Saturday, March 20, 2004


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By William Fisher

Though it may be hard to believe in our post-9/11 world, there was a time when US foreign policy was less shrill, less arrogant, and less partisan, and when policy makers understood that democracy could not be imposed from outside.

In the ‘old days’, Democratic President Harry S. Truman forged a partnership with congressional leaders like Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg to advance American interests in the perilous years following World War II. That partnership resulted in, among other initiatives, the Marshall Plan. It was Senator Vandenberg who first said, “politics stops at the water's edge.”

America has seen virtually none of this since the fall of the Soviet Union. The US foreign policy dialog has been strident and insensitive. The Executive Branch of government has steadily usurped the traditional authority of the Congress to, for example, declare war. This is very different from authorizing the President to take the nation to war. The result has often been a debate on details rather than core substance. The Marshall Plan contained no ‘one size fits all’ rhetoric about bringing democracy to Europe, in contrast to President Bush’s Greater Middle East Initiative.

Perhaps it is time the US re-learned the lessons of its own history. One way to begin to achieve this is through the choice of Colin Powell’s successor as Secretary of State. It is well know that Secretary Powell has differed with President Bush on many foreign policy issues. But his military background appears to have made him the ultimate team player, even to the point of advocating for Administration positions about which he has doubts.

The choice of his successor is a key element of a return to a far more informed and civil foreign policy. I would suggest that, if George Bush is reelected, he should appoint Democratic Senator Joseph Biden to run the State Department. If John Kerry wins the presidency, his Secretary of State should be Republican Senator Richard Lugar or fellow Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. This is not just because these leaders happen to be from the opposite party. It is because they are all experts in foreign affairs and diplomacy who might just be able to restore some consensus to American foreign policy.

Dick Lugar is an unwavering advocate of US leadership in the world, strong national security, free trade and economic growth. He is the author of the Lugar Doctrine and co-sponsor of the Nunn-Lugar program, developed to ensure that weapons of mass destruction are accounted, contained and destroyed.

Chuck Hagel has been a member of the Foreign Relations committee since his election to the Senate in 1996, and is currently the second ranking Republican on the committee. He is Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Economic Policy, Export and Trade Promotion. He also sits on the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs and the Subcommittee on European Affairs, and serves as the Co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Joe Biden, the Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, is the Democratic Party's chief spokesman on national security and foreign policy issues. One of the most respected voices on national security and civil liberties, he has earned national and international recognition as a policy innovator, effective legislator and party spokesman on a wide range of key issues.

All three men voted for most of the Bush foreign policy initiatives. But all have relentlessly questioned, publicly, the way some of these measures have been implemented. Any of them would have the strength and the integrity to stand up to the President and to foster consistency and transparency in policymaking and policy implementation.

It’s a pity that party politics prevents Messrs. Bush and Kerry from announcing these appointments now. Any of them would go a long way toward restoring US credibility in the international community.