The following editorial appeared in Thursday's Wichita Eagle:
George W. Bush can't recite off the top of his head the names of every world leader. But the GOP presidential candidate seems to have a better overall handle on how to use the nation's military than his more experienced Democratic rival.
Mr. Bush wants to cut back on the deployment of the military. He believes correctly that the current administration has overextended the military, which has hurt morale and readiness.
"I'm going to be judicious as to how to use the military," he said during the second presidential debate. "It needs to be in our vital interest, the mission needs to be clear, and the exit strategy obvious."
Mr. Bush wisely wants to avoid, whenever possible, using U.S. troops as peacekeepers or as Peace Corps workers, as was the case in Haiti.
"I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building," he said. "I think our troops ought to be used to fight and win war."
In contrast, Vice President Al Gore is promoting a concept called "forward engagement," which contends that the United States should address small problems abroad early, before they become big problems at home. Such an approach may sound promising and proactive. However, it requires the United States to know which minor flare-ups would, if left unattended, ultimately threaten our national security.
Forward engagement rather arrogantly assumes that the United States has the right to intervene in the internal affairs of another country even on issues that aren't yet, and may never be, any of our business.
Mr. Bush is wiser than Mr. Gore in recognizing that the United States shouldn't be the world's cop or its self-appointed social worker.