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Wars of Choice
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I'm not the only one who noticed the line about wars of choice in Kerry's acceptance speech:

John Kerry said in his acceptance speech that

I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: The United States of America never goes to war because we want to; we only go to war because we have to. That is the standard of our nation."

As Bob Kagan rightly points out, Kerry would get an 'F' in American history if he wrote that on a final exam. No wars of choice means no wars to stop ethnic cleansing (Bosnia/Kosovo) and no wars to uphold international law (Gulf War I).

If so, what differentiates John Kerry from the isolationists of the past? I'll tell you what: the fact that he didn't really mean what he said. If faced with an impending genocide, say in the Sudan, Kerry would check the opinion polls and, if America wants, declare that genocide is a mortal threat to all that America stands for. If faced with wanton aggression, say a Russian invasion of Georgia, Kerry would check the polls and declare that America cannot be secure in a world without law.

In the finaly analysis, I think Kagan is right about what Kerry believes but doesn't recognize just how much ambiguity there is even in some of Kerry's most explicit statements.

Matthew Yglesias echoes the "Oh, he didn't really mean it" sentiment:

David Adesnik tells Bob Kagan not to worry so much about Kerry's whole "we only go to war because we have to" kick. I tend to agree.


If the speech said that Kerry will return America to its time honored tradition of never fighting wars of choice, that reflects absolutely nothing about John Kerry and a great deal about the results of the focus groups at which the line was no doubt tested.

He doesn't really mean what he says on foreign policy pronouncements. When elected, he'll decide policy primarily on the basis of polls and focus groups.

And this is supposed to make us feel better about Kerry?

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