Kerry’s Foreign Policy: Identifying and Reducing Threats IS Foreign Policy

by on June 2nd, 2004

This is, at least in part, a response to Marc Johnson’s “Internationalist Tendencies Do Not a Foreign Policy Make.” I intend to take issue with his jejune characterization of Kerry’s foreign policy.

Three themes will inform this discussion: the fallacious idea that Kerry’s proposal for cooperative nuclear threat reduction is a sideline; the indiscriminate use of the concept of ‘terrorism’ in connection with the conflict in Iraq; and the idea that Kerry has no idea for resolving the Iraq crisis beyond reliance on international intervention, specifically through the UN.

On the basis of personal knowledge, I can say that cooperative nuclear threat reduction is a matter which has been under close review and policy development in the Kerry campaign for months inside the campaign. Indeed, Senator Kerry has likely bee looking at this issue as a major contrast between Bush and himself since Bush cut funding for the program the first time in 2001.

At a March 28, 2001 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Senator John Kerry called reports of Bush’s intent to cut the program “absolutely stunning,” stating that he hoped “wiser heads would weigh in” to persuade the Bush administration to alter it’s position. Senator Pete Domenici, a ranking Republican, was also shocked that Bush “intends to take an axe” to “key” threat reduction programs whereas he supported a ten-fold increase in threat reduction spending. Kerry plans to spend 30-50 Billion on a comprehensive program to secure and destroy stockpiles of fissile materials in former Soviet countries. As Kerry puts it, “No material, no bomb.”

This is not rocket science, it plain common sense, yet Bush has not seen fit to fulfill his basic duty to keep American’s safe from the possibility of a terrorist nuclear weapon in the most rational fashion imaginable; by securing the materials with which one might reasonably be made. Instead, we have spent nearly 1000 lives and almost 200 billion dollars pursuing “WMD” that were never there, or at best, are exemplified by 1 malfunctioning shell of sarin gas.

The contrast between Bush and Kerry could not be more stark or more telling of these men’s differing foreign policy goals. Kerry sees a distant threat which we can very cost effectively abate with wise, and non-lethal action now – and he is strongly for it. Bush sees no political advantage in such a program and wants to de-fund it. Kerry sees the possibility of preventing a nuclear holocaust on American soil in the distant future and he makes plans to forestall the possibility. What Bush thinks, except perhaps that he can somehow kill, or capture and torture every jihadi who might build or detonate such a device, is anyone’s guess.

For Kerry, foreign policy is looking ahead, identifying threats, and acting to neutralize them if possible. For Bush, foreign policy is a morality play with neat toys. Us and them; for us or against us; white hat or terrorist. Star wars anti-missile systems which don’t work and do not respond to any reasonable threat. All-seeing databases of all the knowledge of the world to keep us all safe by surveilling us in case we are terrorists. Which brings me to the second theme; the indiscriminate use of the term terrorist by this Administration and its supporters as a substitute for considered argument.

It seems that whenever this Administration or its supporters which to forestall any rational argument, the term ‘terrorist’ gets used a lot. As in, “You don’t support the terrorists, do you?” or “If you are not willing to stand firm against terrorism in Iraq… you have no business being there…” Let’s examine this use of terrorism. Now, there may be some basic disagreement about the long-term goals of those Iraqis currently employing violence in Iraq. But the short term goal is pretty uncontroversial; they want us to leave. They also do not wish us to have any support in the international community. So what would a group of people, wishing to isolate their enemy do? Attack their allies. Hence, the UN HQ bombing.

Now in Palestine, while the British still held the mandate, people who lived in Palestine and wanted their independence often employed violence against British military targets, as well as civilian targets. We call such people freedom fighters if we sympathize with them, terrorists if we don’t. I would find it very interesting to know what Bush and his supporters would call these Palestinians. For the simple fact is, they were not Arabs, nor were they Muslims; they were Jews. Zionists to be precise. Determined to carve out a homeland independent of outside control. Terrorists? Certainly. They employed terrorism. But terrorism is, and has always been, the means by which the weak and poor fight the wealthy and the powerful. It doesn’t make it right, but it shouldn’t be allowed to obscure the underlying reality that poor, weak Iraqis are fighting Americans the only way they can to secure their freedom. You may abhor their methods, disagree with the goals, but it not permissible to dismiss them as terrorists, as if the reasons for their actions don’t matter.

What’s the point? Just this. Bush, with his heavy handed demand for complete and oppressive control, is the one creating terrorism in Iraq. The Iraqis are pretty well convinced that Bush intends them no good and they are fighting back. To argue, based on the existence of terrorism in Iraq, that only Bush and his itchy trigger finger have any business being in Iraq is a tautology. If the Iraqis are convinced you aren’t trying to steal their country and set up a new oppressive regime to control them, they are much less likely to try to kill you. It comes down to a matter of control; who has it, us or them?

This is the difference between the Kerry doctrine and Bush doctrine. Bush is obsessed with keeping control for himself. Kerry is concerned with keeping the peace; and that means allowing the Iraqis self-determination. That’s not appeasement, it is what we said we wanted in the first place. Why is required that we shoul rub Iraqi’s noses in the dirt before giving them their freedom? Bush is covetous of the commercial potential of Iraq for his corporate owners. Kerry is content to ensure that Iraq belong to the Iraqis. That is what conservatives say they want, too; why must American business have unfair advantages to succeed? Bush is doing all he can to ensure permanent American military domination of Iraq, as he hastily builds 14 giant bases. Kerry is content to rely on a peaceful, stable, and representative Iraq. Do we really want another military committment in the middle of a volatile region? Bush hoards power, allowing participation in Iraq only on his own exploitive terms. Kerry will invite the world in on their own terms. With others to balance and check American influence, the Iraqis will feel more confident that we will, in fact, leave.

Finally, the difference that matters most to Americans is that Bush is willing to endanger American troops and American civilians to reach his political goals. Those goals have nothing to do with American security and everything to do with his re-election. The Bush Administrations’s policy goals in Iraq shift week to week: WMD, terrorism, liberation, democracy, humanitarian relief of Iraqis; back and forth the rationale swings, tailored to the mood of the moment. Kerry only has one goal in mind, the security of the American people. He demonstrates this by his willingness to cede what authority he must, to the Iraqis and the UN. By satisfying the security needs of others, one to guarantees the security of America and her troops. War is not a popularity contest to Kerry, it is serious business carried out in a mature and thoughtful manner as a very last resort. Kerry won’t be swaggering around on a flight deck, or yelling “Bring it on!” to anyone but Bush. Kerry’s proposal to spend up to 50 billion dollars for an unglamorous, quiet little program in the Energy Department to purchase the fissile materials that could otherwise atomize New York one day, shows Kerry’s foreign policy to be far more than “internationalist tendencies”. His is a foreign policy of true security, cooperative threat reduction, mutual confidence building, mutual support, and real American leadership toward a peaceful world, and away from a world that is been made more dangerous, and more hostile, by the black and white world-view of Bush and pack of Neo-Cons.

Michael Bryan