Examining the Republican Platform Part II: “Securing the Peace”

This is continued from Part I of my examination of the Republican Platform, which actually drew a comment ostensibly from the executive director of the Platform Committee. Which considering some of the stuff I’ll have to say about the platform today, is supremely ironic.

“Securing the Peace”: You can learn a lot not only from the order of the topics of each part of the respective parties’ platforms, but on the order of topics within those parts and how much time is spent on them. The Democrats, aside from a paragraph on the current economic crisis, hit the ground running with a very long dissertation on health care, which tells you that’s the issue they care about most of all. The Republicans start out talking about foreign affairs, and specifically national security and beefing up our military, before moving on to foreign relations and diplomacy, which would seem to show you they’re very gung-ho and macho. Yet “Securing the Peace” is probably longer than the other two sections of the first part put together.

“The Republican vision of peace through strength requires a sustained international effort, which complements our military activities, to develop and maintain alliances and relationships that will lead to greater peace and stability.” So to some extent, you believe in speaking softly and carrying a big stick, but you’re also willing to use said stick to get your peace along with getting everyone to help you in your “military activities”. Should I be scared that you intend to try and achieve peace through “military activities”?

“Promoting Human Rights and American Values”: “The international promotion of human rights reflects our heritage, our values, and our national interest. Societies that enjoy political and economic freedom and the rule of law are not given to aggression or fanaticism. They become our natural allies.” Sounds good, but there is evidence that spreading “American values” has met resistance in some parts of the world, and we need to be aware of that and know how to deal with it.

Republican leadership has made religious liberty a central element of U.S. foreign policy. Asserting religious freedom should be a priority in all America’s international dealings. We salute the work of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and urge special training in religious liberty issues for all U.S. diplomatic personnel.

To be successful international leaders, we must uphold international law, including the laws of war, and update them when necessary. Our moral standing requires that we respect what are essentially American principles of justice. In any war of ideas, our values will triumph.

I’m… not sure what the first paragraph is trying to say. I’m not even sure what it means. I mean, of course religious liberty is a good thing, but are we going to try and impose it everywhere like we tried to impose “democracy” on Iraq, or are we going to avoid offending nations that don’t have it? What did the USCIRF find, exactly? The first sentence of the second paragraph starts out well, but “update them when necessary”? You can’t do that unilaterally, you have to get international cooperation, that’s why it’s called international law. If I knew what you had in mind I might feel a bit better about it, because it might just be common sense for all I know.

State Department Reform
Advancing America’s values should be the core mission of every part of the federal government, including the Department of State. America’s diplomatic establishment must energetically represent our country’s agenda to the world. We propose a thorough reform of its structure to ensure that promotions and appointments are based on performance in supporting the nation’s agenda. Our diplomats must be the best our country has to offer, and America’s diplomatic abilities must be an integral part of America’s national security system.

Hopefully “advancing America’s values” doesn’t mean you’re going to use an organ devoted to diplomatic relations with other nations and use it to try and convert other nations, other cultures, to our way of life unilaterally. I’m not sure what “represent[ing]” and “supporting the nation’s agenda” means – does it mean that, or does it simply mean representing American interests to other nations? If the latter, good; if the former, it would seem to imply a misunderstanding of the role of diplomats. I’m tentatively hoping it does mean the latter, but the unclear wording concerns me.

Public Diplomacy
Throughout the Cold War, our international broadcasting of free and impartial information promoted American values to combat tyranny. It still does, through Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio/TV Marti, and it remains an important instrument in promoting a modernizing alternative to the culture of radical terror. Getting America’s message out to the world is a critical element in the struggle against extremism, and our government must wage a much more effective battle in the war of ideas.

Wow. A plank of a major party platform outwardly supporting international propaganda. I mean, I don’t want to say that I don’t want to continue programs that help deter people from terror, but is it not possible that the idea that America is trying to indoctrinate the youth and subvert them into good little American operatives is serving as a piece of propaganda for extremists and actually serving as a recruiting tool? I’d like to see the actual numbers and studies analyzing the effectiveness of this sort of thing. And you’re still trying to propagandize Europe?

Human Trafficking
Generations after the end of slavery in America, new forms of bondage have emerged to exploit men, women and children. We salute those across the political spectrum who have come together to end the commerce in our fellow human beings. We advocate the establishment of an Inter-Agency Task Force on Human Trafficking, reporting directly to the President, and call for increased diplomatic efforts with foreign governments that have been negligent toward this evil. The principle underlying our Megan’s Law – publicizing the identities of known offenders – should be extended to international travel in order to protect innocent children everywhere.

Finally, a plank in this section I unequivocally support. My only concern has to do with the “Inter-Agency Task Force on Human Trafficking” and its status as something close to a Cabinet-level agency. There might be other examples of this sort of thing, I don’t know, but are you really going to take away that much in the way of resources that could have, I don’t know, gone towards national security?

“Sovereign American Leadership in International Organizations”: “The United States participates in various international organizations which can, at times, serve the cause of peace and prosperity, but those organizations must never serve as a substitute for principled American leadership.” If you’re saying they can’t serve as a substitute I’d agree with you pending agreement with the premise; if you’re saying they shouldn’t, I say if they’re better than “principled American leadership” at “serv[ing] the cause of peace and prosperity”, then by all means cut them loose!

“Nor should our participation in them prevent our joining with other democracies to protect our vital national interests.” That certainly sounds good but it almost seems to be pointing towards going over the head of the UN and other international organizations to do whatever we want. If a nation is using the UN to block action against them (or even an ally) that the rest of the world backs, of course we should be able to join with the rest of the world in taking that action anyway, but that’s almost a specialized case. The UN is at least supposed to be representative of the world, and if we decide we’re going to go over their heads we should be ready to face the consequences. And this “joining with democracies” better not be of the form “you’re with us or against us”.

“At the United Nations, our country will pay a fair, but not disproportionate, share of dues, but we will never support a UN-imposed tax.  The UN must reform its scandal-ridden and corrupt management and become more accountable and transparent in its operations and expenses.  As a matter of U.S. sovereignty, American forces must remain under American command.” First sentence makes sense, but I might be swayed by some of the reasons the UN might “impose” a “tax”. I have never heard of the UN’s “scandal-ridden and corrupt management”; if it exists it should be fixed, but where did that come from? And will you also support, say, Canadian forces having to remain under Canadian command, or Chinese forces remaining under Chinese command?

“Discrimination against Israel at the UN is unacceptable.  We welcome Israel’s membership in the Western European and Others Group at the UN headquarters and demand its full acceptance and participation at all UN venues.” The UN kind of has to walk a tightrope here between supporting Israel and courting the support of nations that hate Israel’s guts. The UN needs to take an impartial stance in the Middle East, condemn all atrocities by both sides, and not be seen as supporting one side or the other, because that’s its role in all conflicts, to be an impartial mediator. Of course “discrimination against Israel” should be out, but hopefully it doesn’t mean treating Israel as a perfectly 100% legitimate state that’s not the subject of constant controversy over its very existence either. And I have no idea what “the ideological campaign against Vatican participation in UN conferences and other activities” is.

“Because the UN has no mandate to promote radical social engineering, any effort to address global social problems must respect the fundamental institutions of marriage and family. We assert the rights of families in all international programs and will not fund organizations involved in abortion.” I think most “organizations involved in abortion” don’t require people to have abortions in any way. They simply provide them. “Social engineering” would be taking that away. You would refrain from funding any perfectly legitimate organization that did a gazillion things to help developing countries rise themselves out of poverty just because they performed abortions? Or were even “involved in abortion”? (In fact, there are concerns that this policy actually breeds abortions by cutting off supplies of other forms of birth control, but those organizations should just suck up and follow it, right? I mean, this is blackmail!) Or are you concerned that the UN is promoting homosexuality, a more legitimate concern? I mean, how is the UN not respecting the “fundamental institutions of marriage and family”? And how would you deal with a culture where the “fundamental institutions of marriage and family” are very different? Would you “respect” them or attempt to impose a Western model?

You’d even “reject any treaty or agreement that would violate those values”? Even ones dealing with other topics, like “the UN convention on women’s rights, signed in the last months of the Carter Administration, and the UN convention on the rights of the child”? So you won’t support women’s rights because the document proclaiming them dared to mention abortion? Is it that much of a poison pill? You’re not even objecting on religious or moral grounds, you’re talking about “the fundamental institutions of marriage and family”. That’s scary; maybe you don’t support women’s rights beyond abortion, because you’re saying “if you have sex before marriage [presumably even by rape] tough bupkis, you gotta carry the baby to term”, which hardly protects “the fundamental institutions of marriage and family”. Worse, you’re screwed if you have an unintended baby after marriage, which implies the Republicans might believe in a “traditional marriage” scheme where the woman is subservient. Not saying it’s necessarily the case, and I don’t even like abortion, but this is just a little concerning.

“For several reasons, particularly our concern for US sovereignty and America’s long-term energy needs, we have deep reservations about the regulatory, legal, and tax regimes inherent in the Law of the Sea Treaty.” See here for what this is all about. Oddly, outright objection may be a minority opinion even within the Republican Party, as the Bush Administration supports ratification. Still, I can’t say the anti-ratification side doesn’t have good points.

“To shield the members of our Armed Forces and others in service to America from ideological prosecutions, the Republican Party does not accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court over Americans.” That’s been a big bone of contention with other nations in the world, because it effectively lets our “Armed Forces” get away with bloody murder without having to go through an international tribunal. Still, shielding the military from “ideological prosecutions” – prosecutions designed solely to embarrass America – is a legitimate concern… “We support the American Servicemembers Protection Act, to shield U.S. personnel and officials as they act abroad to meet global security requirements.” …but if this still calls back to the previous sentence, this really does say we can get away with bloody murder, at least as phrased. Unless and until the United States submits to some sort of controls against war crimes, we’ll never have the standing in the world we should.

“Helping Others Abroad”: Begins with some empty praise for the people who “combat disease and poverty around the world”, and a call to “[i]nclud[e] the world’s poor in an expanding circle of development” through “the Republican approach to world trade through open markets and fair competition”.

It must also be a top priority of our foreign policy.  Decades of massive aid have failed to spur economic growth in the poorest countries, where it has often propped up failed policies and corrupt rulers. We will target foreign assistance to high-impact goals: fostering the rule of law through democratic government; emphasizing literacy and learning; and, concentrating on the foundations for economic development—clean water, agricultural improvement, and microcredit funding for small enterprises.  Maternal and child health, especially safer childbirthing and nutrition, must be priorities, especially in countries affected by epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

So the Republican idea of aid to developing countries is not just ordinary charitable donations of food and money, but trying to institute democracy and actual, substantive infrastructure improvements that can actually have a long term impact. I agree with all of that, except once again, we need to make sure that if our democratization attempts meet resistance, we can identify it and deal with it and not have a repeat of Iraq.

Further, we call for the development of a strategy for foreign assistance that serves our national interest.  Specifically we call for a review and improvement of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 oriented toward: alignment of foreign assistance policies, operations, budgets and statutory authorities; development of a consensus on what needs to be done to strengthen the non-military tools to further our national security goals; greater attention to core development programs – education, child survival, and agricultural development; and greater accountability by recipient countries so as to ensure against malfeasance, self-dealing, and corruption, and to ensure continued assistance is conditioned on performance.

The last clause is the only one I would worry about. The accountability measures need to be effective and themselves not prone to “malfeasance, self-dealing, and corruption”.

“Strengthening Ties in the Americas”:

Faith and family, culture and commerce, are enduring bonds among all the peoples of the Americas. Republicans envision a western hemisphere of sovereign nations with secure borders, working together to advance liberty and mutually-beneficial trade based on sound and proven free enterprise principles.  Our relations with our immediate neighbors, Canada and Mexico, are grounded on our shared values and common purpose, as well as our steadily increasing trade. We pledge to continue this close association and to advance mutually beneficial trade agreements throughout Latin America, promoting economic development and social stability there while opening markets to our goods and services. Our strong ties with Canada and Mexico should not lead to a North American union or a unified currency.

Your second and penultimate sentences wouldn’t be talking about the eminently controversial NAFTA and successors, would it? Most of this is good, at least if you accept the underlying principles, most of which are basic economics. I know the last sentence should be reassuring to some people…

Two factors distort this hemispheric progress.  One is narco-terrorism, with its ability to destabilize societies and corrupt the political process.  In an era of porous borders, the war on drugs and the war on terror have become a single enterprise. We salute our allies in the fight against this evil, especially the people of Mexico and Colombia, who have set an example for their neighbors. We support approval of the free trade agreement with Colombia, currently blocked by Capitol Hill Democrats and their union boss supporters, as an overdue gesture of solidarity for this courageous ally of the United States.

Wait, so do Republicans think if Democrats are concerned about Columbian crackdowns on unions, it must be because they’re in hock to “union boss[es]” and not out of general concern for the welfare of the people of Columbia? I certainly think your concern is appropriate…

“The other malignant element in hemispheric affairs is the anachronistic regime in Havana, a mummified relic from the age of totalitarianism, and its buffoonish imitators.” I never thought I’d see a phrase like “buffoonish imitators” in a major party platform. Didn’t Castro take power in the late 50s? By “the age of totalitarianism” are you basically referring to the Cold War? Because for some reason I’d go further back with that term…

We call on the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean to join us in laying the groundwork for a democratic Cuba.  Looking to the inevitable day of liberation, we support restrictions on trade with, and travel to, Cuba as a measure of solidarity with the political prisoners and all the oppressed Cuban people. We call for a dedicated platform for transmission of Radio and Television Marti into Cuba and, to prepare for the day when Cuba is free, we support the work of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba.  We affirm the principles of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, recognizing the rights of Cubans fleeing Communist tyranny, and support efforts to admit more of them through a safe, legal, orderly process.

Most of this sounds good, but it’s not entirely without controversy. I mentioned my issues with transmission of American propaganda into foreign nations earlier.

“Advancing Hope and Prosperity in Africa”: This section follows what’s becoming a pattern: three paragraphs, the first of which describes the situation and the US role, followed by two paragraphs of policy positions. In this case, the first paragraph contains a recognition of the sad situation in Africa, with almost as much of the Republicans tooting their own horn: “Republicans have faced up to each of those challenges because, in addition to humanitarian concerns, the U.S. has important security interests in the stability and progress of African nations.” “Republican-sponsored legislation has brought jobs and investment to sub-Saharan Africa. To continue that progress, we advocate continued expansion of trade with African nations.” That’s important, but it’s not much better if Africa becomes the new Taiwan.

The second paragraph is basically a condemnation of the situation in Darfur, a call for a stronger response from African leaders, and a pledge to support them and “secure a comprehensive and humane settlement for the people of the southern and western Sudan.” Military involvement is not mentioned. Maybe the Republicans do realize that war is not always the answer. The third paragraph condemns the situation in Zimbabwe, and a call for sanctions against the Mugabe government, “free elections, and the restoration of civil government in Zimbabwe.” Well, that’s just head-slapping common sense.

“Partnerships across the Asia-Pacific Region”: A change in format here. For the next three sections, we start with an overview paragraph and then sub-headings for several different nations. Skip the praising of several different nations, including Australia and “our Freely Associated States in the Pacific Islands”, which makes “English Language Learners” sound like normal English. Actually, I take that back. Praising Japan and “look[ing] for Japan to forge a leadership role in regional and global affairs.” Praising South Korea and its vigilance “against the tyranny and international ambitions of the maniacal state on its border.” America wants “the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, with a full accounting of its proliferation activities.  We look toward the restoration of human rights to the suffering people of North Korea and the fulfillment of the wish of the Korean people to be one in peace and freedom.” Praiseworthy goals, and hopefully international cooperation is part of this in the Republicans’ minds. But it’s telling that this sentiment is placed in the introductory paragraph and isn’t broken out into a sub-heading.

India We welcome America’s new relationship with India, including the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Accord. Our common security concerns and shared commitment to political freedom and representative government can be the foundation for an enduring partnership.” Korea doesn’t get broken out into its own heading but this sort of empty platitude does? Note to self: Look up “US-India Civil Nuclear Accord”.

Pakistan We must expand our ties with the government and the people of Pakistan.  We support their efforts to improve democratic governance and strengthen civil society, and we appreciate the difficult but essential role Pakistan plays in the fight against terror.” And we also need to make sure Pakistan is playing that role, and not giving safe haven to terrorists without pursuing them. Otherwise worthy goals.

Our policy toward Taiwan, a sound democracy and economic model for mainland China, must continue to be based upon the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act. We oppose any unilateral steps by either side to alter the status quo in the Taiwan straits on the principle that all issues regarding the island’s future must be resolved peacefully, through dialogue, and be agreeable to the people of Taiwan. If China were to violate these principles, the U.S., in accord with the Taiwan Relations Act, will help Taiwan defend itself.  As a loyal friend of America, the democracy of Taiwan has merited our strong support, including the timely sale of defensive arms and full participation in the World Health Organization and other multilateral institutions.”

The bit about “oppos[ing] any unilateral steps by either side to alter the status quo” seems odd until you focus on the “unilateral” part, and the second half of the sentence: the line is a paean to the PRC that the United States is serving as an impartial mediator and will make sure that if the status quo does change, it changes in a multilateral, peaceful way. But it’s still odd, because the rest of the paragraph is praising Taiwan’s status as a “democracy” (twice) and “a loyal friend of America”. Everything here makes sense, though. Individual citizens might object to the tightness between Taiwan and the United States, especially as described in the last sentence, but if you take it as given you see how important it is to stand by Taiwan’s side.

We will welcome the emergence of a peaceful and prosperous China, and we will welcome even more the development of a democratic China.  Its rulers have already discovered that economic freedom leads to national wealth; the next lesson is that political and religious freedom leads to national greatness. That is not likely to be learned while the government in Beijing pursues advanced military capabilities without any apparent need, imposes a “one-child” policy on its people, suppresses basic human rights in Tibet and elsewhere, and erodes democracy in Hong Kong.  China must honor its obligations regarding free speech and a free press as announced prior to the Olympics.

All of this is worth supporting for a variety of reasons – the Tiananmen Square riots suggest China may well be culturally ready for democracy, even though they were, what, 20 years ago? And China is just too big for America to plausibly turn it into a vassal state.

The next paragraph starts with noting how “trade with China has created export opportunities for American farmers and workers” (some people might disagree with that statement), while the WTO and the world community (okay, technically the “marketplace”) have helped with “openness and the rule of law”. “We must yet ensure that China fulfills its WTO obligations, especially those related to protecting intellectual property rights, elimination of subsidies, and repeal of import restrictions.” The first half of the sentence and the first obligation listed, and to a lesser extent the last obligation, are all eminently agreeable, but… doesn’t the United States use subsidies? How much of the last two “obligations” are just “we want a bigger piece of the China pie”? In foreign affairs, the United States has two primary goals: to further our national interests, and to lift up all the people of the world. These last two “obligations” are aimed at the first goal, but their role in the second, especially the elimination of subsidies, is questionable. Certainly China would benefit from free trade, and the “repeal of import restrictions” is actually noble even when viewed from the eyes of the first goal.

A paragraph on Vietnam focuses on “accounting for, and repatriation of the remains of” Americans who were killed there, and continued repression of human rights and religious freedom, and the retribution by the government of Vietnam against its ethnic minorities and others who assisted U.S. forces there.” Both of these are important matters.

Burma We urge all the nations of East Asia to join the world-wide effort to restore the suffering people of Burma to the democratic family of nations. The military dictatorship in Burma is among the worst on the planet.  Its savagery demands a strong response from the world community, including economic and financial sanctions and isolation of the illegitimate regime.” This is a strong position, but fairly recently stories about how little the military junta cares about its people were all over the news. So I agree with this in full, assuming the Burmese people are primed and yearning for democracy, and we don’t attempt to turn Burma into a vassal state.

“Strengthening Our Relations with Europe”: We have “shared culture and values” with the people of Europe, and the Republicans want to especially give a shout-out to our friends in Great Britain. “The enduring truth – that America’s security is inseparable from Europe’s – was reaffirmed by our European allies after September 11, 2001.” NATO is stronger by the addition of new members in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Republicans want to leave NATO membership open for “all democratic nations who share our values and meet the requirements for NATO membership”. Would that include countries like Israel and Australia? In all seriousness, the Republicans move on to playing up missile defense systems again, this time “NATO-endorsed” ones to protect European allies from missiles from Iran, and gives a shout-out to Poland and the Czech Republic for allowing such systems in their countries (and condemns Russia for trying to intimidate former Soviet bloc nations into not doing so). That’s not the best thing for Russia to be doing, but again, are these missile defense systems effective or are they a waste of resources that would be better spent on things like intelligence and diplomacy?

There’s a two-sentence short paragraph supporting “reconciliation efforts in Cyprus and Northern Ireland” and condemns rising violent anti-Semitism “in Europe and other areas of the world”, both noble causes.

Americans and the Russian people have common imperatives: ending terrorism, combating nuclear proliferation, promoting bilateral trade, and more.  But matters of serious concern remain, particularly the Russian government’s treatment of the press, opposition parties, and institutions of civil society. It continues its aggressive confrontations with its neighbors, from economic intimidation to outright warfare, and has aligned with dangerous anti-democratic forces in the Middle East.  As a condition for its continued acceptance in world organizations, Russia must respect the independence and territorial integrity of all the nations of the former Soviet Union, beginning with the republic of Georgia, and move toward a free and democratic society.

All important causes and good things to be supporting. There is some reason to think that Russia may have had reason to intervene in Georgia and overstepped its bounds, using a territorial dispute as a pretense for a full-on invasion, so hopefully the United States will also not abandon its role as an impartial mediator, and won’t let Russia start a new Cold War.

I’m fast approaching five thousand words, if I’m not over it already, and I’m losing more sleep tonight, but I’m almost near the end of the whole part. But bear with me if this last subsection is a little rushed. “The Middle East”: Starts with praising the democratizing direction of change in the Middle East, where “the overall trend has been toward cooperation and social and economic development, especially with regard to the rights of women.” Most governments in the region have supported the war on terror, and the Republicans give a shout-out to nations that have reached some sort of peace with Israel, tentative though they may be.

Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah should be isolated because “they do not meet the standards of the international community.” If so, I agree. “We call for the restoration of Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty and the full implementation of all UN resolutions concerning that country.” Not sure what’s even going on there, but sounds good as the GOP describes it. Finally, the GOP reassures people that they are not against Islam or the Arabs, that “the extremists we face are abusers of faith, not its champions”, and gives a shout-out to the contributions of “American Arabs and Muslims”.

Israel Israel is a vigorous democracy, unique in the Middle East. We reaffirm America’s commitment to Israel’s security and will ensure that Israel maintains a qualitative edge in military technology over any potential adversaries.” Well, that’s not going to help you build your relations with the surrounding Arab nations. I hope you’re also going to make sure Israel doesn’t get aggressive. I mean really, “a qualitative edge in military technology over any potential adversaries”? Is Israel part of the United States now? “Israel must have secure, defensible borders and we support its right to exist as a Jewish state able to defend itself against homicide bombings, rocket and mortar fire, and other attacks against its people.” Some people might not support that, and at the moment I’m neutral, but if it does have the right to exist of course it has the right to defend itself.

We support the vision of two democratic states living in peace and security: Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital, and Palestine. For that to become a reality, the Palestinian people must support leaders who reject terror, embrace the institutions and ethos of democracy, and respect the rule of law.  We call on Arab governments throughout the region to help advance that goal. We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel.

No. F*** no. A two-state solution with “Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel” will not work. Period. The Arab world will not stand for it. It is too pro-Israel, unless Israel becomes a place welcoming to all faiths and ethnicities. The only solution that will work in a million years is one that includes Jerusalem – and by extension, Israel/Palestine – being a place of openness to all faiths. It is too important to at least three religions for it to be otherwise. For that to become a reality, the Republicans’ middle two sentences are still of immense importance, perhaps even more so, so believe it or not I by and large support this part, I just think the underlying plan needs quite a bit of work. Maybe the Republicans are willing to put in that work, or at least throw out their plan if political realities prove it infeasible:

The U.S. seeks a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, negotiated between the parties themselves, without the imposition of an artificial timetable, and without the demand that Israel deal with entities which continue to pledge her destruction.  At the heart of any peace process must be a mutual commitment to resolve all issues through negotiation.  Part of that process must be a just, fair, and realistic framework for dealing with the Palestinian refugee issue.  Like all other elements in a meaningful agreement, this matter can be settled only on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect today’s realities as well as tomorrow’s hopes.

First of all, you need to make sure all parties aren’t stalling, so if you don’t have an “artificial timetable” you need accountability. Second, unfortunately, Hamas and Hezbollah are too powerful for Israel to ignore. Either you suck up and negotiate with terrorists or you don’t negotiate at all until you’ve crippled them, because if Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations, that means they have one heck of a trump card and can hold up negotiations they don’t recognize. The rest is eminently agreeable.


A stable, unified, and democratic Iraqi nation is within reach.  Our success in Iraq will deny al Qaeda a safe haven, limit Iranian influence in the Middle East, strengthen moderate forces there, and give us a strategic ally in the struggle against extremism.  To those who have sacrificed so much, we owe the commitment that American forces will leave that country in victory and with honor.  That outcome is too critical to our own national security to be jeopardized by artificial or politically inspired timetables that neither reflect conditions on the ground nor respect the essential advice of our military commanders.  As the people of Iraq assume their rightful place in the ranks of free and open societies, we offer them a continuing partnership.

Wow, only a single paragraph on the ongoing situation in Iraq. Didn’t I hear that Iraq was demanding some sort of timetable for withdrawal? Hardly “politically inspired” I would hope, and at least partly driven by “conditions on the ground”. Most of the sentiment is hard to disagree with as phrased, actually.

In the seven years since U.S. troops helped topple the Taliban, there has been great progress – but much remains to be done.  We must prevail in Afghanistan to prevent the reemergence of the Taliban or an al Qaeda sanctuary in that country.  A nationwide counterinsurgency strategy led by a unified commander is an essential prerequisite to success.  Additional forces are also necessary, both from NATO countries and through a doubling in size of the Afghan army.  The international community must work with the Afghan government to better address the problems of illegal drugs, governance, and corruption.  We flatly reject the Democratic Party’s idea that America can succeed in Afghanistan only by failure in Iraq.

Pacifists probably hate this part, but they probably gave up long ago. The first two and penultimate sentences are the most agreeable. So is the part about doubling Afghanistan’s own army, which would seem to indicate a strengthening of Afghan sovereignty. I’m not qualified to talk matters of military strategy, but the third sentence certainly sounds good. We’re already pulling out our troops from Iraq anyway, and we’re close enough to achieving our goals there we can knock that out and then jog over to Afghanistan. If you’re thinking the last sentence is probably a distortion of the Democratic position, you’re probably right.

We close out with “Iran”, where the Republicans claim the Iranian people “seek peace and aspire to freedom. Their current regime, aggressive and repressive, is unworthy of them.  The Iranian people, many of whom risk persecution to speak out for democracy, have a right to choose their own government.” Which certainly seems to be saying Iran is ready for democracy. Certainly it’s ready for something better than its current government. “As a rogue state, Iran’s leadership supports terror, threatens its neighbors, and provides weapons that are killing our troops in Iraq.  We affirm, in the plainest words we can use, that the U.S. government, in solidarity with the international community, will not allow the current regime in Tehran to develop nuclear weapons.” Certainly an agreeable point.

We call for a significant increase in political, economic, and diplomatic pressure to persuade Iran’s rulers to halt their drive for a nuclear weapons capability, and we support tighter sanctions against Iran and the companies with business operations in or with Iran. We oppose entering into a presidential-level, unconditional dialogue with the regime in Iran until it takes steps to improve its behavior, particularly with respect to support of terrorism and suspension of its efforts to enrich uranium.  At the same time, the U.S. must retain all options in dealing with a situation that gravely threatens our security, our interests, and the safety of our friends.

Wouldn’t some sort of dialogue be necessary to speed along the process of lowering support of terrorism and suspending uranium enrichment? To be sure, tighter sanctions – to instill a drive to negotiate – would certainly help. The wording and position of the last sentence indicates that the Republicans would be willing to engage in “unconditional dialogue” if things got desperate, but it could also indicate we really could be singing about “bombing Iran”…

Whew! Was that a long one or what? But we’ve cleared out this part and there’s still plenty more to come!

Leave a Comment