called for "an all-out effort to strengthen international institutions." Two years later, Kerry broke with many Senate Democrats and voted against lifting the Bosnian arms embargo, mostly because he wanted Europeans to like us. The Washington Post reported that when Bill Clinton called America the "indispensable nation" in his second inaugural address, Kerry lamented Clinton's "arrogant, obnoxious tone."

And, Beinart notes, "even the 1991 Gulf war, which Kerry's aides now cite as a model of multilateral cooperation, struck him as suspiciously unilateral at the time." Back then, Kerry said, the anti-Saddam coalition "lacks a true United Nations collective security effort, with the full measure of international cooperation and burden-sharing."


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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