Finding the next century’s foreign policy

The world has become increasingly global since the arrival of the World Trade Organization spurred the growth of multinational corporations and enlarged the importance of the international economy’s impact on most American foreign policy decisions. Additionally, the United States’ stature as the world power has thrust the country into the role of both mediator and instigator of many conflicts abroad. As a result, an important component of the foreign policy debate this election year is the nature and extent of U.S. intervention.
Both major party candidates support an active role in global affairs and warn against isolation. “Our greatest export is freedom, and we have a moral obligation to champion it throughout the world,” wrote George W. Bush in “A Charge to Keep.” The Republican’s proposed missile defense system would not only shelter all fifty states but also provide protection to allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Recent criticism of the military’s readiness by Bush and running mate Dick Cheney has brought the effectiveness of America’s armed forces to the election’s forefront. Bush and his primary opponent, Democrat Al Gore, both want to increase military pay and benefits. This praiseworthy effort is increasingly important as the military loses needed specialists, such as pilots, to higher paying private-sector employers.
Some fringe candidates, such as Pat Buchanan, favor withdrawing all United States soldiers and pulling out of global commitments. Libertarian candidate Harry Browne also opposes American involvement in warfare, partly because he claims that it is ineffective and that free trade can solve most diplomatic problems. Rather than deploying troops in other nations, Browne would withdraw American soldiers and concentrate on defending U.S. soil.
The libertarian believes that a moral responsibility to engage in war could cause the country to reinstitute the draft after the United States becomes intertwined with too many conflicts abroad. Fortunately, Gore and Bush would probably choose their battles more carefully to prevent any uproar over mandatory military service.
Gore, however, like the Texas governor, believes the United States has a responsibility to respond to violence abroad. Gore has supported the war against Iraq and has continued meeting with Iraqi opposition forces to thwart Saddam Hussein.
Nevertheless, the next president should take caution when meddling in foreign affairs. As Buchanan wisely warned, “Interventionism is the spawning pool of international terror.” Green Party nominee Ralph Nader voiced similar concerns regarding trade sanctions on Iraq when he said, “The way a dictator gets power is by convincing the people there is an enemy.”
The vice president and the Texas governor have both proposed missile defense systems. Unlike Bush, Gore is only calling for a limited program, based on the nature of the threat and the cost and feasibility of prevention. After disappointing test results and numerous cautions from physicists, the Democrat hopeful’s more conservative proposal sounds warranted.
Third-party candidates Browne and Buchanan oppose continued military involvement in Europe and claim that the country can defend itself. The idea has received support, albeit less so, from Bush, who said he will eventually withdraw troops from Kosovo and would immediately remove U.S. soldiers from the Balkans.
Furthermore, the Republican presidential hopeful said he would order a top-down review of the military to eliminate needless defense spending and provide additional funds for his billion-dollar proposals to boost readiness. Other candidates, like Nader, have also called for revisions of the armed forces’ equipment to cut back on unsafe and unnecessary technology.
Foreign affairs are complex issues encompassing often interrelated military and trade policies. All presidential candidates propose different viewpoints, but many have wisely agreed on the need to increase military salaries and cut back on dangerous and ineffective technology.