Higher ground:
Bill Richardson is right . . . we must take moral road with Iran

The tragic carnage caused by what Gov. Bill Richardson calls the Bush administration's "obsession with Iraq" shows, graphically, what would happen if rumors come true about the United States' preparing to bomb Iranian nuclear installations preemptively.

I can think of few possible follies or acts more morally reprehensible.

Richardson is unambiguous about the moral high ground that our nation has lost in the last six years, a high ground we must regain not only for our self-respect but also for a pragmatic "ethical realism" in our relationships with the international community.

In a foreign policy speech recently at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Richardson said that for America to be "credible" in the world, "We need to live up to our own ideals as Americans.

"So prisoner abuse - Abu Ghraib, torture, secret prisons - eavesdropping, evasion of the Geneva Convention, must have no place in America's foreign policy. If we want Muslims to open up to us, we should start by closing Guantanamo."

Richardson's campaign address to the Center for Strategic and International Studies puts him in the same league with former President Carter, until recently the lone shepherd of a moral American foreign policy.

Richardson was clear about our need for a humane and realistic foreign policy in Latin America, including immigration reform. But border security is too serious a matter for "the ridiculous notion of building a fence along the border. . . . No fence ever built has stopped history, and this won't, either," Richardson said.

Richardson laid out major problems facing the world: "preventing nuclear terrorism, defeating jihadism, integrating rising powers (such as China and India) into a stable order, protecting global financial markets' stability and fighting pandemics and global warming."

Richardson offered a restoration of American leadership. We need to "reject dogma," he said, "and embrace what I call a new realism . . . an enlightened and ethical realism for the 21st century.:

"This administration's lack of realism," he said, "has led us to a dangerous place. . . . The president doesn't seem to understand that success and foreign policy requires both a strong military and smart diplomacy, because while diplomacy without power is weak, power without diplomacy is blind."

A "new realist vision for re-launching American leadership" involves, he said, repairing our alliances, renewing our "commitment to international law and multilateral cooperation," becoming "the human rights example to which others aspire," being the "leader, not the laggard" in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, learning to "stop treating diplomatic engagements . . . like rewards for good behavior" and negotiating with bad regimes to weaken their "paranoid and hard-line tendencies."

The $2 billion a week we spend on our obsession with Iraq buys us nothing but a burdened economy and a reputation as a plague in world politics. A preemptive strike against Iran would be a crime the world would not forgive.

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
February 23, 2007