Thursday, April 10, 2008

John McCain's foreign policy speech - Commentary

Ok, I'm finally to a point where I'm ready to comment on John McCain's foreign policy speech. If you haven't read it, please go here to see the whole speech or here to read my summary. I probably didn't do it justice, but I tried.

First let me say that I am flattered with the way Sen. McCain read by blog a few months ago about foreign policy. Back on January 18, I outlined what I felt about foreign policy and McCain's speech lined up pretty closely with mine (see my post here). McCain indentifed "dangers posed by a revnachist Russia" as one of the challenges that NATO faces. He must have also read my post titled "Russia is still our long term greatest enemy" (see here).

While I don't actually think he reads my blog, I am impressed with his approach. He voices a quote by Harry Truman that basically says that God has put us here "for such a time as this" (to borrow from a sing. It's clear that he's a man of history and a man of faith. He's also a man that reckognizes that we face "new opportunities, and also new dangers."

McCain realizes the requirement that we must lead, but that we must also work with "the collective voice of the Eurpopean Union" and others. Some of my conservative counterparts see this as a problem, but I do not. Gone is the day when we can afford to act unilaterally and while I believe we did NOT do that in the recent engagement in Iraq, that is best left for another topic. For now, I think it's critical that we work with the EU and other nations.

As a part of being a model citizen, McCain believes we should close Guantanamo and work with other nations to decide how to handle "dangerous detainees under our control". He also says we need a "successor to the Kyoto treaty." I put these two together because I believe they both are examples of McCain bowing to pressure. While these are good ideas, they don't rise to the same level as the rest of his speech.

McCain stresses the need for working with our Latin American neighbors and quotes JFK. He talks about the Asia-Pacific area and mentions that more people live under democratic rule in Asia than anywhere else in the world. That's amazing. I have to assume it's true, the news media hasn't pounced on him. But he doesn't stop there, he address the need to deal with a rising China. "but until China moves toward political liberalization, our relationship will be bassed on periodically shared interests rather than the bedrock of shared values." Simply put, a real relationship can only be realized by changes in China.

McCain also addressed Africa and the problems unproportionally attacking that continent: HIV/AIDS, poverty and malaria. He addressed North Korea and Iran and the fact that the "international community must work together (to)... contain and reverse" their nuclear capabilities.

Most importantly, McCain realizes that "passive defense alone cannot protect us... we must also have an aggressive strategy of confronting and rooting out the terrorists wherever they seek to operate." Not only does he favor a strong military, he also says that we must "win the 'hearts and minds' of the vast majority of moderate Muslims". What a change. Yes, we need to work on hearts and minds, and yes we need a strong military. Seems like for as long as I can remember (through both parties in the White House) we've had one or the other, but not both.

But McCain didn't shy away from Iraq and Afghanistan. First McCain acknowledges that post policies that relied on folks like the Shah of Iran and even Saddam Hussein have caused the problems we face today. He identifies that "we can no longer delude ourselves" that this is the easy way out. Instead, we have to "expand the power and reach of freedom" to these areas. Democracy is the key.

And McCain shows some impressive statistics on Iraq. Statistics that show that things are improving, even if the political progress isn't as good as we had hoped. He then says that we have a "moral responsibility" in Iraq. "If we were to walk away (we would) consign them to the horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing, and possibly genocide that would follow."

Regardless why you think we went to war, or if you think it was right or wrong, this fact should remain clear. If we leave now, we condemn many of those people to death. We must not do that. If you think we should leave, have to wonder if you WANT this war to be a failure.

While I may disagree with parts of his speech (he leaned to heavily on international cooperation, included words on Global warming and Kyoto that shouldn't be a part of it), I have to say I agreed with a large part of the speech. Most importantly, McCain and I agree on the issues that matter most, defense, Iraq, Afghanistan and the War on Terror.

Unlike many others who want to abandon these countries,


hydralisk said...

McCain's contender is dedicated to the cause in Afghanistan, at least, and to the War on Terror in general, and also claims commitment to boosting our military. Iraq is their major point of departure.

Randy Barnett said...

Hydralisk, by his "contender", I'm assuming you mean Obama. I hadn't seen any comments by him on Afghanistan, so I did some searching. I found some "misunderstandings" of some comments he made back in August, but it was mostly sound bites and reaction to sound bites. I discount all of that stuff.

I did find some material on his website at

Basically, he thinks the fight in Afghanistan should continue and we should redeploy some troops from Iraq. Interesting comments. I have heard from a soldier who was in both theaters that the Afghanies (right word?) wanted us there, but the Iraqis didn't. I think this was a limited comment, but very interesting how it matches with Obama. From what I know of this soldier, he would not appreciate the comparison.

But there are other differences in Obama/McCain. Primarily, in Obama's willingness to sit down with leaders in Iran and other areas. McCain is much more hawkish in this area. McCain's approach to terrorism is more proactive. You can agree or disagree with the policies, but I don't see the two even close on foreign policy.

Thanks for stopping by.

Randy Barnett said...

Hydra, By the way, you've been quiet lately. Glad to know you're still around