A Global Test for Pre-emptive War?
Jude Wanniski
October 4, 2004


Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Condoleezza and Wolf Debate

If you happened to see CNN’s “Late Edition” Sunday with Wolf Blitzer, you will have noted his interview with Condi Rice, President Bush’s National Security Advisor. I selected a portion of the transcript to demonstrate why we are in such trouble in Iraq, as I have long believed that while Dr. Rice is a charming lady, she is incompetent in her job. The topic is Senator Kerry’s idea, which he mentioned in his debate with President Bush last week, that while the United States reserves the right to take pre-emptive military action against a perceived threat, it should meet a “global test,” i.e., “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.”

That seemed reasonable enough to me, but the Bush team immediately leaped on the idea as if Kerry were saying we had to first get a “permission slip” from the United Nations. Read the words and you will see when Kerry came to “the world,” he moves to the past tense, saying you should have to prove you “did it” for legitimate reasons. With Iraq, of course, because there was no imminent threat, Mr. Bush did go to the United Nations and try to persuade the Security Council that Saddam Hussein should be forcibly removed because he was not meeting the conditions of UNSCRes #1441. We now know he was meeting those conditions, and Senator Kerry “won the debate” with Mr. Bush last week by pointing out that there were no legitimate reasons for going to war while the President continues to insist diplomacy had failed.

In hearing the exchange Wolf had with Condi, it occurred to me that he would make a much better National Security Advisor should Mr. Bush succeed in winning a second term. With Dr. Rice still at his side, we might well expect another pre-emptive war, without a permission slip from the U.N. or any kind of reasonable test:

BLITZER: Here's a new ad that John Kerry is running in the aftermath of this debate. Listen to this.

ANNOUNCER: George Bush lost the debate. Now he's lying about it. This is what you heard John Kerry really say: "The president always has the right for preemptive strike. I will hunt and kill the terrorists wherever they are." But here's something new about George Bush. Newspapers report he withheld key intelligence information from the American public so he could overstate the threat Iraq posed. Bush rushed us into war.

BLITZER: All right, what about that, the whole notion that now he says the president -- this is what the Democrats and Kerry are saying -- the president is lying when he says that there's a Kerry doctrine that would not allow preemptive strikes?

RICE: I'll tell you what I heard, and, you know, I don't want to get into the politics here, you know that. But I will tell you what I heard. I heard Senator Kerry say there was some kind of global test that you ought to be able to pass to support preemption. And I fundamentally don't understand what a global test is.

BLITZER: All right. Let's listen precisely to what John Kerry said on that issue, the global test. Listen to this.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No president through 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've got 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.

BLITZER: All right.

RICE: I don't understand, proving to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons. What, that we took Saddam Hussein out, somebody that for 17 resolutions and 12 years shooting at aircraft and so forth that somehow that didn't prove to the world? But let's go back to this notion of a global test. What does that mean? Does that mean the consensus of the international community of Cuba and countries like that, that we've passed the global test? The words are what the words are.

BLITZER: I'll tell you what his people are saying, is that what he says is, there should be a preemptive strike, if necessary, as a last resort, but at the same time you should explain to the world what you're doing.

RICE: No, it said it should be able to pass a global test. And I don't know how you pass a global test, given that, by the way, you couldn't even get consensus on the fact that, after Saddam Hussein had defied the international community for all of those years, that it was time to do something. Can you imagine trying to pass a global test in a Security Council that Syria has sat in? The fact is, he said what he said. Now, what the president did when he went into Iraq, of course, was to go to the international community. There was explanation after explanation of why it was important to deal with this threat. But you're never going to get 100 percent consensus. We went in with a large coalition. Some people didn't disagree. The issue is, if France and Germany don't disagree, do you decide not to do it?

BLITZER: Two other things I want to get through before I let you go. On the day after the debate, the president said this in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and I want your explanation. Listen to this.

BUSH: The use of troops to defend America must never be subject to a veto by countries like France. (APPLAUSE) The president's job is not to take an international poll. The president's job is to defend America.

BLITZER: All right. When I heard that, I said the president is singling out France, America's oldest ally, for ridicule in this kind of a political context. Is that appropriate?

RICE: There's no ridicule here. It's a statement of fact. The French didn't agree. And, you know, the French took what they believed to be a principled stand. They didn't believe -- I remember that the French foreign minister said, essentially, there was no resolution they would vote for that would lead to war. Well, at that point, you have to make a decision. Are you going to allow this to be a veto, or are you going to go ahead? Because, after all, France did have a veto in the Security Council. The president and a number of other countries, Prime Minister Blair, the Poles, the Australians and now 30 other countries, decided it was time to take care of this threat.

BLITZER: The only reason I raise it, at a time like this, a delicate time, when you're trying to get France to support the United States, is it appropriate for the president to be ridiculing France?

RICE: It's not a matter of ridicule. It's a statement of fact. The French know that they didn't support this. The French know that they were the ones who said there was no resolution that they would vote for. And the president and President Chirac had a number of conversations before this. And I can remember one in particular in which they essentially agreed to disagree. And, at that point, the president had to make a decision.

* * * * *

Wolf let her off the hook at this point, as she looked stressed out, but if he wished to continue he would have pointed out that in retrospect, the French were absolutely right and that she and the President were absolutely wrong. If there was no legitimate reason to go to war with Iraq, because Saddam was doing everything required of him under the previous resolution that had French support, logic would dictate that France would not vote for war no matter how a new resolution was worded. The only plausible legitimate excuse for war in retrospect would be if WMD or weapons programs were subsequently discovered. There are still those like media mogul Mort Zuckerman who seem to remember that Saddam was not giving the inspectors what they had asked for, but if he would check with his reporters at U.S. News & World Report or The New York Daily News, he will find Saddam had not held back a thing. Dr. Rice should have known that at the time. It was in all the papers.