The World Today - Would a change in government affect US foreign policy?
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The World Today - Friday, 29 October , 2004 12:22:00
Reporter: Eleanor Hall
ELEANOR HALL: This time next week the most powerful country in the world may have a new President. And according to a recent newspaper survey, a majority of people in some of the United States' key allies are hoping for a change.
Particularly in Europe, the Bush administration's policies of pre-emption, its preference for unilateralism over multilateral action and the push for regime change in the Middle East have generated concern. And the Democrat challenger John Kerry is seen as likely to run a less ideological foreign policy.
But would a Democrat team in the White House really make a significant difference to the way the US projects its power in the world?
According to one prominent foreign policy expert, no. Michael Fullilove is the Program Director for Global Issues at the Lowy Institute for International Policy and he has just made this point in a paper entitled: 'Bush is from Mars, Kerry is from Mars too'.
Dr Fullilove is with me now in The World Today Studio.
And joining us from Washington is a foreign policy analyst with a rather different perspective.
Joe Cirincione is the Director of the Non-proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment, and has just been named by the National Journal in the US as one of 100 Americans whose ideas will shape the policies of the next US administration.
Thanks to you both for being here.
First to you, Michael Fullilove, why won't next week's Presidential election make a significant difference to the way the US conducts its foreign policy?
MICHAEL FULLILOVE: Well, Eleanor, I think we're in the middle of an election campaign. Campaigns magnify differences. There are certainly differences of style between President Bush and Senator Kerry. There are important differences of policy between them as well.
But I guess from where I sit, I see that there are some factors driving convergence between the two men.
I don't argue that a Kerry administration would be the same as the Bush administration's been for the last few years. But I do think that on the Bush side, you're already seeing a chastened US foreign policy compared to where they were a couple of years ago.
So there are forces that are moderating President Bush's foreign policy and moving that away from the sort of gleeful unilateralism we've seen.
At the same time, on the other side, you've got forces that are pushing Senator Kerry towards the centre – his own instincts, the instincts of his advisors, the fact that there may well be a Republican Congress after the election again, so those factors along with the fact that there are serious constraints on the next President of the United States.
We always think about the choices in foreign policy, but the constraints are just as important.
And the war against Iraq… the war in Iraq and the war against terrorism are very serious items in the in-tray, the foreign policy in-tray, if you like, of the next president, and they will condition and help determine, and to some extent I think constrain America's foreign policy.
ELEANOR HALL: Joe Cirincione, does Dr Fullilove have a point that while there are major differences between the two men, a second Bush administration and a Kerry administration may not be so different?
JOE CIRINCIONE: I couldn't disagree more. I think Senator Kerry has already laid out several significant ways that he'd be different from the President. Clearly, he's still going to govern as the commander in chief of the most powerful nation in the world, and he does see that the US has a very special role to play, and in that he and the President are the same.
But he's already indicated, for example, that he would open up direct negotiations with the North Koreans, that he'd be listening to the allies – the kind of advice that Japan and South Korea just gave Secretary of State Colin Powell to have a more flexible policy on North Korea, advice that so far this administration has rebuffed.
He's indicated that he would go to Europe and renew the special alliance relationships. There's no question that Senator Kerry sees much more value in the multilateral institutions and the kind of international coalitions that exists above and beyond the ad hoc assemblies that President Bush wants to put together.
And it's a popular view, I think, among some Republicans, almost wishful thinking that the second Bush administration would be more moderate, be more pragmatic.
And I myself argued this for several months earlier this year, that President Bush in a second term would become like Ronald Reagan in his second term – more pragmatic, negotiating arms control agreements, but I actually have given up that position, because I didn't see any evidence to support it.
And I think there's significant evidence the other way, that is, that those in the administration who champion the war in Iraq will see a Bush re-election as a vindication of their policies and a mandate to continue a process that they themselves see as just beginning.
That is, a US-led radical transformation of all the regimes in the Middle East, a transformation that they believe is just in its early stages and has to continue.
ELEANOR HALL: Michael Fullilove, what of this point that if the Bush team wins next week the neo-conservatives will take it as a strong mandate to continue, particularly given the way foreign policy has been dominating the campaign?
MICHAEL FULLILOVE: It depends in part what view you take of President Bush. If you think he's a very simple man, if you think as the New York Times said last week, that he's running a faith-based presidency, that it's all-intuitive and that all his advisors are the same, you may take that view.
I find more persuasive, the argument that Republicans – not just President Bush but the Republican foreign policy establishment – is aware of the mistakes that they've made and they are not going to repeat them and they're going to try to correct them.
I think for example, the rapprochement with Libya is an example of coercive diplomacy. I mean, the fact that America is now prepared to negotiate with Tripoli means in a sense that it's given away that very ambitious claim… that ambition, if you like, of regime change throughout the Middle East. They're now saying, well, as long as you do the right thing we won't interfere with you.
ELEANOR HALL: You think there won't be a major change in the Middle East if the Bush administration's re-elected?
MICHAEL FULLILOVE: No, I think that Jo's right. I think on Iran, I think John Kerry would take a different approach. I think John Kerry would re-energise the Israeli Palestinian peace process.
President Bush de-emphasised that when he was elected, Senator Kerry has talked about appointing a high-level presidential envoy to that peace process. I think that would make an important difference.
But I still think there are underlying similarities. I mean, for example, look at the position on Iraq. Both… there's hardly a cigarette paper between the views of the two candidates.
Both want to internationalise the war, bring in multinational troops, train up Iraqi troops in order to lessen the burden on the United States in the long run. But neither of them is looking to get out right now.
I mean, I think similarly there are a lot of other issues. You look at trade. I mean, John Kerry has made a lot of claims about Benedict Arnold companies outsourcing their operations and so on and pursuing China.
But I don't think people who've really looked at Senator Kerry's record on free trade in the Senate would say that he's a fair trader as he's now being presented.
So I think there are… you know, American primacy, its great military and economic might means that most Americans from both sides… there are commonalities in the way they look at the world, the way they think about the use of force, the way they think about international law, whether they're prepared to be bound by treaties. I can't see, for example, Senator Kerry ratifying the Kyoto Protocol anytime soon.
So while I agree with Jo that there are important differences, and sometimes even small differences at the centre translate into great effects at the periphery where Australia feels them, I think there are underlying similarities that the rest of the world has to know, that America won't completely change on the 20th of January 2005 regardless who takes the oath of office.
ELEANOR HALL: Joe Cirincione, the point that Michael Fullilove makes about a cigarette paper being between the two on Iraq, I mean are you really saying that there will be a big difference in the Middle East despite the fact that Iraq surely has been a chastening experience for the Bush administration?
JOE CIRINCIONE: Michael's right about this – that if you were to compare the traditional Democratic views on foreign policy represented by John Kerry and the traditional Republican views on foreign policy represented, for example, by the former President Bush, or by Jim Baker and Brent Scowcroft, he's absolutely right, there isn't that much difference.
But what this George Bush represents is a radical departure from that view. It's a view that says that America's role in the world is not to manage international affairs, but it's to transform the world.
The reason the Bush administration doesn't have an exit strategy from Iraq is that for many of the people, who advocated the invasion of Iraq, they never intended to leave.
This is just the beginning of what they see as a long term struggle, what Norman Podhoretz calls 'world war IV' with the neo-conservatives in the American political process called world war IV.
We're already in this war, they see terrorism on the same scale as communism and that we are in a long struggle that's going to cost a lot of money and a lot of American lives. Iraq is the first battle in that war. That is a very radical notion.
Here's the other point that I agree with, with Michael. We're not sure yet which view will prevail if George Bush is re-elected. Will we see George Bush the convert to New York conservatism continue, this transformation of the world, or will he be won over by the moderates in his party, including his father and Jim Baker and Brent Scowcroft and Senator Richard Lugar and Senator Chuck Hagel.
One thing is for certain. That battle will break out right after the election, win or lose. There will be a struggle for the helm of the Republican Party foreign policy apparatus.
I believe that the neo-conservatives are going to be in a stronger position if the President is elected, and the main reason for that is that Vice President Cheney isn't going anywhere, and he's still going to have a very major influence on the policies of a new Bush administration if there is a new Bush administration.
ELEANOR HALL: Michael Fullilove, in terms of the importance of key administration players like Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld and so on, there has been talk of Colin Powell – a moderating force in the Bush administration – leaving, but you're suggesting that there's now a greater likelihood that he will stay. Where does that idea come from?
MICHAEL FULLILOVE: Look, I think the chances are probably that Colin Powell will still leave, but a number of the people I interviewed in Washington said that there were just the first mentionings, I guess, if you like, of the idea that given that state has emerged better than defence, that it's possible that Colin Powell may stick around, even if only for 12 months.
But it's not just power we should look at. I think Joe's quite right. We need to look at what happens to other key personnel. That'll give us an indication of what's going to happen in the civil war, if you like, that's occurring within the Republican Party.
Is Paul Wolfowitz… does he slip in behind the secretary's desk at the State Department or the Defence Department? Or alternatively does a more moderate person like Dick Armitage get up? I think they will provide important bellwethers.
But let me just add one other thing, if I can, Eleanor. Joe mentioned that President Bush has operated a radical departure from American foreign policy tradition. I agree that we've seen something like that in the last few years, but I don't think that's entirely a personal predilection of President Bush's.
Because as we know, the attacks of the 11th of September made a significant change to the mindset of a lot of foreign policy intellectuals, not just President Bush. We know, for example, that most democratic… most of the mainstream Democratic activists supported the moves to displace Saddam Hussein, so I think that Joe's quite right. President Bush has run a radical agenda, but that's partly been driven by external events as well.
ELEANOR HALL: I think you've reached agreement at the end after some strong disagreement at the front. Look, thanks very much to you both for joining us. Michael Fullilove from the Lowy Institute for International Policy and Joe Cirincione from the Carnegie Endowment in Washington.
© 2004 Australian Broadcasting Corporation