Questioning Candidates on Foreign Policy

What is the purpose of interrogating our candidates about their future foreign policy? The shifting sands of geopolitics and rapid changes on the ground make much of the speculation futile.

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DAN SCHORR: Maybe you were too busy to notice this piece of recent history.


NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: First time since 1979 - that was when the shah of Iran was unseated by the Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution. This time around it was the Hindu leader of the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal ruled by kings for more than 200 years. And while Nepalese sang and danced in the streets over their new republic, the elected assembly gave the king 15 days to get out of his palace.

I mention this because under the hot lights of the media our presidential candidates are being pressed to say how willing they would be to talk to foreign leaders, how quick they would be to bomb them when they haven't the foggiest idea of what the world will look like come next January 20.

Look how volatile are some of the hotspots overseas. Israel bombed a suspected nuclear site in Syria. Now it's revealed that Israel is negotiating with Syria through the good offices of Turkey. Lebanon, which has gone for six months without a president has a new one, General Michel Suleiman, and government forces have reached a truce with the militant Hezbollah.

Iran, which is President Bush's public enemy No. 1 is undergoing some interesting changes. The former nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani resigned because he was at odds with the hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over nuclear policy.

Now, Larijani has been elected speaker of the parliament by a sweeping majority. His election is a sign of discontent with the Iranian president's economic record but it could portend a political shift in Iran.

Under these changing circumstances what purpose is served when our presidential candidates are interrogated about whether they would talk or fight with foreign leaders. These situations cannot be predicting today, and just once I would like to hear one of our candidates say something like this: it makes no sense for me to decide today what I would do about Iran, Lebanon, Nepal. I will do what needs to be done when I arrive in the Oval Office.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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