At last week’s Republican National Convention, John Kerry was repeatedly criticized for his penchant for multilateralism and his faith in international organizations. He was labeled “soft on defense.” Kerry recognizes, however, that a strong defense requires steady alliances. He understands that our alliances do not constrain our power, but rather are a tool that “amplifies America’s voice and extends our reach.”
To the George W. Bush administration, American foreign policy is all about Iraq. But the world is a big place with a host of other problems. It is time that we elect a president who recognizes that America’s security is not protected by the ousting of one dictator, but rather by a broad, progressive and productive approach to foreign policy. We can no longer afford to isolate ourselves from the plights of others, nor can we pursue our national interest in ways that alienate our allies, instigate our enemies and spread virulent anti-American sentiment. John Kerry’s internationalist approach does not focus solely on immediate threats, but rather works to address emerging dangers—the spread of weapons of mass destruction, regional instability and the crippling effects of disease.
The current administration has done alarmingly little to prevent the spread of deadly and destructive weapons to both irresponsible regimes and terrorist organizations. Although the Bush administration has mastered the rhetoric of renunciation and condemnation of nuclear programs, they opposed the globally supported Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty calling for a moratorium on nuclear testing and have advocated the modernization of America’s arsenal with the deployment of more “usable” tactical nuclear bombs. John Kerry recognizes the hypocrisy of this approach and believes that a concerted effort to combat nuclear proliferation begins with a consistent policy at home.
At the same time, the United States must lead a global effort to secure nuclear materials. Although President Bush promised in 2000 to support the Nunn-Lugar initiative for securing nuclear stockpiles, his FY 2005 budget cuts funding for the program by 10 percent. Moreover, while focusing on his military intervention in the Middle East, President Bush has complacently permitted two “evil” regimes to acquire fissile materials and to develop weapons of mass destruction. Under the Bush administration, North Korea has repeatedly walked away from negotiations aimed at limiting their nuclear program. John Kerry understands the importance of bringing North Korea back to the negotiating table, and as president he would attempt for the first time to engage in bilateral talks with Kim Jong Il’s government. Furthermore, Bush has done nothing to prevent Russia from selling nuclear reactor technology to Iran, technology that could easily be used to harvest weapons grade material. John Kerry and John Edwards recognize the consequences of ignoring this issue, and they have devised a multilateral and realistic incentive program to solve Iran’s energy crisis while preventing its further production of nuclear weapons.
A comprehensive U.S. security policy in the Middle East, however, cannot just focus on Iran. The Bush administration, though touting the importance of democratic reform in the region, has made few real strides towards freedom and stability. Kerry’s Middle East policy recognizes that the safety and security of this volatile region is paramount to our national interests and those of our allies. Throughout his career in the Senate, Kerry has supported numerous initiatives promoting America’s relationship with Israel, our most important democratic ally in the Middle East. As president, Kerry would reinvigorate the peace process, and will initiate a productive dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians to ensure an enduring end to the conflict.
John Kerry also believes that the United States should contribute its vast resources to promote the sustainable development of third world nations. Nowhere is this assistance more necessary than to combat the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, where roughly 29 million people are infected. John Kerry recognizes that America has not just a moral responsibility, but also a vested security interest in ending this pandemic. The spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the African continent has resulted in widespread social unrest, political instability and violent civil strife. Such conditions empirically breed hatred and terrorism and encourage the rise of rogue regimes. Despite the gravity of the situation, however, the Bush administration has done nothing but throw an insufficient amount of money at the problem. John Kerry’s presidency will be different. Under his leadership, the United States will champion an international coalition of national governments and private sector firms with both the will and the resources to combat this pandemic.
During his speech at the Republican National Convention, President Bush put forward his case for re-election, stating that he was the better choice for a safer America. Yet, he offered few policy proposals, even failing to mention the threat posed by North Korea and Iran. John Kerry has not only recognized the plethora of threats facing the United States, but has offered plans for action. His commitment to the security of the United States is apparent in these comprehensive plans. President Bush seems to believe that his mere presence in the White House is enough to deter threats to American security. The dangers facing our country, however, cannot be willed away, but must be directly addressed by smart policy and progressive engagement with the rest of the world.