Georgetown professors and representatives of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Heritage Foundation squared off on issues of foreign policy in the upcoming presidential election in Gaston Hall last night.

The evening consisted of three debates. Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations and Charles Kupchan, professor and senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, discussed general differences between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry.

Boot said that Kerry emphasizes international law and international organizations in dealings with other countries, but Bush emphasizes not only power politics and force but also the power of ideals.

He said Kerry offers a “cogent foreign policy position, but not one we can afford right now.”

Boot said he has more confidence in Bush’s approach to foreign policy than Kerry’s.

“Bush has alienated people and made mistakes, but his vision is the right one,” he said.

Boot cited “positive and noble achievements” of the Bush administration, such as the improved situation in Afghanistan after U.S. intervention.

Kupchan, on the other hand, said the decision to attack Iraq was “perhaps the greatest error this country has made.”

He said the Bush administration made two key mistakes with regard to foreign policy. First, Bush wrongly made the war on terrorism America’s defining mission. Second, Bush’s actions have been characterized by rashness, he said.

He also said Kerry understands the need for respect from the international community but Bush has “compromised America’s legitimacy in the world.”

Peter Brookes of the Heritage Foundation and School of Foreign Service Dean Robert Gallucci debated the current state of United States security with respect to weapons of mass destruction.

Brookes said the 9/11 Commission was right in saying that America is “safer but not safe.”

He went on to say that the Bush administration has made significant improvements to national security.

“I believe this administration has worked tirelessly to defend the United States,” he said, using the argument that there have been no attacks in the three years following Sept. 11.

Gallucci said that the greatest threat to American security is nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists.

He called actions by the Bush administration “massively irresponsible,” citing a need to negotiate with foreign countries.

Government professor Robert Lieber and Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations discussed Iraq and the Middle East.

Lieber said Iraq presented a strategic threat to the United States and the Bush administration was right to invade the country.

Cook argued against Lieber, saying that the actions of the Bush administration have harmed the American image in the Middle East.

“Because of this unprecedented level of anti-Americanism in the Middle East, the message we want to send about democracy is poisoned,” he said.

Several audience members asked how each presidential candidate would respond to issues such as the situation in Darfur and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I sadly suggest that a Kerry administration is not likely to pursue a dramatically different approach than the Bush administration,” Boot said of the situation in Darfur.

Lieber said Kerry would follow essentially the same policies as Bush regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

Carla Robbins, chief diplomatic correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, moderated the event and asked questions of the panelists.

Nancy Roman, director of the Washington Program for the Council on Foreign Relations, said the event was Kupchan’s idea. She said Kupchan wanted Georgetown students to understand the issues of foreign policy with respect to the upcoming presidential election.

The panel was co-sponsored by the Mortara Center for International Studies in the School of Foreign Service and the Council on Foreign Relations.

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