The presidential debates are over, and it's still a neck-and-neck race in the US. In Germany, John Kerry is clearly the preferred choice -- a trend former US defense advisor Richard Perle would like to see reversed.
And the winner is....
Speaking at a gathering of the American Academy in Berlin this week, neo-conservative foreign policy expert Richard Perle was emphatic about who should be the next president of the United States: George W. Bush. Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, it is obvious the world is at war, he told a crowd gathered to hear arguments for and against the incumbent and his democratic opponent.
Despite the close race in the United States, in Europe John Kerry has already won the polls. Foreign policy, and in particular the war in Iraq, are the key issues on this side of the Atlantic. And for the vast majority, Bush's track record speaks against him; some 80 percent of Europeans want to see Kerry win the election.
President George Bush during a television debate in Florida
But those statistics could not deter Perle from sounding off on the reasons why Germans should support Bush for president. Under the motto "My favorite candidate," the former presidential advisor and staunch advocate of the Iraq war argued that Bush's defeat would jeopardize not only the security of the United States but of the democratic world.
"We cannot afford to wait"
In the face of the growing threat of international terrorism, George W. Bush has adopted the right strategy of invading Afghanistan and Iraq, Perle said, making no secret of his support for Washington's policy of pre-emptive action.
"We cannot afford to wait too long," he said.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry waves as President Bush looks on at the start of the presidential debate in St. Louis, Friday, Oct. 8, 2004.
"We are locked in combat with people who wish to destroy Americans in order to realize a deeply ideological ambition which is the creation of an Islamist universe, and they are prepared to die in that cause," Perle said and added that he had full trust in the current president to make the right decisions.
"The moment of precisely when a nation is justified in acting in its own defense can only be answered case by case," he said. "I believe that President Bush will deal with the dangers that are presented in these situations effectively, and I don't have the same confidence in Senator Kerry."
Who is the better protector?
The central question in the election is which president can best protect the Americans, Perle said. Whereas, the world knows which action the current president would take in the future, the democratic challenger is less clear-cut, preferring instead to consult allies and international organizations, Perle said, adding that he did not put much faith in these institutions.
"The institutions and law have proven inadequate," he said. "The United Nations can't even agree on a definition of terrorism, much less organize itself to oppose terrorism effectively, and international law cannot reasonably be expected to apply to people who have a messianic vision and are prepared to die in order to inflict that."
A cowboy or savior?
"This president is straight forward, he says what he thinks," and he acts accordingly, Perle said in a reference to the European characterization of Bush as a cowboy. "What you see is his conviction."
President Bush frequently puts on a cowboy hat to show his downhome connection to Texas.
Perle reminded the German audience that former President Ronald Reagan, under whom he served as assistant secretary of defense, was also frequently referred to as a gun-slinging cowboy, even when he called for tearing down the Berlin Wall. Like then, history will show that the war in Iraq was also beneficial, Perle said.