22 July 2008


Looking back over all the U. S. presidents, few had much foreign experience before their elections and many had next to none, including Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush probably had the most of all presidents at the time of election, including Franklin Roosevelt who had vacationed in Europe several times as a child and had visited the First World War front as Assistant Secretary of Navy.

Besides overseas experience there are other criteria for judging the foreign-policy qualifications of presidential candidates. The prime ones must be vision, and I would say, perspective. Re these categories, I evaluate Sen. Barack Obama as having unique life experiences and background that just might be quite advantageous. He had the wisdom and foresight to understand some of the ramifications of starting a land war in Asia that would require the U. S. military to occupy a country that would soon become a quagmire.

Whereas it should have been clear during George Bush's first presidential campaign that he not only had no foreign experience, but more importantly, he also harbored a provincial mindset. Bush was not sufficiently sophisticated to be skeptical when his Neo-Con advisers convinced him that democracy would flourish in the Middle East after the futile attempt to implant democracy in Iraq. Neither Iraq nor hardly any other place in that region has the prerequisites for democracy, which surely include high rates of female literacy and empowerment. The American electorate elected (actually the U. S. Supreme Court chose) a supremely naive president in George Bush, who involved the U. S. in perhaps the worst foreign-policy fiasco in the history of the country.

Still, realistically we will not know what we get until the candidate, whoever is elected, has appointed his foreign-affairs advisers and Secretary of State and is tested while in office. But I foresee that Sen. Obama, if elected, would become a far more perspicacious president than George Bush has been.

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