As Marxists we see the world in internationalist terms. We understand that foreign policy is a continuation of domestic policy: the "war on terror" is a war on working people here and abroad. If we want to change foreign policy, we need to change domestic policy. Only a workers' government here in the US can ensure an end to the predations of the US imperialists: regime change starts at home. So how does the "lesser evil" Kerry measure up on foreign policy issues? Let's take a look at three of the most important international issues of today: Iraq, Israel / Palestine, and Venezuela.
Kerry voted to authorize Bush's use of force in Iraq, months before military action was finally declared. As with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which effectively granted Lyndon Johnson war powers without a formal declaration of war, Kerry and the Democrats gave Bush a blank check on Iraq, long before diplomatic solutions had been exhausted. The reason? Kerry, like Bush, was interested in getting his class' snout in the trough of Iraqi oil. If Kerry truly held a principled position against the war, he would have rejected Bush's appeal for a virtual free hand in Iraq. He has since changed his position, trying to out-do GW on military aggressiveness as Gore did in 2000. The results could be the same.
Kerry's only real criticism of the Iraq war and occupation is that it is not being waged with enough international support. According to him, "The primary responsibility for security must remain with the US military, preferably helped by NATO until we have an Iraqi security force fully prepared to take responsibility." Far from calling for a complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq - a move wholeheartedly supported by the majority of Iraqis as well as a growing number of Americans - he insists he will send as many as 40,000 more troops if necessary - he would stay in Iraq as long as it took to get the job done. "I think the vast majority of the American people understand that it's important to not just cut and run. I don't believe in a cut-and-run philosophy." This position exposes all his anti-war posturing for what it really is: election year rhetoric. It would be the ultimate seal of approval for Bush's war and occupation.
It is highly illustrative that the "anti-war" Kerry seems more eager to send large numbers of troops to Iraq than Donald Rumsfeld. As one commentator put it recently, "the differences between the candidates have sometimes been hard to detect." Long gone is the returning Vietnam veteran John Kerry who said the following to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 22 April 1971: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" After serving nearly 30 years in the bosses' government, Kerry is eager to continue Bush's "mistake", sending even more workers in uniform to their deaths in Iraq in order to protect the interests of American capital.
Regarding the pressure cooker that is Israel / Palestine, Kerry does no better - or rather, he once again tries to one-up Bush. Commenting on the recent Sharon plan - which makes a complete mockery of the so-called "road map" for peace in the Middle East, Kerry said, "I think that could be a positive step. What's important, obviously, is the security of the state of Israel, and that's what the prime minister and the president, I think, are trying to address . . . I've always felt that the right of return is contrary to the viability of a Jewish state, and that's what Israel is. Israel's very survival in a hostile and dangerous region has always been predicated on the steadfast, unwavering and full support of the United States. In my administration, America's commitment to Israel will never waiver."
It's clear from the foregoing that Kerry's position on Israel is in effect a carbon copy of Bush's plan. But let's be clear: Kerry is talking about support for the reactionary Zionist leadership of Israel - not the Israeli working class. As in the US, Iraq, Mexico, Afghanistan, or any other country , both Bush and Kerry support the capitalist class against the legitimate aspirations of all working people. We Marxists, on the other hand, are in full solidarity with the working class of Israel, who in solidarity with their Palestinian brothers and sisters are the key to the situation.
And what about Venezuela, the country where the revolutionary process is most advanced, with the class divisions openly rending society from top to bottom? As could be expected, Kerry once again does his utmost to show he is even more steadfastly against the Chavez regime than Bush can get away with at the present time. The US imperialists see Latin America as their "backyard". Ever since the Monroe Doctrine, American capitalists have treated the massive continent to their south as their personal fiefdom. Unlike GW Bush, Hugo Chavez has been overwhelmingly elected president twice by the Venezuelan people, and his Bolivarian process has been electorally confirmed on 5 other occasions over the past 6 years. His basic reforms have not threatened the fundamental capitalist framework of society, but they have improved the quality of life for millions of Venezuelans. Let's be clear: Chavez is no Marxist. But even his at times confused, albeit well-intentioned half-measures, designed to improve the conditions of the Venezuelan people, are too much for the Venezuelan and US bourgeoisie. They are deathly afraid of "another Cuba" that would serve as an example for the downtrodden masses of Latin America and the ex-colonial world as a whole. Kerry, as a representative of the US ruling class, is no different on this issue than he is on any other issue directly affecting the interests of the capitalist class:
"With the future of the democratic process at a critical juncture in Venezuela, we should work to bring all possible international pressure to bear on President Chavez to allow the referendum to proceed. The Administration should demonstrate its true commitment to democracy in Latin America by showing determined leadership now, while a peaceful resolution can still be achieved. Throughout his time in office, President Chavez has repeatedly undermined democratic institutions by using extra-legal means, including politically motivated incarcerations, to consolidate power. In fact, his close relationship with Fidel Castro has raised serious questions about his commitment to leading a truly democratic government.
"Moreover, President Chavez's policies have been detrimental to our interests and those of his neighbors. He has compromised efforts to eradicate drug cultivation by allowing Venezuela to become a haven for narco-terrorists, and sowed instability in the region by supporting anti-government insurgents in Colombia. The referendum has given the people of Venezuela the opportunity to express their views on his presidency through constitutionally legitimate means. The international community cannot allow President Chavez to subvert this process, as he has attempted to do thus far. He must be pressured to comply with the agreements he made with the OAS and the Carter Center to allow the referendum to proceed, respect the exercise of free expression, and release political prisoners."
Kerry conveniently ignores that the "opposition" failed to gather enough signatures to force a referendum in the first place. The Carter Center and OAS are agents of US imperialism, working to put an "impartial" face on the predations of the US ruling class. What Kerry means by "our interests" and "commitment to democracy" are austerity measures for the masses while the ultra-rich elite make a killing. As for lack of democracy, Venezuela's new constitution is the most democratic in the whole region, if not the world. And then there are Kerry's calls for "peaceful resolutions". The time for sugar-coated appeals for "peace" are long gone - the US-backed opposition have been spearheading an "extra-legal" campaign of murder, threats, coups and economic sabotage for over 2 years. Kerry also uses the "war on drugs" card to justify US intervention in Venezuela, by accusing the Chavez government of complicity in the Colombian drug trade. Plan Colombia is a thinly-veiled attempt to build up an intervention force on the Venezuelan border in order to prevent "another Cuba". Try as he may to appear as an impartial outsider with a pious desire for "democracy" and "legality", Kerry 's class loyalties are crystal clear. Internationally, as in the US, he will always side with the capitalist class against the working class.
Although not couched in Bush's fundamentalist Christian Bible-thumping rhetoric, it is clear that Kerry's fundamental world view is almost identical to his Republican adversary - the defense of the capitalist system on a world scale. On the above decisive issues, Kerry plans to continue or even expand Bush's aggressive imperialist policies. Kerry criticizes Bush's "failed" policies only because he wishes to implement the same policies more efficiently, in order to better exploit the workers of the world. Remember, Bush was elected on an "America First", protectionist platform. He rejected "nation building" and promised to focus on domestic issues. But as we predicted at the time, Bush would be one of the most aggressive presidents in world history.
The increasingly turbulent economic and social situation on a world scale made this inevitable. What would Gore have done after September 11? Based on his statements during the Bush-Gore debates, he would have followed much the same policy. There are those who say Kerry would be different. But this is naïve in the extreme. Ivo H. Daalder, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, commented recently: "the world we live in is not going to be terribly different under a Bush presidency and a Kerry presidency. The United States is the most powerful country in the world, and therefore, the use of American power is going to be indispensable in getting anything done . . . the US is going to have to lead . . . using power, using coercion."
It is enough to note that Kerry's choice as his National Security adviser is none other than Rand Beers, a veteran Washington bureaucrat who served on the National Security Council under presidents Reagan, Bush Senior, Clinton, and GW Bush. Just months ago, he was working under Condoleeza Rice as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Combating Terrorism. According to Beers, he and Kerry's main goal is "'to show that we can protect America better than George Bush." Once again, Kerry's focus isn' t to differentiate himself in any way by appealing to the genuine interests of the working class majority, but to "out-GW" GW. He is pandering to the most basic fears and worries Americans face in an epoch of tremendous instability - an epoch brought on by the organic and terminal decline of the capitalist system he defends.
Beers openly admits that there is no real difference between Bush and Kerry' s foreign policy objectives. "Much of American foreign policy is bipartisan. The goals are not always in question; it's the style, it's the way in which we're approaching it." The emphasis on different "styles" is a clear effort to blur the class interests represented by both the Democrats and the Republicans. Let's not forget that the Republicans under Eisenhower started US involvement in Vietnam, the Democrats under Kennedy and Johnson continued it, and the Republicans under Nixon finally ended it after covertly extending the war into Cambodia. It is in this context that Ralph Nader's independent run is a threat to Kerry and the Democrats insofar as he calls for a withdrawal from Iraq, appealing to millions of voters who are both anti-Bush and anti-War.
Though Bush's public opinion ratings are falling consistently, those polled still think he would do a better job than Kerry in the "war on terror" and in dealing with the occupation of Iraq. The only real difference between Bush and Kerry's approach has to do with who will be doing the occupying. Kerry wants to draw in the UN and NATO - under a US general, of course. But now Bush is saying the same thing. Walter Russell Mead, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, had the following to say: "'I think they are moving toward a merge. Most of the people I talk to don't think there's going to be that much difference between them, in substance, because the options are so limited. I think in a second term, the Bush administration would try to get more foreign support, and a Kerry administration would sometimes have to go it alone. In this sense, voters are going to say to themselves, 'What's the difference? If I vote for Kerry, I will get a war in Iraq and someone who doesn't believe in the war but is going to have to fight it anyway. If I vote for Bush, I get a war in Iraq, fought by somebody who believes in the war.'"
This quote fairly sums up the superficial differences between Kerry the Democrat and Bush the Republican - slim to none. What working people need is their own party - a mass party of labor based on the trade unions to fight for working people and for socialism. The time to start building it is now.