EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a special series of stories focusing on the election that Baptist Press will run between now and Nov. 4. Stories will run on Wednesdays and Fridays.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–This is the eighth in a series of stories focusing on one specific national issue and detailing where the two major presidential candidates stand. Called “In Their Own Words,” the stories avoid commentary and instead present the candidates’ views as they have stated them in the past — either in interviews, speeches, debates or on their campaign websites.
Baptist Press in recent weeks has spotlighted the issues of abortion , Iraq , the Supreme Court , the energy crisis , immigration reform and
gay rights. Last week, BP printed speeches by Barack Obama to Planned Parenthood and by John McCain to National Right to Life.
Today, BP looks at the candidates’ views on intervention in humanitarian crises around the world, such as Darfur.
— On the criteria he would use to commit troops around the world when there’s a humanitarian crisis that does not affect America’s national security: “We may not always have national security issues at stake, but we have moral issues at stake. If we could have intervened effectively in the Holocaust, who among us would say that we had a moral obligation not to go in? If we could’ve stopped Rwanda, surely, if we had the ability, that would be something that we would have to strongly consider and act. So when genocide is happening, when ethnic cleansing is happening somewhere around the world and we stand idly by, that diminishes us. And so I do believe that we have to consider it as part of our interests, our national interests, in intervening where possible. But understand that there’s a lot of cruelty around the world. We’re not going to be able to be everywhere all the time. That’s why it’s so important for us to be able to work in concert with our allies. Let’s take the example of Darfur just for a moment. Right now there’s a peacekeeping force that has been set up and we have African Union troops in Darfur to stop a genocide that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. We could be providing logistical support, setting up a no-fly zone at relatively little cost to us, but we can only do it if we can help mobilize the international community and lead. And that’s what I intend to do when I’m president” (second presidential debate, Oct. 7, 2008).
— On the criteria he would use to commit troops around the world if genocide is taking place in such places as Darfur: “I don’t think that there is a hard and fast line at which you say, ‘OK, we are going in.’ I think it is always a judgment call. I think that the basic principle has to be that we have it within our power to prevent mass killing and genocide, and we can work in concert with the international community to prevent it, then we should act. … I think that international component is very critical. We may not get 100 percent agreement…. [T]ake an example like Bosnia, when we went in and undoubtedly saved lives. We did not have U.N. approval, but there was a strong international case that had been made that ethnic cleansing was taking place, and under those circumstances, when we have it within our power … we should take action” (Saddleback presidential forum, Aug. 17, 2008).
— On the criteria he would use to commit troops around the world when there’s a humanitarian crisis that does not affect America’s national security: “The United States of America is the greatest force for good. And we must do whatever we can to prevent genocide — whatever we can to prevent these terrible calamities that we have said never again. But it also has to be tempered with our ability to beneficially affect the situation. That requires a cool hand at the tiller. This requires a person who understands what the limits of our capability are. We went in to Somalia … as a peacekeeping organization; we ended up trying to be peacemakers and we ended up having to withdraw in humiliation. In Lebanon, I stood up to President Reagan, my hero, and said, ‘If we send Marines in there, how can we possibly beneficially affect this situation?’ And [I] said we shouldn’t. Unfortunately, almost 300 brave young Marines were killed. So you have to temper your decisions with the ability to beneficially affect the situation and realize you’re sending America’s most precious asset, American blood, into harm’s way. And, again, I know those situations. I’ve been in them all my life. And I can tell you right now the security of your young men and women who are serving in the military are my first priority right after our nation’s security. And I may have to make those tough decisions. But I won’t take them lightly. And I understand that we have to say never again to a Holocaust and never again to Rwanda. But we had also better be darn sure we don’t leave and make the situation worse, thereby exacerbating our reputation and our ability to address crises in other parts of the world” (second presidential debate, Oct. 7, 2008).
— On the criteria he would use to commit troops around the world if genocide is taking place in such places as Darfur: “Our obligation is to stop genocide wherever we can. We all know about Rwanda…. Cindy was just there with Mike Huckabee and Dr. Bill Frist and has seen what the women of Rwanda are doing. The women are taking charge of the future of Rwanda because they’re saying, ‘Never again,’ and they are doing an incredible job. The question is, ‘How can we effectively stop it?’ And obviously we’ve got to do more, and we’ve got to try to marshal the forces all over the world to join us. I think one of the things we ought to explore more carefully is us supplying the logistics and equipment and the aid, and the African countries step forward with the personnel to enforce a genuine cease-fire. It’s a very complicated situation … but we’ve got to be committed to never saying ‘never again’ again” (Saddleback presidential forum, Aug. 17, 2008).
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.