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CAMPAIGN 2000

Bush, Gore See Global Issues in Different Terms

September 13, 2000|ROBIN WRIGHT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — When George W. Bush looks out at the world, he describes himself as a "clear-eyed realist" whose approach is "idealism, without illusions." He sees America's enemies falling into four categories: "terrorists and crime syndicates, drug cartels and unbalanced dictators." And he promises to proceed with caution before getting America involved beyond its borders.

Al Gore looks out at the world as a globalist who favors "forward engagement." He's expanded the definition of national security threats to include AIDS, environmental degradation and the growing gap between rich and poor. And he advocates selective early intervention to contain problems before they explode into regional or international crises.

Although foreign policy has yet to emerge as a major theme in the campaign, the two presidential candidates have quite distinct visions of the world in the 21st century--and quite distinct approaches to its problems.

"The big difference is that Bush appears to view foreign policy from the pragmatic, problem-solving perspective and Gore has a somewhat messianic approach. He wants to do sweeping things that will change the world in one fell swoop," said Fareed Zakaria, managing editor of Foreign Affairs magazine, published by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Neither Favors U.S. Isolationism

A close examination of the two candidates' foreign policy views, as articulated in a half-dozen speeches and their parties' platforms, reveals several fundamental distinctions: Bush views the world primarily in terms of where it came from, Gore from where it could go. Bush talks frequently about the post-Cold War world. Gore opines about the new "Global Age." Bush defines foreign policy on the basis of "security threats." Gore frames his agenda in terms of "unprecedented opportunities."

Tactically, Bush wants to move incrementally when crises challenge American interests. Gore wants to be more engaged on a wider variety of fronts to preempt U.S. interests from being threatened.

Both candidates agree on two important premises in U.S. foreign policy: They oppose isolationism and protectionism, and don't want the United States to serve as the world's policeman.

Last November, in his premier foreign policy speech at the Reagan Presidential Library, Bush called isolationism "an approach that abandons our allies and our ideals" and that would produce "a stagnant America and a savage world." Gore warned that the United States "must reject the new isolationism that says: Don't help anywhere because we cannot help everywhere," in his major foreign policy speech in April in Boston.

They differ significantly, however, on when and how the United States should intervene in the affairs of other countries and what kind of relationship it should have with international agencies.

Bush emphasizes unilaterally asserting American interests. He would engage with the United Nations and related institutions only if major reforms are carried out and if America's share of the budget is lowered. And he has pledged never to put American troops under U.N. command.

Still, Bush looks to U.N. agencies to address key challenges.

"I don't like genocide and I don't like ethnic cleansing, but the president must set clear parameters as to where [American] troops ought to be used and when they ought to be used," Bush said in January on ABC-TV's "This Week" program. "The United States is going to have to work with organizations like the United Nations to encourage them to stop genocide."

Gore advocates paying long-deferred U.N. dues in full and strengthening cooperation with international institutions to promote democracy and fight terrorism, drugs and corruption. "A realistic reading of the world today demands reinvigorated international and regional institutions. It demands that we confront threats before they spiral out of control," he said in Boston.

At a graduation speech at the U.S. Military Academy in May, Gore said peacekeeping has taken on new importance in the "Global Age" and called it a critical mission of the American military.

In an era when economic strength often is a better barometer of global influence than military might or territorial size, both candidates see trade and investment as increasingly important foreign policy tools.

Opposite Views on Levels of Involvement

There are subtle differences, however. Bush appears to prefer to let market forces lead the way, while Gore has indicated he wants a significant increase in U.S. financial aid to supplement the efforts of the private sector and nongovernment organizations.

In an Iowa speech last November, Gore blasted the Republican Congress for cutting funds for embassy security, counter-terrorism, promotion of democracy, monitoring and dismantling arms, and peacekeeping.

"These programs are not charity, but national security. They must be enhanced, not reduced," he said, noting that foreign operations account for only one penny of each federal dollar spent.

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