NYTimes.com > Opinion OP-ED COLUMNIST The Boston Fog Machine By DAVID BROOKS Published: March 13, 2004 Columnist Page: David Brooks Forum: Discuss This Column E-mail: email@example.com TIMES NEWS TRACKER Topics Alerts Politics and Government Kerry, John F Presidential Elections (US) The 1990's were a confusing decade. The certainties of the cold war were gone and new threats appeared. It fell to one man, John Kerry, the Human Nebula, to bring fog out of the darkness, opacity out of the confusion, bewilderment out of the void. Kerry established himself early as the senator most likely to pierce through the superficial clarity and embrace the miasma. The gulf war had just ended. It was time to look back for lessons learned. "There are those trying to say somehow that Democrats should be admitting they were wrong" in opposing the gulf war resolution, Kerry noted in one Senate floor speech. But he added, "There is not a right or wrong here. There was a correctness in the president's judgment about timing. But that does not mean there was an incorrectness in the judgment other people made about timing." For you see, Kerry continued, "Again and again and again in the debate, it was made clear that the vote of the U.S. Senate and the House on the authorization of immediate use of force on Jan. 12 was not a vote as to whether or not force should be used." In laying out the Kerry Doctrine that in voting on a use-of-force resolution that is not a use-of-force resolution, the opposite of the correct answer is also the correct answer Kerry was venturing off into the realm of Post-Cartesian Multivariate Co-Directionality that would mark so many of his major foreign policy statements. The next crisis occurred in Somalia. Again, the U.S. Senate faced what appeared to lesser minds as a clear choice: to withdraw in the wake of U.S. casualties or not to withdraw. The oxymoronically gifted junior senator from Massachusetts perceived an equivocation between the modalities: "The choice for the United States of America is not between two alternatives only: staying in or getting out. There are many other choices in-between which better reflect the aspirations and hopes of our country." Kerry backed a policy of interventionist withdrawal, which jibed with the "third way" option embraced by President Bill Clinton himself. As Kerry noted, "I think that the president today made the right decision to try to establish a process which will maintain the capacity of our forces, protect them, and to disengage while simultaneously upholding the mission we have set out to accomplish." The Balkan crisis emerged, and again the Congress seemed to face a tough decision, whether to authorize the use of American force. But then the Boston Fog Machine rolled in: "It is important to remember that this resolution does not authorize the use of American ground troops in Bosnia, nor does it specifically authorize the use of air or naval power. It simply associates the U.S. Senate with the current policies of this administration and of the Security Council." The vote, Kerry concluded, was over whether to associate with a process that would determine certain necessary conditions involving uncertain modalities, which must be explored, in order to reach certain desirable ends. The Iraq problem returned in 1998, and Kerry proved again that there is no world crisis so grave it can't be addressed with a fusillade of subordinate clauses. Teams of highly trained spelunkers have descended into the darkness of the floor speech he gave on Oct. 10, 1998, searching for meaning, though none have returned alive. In a characteristic sentence, which admittedly sounds better in the original French, Kerry exclaimed: "We know from our largely unsuccessful attempts to enlist the cooperation of other nations, especially industrialized trading nations, in efforts to impose and enforce somewhat more ambitious standards on nations such as Iran, China, Burma and Syria, that the willingness of most other nations including a number who are joined in the sanctions to isolate Iraq is neither wide nor deep to join in imposing sanctions on a sovereign nation to spur it to `clean up its act' and comport its actions with accepted international norms." Can anyone say Churchillian? Kerry has made clear that if he is elected president, the nation will never face a caveat shortage. He has established the foragainst method, which has enabled him to be foragainst the war in Iraq, foragainst the Patriot Act and foragainst No Child Left Behind. If you decide to vote for him this year, there would be a correctness in that judgment, but if you decide to vote for George Bush, that would also be correct.