Ask the 2008 Presidential Candidates Better Foreign-Policy Questions

Article excerpt

When it comes to foreign policy, the 2008 presidential candidates have focused almost exclusively on the Middle East. Given the public debate about America's engagement in Iraq, that's understandable. But such myopia is also deeply regrettable. There's another world out there besides the Middle East, one with major problems and flash points that cannot be ignored by the public and a future US president.

It's imperative that voters and the media ask all of the candidates tough questions about issues other than the ones they already ask about the Middle East. Some of the important ones include these:

How should the United States (1) Maintain a balance of power in East Asia, (2) Respond if China tests a second anti-satellite weapon, (3) Respond to a Chinese military action against Taiwan?

If China does act against Taiwan, whoever becomes the next US president will have to respond in a matter of hours - not days - as to whether the US honors the Taiwan Relations Act and whether it becomes militarily involved in the conflict.

Looking elsewhere, we should also ask candidates how they intend to ensure that a politically divided Ukraine continues toward integration with Europe and not move closer to Russia. How should the United States respond to an increasingly authoritarian Russia, remembering that it has the second-largest oil reserves in the world, that Siberia is a treasure trove of minerals yet to be exploited, and that Russia is a military superpower? How should the US respond if Russia covertly threatens Poland for allowing a potential American anti-ballistic missile defense system on its territory?

Should a conflict arise between Kosovo and Serbia - which could involve Russia - where stands the United States?

And what about NATO? Should the US insist on a greater European contribution in terms of personnel and funding? The same question could be asked about the United Nations.

What should be America's policy toward India, a nation with the second-largest population in the world, a fast-growing economy, and a military with an increasing capability, all the time remembering its contentious and continuing border dispute with Pakistan, an American ally in the fight against the Taliban?

If North Korea reneges on its promise to give up its nuclear- weapons program, should the US encourage Japan to develop nuclear weapons? Should the United States continue a policy of downsizing the number of its troops in South Korea while, at the same time, South Korea is considering significant decreases in its active and reserve forces? …