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Is the world ready for the Kerry Doctrine? Democratic standard-bearer John Kerry thinks so. In a July 16 talk with BusinessWeek Editor-in-Chief Stephen B. Shepard, Washington Bureau Chief Lee Walczak, and Washington Outlook Editor Richard S. Dunham, the Massachusetts senator outlined his vision for a foreign policy based on renewing traditional global alliances. Edited excerpts from the conversation follow:
Q: What will a Kerry Presidency mean for the war in Iraq?
A: It will take new leadership from the U.S. to change the credibility of our government and its ability to bring people to the table. I have a plan -- which I'm not going to negotiate in public. I am not going to play my hand. But I'm convinced I can bring Arab and European countries to recognize the global interest we have in [preventing] Iraq from becoming a failed state.
I will begin in a different place than this Administration. I'm prepared to share responsibility for decisionmaking in reconstruction and other [things]. That is the prerequisite for bringing other parties to the table.
Q: But won't the French and Germans continue to have issues with U.S. global power?
A: The French will be the French and the Germans the Germans, and I know them well. But I'm convinced that leadership, properly shared, can reestablish alliances that have served us well over the last century. These people understand the stakes. They have a deep resentment of a unilateral arrogance that has made it very difficult for people to do what is doable.
Q: Still, does the halting response of the global community [toward Iraq and Iran] give you pause about the limits of multilateralism?
A: Absent U.S. leadership, multilateralism often has its limits. If the world saw a different tone and a different kind of relationship between us and other countries, people would have different reactions. We are viewed as somewhat isolated.
Q: How would you change American foreign policy, in broad terms?
A: I would approach North Korea differently [with direct negotiations]. I would approach global warming differently. Now, I am not one who believes that the Kyoto treaty [on global warming] should have been ratified -- it was flawed. But I am one who believes in going back to the table to fix it.
With Russia, we can do a better job [containing] loose nuclear materials. [Other areas include more help for] AIDS in Africa, the Africa Growth Development Act.
There are a series of things we could do quickly that would change the atmospherics to say to people, "Hey, they get it." Then goodwill begins to grow. This President has used up the bank and doesn't have much to draw on. And our country is hurt because of that.
Q: Could this new era of good feelings affect the business climate, as well?
A: I want American businesspeople to travel around the world without bodyguards. I'd like them to be able to go to another country and compete without prejudice. I'd like U.S. athletes to be able to go to [the Olympics in] Greece and not be told, "Don't wrap yourself in the flag. No demonstrations of patriotism."
I'm a person who traveled for 40 years, and I know what it was like when you would go into a bar and people would pat you on the back and buy you a drink because you were American. Now, they would kick you out and want to kill you. I'll restore America's reputation, and I think that's primary in this race. For more on the Democratic National Convention, see BusinessWeek Online's continuing coverage at www.businessweek.com/election2004.htm