Is Kerry's Emphasis on Global Alliances Outdated?

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:22pm EDT

( - Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry is promising that if elected, he would "work aggressively to rebuild the relationships frayed and shredded by the Bush administration." But there is debate over whether the international alliances envisioned by Kerry would make a difference in Iraq.

"The threat of terrorism demands alliances on a global scale," Kerry's campaign stated Monday. Repairing the relationship between the U.S. and its NATO allies is especially important, the statement continued.

"I will immediately convene a summit with European and world leaders to discuss a common anti-terrorism agenda, including a collective security framework and a long-term strategy to build bridges to the Islamic world," said Kerry.

However, when it comes to Iraq, Anthony Cordesman of the Washington, D.C., based Center for Strategic and International Studies thinks the concept of an international alliance may be outdated.

"We have moved beyond neo-conservative, neo-liberal, NATO, or U.N. solutions," Cordesman wrote in a July 7 report. "Whatever might have been, success now depends on helping the Iraqis play out the scenario for a council, constitution, and elections as best they can."

Creating the appearance of international unity does nothing to help the Iraqis, Cordesman added.

"Iraq needs serious training and equipment efforts, not more diverse training methods tied to countries with different languages, tactical methods, and often different political objectives," he wrote.

Cordesman also questioned the willingness of United Nations workers to live up to their promises. Those employees, he said, "often disguise how often U.N. and 'international community' pledges to provide manpower and aid funds are not kept."

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican from Texas and frequent critic of United Nations involvement in American affairs, also has doubts about the value of international military alliances, according to his spokesman, Jeff Deist.

"It's a bad idea to involve U.S. troops with the United Nations," Deist said. "If American troops are going to be in harm's way anywhere, then that decision should be made by American executive and military officers."

It's impossible to know, Deist added, whether "a U.N. commander who is Belgian or French or whatever truly feels the same way about our troops that an American commander would."

But Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., thinks an international alliance under the supervision of the United Nations would provide a positive change, "because of the reckless foreign policy that has characterized this [Bush] administration."

Any new foreign policy, she said, "led by any new face is likely to be welcomed with huge sighs of relief and open arms." However, Bennis said she believes that if Kerry is elected, he would be wise to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq.

"So far, what we've heard from Senator Kerry is that he is committed to convincing other countries to send in more troops into Iraq," she said. "In my view that is not going to solve the problem, which I think is only going to be solved with ending the occupation, not internationalizing it."

Kerry's goal, to rebuild international relationships, will only be achieved, Bennis said, "If his policies are qualitatively different. So far it's not so clear that they are." She also rejected the idea that forming international alliances could jeopardize national sovereignty.

"The reality," Bennis said, "is that abiding by international law makes us far safer than standing in massive violation of international law ever could."

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