The biggest challenge facing Republican presidential candidates is how to advocate sustaining an aggressive fight against terrorism to a war weary nation that is dissatisfied with President Bush.
In an essay for Foreign Affairs released this week, Rudy Giuliani, who has made fighting terrorism the primary rationale for his candidacy, has laid out a bold strategy for confronting a threat that he compares with the Cold War.
Giuliani defends many of President Bush’s policies — most notably the Iraq War — and, in the broader sense, gives the President credit for “orchestrating the most fundamental shift in U.S. policy since Harry Truman” by going on the offensive against terrorism in response to the Sept. 11 attacks. But Giuliani recognizes the need to pursue new strategies given current realities, just as Dwight Eisenhower and his successors “accepted Truman’s framework” but adapted with the times.
In his essay, Giuliani departs from President Bush by calling for a larger military, a more muscular diplomacy, and, perhaps most significantly, a more temperate approach to spreading democracy throughout the world. And, as he has already declared on the campaign trail, Giuliani has already given the conflict a new moniker: the Terrorists’ War on Us.
The American Spectator spoke with Giuliani’s chief foreign policy advisor, Yale professor Charles Hill, last month and Hill’s influence can be seen throughout the essay. Striking a similar tone as Hill did in his interview with TAS, Giuliani portrays the threat of terrorism as a generational struggle, and a direct challenge to the “international system” of the civilized world. “These enemies wear no uniform,” Giuliani writes. “They have no traditional military assets. They rule no states but can hide and operate in virtually any of them and are supported by some.”
To Giuliani, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan represent the “early battles of the long war” against radical Islamic fascism and he stresses that “we must understand that our enemies are emboldened by signs of weakness” as we learned from our pullout from Lebanon after the 1983 Marine barracks bombing and the withdrawal from Somalia in 1993. Therefore, he supports a sustained U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan with the ultimate goal being “to defeat the terrorists and the insurgents…and to allow these countries to become members of the international system in good standing.” He is cautious in terms of projecting what type of governments could emerge, writing, “We must be under no illusions that either Iraq or Afghanistan will quickly attain the levels of peace and security enjoyed in the developed world today.”
WHILE PRESIDENT BUSH HAS RECEIVED criticism for being overly idealistic in his foreign policy by pledging to spread democracy throughout the world, Giuliani calls for a balance between realism and idealism. He is quick to note that true realism should not be confused with the so-called “realist” school of foreign policy thought. “That doctrine defines America’s interests too narrowly and avoids attempts to reform the international system according to our values,” he writes. Still, he recognizes that there are lessons to be learned for the realist approach, including “tempering our expectations of what American foreign policy can achieve” and avoiding “promising too much or indulging false hopes.”
Giuliani recognizes that “Democracy is a noble ideal, and promoting it abroad is the right long-term goal of U.S. policy,” but cautions that it “cannot be achieved rapidly” and argues that “elections are necessary but not sufficient to establish genuine democracy.”
On the diplomatic front, Giuliani mentions two different avenues of diplomacy that we could be pursuing. One is public diplomacy. In his international travels since leaving public office, Giuliani has noted that the U.S. is letting myths persist abroad about American intentions without challenging them. He wants to make sure that all U.S. diplomats understand that their core responsibility is to defend U.S. policy abroad. “Too many people denounce our country or our policies simply because they are confident that they will not hear any serious refutation from our representatives,” he argues. “The American ideals of freedom and democracy deserve stronger advocacy. And the era of cost-free anti-Americanism must end.”
As for state-to-state diplomacy, Giuliani writes that it has gotten a bad rap in recent years because one side views it as the equivalent of surrender and the other side views it as a cure-all. To Giuliani, the model should be Ronald Reagan at Reykjavik who “was open to the possibility of negotiations but ready to walk away if talking went nowhere.” Diplomacy, especially with regard to Iran, must be conducted with skepticism and those who the U.S. negotiates with “must know that America has other options.” As Giuliani has put it before, if Iran knows that America is willing to take military action to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons, it’s much less likely that the U.S. will need to take such action.
Giuliani also calls for America to strengthen the international system. One way would be to adapt NATO to the threat of terrorism by letting more countries in without regional limitations given that “its founding rationale dissolved with the end of the Cold War…” But as for the United Nations, Giuliani said that we shouldn’t expect more from it beyond certain humanitarian and peacemaking functions. “The UN has proved irrelevant to the resolution of almost every major dispute of the last 50 years,” he writes.
GIVEN GIULIANI’S RECORD OF SUPPORT for Israel, most prominently with his ejection of Yasser Arafat from a Lincoln Center UN concert in 1995, there was no doubt that he would be a friend to Israel as presidential candidate, but until now, it wasn’t quite obvious how pro-Israel he would be.
Even President Bush, who has consistently sided with Israel throughout his presidency, has supported working toward a two-state solution, but Giuliani explicitly rejects pursuing the establishment of a Palestinian state, and he puts the ball firmly in the Palestinians’ court. “It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism,” he writes. “Palestinian statehood will have to be earned through sustained good governance, a clear commitment to fighting terrorism, and a willingness to live in peace with Israel.”
Giuliani begins his piece with a simple declaration: “We are all members of the 9/11 generation.”
While such a statement may not have been disputed in 2002 or 2004, after more than four years of an unpopular war in Iraq, it is unclear whether the American public still has the stomach for the kind of sustained offensive against terrorism that Giuliani proposes. The question that all Republicans will have to confront in the coming election is whether Americans are merely fed up with President Bush and the way the war is currently being executed, or if they have begun to question the wisdom of dedicating so many resources to fighting terrorism in the first place.
Republican voters know that no matter which way the political winds blow, no matter how tastes change, Rudy Giuliani will never forget the morning of September 11, 2001. With his essay in Foreign Affairs, they now have a much better idea of how, if elected, he would move the War on Terror into its second phase.
Philip Klein is a reporter for The American Spectator.
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