The Republican presidential frontrunner, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, has just written his foreign policy credo for Foreign Affairs magazine. It is a truly unnerving pronouncement -- even worse than Bush-ism. Not unexpectedly, Mr. Giuliani backs all of the most brazen features of the Bush administration's global agenda. But he tosses in several deeply scary initiatives of his own that George W. never touched.
Giuliani first provides a post-facto assessment of the Vietnam War which serves as his base doctrine. He believes we could have won the war but we precipitously "withdrew" our support in 1972. Had we stayed, he says, South Vietnam would have achieved "political self-sufficiency." Instead, by caving into an "expansionist Soviet Union." we created a "weaker America." Few historians, foreign policy experts or political figures give any credence to this thesis. And, aside from the irony that Giuliani is criticizing Richard Nixon, a president of his own party for such "errors," he fails to acknowledge the fact that 58,000 American soldiers had already died for a South Vietnamese government that was hopelessly corrupt and had no popular support -- and that the American public was utterly fed up with the conflict. Nor does the former mayor address the secondary point that the putatively omnipotent USSR 17 years later lost the Cold War to the apparently "enervated" USA.
With Vietnam as his global measuring stick, Giuliani ticks off all of the programs he plans to hold fast to from the Bush era. He promises to pursue Bush's strategy in Iraq relentlessly to "eliminate the export of terror," and warns that, as in Vietnam, any withdrawal would be a sign of weakness and "an invitation for more war." He does not conceive of, admit to, or even mention the possibility of a region-wide political settlement which even now the Bush Administration is apparently contemplating. In addition, he would "press ahead" with an anti-ballistic missile system -- regardless of its outsized costs or ineffectiveness. And he would, as he says, "pursue the gains made by the USA Patriot Act and not unrealistically limit electronic surveillance or legal interrogation." Sounds a lot like an embrace of unrestricted presidential power and possibly torture.
For Israel, he now opposes the "creation of another state" in Palestine -- a repudiation of Bush's own stance. On Iran, "should all else fail," he would destroy that nation's nuclear infrastructure -- a mini-Cheney on steroids. More broadly, though, he would ratchet up our public diplomacy, expand the old Cold War radio stations, ditto with Internet networks, and insist that our US ambassadors "clearly advocate for US policies" -- a kind of in-your-face proselytizing of the sort the former mayor practiced so fervently when he ran New York City.
But Mr. Giuliani's most peculiar innovations are with the United Nations and NATO. Predictably, he is anti-UN -- as he was as mayor of NYC. But he goes further and argues that the UN has "proved irrelevant to the resolution of almost every major dispute of the last fifty years." This is a breathtaking display of incomprehension. Just a reminder: the UN stopped the invasion of South Korea; settled the Suez crisis of 1956; assisted in the ending of the Cuban missile crisis of 1963; ousted Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991. It brought peace to conflicts in Guatemala, Angola, Mozambique, El Salvador, Cambodia and helps keep the peace in Cyprus. More recently, it aided Haiti in holding an election and ending violence, pushed the Syrians out of Lebanon, enforced a ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon and presently supports a dozen or so other peacekeeping missions.
Now we come to the ex-mayor's most bizarre suggestion -- that NATO be encouraged to act "globally," be reconfigured to confront "significant threats to the international system," and "we should open the organization's membership to any state" -- though it is a European-based body. Is Mr. Giuliani thus proposing that NATO replace the UN as the world's arbiter? And why not? Since the US dominates NATO, this would give Washington a direct means to extend its security purvey over the entire planet. This is a vision consistent with the authoritarian instincts with which Mr. Giuliani governed NYC. Still his retro-policies appear to be out of kilter with the times. He will have a lot of explaining to the American electorate about his foreign policy weltanschauung. It should be an illuminating exercise that may actually remind voters of why the only elected post he has ever risen to is mayor.