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Thursday, July 29, 2004  

The Kerry Capsules: Foreign Policy

Given that there has been more coverage, through more media, of John Kerry than any presidential candidate in history, it's odd that everyone says they don't "know him." Perhaps this is another effect of the right wing spin machine: "That John Kerry, he's said he agrees with everyone. Who knows what he believes." But in fact, his positions are very clear and his record is well-established. I thought I'd collect together the main points from his platform for handy reference. I've cleverly called them the Kerry Capsules.

Kerry fought in Vietnam, winning three purple hearts, a bronze star, and a silver star. Following his stint in Asia, he became disenchanted with the war and became one of its most outspoken critics. However, he's not a peacenik. Although he voted against the first Gulf War, he supported other military actions: Bosnia, Kosovo, Panama, Haiti. He voted to authorize the current Iraq war, but has been critical of the way the White House has executed it.

General Philosophy
The Economist: "In trying to strike a balance between multilateralism on the one hand and continued assertiveness on the other, Mr Kerry is returning to the hard-headed "progressive internationalism" of Roosevelt and Truman, which dominated American foreign policy throughout the cold war."

Perhaps to contrast George Bush, Kerry's multilateralist rhetoric gets the lion's share of air time, but the deep instinct to protect the country that led Kerry to authorize the war is a the balancing motivation in his view. Kerry would begin a process of engagement with the rest of the world--re-engaging our friends, and working diplomatically with trouble spots like Israel, North Korea, and Iran.

Marshall: "First he would expand and internationalize the security force by seeking the support of the UK, France, Russia, and China, and also NATO, which, he suggested, might take control of the borders and train Iraq's army. Second he would propose an international high commissioner to oversee elections, write a constitution, and organize the reconstruction efforts. Third he would launch a "massive training effort" to expand Iraqi security forces."

Kerry would continue the majority of actions put into place by Bush: disrupting terror networks and funds, preventing new terrorist havens from emerging, protecting the homeland. On three key issues he dissents.

A major initiative Kerry (and after the 9/11 Commission, most of America) advocates is improving our intelligence capacities. Unlike the neocons, he believes terrorism does not arrise in concert with state support. It emerges from poverty, isolation, and oppression. To combat these, he has an initiative of "public diplomacy and an international effort to improve education." Finally, he would expand the military: 40,000 new active duty forces, doubled special forces, and spending on equipment and technology.

If Kerry were running any other year, he'd be in trouble. The peacenik wing of the party would criticize him for being far too hawkish; the hawks would criticize him for being too unilateral.  I'm giving him a pass this time.  Even a peacenik can see that he's inherited some extraordinary debacles, and Rummy's lean-and-mean approach cleary ain't gettin' the job done.  We have almost arrived at the moment major foreign policy shakeup, but not quite.  First we must clean up some messes.

Critics charge that Kerry's living a utopian fantasy in thinking the world will pitch in on Iraq merely because he's elected.  In the short term, that's probably true, but I think the criticism is overblown for two reasons: 1) the world recognizes that Iraq is a breeding ground for terror and it's in each country's interest to stop it from festering, and 2) foreign leadership doesn't trust Bush to effectively contain Iraq, but they will consider Kerry.  As long as Kerry's Iraq looks like Bush's Iraq--a dangerous quagmire--the US will find little support.  But keep in mind that Bush has handled the reconstruction as incompetently as one can imagine.  A little bit of competence goes a long way.


John Kerry, official website
John Kerry, April 30 speech at Westminster College
Josh Marshall, Kerry Faces the World (Atlantic, July-August 2004)
The Economist, John Kerry's Foreign Policy

posted by Jeff | 10:34 AM |
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