6 August 2012
Part 2: Foreign Policy
Part 1 of the interview is here.
Gorton didn't mince words when asked about President Obama's handling of international issues. "I think he’s been a weaker president in foreign policy than Jimmy Carter" the former US senator remarked.
"We've abandoned our leadership, we've gained nothing from the so called reset with Russia, for a long time they were treating Assad as a reformer, and as a result people have died in Syria because we've depended on entirely on the United Nations which is incapable of taking any action whatsoever. We’re not treated even respectfully by either China or Russia. Leading from behind when you’re the leading nation in the world is not a valid policy."
I've written recently about Romney's positions on Russia, so I was interested in getting Gorton's thoughts on how the US policy towards Moscow..
"Except for its ownership of nuclear arms Russia is no longer a superpower or even close to it. It’s an extremely sick society. It’s losing population, people's morale is extremely low. Except for a couple of years in the 1990s it’s never in it's history been a real democracy, it has an economy that’s based on exporting natural resources. At one level, I don’t think it’s all that important to us. I just don’t think we should be treating it as if it were and as if we could get along with it.
There and in China. We should place a much higher value on civic and civil rights. We should criticize when criticism is due. There’s no reason in the world to threaten them, but, for example, in placing the anti-missile sites, we devastated two close allies in Poland and Czechoslovakia in order to cozy up to Russia. It’s done absolutely no good, we should have simply gone ahead with that policy and said it’s not aimed against you and if you think it is that’s too bad."
Gorton also spoke more specifically about terrorism.
"We’re clearly safer than we were before 9/11; the commission on which I served [The 9/11 Commission] probably had more of its recommendations adopted by Congress than any similar commission in history. We are paying more attention to it, we’ve been more successful at intercepting attempts. We haven’t been 100% successful of course by any stretch of the imagination. In this respect and the use of drones the Obama administration has been much more aggressive than the Bush administration was, but it still fails to treat radical Islamic terrorism as a profoundly philosophical and religious enterprise that’s going to be a danger for longer than you’re going to live much less me. But probably, the greatest danger is complacency. The longer the US goes without a terrorist attack being successful in the United States the more impatient we became with the measures that makes us safer and in some real respects the greater the dangers that something will succeed."
The newly instituted Australian carbon tax was designed in large part to encourage other nations to limit their emissions. But Gorton believes that a large scale global reduction in carbon emissions is probably unrealistic.
"In my view we should do everything in the United States that reduces carbon emissions that is otherwise desirable, that is to say that creates energy dependence and makes us a more efficient economy. But I think it’s a pipe dream to say that the billions of people in the world are in effect going to stop or even severely restrict carbon emissions. I think our policy should be aiming how to deal with it.
One of the clients that I work with is Sapphire Energy, which is developing a way to make a petroleum agricultural product through the use of algae. It’s in my view the one thing in my entire career that’s a magic bullet both for energy independence and for a very substantial reduction in carbon emissions. The hope of that company is that by 2016 or 2018 it will be producing real petroleum at the price that is charged on the world market. That is exactly what we should encourage. It will have a positive result on emissions but it will not result in increased costs of fuel. It will not make us less competitive internationally, it will in fact make us more competitive because it will lessen — maybe even eliminate — our importation of regular forms of raw petroleum.
I’ve always believed in standards for automobiles because they have positive effect over and both anything to do with emissions. But the Soylandras of this world; the attempts to have extended and long-term subsidies for alternative forms of fuel that will never be competitive under any circumstances I think are wrong. I constantly voted against ethanol while I was in the Senate, it does almost no good at all. It doesn’t really reduce emissions, it increases the price of corn and therefore meat, it takes up way too much land. I think we the world should look very realistically at the proposition that we aren’t going to reduce the emission of carbon very much, and so we figure out how to take advantage of it rather than have it as effectively the only international priority there is. The cost of reduction is huge."