Interview with Gov. Howard Dean
While Gov. Dean was waiting to speak at a press conference in Washington, DC on May 10, 2002, DEMOCRACY IN ACTION asked him about his international experience.  Dean has traveled extensively overseas.  In March he led a trade mission to Brazil, Chile and Paraguay.  He revealed that he had just (on May 9) begun occasional foreign policy briefings to obtain "broad overviews about what we're doing and why we're doing it."

DEAN:  [I've been in] more countries than most of the people who are running, including the President.  I've been in 50 countries around the world.  I have not yet been to Israel, which is of course a mandatory stop.  So there's a lot I intrinsically know about foreign policy just from talking to the local people and/or heads of states and foreign ministers, depending on what reason I was in the country.

So really what I need is some broad overviews about what we're doing and why we're doing it, but a lot of it's common sense, and having been there, being on the ground, that makes a huge difference.  So now I'm starting a process where I get briefed by people, staffers from the Senate and the House and people who are knowledgable about, in Washington, about foreign policy.  And I'm going to start on a defense briefing program in another month or so as well.

Now you mentioned 50 countries.  Could you talk a little bit about some specifics?  Your first overseas venture was with the English-Speaking Union?

DEAN: The English-Speaking Union, at age 17.  I lived in England for a year and visited both eastern and western Europe and also North Africa during that time; Turkey as well...  We actually drove through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, what was then Yugoslavia--which is now Macedonia, Croatia, etcetera, etcetera--Bulgaria, which was very interesting 35 years ago as you can imagine, Greece, and then ended up in Turkey.

It was a great trip.  Especially as a kid, you just really start to learn about foreign cultures, why people view the United States the way they do and--you know people in the world, especially in developing countries, have a very strong dichotomy of views, inside individuals--they love and admire America on the one hand and they resent its use of power on the other.

Certainly it's made me critical of the President's foreign policy.  I support the President's conduct of the war on terrorism, but his foreign policy has basically been, for the most part swaggering around with a big stick, and that doesn't help.  We're always going to be criticized by people who are jealous of American power, but I think you do have to have good working relations with people and I think the unilateralism that's been involved in the President's policy has been a mistake.

Driving around there did you have any ...

DEAN: Well we had some interesting times.  We stopped off in a cafe in Bulgaria, and one of the high school kids had taken Russian.  So we had our conversation--since we didn't speak Burgarian and they didn't speak English, we had the conversation with the kids our age and a little older in Russian.  You know this was in 1967.  So that was sort of my first major trip abroad, living abroad for a year.  It was really worth doing, really educational.

What came after that?

DEAN: I've been to Nigeria; I was in Nigeria during the Civil War.  That was a pretty sobering experience to be greeted with people with Kalishnikovs not too careful about what direction they pointed them in.

When was that?

DEAN: That was in 1969 I think.

And what brought you over there?

DEAN: When I was in England I met a Nigerian who was also in school there, and I visited him.  So I've been in some interesting places...

I went to South East Asia [in Feb. 2002].  My brother is a POW/MIA.  And that was an extraordinary trip to Laos and spent time--I did meet the deputy foreign minister and so forth, and became acquainted with the extraordinary job our military's doing with the POW/MIA effort, and spent a couple of days at base camp visiting sites.  It was an exceptional, exceptional trip.  We did visit the site where my brother is buried.  We don't know exactly where, but we know roughly where, which you can imagine was an extraordinarily emotional--  But I spent two days in base camp; three days visiting sites.  Our Armed Forces are making an extraordinary effort.  I have little patience for people like [U.S. Sen.] Bob Smith [R-NH] who criticize the government for the POW/MIA efforts.  We're doing a great job over there.

And they have these sites, which I actually worked on the sites.  I actually dug up--did some digging; I did some screening of the human material.  When you see what happens when a fighter plane goes into the hills at 300 miles an hour, you know there's not a lot left, plus of course there's a fire afterwards.  We found some teeth and some things like that--it's 30 years afterwards.  Plus this is all along the Ho Chi Mihn trail so you see this enormous--Laos was the most heavily bombed country in the world, and there's still huge craters over there, some of them are right in villages.  So to see these sites, which are basically archeological sites, with anthropologists on staff and so forth, was just extraordinary.

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