Under the British parliamentary system, members of the minority
party act as "shadow ministers." They basically pretend to hold the
same posts they would if their party were in power. It's an
effective way for voters to find out what the opposition party
would do if it could call the shots.
Here in the U.S., the 24-hour news cycle provides us with an unofficial shadow government. Virtual shadow ministers include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who advises the Kerry campaign. Also among their number -- until a recent incident at the National Archives -- was former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger.
These folks spend plenty of time on television, attacking the president's policies. And voters ought to listen carefully to what these advisors have to say.
Consider Albright's recent appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press." She was criticizing the Bush administration's approach to North Korea.
First, let's stipulate that there's no simple solution to the fact that North Korea is seeking nuclear weapons. Under President Clinton's "Agreed Framework," we promised to give Pyongyang fuel oil if it would freeze its nuclear program. We supplied the fuel; they lied and cheated and pressed ahead with their nuclear program.
The Bush administration is now attempting to de-nuclearize the Korean peninsula through six-party talks, a slow but sensible process that brings together China, Russia, Japan and South Korea along with the U.S. and North Korea. In other words, we've built a coalition of concerned nations and are attempting to diffuse a tense situation diplomatically.
But that's not how Albright sees it. "I think [North Korea's] a very dangerous threat, and I also think they get the wrong message out of Iraq," she told Tim Russert. And what would that message be? "You know, we invade countries that don't have nuclear weapons and we don't invade those that do. We didn't invade the Soviet Union and China, so why not build up nuclear weapons as quickly as possible," she said.
Albright is correct about one thing: During her tenure, the United States sent troops into Bosnia and bombed Serbia. Neither had nuclear weapons. But she's wrong in attempting to compare our approach to North Korea with what we did to handle China or the Soviet Union.
Sure, we never invaded either nation, but we could have -- before they had nukes. Probably the biggest reason we didn't is that they both were giant countries with huge armies. An invasion of either one would have cost tens of thousands of American lives and probably resulted in a quagmire. On the other hand, while North Korea boasts a large army, it's a relatively tiny country, and our military could overwhelm it quickly.
The real lesson: The key to our success is our strength.
The Soviet Union collapsed when its leaders realized President Reagan was serious about building the Strategic Defense Initiative and winning the Cold War. China keeps its hands off Taiwan because it realizes we're serious about our commitment to defend the island.
President Bush's approach to North Korea makes it clear we stand squarely with our allies Japan and South Korea. Pyongyang can see the U.S. won't seek a separate agreement that leaves our long-time allies out in the cold. And, if North Korea wants to learn a lesson from Iraq, well, it should learn that we'll take strong action, even military action, when our interests are threatened.
It's important to remember that Madeleine Albright was Secretary of State just a few years ago -- and might again become an influential foreign policy voice if John Kerry is elected. Based on her "Meet the Press" comments, that's a disturbing thought.
We'll soon see if most voters also believe Madam Albright ought to stop acting like a shadow foreign minister -- and return to the shadows as a full-time university professor.
Ed Feulner is president of The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based public policy research institute.