Kerry’s Foreign Policy

Jack O’Toole responds to my earlier statement that Kerry’s foreign policy is vague by pointing me to Kerry’s February 27 plan and asking “What more do you want?”

Well, Kerry’s “plan” is certainly long enough to defy easy fisking. But it really says little of substance. For example, his “plan” to fight terrorism has five points. The first:

1.Direct Military Action. John Kerry will always be prepared to use military force when necessary to neutralize terrorists and drain the swamps where they breed.

Hey, draining swaps! Neutralizing terrorists! Sounds good! But, as Jack notes, the devil is in the details. Under what circumstances does Kerry think force would be necessary?

  • Deploy the Best-Equipped Forces Backed by the Most Accurate Intelligence. Kerry will increase the size of the special operations forces; and, increase training for peace-keeping missions so that failed states can be secured and terrorist sanctuaries denied. He will ensure that America’s fighting men and women always have the best equipment and information.
  • What does this mean, exactly? Who is it that has better equipped troops?! Certainly, accurate intelligence would be nice. How does he propose acquiring it?

    More special operators? What kind? Rangers? SEALs? Green Berets? Psyops? Civil Affairs? All of the above? How will we increase their size (and by how much!?) without compromising standards?

    Training for peace keeping missions! What a novel idea! Haven’t we been doing that for more than a decade? What would he do differently?

  • Tailor Forces to be Better Prepared for Post-conflict and Stability Operations. Kerry will add more engineers, military police, psychological warfare personnel, and civil affairs teams to the military to ensure combat forces are not drawn away to fill roles that stability forces should fill — and that a security vacuum does not threaten hard-won victories.
  • I’d note that psyops and civil affairs are special operations forces, so this is a bit redundant, but I’ve been arguing for this for around 12 years, so it sounds good. It turns out we’re in the process of doing this as we speak, however. Where are these folks going to come from? How many more do we need?

  • Increase Active Duty End Strength. To better meet the needs of the War on Terror and America’s global obligations, John Kerry has called for a temporary increase of about 40,000 active-duty Army troops: 20,000 in such specialties as military police and civil affairs, and 20,000 combat.
  • Hey! He answered one of the questions! Good job. Are we going to mobilize these guys out of the reserves, or train them from scratch? If the latter, where are we going to get their leaders, since it takes 10-20 years to create them under the current system?

    Let’s take these in bigger bites, now that you’ve got the idea:

    2. Improve International Intelligence and Law Enforcement. John Kerry will lead our nation in building strong international cooperation to ensure that America has the best information available and works effectively to cut financing for terrorist organizations.

    • Strengthen Communication Networks Between Intelligence Agencies. Kerry will ensure that our intelligence agencies receive the most accurate and timely information through established channels with intelligence and law enforcement agencies in other countries.
    • Build Cooperative Capacity with International Law Enforcement Agencies. Kerry will ensure that we are able to impart the latest and most effective techniques in battling terror to law enforcement agencies abroad as appropriate.
    • Increase the Number of Linguists Trained in Critical Languages. A Kerry Administration will increase funding and training for linguists competent in critical languages like Arabic so that American intelligence agencies have the best, most timely and translated information about terrorist planning and staging.
    • Create a Real Director of National Intelligence with Budget and Personnel Power. John Kerry will make the Director of the CIA the true Director of National Intelligence with real control of national intelligence personnel and budgets. John Kerry will also undertake and complete a national intelligence review immediately.

    I agree with all of this. Strangely, with the possible exception of the last one, does George Bush.

    • Many moves have been taken already to take down the “wall” between law enforcement and intelligence and between the various intelligence agencies. Many agencies are hiring analysts like mad. The FBI and CIA are working hand-in-glove on counter-terrorism and the FBI has created regional counter-terrorism task forces in each of the 56 FBI district offices to coordinate federal-state-local efforts.
    • We’ve been hiring linguists like crazy for some time. The problem is that most of the people we have sufficiently skilled in complex languages are foreign nationals who are hard to get through the security clearance process and many languages are really, really hard to learn for non-native adults. How does Kerry propose to overcome these hurdles?
    • I’m with Kerry on this and, in all honestly, am not sure where the administration stands on this issue. As I’ve noted in other posts, though, there are all manner of political barriers with Congress and the agencies in making this happen.

    But, again, it’s basically the current plan with a magic wand making things all better.

    3. Cut Off the Flow of Terrorist Funds

    • Impose financial sanctions against nations or banks that fail to cooperate in the effort to control money laundering. This is an urgent step to ensure that rhetoric is backed by the tough action required to cut the stream of terrorist financing.
    • Launch a “name and shame” campaign against individuals, banks and foreign governments that are financing terror. Those who fail to respond will be shut out of the U.S. financial system. There will be no sacred cows as we take the steps that are necessary to protect America.

    In theory, this is our existing policy. “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists.” In reality, though, it’s a hell of a lot more complicated than that. Several critical governments (Saudia Arabia and Pakistan, to name the two most obvious) are being uncooperative. Do we cut off diplomatic relations in order to achieve, quite possibly, nothing? And, for reasons of political correctness and partisan expediency, a lot of domestic supporters of terrorism are untouchable. I honestly can’t see Kerry following through on this beyond the rhetoric.

    4. Control the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

    • Appoint A High Level Envoy to Lead the Effort. John Kerry will ensure that the urgent and critical challenge of controlling the spread of WMD does not fall prey to inter-agency differences, and that a single individual is empowered to rally other nations to join an American-led effort to secure nuclear weapons and nuclear materials around the world.
    • Keep WMD from terrorists by aggressively refocusing and expanding efforts to secure stockpiles of loose WMD materials. Kerry will lead in this effort, and create a new international protocol to track and account for existing nuclear weapons and deter the development of chemical and biological arsenals.
    • Create a U.S.-Russian Commitment to Secure Russia’s Nuclear Weapons. Kerry will ensure that all of Russia’s nuclear weapons and materials are effectively secured within four years. He will significantly increase funding for Comprehensive Threat Reduction programs.

    This has all been done before with little success. We’re doing much of it now, with little success. The problem, as even Kerry must know, is that the states who are most likely to proliferate are the ones least likely to cooperate in his little international regime.

    5. Win the peace in Iraq and Afghanistan. John Kerry will bring real security in Iraq and Afghanistan to prevent terrorists from reemerging in Afghanistan or establishing a base in Iraq.

    • Broaden the Coalition in Iraq, Include the UN and Create Real Iraqi Security Forces for Stability. Kerry will do the tough diplomacy and hard bargaining to get more international boots and dollars and get the target off the backs of American troops. Kerry will rally the UN to help forge a transition to Iraqi sovereignty based on the need to build a stable democracy in Iraq. Kerry will be upfront about the costs, and he will make sure we meet our obligations fairly by rolling back tax cuts for the wealthiest and getting real international contributions.
    • Restore Security in Afghanistan and Undertake the Promised Marshall Plan. Kerry would expand the ISAF force and extend its reach into the provinces; and increase the trainees in the Afghan National Army (ANA). Kerry would pressure donor nations to meet the aid commitments they made at the Bonn Conference. He would double our counter-narcotics assistance to the Karzai government and make available a team of American counter-narcotics experts to provide technical assistance.

    This guy’s a dope. Does he really think the weak economies of Europe are going to pony up money and troops that they wouldn’t in their own defense during the Cold War in order to help us police the Middle East? C’mon. Because Kerry talks really pretty? And, gee whiz, the Marshall Plan worked in Western Europe because it was Western Europe. How exactly does that translate to a sandbox with no phone, no lights, no motor cars, not a single luxury–like Robinson Crusoe, as primative as can be?

    There’s more, but you get the idea.

    FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, Afghanistan War, Democracy, Middle East, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    James Joyner
    About James Joyner
    James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


    1. Kerry’s stupidity has just crossed over into the “dangerous for America” category.

    2. dw says:

      So, Kerry is, in effect, proposing the Dubya plan, only without reinstituting the draft in order to invade Syria. (Kidding!)

      I think it might work, and here’s why: Kerry is not Dubya. Right now, if Dubya said “I like peas,” there would be a global boycott of peas. So long as Dubya remains a lightning rod of criticism and draws the terrorists away from attacking the wishy-washy countries of Europe, there’s no reason for France, Germany, or most the rest of the EU to even give a damn about terrorism, and it’s better for them to stay on the sidelines since they won’t be attacked. With Kerry in office, though, that lightning rod is gone… and a lot of Algerians and Turks with grudges will line up for some Al-Queda cash. Europe will want to deal with Kerry, and in fact they will have to sign on with the US or face being caught in the cold when the Metro and the ICE blow up on the same day.

      So long as Kerry pursues the same policies as Dubya and the military reforms of Rumsfeld and the firing of Perle and Wolfowitz, he’s got my vote. The loonies out on the fringes can talk about peace and pullouts all they want, but it ain’t gonna happen. Someone needs to remind them Vietnam ended 30 years ago.

    3. McGehee says:

      DW, “the world” doesn’t get to vote for our President, and “the world”‘s opinion generally affects American voters the way you say Bush’s opinion affects “the world.”

    4. McGehee says:

      Someone needs to remind them Vietnam ended 30 years ago.

      I’m betting it won’t be Kerry.