Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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The Halifax commitments

DURING his recent visit to Canada, at a stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia, President Bush made a half-hour speech, little noticed at the time, that can be seen as a new set of foreign policy signals for his second term. The speech contained some points that were familiar from Mr. Bush's first term and his re-election campaign, about the need to defend America's security, to spread freedom and fight global terrorism. But there was a lot that was different and seems to provide a road map to a new approach, in part a change of course, to be carried out under a fresh secretary of state.

Mr. Bush's most striking commitment was to taking an international, multilateral approach, as opposed to the "go it alone " stance the United States has often taken during the President's first term. He said clearly that America's own interests are served by working within an international system. He called his new term "an important opportunity to reach out to our friends." The context made it clear that he was not simply being nice to the Canadians. He said he hoped to foster "a wide international consensus" and that his "first great commitment" was "to defend our security and spread freedom by building effective multinational and multilateral institutions." This is definitely new.

A second signal in the Halifax speech was that Mr. Bush intends to continue to pursue a free-trade policy, in spite of criticism. He noted that the now 10-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement has caused U.S.-Canadian trade to nearly double. This commitment is particularly important as the Central American Free Trade Agreement runs into heavy political opposition from American protectionists.

Mr. Bush's third great commitment, after a pledge to continue to fight global terrorism, was to promote freedom and hope and democracy in the Middle East. He quickly made it clear that the centerpiece of that policy would be a major effort to end the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. He said the United States seeks justice, dignity, and "a viable independent and democratic state" for the Palestinians. He said that America's destination is clear: "two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security." The time for the effort to achieve that goal, he said, is now.

It's not clear why Mr. Bush's Halifax speech hasn't received much attention, given its importance. It is definitely worth reading if one wants to know what U.S. foreign policy goals will be in his second term. Sounds like a plan to us.

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