Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 00:54 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 00:54 | SYDNEY

Foreign policy in the US election


Sam Roggeveen


15 January 2008 14:41

Mitchell Reiss, a Director of Policy Planning at the State Department under Colin Powell, was kind enough to break into his holiday today to speak on 'The presidential election and US foreign policy' to a big audience at the Lowy Institute. For a man who, according to Wikipedia, is an adviser to one of the leading Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney, he showed little trace of bias either toward one candidate or one party. He surveyed the political terrain expertly and was a pleasure to listen to (one day I'll meet a diffident American who lacks public speaking skills, but not today). You can enjoy the presentation tomorrow when we post the mp3 on our homepage.

From an Australian perspective, it was jarring to hear so little attention to China. The US foreign policy debate remains dominated by Iraq and terrorism, and Democrat candidates in particular are walking a delicate path between telling their supporters what they want to hear and the harsh truth that American troops are likely to be in Iraq for years.

As for the Republicans, Reiss seemed to argue that McCain's recent poll rise could be attributed in part to success of the surge, which McCain has backed steadfastly. Reiss noted that General Petraeus is due to front Congress in March about progress in Iraq, which should make for fascinating campaign fodder.

For the general election, Reiss nominated terrorism, illegal immigration, Iran and climate change as the top foreign policy issues, with national security reform as a sleeper. Iraq is the notable exception on this list, with Reiss arguing that the slow downward trend of American involvement made it hard for any candidate to 'demagogue' on the issue. The sobering fact that one of the candidates will inherit the operation also meant it would be treated carefully by both.

The election aside, I was pleased to hear Reiss say the Iran National Intelligence Assessment had been misread somewhat in the media to give the impression that the nuclear threat had passed, something that has also been argued on our pages.