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Law Professor: Next President Faces Challenges Abroad

October 23, 2008 — The next president of the United States faces the most daunting challenges of any commander-in-chief since Abraham Lincoln, University of Virginia law professor John Norton Moore told students Tuesday.

During the discussion, sponsored by the J.B. Moore Society of International Law, Moore outlined issues he said the next president must address, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the worldwide financial crisis. Moore is the director of the Center for National Security Law and the Center for Oceans Law and Policy.

In order to combat the damage to the U.S. reputation abroad on national security, Moore said one of the next president's first actions should be to reverse the Bush administration's torture policy. The message should be clear, he said, that "the United States, across the board, does not and will not support torture by ourselves or any other country."

Another priority, Moore said, should be international confidence-building. Other countries' approval ratings of the United States are at their lowest point in decades, which has far-reaching implications concerning which countries will partner with, and cooperate with, the United States.

Other countries will regain confidence in the United States, Moore said, if it becomes clear that the country will adhere to international conventions, and if it takes a new approach to participation in the United Nations and engages in negotiations with the International Criminal Court.

Moore also said the United States should reestablish the National Security Council as the core forum for considering national foreign policy matters. Under the Bush administration, he said, the council has been bypassed, and the U.S. president was not necessarily receiving reliable information.

"I think that after seeing three disasters in U.S. military history in which there was a failure to take account of professional military judgment — Vietnam, Somalia and the third one now is Iraq — we need to look much more carefully at how professional military advice can be fed directly to the commander-in-chief," Moore said.

Moore said the next president needs to take action against terrorism by focusing on combating nuclear weapons and biological weapons. This, he said, will require a focus on nuclear weapons that might be present in Iran, the tribal regions of Pakistan and Russia. Antiterrorism also requires a focus on what Moore called the "war of ideas."

"I think we are going to have to use some of our better resources of people who really understand public relations, understand the issues and will really take on some of the radicals in this," he said. "You've got to win the war of ideas —  it's a crucial front in the war on terror. You can't stop all the radicals, but you can sure reduce their ability to have countries support them and their base of willing converts if you begin to win the war on ideas. It's a crucial element."

To combat the financial crisis, Moore said the next president needs to do everything possible to reinvigorate trade and avoid interfering with trade agreements.

"It's very late in the game on the financial crisis," he said. "There are a lot of things we could've done early on, that should've been done early on, but it seems to me that there are things we could be doing right now that could probably have some effect. One is that this is the last time in the world you want to be interfering with trade agreements."

Finally, Moore said it's not apparent how to resolve the problems in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's clear that more troops need to be sent into Afghanistan, he said, and security issues in the tribal regions of Pakistan need to be addressed. In Iraq, the United States needs to ensure that the country becomes a "genuine Iraq and not a client state of Iran."

— By Ashley Matthews

This article was originally published on the School of Law Web site.

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