President Bush faces a number of key foreign policy challenges as he prepares to begin his second four-year term in office. Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft discussed some of the major foreign policy priorities Mr. Bush will have to address in the years ahead.
Retired General Brent Scowcroft has had decades of experience and expertise in foreign policy matters and national security affairs. He served as National Security Advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George Herbert Walker Bush. He also was Military Assistant to President Richard Nixon. Over the years, he has also chaired or served on numerous policy advisory councils, and continues to play a leading foreign policy role as the head of his own international consulting firm.
In a recent interview, General Scowcroft discussed some of the major foreign policy challenges facing President George W. Bush in his second term in office.
Concerning Iraq, General Scowcroft says the U.S. goal should continue to be the creation of a stable and prosperous Iraq that would be a constructive force in the region. But he acknowledges "that will be very hard to do."
The former national Security Advisor believes that elections still can be held in late January, despite the continuing violence and deteriorating security situation.
"The real question is can they be held and produce a vote which is reasonably representative of all factions of the population," said Brent Scowcroft. "If you hold a vote, for example, but in the Sunni area nobody is able to vote, then it obviously doesn't represent the will of the people. So - it will be very tough, but I do think it is important that we try to press on and have a vote - but it must be a credible vote."
General Scowcroft, who opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, says following his re-election, President Bush is in an excellent position to renew his appeal for a greater international presence in Iraq. He says the president must make that case to the Europeans, most of whom have strongly criticized the U.S. Iraq policy.
"If he visits Europe and he says: 'Look, we can disagree about going into Iraq. I believe we did the right thing, you don't - but the fact is that we have to look at the situation now and if we are not able to make a sound state out of Iraq now, you - the Europeans - will suffer just as much as we will.' In other words, it is important for Europe to get Iraq straight as it is for the United States and therefore, they might be willing to give some help," he said.
Getting the Europeans to help, says General Scowcroft, could entice more Arab countries to do the same.
On the war on terrorism, General Scowcroft says the Bush administration has been addressing that issue in a "retail fashion," that is having a narrow policy of going after the terrorist leadership. He believes the president's policy must be much broader.
"We also have to go at it wholesale, and that is we have to start getting at the roots of terror: where does it come from? How do we get at it - because right now, we may be in a position that every terrorist we kill, stimulates two or three to join," said Brent Scowcroft.
But General Scowcroft says to address terrorism in a much broader sense would mean enlisting the help of many more nations.
On the broader issue of the search for a lasting peace in the Middle East, the former National Security Advisor believes the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat offers the Bush administration a great chance to play a more activist role.
Turning to the issue of nuclear proliferation, General Scowcroft says Iran and North Korea continue to present the greatest challenges. He believes the Bush administration must do whatever it can "very subtly" - to encourage the moderate leadership in Iran.
"And if we can also reach out, even a little beyond that, so that we might get Iran first to be more cooperative with respect to Iraq and secondly to reign in Hezbollah and thus help the Palestinian peace proces," suggested General Scowcroft.
As for North Korea, General Scowcroft says the United States must induce China to play a more active role.
"The Chinese are the ones with all the leverage on North Korea," he said. "They supply a good part of North Korea's food, they supply about two thirds of their energy, so that's where the leverage is and we need to encourage the Chinese to be a little more positive."
During President Bush's second term, which begins with his swearing in next January 20, American diplomacy will have a new leader: National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice will succeed Colin Powell as secretary of state.
General Scowcroft is in a sense, Condoleezza Rice's mentor. He hired her for her first government job, as Soviet Affairs specialist on the National Security Council under the first President Bush. And they have had a close relationship over the years.
General Scowcroft says Ms. Rice will do well heading the State Department.
"The job of secretary of state has a function that the National Security Adviser doesn't and that is - it's beyond policy: it's explaining policy, it's developing support for policy and it's explaining other countries' policies to the American policy community. She hasn't done that before," he said. "But she is incredibly smart and she's a very quick learner and she can be very, very charming - I don't mean soft, but charming."
General Scowcroft says since Condoleezza Rice is very close to President Bush, foreign leaders will know that when she speaks, she speaks for the president.