Thursday, February 07, 2008

Answers, Please

Helmut Schmidt, Germany's elder statesman and one of the last survivors of the West's late Cold War leadership, has been reading the speeches and "Foreign Policy" articles by the major U.S. presidential candidates. And lord knows they've spilled millions of words apiece since this campaign began several thousand years ago. But, like me, Schmidt remains perplexed about the most basic specifics of what exactly these people want to do once they get into the White House.

Here, (courtesy of Worldblurb's translation) are the twelve questions he'd ask to our candidates, as published recently on the front page of "Die Zeit":

  • How do you plan to end the Iraq War? What means will you use to see that end? What kind of Iraq should we expect to see in the end?

  • What is your timetable for Afghanistan? Are your goals only directed towards stopping Al-Qaida or does it extend to the Taliban also? Or are your goals to establish a democracy?

  • If in the end, Al-Qaida becomes a major presence in Pakistan, would you also use military means in Pakistan given the country’s nuclear capabilities?

  • What is your strategy for a peaceful solution regarding the nearly half century long conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors?

  • What are your future policies for Iran given its possible nuclear armament?

  • Nearly a quarter of all countries are Islamic influenced. Do you advocate religious and cultural tolerance despite the inevitable cultural clash?

  • What is your policy with Russia?

  • Do you accept the world economic and world political role of China?

  • Will you fulfill America’s obligations to curb nuclear arms?

  • The last two American presidents have dismissed the Kyoto Conference. Will you finally have the U.S. participate in the world’s efforts to curb greenhouse gases?

  • Will (you) work to bring America’s world trade deficit to an equilibrium? Do you agree to try to bring order and supervision over the world’s highly speculative financial markets?

  • Does the Charter of the United Nations also apply to the U.S.?

I think those generally are good questions, though I might look for different answers than he does on some of them. And I'd want to hear some specific policies, with evidence for how they might work, not mere platitudes.