Harkin Presents Four-Point Plan to Audience at Harvard University: 6: 6
By Sabrina Birner
Addressing a full house at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government last Thursday, Democratic presidential candidate Tom Harkin presented a four-point foreign policy plan that emphasized human rights, restructuring the military, and creating economic security at home.
Harkin, a second-term senator from Iowa, said that human rights, rather than political considerations, should be the basis by which the United States chooses who receives American assistance.
"This is not just good morals," he said, "it is good policy and good economics."
Harkin emphasized his point on the Senate floor the next day, when he introduced a bill that would restrict aid to countries that spend more on their military than on health and education.
He denounced President Bush's support for China after the Tiananmen Square massacre, for South Africa's apartheid regime, and for the current Haitian government.
A cornerstone of what Harkin calls his "value-based foreign policy" is a commitment to strengthening infrastructure and indigenous food supplies in developing countries, especially in Africa. In the long term, he said, this would open new markets for American products.
Harkin said he would like the Middle East peace talks to be tied to democratic reforms in countries such as Syria and Saudi Arabia. He also advocated humanitarian assistance to the people of the former Soviet Union.
Harkin proposed to diminish security risks by applying what he calls "preventive diplomacy." He said he would reduce the potential for armed conflict by calling for global arms reductions, limiting arms sales and strengthening such international organizations as the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
To reduce the threat of nuclear weapons, Harkin said he would enact bans on nuclear testing, weapons in space, and production of weapons-grade nuclear materials.
Next to the nuclear threat, global environmental degradation has "the greatest long-term potential for diminishing our nation's security," Harkin said. The crowd applauded when he said environmental concerns should be an integral part of our foreign policy. The senator recommended that the United States take a more active role in international environmental negotiations.
Military, economic restructuring
Harkin said that the end of the Cold War requires a complete restructuring of the U.S. military. Harkin, a Vietnam-era veteran and former Navy pilot, proposed to "reduce military expenditures by 50 percent within a decade" while still protecting U.S. national security "better than at any time since World War II."
In his speech, Harkin called for bringing most U.S. troops home from Europe and limiting the production of weapons designed primarily to counter threats from the former Soviet Union. He proposed to rely instead on a mix of flexible, mobile forces that could react quickly to flare-ups anywhere in the world. Harkin vowed to make the U.S. military "the best trained and best equipped in the world."
Saying that "military and diplomatic might is predicated on economic might," Harkin recounted the economic problems the United States faces today. He claimed that over the next 10 years, his military restructuring plan would create a peace dividend of $420 billion in 1992 dollars. Harkin proposed to earmark one-third of that money for deficit reduction, and to devote the remainder to a special `'fund for rebuilding America" that would strengthen the country's infrastructure and provide better education, job training, and health care. Harkin said he plans to have a national health care plan in place by the fall of 1993.
Saying that 6,800 jobs are created for every $1 billion transferred from military to domestic spending, Harkin claimed his military downsizing would add one million jobs in the long term.
To further strengthen the economy, Harkin favors stronger free trade agreements and a stronger and more open industrial research and development partnership between universities, the private sector, and the government. His proposal includes the abolition of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which sponsors some research at MIT.
Harkin clearly enjoyed his rapport with the crowd during a largely enthusiastic question-and-answer session. Referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act and to progress in civil rights and women's rights, Harkin said, "when we break down barriers, we become a stronger country." He chided Bush for including only "23 white men, no women, and no minorities" in his recent delegation to the Far East.
Asked about gay rights legislation, Harkin said that though he would not sponsor such legislation, as president he would certainly sign it if it were placed before him.