John Kerry is supposed to be the man of nuance. But he can't seem to grasp the
implications of his boldest foreign policy statement in last week's presidential
debate - a principle that might be described as the "Mother, May I?" doctrine.
Unsurprisingly, I believe it’s Jonah that lacks nuance here and that there are subtle, but real differences between Kerry’s ‘global test’ idea and the ‘Mother, May I?’ notion. As a fellow Navy veteran to Kerry (I served during peacetime two decades later and in the Atlantic theater), I think what Kerry has in mind is what we in the Navy call a ‘command decision’ (The other three services may have the same concept, but I can't speak for them). Say an Ensign makes a decision that only his Lieutenant is properly authorized to make. The Ensign had to make the decision because the Lieutenant was not available and the decision had to be made right away.
The Ensign will say to the sailors carrying out his order that “Okay, I’m making a command decision here.” and will then proceed to tell them what to do. The sailors will carry out the decision in the knowledge that the Lieutenant may disagree with what they’ve done and may order the decision to be reversed.
The Ensign will consider the problem from the vantage point of knowing that he’ll probably have to explain his decision, but that he’ll most likely be explaining himself to a friendly and understanding audience in an atmosphere where they won’t be disturbed and where he won’t be embarrassed by being yelled at in front of his people.
Does the Lieutenant have veto power over the Ensign’s command decision? In a way, yes. The lower-ranking sailors will carry out the order in any event as they know that the Ensign will take the blame if there’s a problem. The main deterrent effect is in the mind of the Ensign. The Ensign is going to want to make absolutely certain that the facts are on his side and that he sincerely would have located the Lieutenant or another solution had there been time.
My question here though, is: Do the other nations of the world have some effective after-the-fact veto power anyway? I would argue that they do and that formalizing that power would be to the ultimate advantage of the United States. .
Looking at the PNAC proposal and various statements by John Bolton and Condoleezza Rice, it seems pretty clear to me that were it not for the difficulties Iraqis were giving us in our occupation of their country, the US would have long since followed up the Iraq War by invading either Syria or Iran. The troops that the US was clearly expecting from Pakistan and/or India would have made the occupation much easier and would have made such a redeployment possible. The governments of those countries appear to have been willing to comply but their people weren’t.
The ‘Super Power of Peace’ as the New York Times called it, exercised its veto and forbade any other countries to join in after the initial invasion was completed.
By ceding a form of a formal veto power to the rest of the world, President Kerry would simply be recognizing reality and giving the ‘Super Power of Peace’ what it already has.