TCS Daily

Unasked Questions

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - October 5, 2004 12:00 AM

At the next Presidential debate on October 8th, the format is modeled after a town hall meeting, and there is no restriction on the subjects that can be discussed. Given that the first debate concentrated on only a few foreign policy issues (the Iraq war and reconstruction, fighting al Qaeda, nuclear weapons in North Korea and a quick question about the state of democratization in Russia), it would be nice to see if other foreign policy topics get some attention in the second debate. Herewith are the questions I would like to see President Bush and Senator Kerry answer:

  • (For President Bush): In your 2002 State of the Union Address, you said that Iran was one of the countries that was part of an "axis of evil." Given that there is a vibrant student/pro-democracy movement in Iran that is strongly pro-Western and views the United States favorably, why not use the moral authority of the United States more aggressively than your Administration has thus far to offer the Iranian pro-democracy movement material and rhetorical support to aid in political reform and regime change in Iran -- just as Ronald Reagan did for the Solidarity Movement in Poland in the 1980s?

  • (For Senator Kerry): You have said that you are willing to offer the Iranians nuclear fuel if they forego the development of nuclear weapons. Given that the Islamic regime has rejected your offer, please state specifically how you plan to respond and what policy adjustments you plan. Additionally, would you be willing to have your Administration offer the Iranian pro-democracy movement support in order to engender significant political liberalization in Iran?

  • (For President Bush): A recent article in The New Republic argues that the State of Israel has essentially won the war on terrorism. Do you agree? What do you see as being the next steps in the Arab-Israeli peace process? And what, if anything, can the United States learn from Israel in its own War on Terror?

  • (For Senator Kerry): Is Saudi Arabia a friend or foe of the United States? What evidence, if any, have you seen that the Saudis have cut down on the inflammatory and hateful things they teach their children in school about Americans, Israelis and non-Muslims in general? Should our policy regarding Saudi Arabia be adjusted independent of any energy concerns that we might have, and if so, how?

  • (For President Bush): Same question.

  • (For President Bush): In a second term, what will your Administration do to further and enhance the spread of free trade around the world? Please discuss specific treaties and executive agreements that your administration hopes to have enacted, and what you seek in terms of the specific content of those treaties and executive agreements.

  • (For Senator Kerry): Same question. Also, please address concerns that your party has veered towards protectionism. Is that true? If not, please give specific evidence and arguments to rebut those concerns.

  • (For President Bush): According to Professor John Mearsheimer, an international relations professor at the University of Chicago, those who view China as a strategic partner of the United States are making a mistake, as China is a competitor, and is the most credible country seeking to challenge America's role as a global hegemon and hyperpower. Do you agree? If so, does that mean that there should be a fundamental shift in American policy towards China? If not, why do you believe that either (a) China does not want to challenge American hegemony, or (b) China may want to challenge American hegemony but cannot?

  • (For Senator Kerry): Richard Nixon's opening to China in 1972 allowed the United States to form a strong alliance with a country that although communist, helped the U.S. balance against the power of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Is it time now for the United States to seek to amplify its relations with India in order to balance against the threat of a Chinese challenge to our hegemonic status?

  • (For both candidates): As a general question, what does America's role as a hyperpower in a unipolar world mean for us in terms of security commitments, the ability to affect world events, and what American grand strategy should be in the twenty-first century? Also, how long do you expect this unipolar international system to last?

  • (For Senator Kerry): Is NATO still relevant now that the Cold War is long over? If so, how and why? If not, how do you plan to make it relevant, or is it best to junk NATO altogether?

  • (For both candidates): Excluding the term of the Bush Administration (so as to avoid as much as possible any partisan spin), what period in American history do you see as the high point of American diplomacy and why? On the flip side, what period represented the nadir of American diplomacy and foreign policy?

  • (For both candidates): What political theorist -- alive or dead -- would you like to have as one of your foreign policy/national security advisors, and why?

Just a few foreign policy questions on my mind. I'm sure that there are many others on the minds of millions of other Americans. Let's hope that in the second Presidential debate, we are treated to a robust discussion on foreign policy and national security that goes beyond some of the limited (though certainly important) subject matter of the first debate.


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