Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Politics of Preemption

Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and a certain response.
John F. Kerry July 29, 2004.

That line in Kerry's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention occasioned notice. Was Kerry implying that he will cede the next move to the terrorists? Can the Democrat reject the right of preemptive action, thereby placating his base on the left, while trying to make the appeal to swing voters that he stands for a stronger America?

The issue was joined this week in Australia, where Prime Minister John Howard criticized his election opponent Mark Latham for ruling out preemptive strikes against terrorist targets in Southeast Asia. Howard has said he would order preemptive strikes in neighboring countries if he learned that a terrorist organization such as Jemaah Islamiyah was planning an attack on Australia. Jemaah Islamiyah had killed nine people outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta just this last month and the same group was responsible for the October 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202.

Labor Party leader Latham, asked what his approach to terror in the region would be, said: "We've rejected Mr. Howard's notion of preemption, extended preemption. You need to do things in cooperation with our neighbors.... There's obviously sovereignty issues involved with that question, our approach is diplomacy, cooperation with our neighbors."

Howard sounded an alarm: "The question was 'If you knew there was going to be an attack on Australia, would you be willing to act to stop it?' What other answer can an Australian prime minister give than to give that answer? I'm amazed that Mr Latham didn't give the same answer as I gave." (AFX News, Asia, September 19, 2004)

In the United States meanwhile, as Kerry continues to avoid press conferences and news interviews, U.S. voters may have to await the debates for clarification of his views about preemptive action against terrorism.

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|| headland, 12:37 PM


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