NEW YORK – Al Gore, re-entering America's foreign policy debate, accused the Bush administration Tuesday of showing "impatience and disdain" toward U.S. allies in the war in Afghanistan and said military force alone would not win the long struggle against terrorism.
Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Gore embraced President Bush's controversial description of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil." But he said that other dangerous forces have to be addressed, such as poverty, ignorance, environmental problems, disease, corruption and political oppression.
For Gore, the appearance at the council marked another step back into the national spotlight. Members of the New York-based think-tank include some of the nation's most influential foreign policy experts, and the media was invited to listen in.
Ten days ago, Gore gave a "return to the national debate" speech at a Tennessee Democratic Party fund-raiser. In recent months he's also appeared at Democratic fund-raisers in key political states such as Florida, New Hampshire and Iowa. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, he spoke out to proclaim his support of Bush in the war on terrorism.
In his first policy address since the 2000 election, Gore renewed his support for the Bush administration's "highly successful opening counterattack" to the attacks. But he said it is crucial that the administration show "a more evident respect" for the coalition of allies it has built or that alliance could quickly crumble. Gore said the administration sometimes sends the message: "With others, if we must; by ourselves, if possible."
Gore said U.S. policy should also be aimed long-range at "draining the aquifer of anger that underlies terrorism."
"The evil we now confront is not just the one-time creation of a charismatic leader and his co-conspirators, or even a handful of regimes," Gore said. "What we deal with now is today's manifestation of an anger welling up from deep layers of grievance shared by many millions of people."
Foreign policy is one area in which Gore, during his unsuccessful 2000 presidential campaign, believed he had an advantage over then-Gov. George Bush.
Gore, a two-term vice president and 23-year veteran of Congress, had an influential hand in President Clinton's foreign policy. He traveled frequently overseas to represent the United States on missions to the Middle East and China, for example, and at world economic and environmental forums.
He headed several country-to-country commissions designed to shape U.S. relations with such nations as Russia, Ukraine, Egypt and South Africa. His work on those bilateral commissions was reflected on the campaign trail as he rattled off the names of presidents and prime ministers.
Gore had advocated an active and involved international role for the United States, much like the policy Bush has pursued since Sept. 11, when he shelved the go-it-alone approach he had championed during the campaign and his first months in office.
In his speech to the council, Gore said many have told him they wanted him to speak out on public policy earlier after he lost the election.
"In the aftermath of a very divisive election," he said, "I thought it would be graceless to do so, and possibly damaging to the nation. And then came Sept. 11."
Gore offered some cautionary thoughts on dealing with Iraq, Iran and North Korea — the nations Bush referred to as an "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address.
The United States must deal with the threat of Iraq "on our terms," he said.
That means U.S. strategy must be mindful of the survival of Pakistan's leader, avoid an escalation of Middle East violence and protect the security and interest of allies like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf states.
Gore said that once a strategy for Iraq is developed, "we must be prepared to go the limit."
Iran must be recognized as a potential threat greater than Iraq, but the U.S. should also find ways "to encourage the majority who obviously wish to develop a more constructive relationship with us," Gore said.
He said the United States needs to keep the peace on the Korean peninsula by being ready for war. He said that in the 1990s, the Clinton administration showed "that a creative, sustained program could help move the North Korean regime in new directions."
Gore said a long view of the fight against terror is essential.
"It isn't enough to destroy what is evil, then seek to leave by the nearest door," Gore said. "We must make the commitment to work with those whom we have rescued until they can stand on their own feet."