Well, there’s supposed to be a presidential debate tonight in Oxford, Miss. And it’s supposed to be about foreign policy. With that in mind, the Op-Ed editors asked leaders and writers from around the world to pose questions they’d like to hear John McCain and Barack Obama answer.
How would you work with America’s allies in the Muslim world to turn around the widely held misperception there, as evidenced in opinion polls, that the global war against terrorism is actually a war against Islam?
ASIF ALI ZARDARI, the president of Pakistan
Many developing countries — mine included — have made sacrifices to carry out tough economic reforms and have sought “trade and not aid.” To succeed, we need to compete on a level playing field with more developed economies. Is the United States ready to shoulder some of the burden by advocating the elimination or tempering of protectionism and subsidies? The United Nations by itself, with its faults and many achievements, does not lead. Nation-states do. American commitment and leadership is a must for effective multilateral cooperation. Will you demonstrate a renewed commitment to multilateralism and the rule of international law? Will you negotiate actively to agree on a post-Kyoto treaty on global warming and seek to join the United Nations Human Rights Council? Lastly, what would you do to regain the trust of your allies who would like to see the United States engaging in respectful dialogue and leading the way in the fight not merely against terrorism — which must be done — but also against world hunger, poverty, inequality and disease?
MICHELLE BACHELET, the president of Chile
American foreign policy is now inextricably tied to the financial situation in the United States and to the image this crisis gives the country in the eyes of the world. How, for example, will this financial tsunami change your Iraq policy and its timetable? How will you manage both the horribly high cost of rescuing the banking system and the no less exorbitant cost of the American military presence in Baghdad? What will you say to all those countries the United States has so long lectured on the right way to govern their economies and that now see that America has refused its own medicine? The rest of the world is absorbing America’s deficits. How do you plan to convince them to continue doing so as though nothing has happened? Has the place of America in the world changed in your view? Can its role be the same? Will the America you are going to lead still be the great power it was before last week?
BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY, the author of Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism
Do you view China simply as an emerging great power, or as an emerging great power with a conflicting ideology? And how will this perception shape your China policy?
HU SHULI, the editor of the Chinese business magazine Caijing
Why do you think that terrorism is the No. 1 strategic threat to the United States? How does it compare to the threat from an economic meltdown, from an environmental catastrophe, or from another nation? Should the United States continue to put hundreds of times more effort and investment into Afghanistan than into Pakistan, Egypt or Iran? China is now too wealthy and powerful to be intimidated by the United States. What are America’s interests in the Asia-Pacific region? How should you protect them?
RORY STEWART, the author of The Places in Between, a former British foreign service officer, and the chief executive of Turquoise Mountain, a foundation in Afghanistan
When their presidencies began, both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were enthusiastic toward Russia, but by the end relations were decidedly cooler. What measures can you propose that would ensure that your presidency ends more constructively? How can the United States encourage transformation in the new independent states, especially Ukraine and Georgia, without further alienating Russia?
LILIA SHEVTSOVA, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Moscow
Do you think the American embargo of Cuba is a mistake? Does the ascension of Raúl Castro, Fidel Castro’s brother, represent an opportunity to open relations with that country? Wouldn’t better relations with Cuba help neutralize Hugo Chávez, whose anti-Americanism is finding support in Latin America?
ENRIQUE KRAUZE, the editor of the magazine Letras Libres and the author of Mexico: Biography of Power
How do you plan to formulate American policy with respect to the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran? In particular, what steps would you take to deal with North Korea’s nuclear threat if its regime collapses? In what specific ways would you try to lower the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions to achieve the goals each of you have outlined in your campaigns?
YOICHI FUNABASHI, the editor of the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun
The Group of 8 was set up as a steering committee of the world’s most powerful economies. Do you believe that to make globalization work, such a steering committee is required? If so, do you believe that the group in its current configuration, without the presence of the major emerging economies, fits the bill? Deforestation, which causes at least 20 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions each year, is a leading cause of climate change. The world needs to protect its rain forests — for example in the Congo and Amazon basins — but not at the expense of the desperately poor people who live in them. Do you believe that any plan to combat climate change must include measures to compensate the people of the world’s tropical rainforests, to make these forests more valuable standing rather than cut down?
PAUL MARTIN, the prime minister of Canada from 2003 to 2006
Free trade and immigration have made the United States the world’s richest nation. But many of your country’s friends worry that you may react to the current financial crisis, and to a rise in protectionist sentiment and immigrant-bashing, by turning inward. As president, would you work to allow freer movement of guest workers and trade in our hemisphere? Would you support the continuation and expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement? Mexico is a thriving democracy that buys more goods and products from the United States than do the four leading economies of Europe combined, while President Felipe Calderón leads an all-out war on narco-traffickers to make our country safer. Given this progress, do you support the $1.4 billion package to fight narco-terrorism that Presidents Bush and Calderón proposed last year? Shouldn’t we mutually strengthen our countries, rather than feuding about issues that divide us, like immigration?
VICENTE FOX, the president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006
How would you work to restructure the United Nations to make it more representative as well as more effective? Clearly, the makeup of the Security Council is anachronistic. Would you support the expansion of its permanent membership to include (among other countries) Brazil, India, Japan and South Africa?
RAMACHANDRA GUHA, the author of India After Gandhi
It is important to know not only what the next president will do, but also why he will do it. I am somewhat puzzled by the absence of “why” questions in the presidential campaign. Why, for example, do you, Mr. McCain, advocate the expulsion of Russia from the Group of 8? Do you believe that this will change Moscow’s behavior? Or do you believe that undemocratic states should not be members of the group? Also, why do both of you support Georgia’s and Ukraine’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization? Do you believe this policy would expand the West’s sphere of influence? Are you convinced that it would be good for the alliance, or do you think NATO has lost its centrality in American foreign policy? Is it possible that each of you advocates the same policy for very different reasons?
IVAN KRASTEV, the editor of the Bulgarian edition of Foreign Policy magazine
Asif Ali Zardari, Michelle Bachelet, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Hu Shuli, Rory Stewart, Lilia Shevtosa, Enrique Krauze, Yoichi Funabashi, Paul Martin, Vicente Fox, Ramachandra Guha and Ivan Krastev.