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Sunday, January 04, 2004

Foreign Policy views of Democratic Candidates for President has a story by Anne E. Kornblut that appears in today's Boston Globe, , "On the world front, candidate differences are matters of degree." It discusses the foreign policy views of the various Democratic presidential candidates.

Here's the meat of the article:
"They're all calling from the same area code," said James M. Lindsey, director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. "There may be some differences, but there is a fair amount of similarity -- not in terms of Iraq, because there are real differences there. But in terms of the general view of America's role in the world, how you deploy American power, the rule of law, all these candidates share the same general outlook."

If there is a spectrum, he said, it reaches from Dennis Kucinich on the liberal end to Joseph I. Lieberman on the more conservative one, but "they're all pretty much in the same general intellectual place."

Although they differ in the details, the top-tier candidates would engage in talks with North Korea and would allow for some sort of incentive package to encourage Pyongyang to dismantle its weapons programs; would restart the Middle East peace talks; would work more closely with the United Nations and Europe, including relying on weapons inspectors when necessary; would take a more skeptical approach with Russia, because of crackdowns on rights in Chechnya.

The most obvious foreign policy differences within the Democratic Party are in two arenas: whether to accelerate free trade with other nations and how to handle the regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba. Other questions, such as precisely how to enter talks with North Korea, are more nuanced.

Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, for instance, has said he would engage North Korea's leadership directly, rather than in a group setting with four other nations, as Bush has done. He would also deliver economic incentives as part of a "nonagression pact" with Pyongyang in exchange for cessation of the nuclear weapons program.

Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts promises to "engage Iran and renew bilateral negotiations with North Korea on the nuclear issue," a direct assault on Bush's far more distant approach.

On Cuba, the line pits one group of Democrats opposing an embargo -- retired general Wesley K. Clark, Kerry, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, and Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri -- against Lieberman of Connecticut and, of course, President Bush, who opposes any trade with Cuba under the current government.
Kornblut points out that trade is perhaps the most divisive issue. Some of the candidates, like Gephardt (and Kucinich), have taken strong stands against "free trade" as practiced in NAFTA and the WTO. Meanwhile, Lieberman embraces these same deals, as do Clark and Kerry (who would add labor and environment standards). Dean takes a similar view, though he's tilting more to unions now than he did as Vermont governor.

Kornblut claims that several of the candidates have asserted that the US should retain the option of launching preemptive attacks -- but with the standard caveat that an attack on the US is imminent. This is an improtant point distinguishing this group from Bush.

Before making too much of this, Steve Walt of Harvard has an important point to keep in mind:
"We have to be a little bit careful trying to read anybody's worldview from where they are in the campaign," said Steve Walt, a professor at Harvard's Belfer Center for International Affairs. "If you went back and looked at what George Bush and his whole team said in 2000, you'd get some things right -- but you'd get a lot of things really wrong. One theme of his campaign was nation-building is really terrible. We wake up three years later, and we're doing it several places."
Still, I'm pretty sure that neither Dean nor Clark will shift gears as dramatically as Bush has.

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