Rejecting isolationism as "a shortcut to chaos," Texas Gov. George W. Bush today outlined the foreign policy principles that would guide his presidency, promising a "distinctly American internationalism" while avoiding what he called "management of crisis."
In a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Bush sought to reassure skeptics and supporters alike that, despite limited experience in foreign affairs, he commands a vision of the world that would make him an effective president in an unpredictable world.
While embracing internationalism, however, Bush enunciated specific policies that could strain relations with such nations as China and Russia, and possibly even with some U.S. allies.
Bush called for a U.S. policy that deals with China as "a competitor, not a strategic partner." While not as pugnacious as what some conservatives have advocated, this is a harder line than the one taken by the Clinton administration, which has at times considered a "strategic partnership" with Beijing. Bush's pledge to deploy missile defense systems could alienate both China and U.S. allies in Europe.
In another clear break with the administration that is likely to disturb allies, Bush restated his opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was rejected recently by the Senate. Bush said the treaty was not enforceable or verifiable. "We can fight the spread of nuclear weapons, but we cannot wish them away with unwise treaties," he said.
Bush sought to sketch out America's role in a post-Cold War world that is radically different than the one his father grappled with as president a decade ago, when the the collapse of the Soviet Union and the twilight of the Cold War framed America's approach to the world.
Instead he described an unstable world of emerging powers, rogue tyrants and proliferating weapons of mass destruction. "The empire has passed," he said, "but evil remains."
In this new world, Bush said, "America's first temptation is withdrawal, to build a proud tower of protectionism and isolationism." That approach, he argued, would lead inevitably to "a stagnant America and a savage world."
"American foreign policy," he said, "cannot be founded on fear" that American workers cannot compete internationally or that the United States "will corrupt the world or be corrupted by it."
His call to reject "the blinders of isolationism" appeared aimed at the forces within his own party (and at the departed Patrick J. Buchanan, who is seeking the Reform Party nomination) that have opposed U.S. intervention in various global crises--most recently in Kosovo. His criticism of foreign policy drift, however, was aimed squarely at the Clinton administration.
The speech came at a time when the Republican front-runner has faced increased scrutiny about his preparation for the presidency. Since failing a foreign policy pop quiz in a TV interview, which even adversaries called unfair, Bush has been peppered with questions about his foreign policy expertise.
Today, before an audience that included Nancy Reagan, Bush was introduced by George P. Shultz, a Bush adviser and Reagan's secretary of state, in effusive terms. He also won the endorsement of Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), one of the party's leading foreign policy experts.
But rivals in both parties found fault with Bush's prescriptions, criticizing the speech as vague and full of platitudes that glossed over tough questions about how to achieve sometimes competing goals, such as engaging China in trade while insisting that it stop human rights abuses.
"It was very, very bland," said GOP competitor Steve Forbes. "Who's against peace and prosperity and strength of purpose?"
Bush outlined a series of priorities, from trade in the Western Hemisphere to stability in the Middle East. But he devoted much of today's speech to U.S. policy in Europe and Asia, which he termed "our greatest priority." He said future speeches will deal with other priorities and problems.
He described Russia and China as great powers but noted that each nation is undergoing a transition that requires the United States to remain clear-eyed in encouraging democracy and freedom while checking the expansionist or undemocratic impulses of both governments.
On China, Bush called for U.S. policy to avoid the filters of partisanship or posturing. "We must deal with China without ill will--but without illusions."
He applauded China's entry into the World Trade Organization, while warning that he would hold China to its promise to open its markets. He also said he hoped China's WTO membership would open the door to entry by Taiwan as well and said Beijing should not seek to impose its will on Taiwan. "We will help Taiwan defend itself," he said.
Bush called for the establishment of a theater missile defense system in the region to deter aggression and said he would seek to preserve and enhance U.S. relationships with other democratic nations there. A Bush presidency, he said, would respect China but with this caveat: "It will be unthreatened," he said, "but not unchecked."
Russia, he argued, remains a great power despite what he called an "epic of deliverance and disappointment" since the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed a decade ago. But he warned against continuing to send U.S. or international assistance to corrupt officials, an area where his advisers have been critical of the Clinton administration.
Bush pledged to commit more U.S. funds to help Russia eliminate its nuclear stockpiles. But he also called for the United States to build a missile defense system--a sticky issue with the Russians because it could force the abrogation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that bars such systems.
On Chechnya, Bush said, the West "cannot excuse Russian brutality." Continued attacks against civilians, he said, should lead to an end to assistance from international lending institutions, a policy similar to one advocated by Bush's rival, Arizona Sen. John McCain.
In other areas, Bush said the United States should pay more attention to India as a nation that will rise in prominence in the coming century. He advocated reforms in international monetary institutions and said that, if he became president, the United States would pay its United Nations dues so long as the institution is reformed.
Highlights of George W. Bush's foreign policy speech:
America's first temptation is withdrawal -- to build a proud tower of protectionism and isolation. In a world that depends on America to reconcile old rivals and balance ancient ambitions, this is the shortcut to chaos. It is an approach that abandons our allies, and our ideals. The vacuum left by America's retreat would invite challenges to our power. And the result, in the long run, would be a stagnant America and a savage world.
ON MILITARY INTERVENTION
America's second temptation is drift -- for our nation to move from crisis to crisis like a cork in a current. Unless a president sets his own priorities, his priorities will be set by others -- by adversaries, or the crisis of the moment, live on CNN. . . America must be involved in the world. But that does not mean our military is the answer to every difficult foreign policy situation -- a substitute for strategy. American internationalism should not mean action without vision, activity without priority, and missions without end.
China is rising, and that is inevitable. Here, our interests are plain: We welcome a free and prosperous China. We predict no conflict. We intend no threat. And there are areas where we must try to cooperate: preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, attaining peace on the Korean peninsula. Yet the conduct of China's government can be alarming abroad, and appalling at home. . . . China is a competitor, not a strategic partner.
Russia is a great power, and must always be treated as such. . . . Instead of confronting each other, we confront the legacy of a dead ideological rivalry -- thousands of nuclear weapons, which, in the case of Russia, may not be secure. . . . [A] great deal of Russian nuclear material cannot be accounted for. The next president must press for an accurate inventory of all this material. And we must do more. I'll ask the Congress to increase substantially our assistance to dismantle as many of Russia's weapons as possible, as quickly as possible.
ON MISSILE DEFENSE
We will still, however, need missile defense systems -- both theater and national. If I am commander-in-chief, we will develop and deploy them.
ON NUCLEAR TESTING
In the hard work of halting proliferation, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is not the answer. I've said that our nation should continue its moratorium on testing. . . . [But] the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty does nothing to gain these goals. It does not stop proliferation, especially to renegade regimes. It is not verifiable. It is not enforceable. And it would stop us from ensuring the safety and reliability of our nation's deterrent, should the need arise.
Even as we support Russian reform, we cannot excuse Russian brutality. When the Russian government attacks civilians -- killing women and children, leaving orphans and refugees -- it can no longer expect aid from international lending institutions.
This coming century will see democratic India's arrival as a force in the world. A vast population, before long the world's most populous nation. A changing economy, in which 3 of its 5 wealthiest citizens are software entrepreneurs. India is now debating its future and its strategic path, and the United States must pay it more attention. This should not undermine our longstanding relationship with Pakistan, which remains crucial to the peace of the region.