the choice 2000
hometools for choiceare you sure?bushgore

issue: defense & foreign affairs
· what level of missile defense and nuclear weaponry will best protect US security?

· how does the US keep its military ready for 21st century challenges?

· what should be the new administration's foreign policy priorities?

what they say
what they'll do
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Except in times of war or an overseas crisis, Americans vote on domestic issues--not foreign policy--and this year seems no different, despite strife in the Middle East and a terrorist attack on a US. warship near Yemen. Though the Republican ticket has attempted to paint dramatic diffeences, many of the defense and foreign policy positions of both parties are similar. "They have a lot in common. They say similar things on Iraq and rogue states. They're strongly pro-Israel and pro-trade. They both support American leadership and engagement," says Lee H. Hamilton, a former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who is now director of the Smithsonian Institution's Woodrow Wilson International Center.

Surveys show that the public would rather have the administration focus on problems at home rather than be a "global policeman," but they do think the country must maintain its military power and remain engaged with other nations. Today the U.S. government spends about 16 percent of its budget on defense, down from about 50 percent in the early 1960s, and the number of troops on active duty is also about a third less than at the end of the Cold War. In contrast, less than 1 percent of the budget is spent on foreign aid, compared to 2 percent in 1975 and 4.5 percent in 1965.

The debate this year has centered on the question of how to keep the military prepared for 21st century conflict, and in what way the country should go forward with development of a missile defense shield. Neither Bush nor Gore questions the rationale for a missile defense system, despite the criticisms of some experts who think the shield is unnecessary and unworkable. This is in marked contrast to Green party candidate Ralph Nader, who says of missile defense: "It doesn't work, even according to the physics community... [An enemy] could bring a nuclear bomb in a suitcase -- so what are we gonna do, have a $500 billion suitcase defense system?"

Bush and Gore differ on nuclear arms reductions: Bush's proposals for unilateral reductions in nuclear armament is a marked departure from the historical stances of both parties on this issue. Both Bush and Gore also agree that service conditions for military men and women should be improved, but do not agree on what the military's position should be on gays.


Both candidates present themselves as the best defenders of the nation's armed forces and defense, with Bush accusing the Clinton/Gore administration of weakening the military by not providing it with enough funds and resources. "If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report 'Not ready for duty, sir,'" Bush said during his address at the Republican National Convention. Defense Secretary William Cohen, a Republican, vigorously denied these charges, and was joined by high-ranking officers in the respective services.

Gore has been quick to tout his service as a military journalist in Vietnam, saying that though he did not face too much danger, "...I was proud to wear my country's uniform. And my own experiences gave me strong beliefs about America's obligation to keep our national defenses strong. " During his years in Washington, Gore helped negotiate arms reduction treaties and favored the nuclear test ban treaty. In discussing defense issues, he frequently mentions that he voted against the Democratic party line in some instances: he was for the "Star Wars" missile defense, and he was one of only 10 democratic senators who supported the use of military force in the Gulf War.


What level of missile defense and nuclear weaponry will best protect US. security?

Gore believes that a full scale Star Wars-style missile defense system of the kind proposed by Bush is unworkable and too expensive. He has called for 'limited' missile defense using 100 to 250 ground-based interceptors. Gore believes America will be threatened by a small 'rogue' state with less sophisticated ICBMs; a less complex defense is sufficient. He also thinks Bush's model will provoke Russia and will wreck the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty. "The ABM Treaty is the cornerstone of strategic stability in our relationship with Russia," he has said. At the same time, Gore criticizes Bush's proposal to unilaterally reduce the number of nuclear warheads as destabilizing to world peace; all such changes, Gore believes, should be negotiated. (Click for more on Gore's position on missile defense.)

Bush has proposed a much larger system using about 750 ground-based interceptors deployed at six areas in the US, plus 1,000 space-based interceptors. This is very similar to the missile shield proposed by his father President Bush in 1991, known as GPALS, or "global protection against limited strikes." Bush has said he is willing to defy the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia if necessary. He would also unilaterally reduce the size of the US nuclear arsenal to the "lowest possible number consistent with our national security", a notion that goes against Republican policy. He thinks this is necessary because the Cold War is over. However, he is opposed to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would ban all tests of nuclear weapons (and any nuclear explosions) worldwide. The CTBT was ratified by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996; since that time, 160 nations have signed, but the United States has not.(More on Bush's position on missile defense.)

How does the US keep its military ready for 21st century challenges?

Gore, while calling for unspecified increases in the defense budget, has supported the Clinton administration doctrine of paring down the armed forces, reconfiguring forces to make them more agile and powerful. Gore believes in heavy investment in the latest technology, and has proposed sweeping investments in pay raises, housing, childcare, education and healthcare for soldiers and veterans. He thinks it is disgraceful that soldiers should have to live off food stamps: "Our armed forces should be commemorated on stamps. They shouldn't have to use them to buy groceries," he has said. Gore also says the army should be committed overseas only if use military force is absolutely essential in America's national interest, there are other allies to share the burden and the cost is proportionate to the result.

Bush has called for a $1 billion pay raise--as well as better housing and more training--for soldiers. He has also proposed a $20 billion investment in research and development, with at least a fifth going towards the purchase of next generation latest weapons. Bush has been mostly opposed to interventions of a humanitarian nature in countries and conflicts that be believes are outside the US national interest.

What should be the new administration's foreign policy priorities?

Gore has called for a so-called New Security Agenda "for the global age", enhancing American security by maintaining a strong defence, building on old alliances, and rejecting isolationism. His foreign policy priorities include:

Russia: Gore would expand cooperation with Russia, saying "we have worked hard to help Russia make a transition to a market-based democracy." Critics, including Bush, say he is too optimistic about change in Russia, which has not been smooth or beneficial to most citizens.

Debt relief: Gore has vowed to "give the poorest countries a hand up" by expanding economic ties with Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas, and cancelling some of their debt.

Israel: Gore has promised to keep up "America's commitment to the survival and security of Israel," though he has not spelled out any clear policy positions.

Iraq: He favors supporting the mostly overseas Iraqi opposition and helping them overthrow Saddam Hussein. However, so far they have been ineffective and disorganized.

UN dues: Gore believes the US should pay the $1 billion it owes the United Nations and work with international agencies in managing foreign crises.

China: Gore is critical of China's record on human rights and Tibet, but believes in engagement with China.

Bush, who has been attacked for having very little foreign policy experience, has greater appetite for unilateral American action overseas than Gore, though he would intervene in far fewer circumstances. Some of his stated positions include:

Latin America: Bush has repeatedly stessed improving economic, cultural and educational ties with Latin American democracies while at the same time stepping up patrolling of the southern border to stop illegal immigration. (More on Bush's view of "The Century of the Americas")

Cuba: Bush would keep sanctions in place, until the Castro regime "adopts the ways of democracy". Interestingly, his running mate Dick Cheney questioned the wisdom of the sanctions as far back as 1988, though he has made no current statements about the issue.

Israel: Bush is strongly pro-Israel, and supports moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, though its status is still being negotiated. Again Dick Cheney, back in 1982, said of the Mid East conflict: "Any resolution in this conflict which has lasted for more than 30 years must include the formation of a Palestinian state," a view which was heretical back then but which has proved to be true.

AIDS assistance to Africa: Bush is cautious about loans to African nations to fight AIDS, saying "oftentimes we're well-intended when it comes to foreign help, but the money never makes it to the people that we're trying to help." He would rather rally other nations and charities to help.

China: Bush is critical of China which he calls "an enemy of religious freedom." He would deal with it as "a competitor, not a strategic partner."

UN dues: Bush would not pay the $1 billion in dues to the UN unless there is significant reform within the UN.


FRONTLINE's report War in Europe looks at the pros and cons of going to war for moral values and examines what was achieved in NATO's 1999 war on Kosovo.

FRONTLINE's Give War a Chance offers an overview of the evolution of U.S. military doctrine on when, where and how to employ military might, and a chronology of recent U.S. military missions.
A Comprehensive Guide from the Council on Foreign Relations
The New York Times Foreign Policy Updates (requires free registration)
The New York Times Defense Issue Updates (requires free registration)
"Dubya's atomic fib" (Salon)
"Paying Atten-shun to the military's needs" (US News and World Report)

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