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Al Gore on Foreign Policy

2000 Democratic Nominee for President; Former Vice President


In 2000 debate, supported nation-building while Bush did not

When I ran for president, I never anticipated a mission like [nation-building in Afghanistan]. In the fall of 2000, Al Gore and I debated the most pressing issues facing America. Not once did the words Afghanistan, bin Laden, or al Qaeda come up. We did discuss nation building. "The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops, " I said in the first debate. "I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders."

At the time, I worried about overextending our military by undertaking peacekeeping missions as we had in Bosnia and Somalia. But after 9/11, I changed my mind. Afghanistan was the ultimate nation building mission. We had liberated the country from a primitive dictatorship, and we had a moral obligation to leave behind something better. We also had a strategic interest in helping the Afghan people build a free society.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.205 , Nov 9, 2010

Bush’s division into good vs. evil is Christian heresy

Bush offered Americans a way to cut through the complexities of foreign policy by sorting every nation in the world into two simple categories: “You’re either with us or against us.” He described Iraq, Iran & North Korea as the “Axis of Evil.”

The day after 9/11, Bush announced, “This will be a monumental struggle of good versus evil, but good will prevail.” Two days later, Bush proclaimed that his “responsibility to history was to rid the world of evil.” I remember being astonished at the grandiosity & hubris of his claim that he could & would “rid the world of evil.” Really?

The following week, Bush addressed Congress, saying God had foreordained the outcome of the conflict. Bush’s view of his policies in the context of a fateful spiritual conflict between good & evil does not really represent Christian doctrine. It actually more closely resembles an ancient Christian heresy called Manichaeism, that sought to divide all of reality into two simple categories, absolute god and absolute evil.

Source: The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore, p. 54-56 , May 16, 2007

New security agenda based on addressing global problems

Source: The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore, p.163 , May 16, 2007

Drought from global warming set stage for Darfur genocide

Unbelievable tragedies have been unfolding in the part of Africa near Lake Chad, where genocidal murders have become commonplace in the region of Darfur. The region-wide drought has contributed to the famine conditions that put millions at risk. A little discussed contributing factor to the famine and genocide is the disappearance of Lake Chad.

Just 40 years ago Lake Chad was as large as Lake Erie--formerly the 6th largest lake in the world. But now due to declining rainfall and ever-intensifying human use, it has shrunk to 1/20th of its original size. The lake’s dissipation has led to collapsing fisheries and crops.

While Lake Chad withered, intense drought set the stage for the violence that erupted in neighboring Darfur, a war-torn region of Sudan.

The more we understand about climate change, the more it looks as if we may be the real culprit--the US emits 1/4 of the world’s greenhouse gases. We helped manufacture the suffering in Africa, and we have a moral obligation to try to fix it.

Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.116-7 , May 26, 2006

1990s: Joint commission with Russia worked out many problems

In March 1993, I got an assistance program I could support: $1.6 billion in direct aid to help Russia stabilize its economy, including money to provide housing for decommissioned military officers, positive work programs for now underemployed and frequently unpaid nuclear scientists, and more assistance in dismantling nuclear weapons under the recently enacted Nunn-Lugar program. The aid package was four times what the previous administration had allocated and three times what I had originally recommended.

When Yeltsin and I got together on April 3, we agreed to institutionalize our cooperation, with a commission headed by Vice President Gore and Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. The idea worked better than any of us could have imagined, thanks largely to the consistent and concentrated efforts made over the years by Al Gore and his Russian counterparts in working through a host of difficult, contentious problems.

Source: My Life, by Bill Clinton, p.506-507 , Jun 21, 2004

Bush sought to destroy foreign policy consensus

The Bush Administration sought to radically destroy the foreign policy consensus that had guided the US since the end of WWII. What they meant by preemption was not the inherent right of any nation to act preemptively against an imminent threat to its national security, but an exotic new approach that asserted a unique and unilateral US right to ignore international law wherever it wished to do so and take military action against any nation, even in circumstances where there was no imminent threat.
Source: Speech on Iraq, with MoveOn PAC at NYU , May 26, 2004

Damage done at Abu Ghraib was serious

The damage done at Abu Ghraib is not only to America’s reputation and America’s strategic interests, but also to America’s spirit. It is also crucial for our nation to recognize - and to recognize quickly - that the damage our nation has suffered in the world is far, far more serious than Bush’s belated and tepid response would lead people to believe.
Source: Speech on Iraq, with MoveOn PAC at NYU , May 26, 2004

Policy based on domination creates enemies

A policy based on domination of the rest of the world not only creates enemies for the US and creates recruits for Al Qaeda, it also undermines the international cooperation that is essential to defeating the efforts of terrorists who wish harm and intimidate Americans. Unilateralism, as we have painfully seen in Iraq, is its own reward. Going it alone may satisfy a political instinct but it is dangerous to our military, even without their Commander in Chief taunting terrorists to “bring it on.”
Source: Speech on Iraq, with MoveOn PAC at NYU , May 26, 2004

Our future depends on our moral authority to lead

Our future is dependent upon increasing cooperation and interdependence in a world tied ever more closely together by technologies of communications and travel. The emergence of a truly global civilization has been accompanied by the recognition of truly global challenges that require global responses that, as often as not, can only be led by the US - and only if the US restores and maintains its moral authority to lead.
Source: Speech on Iraq, with MoveOn PAC at NYU , May 26, 2004

Violation of the Geneva Conventions damaged freedom

The Bush Administration has set up the men and women of our own armed forces for payback the next time they are held as prisoners. It will be very hard for any of us as Americans to effectively stand up for human rights elsewhere and criticize other governments, when our policies have resulted in our soldiers behaving so monstrously. The Bush Administration has shamed America and deeply damaged the cause of freedom & human rights everywhere, thus undermining the core message of America to the world.
Source: Speech on Iraq, with MoveOn PAC at NYU , May 26, 2004

Paired evils perpetrated in the name of America

Dominance is not really a strategic policy or political philosophy at all. It is a seductive illusion that tempts the powerful to satiate their hunger for more power still by striking a Faustian bargain. To those who shake hands with the devil, they find out too late that what they have given up in the bargain is their soul. One of the clearest indications of the impending loss of intimacy with one’s soul is the failure to recognize the existence of a soul in those over whom power is exercised, especially if the helpless come to be treated as animals, and degraded. We also know - and not just from De Sade and Freud - the psychological proximity between sexual depravity and other people’s pain. It has been especially shocking and awful to see these paired evils perpetrated so crudely and cruelly in the name of America. Those pictures of torture and sexual abuse came to us embedded in a wave of news about escalating casualties and growing chaos enveloping our entire policy in Iraq.
Source: Speech on Iraq, with MoveOn PAC at NYU , May 26, 2004

Gore calls for resignation of Bush foreign policy team

Gore blasted the treatment of “helpless Iraqi prisoners” at Abu Ghraib. The abuse Gore said, was not just the fault of low-ranking soldiers, but of the highest levels of the Bush administration. Gore called for the resignation of Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, and Donald Rumsfeld, along with Rumsfeld deputies Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Stephen Cambone. Altogether, Gore accused the administration of implementing “twisted values and atrocious policies.”
Source: Byron York, National Review , May 24, 2004

Vietnam: Trade will improve human rights & help with MIAs

Q: An agreement has been signed with Vietnam that will require that country to protect US intellectual property and open its markets. It makes no demands on human rights. Do you support this deal?

A: I believe that we must ratify and fully implement important new trade agreements, and as president, I will insist on and use the authority to negotiate and enforce worker rights, human rights and environmental protections in those agreements. I believe that the US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement provides important benefits to American businesses and workers, including dramatic new market access for American goods, services, and agricultural products; intellectual property protection; investment protection provisions; and transparency and rule-of-law measures. The treaty also represents an important step in the normalization of our relations with Vietnam, a process which will strengthen cooperation on bringing American POW-MIAs home, promoting religious freedom and combating narcotics.

Source: Associated Press , Oct 18, 2000

Chernomyrdin Commission produced results despite corruption

[Numerous agreements with Russia between 1993 & 1998 were discussed via] a channel known as the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission. Gore has cited the work of the commission as among his signal achievements as vice president and an important part of his r‚sum‚ for the presidency. Some critics in Congress, as well as Governor Bush, say that Gore placed too much faith in his close personal relationship with Chernomyrdin, and that this led Gore to turn a blind eye to strong evidence of corruption. Gore responds that the Commission produced scores of agreements on a wide range of topics in part because of the strong bond between the men. Gore was fully aware of the allegations of corruption against Chernomyrdin, his spokesman said, but he also believed that the prime minister was dedicated to reform and had the clout to cut through the bureaucracy. Gore’s office has produced a catalog of Gore’s achievements in Russia policy: the removal of nuclear weapons, trade deals, the international space station, etc.
Source: Analysis of Wake Forest debate, John Broder, NY Times , Oct 13, 2000

Supported force in Mideast, Balkans, Haiti, not Somalia

Q: If you had been president, would any of these military interventions not have happened: Lebanon?
A: That was a mistake.
Q: Grenada?
A: I supported that.
Q: Panama?
A: I supported that one.
Q: Persian Gulf?
A: Yes, I voted for it, supported it.
Q: Somalia?
A: That was ill considered. I did support it at the time. In retrospect the lessons there are ones that we should take very seriously.
Q: Bosnia.
A: Oh, yes.
Q: Haiti?
A: Yes.
Q: And then Kosovo.
A: Yes.
Source: Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University , Oct 11, 2000

Rwandan genocide: no military, but more humanitarian aid

Q: What about Rwanda, where 600,000 people died in 1994. Was that a mistake not to intervene?

GORE: We did actually send troops into Rwanda to help with the humanitarian relief measures. I think in retrospect, we were too late getting in there. We could have saved more lives if we had acted earlier. But I do not think that it was an example of a conflict where we should have put our troops in to try to separate the parties for this reason. One of the criteria that I think is important in deciding when and if we should ever get involved around the world is whether or not we can really make the difference with military force, [and] if we have allies. In the Balkans we had allies, NATO, ready, willing and able to go and carry a big part of the burden. In Africa we did not. [Hence] I think it was the right thing not to jump in, as heartbreaking as it was. But I think we should have come in much quicker with the humanitarian mission.

Source: Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University , Oct 11, 2000

Haiti: Intervention gave them a chance at democracy

In Haiti, we got our troops home as soon as the mission was complete. There are no more than a handful of American military personnel in Haiti now. And the Haitians have their problems but we gave them a chance to restore democracy, and that’s really about all we can do. But if you have a situation like that right in our back yard, with chaos about to break out and all kinds of violence there right in one of our neighboring countries there, then I think that we did the right thing there.
Source: Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University , Oct 11, 2000

Cuba: Hard-liner on Castro; keep sanctions

Q. Would you press for the lifting of sanctions against Cuba?

A. No, I’m a hardliner on Castro. I still find it incomprehensible that he would release mentally ill criminals, prone to violence, onto an innocent population here in the US. I find his whole penchant for repression and his whole style abhorrent. We have been asking Castro to have elections for a long time [with no response]. Cuba has been moving headlong in the wrong direction. I do not favor any openings to the Castro government.

Source: Press Interview in Ohio , Oct 4, 2000

North Korea: Continue exploring rapprochement

Q. What about lifting sanctions on the North Koreans?

A. Incredibly enough, we have seen a positive response to initiatives there. The strategy for getting North Korea off its nuclear bent has yielded some tentative positive results. Of course, the jury is still out. We have seen a very emotional beginning of rapprochement on the peninsula. There is clearly a desire to explore the changes that would make it possible for them to have a more normal relationship with the rest of the world.

Source: Press Interview in Ohio , Oct 4, 2000

Russia: US’s abiding interest, but troubled by Putin

Q. On Russian president Vladimir Putin?

A. I am very troubled by his apparent backtracking on press freedom for Russia in the postcommunist era. I am very troubled obviously by their conduct in Chechnya. We have to put first things first, and recognize that the US has an abiding interest in continuing to manage the nuclear threat, and we should not ever forget that Russia has thousands of nuclear warheads and the delivery systems capable of targeting them on the US.

[But we have] all kinds of leverage. We are very deeply involved in helping them construct the institutions of a free society, helping them write their basic contract law, helping them put in place basic accounting standards. We just completed an effort on disaster assistance. The space station, of course, is one of the flagship cooperative efforts. So we certainly have leverage with them, there’s no question about that. And they do listen. They do listen to us. There are limits to the use of leverage.

Source: Press Interview in Ohio , Oct 4, 2000

Russia’s transition is accomplishment, if over-optimistic

Gore tried repeatedly to bring well-tested Western solutions--based on laws, rules and carefully ordered process--to a country hurtling through an extraordinarily tumultuous period. Often, Gore’s neat solutions were thwarted or overwhelmed by Russia’s messy march toward a market democracy.

Gore has said the major accomplishment of the administration is that “we have worked hard to help Russia make a transition to a market-based democracy.” He has also cited Russian acquiescence in NATO expansion, cooperation with Russia in the Balkans and the creation of additional safeguards against nuclear materials theft.

But critics, including Bush, have charged that the administration was overly optimistic about what could be accomplished & that it turned a blind eye to the underside of Russia’s economic transformation. When Gore recently called for “forward engagement” with Russia, one of Bush’s top foreign policy advisers countered that engagement has to be “in a realistic way, not a romantic one.”

Source: David Hoffman, Washington Post, p. A1 , Jun 4, 2000

Africa: give the poorest countries a hand up

Gore also pledged to “give the poorest countries a hand up” by fostering economic engagement with Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas, as well as assisting them through debt relief. Gore called for the United States to enlist the cooperation of the European Union to help rebuild the economies of Africa as a means of creating a lasting peace.
Source: Press Release on speech in Boston , Apr 30, 2000

Chechnya: Keep aid that helps US; cut off aid that helps war

Q: Why is your administration not willing to do anything truly tough toward Russia despite the brutal war in Chechnya?

A: As a matter of fact, we have. We have opposed new IMF provisions. There has been no direct state-to-state aid for more than a year now. Now, particular programs that go toward dismantling nuclear warheads, you wouldn’t want to cancel that. Particular cooperative ventures where no companies or the state agencies involved are implicated in any of the activity in Chechnya or in proliferation activities, that’s a separate matter. But we have, in fact, enforced a real cutoff of a lot of forms of aid.

Source: Democrat Debate in Manchester NH , Jan 26, 2000

Mantle of leadership means responding to violence abroad

We’re the natural leader of the world. I don’t think that’s a chauvinist American statement - I think it’s a statement of fact. People respect us as Americans because we’re a brave people, we try to uphold high values and standards, and so the rest of the world does look to us. They want the kind of freedoms and prosperity that we have. We have to accept that mantle of leadership, and when there is terrible violence in the rest of the world, we have to pay careful attention to it.
Source: Democrat Debate at Dartmouth College , Oct 28, 1999

Supports New Security Agenda and Third-World debt relief

Source: The Economist, “Issues 2000” , Sep 30, 2000


Al Gore on China

To union: we disagree on China; but agree elsewhere

Gore made his case yesterday for the China trade bill to union workers. “I know that one of your legislative priorities is to urge members of Congress not to support permanent normal trade relations with China,” Gore said. “You know that I don’t share that view. I strongly support normal trade relations with China because I believe it is right for America’s economy and right for the cause of reform in China.” George W. Bush has accused Gore of reticence on the trade issue. The Bush campaign was so certain that Gore would say nothing about the impending House trade vote in his union address that they issued a statement one hour earlier saying, “Before union audiences, his support disappears.” But Gore faced the difference of opinion head on, if not too enthusiastically. Reading from his text in even tones to a silent audience, Gore said, “I respect the depth and strength of your feeling, but I’m also proud that on other great issues, you and I stand together - virtually on all of the other ones.”
Source: Sandra Sobieraj, Associated Press , May 22, 2000

Do not reveal strategy and inflame China or Taiwan

Q: Would you commit American military power to defend Taiwan?
A: The last 4 presidents in both political parties have purposely refrained from spelling out the details of what would trigger a direct military action by the US in the Taiwan Straits. That ambiguity is not due to a failure to think it through, it is due to a considered judgment that we do not want to give the hotheads on either side of the Taiwan Straits an ability to drive circumstances toward American involvement for their own purposes.
Source: Democrat debate in Los Angeles , Mar 1, 2000

Engage China, but demand respect for human rights

Q. Over the course of the Clinton administration we’ve seen a marked deterioration in our relations with both Russia and China. To what do you attribute this decline?

A: In China I think that we need to demand the respect for human rights and religious freedom. But bringing China into the community of nations, fostering peace between China and Taiwan and engaging them in a way that furthers our values, I think that’s in our interest.

Source: Democratic Debate in Durham, NH , Jan 5, 2000

Diplomacy with both Taiwan and China

Q: How do we balance defending Taiwan, against the many business interests that want favored trade status with China? A: We don’t want to embolden the hotheads or hard-liners on either side of the Taiwan Straits. Some kinds of missile defense systems are well within the bounds of the relationship. Others are not. I think the kind of diplomacy that has pushed both sides toward a peaceful resolution of the long-standing problems that they hav
Source: Town Hall Meeting, Nashua NH , Dec 18, 1999


Al Gore on Internationalism

Gore supports vigorous intervention abroad; Bush less so

In his debate performances, interviews and speeches on foreign and economic policy, Gore has repeatedly portrayed himself as a man who has come to believe in vigorous American intervention abroad, a reversal of Democratic philosophy for most of the time since the end of the war in Vietnam.

He describes how the experience of seeing the Clinton administration move too slowly to end the killing in Bosnia drove him to conclude that America must be prepared to prevent disaster, and how two successive global financial crises reshaped his understanding of the central role economic stability must play in the foreign policy agenda.

Bush, on the other hand, has woven a middle ground between two battling factions of his party - internationalists who support engagement with great powers like China and isolationists who are deeply suspicious of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.

Source: David Sanger, NY Times , Oct 30, 2000

The world is looking to US for leadership

Q: Do you think the U.S. is meeting its responsibility to the world?

GORE: One of the big issues that doesn’t get enough attention is corruption in official agencies like militaries and police departments around the world, customs officials. That’s one of the worst forms of it. We have to lead by example and help these other countries that are trying to straighten out their situations. This is an absolutely unique period in world history. The world’s coming together. They’re looking to us. Are we going to step up the plate as a nation the way we did after World War II, the way that generation of heroes said, O.K., the United States is going to be the leader. And the world benefited tremendously from the courage that they showed in those post-war years. I think that in the aftermath of the cold war, it’s time for us to provide the leadership on the environment, leadership to make sure the world economy keeps moving in the right direction.

Source: Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University , Oct 11, 2000

The power of example is America’s greatest power

Our greatest national strength comes from what we stand for in the world. It is a great tribute to our founders that 224 years later this nation is now looked to by the peoples on every other continent and the peoples from every part of this earth as a kind of model for what their future could be. Even the ones that sometimes shake their fists at us. As soon as they have a change that allows the people to speak freely, they’re wanting to develop some kind of blueprint that will help them be like us more: freedom, free markets, political freedom.

The power of example is America’s greatest power in the world. And that means, for example, standing up for human rights. It means addressing the problems of injustice and inequity along lines of race and ethnicity here at home because in all these other places around the world where they’re having these terrible problems when they feel hope it is often because they see in us a reflection of their potential.

Source: Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University , Oct 11, 2000

Nation-building: preferable to WWIII, and a stunning success

Q. Bush made nation-building a point of difference with you [in the Oct. 3 debate].

A. I think that phrase taps into a legitimate concern about how far we should go and how long we should be involved. But it’s not a new mission. The Marshall Plan was about nation-building. And the generation that won World War II, having seen the catastrophe of the interwar period in the 20’s and 30’s, wisely decided that nation-building was a preferable alternative to World War III. And it was a stunning success.

Source: Press Interview in Ohio , Oct 4, 2000

UN treaties are effective means for US to help Third World

Gore said that agencies of the United Nations “offer the US an effective means of doing our fair share to alleviate suffering in some of the most miserable corners of the globe.” On treaties not signed by the United States, Mr. Gore gave unequivocal support to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Law of the Sea Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Source: Barbara Crossette, NY Times , Aug 20, 2000

New Security Agenda: keep old; build new; avoid isolation

    Gore’s New Security Agenda is based upon three principles:
  1. CONTINUING THE CLASSIC SECURITY AGENDA: Gore pledged to build upon our key alliances; to continue helping Russia make a transition to a market-based democracy; and follow a policy toward China that is based on results, not rhetoric.
  2. BUILDING A NEW SECURITY AGENDA: Gore recognizes that “threats that were once local can have consequences that are regional and global.” America must address these global challenges with “reinvigorated international and regional institutions,“ and by ”confronting threats before they spiral out of control.“
  3. RESISTING NEW-ISOLATIONISM: Gore warned of the equally dangerous threat of retreating within our borders and ignoring our leadership position in the world. Gore criticized Bush for his antiquated perception that Russia & China are primarily present or future enemies. Instead, Gore said, we must engage both countries and assist them in their transformations while being clear about our concerns.
    Source: Press Release on speech in Boston , Apr 30, 2000

    Strong defense for world leader; tie defense to other issues

    Starting with his own voluntary service in the US Army during the Vietnam War, Al Gore has stood for a strong national defense, and an America that leads the world toward peace, freedom, and prosperity, for his entire career. Gore has been a key player in American foreign policy for more than two decades, often serving as a critical direct channel to world leaders at times of conflict. As a member of President Clinton’s national security team, Gore has played a role in almost every critical foreign policy decision of the past six years.
    At the same time, Gore has been a leader in promoting the free trade, free markets, environmental protections, and fundamental human rights that are crucial to America’s leadership in the world. “A strong economy, a clean environment, and peace & security do go hand in hand,” says Gore. “As we move beyond the age of bipolar tensions and sharp ideological conflicts, nations are finding the wisdom that grows from our common values.”
    Source: Gore campaign statement on election2000.aol.com , Jan 1, 2000

    Intervention requires national interest, by our values

    Q: What principles would you use to distinguish cases that require US action and those that do not? A: I think that we were right to go into East Timor. I thought we were right in Kosovo and Bosnia. I think we were tardy, frankly, in Rwanda. We have to have a national interest. We have to be willing to accomplish the goal. We should have allies to help us, but our national interest should also be defined in terms of our values. And ethnic strife is important to address.
    Source: Democrat Debate at Dartmouth College , Oct 28, 1999

    Pay UN dues, as leader of the world

    We ought to pay our UN dues, as a leader of the world.
    Source: Democrat Debate at Dartmouth College , Oct 28, 1999

    Progressive Internationalism: globalize with US pre-eminence.

    Gore adopted the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade":

    Build a Public Consensus Supporting US Global Leadership
    The internationalist outlook that served America and the world so well during the second half of the 20th century is under attack from both ends of the political spectrum. As the left has gravitated toward protectionism, many on the right have reverted to “America First” isolationism.

    Our leaders should articulate a progressive internationalism based on the new realities of the Information Age: globalization, democracy, American pre-eminence, and the rise of a new array of threats ranging from regional and ethnic conflicts to the spread of missiles and biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. This approach recognizes the need to revamp, while continuing to rely on, multilateral alliances that advance U.S. values and interests.

    A strong, technologically superior defense is the foundation for US global leadership. Yet the US continues to employ defense strategies, military missions, and force structures left over from the Cold War, creating a defense establishment that is ill-prepared to meet new threats to our security. The US must speed up the “revolution in military affairs” that uses our technological advantage to project force in many different contingencies involving uncertain and rapidly changing security threats -- including terrorism and information warfare.

    Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC12 on Aug 1, 2000

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