Washington Post - May 30, 2004
Kerry to de-emphasize democracy drive abroad
By Glenn Kessler
Sen. John F. Kerry indicated that as president he would play down the promotion of democracy as a leading goal in dealing with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and Russia, instead focusing on other objectives that he said are more central to the United States' security.
Kerry, in a one-hour interview Friday night, also rejected setting a date for the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Iraq. Although the notion is gaining favor with some Democrats, the party's presumptive presidential nominee said "it is not a good idea just in a vacuum" because the timetable for reducing U.S. troops must be dictated by success in holding elections and establishing security and stability.
In many ways, Kerry laid out a foreign policy agenda that appeared less idealistic about U.S. aims than those of President Bush or even fellow Democrat Bill Clinton. Although Kerry said it is important to sell democracy and "market it" around the world, he demurred when questioned about a number of important countries that suppress human rights and freedoms. He said securing all nuclear materials in Russia, integrating China in the world economy, achieving greater controls over Pakistan's nuclear weapons or winning greater cooperation on terrorist financing in Saudi Arabia trumped human rights concerns in those nations.
"Sometimes we are dealt a set of cards that don't allow us do everything we want to do at once," he said.
During the interview, he eschewed the soaring rhetoric on freedom and democracy that are commonplace in Bush's speeches and news conferences. At one point, he stumbled over the words when he tried to emphasize his interest in promoting American values: "The idea of America is, I think proudly and chauvinistically, the best idea that we've developed in this world."
Of promoting democracy overseas, Kerry said: "How fast you can do that and how rapidly others can embrace it and what can be expected over a period of time varies from place to place." Emphasizing his interest in setting realistic goals, he added: "Beware of the presidential candidate who just sort of says with a big paintbrush we're going to make everything all right overnight."