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My Foreign Policy Interview with Bill Richardson

by Nonpartisan Tue May 8th, 2007 at 11:25:38 AM EST

[Posted at ProgressiveHistorians, Daily Kos, My Left Wing, MyDD, Never In Our Names, European Tribune, Eteraz, and Nation-Building.]

New Mexico Governor and Democratic Presidential Candidate Bill Richardson is one of America's leading foreign policy experts.  A former Ambassador to the United Nations, Richardson holds an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.  Richardson is also perhaps America's leading diplomatic negotiator, having recently brokered successful agreements in both Darfur and North Korea.  Whether or not Richardson is elected President in 2008, he is certain to be one of the most influential foreign policy advisors in any Democratic administration.  Therefore, it is important to ascertain just where Richardson stands on the foreign policy issues most important to progressive activists.

After reading my January diary about Bill Richardson and the need for a visionary foreign policy, a Richardson for President staffer contacted me to arrange a foreign policy interview with the Governor.  I suggested the interview be conducted via e-mail, citing the need for lengthy and substantive answers and my own lack of proper recording equipment, and my contact agreed.  I submitted my questions at the end of January, and received the completed interview over the weekend.  (As a result of the time lapse, some questions are necessarily outdated.)

I drafted the interview questions after soliciting input from readers at each of the eight sites linked above.  The resulting epistolary interview is, I believe, the most in-depth foreign policy interview with Governor Richardson to date.  Many thanks to the Governor and his staff for agreeing to this interview.

Over the flip, the complete text of the interview.

Nonpartisan: Congressman Earl Blumenauer has introduced H.R. 663, the "New Direction for Iraq Act" -- a comprehensive exit strategy for Iraq.  According to Congressman Blumenauer's diary at Daily Kos, his plan includes the following provisions:

  • "Redeployment: Requires responsible redeployment of US troops from Iraq in one year.

  • Stops the escalation: Prohibits the escalation of the war without specific Congressional approval.

  • Reconstruction: Redirects reconstruction from large contractors to Iraqi owned businesses.

  • Prosecution of war profiteers: Investigate and prosecute war profiteers and recover lost funds.

  • Diplomacy: Increase diplomatic efforts with Syria and Iran to promote stability in Iraq.

  • Benchmarks for the Iraqi government: Requires performance benchmarks and progress before further support.

  • Refugee assistance: More assistance for Iraqi refugees who have been driven from their country.

  • No permanent bases: Prohibits permanent US military bases in Iraq."

Do you support Congressman Blumenauer's bill in whole or in part, and if not, can you describe the specifics of your Iraq exit strategy?

Bill Richardson: My own thinking on Iraq is substantially in line with this approach. I also believe that Congress should de-authorize the war under the War Powers Act, and redeploy all troops by the end of 2007.  My seven-point plan for redeployment with no residual US troops is summarized on our web site.

NP: What role do you believe the United States should play in the Middle East?  How should we deal with the corruption and anti-democratic tendencies of our allies in places like Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, while simultaneously reaching out to the moderates in the Arab world?  What influence should we have on the stalled peace process between Israel and Palestine?

BR: The most important single thing the US can do in the Middle East is to get out of Iraq, where our presence is fueling the insurgency and serving as a recruitment fair for Jihadists across the region. 

The next most important thing we can do is to re-engage the Israelis and Palestinians to produce a just peace that ends the violence and insures the security of Israel and a sovereign Palestinian state.  A stable two-state solution is right for Israel, right for the Palestinians, and right for America, because the suffering of the Palestinians is the most useful propaganda weapon the Jihadists have. 

I also advocate a multilateral Marshall Plan for the Middle East, to promote development, reform and human rights in the poorer countries.  We should link aid and trade concessions to political reform, respect for human rights, ending anti-US governmental propaganda, and educational reform to reduce the role of those Madrassas that teach Jihad.  With a small fraction of what we are spending in Iraq making enemies, we could make many friends.

We also must promote political and educational reform through stronger diplomacy with the rich Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, and with big aid-recipients like Egypt.

NP: In their 2006 report, Forging a World of Liberty Under Law, Princeton professors Anne-Marie Slaughter and G. John Ikenberry proposed a radical retooling of international peace organizations.  Their proposals included an expansion of the U.N. Security Council, an elimination of the Council members' veto power over the authorization of "direct action in response to a crisis", and the creation of a new "Concert of Democracies" consisting of self-selected nations who agree to outlaw war among themselves and to hold free and fair democratic elections.  Do you support these provisions in whole or in part, and if not, what would you do to improve the functionality of international peace organizations such as the United Nations?

BR: I am broadly sympathetic with these goals and these means, and my administration will engage these issues diplomatically, to produce new and stronger international institutions and agreements.  We need to modernize, re-invigorate, and in some cases fundamentally reform or supplement international organizations to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The permanent membership of the UN Security Council should be expanded to include Japan, Germany, India, and one Latin American and one African nation. I also favor negotiations over the veto power in an expanded UNSC.

My own "New Realism" foreign policy is very much in synch with Professor Ikenberry's "Liberal Realism."  Please see the speech I gave at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which outlines the "New Realism".

NP: In the same report, Slaughter and Ikenberry write, "Instead of insisting on a doctrine of primacy, the United States should aim to sustain the military predominance of liberal democracies and encourage the development of military capabilities by like-minded democracies in a way that is consistent with their security interests."  Do you agree with this position?  If so, do you support its extension to tribunals such as the International Criminal Court?  Should U.S. leaders be subject to these tribunals?

BR: The essence of American international leadership is not the argument of our power, but rather the power of our arguments.  Our remarkable military gives us the power to lead, but others follow us because they share our goals and are inspired by our ideals.  Our own strength is enhanced by solid alliances with strong democratic allies. Solving the pressing problems of the international community will require multilateral cooperation and American leadership in this spirit, not in the spirit of domination. 

If we want others to respect human rights and obey international law, we also must do so.  And our own behavior should be impeccable: there shall be no torture, prisoner abuse, secret prisons, or evasions of international law including the Geneva Conventions under my administration.  I strongly support the International Criminal Court and will propose that the United States join my first DAY in office.  Every square inch of the planet should be free of human rights abuse, and under the jurisdiction of the ICC.  This includes the US.  Only those who trample human rights have anything to fear from the ICC.

NP: In 1997, President Clinton failed to sign the Ottawa Treaty, which would have banned the use, production, and ownership of all antipersonnel land mines.  As President, will you make America a signatory of the Treaty, and will you support an international effort to clear all land mines and unexploded cluster bombs from all war zones within a decade?

BR: Yes.  The US should sign this treaty and support all efforts to reduce the carnage caused by land mines and cluster bombs.

NP: I have read with interest your plan for a "New Realism" in American foreign policy.  While your plan has many appealing features, nowhere does it mention America's role in international trade discussions or their impact on human rights in developing nations.  As President, will you return to former President Jimmy Carter's stance of making fair trade and human rights a cornerstone of America's foreign policy?

BR: I have stated in many speeches that the US should use all its diplomatic carrots and sticks to promote human rights.  This includes making fair trade and human rights cornerstones of our approach to trade agreements.  We must reward countries which respect the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and engage, constructively but firmly, those who do not.

NP: While your "New Realism" contains a multitude of impressive policy initiatives, it often seems to be just that -- a collection of policy initiatives with no central unifying principle.  Our greatest foreign-policy Presidents have typically had such a unifying vision, whether Woodrow Wilson's desire for peace enforced by "world moral opinion" or Harry Truman's support of containment of Communism and economic alliance throughout the free world.  As President, what will be the overarching principle that motivates your foreign policy vision?

BR: The unifying vision of the New Realism is its embrace of global society, its rejection of unilateralism, and its understanding of the need for enlightened American leadership of strong international coalitions to address the many problems we face today. Because the greatest challenge we face in the 21st century - like global warming, overpopulation, and the risk of nuclear terrorism -- we face not as a nation, but rather as a species.

Thought y'all might be interested in what's going on on our side of the pond.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...
by Nonpartisan on Tue May 8th, 2007 at 11:26:39 AM EST
Nonpartison, this is excellent...and really quite a coup for you. Congratulations! And it is really good to hear a politician talk about...in clear terms...about such thngs as pulling out of Iraq, stopping torture, signing up to the ICC, etc. Very refershing! I don't think he will win as president, but he would be a great Secretary of State!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue May 8th, 2007 at 11:51:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for posting this. I don't know about Richardson as President or Sec of State. But he seems to be doing quite well in his current role, so hopefully a future Dem President will send him on a lot of problem-solving missions.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue May 8th, 2007 at 01:55:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a pity that BR is such a bad orator, he's clearly the most competent candidate in the whole field.
Could be an excellent VP.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Thu May 10th, 2007 at 06:12:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How about Secretary of State?

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 10th, 2007 at 06:13:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By observing the current administration, one could come to the conclusion that the state department is only an unheeded sub- division of the always hawkish Pentagon. If that changes, sure.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 07:27:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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