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Foreign Policy

By Maria Wang

The first question George W. Bush and Al Gore were asked during the second presidential debate dealt with exercising America’s superpower status. Bush said that the interests of the United States will determine his foreign policy. Gore responded that the best way for the United States to use its power in the world is by domestic example, e.g., enforcing civil rights laws. The Vice President also said that he plans to maintain our strong military.

When questioned about America’s responsibilities to other countries, Governor Bush replied that Third World debt ought to be forgiven under certain circumstances, namely if that country decides to reform itself or pay the debt with valuable rain forest lands. Bush added that the United States should be careful lending money or troops to other nations.

Gore gave a specific response to resolving the Middle East conflict. He wants to stop the fighting by asking Syria to release the three captured Israeli soldiers and urging Arafat to denounce violence. The Vice President also emphasized the strength of the United States’ relationship with Israel.

Bush agreed with Gore’s proposals and added that the United States should develop an anti-ballistic missile system to counter threats by Saddam Hussein or anyone else. The Governor also said that it is important to have reliable allies in the Middle East because of the energy crisis. Both candidates want to keep the United States as an “honest broker” (moderator) rather than take sides in the Middle East crisis. They also share the opinion that sanctions should be kept on Iraq and support should be given to groups opposing Saddam Hussein.

On the issue of whether the United States should have intervened militarily in Rwanda in 1994 when 600,000 people died, both candidates agreed that it was the right decision not to place military forces there due to the absence of allies in Africa. Gore added, though, that the humanitarian mission should have arrived earlier.

Both candidates agreed that the International Monetary Fund should reform its practices to ensure that money does not end up in the hands of a few corrupted officials like it did in Russia. Again Gore emphasized that the United States should lead by example; he plans to make America the role model for struggling nations by maintaining our economic prosperity. Bush, on the other hand, said that countries like Russia should make their own economic decisions regardless of what the United States is doing.

On the issue of foreign policy, the two candidates have mostly similar views. Both recognize the obligations that come with being a powerful nation but stop short of allowing the United States to be the “policeman of the world.” Bush seems to advocate less military intervention than Gore; he opposes using forces for “nation-building,” a concept that became muddled in the debate. Both candidates, though, agreed that the security and interests of American people should be a priority when dealing in foreign affairs.