It’s The Economy, Stupid – But Don’t Forget about Foreign Policy

Henry Kissinger

James Baker

Warren Christopher

Madeline Albright

Collin Powell

What do they all have in common?  They are former Sectretary of States under Nixon, Bush, Clinton, and Bush.  They all also came together for a panel sponsored by CNN in the context of ‘Advice to the Next President’.  There are two themes that have really emerged as I watched the program:

1) They all are in general concurrence as to how our foreign policy should be structured

2) They pretty much don’t have much good to say about Bush II.  This includes James Baker (Bush’s dad’s SofS), Collin Powell (Bush II’s SofS), and Henry Kissinger (another Republican).

Several points they agreed on:

1) The next President must shutdown the Guantanamo Prison and eliminate all torture

2) We should negotiate with Iran

3) Spend more time and money in Afganistan – build the infrastructure

4) Many on the panel (including James Baker) believe that the US needs to lead on global warming

So what’s the point? First, if there is any doubt that Bush doesn’t have a clue how to run his foreign policy, these five Secretaries kind of proved that.  While it’s always fun to pick at Bush and, in a lot of ways, very sad – that’s really not the point.

The point is we need a President who is radically different in his foreign policy choices than the current adminstration.  As the Secretaries point out, we need to demonstrate to the World through our actions that we want to be a leader again.  To quote Joe Biden, who’s been preaching this mantra “lead by the power of our example and not the example of our power.”  While this might be obvious, when you peel away the rhetoric and have an honest conversation, the Secretaries demonstrate it’s less an opinion and more of fact about how we should govern.  Things need to change.

Ok, fast forward to the candidates.  The question becomes who is more willing and flexible to listen and adhere to this advice.  McCain has stated he will not support discussions with Iran. Obama has agreed to meet with them.  Both agree to close ‘Gitmo’.  McCain believes Iraq is still extremely important, while Obama recognizes Afganistan needs more attention.  Additionally, Collin Powell sort of ‘called out’ McCain for making the inane comment that, “We are all Georgians’ after the conflict between Russia and Georgia. McCain took the side of the Georgians.  Obama, took a measured response realizing the Georgians caused the conflict, but recognizing the Russia’s response was extreme.  Powell also sort of ‘called out’ McCain for spending time on ‘lipstick on a pig’ rather than real issues.  Finally, on the issue of global warming – the biggest key will be reduced emissions.  Reduced emissions means converting from oil and utilizing other energies.  With McCain’s philosophy of ‘drill baby drill’ and big oil working for the GOP, I do not think you will get policies with teeth that will ‘lead by example’

The consensous of the panel was that the United States has a big job ahead to prove our leadership to the World by demonstrating our integrity on the international stage.  Between the two candidates, I truly believe Obama would be the better candidate on foreign policy.  He has deomstrated that he will be measured in thought and will not move forward on emotion, but on information.  McCain, during the campaign, has shown to act emotionally with regard to Georgia and other events – domestic and internationally.  He disagrees in several ways with the panel and he is proving to be a war Hawk.  

The next four years are too critical to follow a similiar path that we have followed in the past.  We need a clean break from the policies of the past.  As the World continues to get more interrelated, we need to ensure our President bases decision on information and not gut feeling or limited visibility.

A couple of quick notes.  Baker did say he endorsed McCain, and Albright endorsed Obama.  Kissinger and Christopher didn’t mention their endorsements, but probably following their party affilitation.  And despite some of his issues with McCain, Powell stated, “I am not voting for McCain because of our friendship and I am not voting for Obama because he is black.”  He hadn’t made a decision and wanted to see more about how the candidates did at the debate.  He said the most important thing he was looking for was experience and leadership.  That sounds like a vote for McCain, but – you know what?  He hasn’t made up his mind. It seems he is not sold on the ‘lack of experience argument’ with Obama.


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