You Can?t be Serious

Posted: Jul 23, 2004 12:00 AM

Sen. John Kerry, the man who would be president, recently gave a serious speech to the NAACP. We can be sure it was a serious speech because it focused on Kerry?s campaign theme: values.

He mentioned values 16 times. The upshot: Kerry?s got ?em, we need ?em, and so we ought to vote for him. But this speech, in a serious election year, when serious issues are at risk, was anything but serious.

After all, both presidential candidates ought to be able to agree that they share core values. Both men want a strong economy. Both men want a nation safe from terrorism. Both men want the United States to lead the way toward a safer, more prosperous world. So the question isn?t about values, it?s about policies. What will these candidates do to get us to the America that we all value?
And here?s where Kerry?s speech becomes unserious. Even dangerous.

Consider the section on Sudan. Kerry correctly points out that, ?a massive humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Darfur, Sudan, where 300,000 people or more may die in the coming months,? and he even goes so far as to say, ?These government-sponsored atrocities should be called by their rightful name -- genocide.?

So far, so good. But what?s Sen. Kerry?s proposed solution to the genocide? ?The government of Sudan and the people of Darfur must understand that America stands prepared to act, in concert with our allies and the U.N., to prevent the further loss of innocent lives,? he announced. ?The United States must lead the U.N. Security Council in sanctioning the planners and perpetrators of genocide and authorizing an international humanitarian intervention.?

Note the structure. We will act ?in concert with the U.N.? We will ?lead the U.N. Security Council.? Those statements lock the United States into a difficult position. We?re free to attempt to lead, but if the U.N. doesn?t want to follow, we?ve given up our ability to act on our own.

And make no mistake -- the UN doesn?t want to get involved in Sudan. In fact, the UN Security Council is divided over whether it should even pass a resolution that would condemn the estimated 10,000 to 30,000 deaths in Darfur and slap sanctions on government officials accused of involvement.

How are we supposed to ?lead? a group that can?t even agree to condemn the genocidal killing of tens of thousands of people? Yet that?s Kerry?s ?serious? position.

We?ve seen this film before.

In 1993, President Clinton?s secretary of state identified a serious international problem. ?Serbian ethnic cleansing has been pursued through mass murders, systematic beatings, and the rape of Muslims and others,? Warren Christopher intoned. He then went to Europe pledging to dedicate the ?full weight of American diplomacy? to finding a peaceful solution in Bosnia.

Instead, Christopher allowed our ?allies? to dictate their policy to him. By the time he returned to Washington in May 1993, he had signed on to the European ?Joint Action Plan.? That plan allowed Bosnian Serbs to kill with impunity, while the rest of the world agreed to do ? nothing. Christopher went to Europe to push for an American policy and came back handcuffed into a European one. That?s what can happen when we try to ?act in concert with? our allies, and it?s what would happen if we limited ourselves to acting only in concert with the U.N.

Kerry also accused the Bush administration of ?equivocating? over Sudan. In fact, the U.S. has acted more decisively than anyone else. Just this month Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Sudan and demanded its government disarm militias and allow humanitarian aid to get through. He also went to a refugee camp to spotlight the problem. Plus, the United States has given $130 million and committed to an additional $170 million to help refugees in Darfur.

But we can?t do everything, and what?s really needed are boots on the ground.
Right now, the American military is stretched a bit thin, of course, but as was noted last month, there ought to be plenty of well-trained troops available to go into Sudan.

If our allies would agree to send the troops they?ve pulled out of Iraq, we?d have a good little peacekeeping force. Spain could send 1,300 soldiers, Honduras 369, the Dominican Republic 300 and the Philippines 51. Plus, Nicaragua could kick in 115 medical and aid workers. Those, plus the 60 cease-fire monitors the African Union has generously agreed to send, might just be enough to stop the genocide and get food to the starving people in Sudan.

The United States has taken serious stands around the world to protect Muslims -- in Sudan, in Iraq, in Bosnia and elsewhere. Our European allies surely know that our values include spreading democracy and opposing genocide all around the world.

The question now is whether they?ll get serious and join us, or whether they?ll remain on the sidelines, waiting for an American leader to ?act in concert? with them -- which is to say, a leader who won?t act at all.