Small World

Jewish World Review March 2, 2000 / 24 Adar I, 5760

GOP Candidates Offer
Little New on Foreign Policy

By Richard Z. Chesnoff

THERE WAS A TIME when foreign policy was a centerpiece in any American presidential race. But with the Cold War a fading memory and this country suffering from one of its spells of neoisolationism today's crop of presidential wanna-bes seems to have relegated foreign affairs to the back burner.

Still, the candidates do have positions. In the Republican race, the two leaders have views that sometimes overlap and sometimes diverge. Unfortunately, neither has much to offer that's daring or even innovative.Econophone

John McCain is certainly aware of the rest of the world. Consider this anecdote from a nurse who cared for him when he returned from a North Vietnamese prison camp in 1973: While other liberated servicemen were eager to catch up with family and fun, McCain asked for newspapers and magazines to catch up with the news he'd missed.

So why isn't he giving us better ideas? For example, he rashly demands that we either unilaterally abrogate our commitment to the Antiballistic Missile Treaty that we signed with the Soviet Union or "expeditiously negotiate a revision of it."

George W. Bush, who learned about foreign policy at his father's knee, is no better on this dangerous issue. He also is prepared to cancel the ABM Treaty if we can't persuade Moscow to agree to amendments that would allow quick deployment of an anti-missile system.

The two diverge on how best to strengthen America's military and make it more efficient. McCain would cut pork-barrel spending at the Pentagon to provide more funds for military basics, including better pay for people in uniform.

Bush believes the military needs an immediate infusion of cash before it can efficiently assess which programs to keep and which to drop.

Trakdata Neither man has anything effective or new to say on dealing with the world's giants. Both are justifiably fed up with Russia's post-Soviet corruption and economic mess. Bush opposes further international loans and wants to make sure future U.S. assistance goes "to the Russian people, not to the bank accounts of corrupt officials," which sounds nice but may win this year's stating-the-obvious award.

On China, Bush is far more critical of current policy. The Texas governor wants to redefine the U.S. relationship with China as one of competitors, "not of strategic partners."

McCain doesn't want to limit trading or "freeze our diplomacy" with Beijing, but he says America has to prepare for the possibility that in this new century China will emerge "as the primary threat to American interests and values." In other words, let's get tougher with China, but not so tough that we lose contracts. Is that the best he can do?

Mideast policy seems to be fairly equal. While they both indicate complete support for Israel's right to decide what's best for its security and Bush would move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem each understands the need for America to actively escort Arabs and Jews toward a peace.

The two also have similar views on an ancillary issue: the fate of Jonathan Pollard, the former Navy analyst who has been behind bars for 15 years for giving Israel intelligence secrets, far longer than any other man convicted of spying for a friendly nation.

Bush's staff, citing his attitude on Death Row cases, says he would reconsider the case only if "compelling new evidence" surfaced. McCain rules out clemency for Pollard. Not much heart there.

One major plus: Both candidates hail from the Southwest and understand the importance of strengthening ties to Latin America.

But after surveying their major foreign policy positions, all I see are generalities no clear blueprints for the future. And on some major international threats, neither candidate has anything of substance to say e.g., how to combat global terrorism or the worldwide plague of AIDS, or how to deal with Iran. Men who want to lead the world should do better.

JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist at the NY Daily News. His latest book is Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews and Committed the Greatest Theft in History.


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