26 August 2007

Giuliani's Thoughts

I picked up the September/October edition of Foreign Affairs today specifically to read extended essays by Giuliani and Edwards. The edition has part II of a series of essays by current presidential candidates (all of which can be found here), and I intend to go back and read part I – Romney and Obama. One thing about these that I like – they are extended essays. No half-page blurbs and quick escapes are necessary here. It seems that the candidates have plenty of space to say what they wish to say.

A few thoughts on Giuliani’s essay. Right out of the gate, he re-characterizes our current struggle as the “Terrorists War on Us.” It’s a well worded shift of paradigm. His point is to make clear that America did not seek out this war no matter what some folks may say (those who believe in the US as the source of evil in the world). He also argues quite effectively that we invited this war by withdrawing for various trouble spots – a point which he backs up with clear examples.

And that’s one of the best things about Giuliani’s essay. As I read through it, I didn’t find myself wading through visionary platitudes and epic lists of “America is” or “America isn’t”. His thoughts are clearly related and he doesn’t wander needlessly – which would be a symptom of using up space without adding substance (see previous topic on Geraldo Rivera).

Giuliani writes quite frankly about the failings of our State Department and the United Nations. He also gives some pretty clear ideas on how he would direct change with regard to these establishments. For the State Department he recommends changing more than just the organizational structure and expecting State diplomats to actually advocate US policies abroad. Funny how what should be obvious requires restating. Giuliani admits that the UN can do some things well, and then cuts to the chase.

“The organization can be useful for some humanitarian and peacekeeping functions, but we should not expect much more of it. The UN has proved irrelevant to the resolution of almost every major dispute of the last 50 years. Worse, it has failed to combat terrorism and human rights abuses.”

While he doesn’t say this directly, Giuliani seems to think that strengthening NATO with additional members from anywhere on the globe which fit the bill (democratic capitalist countries?) would better serve the purposes which the UN cannot live up to.

A few other statements which are as straight-forward as can be:

  • The U.S. Army needs a minimum of ten new combat brigades.
  • Members of Congress who talk directly to rogue regimes at cross-purposes with the White House are not practicing diplomacy; they are undermining it.
  • America's commitment to Israel's security is a permanent feature of our foreign policy.
  • The American ideals of freedom and democracy deserve stronger advocacy. And the era of cost-free anti-Americanism must end.
  • We will not shy away from any debate. And armed with honest advocacy, America will win the war of ideas.
I agree with all of these, and it’s very refreshing to read an extended statement of policy and vision from a politician which does not rely on pumping up hopes or stirring up fears, which doesn’t pander to one group or another. I came away from reading this essay with a clearer understanding of what a Giuliani presidency would be like and a much clearer understanding of at least some of his underlying principles.

And that’s an important thing in a president. While there will be a lot of talk about specific plans and remedies for current problems as the presidential campaign (that seems to have been going on for far too long already) moves along, it’s important to remember that the unknown, the unforeseen, is sometimes what defines a presidency. That is certainly true of President Bush (the current). It may very well be true of the next president. And considering Giuliani in that light alone, I believe – knowing what I know now – that I would be comfortable with him in the Oval Office.

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