John Edwards on Foreign Policy

2004 Democratic Nominee for Vice President; Former Jr Senator (NC)

Belligerence and selfish policy turn people against the US

If we have a visionary foreign policy, where we re-establish America as a moral leader in the world, where we do the things that we need to do to combat global poverty, to deal with the spread of HIV/AIDS, the spread of disease at large, economic development, what it does is it takes an entire generation of young people who are sitting on the fence as I speak and on one side is Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, Islamic jihad, and on the other side is the US, which way do they go? That depends entirely on us. If they continue to see this foreign policy of belligerence, selfishness, only interested in the expansion of American power, we will drive them in the other direction. If, on the other hand, they see the US as the light, the source of hope and opportunity, it will pull them to us like a magnet.
Source: 2008 Congressional Black Caucus Democratic debate Jan 21, 2008

President empowered to unilaterally withdraw from treaties

Q: Under what circumstances, if any, is the president, when operating overseas as commander-in-chief, free to disregard international human rights treaties that the US Senate has ratified?

A: The president should consult with Congress before withdrawing from a treaty, although the courts have recognized that the president has the authority unilaterally to withdraw from a treaty.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

US has ignored China because of obsession with terrorism

Q: Do China’s size, manufacturing capabilities, & military buildup give them more leverage than us?

A: Under Bush, America has faced two very serious challenges, one of which they’ve been a bit obsessed with, which is the issue of terrorism. The other is the rise and strength of China, which they’ve done virtually nothing about on any front. On top of that, they’re obsessed with their own internal economic development, and that results in them propping up bad regimes, like Sudan & Iran.

Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic debate Dec 13, 2007

Edwards Doctrine: long term vision over ad hoc policy

Q: When future historians write of your administration’s foreign policy pursuits, what will be noted as your doctrine and the vision you cast for U.S. diplomatic relations?

A: The Edwards Doctrine will be longer term, visionary, not the kind of ad hoc foreign policy of convenience that we’ve seen over the last seven years, but instead looking at not only the short-term issues that America and the world faces. The key to that is for America, both through our actions and through our language from the president of the United States, to demonstrate that we respect people who grow up in different cultures with different faith beliefs, that we respect people who have a different perspective than we do.

Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic debate Dec 13, 2007

Aid should go to Pakistan, not to Musharraf

Q: On Pakistan, arguably one of the key international crises facing the US right now, a nuclear-armed country with a large Al Qaida/Taliban presence, no doubt about that. How worried are you, that as imperfect as General Musharraf might be, it could be a whole lot worse if obviously Al Qaida or the Taliban took over?

A: Oh, it’s very troublesome. Musharraf is not a wonderful leader. I think there is a smart path for America on this, understanding how volatile the situation is. First of all, I think we should reform the nature of our aid and use aid as our leverage tool. I mean, what we’ve been doing is essentially aiding Musharraf as opposed to aiding the Pakistani people. You know, with funding for F-16s, which does not help in the fight against terrorism, does not help with security for America. And we’ve also been approaching this unilaterally. We ought to have a multi-lateral approach to this problem. We shouldn’t be doing this alone.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2007 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer Nov 18, 2007

Cosponsored 2002 Iraq War Resolution

During his years in the Senate, John Edwards not only voted for the Iraq War Resolution--he co-sponsored it. On Oct. 10, 2002, Edwards said “Almost no one disagrees with these basic facts: that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a menace; that he has weapons of mass destruction and that he is doing everything in his power to get nuclear weapons; that he has supported terrorists; that he is a grave threat to the region, to vital allies like Israel, and to the US; and that he is thwarting the will of the international community and undermining the United Nations’ credibility.“

In fact, the people who disagree with these basic facts were the CIA, and their doubts were contained in a classified report available to Congress before the 2002 war vote. But Edwards said it was not necessary to read the report, since as a member of the Senate Intelligence committee he was getting information directly from intelligence officers. ”I had the information I needed,“ he later said. ”I just voted wrong.“

Source: The Contenders, by Laura Flanders, p.145-146 Nov 11, 2007

Our Latin America policy is either disengaged or bullying

Q: Is Hugo Chavez a dictator? Would you end relations with Venezuela?

A: I think actually what America should be doing is having a policy throughout Latin America that instead of being ad hoc, which is what we’ve seen under this president, either disengaged or bullying, one of the two. That’s what Latin American countries have seen from the US. That is the reason that Chavez can be so effective in bringing others in Latin America to surround him when he demonizes the US. If instead America was a force for good in Latin America, for example, making education available to millions of children who have no education, helping stop the spread of disease, the simple things like sanitation and clean drinking water, helping with economic development, microfinance, microlending, to make hope and opportunity available to millions of people in Latin America, it would pull the rug out from under a man like Hugo Chavez.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate on Univision in Spanish Sep 9, 2007

We need country-of-origin labeling for China trade safety

Q: Is China an ally or an adversary?

A: China is a competitor. They hold American debt; there are huge human rights abuses going on in China. But there’s also a trade safety issue here. What about 2 million toys that have come into the US and had to be recalled from China? How about the fact that we don’t have real country-of-origin labeling that the US actually enforces, so the American people know what they’re buying, where it’s coming from? We should have a president who enforces country-of-origin labeling. We should have a Consumer Product Safety Commission that’s not looking out for big multinational corporations, that’s actually looking out for the safety of our children here in America.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 8, 2007

Meet with enemy leaders after diplomacy first

Q: Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba & N.Korea?

OBAMA: I would. The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them is ridiculous. I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them.

CLINTON: I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy.

Q: Sen. Edwards, would you meet with them?

EDWARDS: Yes, and I think actually Sen. Clinton’s right though. Before that meeting takes place, we need to do the diplomacy to make sure that that meeting’s not going to be used for propaganda purposes, will not be used to just beat down the US in the world community. But I think this is just a piece of a bigger question, which is, what do we actually do to restore America’s moral leadership in the world?

Source: 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate, Charleston SC Jul 23, 2007

Make primary school available to 100M kids in Africa

Q: What would you do to address the need for more aid and health care to go out to Africa and the Caribbean?

A: I believe that America ought to lead an international effort to make primary school education available to every single one of the 100 million children in the world, largely in Africa, who have no education whatsoever. America should be leading the way on sanitation. Just clean drinking water would have on the health of families and children in Africa. America should be leading the way.

Source: 2007 NAACP Presidential Primary Forum Jul 12, 2007

No-fly zone in Darfur; but also social spending in Africa

Q: Darfur is the second time that our nation has had a chance to do something about genocide in Africa. The first came in Rwanda in 1994, when we did nothing.

RICHARDSON: What I would like to do is, one, a no-fly zone. Get economic sanctions backed by the Europeans; we should use the levers on China. We need to find ways to stop the massive rapes.

EDWARDS: I agree, a no-fly zone; a security force on the ground; sanctions; pressure on the Chinese. But Darfur is part of a bigger question for America: how do we re-establish ourselves after Iraq as a force for good in the world? Instead of spending $500 billion in Iraq, suppose America led an effort to make primary school education available to 100 million children in the world who have no education, including in Africa. Suppose we led on stopping the spread of disease, sanitation, clean drinking water and economic development.

Source: 2007 Democratic Primary Debate at Howard University Jun 28, 2007

Russia has moved from democracy to autocracy

Q: Do you regard Russia as a friend or a foe?

A: What’s happened in Russia is they’ve moved from being a democracy under Yeltsin to being a complete autocracy under Putin. The government has been centralized. Any kind of democratic effort, any opposition party, any opposition voice has been squashed.

Source: 2007 South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC Apr 26, 2007

Lead international effort on economic development

I think the question we should be asking ourselves is how does America change the underlying dynamic of what’s happening in the world? We need to maintain our strength, military, economic, political. But how do we ultimately change what’s happening, the threats that America faces?

For that to occur, the world has to see America as a force for good again, which is why I talked about leading an effort to make primary school education available to 100 million children in the world who don’t have it, in the Muslim world, in Africa, in Latin America.

Leading an international effort on sanitation, clean drinking water, economic development using microfinance as a tool. I mean, here’s a way that America could actually demonstrate its commitment to humanity, which I think is critical for our leadership.

Source: 2007 South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC Apr 26, 2007

The Israelis do not have a partner for peace right now

Q: Is the US absent in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

EDWARDS: We’ve been largely absent, though not entirely absent, from the peace-making process over the last 4 years. The Israeli people not only have the right to defend themselves, they should defend themselves. They have an obligation to defend themselves. We know that the prime minister has made a decision, an historic decision, to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. It’s important for America to participate in helping with that process. Now, if Gaza’s being used as a platform for attacking the Israeli people, that has to be stopped. They don’t have a partner for peace right now. They certainly don’t have a partner in Arafat, and they need a legitimate partner for peace. It is very important for America to crack down on the Saudis who have not had a public prosecution for financing terrorism since 9/11. And it’s important for America to confront the situation in Iran, because Iran is an enormous threat to Israel and to the Israeli people.

Source: Edwards-Cheney debate: 2004 Vice Presidential Oct 5, 2004

Strengthen the sanctions on Iran

CHENEY: One of the great by-products of what we did in Iraq & Afghanistan is that five days after we captured Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gadhafi in Libya came forward and announced that he was going to surrender all of his nuclear materials to the US, which he has done. This was one of the biggest sources of proliferation in the world today in terms of the threat that was represented by that. The suppliers’ network that provided that, headed by Mr. Khan, has been shut down.

EDWARDS: Cheney talks about there being a member, or someone associated with Al Qaida, in Iraq. There are 60 countries who have members of Al Qaida in them. How many of those countries are we going to invade? Not only that, he talks about Iran. The reality is that Iran has moved forward with their nuclear weapons program on their watch. They ceded responsibility to dealing with it to the Europeans. We need to strengthen the sanctions on Iran, including closing the loophole that allows companies to do business with Iran.

Source: [Xref Cheney] Edwards-Cheney debate: 2004 Vice Presidential Oct 5, 2004

America should lead by extending a hand, not a fist

For more than a century, America has spared no effort to defend, encourage, and promote that idea around the world. Over and over, we have done it by exercising American leadership to forge powerful alliances-with longtime allies and reluctant friends, with nations already living in the light of democracy and with peoples struggling to join them. The might of those alliances has been a driving force in the survival & success of freedom-in two World Wars, in the Cold War, in the Gulf War, and in Kosovo. America led instead of going it alone. We extended a hand, not a fist. We respected the world - and the world respected us. Today, there is a powerful yearning around the world for an America that listens and leads again. An America that is respected, not just feared. We believe that respect is an indispensable mark of our nation’s character - and an indispensable source of our nation’s strength. And it is the indispensable bond of America’s mighty alliances.
Source: [X-ref Kerry] Our Plan For America , p. 8 Aug 10, 2004

Reorient US aid to support open societies

I will reorient U.S. assitance toward supporting open societies, giving more aid to nongovernmental bodies, and cutting assistance to dictators uninterested in democracy and upholding human rights.
Source: 2004 Presidential National Political Awareness Test Mar 3, 2004

UN-led peacekeeping, but US forces under US command

I support reforms that would allow the UN to be better prepared to support - and where appropriate, lead - peacekeeping efforts. While the U.S. should support and cooperate with UN peacekeeping, U.S. soldiers should always be under American command.
Source: 2004 Presidential National Political Awareness Test Mar 3, 2004

Target Castro’s regime but help people of Cuba

I support sanctions that target Castro’s regime but helps the innocent Cuban people.
Source: 2004 Presidential National Political Awareness Test Mar 3, 2004

More funds for AIDS prevention in Africa

I support greater funding for AIDS prevention in Africa, using the most effective means available.
Source: 2004 Presidential National Political Awareness Test Mar 3, 2004

Haiti is in crisis because Bush stayed disengaged

Q: Do you support the Caribbean nations announcement today of a multi-national force for Haiti?

EDWARDS: Yes. That’s exactly what should happen. What I would do as president is pick two or three respected world leaders, like President Clinton did back in the ‘90. Send them to the region. Work on a political solution.

Q: It might be too late.

EDWARDS: Maybe. We are in this situation because this is so typical of this president’s disengagement in this entire hemisphere. In fact, he’s done it all over the world. But this is a perfect example.

Q: Are you saying he could have prevented this?

EDWARDS: I’m saying, if we had stayed involved, we would have seen this coming a lot sooner, and we could have gotten involved and engaged.

Q: Would you take them in at the US border?

EDWARDS: Those who were fleeing for political asylum, yes.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary debate at USC Feb 26, 2004

Bring UN, allies and friends to Iraq

Q: How would you get allies to work with the US?

A: I would put the Iraqi Civilian Authority under the control of the United Nations today. That should have been done a long time ago. Use that to create the kind of energy we need to bring allies and friends to this effort, to help relieve the burden on American troops, relieve the burden on American taxpayers. And also put a stop to these sweetheart deals for Halliburton, the president’s friends.

Source: CNN “Rock The Vote” Democratic Debate Nov 5, 2003

Need multilateral solutions for world’s problems

Q: How do you view this effort to internationalize the war?

EDWARDS: Unfortunately what we see happening on the ground in Iraq right now is part of a long-term pattern by this president. He stubbornly continues to fight an effort to bring others in, to relinquish some responsibility, some control in order to bring our friends and allies into this effort.

This started a long time ago. It began with his unilateral disengagement from Kyoto, unilateral disengagement from the biological weapons convention, a whole series of nuclear nonproliferation agreements.

I will lead in a way that shows that America is strong, but at the same time that we will solve the world’s problems with the rest of the world in a multilateral, coalition-building way, because that is the most effective way to create respect for America. And at the end of the day, the American people are safer and more secure in a world where America is looked up to and respected.

Source: Democratic Primary Debate, Albuquerque New Mexico Sep 4, 2003

Voted YES on enlarging NATO to include Eastern Europe.

H.R. 3167; Gerald B. H. Solomon Freedom Consolidation Act of 2001, To endorse the vision of further enlargement of the NATO Alliance. Vote to pass a bill that would support further expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, authorize military assistance to several eastern European countries and lift assistance restrictions on Slovakia.
Reference: Bill HR.3167 ; vote number 2002-116 on May 17, 2002

Voted YES on killing a bill for trade sanctions if China sells weapons.

Vote to table [kill] an amendment that would require sanctions against China or other countries if they were found to be selling illicit weapons of mass destruction.
Reference: Bill HR.4444 ; vote number 2000-242 on Sep 13, 2000

Voted NO on cap foreign aid at only $12.7 billion.

Adoption of the conference report on the 2000 Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill provided $12.7 billion for foreign aid programs in 2000.
Status: Conf Rpt Agreed to Y)51; N)49
Reference: H.R. 2606 Conference Report; Bill H.R. 2606 ; vote number 1999-312 on Oct 6, 1999

Progressive Internationalism: globalize with US pre-eminence.

Edwards adopted the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade":

Build a Public Consensus Supporting US Global Leadership
The internationalist outlook that served America and the world so well during the second half of the 20th century is under attack from both ends of the political spectrum. As the left has gravitated toward protectionism, many on the right have reverted to “America First” isolationism.

Our leaders should articulate a progressive internationalism based on the new realities of the Information Age: globalization, democracy, American pre-eminence, and the rise of a new array of threats ranging from regional and ethnic conflicts to the spread of missiles and biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. This approach recognizes the need to revamp, while continuing to rely on, multilateral alliances that advance U.S. values and interests.

A strong, technologically superior defense is the foundation for US global leadership. Yet the US continues to employ defense strategies, military missions, and force structures left over from the Cold War, creating a defense establishment that is ill-prepared to meet new threats to our security. The US must speed up the “revolution in military affairs” that uses our technological advantage to project force in many different contingencies involving uncertain and rapidly changing security threats -- including terrorism and information warfare.

Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC12 on Aug 1, 2000

Other candidates on Foreign Policy: John Edwards on other issues:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden

Third Parties:
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Social Security
Tax Reform

Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010