While listening to the Foreign Policy debates the other night between Senator John Kerry and President George W. Bush I picked up on an inconsistency in Kerry's approach to foreign policy; particularly his approach to Iraq versus North Korea. Kerry, in his own words:
I believe America is safest and strongest when we are leading the world and we are leading strong alliances.
I'll never give a veto to any country over our security. But I also know how to lead those alliances
This president has left them (alliances) in shatters across the globe
I have a better plan to be able to fight the war on terror by ... doing what we need to do to rebuild the alliances
I have a plan to have a summit with all of the allies
(On Iraq) First of all, he made the misjudgment of saying to America that he was going to build a true alliance...
And we pushed our allies aside
I think we need a president who has the credibility to bring the allies back to the table and to do what's necessary to make it so America isn't doing this alone.
Then the president, in fact, promised them. He went to Cincinnati and he gave a speech in which he said, "We will plan carefully. We will proceed cautiously. We will not make war inevitable. We will go with our allies." He didn't do any of those things.
The Arab countries have a stake in not having a civil war. The European countries have a stake in not having total disorder on their doorstep. But this president hasn't even held the kind of statesman-like summits that pull people together and get them to invest in those states. In fact, he's done the opposite. He pushed them away.
(On Iraq) I said that he had made a mistake in not building strong alliances and that I would have preferred that he did more diplomacy.
Notice any patterns? When discussing the War on Terror and more particularly the War in Iraq, Kerry continually calls for stronger alliances. Kerry promises that he can do better. Kerry believes that Bush shattered America's alliances. Kerry seems hell bent on passing some sort of "Global Test" on whether America should go to war.
Kerry was also critical of the United States foreign relations with North Korea. Kerry blamed President Bush for the actions of North Korea, who, in violation of nuclear non-proliferation treaty, worked to build nuclear weapons. In the debates, Bush explained our current policy in the following way:
Before I was sworn in, the policy of this government was to have bilateral negotiations with North Korea.
And we signed an agreement with North Korea that my administration found out that was not being honored by the North Koreans.
And so I decided that a better way to approach the issue was to get other nations involved, just besides us. And in Crawford, Texas, Jiang Zemin and I agreed that the nuclear-weapons-free peninsula, Korean Peninsula, was in his interest and our interest and the world's interest.
And so we began a new dialogue with North Korea, one that included not only the United States, but now China. And China's a got a lot of influence over North Korea, some ways more than we do.
As well, we included South Korea, Japan and Russia. So now there are five voices speaking to Kim Jong Il, not just one.
And so if Kim Jong Il decides again to not honor an agreement, he's not only doing injustice to America, he'd be doing injustice to China, as well.
And I think this will work. It's not going to work if we open up a dialogue with Kim Jong Il. He wants to unravel the six- party talks, or the five-nation coalition that's sending him a clear message.
Bush, having learned of North Korea's deception, dishonesty, and nuclear ambitions, enrolled China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan (some of our allies, especially on this issue) and ended the US's go-it-alone approach to dealing with North Korea. Now an alliance
of interested parties, all with a clear stake
in North Korea being a nuclear free country are working together to deal with what is clearly an international problem.
Does Kerry, who has spoken at great length about the importance of building alliances and working with other nations for a diplomatic solution to international problems, support Bush's plan of engaging allies and building diplomatic coalitions to deal with an emerging nuclear threat? Amazingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, Kerry does not support Bush's policy. Instead of Kerry's typical, "I can do it better" spiel, Kerry said the following the the debates
LEHRER: I want to make sure ... the people watching understand the differences between the two of you on this. (to Bush) You want to continue the multinational talks, correct?
LEHRER: And you're willing to do it...
KERRY: Both. I want bilateral talks which put all of the issues, from the armistice of 1952, the economic issues, the human rights issues, the artillery disposal issues, the DMZ issues and the nuclear issues on the table.
Kerry apparently wants to, in addition to the multilateral talks, begin anew bilateral talks with North Korea. Bush, understanding the consequences of such an action immediately responded saying
The minute we have bilateral talks, the six-party talks will unwind. That's exactly what Kim Jong Il wants.
Kerry, later, responded to this saying:
Just because the president says it can't be done, that you'd lose China, doesn't mean it can't be done. ... We could have bilateral talks with Kim Jong Il. And we can get those weapons at the same time as we get China. Because China has an interest in the outcome, too
I imagine anyone reading this is familiar enough with the basic terminology being thrown around and therefore is cognisant of the difference between bilateral and multilateral talks; however, in the off chance that an Esoteric Visitor is unclear as to what is being said, I will break it down for you.
Bilateral talks are talks between two nations. This is what Kerry advocates. Kerry has been critical of Bush for not having bilateral talks with Noth Korea. Bilateral talks involve only two
parties, in this instance the US and North Korea would be the only countries meeting to talk. President Bush ended the policy of having such talks with North Korea.
In Bilateral talks there is a summit of sorts where only the two involved countries are invited to discuss terms of an agreement... an agreement which is only binding between the two countries
which negotiate the agreement. Therefore, if the US bilaterally came to an agreement with North Korea, as we did in 1994, then the terms can only binding between the US and North Korea (the only parties to the agreement). An agreement made bilaterally, therefore, cannot be binding to third parties, like China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea.
The reason bilateral talks break down multilateral talks (talks involving more than two countries... the current policy with North Korea) are because any such bilateral talks work to the obvious detriment of the effectiveness of multilateral talks. For instance, if the US agreed to North Korea's demands for bilateral talks, then North Korea could just stop sending a delegation to the multilateral talks because they achieved what they wanted. Moreover, any agreement resulting from multilateral talks would involve 6 parties (in this instance), 2 of which are the US and North Korea... making any agreements multilateral talks already binding between the US and Korea in any sort of bilateral talks... any new agreements would be redundant. Bilateral talks are then unnecessary UNLESS we come to seperate agreements bilaterally, which of course is obviously and clearly an agreement that does not include our allies - South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia - and which break down similar agreements in the multilateral talks because of redundancy, in part, and because North Korea would gain nothing in extending obligations from a bilateral agreement to third parties.
Now here is what troubles me about John Kerry's approach to foreign policy: Kerry has a very clear message about the importance of allies, coalitions, and involving countries which have a stake in a particular dispute. Kerry has been very critical of Bush's efforts to involve allies in the War on Terror, particularly in Iraq. But, when it comes to North Korea, Kerry doesn't see any reason for involving our allies in the world and the countries which have a stake in the future of North Korea and their weapons programs. Bilateral talks are the very essence of exclusion when it comes to our allies who have a stake in this matter. How can Kerry be so gung-ho about bringing allies together to work out disputes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the War on Terror, but at the same time support talks which would exclude nations like China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea?
To my knowledge, Kerry has not been made to explain this paradox in his foreign policy goals: bringing our allies together and speaking in a unified voice In Iraq while shutting our allies out of talks with North Korea. Why such importance of alliances when it comes to Iraq but not when it comes to North Korea?
I don't know if anyone else has yet raised this point. I can't be the only person who has thought about this, but I have not as of yet taken the time to look into what others are saying about the debates. I didn't listen to the likes of Hannity or Limbaugh, nor have I been watching the news or checking out other blogs yet. I wanted to get this idea down ASAP (without outside influence) and I have not had the chance to write it down until now. (I've had more pressing obligations and have also come down with a nasty cold).
Leave a comment and let me know what you think.