Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

‘Containment 2.0’: Edwards Addresses the Council on Foreign Relations

Posted by K.E. White on May 23, 2007

Hailing a new foreign policy “based on hope, not fear” presidential candidate John Edwards merged a call for global justice with global security. His speech to the Council on Foreign Relations covered a host of issues: Russia, the rising states of India and China, America’s bureaucratic deficiencies, the folly of missile defense, and new strategies on educating and supporting the world’s poorest members. But at heart, Edwards sketched a strategy of containing the threat of international terrorism through a renewed moral and internationalist foreign policy.

John EdwardsBut Iraq, while addressed often in the speech’s opening, was noticeably absent latter on. Why? Because an Edwards presidency would see U.S. troops leave Iraq. Yet Edwards crept in an admission to his well-known pull-out insistence: his call for U.S. troops within the Green Zone and a Gulf force of unspecified size.

The speech showcased a populist rift on liberal internationalism. What differed this speech from the usual liberal accord for returning to traditional alliances and multilateralism, were three aspects: 1) specific plans to educate and feed the world’s poor through a cabinet-level department, 2) elevating genocide-prevention to the same status as self-defense, and 3) an articulate discussion on how to refocus America’s defense strategy from a war to containment footing.

Hope and boldness were theme hit often by Edwards. Edwards did not promise an eternally safe America, rarely using the word ‘safety.’ Instead he demanded “substance not slogans, leadership not labels.”

But this did not stop Edwards from pledging to feed the world’s hungry and “educate every child in the world.”

Edwards laid out many specific proposals, including the creation of a rapid-action force to stabilize fragile states, a $5 billion increase in foreign aid, and synchronizing the national defense strategies of the State, Defense and Energy Departments. Edwards also called for giving room to non-Pentagon—which he sees as “on steroids”—in matters of national security.

Building up and defending fragile states again and again became the main theme of the speech. Edwards spoke of a fence-sitting generation: a clear allusion to the battling raging between moderate and radical Muslim forces. “It’s America’s job to attract them to our side like a magnet,” Edwards stated without a using only the “hammer” of military power.

But this did not stop Edwards from elevating the need for counter-proliferation efforts, especially in regards to Iran and North Korea. In fact, Edwards placed nonproliferation before fighting terrorism when it came to the uses of American military power.

And instead of discussing how to hunt down terrorists, Edwards spoke more on how restore America’s legitimacy and respect: demanding the closure of Guantanamo, more engagement in NATO and the United Nations, and restoring habeas corpus/banning torture towards foreign terrorists.

Throughout the speech Edwards slammed the Bush administration on every aspect of security. Edwards views Iraq as an insistence of “misuse and misdirect[ing] the extraordinary power America has.” Edwards criticized the administration’s conception of civilian rule over the military, pledging to keep “tactical” aspects of military operations in the hands of professional military staff. Edwards noted Bush’s support for missile defense, in particular, as a prime example of waste on unworkable policies.

While Edwards bemoaned the Iraq monopoly on discussion of America’s foreign policy, one wonders how the many policies Edwards hope to pursue can overcome a possibly disastrous American pullout.

What succeeded after WWII can succeed again, Edwards stated. Again and again Edwards returned General George Marshall and the tremendous impact of the Marshall plan in ending the Cold War. It was this economic assistance, in tandem with America’s alliances and—far less described—military capability that permitted America to win the Cold War.

Edwards argued that the “power of example” should be used to “spread the dream of freedom across the globe.”

Whether or not this speech covered all the bases, one wonders if the power of example will solve a possible Iraq conflagration after a U.S. withdrawal—or for that matter a flawed escalation. (Granted, this flaw is shared by every presidential contender.) But by publicly presenting his view of a post-Bush U.S. foreign policy, Edwards has given the American public–and his opponents–a series of policies to contemplate, debate and respond to.

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