Andrew Maykuth Online
The Philadelphia Inquirer
September 26, 2004

Similar goals, different worldviews
Part of a weekly series on key issues leading up to the election

America's relationship with the rest of the world was already transforming before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, though the extent of the changes to come were barely telegraphed to voters in the 2000 election campaign.

During a presidential debate four years ago, candidate George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore sounded remarkably similar in their assessment of how the world's remaining superpower should comport itself.

The unilateralist Bush doctrine -- demonstrated most clearly by the administration's invasion of Iraq despite international protests -- represents a distinct departure from the multilateralist approach of the Clinton administration and that of George H.W. Bush.

Both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry promise a stout war on terror as the centerpiece of their security plan -- both pledge vigorous fights to curtail weapons of mass destruction; both promise to support democratic efforts overseas. But the pathways they propose are built on fundamentally different worldviews.

Kerry says the president has embraced an "arrogant" disregard for the world and promises to build "an America that listens and leads." But the president's supporters say everything changed after Sept. 11; America does not need to seek a "permission slip," as Bush recently put it.

The U.S. foreign policy debate long has been characterized by a struggle between America's isolationist instincts -- the view that the United States should preserve its sovereignty by steering clear of international commitments -- and a recognition that the United States must work cooperatively with allies to achieve its national interests.

For most of the 20th century, America built alliances to promote freedom and democracy -- two world wars and the Cold War. At the end of the Cold War, the elder Bush followed by Bill Clinton embraced internationalism in which the United States exerted its influence, but within the bounds of international institutions.

One example of the cooperative approach was the elder Bush's "New World Order," in which the president skillfully assembled an international coalition to oust Iraq from Kuwait in the 1991 Persian Gulf War -- but stopped short of ousting Saddam Hussein as a concession to allies. The unilateralists later pointed to the willingness to accommodate an evildoer like Saddam as an example of the weakness of the "realist" approach, which calls for a balance of power among states, regardless of their character.

With the implementation of the younger Bush's policies, Iraq has become a laboratory to test whether the unilateralists' go-it-alone strategy will work.

Iraq and the war on terror will be the primary concern facing the next administration. Other flash points will include:

Nuclear proliferation: Iran and North Korea have defiantly moved forward to develop nuclear weapons. Pakistan appears to have rolled back scientist A.Q. Khan's secret nuclear proliferation network, but the extent to which it thrived clandestinely only serves as a chilling reminder of how easy it might be for terrorists to obtain fissile material.

Europe: America's historic allies are peeved at being brushed aside during the Iraq invasion and its aftermath. The U.S. government will have to confront whether a unified Europe will be more of a rival and less of a friend in the future.

Middle East: Peace talks on the Israeli-Palestinian issue are on hold, sidelined by Iraq. The administration says that a resolution is impossible until democracy has taken root in the Middle East, which brings this issue back to Iraq.

Russia: Facing determined political rivals and bold Chechen separatists, Vladimir Putin's government continues to shift dangerously away from democracy. Keeping Russia engaged while it confronts real security challenges will be a diplomatic challenge.

Humanitarian crises: The world wrings its hands as tens of thousands die in the Darfur region of Sudan, reflecting a deep ambivalence about getting involved in countries where the stakes are nonstrategic. The United States has been trying to organize an African response to Darfur, but it is only the latest crisis on the continent in the absence of political will to resolve them.

Narcotics: The war on terrorism has eclipsed the war on drugs, most evident in Afghanistan, where opium production has exploded in the absence of the Taliban.

Want to learn more? Independent analysis and data available at: Click on "Issue Guides," then "America's Global Role." Council on Foreign Relations. Under "The Source," click on "Campaign 2004." Its magazine Foreign Affairs is at Foreign Policy Association. Numerous articles and analyses. Click on "Bookstore," then "Citizen's Guide to U.S. Foreign Policy 2004" to purchase or read chapters of its pamphlet.

President Bush's foreign policy casts the world in a prism of good vs. evil, promising to confront terrorism with a "steely resolve." The long-term strategy for defeating terrorism is based on building democracies in Iraq and elsewhere because "free people do not support terror."

The highlights of his security and foreign policy agenda:

Reform intelligence services by creating a national intelligence director and establishing a national counterterrorism center.

Continue transformation of the military into lighter, faster forces stationed in strategic locations around the world while bringing home many Cold War-era contingents.

Increase development assistance by 50 percent to nations that promote economic freedom and demonstrate a commitment to governing justly.

Push forward on the missile defense system to shield the United States from rogue nations with long-range nuclear weapons.

Continue funding the five-year, $15 billion emergency plan for AIDS relief.

Encourage international financial institutions to offer grants instead of loans to developing nations to avoid the burden of insurmountable debt.

Double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy to $80 million, including promoting democracy in the Islamic world.

Sen. John Kerry's proposals place a great emphasis on assembling a broader coalition of allies to "maximize international cooperation" to fight terrorism. He says President Bush has alienated the rest of the world -- bullying rather than persuading -- at America's peril.

He also promises to curtail the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Other highlights of his security and foreign policy agenda:

Expand active-duty forces by 40,000 to relieve the strain on the military, and double special-forces capability and transform the National Guard for homeland security.

Complete a global clean-out of potential nuclear bomb-making materials in four years and negotiate a global ban on production of material for nuclear weapons.

Create a director of national intelligence to manage all components of intelligence while protecting intelligence agencies from political pressures to encourage a culture that challenges assumptions.

Increase research into alternative energy sources and encourage energy conservation to "free America from its dangerous dependence on Mideast oil." home page   
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