Oct. 11, 2000 -- LEHRER: So what would you say, Governor, to somebody who wouldsay, “Hey, wait a minute. Why not Africa? I mean, why the MiddleEast? Why the Balkans, but not Africa when 600,000 people’s lives areat risk?”
BUSH: Well, I understand. And Africa’s important, and we’ve got to do a lot of work in Africa to promote democracy and trade. Andthere’s some — the vice president mentioned Nigeria. It’s a fledgling democracy. We’ve got to work with Nigeria. That’s animportant continent.
But there’s got to be priorities. And the Middle East is apriority for a lot of reasons, as is Europe and the Far East and ourown hemisphere. And those are my four top priorities should I be thepresident. It’s not to say we won’t be engaged nor trying — nor should we — you know, work hard to get other nations to come together to prevent atrocity.
I thought the best example of a way to handle the situation isEast Timor when we provided logistical support to the Australians,support that only we can provide. I thought that was a good model.
But we can’t be all things to all people in the world, Jim. AndI think that’s where maybe the vice president and I begin to have somedifferences. I am worried about over-committing our military aroundthe world. I want to be judicious in its use.
You mentioned Haiti. I wouldn’t have sent troops to Haiti. Ididn’t think it was a mission worthwhile. It was a nation-buildingmission. And it was not very successful. It cost us billions, acouple of billions of dollars, and I’m not so sure democracy is anybetter off in Haiti than it was before.
LEHRER: Vice President Gore, do you agree with the governor’sviews on nation-building, the use of military, our military to — fornation-building, as he described it and defined it?
GORE: I don’t think we agree on that. I would certainly also bejudicious in evaluating any potential use of American troops overseas.I think we have to be very reticent about that.
But, look, Jim, the world is changing so rapidly. The way I seeit, the world’s getting much closer together. Like it or not, we arenow the — the United States is now the natural leader of the world.All these other countries are looking to us.
Now, just because we cannot be involved everywhere, and shouldn’tbe, doesn’t mean that we should shy away from going in anywhere. Now,both of us are, kind of, I guess stating the other’s position in amaximalist, extreme way, but I think there is a difference here.
This idea of nation-building is a kind of pejorative phrase. Butthink about the great conflict of the past century, World War II.During the years between World War I and World War II, a great lessonwas learned by our military leaders and the people of the UnitedStates. The lesson was that in the aftermath of World War I we kindof turned our backs and left them to their own devices, and theybrewed up a lot of trouble that quickly became World War II.
And acting upon that lesson in the aftermath of our great victoryin World War II, we laid down the Marshall Plan, President Truman did.
We got eminently involved in building NATO and otherstructures there. We still have lots of troops in Europe.
And what did we do in the late ’40s and ’50s and ’60s? We were nation-building. And it was economic, but it was also military. Andthe confidence that those countries recovering from the wounds of warhad by having troops there — we had civil administrators come in toset up their ways of building their towns back.
LEHRER: You said in the Boston debate, Governor, on this issueof nation-building, that the United States military is overextendednow. Where is it overextended? Where are there U.S. military thatyou would bring home if you become president?
BUSH: Well, first, let me just say one comment about what thevice president said. I think one of the lessons in between World WarI and World War II is we let our military atrophy, and we can’t dothat. We’ve got to rebuild our military.
But one of the problems we have in the military is we’re in a lotof places around the world. And I mentioned one, and that’s theBalkans. I’d very much like to get our troops out of there. Irecognize we can’t do it now, nor do I advocate an immediatewithdrawal. That would be an abrogation of our agreement with NATO;no one’s suggesting that. But I think it ought to be one of ourpriorities, to work with our European friends to convince them to puttroops on the ground. And there is an example. Haiti is anotherexample.
Now, there are some places where, I think, you know, I supportedthe administration in Colombia; I think it’s important for us to betraining Colombians in that part of the world. Our hemisphere is inour interest, to have a peaceful Colombia.
LEHRER: If you’re just going to — you know, the use of themilitary, there’s — some people are now suggesting that if you don’t want to use the military to maintain the peace, to do the civil thing,is it time to consider a civil force of some kind that comes in afterthe military that builds nations or all of that? Is that on yourradar screen?
BUSH: I don’t think so. I think — I think what we need to dois convince people who live in the lands they live in to build thenations. Maybe I’m missing something here. I mean, we’re going to have kind of a nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not.
Our military’s meant to fight and win war. That’s what it’s meant to do. And when it gets over extended, morale drops.
And I’m not — I strongly believe we need to have a militarypresence in the Korea Peninsula, not only to keep the peace inpeninsula, but to keep regional stability. And I strongly believe weneed to keep a presence in NATO.
But I’m going to be judicious as to how to use the military. Itneeds to be in our vital interest, the mission needs to be clear, andthe exit strategy obvious.
GORE: Well, I don’t disagree with that. I certainly don’tdisagree that we ought to get our troops home from places like theBalkans as soon as we can, as soon as the mission is complete.
That’s what we did in Haiti. There are — there are no more thana handful of American military personnel in Haiti now. And theHaitians have their problems, but we gave them a chance to restoredemocracy. And that’s really about all we can do.
But if you have a situation like that right in our backyard withchaos about to break out and flotillas forming to come across thewater and all kinds of violence there, right in one of our neighboringcountries there, then I think that we did the right thing there.
And as for this idea of nation-building. The phrasesounds grandiose. And, you know, we can’t be — we can’t allow ourselves to get overextended. I certainly agree with that. Andthat’s why I’ve supported building — building up our capacity. I’ve devoted in the budget I’ve proposed, as I said last week, more than twice as much as the governor has proposed.
I think that it’s in better shape now than he generally does.We’ve had some disagreements about that. He said that two divisionswould have to report not ready for duty, and that’s not what the JointChiefs say. But there’s no doubt that we have to continue building upreadiness and military strength, and we have to also be very cautiousin the way we use our military.
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