“It’s the economy, stupid” is once again the slogan of the Democratic presidential campaign, but this time around it is also the Republican slogan. The exclusive focus on domestic issues may reflect a general American contempt for all things foreign, but there is another reason for the lack of debate on foreign policy: There is no fundamental difference in the candidates’ approach to diplomacy.
Both Al Gore and George Bush endorse the globalist interventionism of the Clinton administration. On most issues. Bush and Gore share the same positions: Both supported NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia; both favor NATO enlargement; both would seek funding for a national missile-defense system; both are staunch defenders of NAFTA, PNTR with China (and its ascension into the WTO), and economic globalization; and both want to maintain the crippling economic sanctions against Iraq and Cuba. A Bush or Gore presidency would continue to maintain a unipolar world order based on American hegemony, free trade, and open borders.
Yet, for all their similarities, there are some nuanced distinctions between the two candidates that reveal much about the current state of their respective parties. Gore is a humanitarian neo-Wilsonian who is more hawkish than President Clinton. Throughout his political career, the Vice President has been a rare breed in the Democratic Party; A big-government liberal who has called for heavy military spending. While in Congress and as veep. Gore has consistently supported the use of American power—the invasion of Grenada in 1983, the Gulf War, the interventions in Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo. In fact, the Vice President’s top advisors have admitted that, whenever the President wavered on certain military actions (such as the invasion of Haiti or the airstrikes on the Bosnian Serbs), Gore loudly beat the drums of war, leading the interventionist faction within the Clinton administration.
Unlike the reign of Gore’s boss, who viewed foreign policy as a short-term tool to manipulate domestic public opinion during the Lewinsky scandal or to advance the interests of big business who are major contributors to the Democratic Party, a Gore presidency would take Clintonism to its logical conclusion. Gore is the consummate globalist. There is no corner of the world that he does not consider as part of the “vital security interests” of the United States. The core of his foreign policy is what he has called “forward engagement,” nipping in the bud potentially “disruptive” problems such as global warming, the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, the spread of destructive diseases like AIDS, and the threat of terrorism from “rogue states.”
Gore stresses that, with the end of the Cold War, we are now living in a “New Global Age” in which the “traditional nation-state is changing.” Hence, the United States must pump more money into its military, intervene in trouble spots around the world, and provide greater “leadership” and funds to international and regional institutions in order to secure global stability. Yet the Vice President is more than a foreign policy busybody: He is a revolutionary Utopian. Gore believes that it is the responsibility of the United States to “promote the prosperity” of the world’s poorest regions and to improve living standards for billions of people “who make less than a dollar a day.” Even Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright never expressed this kind of overweening internationalism.
If Gore wins in November, Africa will likely emerge as the next major area for American intervention. The Vice President has repeatedly criticized his Republican opponent for failing to include Africa in America’s sphere of “strategic influence,” attacking the Texas governor (and implicitly Clinton) for not demanding the use of American and U.N. troops to prevent the genocide in Rwanda. Gore’s policy toward Africa is a recipe for endless U.S. military action. The debacle in Somalia should have taught the Vice President that the African continent is riven with ethnic conflicts which can bog down the United States in countless guerrilla wars.
Bush, on the other hand, has a better understanding of the relationship between military means and geopolitical ends. He is a realist internationalist who believes that “Eurasia” is America’s greatest strategic priority. Like all establishment Republicans, his most important goal is opening markets in Asia and Europe for multinational corporations.
Under the influence of ultra-hawkish advisors such as Condoleeza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz, the Texas governor is invoking fears of a revanchist Russia and an expansionist China. Many Beltway pundits have argued that Bush’s strategic vision closely resembles the Reagan doctrine. As usual, they are wrong. Instead, Bush’s diplomacy is similar to that of Nixon and Kissinger. Bush promotes a policy of triangulation that seeks to contain both the Russian Bear and Red China. There is one crucial difference, however, between Bush’s foreign policy and that of Nixon during the early 1970’s: With the fall of the Berlin Wall, neither country poses a threat to the United States.
This has not stopped the Texas governor from making belligerent statements, and a Bush presidency would put the United States on a path toward confrontation with Moscow and Beijing. Bush has suggested NATO enlargement into the Balkans. Moreover, he has gone further than either Clinton or Gore in demanding that Kosovo not only remain an international protectorate but eventually be detached from Serbia and given full independence —an act that would undermine Moscow’s traditional sphere of influence in the Balkans and threaten its tenuous hold over Chechnya. Bush has also called for providing greater economic and military assistance to the Ukraine and the Baltic states to act as a buffer against the possible restoration of the Russian empire. Even if Moscow sought to reconstitute the old czarist empire (assuming this is possible, given Russia’s imploding economy and its recent dismal military performance in the Caucasus), Russia poses threat to the vital interests of the United States. But a Bush victory would continue the policy of humiliating Russia, turning it from a vanquished ally into a resentful enemy seething with rage at the United States.
In Asia, Bush’s goal is to expand trade with China while constructing air anticommunist ring of states around it, relying on Japan as the primary bulwark and guaranteeing the security of Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. Bush’s foreign-policy team has also called for supporting India as a major Asian power to weaken China’s influence over the region. However, Beijing—for all of its belligerent nationalism—does not threaten American strategic interests, and Bush’s policy of containment will only aggravate tensions between China and the United States, possibly setting the stage for another Asian war in the future.
The Texas governor is most dangerous on the issue of Mexico and Latin America, where he shows himself to be a multicultural globalist who possesses no conception of the United States as a distinct nation-state with its own cultural identity and interests. In a speech in Miami, Bush told a largely Hispanic audience that “America has one national creed, but many accents. We are now one of the largest Spanish-speaking nations in the world. We’re a major source of Latin music, journalism, and culture.” He went on to say, “Just go to Miami, or San Antonio, Los Angeles, Chicago or West New York, New Jersey. , . and close your eyes and listen. You could just as easily be in Santo Domingo or Santiago, or San Miguel de Allende.” “By nominating me,” Bush boasted, “my party has made a choice to welcome the new America.” Indeed it has. Bush’s “new America,” based on unlimited immigration, celebrates the transformation of the United States into an Hispanic nation, abandoning the country’s cultural and constitutional heritage.
During his tenure as governor of Texas, Bush has engaged in a longstanding love affair with Mexico and shamelessly pandered to the Hispanic voters in his state: He not only supported NAPTA but called for bilingual education and opposed Proposition 187. Bush also has enjoyed a cozy relationship with Mexico’s notoriously corrupt 70-year ruling party. The fact that the PRI is now out of power has not stopped Bush from championing a Western hemispheric free trade zone and declaring that one of his first acts as president will be to ask Congress for fast-track authority to extend NAFTA to Chile, Brazil, and Argentina, eventually encompassing all of Latin America. Whatever remains of America’s manufacturing base will wither away under a Bush presidency, and America’s slide toward a two-tiered society of “haves and have-nots” will continue.
There is nothing “conservative” about Bush’s internationalist brand of dollar diplomacy. It is not just that he is vacuous and pathetically uninformed, referring to Greeks as “Grecians” or confusing Slovenia with Slovakia, but that he does not grasp the essence of a successful foreign policy: It must be based strictly on the national interest. The major conservative European statesmen of the 19th century, such as Metternich, Bismarck, and Lord Salisbury, understood that the key to a secure and stable world depends upon balance-of-power diplomacy. Power and self-interest, not idealism, best ensure stability and peace in the international arena.
Neither Gore nor Bush understands that America’s hubris and meddlesome interventions of the past decade have left the United States in a precarious position. Rather than focusing on untapped markets in Latin America or Africa, or imaginary security threats posed by global warming or Russian imperialism, both men would better serve their country’s national interests by concentrating on problems closer to home—the porous border with Mexico, the onslaught of unlimited immigration, the likely breakup of Canada within the next decade, and the loss of state sovereignty and national identity. But that would require a disciplined foreign policy, which is beyond the capacity of either candidate.
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